Chinese to English Translator: Yang Yixian

YANG Xianyi (1915-2009) was a titan in classic Chinese to English translation. Yang studied at Oxford and has met his wife Gladys Taylor, with whom he later translated numerous classic works of Chinese literature. Their translations included Selected Works of Lu Xun (鲁迅选集) and a complete English version of A Dream of Red Mansions (红楼梦), which the two began in the early sixties and finished in the following decade after a spell in prison during the Cultural Revolution. Yang published his autobiography in English as White Tiger.

As a well-known Chinese to English translator, Yang favors the idea that everything can be translated. For example, he believes that issues such as homophones, allusions, and metaphors in classic Chinese could be solved, and counterparts could be found in English. For Yang, those that could be translated were translated, and for the others, footnote was added. He cautions that, however, the ones that were solvable were in fact in the minority.