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Perceptions of translating/interpreting in first-century China

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This article analyzes evidence of translating and interpreting activities (indiscriminately referred to as yi (), which also denotes translators or interpreters in classical Chinese) in first-century China between the Latter Han (25–220 AD) Chinese administration and non-Han Chinese minority tribes along the then Southwestern frontier (modern Yunnan and Sichuan provinces). The importance of this archival record to the historical study of translation and interpreting is two-fold. First, it contains crucial details pertinent to translating and interpreting activities in China in antiquity. Second, it documents concepts of yi synchronically, as perceived by three main participants in the interpreting events: the emperor, the frontier inspector, and the frontier clerk cum interpreter. The presentation of what they actually wrote, said, and did in the first-century interpreting setting in China, with close reference to standard histories, objectively depicts the meanings of yi as perceived by these figures at the time.
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Keywords: first-century interpreting; history of interpreting; perceptions of translation; translators in antiquity

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 2, 2009

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  • International Journal of Research and Practice in Interpreting
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