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A Comparison of Three English Translations of "Hao liao ge"
Hong Lou Meng
The Story of the Stone
The Dream of the Red Chamber
A Dream of Red Mansions
Henry Bencraft Joly
Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang
Since its first publication in 1791, Hong Lou Meng (紅樓夢) has enjoyed a unique status with wide readership in China. Apart from its literary merits, Hong Lou Meng serves as a good starting point for further understanding of Chinese society and culture. It is, however, a somewhat surprising fact that such a popular and widely-read masterpiece hadn’t been fully translated in English until in 1971 David Hawkes (1923-2009) decided to start translating this Chinese novel. Later on, another full English translation A Dream of Red Mansions done by the legendary couple Yang Xianyi (1915-2009) and Gladys Yang (1919-1999) was first published in 1978. In fact, early in the late 19th century Henry Bencraft Joly (1857-1898) had attempted to fully translate Hong Lou Meng, but his premature death prevented him from doing so. Though they were done by native English speakers, the popularity and circulation of the three translations greatly differ from one another. Published by Penguins, Hawkes’ translation The Story of the Stone owns a wider readership than Bencraft Joly’s The Dream of the Red Chamber and the Yangs’ A Dream of Red Mansions. With long-spanning years of publication, the translators have presented two very different English versions of Hong Lou Meng in the way they approached the forms of certain passages and culture-bound terms. Therefore, this thesis aims to examine and compare how Joly, Hawkes and the Yangs dealt with the “Hao liao ge” and “Hao liao ge zhu” that are of particular importance to the development of the plot of the novel. This thesis is divided into five chapters. Chapter One and Chapter Two state the motivation, give a brief introduction of the original Chinese work, provide publication information regarding the two translations and translators, and conduct literature reviews. Chapter Three examines the translators’ translations of the “Hao liao ge” to see how they dealt with culturally loaded forms, terms and ideas. Chapter Four studies how they employed strategies to approach the forms of the original and to deal with the culture-bound hints embedded within the “Hao liao ge zhu.” Chapter Five summarizes the respective translation strategies with which these translators employed and suggests how future translators may endeavor to face the challenges in translation of Chinese classics.
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