Friday, April 29, 2011

Welcome to all fans of fantasy, kung fu, and Chinese literature!

For a while now I have been interested in finding ways to introduce Chinese popular culture to western audiences. This blog is my latest attempt to do something productive towards this end.

There is perhaps no genre in Chinese popular literature that is more representative of Chinese culture than wuxia, roughly equivalent to fantasy literature in the west. Wuxia incorporates elements of swordplay, romance, and historical fiction, as well Chinese philosophy and esoteric practices into complex action-packed narratives. I think enthusiasts of fantasy literature, Chinese martial-arts, East Asian culture, and lovers of adventure and romance will all find something appealing in these works.

I have chosen to translate this particular example of wuxia literature, Wolong Sheng's Swallow and Dragon, because it was a pioneering novel that introduced a number of elements that would later become standard tropes of the genre. For fear of offering too many spoilers I won't go into detail concerning these tropes, but let it suffice to say that this novel helped to define the basic setting of the wuxia genre much in the way that Tolkien's Lord of the Rings created a setting that countless later fantasy authors used as their template.

Additionally, I chose this novel because my experiments with translation in this genre have revealed that Wo Longsheng's work lends itself well to rendering in English. The style may come across as a bit antiquated, but I choose to believe that it suits the pseudo-historical setting, and also accurately reflects the fact that wuxia fiction was indeed drawing stylistically from sources in classical Chinese literature. Frankly, it should sound antiquated, just as western fantasy novels attempt to do.

I hope that readers will be tolerant with regard to the unique narrative style, plot and character development of which characterizes this genre, as it departs somewhat from what western readers may expect. Wuxia fiction is descriptive and plot focused, while western readers may well hope to see more complex character development and psychological insight. All I can say is that this is a novel from a different time and a different culture, so there are bound to be some differences one must adjust to!

Readers should also keep in mind that most of the great works of wuxia fiction were composed as serial novels that were published in daily papers. Writers were working fast to keep up with their constant deadlines, and were paid by the word. These conditions resulted in long convoluted plots that would keep readers guessing and coming back for more, and keep the authors in business. Insufficient time put into planning often meant that some loose ends sometimes did not match up, but contemporary readers nonetheless enjoyed the continuous suspense and mystery that were the lynchpins of the genre, as I hope you will.

Finally, let me thank you for coming to take a look at this translation project. I hope that your attention will be rewarded by the pleasure of discovering a unique genre of fiction that is rarely translated into English, and the chance to learn a little more about Chinese popular culture.

Keep your eyes peeled; first post coming soon!


  1. This is an awesome idea! You can count on me to be a devoted regular reader. :)


  2. Thanks for taking an interest Wesley. Let's continue to 切磋 about wuxia translations!

  3. Hi,
    My name is Jason Zhao. I saw your Linked in post about being a game translator. I was wondering if you we can exchange email I have a game that I might need you to translate, around 500K Chinese characters, and a turn around time of a month.
    What do you think? Sorry this is the only way I can find you, since LinkedIn blocked and facebook isnt too helpful.

    We will have multiple projects like this in the future, lets chat asap. my msn is
    Jason Z.

  4. Thanks for contacting me Jason. I'll be sending you an email shortly.

  5. use please