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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


On Mather’s Translation of the Shih-shuo Hsin-yü

Vol. 20 No. 2   12/1990   


On Mather’s Translation of the Shih-shuo Hsin-yü 


Yi-liang Chou & Yi-t’ung Wang 









Key words



The Shih-shuo Hsin-yü is renowned for its elegant literary style and superb characterizations. It deals with about six hundred personages over a period of approximately five hundred years. Its thirty-six subdivisions, each noted by a two-character heading, create an innovative classification method followed and expanded upon by compilers of major encyclopedias in the ensuing T’ang and Sung dynasties. In addition, Liu Hsiao-piao’s commentary, quoting some five hundred sources (most of which are no longer extant), makes the sh Shih-shuo still more valuable, particularly for those interested in retrieving lost texts. 

    Thanks to Mr. Richard B. Mather’s translation, the Shih-shuo is now readily available to the western scholarly world. With special expertise in history and literature, Mr. Mather is a recognized authority on China’s early medieval studies. He spent more than twenty years of intensive research work on the Shih-shuo, and his translation includes both the main text and Liu’s commentaries. His impact on early medieval studies is such that, since the publication of his Shih-shuo translation in 1976, some other equally important works of the same period have also been translated and published. Among them one may mention the Lo-yang chieh-lan chi and the Wen-hsüan. 

    With a scope of study as extensive and boundless as Mr. Mather’s, one would wonder how flaws and even mistakes can ever be advoided. Furthermore, because of the special connotation of certain words, phrases, and terms in use during the period in question, the task of translation becomes all the more difficult. This paper provides explanations of definitions, in modern Chinese, of such problematic words and phrases, and at the same time itemizes some four hundred entries which could each receive an interpretation in English quite different from that offered by Mr. Mather. 

The latter group is intended merely as possible refinements of Mr. Mather’s original, which, taken by itself, clearly embodies the best of western scholarship and methodology.



Author: Yi-liang Chou & Yi-t’ung Wang
Genre: Article
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