Anyone for toxophily?

Stories of Chinese Fables.

I suppose I’ve seen enough short stories and fables from Old Cathay recently to be seeing the same material for the third time or so. This particular book has the text in Chinese and an English translation, but compared with some of the other translations I’ve read recently, the quality is not as good and either needed the hand of an experienced translator or a native speaker to edit out the hiccups. For example, the English translation of the first fable says

Just then a rich childe came to buy a horsewhip.

“Childe” is not exactly Modern English. The only reason I even know the word is from Byron’s Childe Harold. Even then, it seemed to be a deliberate archaism. The Chinese sentence begins

有识货人拿过… (yǒu shíhuòde rén náguò…)

Which apparently means something like “A knowledgeable man came along…” The adjective 识货 is used in a phrase meaning a knowledgeable customer. It’s from another sentence that you can see how the translator came to use “childe”. 阔少 (kuòshào) means “young man from a rich family”. Perhaps the translator wanted to avoid a circumlocution, or perhaps whatever weird and wonderful dictionary he or she was using had “childe” as the translation, which is quite likely.

And yes, one of the fables is about a man learning toxophily. That’s archery to the rest of us.

There aren’t too many instances of this, but as I said, the quality of the translation (like the other volumes in the series from which this book comes) isn’t as good as it is in the other translations of Chinese stories and fables I’ve bought recently. I note that several of them are the work of older translators who graduated long before 1949.


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