Methodology

All Classical Chinese texts of Suiyuan Shidan were taken from Wikisource. It’s so old that any copyrights that ever existed for it (which there weren’t) had most likely long expired.

During translation, I will look up any words or short phrases that I do not understand directly using zdic.net. Happily, this usually sorts things out. I have to say this project would have failed on the first sentence without this valuable resource. However, if that does not resolve the issue, I then use ctext.org or search Google directly (which seems to give good baidu baike links). These searches usually involve translation issues regarding lines from one of those harder to read Ancient Zhou Dynasty or Confucian texts.

After gathering all the information together, I then use my hybrid Chinese/English brain with the appropriate cultural reference modules to piece all the information into semi-coherent English sentences. I then edit these sentences numerous times until they all make sense, flow well, and are more or less understandable by a native English speaker. Note, I’ve decided to do the translations in a more conversational manner, and thus the ordering of ideas in the English sentence may not always match the ordering of ideas in the Chinese sentence. For instance, the original text “清浮之物是也” can be literally translated as: “Clear floating items are such.” whereas I believe that it would better expressed as something like: “Examples of this are clear floating items”.

Any translation will have some tricky spots since the thinking and expressions of one language does not always map well into the other. One thing that had always annoyed me when reading translated works is when the translator does not provide the backgrounds and rational of their specific choice of words, simply forcing it on the reader in that rather annoying paternalistic way. As an amateur in translating Classical Chinese, I have decided to make the my thinking process more transparent to the reader by revealing when I am confused by a word or phrase through a bracketed numerical reference. I will also provide the possible interpretations to those words or phrases, and justify why I eventually decided on a certain interpretation, though my justifications may be rather flimsy and hand-wavy. All of this will be in the “Random notes” section after the translation.

If I don’t indicate any translation issues, then I am pretty sure my translations are good. Note however, there may nevertheless be mistakes. This is why the original Chinese text is available for those capable of reading it to judge for themselves. Hopefully these more capable readers would be kind enough to point out any mistake they see, thus allowing me to incrementally improve the translated text.

I have also include my own thoughts and opinion on the information and topics Yuan Mei discuss in his text in the random notes. These may have less direct relevance in the translation but hopefully it adds another dimension, or at least some depth, to the information from the text.

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3 thoughts on “Methodology”

  1. Seriously, this is a ton of work. I hope Berkshire credits you with a huge portion of the English translations so far. However, I’m curious why you didn’t choose the Yuan Ze University ( http://cls.hs.yzu.edu.tw/ceat/recipe/all_text.asp ) text over the Wikisource text? It seems the wikisource text is abridged and the sectioning is quite a bit off?

    Also, can we contribute to your project, monetarily or otherwise?

    1. It’s a lot of work but it’s fun, and not having and pressure from deadlines keeps things that way. The professor from Australia I was speaking withat said the people of Berkshire saw the site but I have not been in contact with them so far.

      As for the site you linked, it is actually a separate work by Xia Chuanzheng, which is the “Extended and rectified Suiyuan Shidan” (隨園食單補證). I may end up translating this work when the current one is finished, due to their ovelapping content, but I wanted to take things one step at a time.

      If anyone wishes to contribute to this project, the main thing I need is editing and proof-reading help. Given my rough, semi-coherent writing, I sure there are many sentences that could use some reworking. 🙂

  2. Sean, I’m from Berkshire and hope you received my email yesterday. We can help with editing and proofreading, naturally! Best, Karen. (Berkshire Publishing Group is working on the Encyclopedia of Chinese Cuisines.)

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