Defining Sillan interpreters in first-millennium East Asian exchanges

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Interpreting officials are rarely documented in standard histories of imperialChina; civilian interpreters are even harder to trace. Surprisingly, however,Japanese monk Ennin’s (794‒864) diary of his China sojourn (838–847) containsthirty-eight references to Sillan interpreters. It is a significant firsthandarchive that throws light on Sillan interpreters and interpreting in first-millenniumEast Asia. Based on a close reading of this diary, I attempt to clarifythe idiosyncratic title of “Sillan interpreters.” Using quantitative and qualitativeanalyses, I outline finer categories of these interpreters, which in turn addressquestions pertaining to their identities and roles. This chapter demonstrates thevalue of textual analysis in empirically pursuing the definitions of “interpreter”at a particular place and time.


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