Text-remote Thick Translation of Lin Yutang’s English Version of Laozi

Authors: Huang Weixing (Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia)
Ang Lay Hoon, Ser Wue Hiong, Hardev Kaur (Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia)
Speaker: Huang Weixing
Topic: Text, Context and Entextualization
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


Laozi, one of the fundamental books of Chinese philosophy, is the second most translated text in the world after the Bible. However, due to its pithy style, esoteric language, profound philosophical thoughts, and besides linguistic, historical, and cultural differences between the original and target, understanding its ideas has been a challenge for target readers. Thick translation, which aims to produce a thick contextualized text in order to facilitate the understandings of target readers, has been adopted by Lin Yutang in his English translation of Laozi, entitled “The Wisdom of Laotse”.

This colloquium explores the eight different means of text-remote thick translation utilized to build thick contexts in Lin’s version of Laozi. Appiah’s thick translation theory, which developed from Clifford Geertz’s thick description theory of Cultural Anthropology, is employed to construct the theoretical framework for this study. The discussion is directed at how Lin places target readers into broader contexts regarding the source text and explains rationale behind Lin’s strategy.

This colloquium offers new dimensions in the interpretation of Laozi and paves the way for future comprehensive studies on thick translation of Laozi, and beyond.


Appiah, K. A. (1993). Thick translation. Callaloo, 16 (4), 808-819.

Chan, A. (2018). Laozi. In Edward N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition). Retrieved December 12, 2018 from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2018/entries/laozi/
Hermans, T. (2003). Cross-cultural translation studies as thick translation. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies,  66 (3),380-389.
Halliday, M. A. K. (2007). Language and education (The Collected Works of M. A. K. Halliday Vol. (9). New York & London: Continuum
Halliday, M. A. K., & Matthiessen, C. M. (2014). Halliday’s introduction to functional grammar. Abingdon: Routledge.
Lacertosa, M. (2017). For a philosophy of comparisons: the problems of comparative studies in relation with Daoism. Asian Philosophy,27 (4), 324-339.
Liu, Xiaogan. (2015). Laozi’s philosophy: Textual and conceptual analyses. In Xiaogan Liu (Ed.), Dao companion to Daoist philosophy (pp.71-100). Heidelberg: Springer.
Lin, Yutang. (2009). The Wisdom of Laotse. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.
Malinowski, B. (1923). The problem of meaning in primitive languages. In C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards (Eds.), The Meaning of Meaning (pp. 296-336). London: Kegan Paul.
Nida, E. A. (2001). Contexts in translating. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
文军 & 王斌. (2016).《芬尼根的守灵夜》深度翻译研究 [A Study of Thick translation in a Chinese version of Finnegans Wake].外国语文, 32 (1), 110-116.

Keywords: Text- remote thick translation, Laozi, thick contextualization, context