Yan Fu

Yan Fu

Yan Fu (zh-tspw|t=嚴復|s=严复|p=Yán Fù|w=Yen Fu, January 8 1854October 27 1921), courtesy name Ji Dao (幾道), was a Chinese scholar and translator, most famous for introducing Western thoughts, including Darwin's idea of "natural selection," into China during the late 19th century.

He studied in the Fujian Arsenal Academy (福州船政學堂) in Fuzhou, Fujian Province. From 1877–1879, he studied in the Navy Academy in Greenwich, England. Upon his return to China, he was unable to pass the Imperial Civil Service Examination, while teaching at the Fujian Arsenal Academy and then Beiyang Naval Officers' School (北洋水師學堂) at Tianjin.

It was not until after the Chinese defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War that Yan Fu became famous for his works of the time period. He is well-known for his translations including Thomas Huxley's "Evolution and Ethics", Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations", John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty" and Herbert Spencer's "Study of Sociology". Yan critiqued the ideas of Darwin and others, offering his own interpretation of them.

The ideas of "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest" were introduced to Chinese readers through Huxley's work. The former idea was famously rendered as "tianze" (天擇) into Chinese by him.

He became a respected scholar for his translations, and became politically active. He was involved in the Gong Zhe Shangshu movement in 1895. In 1912, he became the first principal of the National Peking University (now Peking University).

As translation theorist

Yan stated in his [http://rwxy.tsinghua.edu.cn/rwfg/ydsm/ydsm-qw/00104/002.htm preface] to his translation of "Evolution and Ethics" (天演論) that "there are three difficulties in translation: faithfulness, expressiveness, and elegance" (譯事三難:信達雅). He did not set these three difficulties as general standards for translation and did not say that these were independent of each other. However, since the publication of that work, the phrase "faithfulness, expressiveness, and elegance" has been attributed to Yan Fu as a standard for any good translation and has become a cliche in Chinese academic circles, giving rise to numerous debates and theses. Some scholars argue that the dictum actually came from Alexander Fraser Tytler.


*Benjamin I. Schwartz (1964). "In Search of Wealth and Power: Yen Fu and the West." Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
*zh icon Shen Suru 沈蘇儒 (1998). "Lun Xin Da Ya: Yan Fu Fanyi Lilun Yanjiu" (論信達雅:嚴復翻譯理論硏究 "On faithfulness, understandability and elegance: a study of Yan Fu's translation theory"). Beijing: Commercial Press.

External links

*zh icon [http://www.guoxue.com/master/yanfu/yanfu.htm Detailed biography and with related essays]
*zh icon [http://rwxy.tsinghua.edu.cn/rwfg/ydsm/ydsm-qw/00104/000.htm Some of his works on-line] , including the translation of "Evolution and Ethics"

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