Recreating the Image of a “Chaste Wife”: A Multi-functional Analysis of Two Translations of Li Po’s Changgan Xing

Shilong Tao, Xi Chen


This article investigates the image of a “chaste wife” recreated in two English translations of ancient Chinese poet Li Po’s Changgan Xing from the perspective of systemic functional linguistics (SFL). Based on three metafunctions of SFL, respectively ideational, interpersonal and textual, the linguistic choices of the poet and translators are measured from the transitivity and text complexity on what the wife does and how she organizes her thoughts; from the mood and modality on how she interacts with her husband, and the theme and rheme on how she unfolds and foregrounds her concerns. Since translating is a process of making choices, the analysis shows that both translations reproduce the first and second level of poetic themes about love in the original poem but lose the third political theme. Besides, Pound tends to follow an imaginative and creative translation, thus recreating a bashful and innocent image of a young “chaste wife” in a direct and explicit way, while Waley aims at literal translation and presents a more courageous and considerate image of a mature “chaste wife” in a relatively complex and implicit way. It is argued that the context of translation, including the translator’s knowledge of the source language, translation strategies and intended readers, plays an important role in the translator’s seemingly unconscious choices of interpreting and presenting poetic themes, thus recreating different images of a same character.


Systemic Functional Linguistics, Changgan Xing, Image, Chaste Wife, Context, Li Po

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