Translating Song Yu’s Jiu Bian: Phases of Appreciative Perception

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The poem “Jiu bian” 九辯 (Nine phases) in the Chuci 楚辭 (Elegies of Chu) is an influential and much-cited work of the Chinese literary tradition, but poses a special challenge for Western readers. It is attributed to a shadowy figure named Song Yu 宋玉 whose lacuna of a biography provides no useful context for reading it, so it is hard to identify the motives behind it or describe its original reception. Moreover, the poem is loosely structured and it is hard to identify any clear narrative arc, while at the level of individual lines it is frequently obscure, aside from a few brilliant passages at the beginning. Yet reading the entire poem as a whole, it is possible to make sense of it and appreciate its subtle communication of deep emotions, even if it appears incoherent by some objective criteria. The author of a new translation of the entire anthology discusses the process of translating the piece, and how he came better to appreciate its meaning in a series of stages. Like the long, repetitive, and circular poem itself, the process of translation is a process that requires multiple attempts, each of which is incomplete and yet provides a new glimpse of the work as a whole.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNew Frontiers in Translation Studies
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH
Number of pages21
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameNew Frontiers in Translation Studies
ISSN (Print)2197-8689
ISSN (Electronic)2197-8697


  • Ancient Chinese poetry
  • Chuci (Elegies of Chu)
  • Literary hermeneutics
  • Philology
  • Poetry translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication


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