Texts, Paratexts, and Contexts: A Comparative Study of English Translations of the Classic Chinese Novel Jin Ping Mei

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This research project investigates the English translations and adaptations of the sixteenth-century classic Chinese novel Jin Ping Mei. Acclaimed the ‘No.1 Marvellous Book’ of the Ming dynasty, Jin Ping Mei was banned soon after its appearance, due to the inclusion of graphically explicit sexual descriptions. So far there have been more than a dozen English adaptations and translations of the novel. Working within the framework of Descriptive Translation Studies, this research provides a translational history of the English versions of Jin Ping Mei, supported by various paratexts, including book covers, reviews, and archival materials. The author also conducts textual comparisons to uncover the translation norms at work in each of the only two complete translations, namely The Golden Lotus by Clement Egerton and The Plum in the Golden Vase by David Tod Roy. The notions of agency, habitus and capital are introduced for the examination of the transference of linguistic, literary and cultural aspects of the two translations. This study is the first attempt to make systematic research on the English Translations of Jin Ping Mei. Given its pioneering status and interdisciplinary nature, the data, method and findings of this research project will potentially enrich the fields of Translation Studies, Comparative Literature, Chinese Studies, Cultural Studies and Book History.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)29-51
Number of pages23
JournalDongfang fanyi (East Journal of Translation)
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Jin Ping Mei
  • English translation
  • censorship
  • literary classic
  • habitus
  • agent
  • David Roy
  • Clement Egerton
  • descriptive analysis

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