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The Chinese Translation Agency Staff Reveal the Ancient Translation System in China

Author:dongdong   Joined:2013/7/24   Clicks:2545 Secondary

    Here’s come research work of the Chinese translation agency staff: Since the ancient times, China has always been a multi-ethnic country, keeping good relationships with other countries. Different ethnicities and countries mean different languages and words. Therefore, there are always full-time or specialized agencies for translation work. As to the job title, there are “寄”、“像”、“譯” in the Zhou Dynasty,  “九譯令”、“譯官令”、“譯官丞” in the Qin and Han Dynasty, “譯令史” in the Southern and Northern Dynasty ,“通事舍人” in the Sui and Tang Dynasty,"潤文史”、“譯史”、“通事” respectively in the Song, Liao and Jin Dynasty,“怯裏馬赤 (Mongolian, meaning interpreter) in the Yuan Dynasty, “譯字生” in the Ming Dynasty, and “通譯官” in the Qing Dynasty. All of them may not have a high position or even not have an official position, "通譯官" in the Qing Dynasty generally held the position of seventh or eight class. During the Guang Xu Period, the first-class interpreters and translators began to receive good treatment, with only one official as the Five class in the court. Redundant staff is strictly prohibited. 

    Translation has already existed as early as the Shang and Zhou Dynasty. According to The Book of History of Fu Sheng in the West Han Dynasty, 交趾之南有越裳國,“周公居攝六年,制禮作樂,天下和平;越裳以三象重譯而獻白雉,曰:‘道路悠遠,山川阻深,音使不通,故重譯而朝’”, where "像" means translators, "重譯" means translate several times,"越尚" includes most area of Vietnam and part of Cambodia, quite far away from China and which presents a problem of language barrier, therefore, translation is necessary. According to historical records, official translation organizations and translators mainly engaged in translation of Buddhist scriptures from the Northern and Southern Dynasties to the Tang Dynasty. Xuanzang in the Tang Dynasty was also famous for bringing back Buddhist scriptures from India, with 520 folders and 657 pieces. Back to Chang'an, living in the temple and concentrating on scripture translation, he altogether has translated more than 1300 volumes of scriptures. Meantime, he also translated the Chinese classic Lao Zi  into Sanskrit and disseminated it in India. 

    To meet the needs of war, test for Jurchen, Khitan and Tangut translation were added in the Song, Liao and Jin Dynasties, while the Western Xia, Liao and Jin Dynasties also paid much attention to translation to absorb Chinese culture. Emperor Renzong in the Western Xia Dynasty especially set up "刻字司" to translate The Art of War, Six Secret Teachings and Zhenguan Politicians, etc. In the Liao Dynasty, special translation departments were established above the level of state administrative organizations. Emperor Liaodao also implemented a promotion system based on work hours and ability in order to trigger the passion of translators. Emperor Jinshi ordered to establish the institute for scripture translation and had "Book of Filial Piety", "Book of Changes ", "Book of Rites", "The Analects of Confucius", "Mencius," etc. translated into Jurchen version. 

    When the Chinese translation agency research doing the study, they found, in the Yuan Dynasty, there were many nationalities in this vast territory. Many offices like “蒙古房”、“蒙古官學、唐古特學及托忒學” were established to develop specialized talents of the Mongolian, Tibetan, Intuit language, responsible for translation of Mongolian, Hui, and Tibetan books. During the early Ming Dynasty, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang ordered officials in the imperial academy to compose the book on foreign languages to know more about the Yuan Dynasty and to use Chinese to interpret Mongolian. During the five years when it was under the control of Emperor Yongle, the 'Siyi Museum' (四夷館) was established and later renamed as “四驛館”. Under the control of Emperor Qianlong, it was merged with “會同館” and renamed as “會同四驛館”, divided into ""西域"and"八夷“, and existed until 1899.

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