On November 5th, the round-table forum "The Long River of History-Translation and Research of Historical Records" hosted by China Renmin University and co-organized by Peking University Publishing House and Boya Forum of Peking University was held in Suzhou Campus of China Renmin University as one of the activities of the second sub-forum of the 8th World Sinology Congress "Sinology and the Translation and Introduction of China Classics".
The forum was hosted by Associate Professor Huang Hongyu, Associate Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of Harbin Institute of Technology (Shenzhen), and attended by experts and scholars such as Professor Han vans ESS from the University of Munich, Professor Su Peng from Nanjing Normal University, Associate Professor Zhang Zongpin from Shaanxi Normal University, Professor Sun Bao from Qufu Normal University, lecturer Yu Jianping from Shanghai Normal University, Dr. Kuang Yantao from the University of Munich and editor Ma Xinmin from Peking University Publishing House. The keynote speaker was Ni Haoshi, a famous American sinologist and translator.
Group photo of some participating scholars
The host Huang Hongyu is a disciple of Ni Haoshi and an important participant in the English translation project of Historical Records. At the beginning of the meeting, Huang Hongyu first introduced Professor Ni Haoshi’s achievements in the translation and research of Historical Records, and the publication of his research collection "Long River of History". Ni Haoshi is currently Halls-Bascom Chair Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His translation of Historical Records has spanned more than 30 years and is the largest English version of Historical Records in the world. In 2020, Ni Haoshi won the 14th Chinese Book Special Contribution Award for his outstanding contribution to the study and translation of China’s ancient literature and the promotion of exchanges and mutual learning between Chinese and foreign civilizations. "Long River of History" is the first collection of his research achievements on Historical Records in the past 30 years and translated into Chinese for publication. It is also the platform achievement of "Ancient Chinese Characters and Chinese Civilization Inheritance and Development Project" of China Renmin University.
Professor Ye Han from the University of Munich, Germany, first made an online speech. Ye Han is a sinologist and a Mongolian scholar, whose research interests are China’s history, Confucianism and Central Asian studies related to China and Mongolia. He is currently the vice president of foreign affairs and the chief professor of sinology at Munich University. His book Politik und Geschichtschribung Imalten China. Pan-Mai-T ‘ung Ban Ma Yi is one of the most important works in the study of Historical Records and Hanshu in the West. Ye Han first expressed regret that he could not attend the event on the spot, and then sincerely and emotionally recalled his experience of acquaintance and cooperation with Ni Haoshi. Both Ye Han and Ni Haoshi studied under Professor Friedrich Bischoff. When they were students, they heard Ni Haoshi’s name and his work many times. In 2001, when Ni Haoshi proposed to establish a translation project of Historical Records in Germany, Ye Han was less than 40 years old. He recalled that he was probably influenced by some unfair comments on Ni Haoshi’s English version of Historical Records at that time and had no definite and clear ideas about his future academic career, so he did not show much interest in Ni Haoshi’s proposal at first. Yip Han pointed out that there will be all kinds of opinions and criticisms about a work, but if you really want to know whether a book is valuable, you must read it yourself, not just judge it based on other people’s comments. Ye Han also told some details and interesting stories about their translation workshop.Years of cooperation have made him and Ni Haoshi close friends. Ye Han mentioned that in 2018, he and Ni Haoshi met at Elling O. Eide Center in Sarasota, Florida. Professor Bishop had told him many stories about this place, and this experience was of extraordinary significance to him. Ye Han also mentioned the latest translation of Historical Records published last year, which is of special significance because it was born during the epidemic. Yip Han concluded that the translation of Historical Records has been a cross-world project for many years, bringing together scholars from the United States, China, Germany, Britain, Russian and other different places. In the past 22 years, it has been a wonderful and very important experience, not only in terms of academic achievements, but also in terms of friendship and bringing people from all over the world together. Ye Han said that there is still a lot of work to be done in the future, and I thank Ni Haoshi for everything he has done for himself and everyone.
After Ye Han’s speech, Ni Haoshi made a brief response. Ni Haoshi said that over the years of cooperation, he and Yip Han have become very close friends. He trusts Yip Han very much in both work and personal affairs, and they have many good memories in common. Ye Han’s familiarity with Historical Records and Hanshu is very important to the translation team. When he wanted to stop or give up, it was Ye Han’s support that kept him going for so many years. He is very grateful to Professor Yip Han for his participation.
Ye Han and Ni Haoshi
The second speaker is Professor Su Peng from Nanjing Normal University. Su Peng participated in the revision of the school-based Historical Records by Zhonghua Book Company. As a main member of the revision group, his personal research interests are mainly in the study of classics, ancient calligraphy documents and related ancient manuscripts in the pre-Qin and Han Dynasties. Su Peng first briefly reviewed the revision of the Chinese version of Historical Records, especially the adjustment of page numbers and layout before and after printing. Then Su Peng talked about the reading experience of The Long River of History from three aspects. 1. Take Ni Haoshi’s investigation of He Cijun’s life experience (2009) as an example. When he translated the text of Historical Records word by word, Ni Haoshi also made a careful investigation of the key figures related to each version of Historical Records, but he only began to pay attention to He Cijun in 2014 and made some investigations. Second, from the article Historical Records and Hanshu —— Taking the biographies of Gaozu and Gaodi as examples, Su Peng paid attention to the study of Historical Records by Ni Haoshi and discussed the text problems of Historical Records, such as the relationship between Historical Records and Hanshu and the compilation of Historical Records. Taking the secret cabinet book "Biography of Gaozu" in the Japanese Imperial Palace as an example, Su Mi pointed out the complexity of the compilation of Historical Records and the so-called "Banma Similarities and Differences", and emphasized that we should pay attention to the canonization process of China classical documents. Third, the translation process of Historical Records described in detail by Ni Haoshi is the process of close reading of the text. Taking pages 14-16 of the book as an example, Su Xiang borrowed the words from Feng Yi’s "A Talk in the Guiyuan" in the Tang Dynasty and praised Ni Haoshi for "the degree of gold and people".Make readers understand the method of text close reading and realize its importance. Su Peng finally concluded that we should pay more attention to the research results of overseas sinologists, which is not enough in the field of traditional classical research. In addition, even in today’s convenient data retrieval and research, it is very important for both China scholars and foreign scholars to read the text carefully.
Associate Professor Zhang Zongpin of Shaanxi Normal University is interested in Qin and Han Dynasties literature and writing this literature. He visited the University of Wisconsin-Madison from August 2017 to 2018, and his co-tutor was Professor Ni Haoshi. Zhang Zongpin said that during his study in Madison, Ni Haoshi’s Historical Records translation team would make him have a deeper understanding of the Historical Records text and its translation. Cross-cultural text translation not only needs to reconfirm the meaning of Chinese, but also find out the corresponding parts of English vocabulary. Both of them must be clear and accurate, and the translated classics can fit the original intention of the text. Take the sentence "The King of Qin walks around the column" in Biography of Assassin as an example, we are faced with the problem of whether the countable noun "column" is singular or plural when translated into English, that is, we need to judge whether the King of Qin and Jing Ke walked around a big column or shuttled between different columns. This concentrated discussion is very enlightening to his later research and writing. Zhang Zongpin said that the value and significance of Ni Haoshi’s translation of Historical Records in academic research and cultural communication will surely become more and more important with the passage of time. The newly published Long River of History is a concentrated display of Ni Haoshi’s research on Historical Records, which is extremely rich in content. Thanks to Dr. Kuang Yantao’s hard compilation, we can understand different aspects of Ni Haoshi’s research on Historical Records. Zhang Zongpin said, "It is very correct to use’ Long River of History’ as the title of the book. As Mr. Ni Haoshi said, his works and translation have become a part of the traditional academic history. In this collection of essays,What we feel is the long history of the study of Historical Records in ancient and modern times, at home and abroad. This big river stretches for two thousand years, and it is magnificent. Scholars on both sides of the strait have contributed a trickle to this long river to varying degrees. Mr. Ni Haoshi and his works have their own particularity: they are not only in the river, but also often travel between the two sides. It is a ferryman, a ferry and a bridge across the two sides. "
Professor Sun Bao of Qufu Normal University is mainly engaged in the study of the interaction between Confucianism, bureaucracy and literature in the Han, Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties. He studied at the University of Wisconsin from September 2017 to September 2018. During his visit to school, Sun Bao participated in the translation workshop of Historical Records, and was deeply shocked by the grandeur and delicacy of this epic project that lasted for more than 30 years. Ni Haoshi’s experience, methods and opinions in studying and analyzing the text of Historical Records are very beneficial to his study of the classics and historical materials of the Six Dynasties. Next, Sun Bao shared some discoveries he had accumulated in the process of reading the Historical Records and the Six Dynasties’ historical collections since his visit to school. Finally, Sun Bao said that during his translation workshop of Historical Records, he was deeply impressed by the academic realm of Ni Haoshi, who was easy and slow. Ni Haoshi always gives encouragement to the idea of Chinese-English translation of Historical Records put forward by everyone. "On the one hand, it requires to make sense, on the other hand, it emphasizes to give proof" and "Stay humble, Stay hungry" may be regarded as one of the essences of Ni Haoshi’s scholarship.
Lecturer Yu Jianping of Shanghai Normal University also visited the University of Wisconsin-Madison from September 2017 to September 2018 and participated in the English translation project of Historical Records. Yu Jianping said that although he had some knowledge of Ni Haoshi’s translation and research of Historical Records, only after reading this Long River of History did he have a more comprehensive understanding of this project that lasted for decades and devoted a lot of efforts to Ni Haoshi and other participants, and he also had a deeper understanding of Ni Haoshi’s research of Historical Records. Next, Yu Jianping talked about his feelings of reading this book from three aspects: First, Ni Haoshi’s investigation and research on the version of Historical Records. For the 1959 edition of Historical Records by Zhonghua Book Company, Ni Haoshi carefully inspected its writing process, especially investigated the relationship between Gu Jiegang, He Cijun, Song Yunbin and others, and pointed out the shortcomings of this edition, which did not refer to the patchwork edition and Renshou edition. It is this serious and responsible attitude that lays the foundation for the high quality of the English version of Historical Records. The second is meticulous translation attitude. Ni Haoshi’s translation attitude is rigorous and serious, even to the point of being meticulous. Some common function words have many meanings in different contexts, so Ni Haoshi tries his best to find the corresponding English words according to their semantics. Some grammatical elements are often omitted in ancient Chinese, and Ni Haoshi tries to complete them in English. In addition to translating the text of Historical Records as accurately as possible, Ni Haoshi also added a lot of relevant materials in the footnotes, so as to make readers fit in with Sima Qian’s target readers as much as possible. The third is the compilation of Historical Records. In the process of word-for-word translation,It is found that there are many "contextual incoherence" problems in Historical Records. Starting with these details, a window on how Sima Qian compiled Historical Records is opened. Yu Jianping said that these viewpoints in the book "are the ideological inspiration formed by accumulation, precipitation and generate in the process of translating Historical Records for decades, and are the natural result of Ni’s long-term persistence in translating and studying Historical Records".
Dr. Kuang Yantao, the compiler of Long River of History and the University of Munich, first reviewed the process of becoming attached to Ni Haoshi and being asked to learn from Mr. Ye Han by his recommender. Kuang Yantao said that during his study in Renmin University of China, Mr. Xu Construction Committee once recommended them to read the article "A Discussion on the Texts of Historical Records and Some Speculations on the Compilation of Family" by Ni Haoshi, and from this, he studied more articles about Historical Records by Ni Haoshi. Kuang Yantao said, "These articles are, on the one hand, Mr. Ni’s thoughts and experiences in the process of translation, and on the other hand, they are actually responses to the academic tradition of western sinology’s doubts about the text of Historical Records since the last century." It was in the process of studying these articles that he found that although Ni Haoshi’s research was so enlightening, there were few translations and quotations in China, so he had the idea of translating his articles into Chinese. First, he translated A Hundred Years of Western Studies on Historical Records and published it in Peking University’s International Sinology Research Newsletter. Later, with the support of Xu Construction Committee and Ma Xinmin, Peking University Press, and with the consent and authorization of Ni Haoshi, the compilation and translation of this collection began. Since 2021, with the support of Professor Ye Han, Kuang Yantao has joined the translation team of Historical Records of Ni Haoshi. Kuang Yantao said that the trust and friendship between Ni Haoshi and Ye Han came into play in Historical Records, a historical book two thousand years ago, and Historical Records was the starting point of all these stories.
Ma Xinmin, assistant editor-in-chief of Peking University Publishing House and director of the Department of Classics and Culture, made a speech as the co-organizer of the event and the representative of the publisher of Long River of History. Ma Xinmin said that one word he paid special attention to when reading this book was time. Sima Qian may have spent more than 20 years writing Historical Records. This classic document has been circulated for more than 2,000 years, and Ni Haoshi spent more than 30 years organizing translation. Because of Historical Records, Sima Qian more than two thousand years ago and Ni Haoshi today, their work is connected in the long river of history. With the passage of time, the English translation of Historical Records hosted by Ni Haoshi will surely show its greatness. Ma Xinmin has participated in and presided over a number of large-scale ancient books publishing projects, including The Whole Song Dynasty, Annotations on Thirteen Classics, and Confucian Collection (essence edition). He pointed out that large-scale projects may not be completed in the end without careful design in advance. From the publisher’s point of view, he expressed his admiration for Professor Ni Haoshi and Professor Wei Bote’s special attention to the consistency and consistency of translations when organizing translations.
The last part of the activity was a keynote speech by the keynote speaker Professor Ni Haoshi. Huang Hongyu said that many people have asked Ni Haoshi how to summarize the Historical Records in one sentence. He thought about some statements, such as "China’s early national narrative" and "a mixed writing of the Old Testament Bible and Herodotus’s History", but he still appreciated Wang Chong’s assertion in the Eastern Han Dynasty the most, that is, Sima Qian and Yang Xiong were like rivers and Han Dynasty, and the rest of the Han Dynasty writers were just rivers like Jingshui and Weishui. This is also the origin of the title "Long River of History".
Ni Haoshi’s speech was elegant and humorous. First of all, he thanked Dr. Kuang Yantao, the compiler of Long River of History, and praised him for his efforts in compiling this book and doing it so well. He quipped that at first he thought it would take about 10 years to complete the work, and it would be written in seven volumes, but he forgot that this was an ideal and perfect situation. Ni Haoshi mentioned Professor Lv Zongli, one of the original translators, and praised him as a great person with profound knowledge. When talking about the materials they used, Ni Haoshi specifically mentioned the contribution made by Wang Ji, a teacher from Suzhou University. Then Ni Haoshi talked about the old and new editions of Historical Records by Zhonghua Book Company from the perspective of academic history. For various reasons, the 1959 edition of Historical Records was completed in a hurry, especially the edition collation, which was mainly due to the limitations of the times. Judging from the differences between Gu Jiegang’s Records of the Historian (the Department of Bai Wen) in the 1930s and the 1959 edition, he doubted whether Gu Jiegang had finished the proofreading of the latter. As for the newly revised version of Historical Records, Ni Haoshi said that they have started to use this version recently. At first, he was a little rejected by this new version. What bothered him most was the change of page numbers, because the Index of Historical Records and their previous translations were all related to page numbers, and the revised version added some collations, including the patchwork version, which brought them more problems. But with more and more use, he found that the revised edition is really a good collation.
Ni Haoshi reviewed some past events between him and Professor Yip Han. He said that it was when Professor Yip Han changed his mind and accepted his cooperation proposal that he really felt that the English translation project team of Historical Records was a successful team. Ni Haoshi also talked about his teacher, Professor Bi Shaofu, who shared with Ye Han. He learned from Professor Bi to explore the deeper implication of the text. After briefly reviewing his study history and the starting process of the English translation project, Ni Haoshi talked about the process of determining the style and form of this translation work. Ni Haoshi said that among all the existing translations, burton watson is undoubtedly unique in this respect, but he is not a scholar of literature. Wordsworth’s translation is suitable for the general readers, and what they have to do is to provide a translation that meets the needs of the research group. After determining the translation principles, they tried to distinguish many expressions with similar semantics but different meanings in ancient Chinese, such as "attack" translated as "to attack", "to give battle to", "to lead a punitive expedition against" and "to attack". They summarized and classified this and still use it today.
Huang Hongyu concluded that the English translation of Historical Records led by Ni Haoshi successfully practiced the PI system in the field of large-scale Chinese translation. All members of the team have gained growth in this collaboration process, and continue to be inspired by Ni Haoshi’s profound knowledge, vigorous energy, keen curiosity and charisma.
Finally, Ni Haoshi interacted with the students at the scene and enthusiastically answered your questions. He Haiyan from Hubei University, Liu Cheng from Guangxi Normal University, Hong Yinghua from Xiamen University, Wu Guimei from Yangtze University, Pan Li and Wang Ji from Suzhou University, Deng Lin from Beijing Foreign Studies University and some students from China Renmin University and Suzhou University also participated in the activity.