The Victorian Translation of China

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The Victorian Translation of China – “Norman J. Girardot’s “The Victorian Translation of China: James Legge’s Oriental Pilgrimage” is breathtaking in its scope. James Legge was a giant in Sinology; only a monumental volume such as this one could do justice to him.

The publication of this biography of Legge is a major event, not just for the history of Sinology, but for the intellectual history of the late 19th century in general. Indeed, in a sense, the book is almost as much about the great Indologist and comparative philologist Max Muller as it is about the Christian missionary from Aberdeen who produced such epochal translations of the Chinese classics in Hong Kong and at Oxford. Partly inspired by Lytton Strachey’s trenchant insights of into the Victorian mind and character, Girardot’s masterpiece deserves to be ranked with the finest examples of the craft of writing about influential persons and interesting eras.

But it is more than that; quite simply, this is one of the most outstanding academic biographies of all time and in any field.”–Victor H. Mair, translator of “Tao Te Ching: The Classic Book of Integrity and the Way “and “Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu.”

“Through a densely annotated translation of the entire Confucian canon and two seminal Daoist texts, James Legge is the single most important individual in making the historical classics of Chinese history and philosophy known to English readership, and through it to the entire Western world. Norman Girardot’s study, surpassing all previous efforts in chronicling the person and assessing Legge’s legacy, is itself a monumental achievement in research, interpretation, and writing. The focalized discussion of the subject in terms of the scholar as missionary, the development of Sinological Orientalism, and the rise and growth of the Comparative Science of Religions or “Religionswissenschaft” provides unrivalled enormity of scope and depth of understanding. “The Victorian Translation of China” will remain a definitive work for decades to come.”–Anthony C. Yu, author most recently of “Rereading the Stone: Desire and the Making of Fiction in Dream of the Red Chamber.”

 

 


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