This monograph examines interpreters in early imperial China and their roles
in the making of archival records about foreign countries and peoples. It
covers ten empirical studies on historical interpreting and discusses a range
of issues, such as interpreters’ identities, ethics, non-mediating tasks,
status, and relations with their patrons and other people they worked with.
These findings are based on critical readings of primary and secondary
sources, which have rarely been utilized and analyzed in depth even in
translation research published in Chinese.
Although this is a book about
China, the interpreters documented are, surprisingly, mostly foreigners, not
Chinese. Cases in point are the enterprising Tuyuhun and Sogdian
interpreters. In fact, some Sogdians were recruited as China’s translation
officials, while many others were hired as linguistic and trading agents in
mediation between Chinese and Turkic-speaking peoples. These
idiosyncrasies in the use of interpreters give rise to further questions, such
as patterns in China’s provision of foreign interpreters for its diplomatic
exchanges and associated loyalty concerns. This book should be of interest
not only to researchers in Translation and Interpreting Studies, but also to
scholars and students in ancient Chinese history and Sinology in general.