Chinese Classics: The Commentarial Tradition

Chinese Classics: The Commentarial Tradition



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Publication Source

This Is a Classic: Translators on Making Writers Global

Inclusive Pages

Chapter 1

Creation Date



Bloomsbury Publishing

Document Type

Book Chapter


Chapter Abstract:

Reading texts from the Chinese and Japanese canons, Knight and Smith engage the subtle interplay of classic texts and commentaries, ancient and modern. They find that no classic text is a stand-alone: each inner text has traditionally been read as a dialogue between originating author(s) and authoritative later readers. When we approach these texts, then, we find ourselves part of an explicit, venerable conversation. Knight and Smith focus on five examples: the Sunzi (Sun Tzu) Art of War, the Japanese Zen Master Ikkyū, the great Tang dynasty poet Li Bo (Li Po), the ancient divination text the Yijing (I Ching) or Classic of Change, and the perplexing philosopher Laozi (Lao Tzu), originator of Daoism (Taoism). Reading these texts is like marrying into a very large family, one whose members, allusions, rewritings, irregular knowing and jokes we may appreciate or tolerate to different degrees. No way to control this process!

Book Abstract:

This Is a Classic illuminates the overlooked networks that contribute to the making of literary classics through the voices of multiple translators, without whom writers would have a difficult time reaching a global audience. It presents the work of some of today's most accomplished literary translators who translate classics into English or who work closely with translation in the US context and magnifies translators' knowledge, skills, creativity, and relationships with the literary texts they translate, the authors whose works they translate, and the translations they make. The volume presents translators' expertise and insight on how classics get defined according to language pairs and contexts. It advocates for careful attention to the role of translation and translators in reading choices and practices, especially regarding literary classics.

Chinese Classics: The Commentarial Tradition