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Ancient text completely translated
2016-09-08

  

    More than 100 years ago, Emmanuel-Edouard Chavannes, a renowned French sinologist, began translating Sima Qian's Shiji (《史记》), Records of the Grand Historian in English. He introduced pieces of this famous text to European readers. Unfortunately, he was unable to complete the translation before he died. His work was left largely untouched for more than a century. Recently, Jacques Pimpaneau, another prominent French sinologist, completed the translation. Our reporter was able to interview Mr. Pimpaneau and his publisher, Pan Lihui.

  Shiji contains historical records from ancient China, particularly the Han Dynasty. Translating this work was difficult for a number of reasons. Not only does it require an understanding of classical Chinese, but it is also a massive collection of materials. Mr. Pan, who handled the editing and publicity work, said that Chavannes spent roughly 10 years translating Shiji. He managed to produce 5 volumes. Max Kaltenmark also contributed some to this project. The rest was translated by Mr. Pimpaneau, who devoted years to this project. Mr. Pimpaneau compared Shiji to a giant, ancient encyclopedia. He said that what intrigues many Western readers is that this text offers valuable insight into ancient Chinese thinking and customs. Mr. Pimpaneau said that Lucien Lévy-Bruhl was inspired by this text; the information concerning events and astrology supposedly inspired the book How Natives Think.

  Les Mémoires historiques de Se-Ma Ts'ien, the French version of Shiji has already been made available to the public. It is a nine volume set. The nine volumes were translated by Emmanuel-Edouard Chavannes, Max Kaltenmark and Jacques Pimpaneau. This is the first time this famous text has ever been translated fully into a Western language.