Language is the most important part of a civilization
Updated 20:36, 23-May-2019
Editor's note: This is the fifth in the series of "MASTER TALK" interviews produced by CGTN Digital timed with the "Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations" in Beijing.
"I think language is the most important part of a civilization," says Xu Yuanchong, a 98-year-old veteran translator and the first Asian winner of Aurora Borealis Prize, the world's highest prize for translation, when speaking of the role of translation in bridging different cultures.
As a translator who has been working with three languages – Chinese, English, and French – for his entire career, Xu pointed out that great differences exist in different language systems. English, for example, is a "scientific" language that demands accuracy, while Chinese is an "artistic" language that includes a wider range of content.
Therefore, a proper translation helps "dispel" the understanding differences and contributes to introducing the Chinese wisdom to the world.
Xu cited the first sentence in Tao Te Ching as an example, which for him represents the wisdom and value of Chinese tradition. He translated the sentence as "Truth can be known, but it may not be the well-known truth." Differing from many versions that translated "道," the theoretical base of the philosophy of Laozi as "Tao," Xu translated it as "Truth."
In his opinion, "道" is a concept with rich implications, an abstract individual character as "Tao" fails to demonstrate the profound underlying meaning. "How can Westerners learn from it?" commented Xu.
According to Xu, this sentence also sends a universal message that can be applied in various situations. For example, for a long time, Western skeptics have doubted China's democracy. Xu pointed out that democracy to some extent can be seen as a kind of truth, therefore, democracy can be known, but it may not be the Western-known democracy.
In Xu's opinion, democracy doesn't need to follow a single standard. Lincoln once defined democracy as a government of the people, by the people and for the people. "By the people" is what Westerners stress the most, while " for the people" is what Chinese democracy is more concerned with.
"In China, people are living far better than before; we can say that the Chinese government works for the people. Therefore, you cannot say that China has no democracy," said Xu.
Reporter: Wang Naiqian
Videographers: Ding Chaoyi, Zhao Ruixuan
Video Editor: Chen Shuxun
Animator: Pan Yufei
Producer: Wen Yaru
Chief Editor: Lin Dongwei
Supervisor: Pang Xinhua
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