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Dragon 对龙的误解 Loong
的英文解释 Loong 的应用实例
A CROSS CULTURE PERSPECTIVE ON
THE TRANSLATION OF THE CHINESE CHARACTER “LONG”
Zhang Jianping 2006.07
Abstract: This research I did, namely “A CROSS CULTURE PERSPECTIVE ON THE TRANSLATION OF THE CHINESE CHARACTER ‘LONG’”, is in the translation area. Because language is the content of the culture, firstly, I traced the history of “long” in China, also the “dragon” in the western world, in order to find out what kind of the images of those two words were formed in people’s mind. Then by comparison of their differences, I sum up the main idea of “long”. This character not only indicates the traditional Chinese mythological animal, but also the meanings of being imperial, powerful, prosperous even talented etc. And “dragon” is just simply the “evil” image in westerners’ mind. So when doing translation or interpreting, we should not take the differences of culture background for granted and take the culture information gap into consideration.
Key words: long; dragon; translation; interpreting
Chinese people like using some kinds of “lucky words” in their daily communication. Take the famous brand “Pepsi” for example. Chinese people translate it into “Bai Shi Ke Le”, which means everything goes well. “Long”, a kind of traditional Chinese mythological animal, bears the meaning of being imperial, powerful, prosperous and even talented etc. It is wildly use in people’s daily life. In English, we have “dragon”. It just simply indicates a kind of “evil’ monster, evil things in the western people’s mind. The reason why I do this research is because I find that nowadays, many a mainstream Chinese media, book, or person, when they do the translation; they just always ignore the culture differences. They would like to put the “long” into “dragon” in English. That causes the misunderstandings. I, doing this research, using “long” as a typical example, would like to put forward the idea that “dragon” and “long” are two totally different ideas. They do not correspond with each other.
II. Literature Review
Searching deeply from the books been published to the resources from the Internet, nowadays I find that there are few experts has done the research concerning this topic. What only can I find is just the studies on the Chinese Culture of “long”. And that is on the history aspect. Few experts do the research on translation area. On the “dragon” part, the studies is even less. So I think this topic is worth discussing. In order to do this research, I have searched various kinds of media resources including the library, Internet or doing the interview with some knowledgeable teachers. As I know that Language is the content of culture. I do my research, firstly, I show the image of “long” in Chinese people’ mind, I have found out Yi.Qian, and Liji. Liyun, which are two of the oldest Chinese masterpiece of History, also many words from a great number of famous Chinese dictionaries.
On “dragon”, as we all know in the English vocabulary, Latin and Greek has provided English with the rich resources for word formation .So I quoted some of the history, relating to the dragon from the Greek mythology, in view of showing the “evil” image of that word. And then by comparison we can see the culture difference. This is the first step to do the translation works.
III. A CROSS CULTURE PERSPECTIVE
ON THE TRANSLATION OF THE CHINESE CHARACTER “LONG”
III 1. THE COMPARISON STUDY BETWEEN ‘LONG’ & ‘DRAGON’
III 1.1 “LONG” IN CHINA
In China, the word “long”, having it spelling and pronunciation quoted from its pinyin (Chinese linguistic and alphabetic system), is thought to be one kind of mysterious and mythological animal with a long body, scales, horns, wings and feet, which could walk, fly, swim and gather clouds to pour down rain. It has been a long history since “long” began to symbolize the auspiciousness, sovereignty, and prosperity in Chinese culture. In ancient China ,“toten” had existed in the tribe before the exactly idea of “country” appeared in people’s mind .They worshiped the “long”, wishing it could bring them the heavy harvest and protect them from any disaster.
Language is the content of culture. I also found in Yi. Qian ① ，we have
a saying “fei long zai long ”(long was the most dominating figure in the
heaven). “Long” also was referred to one of the four miraculous and powerful
animals in the living world by Liji. Liyun ①. When China was in the period
of Shang Dynasty (1562? -1066BC), “long” had begun to be printed or craved
on the vase, bronze ware and jewelry, etc, according to the report of
Archaeology published in the last century. People at that time, honoring
“long” as their “almighty God”, hoped that printing or craving the image
of it on the daily necessities can bring them good fortune and luck.
Up till now, “long” is still superior to any of the mythological animal in people’s mind. We have a great number of lakes, places, using the Chinese character “long” as their names. We have the traditional stamps, coins, and dishes, created by the image of “long”. In literature, we call our country “dong fang ju long” (It means we consider our country as supervised and universal as “long” in our traditional culture in East Asia.) Also in the profound Chinese word-formation system, we can find a great amount of phrases, which consists of the Chinese character “long”. For example, “long feng cheng xiang, sheng long huo hu, long teng hu yue” . Chinese people would like to use these expressions, especially in Spring Festival (It is Jan 1st in Chinese Luna calendar, the most important festival in Chinese mind), in order to show their beautiful wishes toward the future, hoping that the society will be prosperous and they have good luck. And also there is a phrase, called “wo hu cang long” which have the same Chinese name with the famous movie: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. “Long” here refers to the talented people .We also have the expression “long men diao che”. That is the portal jib crane in English. Here is also a reflection of the “long” image: strong, powerful body structure and almighty creature. We can say the content of “long” is the core of Chinese 5000 years’ culture.
 These four words’ translation were quoted from The Contemporary Chinese Dictionary - Chinese to English version. They are “long ti(龙体)” . “long ting（龙廷）”， “long pao（龙袍）”， “long chuang（龙床） ”
 That is “龙凤呈祥，生龙活虎，龙腾虎跃” written in Chinese.
III 1.2 “DRAGON” WESTERN CULTURE
Nowadays, most of the mainstream media in China, when they do the translation, they would like to refer the Chinese character “long” to the English word “dragon”. In fact, “dragon” was considered to one kind of scaly green monster (a large and usually ferocious fire-breathing creature in myths, legends, and fairy tales that has green scaly skin, a long tail, and wings) symbolizing destruction and evil, in western people’s mind. This conception is found, for example, in Enuma Elish, a Mesopotamian creation epic written about 2000 BC. One of the central figures of the legend is the goddess Tiamat, a dragon like personification of the oceans, who headed the hordes of chaos and whose destruction was prerequisite to an orderly universe. In the sacred writings of the ancient Hebrews, the dragon frequently represents death and evil. We also can see it from Bible: Satan was called “dragon”. In some of the Christian art, the dragon is a symbol of sin. Culture is the content of the language. We cannot separate the language from its original culture of history. Also in Greek Mythology, we have heard the story of Cadmus .He is the son of King of Phoenicia. After Cadmus killed a dragon, he put the dragon teeth into the field. And then the teeth turned into the warriors running from the ground, wanting to kill Cadmus. So now, we have an expression called: sow dragon’s teeth. It means sowing the seeds of hatred and enmity.
We also can find out some expressions with derogatory sense in the dictionaries. For example, “She is a real dragon.” Here, “dragon” refers to an unfriendly and frightening woman. Form the following description from A New English Course（a famous English Textbook in China）, we can also find out the how the westerners fell when mentioning this word: “Suddenly his eyeballs (an old lizard’s eyeballs) reddened. A final fast lunge from my friend at the beast and I (the writer) froze in astonishment---a fine spray of blood shot from the lizard’s eye, like fire from a dragon!”
 That is from Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia---"Dragon".
III 2.HOW TO TRANSLATE “LONG”
As we can see from the above comparison research, although “long” and “dragon” are both the magical and mystical, mythological animals in Chinese and western culture, the background of history, the development of the society’s well as the way of thinking, cause the differences between them. When the character “long” appears in the words and expressions, we always refer it to the analogical meanings, which are formed by the profound history of China. I summon up the main meanings as followed:
1) Something belongs to the emperor or related to the imperial in ancient China.
2) As powerful and strong and active as the “long” in traditional Chinese Mythology.
3) Talented people, “wo hu cang long ”, for example.
4) Shape or structure or strength have similarity with the Chinese mythology figure “long”
5) It has something related to China. When people refer to “long”, especially in Asia, this character can easily cause people to connect this powerful image to China, which has a history of 5000 years.
6) The leading, the top, the first
So when we want to translate the word no matter from Chinese to English, or from English to Chinese, cultural information gap is the most important and essential factor for consideration. Also this is the most difficult step we have to follow. As we do the translation work, we can paraphrase the sentence or phrases according to its original meaning, instead of using “dragon” and translates them word-by-word. This is the indirect way of translation ---the translation of meanings. Here are some of the common examples, which we usually use in our daily communication.
III 2.1 “LONG DE CHUAN REN” 5
So according to the aforementioned, when we want to translate the word “long de chuan ren” into English, undoubtedly we can not put it into “the successor of the dragon” in that the “dragon” was a evil image in western people’s mind. At the very beginning, I try to put it simply into “the Chinese people”, but that just point out the basic meaning of this word. As far as I am concerned, “the decedents of Chinese traditional figure ‘long’ ”, or “Descendants of long (metaphor for the Chinese nation) “ would be better.
III 2.2 “SI XIAO LONG” 5
In China, this word is often used to refer to the four districts in far east Asia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, that have the strongest economic system and the farthest social developing speed. Many a mainstream media translates it into “four little dragons”. Of cause, that is inappropriate. As far as I am concerned, we can use the indirect way to translate this expression.” “The four developed districts in far east Asia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, that have the strongest economic system and the farthest social developing speed” or even put it into “the four little tiger of Asia”. Because the word “tiger” symbolize the image of energy, vigor and hardworking both in China and western world. (In China, we have a phrase called “hu hu sheng wei 7”. We use it to describe the teenagers’ active behavior, which is full of power, just like tiger.) We can also use the metaphor way to put this into English.
III 2.3 “LONG TOU QI YE” 5
Talking about the expressions “long tou qi ye”, of cause, we can not put it word by word .In China this is a honor given by the local government that the company has the largest working structure and the highest income through the commercial business. Here, “long” means, “leading the top, the first”. So, we can put it into “the leading enterprise, the top enterprise, or the number one enterprise in this area” would be better.
After the brief introduction of Chinese “long”, and western country’s “dragon”, I can find out that the word “dragon” is totally different from “long” in Chinese, due to the different culture background. When we want to put the Chinese character “long” into English, we should take the culture information gap into consideration, paraphrase the expression according to the original meanings listed in the previous part, instead of using the “dragon” directly.
1. 中国社会科学院语言研究所词典编辑室，2002，《现代汉语词典（英文版）》The Contemporary Chinese Dictionary - Chinese to English version ，上海，外语教育与研究出版社
6. http://cb.kingsoft .com
7. http://ldxx.nhedu.net/chenyu/index.asp? Sel=hyzd
9. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia----"Dragon" http://encarta.msn.com
10. Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary on line http://www.cambridgepress.org
①在《易。乾》（Yi. Qian）中，有“飞龙在天”的说法。在《礼记。礼运》（Liji. Liyun）中，有“麟，凤，龟，龙谓之四灵。”的说法。
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