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Lost and Found in Translating Tourist Texts Domesticating, Foreignising or Neutralising Approach

He Sanning, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology


Domesticating and foreignising strategies are popular in translation studies and each of them has its own advantages and disadvantages in translating tourist texts. The advantages for domesticating include maintaining the terseness of the text, obtaining the reader’s understanding of the translated text, and gaining the interest of the reader. Its biggest weakness is that the cultural and historical elements of the original could be lost in translation. The advantages for foreignising are revealing the cultural and historical factors of the Source Text (ST), and disseminating the culture and customs of the original. Its disadvantages are neglecting the reader’s understanding, and the function of attracting the tourists may be lost. This paper argues that neither of them can solve all the problems associated with translating tourist texts from Chinese to English. The major focus of this paper is to find a new translation strategy that can highlight and introduce Chinese culture to the target audience and keep Chinese culture intact. This neutralising strategy with its information-oriented, association-applied and concept-based principles can be employed to ensure the equivalents in information, concept and aesthetics.


Domesticating and foreignising, advantages and disadvantages, neutralising, information-oriented, association-applied, concept-based.

1. Cultural Translation and Translating Culture

When we discuss the translation of tourist texts from Chinese to English, it is very important to make a distinction between the two terms ‘translating culture’ and ‘cultural translation’. Translating culture, in a narrow sense, refers to the act of transferring meaning from one specific culture-bearing language to another. Cultural translation refers to a dynamic process where everyone and everything that are a part of the interaction in translation undergo change, where notions are constructed about other cultures and about oneself. That is to say, translating culture is an act only in translation and cultural translation is the understanding and rendering of cultural concepts. Translating tourist texts is not simply translating culture, but also involves cultural translation. In a sense, translating tourist texts means translating the source culture to the reader.

It is known that culture is the “integrated pattern of human knowledge, beliefs, and behaviour that is both a result of and integral to the human capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations. Culture thus consists of language, ideas, beliefs, customs, taboos, codes, institutions, tools, techniques, works of art, rituals, ceremonies, symbols.” (Stevens et al 2008: 430). Tourist attractions are often deeply rooted in the culture of a country. Every society, on every level, has its own culture influenced by its history and geography. Therefore the aim of tourist text translating should not be only to perform cultural rendering but also to translate culture from Chinese to English.

2. Qualities of Tourist Texts

Tourist texts are designed to introduce the scenic spots to the viewers, and to convey the related information to them in order to enable the viewers to understand and enjoy the spots. They mainly offer the expressive, the informative and the vocative functions. The expressive function works as the mind of the speaker, the writer, or the originator of the text. He or she uses it to express his or her feelings irrespective of any response. The core of the informative function is an external aspect, the facts of a topic, that is, reality outside language, including reported ideas or theories. The core of the vocative function is the readership, the addressee. The term ‘vocative’ is used in the sense of ‘calling upon’ readership to act, think or feel, in fact to ‘react’ in the way intended by the text. Nowadays, vocative texts are more often addressed to a readership than to a reader (Newmark, 1988: 40-45). In my opinion, the vocative function is the goal, while the informative function is the premise. This is because tourist texts are a type of popular reading material for ordinary people. The purpose is to attract the tourists’ attention, arouse their interest and give them an aesthetic impression, so that they may be persuaded to visit the tourist attraction and gain knowledge of the nature, culture, history and customs of the tourist attraction through reading the text. Therefore the vocative function is of utmost importance.

As a result, a number of factors need to be taken into account. As Newmark (1988: 41) points out, “The first factor in all vocative texts is the relationship between the writer and the readership. The second factor is that these texts must be written in a language that is immediately comprehensible to the readership.” However, this effort can be achieved only through the provision of sufficient background information. Before potential visitors make up their minds to go sightseeing, they may want to obtain some relevant information about the tourist destination such as its location, historical importance, and cultural traditions. A detailed, accurate and attractive description will strengthen visitors’ resolve to go; therefore to be informative is also another important consideration. According to Newmark (1988), both informative text and vocative text belong to communicative translation, while the expressive text belongs to semantic translation. In his opinion communicative translation attempts to render the exact contextual meaning of the original text in such a way that both content and language are readily acceptable and comprehensible to the readership (Newmark 1988: 48-49). At the same time, the expressive function should not be neglected either. By reading a well-translated tourist text, people can sense national pride and a warm welcome emanating from the host country’s guidebooks.

Apart from the above-mentioned functions, tourist texts still possess “the aesthetic function” (Chen 1998: 273) and cultural values. When speaking of the aesthetic function, it is evident that the tourist text is often very short and well-organised in structure, and concise and sparkling in language. As far as the cultural value is concerned, it is manifested primarily through three aspects: the inherent values in natural views like rivers, lakes, mountains and so on; the traditional values long-established in heritage such as habits, traditions, practices, social structures, arts and crafts, etc.; and the artificial values held in man-made sights like palaces and temples, imperial tombs and underground museums, architecture and gardens, and elsewhere. The translation of such texts is characterised by a special intention but disadvantaged by inadequate cultural equivalents. As we know, the ideal tourist texts should maintain such qualities as being informative, intriguing, realistic, practical, cultural, educational, humorous and even poetic.

Thanks to the aforementioned qualities and their functions, the translator has to think of ‘genre conventions’ and follow the target reader’s reading habits and feelings when translating the text. Nord (2001: 53) states, “Genre conventions are the result of the standardisation of communication practices. As certain kinds of text are used repeatedly in certain situations with more or less the same function, these texts acquire conventional forms that are sometimes even raised to the status of social norms.” In this context, the translation of a tourist text should attach importance to the equivalence of the informative contents and stylistic functions between the original and the translated texts, rather than the equivalence in linguistic forms.

Translation of tourist texts is a kind of publicity activity. Its essence is that the translator should attempt to produce the same effect on the target language readers as is produced by the original on the source language readers. Chinese readers seldom have difficulty in understanding the original because they share the same cultural background with the writer. However, cultural discrepancies will hinder foreign readers from understanding such texts properly. Therefore translators should adopt an appropriate method to adjust the version to help readers comprehend the texts. Otherwise “they will find the translation requiring so much effort to understand that they are likely to stop reading, unless they are very highly motivated.”(Jin Di and Nida 1984: 102).

To sum up, when translating tourist texts, we are not just dealing with words written in a certain time, space and socio-political situation; most importantly, it is the cultural aspects of the text that should be taken into account. There are at least five kinds of influences that need to be considered when translating tourist texts from Chinese to English, and they are: (1) the influence of associative and connotative meanings; (2) the influence of different understandings and thoughts, (3) the influence of metaphors and expressions; (4) the influence of religions and myths; and (5) the influence of values and lifestyle. Therefore the translation of tourist texts should be tourist-oriented, culture-specific, and concept-based.

3. Strategies of Translating Tourist Texts
3.1. Domesticating

The domesticating strategy was first put forward by Schleimacher, (1838/1963:47) and developed by Lawrence Venuti (1995: 19-20). It “entails translating in a transparent, fluent, ‘invisible’ style in order to minimise the foreignness of the TT.” (Munday 2001: 146). In the West, “the domesticating strategies have been implemented at least since ancient Rome.” “Such strategies find their strongest and most influential advocates in the French and English translation traditions, particularly during the early modern period.” (Baker 2004: 240-244). This is because, in my view, they share many more similarities such as beliefs, traditions, habits, etc. than they do with Asians. Therefore Western scholars and translators prefer to apply domesticating strategies to render texts. They are also used when translating between Chinese and English. For instance, the translation of the place name ‘the Marco Polo Bridge’ for Lugouqiao (卢沟桥), is a typical example of domesticating. Luogouqiao is a bridge near Beijing with special historical significance. The literal transliteration into ‘Lugou Bridge’ simply tells where it is, but the English reader does not know of its historical significance and meaning. If it is translated as ‘the Marco Polo Bridge’, the English reader may understand it more clearly and more easily. Similarly, ‘the Marco Polo Bridge Incident’ was a battle between Japan's Imperial Army and China's National Revolutionary Army, marking the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). This incident occurred there and was very similar to the battle at the Marco Polo Bridge in France. Our purpose in translating such texts is to keep them understandable for the TL reader. The tourist-centered approach should therefore be considered essential. However, in this translation the historical incident is found, but the cultural element is lost. The reader himself does not know from the translation the cultural value of the bridge, which is an architectural work of eleven arches, restored by the Kangxi Emperor (1662-1722, A.D.) during the Qing Dynasty.

Owing to the many voids and differences between Chinese and English, cultural factors are often lost when translating tourist texts from Chinese into English. To understand Chinese culture, the translator needs to focus on the many untranslatable words and phrases. These untranslatable words and phrases sometimes can be seen as small signs of what is lost in translation. Take the Chinese term Bao zheng (包拯) for example. He was a historical Chinese figure in the Northern Song Dynasty (960 - 1127, A.D.) who enforced the law strictly and impartially, dared to expostulate outright and remonstrate with the Emperor. Because of this, he has been called Bao Gong (包公) or Bao Daren (包大人), which shows people’s respect for him. Nowadays Gong (公) or Daren(大人) is translated as ‘Lord’ and ‘Lord Bao’ for the full name, which refers to a man who has aristocratic rank, especially in Britain, or a man in mediaeval Europe who was very powerful and owned considerable land. In this case, equivalence in form is found between the two languages. Unfortunately, the Chinese cultural elements will be lost if we directly and simply translate the term. This is because the English word ‘lord’ cannot reflect the people’s respect for him or relate what Bao Zheng did at that time. In fact this term may be translated as ‘the revered Mr. Bao’ or ‘His Excellency Bao Zheng’ which embodies the respect for Bao Zheng, but “lord” is ambiguous here. These words embody a rich and varied part of our culture. In this context, we shall make every effort to determine what a tourist destination should have and introduce its culture and history to the reader when translating such tourist texts. Translating tourist texts offers a valuable clue to how one culture discovers an interest in another, just as some individuals and groups discover an interest in another. Therefore if such terms containing strong historical and cultural resonance are superficially put into ‘Lord Bao’, connotations among them will be lost in translation. The reader by no means understands what this term should imply. This paper maintains that such terms should be translated according to their annotations or connotations, and the tourist-oriented approach should be followed. We may also query the difference between the domesticating and the tourist-oriented approach. In fact, they are only slightly different in meaning. The former refers to a translation that has exactly the same effect as the effect of the original version; the latter is a strategy that is fully considerate of the reader, and we may employ such methods as addition or deletion and others to satisfy and comply with the reader’s needs.

In short, the domesticating strategy is an essential way of translating tourist texts, but it cannot solve all the problems existing in culture-specific tourist texts. We need to find the similarities in culture when translating between languages from the East and the West. The advantages of domesticating include maintaining the terseness of the TL text, obtaining an understanding of the SL text, and gaining the interest of the TL reader. The biggest weakness is that the cultural and historical elements of the original text could be lost in translation.

3.2. Foreignising

“Foreignising entails choosing a foreign text and developing a translation method along lines which are excluded by dominant cultural values in the target language.” (Venuti, 1997:242; Baker, ed. 2004:242). As far as the foreignising strategy is concerned, I believe that it should focus on the cultural and historical factors underlying the tourist text. One should stick to culture-specific strategies when translating such texts. In principle, faithfulness is the top priority when translating tourist texts. This is because such translations should be faithful to the central ideas of the SL text, such as cultural background, historical facts, geographical settings, aesthetic values, fabricated attractions and natural landscapes. As far as Chinese texts are concerned, it is primarily a foreignising strategy that is employed in order to maintain faithfulness, According to Venuti (1995:240-244), “strategies in producing translations inevitably emerge in response to domestic cultural situations. But some are deliberately domesticating in their handling of the foreign text, while others can be described as foreignising, motivated by an impulse to preserve linguistic and cultural differences by deviating from prevailing domestic values.” In actual translation, we usually use pinyin to translate some culture-specific items indicating names, places or events. The Peking opera, for example, is a traditional Chinese opera form that dates back to 1790, when four local opera troupes of Anhui Province came to Beijing on a performance tour on the order of the imperial court. Jiaozi(饺子), a very popular food enjoyed by most Chinese, is supposed to bring good fortune. Because of semantic voids between Chinese and English, it cannot be simply translated as ‘dumplings’ or ‘Chinese dumplings’. This is because dumplings and jiaozi are quite different in meaning and quality. Another typical example is kungfu, or wushu, which is also known in the West. There is no need to domesticate it by translating it into ‘Chinese martial arts’. This is because most people in the world have heard of kungfu. Even though the term ‘Chinese martial arts’ is sometimes used, it is impossible to tell the reader about the origin, the function, and the essence of the cultural heritage. It may be concluded that unique items in the ST can be translated by means of a foreignising strategy. Chinese musical instruments, some dish names and other culture-specific items can be put in pinyin.

Technically, we can use both of the strategies to tackle the cultural elements in translating tourist texts. This paper argues that tourist texts should be translated primarily by means of foreignising to retain the original cultural resonances. Only in a situation that we cannot deal with do we use a domesticating strategy, in other words, allowing the alien to be seen, or as Schleiermacher famously put it, by bringing the reader to the text rather than the other way round. The problem is that if a translation is successful, in the sense of reading as if it were written in the target language, then its creator and its original culture become invisible. For this reason, it is believed that the domesticating strategy should be applied as little as possible when translating tourist texts. This is because the purpose of tourist texts is to spread the foreign or different cultures to the reader, and the translator is responsible for disseminating the original culture to the TL reader.

To sum up, the foreignising strategy is a preferable approach to translating tourist texts. The advantages include revealing the cultural and historical factors of the ST, disseminating the culture and customs of the original, and showing the equality between languages and between cultures. The disadvantages include neglecting the reader’s emotion and understanding. In other words, the functions of disseminating the ST cultures are found, but the effects of attracting the tourists are most likely lost when employing such a strategy.

4. A New Strategy— Neutralising

When translating tourist texts both cultural uniqueness and readability need to be ensured. When some lexical or semantic voids are encountered in the Chinese text, the neutralising strategy can be used to render them into English and prevent viewers from misunderstanding the original, so that a uniquely cultural factor becomes a common phenomenon all over the world. How we preserve those culture-specific elements and at the same time ensure the greatest possible readability in the translation, is a headache for many translators.

4.1. Definition

Based on the previous discussion, I am of the opinion that, because of the special nature of tourist texts and the functions of their special text type, the translation of tourist texts should serve the purpose of arousing the interest of the TL readers and motivate them to visit the tourist destination described in the text. The translator here has more freedom in translation compared with other types of translation.

Some theorists and scholars have held that domesticating and foreignising strategies cannot be accommodated together in one text. Andre Lefevere (1992: 149) argues that the domesticating and foreignising strategies are completely different translation strategies which cannot be combined in the same translation. However, it is believed that this is not feasible in practice. This is because the purpose in translating tourist texts is not only to translate the source language into the target language, but also to translate the exotic elements of the SL language into the target text. Either one of domesticating and foreignising strategies alone cannot provide the complete solution for the tourist text.

In fact, the domesticating and the foreignising strategies are a paradox in translation studies. It is very hard for the translator to distinguish clearly between them and use them in the translation process. As Sun Yingchun(2004:67) states “As for the priority of the domesticating or that of the foreignising strategies used in translation, it is probably inappropriate to say which is prior before the specific translation is analysed. This is because translation is an act of intention or skopos and its purpose constantly changes with the specific situation.” This is true for the translation of tourist texts.

According to Nida (1986), no translation is ever completely equivalent. A number of different translations can in fact represent varying degrees of equivalence. This means that ‘equivalence’ cannot be understood in its mathematical meaning of identity, but only in terms of proximity, i.e. on the basis of degrees of closeness to functional identity.

Functional equivalence implies a different degree of adequacy from minimal to maximal effectiveness on the basis of both cognitive and experiential factors. A minimal, realistic definition of functional equivalence could be described by saying “The readers of a translated text should be able to comprehend it to the point that they can conceive how the original readers of the text must have understood and appreciated it.” Anything less than this degree of equivalence should be unacceptable. A maximal, ideal definition could be described by saying “The readers of a translated text should be able essentially to understand and appreciate it in the same manner as the original readers did.”(Nida 2001: 87). The maximal definition implies a high degree of language-culture correspondence between the source language and the target language.

It is clear that the domesticating or the foreignising strategies cannot solve all the problems in translating tourist texts. A new strategy, namely neutralising, may be able to be put forward as the criterion for the translation of tourist texts and can help promote cultural exchange, because the translator should try his best to transfer the cultural message from the original text to the target text, while retaining readability and acceptability of the translation. Here the neutralising strategy does not simply mean a mixture of the domesticating and foreignising strategies. It refers to the act and process of constantly modulating the translator’s own awareness of what is being translated to satisfy the reader’s needs and to achieve correlative equivalents between the ST and the TT. In other words, the translation of tourist texts does not rely on either strategy and the translator fully takes into account all the cultural elements existing in the text whenever necessary. Newmark (1991), who put forward the “correlative approach to translation”, states that “The more important the language of the original or source language text, the more closely it should be translated.” According to this approach, seven methods are suggested to cope with different kinds of texts: component analysis, modulation, descriptive equivalent, functional equivalent, cultural equivalent, synonymy and paraphrase (Newmark 1991: 1-33). The degree of compatibility in the first method is highest and the last is the lowest. Different texts and different contents of the same text can be translated by different methods. As translators of tourist texts, they may follow the three-step approach for neutralising. The first step is to modulate the translator’s awareness of which features a tourist text possesses, and constantly judge what kind of text is being translated and what differences and similarities exist between the original text and the target text. From there, the translator should analyse what the target reader may feel when reading the translation. For example, the translator, when translating a Chinese tourist text, should determine what the main subject matter of the text is, such as traditional Chinese food, religious culture, Chinese festivals, ancient Chinese architecture and horticulture, tombs and underground museums, traditional Chinese arts and crafts, or natural landscapes and artificial sights, and then decide whether the expressive, informative or vocative function of the source text is reflected in the translated text. The second step is to satisfy the reader’s needs. The translator should follow the tourist-oriented strategy and understand what the reader’s needs may involve and then manage to meet such needs. The last is to achieve different equivalents between the ST and the TT, terms of equivalence in information, equivalent in concept, equivalent in aesthetics according to the qualities of the source text.

4.2. The information-oriented Principle

Depending on the qualities of tourist texts, transferring information is one of the most important functions in translation. In order to perform such a function, the translator has to follow the information-oriented principle, supply the reader with enough information from the original text and help them understand the culture and history of the ST. As we know, names of places and persons frequently appear in tourist texts. In Chinese tourist texts, most Chinese people would know them but foreign readers would not.Su Dongpo (苏东坡), for example, cannot be simply translated into Chinese Mandarin or pinyin because most foreign readers would not know who he is. Here we may take advantage of the neutralising strategy to translate the name as ‘Su Dongpo (1037—1101), poet of the Northern Song Dynasty (960—1127) in China.’ The underlined part gives the reader some extra background information about the poet. Another example is the sentence 传说《白蛇传》的白娘子曾经在这白龙洞里修练, which could be rendered as ‘The White Dragon Cave is said to be the very place where Lady White, the legendary heroine of The Story of the White Snake, cultivated herself according to Buddhist doctrine.’ The underlined parts amplified or added by the translator in the above-mentioned example are added out of consideration for the English target readers to help them understand the tale, although no such words were used in the original Chinese text.

Dates, which are often used in tourist texts, can be directly translated. However, the effect of their translations is much stronger if we consider the tourist-oriented strategy. Let us look at the following example: 北京故宫耗时14年,整个工程于1420年结束。

It is not difficult to translate it into English, yet the English reader may not be impressed if this is directly translated. It would be better if the neutralising strategy were used. Some suggested versions are as follows:
Version 1: The construction of the Forbidden City took 14 years, and was finished in 1420, 14 years before Shakespeare was born.
Version 2: The construction of the Forbidden City took 14 years, and was finished in 1420, 72 years before Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. (Ye Miao 2004: 26-28).

Either of the two versions could be used in tourist texts. The first half in each version takes into account the culture-specific architecture and accurately provides the basic information of the original. The second half is for the sake of the target reader and it gives additional information for further understanding. This is to say that the target reader may be impressed when reading such additional information. Meanwhile, the vocative function is already accomplished.

The above-mentioned examples are used to illustrate a translation associated with the informative function when translating tourist texts. The suggestion is that the translator should always think of what the target reader may be thinking, ascertain as much as possible what the readers may wish to find in the tourist text, and supply them with enough information to supplement what they already have. The purpose is to reach an equivalent in information.

4.3. The association-applied Principle

Newmark (1981: 39-48) once remarked, “Communicative translation addresses itself solely to the second reader, who does not anticipate difficulties or obscurities, and would expect a generous transfer of foreign elements into his own culture as well as his language where necessary.” Here the translator is required to transfer foreign elements into the reader’s own culture. Nevertheless, this is not all that he or she does when translating. We also take the retaining of the original culture into consideration. In other words, the domesticating and foreignising methods should be simultaneously used to maintain both cultures. Such association principles can help close and bridge cultural voids or gaps, create an association with them and also perform the vocative function.Liang Shanbo (梁山伯) and Zhu Yingtai(祝英台), for instance, is a folk legend, which tells the story of a young man and a woman who were deeply in love, and who turned into two butterflies and flew away wing to wing because their parents were opposed to their marriage. We cannot use transliteration here because it is a moving love story. It was once translated as ‘The Butterfly Lovers’ or ‘The Romance of the Butterfly’, both good translationsIf we follow the association principle to translate ‘Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai’ into English as ‘the Romeo and Juliet of China’, we may also translate Jigong (济公) into‘Jigong, a legendary figure in ancient China similar to Robin Hood, who robbed the rich and helped the poor’.

Let us look at some more examples to illustrate the principle further. First, it was told that in ancient China, Zhurong(祝融), who was the official in charge of fire, was later named the god of fire. And Prometheus, who created fire for people on earth, was the god of fire in ancient Greece. Some similarities or a correlative equivalent really exist between these two gods. So we may use the association principle to translate Zhurong Hall (祝融殿) into ‘the Hall of Zhurong, the Chinese Prometheus.’ Second, we may render 炎帝神农氏 as ‘Emperor Yandi, the Chinese Saturn’ or ‘Emperor Yandi, the god of agriculture in China.’ Third, Suzhou(苏州), as we all know, is renowned for her landscaped gardens, and has a high water table which supplies the vast number of ponds and streams throughout the city and these ponds serve to focus on the different elements of the gardens within a small space. So the translation version of Suzhou can be rendered as ‘Suzhou, the Venice of the East or the Venice of China,’ which is much more descriptive and more vocative than its transliteration. Lastly, Du Kang (杜康), which is one of the most famous liquors named after the well-known wine maker in Xia Dynasty (2070-1600, B.C.), may be translated as “Du Kang, Chinese Bacchus” because Bacchus was the Greek god of wine and this translated version could make the reader associate it with good wine. These examples clearly tell us that the association principle can help the reader to create association with their own culture and history and in tourist texts improve mutual understanding between the two cultures. In this case, the translations show consideration for the foreign reader’s cognitive settings, textual effect due to the correlativeness, and favourably disseminate the traditional Chinese culture to the world.

4.4. The Concept-based Principle

The concept-based principle is used primarily for the words or phrases of tourist texts bearing cultural or historical elements which cannot reflect the culture-specific conceptual meanings. It is employed to supply what the ST does not include and to establish communication with the target reader. Its function is to convey the concepts of history and culture of the source text; disseminate the culture of the original; and draw the reader’s focus to the scenic spot. Unfortunately, the translations of Chinese tourist texts are full of transliteration or pinyin. However, understanding tourist texts for the English reader sometimes cannot be achieved through transliteration or pinyin. Most importantly, the historical and cultural elements will be lost if pinyin is frequently applied when translating Chinese tourist texts.

The City of Nanjing, for instance, is famous for its yuhuashi (雨花石), which is a kind of colourful and beautiful stone made of quartzite, opal and chalcedony and is usually sold in tourist shops. However, it has several English translations, e.g., ‘Rain Flower Stone’, ‘Yuhua Pebbles’, ‘Yuhua Stones’ and ‘Rain Flower Pebbles’ as found in tourist texts. Some foreign readers may be puzzled by these and think that they might be different stones. It is envisaged that the translator considers himself in the place of the reader. To English-speaking readers, stone and pebble are quite different. The word ‘stone’ refers to “the hard compact non-metallic material of which rocks are made” (Hanks 1979: 1432) and ‘pebble’ refers to “a small usually round stone especially when worn and rounded by the action of water” (Gove et al 2002) on the seashore or a riverbed. First, the translator has to make a correct choice between the two words. According to geological survey, the Yangtze River ran by this area during the tertiary period and the pretty-looking stones gradually accumulated through time to become small, roundish, and smooth due to the action of water. The river changed its course because of crustal movement and the pebbles were deposited in this area. So it is evident that choosing ‘pebble’ is the correct choice. What about the translation of Yuhua? It was once suggested that yuhuashi should be translated into ‘Yuhua stones’ (Wang Qiusheng 2004: 77). This version is inadequate because it does not show the connotative meaning of Yuhua. Foreign readers do not know what Yuhua or Yuhuashi is. Tradition had it that the eminent monk, Yun Guang (云光), in the Nan Dynasty (420-589 A.D.) preached a sermon in Nanjing and talked continuously about Buddhism. The audience was intoxicated with his profound knowledge and eloquence. The Heaven was moved to tears, and then dropped flower rain to the ground, which turned into multicoloured stones that were later called Yuhuashi. According to the legend, this may be translated into “Flower-rain Pebbles.”. If it appears in the tourist text rather than in the title, it is also necessary to illustrate it and even explain it by relating legend.

There are many tourist attractions including places and names with tales like this in China. These Chinese items in tourist texts referring to the culture-specific features convey conceptual meanings that do not exist in English. These are linked to geography, history, politics, religion, holidays, cuisine and others. For example, ‘the Hall of Earthly Tranquility’ (坤宁宫) instead of ‘Kunninggong’; ‘Dufu’s Hatched Cottage’ (杜甫草堂) not ‘Dufu Caotang’; ‘Tiger Dug Spring’ (虎跑泉) rather than ‘Hupoquan’; ‘Garden of Humble Administrator’(拙政园)instead of ‘Zhuozhengyuan’; ‘White Horse Temple’ (白马寺) not ‘Baimasi’; ‘Double-9th Festival’ (重阳节) instead of ‘Chongyangjie’; ‘instant boiled mutton’ (涮羊肉) not ‘Shuanyangrou’ and so on. These names of places of historical and cultural interest, I would argue, cannot be simply translated using pinyin because transliteration or pinyin is unable to close the cultural voids. The concept-based principle should be used as much as possible unless the names are unique and known to all in transliteration or pinyin. Additionally, pinyin could be used when the concept-based principle will not manifest the culture-specific items, as discussed in the foreignising strategy. In short, the translator is bound to make Chinese culture and history, as contained in the original tourist texts, understandable and comprehensible to the target reader, not just by using pinyin to transliterate and thus express the culture-bearing elements in tourist texts.

5. Conclusion

Should we rigidly apply domesticating or foreignising strategies to focus primarily on the source culture or the target culture? The answer is not clear-cut. Nevertheless, the dominant criterion is the communicative function of the target text. Generally speaking, any text has informative, expressive and vocative functions. Among them, one function dominates while the other two do not have the same importance in some tourist texts. Meanwhile, other functions of tourist texts should not be neglected in translation. It is important for the translator to decide which function dominates in a particular text and then find the suitable method to translate it. In short, loss in tourist text translation is inevitable. Our task is to find the translation strategies that will transmit and highlight Chinese culture, and make it understandable to the target readers. A translator is a messenger of culture who makes unremitting efforts to search for equivalence in information, concepts and aesthetics.

This paper was presented at FIT 5th Asian Translators Forum in April 2007, Bogor, Indonesia, and is part of the Provincial academic research project: How to Improve the Translation Quality of Tourist Texts(No:07JD740013 & A0809).

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H. SanningHe Sanning is the Vice-Dean, Professor of the School of Languages and Cultures, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology. He undertook his research as a visiting scholar under the guidance of Professor Peter Newmark at the University of Surrey between November 2005 and July 2006.