Interpreters in Early Imperial China

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This monograph examines interpreters in early imperial China and their roles in the making of archival records about foreign countries and peoples. It covers ten empirical studies on historical interpreting and discusses a range of issues, such as interpreters’ identities, ethics, non-mediating tasks, status, and relations with their patrons and other people they worked with. These findings are based on critical readings of primary and secondary sources, which have rarely been utilized and analyzed in depth even in translation research published in Chinese.<br />Although this is a book about China, the interpreters documented are, surprisingly, mostly foreigners, not Chinese. Cases in point are the enterprising Tuyuhun and Sogdian interpreters. In fact, some Sogdians were recruited as China’s translation officials, while many others were hired as linguistic and trading agents in mediation between Chinese and Turkic-speaking peoples. These idiosyncrasies in the use of interpreters give rise to further questions, such as patterns in China’s provision of foreign interpreters for its diplomatic exchanges and associated loyalty concerns. This book should be of interest not only to researchers in Translation and Interpreting Studies, but also to scholars and students in ancient Chinese history and Sinology in general.

Subjects: History of linguistics; Translation studies

  • Affiliations: 1: Lingnan University

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