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A Cultural Turn In Translation Studies  

2009-12-13 14:10:27|  分类: 花中李的英语毕业 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Acknowledgements: This might be my first paper, although I’ve tried to do some translation work from Bai to English. Here I would like to give my respect and thanks to the teachers at the Foreign Language Institute of Yunnan Normal University, especially Prof. He Changye and Prof. Xie Ming. They taught me a lot about culture and language, giving me a new visual angle on cultures. Prof. He during his busy-time, also gave very good suggestions to my paper and detailed corrections both in spelling and grammar. I am also grateful to the authors of the books I’ve consulted and the nameless Bai people who created so many beautiful Bai folk stories and songs for us. And my British friend Bryan Allen shouldn’t be forgotten, it’s he who gave me many valuable suggestions on the first draft of this paper, and much insight into English culture.

Yang Huasheng

Thesis statement: A different cultural background hinders people in English-speaking countries from understanding Bai culture. In order to deal with this problem, the cultural turn should be successfully realized in translation.

 Abstract: Since a lot of foreigners come to Dali for tourism or business, most of them are touched by the beauty of the landscape of Dali, its wind, flowers, snow and moon, also its colourful local customs. And many of them become so interested in and eager to learn Bai culture and anything else of the Bai people, folk stories and Bai songs etc. Someone said, even a stone has a beautiful story in it, and a leaf from the tree can play a piece of nice Bai song here. But it’s a pity so many visitors fail to enjoy the beautiful Bai stories and songs, because of the blocks from the language, especially the puzzles from the differences between two types of cultures. Here, several cases from the translation of Bai folk stories and songs are given, then we try to analyse them from a cultural point of view, making a better translation, to build a smooth way for the people from English-speaking countries to learn about the Bai people and their culture.

1. A brief introduction to the Bai people and their culture

1.1 A nationality with over 3,000 years of history

The Bai people are one of the oldest nationalities in Yunnan. “In 1957, some cultural remains of the Bronze Age (about 3,000 years ago) were found at Haimenkou in Jianchuan County, 15 bronze and copper articles, including a stone model for bronze axes were unearthed,”[i] even some fossilized rice, wooden building components, pillars and other parts are underneath. This indicates that formerly Bai people lived in houses of “Gannan” style which were built half on the water, half on the ground with the door opening to the land. And the archaeologists described a vivid picture for us, there was a village located along Jianhu Lake, people here lived on rice farming and fishing. This is a typical agricultural society, and the history of Bai civilization begins here. It has a 3,000 years old history.

1.2 A unique culture witnessed in the life and work of Bai people

In this long period of history, Bai people developed their unique culture in their daily life and work. Since the Bai language had no writing system of its own Bai culture was always transferred orally from one generation to another. So Bai culture is more valuable to people today and treasured by people. More and more people outside, I mean people from other nations, are eager to learn more about Bai culture, but the different cultural backgrounds keeps them from understanding Bai culture well, so the cultural turn in translation becomes very necessary. “In general, oral works (folk stories and songs spread orally) are much more popular than written pieces (scholar's literature)”[ii]. We may say the most treasured part of Bai culture remains in the folk stories and songs. In this article, most cases we'll discuss are selected from the translation of Bai folk stories and songs.

2. The character of the Bai people and their culture

2.1 A kind and tolerant nationality

In ancient history, war and peace always occurred in Bai people's area. The Tianbao war between the Nanzhao Kingdom and the Tang Dynasty took place in 742, but soon the Nanzhao king Gelufeng built the Dehua Tablet to express his worries about the result of the war and his desire to make peace with the Tang and he made it. As a result, the advanced Chinese culture and technology spread widely among the Bai people. Especially since the Ming Dynasty (1368—1644) a lot of scholars and politicians with high Chinese training have come to Bai areas. And Confucianism and Chinese education spread among the common people, that made most Bai men write and communicate in Chinese skilfully. That is one of the reasons why Bai does not have its own writing system, and the Bai language borrowed a lot of Chinese words. In a word, Bai is a kind and peace-loving tolerant nationality, that makes her live in peace with other nationalities for long periods in history, and that helps the Bai people learn from them and absorb aspects of other cultures and incorporate them into their own culture.

2.2 Syncretistic religious beliefs

The syncretistic religious beliefs show the Bai attitude to the different cultures. Because Yunnan is close to India, in the past, many Indian monks came to preach Buddhism in Dali and they got support from the kings, authorities, and Dali kingdom, then Buddhism became very popular among Bai people, as Buddhism, Buddhist music, art, scriptures and architectural techniques were introduced to the Bai area. The Three Pagodas and the fine stone carving in Jianchuan Stone Bell Temple will reflect the light of the wisdom of Bai people forever. Daoism was also spread in the areas around the towns and became popular among the educated people. That leads to the Confucian worship in Bai area, and makes the Bai culture melt into the main Chinese culture, but keeps its own features. But Bai primary native religions still live in peace with the other religions. In a Bai temple, you can easily find Sakyamuni, the Jade Emperor and Benzhu at the same time. Benzhu worship still is the most popular religion of the Bai people. They have several Benzhu (protector gods), most of the villages each has its own Benzhu, just like in Greek mythology, Athena was the patroness of the city of Athens. On holidays, Bai people come to dance and sing in their temples, praying for safety and good harvests from the Benzhu. From the syncretistic religious beliefs, we can partly see the colourful and abundant Bai culture, blending the different cultures in new ways. “The formation of the Bai nationality, is the intrinsic main direction of the Bai’s social economical development, as well it’s the result of absorbing a lot of advanced culture of the Han and the other nationalities.”3 In the following passages, we will discuss some language phenomena both in Bai and English from the cultural view.

3. Several definitions for culture

Taylor in his ‘primitive culture' defined culture as, “Culture is a complex system that includes all the knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, laws, customs and any other talents and habits mastered or accepted by the members of a certain society.” English and Culture Dictionary (Longman,1922) identified “culture, as custom, beliefs, art, music and any other products of human thinking. Culture is the product of a certain society in a certain period, such as the Ancient Greek culture”4

The famous American linguist Dr Nida thought that ‘a language is always a part of a culture and the meaning of any text refers directly or indirectly to the corresponding culture, ultimately words only have meaning in terms of the corresponding culture. Without the knowledge of the beliefs and practices of other cultures a translator’s perspective of the world is tragically restricted’ (Chinese translators journal 2000/5).

The Bai people and the English speaking people live in different geographical environments. The different climate and geographical objects lead to different customs, different beliefs and different attitudes to things. Each has their own unique culture.

 Here we select some language phenomena from Bai folk stories and songs, and try to analyse these phenomena at the cultural level in order to improve our translation technique and realize successful cross-cultural communication.

4. Bai people’s attitude toward colours

4.1 Bai people revere the colour white

“Humans live in this colourful world, their feeling to the colour is heavily affected by their native cultural tradition, their attitude to the colour is also an essential part of the culture. Colour words are the finite figure of the culture, full of native cultural character. Every nationality has her own attitude to the colour. In the different cultures, the same colour may express the different cultural psychology, lead to various associations, and it has unique cultural connotation in the different cultures.”5

To most Bai people and westerners “white” has some similar connotations: purity and innocence. But it has quite opposite connotations, too. White dress is the traditional colour for brides at western weddings but a traditional colour at funerals for Bai people. To wear white would be offensive at western funerals, they have black dress on that occasion.

But the colour ‘white’ has much more connotations in Bai culture. Revering the colour ‘white’ is a unique phenomenon in Bai culture. Why do Bai people call themselves ‘Baizi or Baini’? ‘Bai’ means the colour ‘white’, opposite to black. If you come into a Bai village in Dali, you seem to be in a white world, the white houses of Bai people, white lanes and the white three pagodas in the far distance. A custom is still kept in Jianchuan: a bride's parents would like to give her a pure white sheepskin cloak as a special gift on her wedding day. But the opposite situation will be seen in Naxi area, people there feed flocks of black sheep, and a Naxi woman would like to wear a black sheep skin cloak instead of the white one. “The Lisu people in Nujiang think it's pretty ‘to dress up as black as a crow’, and the Bai people in the same area would say, ‘dress up as white as a magpie’, they think white is beautiful.”6 So the Bai people prefer the white sheepskin cloak and white clothes.

White-loving was not only popular among the common Bai people, but also in the Bai royal family in the historical period. Zhou Quefei, a scholar who lived in the Song Dynasty (1127—1279) recorded in his book, ‘Answering for people outside Yuanning’, “In the Dali kingdom, the king wears a white cloak and the queen likes to wear ’Zhaoxiao’ and ‘zhaoxiao’ is a kind of white dress.”7 Even the king was titled as ‘Bai king’, the white king. Some historians think that the white-revering custom of the Bai people is related to their primitive totem worship beliefs. The colour ‘white’ may have been the symbol of an old Bai tribe at that time, and the custom is still kept in Bai clothes and their habits.

In the minds of Bai people, the colour ‘white’ is the symbolization of kindness, goodness, righteousness and beauty. In contrast black always indicates evil, criminals, darkness and ugliness. In many Bai folk stories, ‘white dragon’ is always a righteous, good hero and favoured by people, but ‘black dragon’ always stands for evil forces and is hated by people.

Because ‘white’ always leads the Bai people's associations to fine things, they created a lot of beautiful songs related with the colour ‘white’. A famous one is ‘A white lady in the white moonlight’.

 Bai                                           English

Baip milwan zix baip jixjix,                 A white lady in the white moonlight,

Go nox zo'de baip ngeid jinx;            A pair of white shoes on her feet;

Cainlnox yi'de baip zvnp yil,              She wears a white dress,

Baip zil yondbeidsei.                          With a sheet of white sheepskin.

Baipxil-baiphhop xux jiant cainl,               Fewer Bai words (plain words) out of your lips,

Baiphail-baipsit dol ye juix;              A little more white rice to your mouth;

Baipzipyin zil yindgail jil,                 So many eyes upon us in the white day-time,

Baip milwan sanlhui.                          Meet my lady in the white moonlight.

 

This poetic Bai song uses the word ‘white’ many times, and shows the Bai people's abundant imagination about the colour ‘white’. It's a ‘white-loving nationality’.

4.2 Basic colour words in the Bai language

Beside the colour ‘white’, ‘Black’, ‘Blue’, ‘Red’ are very common colours seen in Bai clothes. Even today, a typical Bai lady in Jianchuan will wear a blue shirt and a black and blue sleeveless jacket outside, a two sided apron, (one side is blue and another is white) tied on the front, and a black turban on her head. But the Bai people living in the mountain area prefer the colour ‘Red’.

In the legends of Maiden Blue, Maiden Blue was a woman with many miseries, who killed herself in the Haiwei River because she couldn't bear the evil treatment from her mother-in-law. Bai people feel sorrow for her death, and on the date of her death (the 15th day of the first month in the Chinese calendar ) people in Jianchuan get together and hold a great memorial ceremony in honour of Maiden Blue. They make a paper statue of Maiden Blue, wearing a blue dress and a white sheepskin cloak on her back with a white turban on her head.

‘White’, ‘Black’ and ‘Blue’ are the three basic colours seen in Bai clothes, at least in Jianchuan, why so? Because they’re natural colours, ‘white’ is the original colour of fibrous plants, and the dye for ‘Black’ and ‘Blue’ are easily gotten from nature, with the colour ‘green’ and ‘yellow’, there are altogether six basic colour words in the Bai language: ‘white’, ‘black’, ‘blue’, ‘red’, ‘yellow’ and ‘green’. And in the Bai language people can't distinguish colours such as ‘pink’ or ‘brown’ from the colours ‘red’ or ‘yellow’. The Bai may say ‘red as peach blossom’ to indicate the colour pink and ‘the colour of palm fibre’ for brown. It seems the limited basic colour words can't prevent Bai people from expressing all the colours in the world.
5. Associations related to birds, animals and plants

“The ancestors of humans lived in the dense forests in the very ancient times. They lived by gathering shoots or fruits, and by fishing and hunting, they built a very close relationship with animals and plants.”8 Even today, we can't live a single day without eating vegetables, grains and meat from animals and we begin to realize the importance of building a good relationship between human beings and animals and plants living with us in the same planet.

In their daily life, people have a lot of different associations to the animals and plants according to their colours, shapes and characters, then there are abundant phrases about animals and plants in human languages. But differences exist in the different societies. Sometimes they share the same association to a certain animal or plant, but mainly they have different associations to the same animal or plant, occasionally, they may have the same association to different vehicles, or vehicles and objects with connotations only in one culture, because of the different living environments and habits.

5.1 Various associations of the dragons

There are many pools, lakes and streams all over Yunnan: Dianchi, Erhai, Jianhu lake and other countless pools and springs. A lake, a pool, even a very small spring is considered to be the dragon's residence. Dragons are legendary or mythological creatures, whom the Bai people have been regarding as a symbol of power, strength and auspiciousness. And Bai people would like to call a dragon the dragon king, considering it the god of water and the dragon is thought to have the spirit of water. Bai people live in a agricultural society, their life is mainly dependant on water and rain, and the dragon is the creature taking charge of water and rain. So Bai people have dragon worship in their religion. In ‘the legend of Jiulong’, the following story is told:

“A maid named Shaye lived in the Anlao Mountains. One day she came to catch fish in the river, and was touched by a piece of wood in the water. She got pregnant and ten months later, she gave birth to ten baby boys. One day, when Shaye and the ten boys were resting at the riverside, the piece of wood took the shape of a dragon, rose from the water and asked her, ‘where are the sons you've given birth for me?’ Nine of the boys were so frightened to see the dragon that they ran away very quickly, only the youngest son had no time to escape and he stayed and lived with his mother. They are thought to be the ancestors of the Bai people, and Bai people are proud of being the descendants of a dragon.”9

In Jiangchangdu Village, Jianchuan, people consider the dragon king named Ma to be the Guardian God of the village. Every year, on the dragon king's birthday, people come to the village's temple, make sacrifices to him, and pray for good weather and a good harvest in the coming year. Another story has been spread widely in Jianchuan: “Guanyinmu, the Goddess of Mercy, took on the shape of a poor old lady, and sold dried rice paddy eels, each for several silver coins at the market. Nobody bought her eels and laughed at her as a mad woman. But an old lady from Lijiping village shared her pie with the poor old woman for lunch. To thank her, the goddess gave her a dried eel. When the old woman got back to the village she wanted to wash the dry eel in water, and a miracle happened, the eel changed into a living dragon as soon as it touched the water. The dragon stayed in the pool near the village, spewing out water for people, and the villagers benefited from this dragon for generations.”

The Bai people divide dragons into two kinds, good and evil. In some low-lying land near lakes or rivers, people often suffered from flooding. The floods damaged the crops and houses severely, and Bai people thought that this was the work of the evil black dragon. So there are lots of legends of the good white dragon defeating the evil black dragon. The very famous one is the gold rooster killing the black dragon in the legend of ‘ten brothers, ten sisters’ told in Jianchuan.

To westerners, however, the dragon is often a symbol of evil, a fierce monster, with fire in its mouth and wings on its body; that destroys and therefore must be destroyed. Several stories of saints or heroes deal with straggles against monsters, which in most cases are all slain in the end. The most notable perhaps is the story of Beowulf telling how the hero Beowulf defeats a monster called Grendel, but is eventually killed in slaying a dragon. St. George and the Dragon (England) is another famous one.

5.2 The Gold Rooster, a holy bird to the Bai people

Another outstanding figure in Bai culture is the Gold Rooster, actually it's not a real bird. Gold Rooster was said to be a divine bird who could tell the seasons and brought good weather and harvest to people. The legends of Shibaoshan tell us how the Gold rooster killed the evil black dragon with the help of ten sisters, and how he teaches Bai people to sing Bai tunes. At the beginning of the song festival in Shibaoshan Bai people look on Gold Rooster as the most beautiful bird with a throat of jade, who always brings them good luck. It resembles the position of the phoenix in Chinese culture. However in western mythology, the phoenix is associated with rebirth and resurrection.5.3 The tiger

The tiger is good and is connected to courage, vigour and decisiveness. In the Nanzhao Kingdom, only those brave soldiers who have brilliant achievements in war can wear tiger skins as the symbol of power and bravery. In earlier times, the tiger was also a symbol of a Bai tribe. One legend tells it like this: “a great flood took place in Bai history. At that time there were two young children, the brother named Ahpudi and the sister named Ahyidi. When the flood came, their parents hid them in a big calabash dropping from the sky. The calabash floated on the waves for several days and nights. Then the water subsided, the brother and the sister came out of the calabash, but found there were no other people in the world. They had to marry each other when they grew up. And the wife gave birth to seven daughters, who grew to be seven beautiful women. One day, a tiger with white flowers on his back came to their house, and threatened the parents to give him one of the daughters to be his wife. The elder sisters dared not to be the tiger's wife. Only the youngest daughter accepted this marriage to prevent any harm coming to her parents. And so Bai people regard the tiger as one of their ancestors.”10

But the white tiger is usually associated with superstitious belief in Bai culture. The spirit of the white tiger is thought to bring quarrels and misfortunes especially danger in childbirth.

To the English, and to most westerners, “the king of the beasts” is the lion. The lion enjoys high prestige, as can be see from such expression_r_r_rs “regal as a lion”, or “ majestic as a lion”. And in Bai and Chinese culture, the tiger shares that same prestige.

 

5.4 Different or the same associations of some birds and animals

To Bai people, the bat possesses only positive qualities. It is a symbol of good fortune, well-being , happiness and blessing. The reason for such associations is probably because the name of the creature is pronounced the same as the word ‘福’. Bai people borrowed it from Chinese. An art style Chinese character ’寿’ with a flying bat at each corner of the character is a traditional design on the front of a Bai’s coffin.

However, the bat is usually associated with negative qualities in the west: “As blind as a bat”, “as crazy as a bat”, “to be a bit batty”, “to have bats in the belfry”, are typical expression_r_r_rs of the negative associations, and may be even worse. A bat can indicate an ugly woman or a prostitute, and the mention of the bat often evokes the image of an ugly, sinister, blood-sucking creature. This may possibly be because of the vampire bat. The emotions aroused among English-speaking people are similar to those that the dreaded owl arouses among Chinese: fright and revulsion. Crows, owls and magpies: In Bai culture, the crow has generally been regarded as an unlucky bird. It is connected with witchcraft or ill luck. It is said that crows flying near the windows of a house foretell death, and bad news would come to the person who heard the cry of the crows around him. Meanwhile, the Bai people associated the owl with death, and were greatly afraid if they heard an owl crying on the roof of their house. However, it is said in some parts of the UK that hearing an owl calling as a baby is born is an omen that this child will have a life blessed with much joy.

To Bai people, the magpie is a propitious bird. It is believed that sighting a magpie will bring good luck; if magpies are flying and singing around a house, some happy message or things will happen to the family soon. The connotation of the magpie for westerners is just like that of the crow and the owl to the Bai people. But the crow doesn’t have any negative associations for westerners.

Cat, spider, mouse: these common creatures are often to be found in Bai people's houses. For the cat, people shared the same connotation both in Bai culture and in western culture. In both cultures, people believe that “a cat has nine lives”. In ancient Egypt the cat was held so sacred that it is said whoever killed a cat, even by accident, was punished by death. Meanwhile, in Bai society, people mustn't kill a cat, if that was done, the punishment would come upon the doer. But there's no such figurative use, “she is a cat” (means an evil hearted or spiteful woman) in Bai culture.

People also have the same attitude to spiders in both cultures, but different to the mice. Bai people believe the spider is a spiritual insect thought to contain the souls of human beings. Spiders can bring misfortune and it is very unlucky to kill one. There is a rhyme in English that says ‘those who wish to live and thrive must let the spider be alive’.

Even though mice bring damage to household goods and clothes and steal food Bai people still respect them. An old custom is to spread some rice at the corners of the house for the mice to eat on New Year's Eve. It is said in Bai legends, the mouse stole the grain seeds from the heaven and gave them to humans, then there were crops, and rice, wheat, corn and grain. And a white mouse is believed to bring luck to people. It is said the white mouse can show people the treasure underground. However, the mouse always related with death in the western culture. If a mouse utters a squeak by a person who is sick in bed death is said to follow, white mice seen running in a house where someone is ill also foretells death. Both in Bai and western culture, the martin is a harbinger of good luck. It is especially lucky if martins build their nest near to your home, but be warned that bad luck awaits those who interfere with a martin’s nest.

Albatrosses and seagulls are said to host the souls of dead sailors in western culture. It is, therefore, said to be very unlucky to kill a seagull or an albatross. Seagulls seen deep inland indicate rough weather out at sea. But there is no such vehicle, nor connotations in Bai culture, because Bai people live in inland areas far away from the sea, and albatrosses and seagulls are hardly ever seen there.

5.5 Associations of some plants in the two cultures

Plants have many connotations in Bai culture: Bai people look on the cypress as holy wood, as a kind of ever-green plant, they are often be seen around the Bai temples. Bai people like to burn small pieces of cypress on the altar before Buddha and their native gods, the Benzhu, or before their ancestors’ tablets, and it is said that the sweet smell will please the gods and ancestors.

Flower and willows are often the symbol of love affairs in Bai songs; in fact a flower and willow song is actually a love song. The flower and willow disease always indicates venereal disease.

Flowers certainly stand for the youth and beauty of a woman, and willow is said to be the symbol of life and human's reproductive energy. But Bai people also use willow shoots to express their feelings to their dead ancestors by putting willow shoots on their tombs. Here willow has another connotation the same as the olive branch, blessing the soul of their dead ancestors with peace.

In Raosanling, a sacrificial ceremony for good weather and harvest in the coming year, the willow branch and calabash are the lucky objects.

In Bai folk songs about love, these lines are often heard.

 

      Bai                                                  English

Hol yind hhex                           Flower and willow (oh my darling)

Gaip yond hhex pei suanl dad hol       Soft willow shoots touch the peach petals

Baifmat peib jienx'anx                 A handsome horse should have a shining saddle

Jit nox bopdanl pei sopyo              Peony matches ‘soyo’ on the earth

Heinl nox sanlxinl pei baipdot         And the bright stars around the big dipper

                                             in the sky.

 

A Bai person may say, “My love is a fine maiden with a face the colour of peach blossom and the figure of a bean shoot”, because peach blossom and bean shoot are more familiar to a Bai people. But an Englishman might say “My love is like a red, red rose”.
6. Idioms and proverbs in the two languages

 “Idioms and proverbs are the gems of a language. They are well-known set phrases of short sentences, expressing supposed truth, wisdom of moral lessons. As they are formed in the long process of a language and therefore cover the culture of the people who use the language.”11

Both in English and Bai, there are abundant idioms and proverbs with individual cultural characters, they are the gems of each language. Here I would like to list some of them from swearwords to idioms and proverbs. Swearwords in a language are also related to the culture, someone has said even swearwords in Bai are beautiful.

6.1 Swear-words

When a grandmother is displeased with a naughty grandson's mischievous actions, she may say in Bai, “Aip qiainxdax!” meaning one should be cut by a knife a thousand times for punishment, or “Juainlfan-loddanl!”, meaning you should be sent to jail, with a cangue on your shoulder and be sent to a very remote place abroad, or the tiger will carry and bite you. This expression_r_r_r is related with the criminals in the Ming Dynasty (1368—1644). In those days, some criminals were sent to Yunnan from Zhejiang, Jiangsu and other inland provinces. To keep these criminals from escaping on the way, a kind of yoke called in Bai a ‘gail’ (cangue) was carried on their shoulders, to fix the hands and neck in it, later these criminals got married with the native women there, and melted into Bai and other nationalities in Yunnan. And the curse “juainlfan-loddanl” somewhat reflects that period of history. But an English-speaking grandma may threaten a child with the “bogeyman” in the same situation, meaning an evil spirit might come and get you. When any foolish action is performed by a man, a similar expression_r_r_r both in Bai and English would be used to swear at him: ‘You big shit!’

And the most vicious swearword to curse one's enemy or express hatred to others in Bai is, “Baipgua-sotheinl”, die in the open air and have your skeleton exposed to the elements, which means no-one buries your corpse. In Bai culture it is lucky to die in the family hall with the relatives caring for you, a ‘natural' death. And this Bai swearword curses somebody to die in the open air and die young without any descendants. This is the most vicious swearword in Bai. Instead of this, in English people would use swearwords such as, “God damn you!” or ”Go to hell” and so on to curse their enemies or express their hatred. And these swearwords are always related to the westerners' religious beliefs.

6.2 Idioms

Bai idioms and proverbs come from the Bai people's life and work, and are closely related with the environment around them, even the animals, the plants and the natural phenomena can be the subjects of Bai idioms and proverbs. They are the treasured experience from the Bai ancestors, the products of their wisdom. Proverbs are always good lessons for the following generations, and they're always beautiful in form. Metaphor and simile are the two common figures of speech used in Bai idioms, Bai people always like to use the phenomena of nature and life they experienced or observed to express some deeper meanings. So Bai idioms are worthy to think about, and we always get something valuable from them. In translation, we should try our best to keep the forms and figures of speech of the source language (SL) keeping the beauty and native character of the Bai idioms, but also must pay attention to the westerners accepting psychology and expression_r_r_ral habits to get to the perfect cultural communication. Therefore how to keep enough quantity of cultural information of SL in transferring process, meanwhile the transferring efficient of the cultural formation in SL idioms. This is the key problem in translation.

The conversation of the Bai people is full of artistic quality. For example, when a Bai farmer goes to the fields to water his crops, and he meets another farmer coming from the water reservoir, and he asks “ How much water is there in the ditch?” The answer may be “water like the cattle fighting” that means plenty of water there and you can get your crops watered easily, “water like yoke” means the stream of water is as wide as a yoke and you’ll need some time to get your crops watered, or “water like a rice field eel” means there is little water running in the ditch, and the farmer knows that it's hard to get his crops watered right now, then he goes home and comes back to water his crops another day.

When two old Bai friends have to part with each other, one may say “Yinxiai zexbil zetsei genx”, “the days are as dense as the leaves in the tree”. In Bai language, that means they still have a lot of time to spend with each other, and that speaker hopes to see his friend once more. Another Bai phrase “Gelxuix hul lil yind xilxil”, means “even a little cool water given by another, a ‘thanks’ should be on your lips.” It teaches people not to forget any favour from others.

“Idioms and proverbs can reflect vividly a nation's geography, history, its people's life experience, social views, thinking and concepts.”12 Idioms and proverbs in both English and Bai possess some similarity in meaning and culture, but most of time, they display dissimilarity. To study them well, we should pay more attention to their cultural background besides the surface meanings of the expression_r_r_rs.

6.3 Proverbs

A lot of proverbs both in Bai and English come from life and nature, some of them are similar in meaning , but different in vehicles, because the objects in the environment of the two nations are so different. To try to find an English proverb coinciding with that in the Bai language is a good way to translate this kind of proverbs, and people like the translation to be done like this for easier communication, but you may take the risk of losing the image from Bai language.

The Bai proverb: Atsua geinp kvx, sanlsua geinp so'piail lil gainl means once you have been in contact with a snake, one is still frightened of seeing a snake-like rope three years later. In English, we can easily find one similar both in vehicle and meaning: “once bitten, twice shy”.

 At zvnd wapqi jiainkol duap means one hoe cannot dig a well. Hoe here means the action of digging so striking the earth once cannot produce a well. This proverb tells the truth, one can't be successful without hard work. And in English, people also have a proverb with a similar meaning “Rome wasn't built in a day”, and is accepted both by Chinese and westerners. Bindtvnlsei nox lai xuizhul means pouring some water on taro leaves (water will pour off and won’t be absorbed). It is a proverb always used to scold a slow learner by a teacher in Bai society. But the saying, ”It goes in one ear and out the other” is more popular both in Chinese and English-speaking countries. Vnldel het zex v`ded means a loach in the fish trap, indicates a person who is very active, a trouble maker, disturbing others (e.g. in school). And there are several English proverbs like this, “a bad apple spoils the whole barrel ”, “a bull in a china shop”, “ black sheep of the family”. And the other examples like, Hanlcetzix gedqi zil yosainl hox lil xianlkex which means when the radishes are sold, the doctor can rest. Radishes are good for you. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” in English is a good match for this with a similar meaning. Athot dvnl zex gvlcet saind means every family has a sour pickle pot. This Bai proverb and  “every house has its skeleton in the cupboard” in English both indicate the ugly affairs in each house. The proverb, Ge`nod neid het maip anlnil means buy a cat in a leather bag and the English proverb “buy a pig in a poke”, are another pair with a similar meaning, but different vehicles. Both indicate purchasing something or agreeing to something without first having an opportunity to judge its value or all the relevant facts.

Some Bai proverbs are so different both in meaning, culture and vehicles from English, and there are no equivalents in English, it's hard to find any ready-made English proverbs to match these Bai proverbs. So a word for word translation, and free translation must be used, or making some changes in form to avoid losing the cultural information. Sometimes, a little explanation is necessary. To keep the culture and meaning as much as possible, we may lose the beauty of a proverb in linguistic forms or sound. Trying to keep the cultural information from source language as much as possible, as well the beauty in forms, is the key problem. It needs many techniques to deal with the problem in translation.

The Bai proverb Hhodsuanl nox holxiol ganl mot mai zet alnil nox holxiol gonl mot gai svx means it's unnecessary to teach a monkey to climb the tree, and a cat to catch mice. It's better to use word for word translation, for such natural facts like a monkey climbing the tree, and ‘a cat catches the mice’, are familiar to the people from two kinds of cultural society, surely we can also use a ready-made English proverb to express the same meaning like, “Teach your grandmother to suck eggs”. But different vehicles make it lose the image in the first language.

Del lil hanlda fvl nox guit, baxmadkuanx da saim nox tio means a small basket rolling after a big basket, and an ugly dog jumping like a lion. To most westerners, both the dog and the lion are generally associated with pleasantness, as can be seen in such expression_r_r_rs ”Love me, love my dog”, “every dog has his day” and “regal as a lion”, “majestic as a lion”. Misunderstandings will arise in an English-speaking person’s mind: it's a good thing, a dog jumps with a lion as he may learn something from the lion, and that will make the dog better. But in Bai this proverb indicates those men who overestimate themselves and always like to follow the great ones imitating them. It’s just similar with the English proverb , “Don't put on airs and graces” tells people don’t take a job much above your ability, and be yourself in the situation.

A lot of Bai proverbs can be dealt with in translation by copying this way. V yond mox xuix met diainx fvp met diainx means rain falls from the eaves always on same spot, can be “Like father, like son” in English, father is the example of a son. Hhodsuanl juinxweinx nadhanl, hhodsuanl gaid ye`xiot means a monkey's face is ugly, but the monkey's flesh tastes good. And “Good quality under the ugly appearance” or “appearances can be deceptive” just shows the meaning behind the expression_r_r_r, something may be ugly but still very useful.

Dopzix-dopyvnx ganlcet pal, seitzix-seityvnx xin’ganlpia means, older son, older daughter: dry cabbage leaves, younger son, younger daughter: heart liver lungs. Here, “xin’ganpia” is something you cherish, also sweetheart. This proverb reflects the “young-caring” value in Bai culture. A custom still kept in Bai families is that a small part of the parents’ property is given to an older son or daughter and they are separated from the family and have to support themselves after marriage, meanwhile, the greater part of the property is given to a younger son or daughter, and the parents live with the younger son or daughter, and take care of them. We may translate this proverb into “The old sons and daughters are the wild berries in the parents eye, the little sons and daughters are the apple of their eye”. Half creation and half ready made.

Abna dant nox wap gai abna dant nox zo means where lives the eagle there he catches birds, or the eagle must find his food where he lives. If without a context, we should add a line after the original phrase ,“better to marry a local person than an outsider” to avoid any ambiguity for English-speaking people.

7. Conclusion

In this paper, we've talked much about Bai culture because “a language is always a part of a culture and the meaning of any text refers directly or indirectly to the corresponding culture” (Chinese Translators Journal 2000/5). Meanwhile the Bai language is a living language, it lives in the conversation of the Bai people, for it has historically had no writing system (the Bai words used here are from the newly created writing system). Bai culture is always transferred from the old generation to the young by telling Bai folk stories and songs. So we have few chances to observe the grammatical structure or any forms in writing in the Bai language study. At the same time, we can always get more information from the Bais’ living conversation and Bai folk stories and songs still living in the old men's talking and some folk artists' minds. So Bai culture is the key to break the codes behind its language phenomena and the bridge to get a good understanding of the Bai society and the people in it. We also talked about the cultural differences between the Bai and English-speaking people, and how the cultural turn can be successfully realized in translation in order to break down the blocks in cross-cultural communication. It is our hope that this study can help those learning the Bai language and its culture.

Notes:

1Yunnan, He Changyi, trans. (Kunming: Yunnan Educational press, 1999) p.173

2 Zhang Wenxun, ed, A History of Bai Literature (Kunming: Yunnan People’s Press,1983) p.14

3 A Brief History of the Bai Nationality (Kunming: Yunnan People’s Press, 1988) p.29.31

4 Zhang Meifang, English Chinese Translation Textbooks in China (Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Educational Press, 2001) p.28

5 Bao Huinan, Bao Ang. Chinese Culture and Chinese-English Translation (Beijing: Foreign Language Press,2004) p.182 ed, AW6

6 Zhang Xue, Studies on History of the Bai in Dali (Kunming: Yunnan People's Press, 1990) p. 25

7Yang Zhenggui, A cultural History of the Bai Nationality (Kunming: Yunnan Nationalities' Press, 2002) p. 198

8 Bao Huinan, Bao Ang. Chinese Culture and Chinese-English Translation. (Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 2004) p.182

9Li Hao, Dali Ancient Script (Kunming: Yunnan People's Press, 2002) p. 12

10 Zhang Xue, Studies on History of the Bai in Dali (Kunming : Yunnan People's Press,1990) p. 60.

11Xie Ming, The Field of Western Culture (Kunming: Yunnan University Press, 2001) p. 14

12 Ibid . p. 14

 

 

Bibliography

 

Yunnan. Trans, He Changyi. Kunming: Yunnan Educational Press, 1999.

Xie Ming, The Field of western culture, Kunming: Yunnan University Press, 2001.

Zhang Wenxun, ed. A History of Bai Literature, Kunming: Yunnan People's press,1983

Zhang Meifang, English Chinese Translation Textbooks in China, Shanghai. Shanghai Foreign Language Educational Press, 2001.

Zhang Xue, Studies on History of the Bai in Dali, Kunming: Yunnan People's Press, 1990.

Yang Zhenggui, A Cultural History of the Bai Nationality, Kunming: Yunnan Nationalities' Press, 2002.

Li Hao, Dali Ancient Script, Kunming: Yunnan People's Press, 2002.

A Brief History of the Bai Nationality,Kunming. Yunnan People’s Press,1988.

Bao Huinan, Bao Ang. Chinese Culture and Chinese-English Translation, Beijing: Foreign Language Press,2004.

 

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