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A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF TWO CHINESE VERSIONS

OF BACONS OF STUDIES

by
Tu Xiumei

June, 2007
Xiaogan University

Abstract

Francis Bacon was a famous philosopher and essayist during the English Renaissance.
His best work named Essays is a collection of 58 essays, all of which are valuable and
useful, especially for young people. Of Studies, one of these famous essays, is a short
article which has only about 500 words. However, it reveals the true meanings of the
purpose, method and function of study. It is quite significant for people to read it even
today. Therefore, in China many experts have translated it into Chinese. In the paper, I will
make a comparison between the two Chinese versions translated by Liao Yunfan and Wang
Zuoliang respectively, and the comparison will go on in aspects as follows: the usage of
words, the mode of sentences, the style of language, the method of translation and the
strategy of translation.

Key Words: Francis Bacon; Of Studies; translator; comparison

58

500

Contents

1. A brief introduction about Francis Bacon and Of Studies

2. A brief introduction about the two translators

3. A comparison of the two versions

3.1 A comparison of the usage of words

3.2 A comparison of sentence structure

3.2.1 Hammer words and practical sentences

3.2.2 Coordinate sentences

3.2.3 Elliptical sentences

3.2.4 Compound sentences

3.3 A comparison of the figures of speech

3.3.1 Parallelism

3.3.2 Simile and metaphor

3.4 A comparison of the translating methods

3.5 A comparison of the translating strategy

4. Conclusion

10

Bibliography

A Comparative Study of Two Chinese Versions of Bacons


Of Studies
1. A brief introduction about Francis Bacon and Of Studies
Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and Shakespeare (1564-1616) were of the same
generation, to some extent. They were the most important representatives in the
Renaissance Period in English Literature. Shakespeare used his drama to narrate the happy
and sad life of the world, while Francis Bacon used his philosophy to pursuit the mystery of
life. In 1597, Francis Bacon published a collection named Essays, which was an imitation
of the publication Essais written by Montage in 1580. The collected Essays contained 10
short reports, and after two subsequent expanded editions, it was added up to 58 in all. Of

Studies is one of them.


Francis Bacon had much experience in all of his life ,and his essays were not only the
reflection of a philosopher ,but also the conclusion of his own life experience ,which
mainly involved the relationship between man and world, between man and man ,between
man and God. The essays focused on an issue respectively, and they were original ideas.
Essays contained narrative and argumentative articles, which were stated from one
incident as a starting point and extended, then brought out a widespread problem, or seized
some issues from the common concern, launched to explore solutions and finally
enlightened the people. Bacons creation, whatever, it is due to the historical background of
the Renaissance. During that time, scholars began to emphasize the capacities of human
mind and the achievements of human culture at the same time. They regarded themselves
as their ideals and idols. In order to cure and civilize the ordinary people who have
weakness and shortcomings, the writings are always kind of moral purposes. Such incisive
exposition which implied so much philosophy originated from British as early as Bacon
and his essays, so some people say not only he reopened the British essay writing style,
but also his prose set a model for the later people.[10], (p1)
The article Of Studies is short but tidy. The full text has only503 words. However, the
two questions, the magic of reading and method of reading are interpreted thoroughly. The
original adopts more formal and elegant words; it is also full of big words and ancient
words, which reflects the authors calm, rational, and insightful emotions. In terms of
sentences structure, the sentences are parallel and rich in rhythm, which are easy for people
to read out, and the parallel structure also balances the speech and semantics. Bacon is good
at using parallelisms and metaphors to tell the truth deeply, but from a simple perspective.
There are many prudent maxims and aphorisms in this article. In addition to connecting
sentences, many sentences are aphorisms, concise, and persuasive.
2. A brief introduction about the two translators
Essays has had quite a number of translations in China since 20th century. Some are
entire versions, some are selected versions. However, whenever translators choose from
Essays as their will, Of Studies will not be missed. There are some famous translators who
have translated Of Studies, such as Wang Zuoliang, Shun Tiantong, He Xin, Wang Ji, Liao
Yunfan, and so on. This article holds that these translated version can be, to some extent,
equivalent to the original version on the body, words meaning, aesthetics, and language
structures. The more equivalent the translated version is to the original one, the better the
version is. Among these experts, Wang Zuoliangs version has a broader influence than any
others. In order to make an objective and clear evaluation, I will compare Liao Yunfans
version with Wang Zuoliangs version. And the comparison will go on in aspects as

follows: the usage of words, the mode of sentences, the style of language, the methods of
translation and the strategy of translation.
Wang Zuoliang is an expert in the study of English literature and English philology,
and he not only has obtained extraordinary achievements in his domain, but also made
significant contributions to our translation career. He was born on February 12, 1916 in
Zhejiang Province, and entered Qinghua University after the middle school. In 1947, Wang
went abroad to study English literature in Oxford University. In September in 1949, he
moved back to his motherland and was employed as the professor of the Beijing Foreign
Languages University till now. Now, he is the consultant of Beijing Foreign Language
University and director of the Institute of Foreign Literature, the vice president of the
Foreign Language Teaching and Research Institute, and the vice chairman of the
Shakespeare Research Society of China. His translated works cover not only poems and
prose , but also novels and plays. He brought in some English works, meanwhile exported
some Chinese works. In the fundamental research of translation aspect, Mr. Wang also has
composed many papers, such as Studies in Literature and Translation. Therefore, he is both
the theoretician and practical expert in the area of translation, and his thoughts and practice
are worth studying and discussing.
Liao Yunfan is a famous doctor and a translator, who is still alive and who has
translated quite a number of English works into Chinese. He liked reading Chinese classical
novels and literary masterpieces since from childhood. In the middle school he read almost
all of YuJuns articles published in Neonatal Daily News, whose arguments are incisive.
During the maniac year, all the young artists were reading the masterpieces of Nietzsche
and Saudi Arabia, the famous philosophers then, he was not missing. He made a wide
reading, which opened his horizon. Liao Yunfans mind swelled with the intense desire to
create, and later he thought that many translated works from Western books are not perfect
and accurate. So he decided to translate some books on his own, such as Freud, semantic,
and the version of Of Studies is one of them that he translated.

3. A comparison of the two versions


Generally speaking, Wang Zuoliangs version is quite concise, fluent and full of
literary talent. Moreover, Wang mixed some colloquial language some formal language,
which keeps the same style of the original. Mr. Wang, during the process of translation,
successfully held the original style, his personal style and the time style, and merged them
into a whole, [17], (p27) so we could read the whole version without any letup. However, Liaos
version retained the original style to a large extent, yet it was not pithy enough, and it
lacked simplicity and conciseness which belonged to Francis Bacon.
3.1 A comparison of the usage of words
The original essay is full of archaic words and big words, which gives people the

feeling of solemnity and grandeur, and also makes the language more elegant and majestic.
In addition, there are some Latin words in this article, for instance, Cymini sectores =hair
splitter[8],(p66),in Chinese [14],(p53). Bacon likes to use Latin
words, which also make the style corresponding to the time. In the translation of this work,
the translators also adopt different style words, especially Mr. Wang.
1: Their chief use for delight is in privateness and retiring, for ornament, is in discourse,
and for ability, is in the judgment and disposition of business. [9]
,;,
;,[18]
:,;,;,
[9]
The first example is the second sentence of the original edition. In this sentence, the
three preposition phrases for delight, for ornament, for ability belong to the old
information because they have appeared in the first sentence. Instead, the preposition
phrases after the link verb is are new information, which should be regarded as the focus
of attention of the readers. According to the English principle the last counts, the
components after the link verb should also be the focus of this sentence, on which the
author wants to emphasize. In addition, in order to make the original edition more succinct,
the phrase their chief use in the first clause of the sentence is omitted in the later two
clauses. In the course of translation of this sentence, the two translators adopted a number
of common techniques. In accordance with the expression used in Chinese translation, we
should complete the sentence. It is clear that the two experts have completed the subject of
the second and third clauses with corresponding translation. They also used the speech
conversion techniques: They both translated the noun phrase their chief use as()+
verb. However, Liaos version was stuck to the superficial form because he mixed the
noun phrase with the old information. It is a sharp contrast that Mr. Wang did not pursue the
surface form of correspondence blindly, for he had sharp eyes and seized the focus of the
original quickly and exactly, and he adopted different collocation flexibly. [12]That is, he
mixed with the new information, which can highlight the latter. For the sake of
keeping with Chinese customary expression, Wang Zuoliang translated it cleverly with
classical form -- which also made the old information thematic. This kind of
authentic expression is not only faithful but also appropriate. [12]
2 : for natural abilities are like natural plants ,that need pruning by study ; [9]
:,[18]
:,[9]
From the information provided in this example, we can judge that Mr. Liaos translation
of the words in the way of the understanding of clipping is not good enough. He translated
the phrase natural abilities as , which is obvious inconsistent with the
7

original semantics. Natural abilities should be referred as the innate abilities. Moreover, he
interpreted pruning as ,which is also not accurate. In contrast, Mr. Wangs
translation was not limited to the original surface structure, but complemented the use of
semantics timely, and then the exact significance of the original was expressed clearly and
logically. In addition, the translator added a word and a conjunction to study
for a link. According to the usage of Chinese language and customs, readers will clearly
determine the implementation of these two motions subject bookworm, which is omitted in
the original.
3.2 A comparison of sentences structure
3.2.1 Hammer words and practical sentences
3 :To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament , is
affection; to make judgments wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar. [9]
:,,
,[18]
:,,[9]
In the third example, the original sentence is constituted by three triple parallelisms. Of
all the three clauses, the components after the link verb are far shorter than the components
before. This kind of arrangements has two effects: first, short message is placed at the end
of the sentence, which will help highlight, and which is in a more striking contrast with the
long message. Second, when the clauses are arranged in a parallel way, the length of the
sentence staggers in arrangement, which is easy to create a distinct rhythm up and down.
Furthermore, the predicative of the first two clauses is a single noun, while the predictive of
the last clause is a noun phrase. This arrangement is not only neat but also changeable.
There is also something worth mentioning; that is, most of the original sentences are either
noun phrases or ancient and abstract words, especially the predicative, which are full of
gravity and sobriety.
Now, we can analyze the versions in some details. Liaos version was written in modern
vernacular language. This kind of sentence structure is loose and lackadaisical; much
worse, some written words were intermingled with some spoken words, which is
inconsistent with the original style. However, Mr. Wang can choose accurate and refined
phrases to reproduce the original features and syntax style. This can be seen through
illustrating the translation of three predicative nouns in this example:
Sloth
affection
the humor of a scholar
:

It is a classic example of hammer words that Wang translated the words sloth and
affection as the single wordsand. First, a single word is sharp, vigorous and
concise, which makes their features more conspicuous and prominent in their respective
8

clauses of the whole sentence. Second, a single words is more formal and elegant than the
two syllables or four-syllables Chinese phrase. Third, the two single syllable words with the
natural beauty of the previous seven-syllable can form self-assured rhythm. Mr. Wangs
translated the two words without using four character words, because he was keenly aware
that a single syllable word can embody the meaning of sloth and affection better than other
words, and can better achieve the beauty of neat and momentum. As for Mr. Liaos version,
it is not so accurate and concise, especially the translation of the humor has a derogatory
meaning which can not express the real wish of the original.
3.2.2 Coordinate sentences
The essay Of Studies employs a single sentence structure. There are twelve sentences
using parallelisms of the whole 19 sentences. Such kind of sentence form reflects the
structural balance which makes the whole passage simple but without giving the readers the
feeling of affection. Nevertheless, the author of the original also paid attention to mixing
the long sentences with short ones in order to avoid uniform which may make the text dull
and insipid.
4: For expert men can execute , and perhaps judge of particulars , one by one ; but the
general counsels , and the plots and marshalling of affairs , come best from those that
are learned. [9]
:,,
,[18]
:,,
[9]
5: Histories make men wise; poet s witty; the mathematics subtle; natural philosophy
deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to content. [9]

[18]

[9]
From the two examples above, we can make an analysis: Mr. Wang introduced a
staggered approach which gave the readers a different impression: short sentences, for it
was shortness and straightforwardness that could convince readers, which was indisputable;
long sentences, especially long sentences connected by conjunctions could not achieve this
effect. Because the translator did well in reasoning and dissertating, he used this way to
give a source of inspiration in the statement and exposition. However, Mr.Liaos version
did not have such an effect, for Liaos Chinese version was very long, which was hard for
people to read out, especially in the fourth case, the disparity between the versions is
clearer.
3.2.3 Elliptical sentences
9

6Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; [9]
[18]
[9]
In the sixth example, Mr. Liao translated the sentence word by word and adopted the
subject adding predicate sentence model, while Mr. Wang was not stuck to the passive
voice of the original. Instead, Mr. Wang did ellipse some unnecessary words, such as
some in accordance with Chinese habits. In this way, Wangs version is not only accurate
and polished, but also harmonious with the text style.
3.2.4 Compound sentences
The usage of compound sentence structure has a special function which the coordinate
sentences do not have. That is, it can reveal the different relationship between all kinds of
objects. In the compound sentences, the main clause is independent, while the subordinate
clause is dependent; the latter one is used to make up, explain or restrict the meaning of the
previous one.[10](p62)
7They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like
natural plants, that need pruning by study; and studies themselves do give forth
directions too much at large, except they be bounded in experience. [9]
:
[18]

[9]
The original sentence is made up of three clauses. The two translators both united the
clauses into one long sentence, for the purpose of explanation that where there is drawback,
there is a special receipt. The three clauses seem to be independent, yet dependent in fact,
because they are used to illustrate the same truth, so it is convincible. Although the two
translators adopted the same approach, there is still some distinction: Mr. Wang interpreted
the original sentences into a sentence without subject, which on one hand is in line with
Chinese, and on other hand preserves the original style. By contrast with Wangs, Liaos
sentence is redundant and tedious.
3.3 A comparison of the figures of speech
Of Studies, the whole essay is not divided to small paragraphs but it is a unit. This sort
of style is called loose and free style [13], (p340) at that time. Although it is loose and free, yet
it is also particular about figure of speech. So it is not difficult for us to find the usage of
parallelisms and metaphors at random. To our luck, Wang Zuoliang nearly keeps the same
sentence structure with the original.
3.3 .1 Parallelism
8Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. [9]
:[18]
10

: , , [9]
9And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer
little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have much
cunning, to seem to know that he does not. [9]
:
,[18]
:
[9]
Wang used for three times in finishing translating the parallel words
appropriately, which can convey the charm of the original, while Liao did not use
parallelism. Instead, Liao used the same subject to control three different objects, so the
translation is very simple, plain and artless, and it is so common that the rhetoric of the
original wording can not be expressed exactly in his translation. Furthermore, in the fourth
example ,Wang used three different words to finish the parallelism vividly,
which also avoids duplication. Liao only reflected the basic meaning of the original.
Moreover, the two words sloth and humor were translated as and
respectively, and the language is too colloquial to fit the original style. In the ninth
example, Wang used parallelism to balance the sentence structure, while Liaos version is
not so coherent, compact and exquisite.
3.3.2 Simile and metaphor
Francis Bacon was adept at using an analogy to explain a deep reason in a simple way.
So there are some similes and metaphors in of Studies.
10Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed
and digested. [9]
[18]
[9]
Wang produced the form of parallelism which is constituted by some short clauses or
phrases, which is equivalent to the original sentence structure. According to the different
grades of reading, Wang dug out the abstract meaning of the metaphors and reflected the
intention of the manuscript. It is clear that the word cast the light on the words
and , which also shows the subtle difference among them. Admittedly,
Mr. Liao also explained the meaning of the source language, but his language was rather
colloquial, especially the translations of the words chew and digest.
11Else distilled books are, like common distilled waters, flashy things. [9]
[18]
[9]
After distilling, some nutrients and impurities are sieved at the same time, and the rest
11

is not delicious at all. The phrase could not veil the translators pity about it,
which arouses readers exclamation. Compared with Liaos simile, Wang adopted the
metaphors, and interpreted the way of study more simply and legibly. If the analogy is not
so vivid, we could not understand the truth so easily. Thanks to the appropriate analogy, it is
convincible.
Let us trace back to the second example. As we know, plants need pruning, but there
must be a gardener to do it, and he needs the help of tools. However, the phrase by study
in this sentence is neither the person nor the tools, but a way, a way of study that does it.
So it is naturally deduced the translation . Wang used the
word to link the people, plants with study harmoniously, and the readers also can get
the truth easily. However, Liao could not uncover the relationship among them, although
his simile seems simpler.
3.4 A comparison of the translating methods
There are two ways of translation: literal translation and free translation. The former
one is conveyed to transform the content and form of a language form. It focuses on literal
meanings and expressions, while the latter one is the expression of another language, which
does not have to adhere to the original form rigidly. In the practical translation, translators
should be faithful to the original expressions and principles, and use or alternately use these
two methods flexibly.
12Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.[9]
[18]
: [9]
The original sentence is quite uncomplicated, but the literal meaning of the words is
far from the connotation of the whole sentence. Only when the three adjectives are
translated precisely, can the authors purpose be expressed thoroughly. Wang translated the
words full and exact as and from the way of literal translation, which is
quite accurate and natural. However, it is hard for the translator to deal with the word
ready, because the literal meaning of third word is . If it is translated
literally, the readers would be confused, because the collocation is not corresponding with
Chinese expression habits. So Wang used free translation ,and translated it as which
is quite artful and ingenious. After comparing and evaluating, we know who is superior and
who is inferior, and then we have our own countermeasures and rise to the occasion at once
, so was just the cogent Chinese word. Wang used two different translation methods
in different places, but at the right time. Based on sufficient understanding of the original,
Wang complemented his own taste and judgment, trying his best to conform to the author
from a interior and spiritual way, and then used his own language to reproduce the meaning
of the original creatively, which makes his translation more profound. Liao also used the
12

two methods, but his version was not as flexible as Wangs. Moreover, Liao translated the
words full and writing as and , which is still under discussion.
3.5 A comparison of the translating strategy
Alienation is a translating strategy in which the translator deliberately breaks the norms
of the target language while still retaining some of the exotic features of the original.
Domestication is an opposite strategy in which the translator tries his best to weaken the
unfamiliar sense of a foreign language with transparent and fluent style. [4], [15], (p10). They are
two different choices, but they are also a uniform. However, from the readers points of
view, they hope that they can read fluent versions, and that translators could domesticate
more foreign works. Of course, domestication does not mean altering the spirit of the
original and it requires translators to have a profound mastery of both the target language
and the source language. Some translators adopt the alienation because they are not the
experts on their mother tongue to some extent.
Mr. Wang adopted more domestication in the course of translation. From the title, we
can find that Wang did not stick to the original. The ordinary people or translators are used
to directly translating this title as or . Of course, such translations are
not wrong. But Mr. Wang paid more attention to interpreting it based on the real spirit of
the original. The meaning of study is quite rich in English , such as , ,,
and so on. But referring to this article, as Bacon mainly talked about reading, it is much
better to translate the title it as . More importantly, Wang can use the most
authentic Chinese to convey the meanings between the lines, so that readers will find less
difficulties when reading the work.
Mr. Wangs ingenuity on wording can be reflected in many places of this article, such
as , , and so on. These words would not be found in
English / Chinese dictionaries. They are typical Chinese created by the native Chinese after
deep consideration. Meanwhile, throughout the whole text, we can find many typical
Chinese sentences and sentence structures. Of course, Wang sank into the pursuit of
domestication, but also avoided wallowing it in his mother tongue. He had a good grasp of
the degrees of the language, and he used the ancient words and modern words alternately
without using some too undeveloped words. Therefore, we believe that such a version is
what we called a combination of expression and understanding.
Mr. Liaos preference to wording and sentence structure can not be so clear and
obvious that we may find he adopted more alienation in the course of translation, because
although he used some colloquial language which seemed more familiar to our Chinese
people, yet he did not abstract the deep meaning and intention of the source language, and
because of his limited ability of mastering the mother tongue. So his version can not be so
successful as Wangs.

4. Conclusion
13

This paper only analyzed parts of Wang Zuoliangs translation of Of Studies, and there
are still some good and important points which are not discussed in this paper. However,
from what we have compared, we can find: compared with Liaos translation, Wang
Zuoliangs translation of Of Studies, is a better combination of content and form, which has
successfully represented the original and obtained the same effect on the readership as the
original. At the same time Wangs translation is independent of it, and it shows Wang
Zuoliangs wisdom more than his talent in languages. We might summarize Wangs
unparalleled advantages: appropriate wording, legible venation, advisable writing style and
so on. The outstanding works always benefit people, enlighten people, and inspire people.
Of Studies is a monumental masterpiece written by Bacon for offsprings. We are so lucky
because Wangs version is equivalent to the original, of which every word is valuable, and
the whole passage also brings the readers enlightenment and wonderful feelings. Thanks to
Mr. Wang and his excellent language ability and his wonderful perception, we can open our
eyes to appreciate some good foreign works. We believe that when people enjoy this
version, they can also apprehend what is said in the beginning of the original: Studies serve
for delight, for ornament, and for ability.

14

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