Translating Religion in The Dream of the Red Chamber

Barry Lee Reynolds, Chao-Chih Liao


The world seems aware that China is among the countries with the largest Buddhist population. The global village may say that in Taiwan and Mainland China, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism are combined, mixed and blurred. Dream of the Red Chamber (紅樓夢Hóng Lóu Mèng) was written in the 18th century against such a backdrop. Since the 1990s, English as a Foreign Language teaching and learning, especially in Taiwan, has aimed at mastering five skills—translation added to traditionally recognized skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Taiwanese students may feel translating from English to Chinese easier due to their firm grasp of the target language and culture; however, students should be aware that translating from Chinese to English aids not only in disseminating source language cultural knowledge but also is more profitable than translating from English to Chinese in terms of wages earned. When rendering Chinese literary works to English, a translator inevitably encounters the problem of cultural translation. This paper concentrates on translation of texts, including Taoism and Buddhism expressions in Hóng Lóu Mèng by Cáo Xuěqín, into English by David Hawkes and Xianyi Yang & Gladys Yang. Translating Hóng Lóu Mèng in the 1970s, both renditions made use of endnotes, transliteration, as well as a number of other methods. Examples will explain how they did the tedious job. While translating Hóng Lóu Mèng to English, both made the religious background a little confusing to target language readers. Xianyi Yang & Gladys Yang’s version was found to be more faithful to the religion but at the cost of readability. Implications for teaching translation of texts with religious contexts are discussed. 




Keywords: Dream of the Red Chamber; literary translation; religion; Buddhism; Christianity 

Full Text:



Bowker, J. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. New York: Oxford University Press.

Cao, X.-q. (1792/1988). Hung Lou Meng (A Dream of Red Mansions). Taipei: San-min Publishing Co.

Chen, E.-d. (陳耳東), Chen, X.-n. (陳笑吶), & Chen, Y.-n. (陳英吶). (2006). 佛教文化的關鍵詞 (Buddhist Culture and Keywords). 中國,天津市 (Tianjin, China): 天津古籍出版社 (Tianjin Ancient Books Publishing House).

Hawkes, D. (1978). Hung Lou Meng (The Story of the Stone: The Golden Days). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Huang, X.-x. (黃新憲). (1996). 基督敎敎育與中國社會變遷 (Christian Education and Social Change in China). 中國,福州市 (FuZhou City, China): 福建教育出版社 (Fujian Education Press).

Lin, Y.-l. (林以亮), & Soong, D. (宋淇). (1976). 紅樓夢西遊記: 細評紅樓夢新英譯 (Journey of Dream of the Red Mansion: Detailed Assessment of the New Translation of Dream of the Red Mansion). Taipei, Taiwan: 聯經出版事業公司 (Linking Publishing).

List of English words of Japanese origin. (n.d.). from

Mu, L. (穆雷). (1995). 接受理論與翻譯中文化差異的處理 (The process of accepting theories and the differences in translating of Chinese culture). 中國語文通訊 (Chinese Language Communication), 36, 13-21.

Pan, H.-m. (2011). A comparative study of two English versions of Hongloumeng: A perspective of thick translation. Journal of Huaihai Institute of Technology, 9(1), 106-108.

Priest. (2014). Retrieved March 24, 2014, from

Tseng, C.-c. (曾金金). (2003). 語言文化與翻譯教學 (Language, culture, and translation teaching). In Dai, W.-y. (戴維楊) & (梁耀南) Liang, Y.-n. (Eds.), Language and Culture (pp. 175-188). Taipei: Crane.

Wang, J., & Chen, K.-p. (2008). Two English versions of A Dream of Red Mansions: An ethical approach. Journal of Zhongzhou University, 25(5), 78-80.

Winters, M. (2010). From modal particles to point of view: A theoretical framework for the analysis of translator attitude. Translation and Interpreting Studies, 5(2), 163-185. doi: 10.1075/tis.5.2.02win

Wong, W.-l. (1996). Chinese literature, the creative imagination, and globalization. Macalester International, 3(1), 37-60.

Wu, D. (2010). On translation of names in A Dream of Red Mansions. Journal of Jiamusi Education Institute, 4(88), 55-64.

Yang, X.-y., & Yang, G. (1986). Translation of A Dream of Red Mansions from Chinese Honglou Meng. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.

Zen. (2014). Retrieved March 10, 2014, from

Zhang, L.-n. (2007). The illumination of reader's response theory on cultural translation in Hawkes' version The Story of the Stone. Journal of Linyi Normal University, 29(1), 67-70

Zhuang, G.-w. (2007). On translation strategy of religious elements in the two English versions of Hongloumeng-An intertextual perspective. Journal of Dalian University, 28(4), 117-120.


  • There are currently no refbacks.




eISSN : 2550-2247

ISSN : 0128-5157