Alterity of Original: The Text Construction and Classics Interpretation in the Translation of the Daodejing by James Legge

Mandarin presentation, English PPT, bilingual Q&As

James Legge upholds the ‘alterity of text’ when translating Chinese classics. He translates and interprets the classics based on the possible meanings of the original texts, and ‘puts as much as possible the texts in their own cultural environments to understand and analyze’. He believes the textual meaning of the classics is decided by their originals. He realizes there are essential textual differences between Chinese and Western classics, which has direct effects on the meaning and construction of translation. With the concept of source orientation, James Legge reconstructs the textual integrity and wholeness of the Daodejing 道德经from the perspective of contextualization and coherence, based on selecting and reinterpreting former annotations, grasping the textual forms and deliberating the wordings, so as to transform the translation of the Daodejing into the popular and clear zhuan传 (Commentaries) of the ‘original’, thereby translating the ‘steganographical esoteric teaching’ of the ‘original’ of jing经 (Scripture) and showing in the translating his handling as an interpreter of classics the boundary and tension between ‘transmitter’ and ‘maker’.

Ayong Lei is an Associate Professor and Deputy Dean of the School of Foreign Languages, Minjiang University. He is currently and Academic Visitor at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Oxford.