Translating China: the Catholic Mission in the history of global cultural translations, 1585 to 1800.

Keynote speaker: Ronnie Hsia




Between 1585 and 1800, Catholic missionaries from half a dozen European countries translated hundreds of western books into Chinese, most of these were Christian texts, including large portions of the Bible, while others were excerpted from the Greco-Roman philosophical and scientific corpus. In the reverse direction, they translated some of the Confucian classics and Chinese dynastic histories into Latin and other western European languages. My paper aims to present a general view of this first global translation enterprise: what were translated, who were the translators, and how were the difficulties of translation----style and terms----overcome in this cultural movement. While most of the translation involved textual translations (from one language into another), there were also some examples of visual translations, with iconic images from Christianity and Confucianism being presented for an audience totally unfamiliar with the alien civilization.