Aesthetic Differences Between Chinese and Western Poetry

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Aesthetic differences between Chinese and Western Poetry
—critics on Xu Yuanchong’s Chinese poetry translation

1 Introduction
Nowadays in China, there are mainly two kinds of different opinions on translating classical Chinese poems. On one side, Xu Yuanzhong, as a representative,hold that classical Chinese poems should be translated in the form of poems(rhymed verse translation). Xu Yuanzhong put forward the Theory of Three Beauties and the Theory of Rivalry. On the other side, scholars such as Lu shuxiang insist that classical Chinese poems should be translated in form of prose (free verse translation).

This paper will discuss the two ways of translating poems and show the Aesthetic differences between Chinese and Western Poetry. Before that, one thing that should be pointed is that this paper support Lu’s theory, that is, Chinese poems should be translated in form of prose (free verse translation). Beyond that, this paper holds that poem translation should be different from general literature translation, which requires translators be more than just translators.

2 A Case Study
Here is a case study of two translated versions of Chang Gan Xing by Ezra Pound and Xu Yuangchong respectively.

十五始展眉, 愿同尘与灰。常存抱柱信, 岂上望夫台。 Version 1(by Ezra Pound)
At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever, and forever.
Why should I clime the look out?
Version 2(by Xu Yuangchong)
I was fifteen when I composed my brows.
To mix my dust with yours were my dear vows.
Rather than break faith, you declared you’d die.
Who knew I’d live alone in a tower high?

This stanza embodies the merchant’s wife’s faithful love. The last three sentences are similar in meaning, which means that the wife is faithful to her husband. There are allusions in them and repetition in meaning. Xu tries his best to show these allusions, but conveys to readers an obscure meaning. However, Pound finds another way to show that affection, using three “forever” to emphasize it. The wife’s profound love and fidelity are sealed in reader’s heart. At the same time, this style creates a kind of repetition like the unending waves, which beautified itself in sound. Xu focuses on the allusion and fails to inspire his reader.


Version 1(by Ezra Pound)
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August over the grass in the west garden— They hurt me,
I grow older.

Version 2(by Xu Yuangchong)
The yellow butterflies in autumn pass
Two by two o'er our western garden grass.
This sight would break my heart,and I'm afraid,
Sitting alone,my rosy checks would fade.

It seems that “They hurt me/I grow older” lacks logic relation; But it is just this “leap” breaks the order of original text and intrigues readers’ imagination. Readers still can appreciate the melancholy entangled in the wife’s heart despite this “leap”. Actually, it is a little ironic that this kind of skill is typical in Chinese poems and Xu has omitted it.

Version 1(by Ezra Pound)
At fourteen I married My Lord you.
1 never laughed,being bashful.
Version 2(by Xu Yuangchong)
I was fourteen when I became your young bride,
I'd often rum my bashful face aside.

“为君妇”is translated by Xu as“l became your young
Bride” in order to express the meaning “being his wife”. But in ancient time, Chinese women had very statuses, and “wife” can’t show this kind of phenomenon. In Pound’s version, “my lord” has a similar meaning of this and is acceptable to western readers.

3 Characteristics of Chinese Poems
We should have a basic knowledge of traits of Classical Chinese poetry: Usually, the Chinese poem is fairly simple on the surface. Western culture, which was influenced by Shakespeare, Milton, and the Romantic poets, had a pronounced tendency to think of poems as ornate, elaborate creations made by a few men of genius. Chinese culture, influenced by the anonymity of the Shih Ching, had a tendency to...
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