The Gongyang Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals: A Full Translation.

Author:Van Auken, Newell Ann
Position:Book review

The Gongyang Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals: A Full Translation. By HARRY MILLER. New York: PALGRAVE MACMILLAN, 2015. Pp. viii + 311. $95.

The Gongyang Commentary (Gongyang zhuan [phrase omitted] is one of three major early interpretive traditions associated with the Spring and Autumn (Chunqiu [phrase omitted]). Gongyang in particular exerted a profound influence on the orthodox understanding of the Spring and Autumn, and a complete, scholarly translation of this important work is certainly needed. But this translation falls well short of adequately filling that need.

The translator, Harry Miller, states that the translation is directed at the "general reader." Yet this work is far more likely to be read by scholars, and even translations aimed at general readers should meet basic scholarly standards. This translation fails to meet such standards in three significant respects. First, it does not make sufficient use of traditional and contemporary scholarship on the Gongyang. Second, its format, with no Chinese characters, no bibliography, and scant historical contextualization, does not aid the reader in understanding the text. Third, it contains translation errors and inaccuracies and substantially misrepresents the style and form of Gongyang.

The source text for the translation is a single, modern edition, Xin yi Gongyang zhuan [phrase omitted], annotated and translated into modern Chinese by Xue Ke [phrase omitted], and edited by Zhou Fengwu [phrase omitted] (Taipei: Sanmin [phrase omitted], 2008). The Sanmin editions of classics such as Gongyang are indispensable for beginning students of Classical Chinese: the primary text is annotated with zhuyin fuhao [phrase omitted], and accompanied by notes and a modern Chinese paraphrase written at a level accessible to the average Chinese-speaking undergraduate. However, the Sanmin volumes are student editions, and as such are unsuitable as the basis for scholarly translation. (Incidentally, the translator misidentifies the source text for his translation as Xin shi Gongyang zhuan, apparently confusing yi [phrase omitted], 'translate' with shi [phrase omitted], 'explain'; Introduction, p. 5.)

Not only is the translation handicapped by the use of a student edition as a source text, it is further rendered unreliable by the translator's failure to consult the wide range of existing Gongyang scholarship, contemporary and traditional. In the 1970s, Goran Malmqvist already translated most of the narrative passages in Gongyang and analyzed the grammar and lexicon (Malmqvist 1971, 1975, 1977). He also recently reviewed the edition on which this translation is based (Ma 2009). Yet the translator seems unaware of Malmqvist's scholarship. Equally troubling is his failure to consult or even acknowledge the work of Joachim Gentz, the leading Gongyang scholar in the Western hemisphere, who has written a book and numerous articles on Gongyang. (Admittedly, Gentz's magisterial volume, Das Gongyang zhuan, is not in English, but conveniently for those of us who do not read German, Gentz has revised and updated much of his work and made it available in his numerous English articles and book chapters.)

In the footnotes to the translation (there is no bibliography), the three sources cited with most frequency are James Legge's 1972 translation of the Chunqiu and Zuo zhuan [phrase omitted] (but not his scholarly notes and frontmatter), Xue and Zhou's edition of Gongyang, and Wikipedia. The author's debt to the first two of these sources is acknowledged and full (if inaccurate) citations provided on the last page of the introduction. The authority of Wikipedia (both English and Chinese) is invoked no fewer than fifteen times. By contrast, the translator consults the commentary of He Xiu [phrase omitted] (129-182) only twice (the index lists five references to He Xiu, but three merely note that Xue and Zhou have cited him as an authority), and does not mention the subcommentary of Xu Yan [phrase omitted] (Tang), nor the many contributions of Qing philologists.

The translation is heavily footnoted, but matters such as textual variants or debate...

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