Jenny Wong (University of Birmingham): Retranslating the Chinese Bible to make it gender-inclusive

For over a hundred years, the Chinese Union Bible Version has enjoyed the canonical status. Attempts to retranslate this “authoritative” version have met with fierce criticism for over a decade. However, the call for gender-inclusive language has also created a need to retranslate verses that are related to gender, or at least produce commentaries that are gender inclusive. Retranslating the Chinese Bible or advising on its revision is no longer the privilege of male scholars. Female scholars are also invited to be on the consultation committee to advise on translation /re-translation strategies of the Chinese Bible. In this paper, I will look at the various retranslation strategies of the Chinese Bible with reference to certain controversial passages relating to gender. Take Genesis 2:18 as an example, how does the feminist movement affect the interpretation of this verse, and ultimately the retranslation strategies? How does “helper” translate and be interpreted in Chinese context? How do Bible commentaries of these verses influence the reception of the target audience? How have these retranslations in turn affect the target audience’s perception of the role of women?  While translations in modern English versions range from “helper” to the more neutral term “companion” , but there are much fewer Chinese Bible versions over the past 100 years since the Chinese Union version was published in 1911.  Through textual analysis of various Chinese translations, I aim to illuminate on how the hermeneutics evolve at different times. It can be seen that retranslation of the Bible is not only a linguistic activity, but evolves across different periods and dependent on the hermeneutical frameworks of translators.

About the speaker

Jenny Wong is currently Lecturer of Interpreting with Translation (English-Chinese) at the University of Birmingham in the UK. She was Assistant Professor at the School of Translation at Hang Seng Management College in 2014-2015. Prior to this, she was Assistant Professor at Beijing Normal University – Hong Kong Baptist University, United International College from 2008-2012. She had taught media translation and advanced commercial translation at different universities. Her research interests lie in the study of Bible and English literature which grew out of her two postgraduate degrees: MA in Translating and Interpreting (Newcastle) and PhD in Literature and Theology (Glasgow).