TAIPEI (Taiwan News) - If there is one thing that Chinese-speaking readers around the world all have in common, it undoubtedly will be that they have all once been mesmerized by and immersed in the Wuxia (武俠, fighting warrior) world created by Jin Yong (金庸), the most renowned kung fu fantasy writer the Chinese-speaking world has ever seen.
In the West, however, Jin Yong’s name is barely known, as attempts in the past to translate his Wuxia series into other Western languages have mostly ended in failure, which is mostly due to the complexity of the world he has created and the challenge this poses to translators.
Now, for the first time, British translator Anna Holmwood, has successfully translated one of Jin Yong’s most popular series, "Legends of the Concord Heroes," into English, intended for a wider mainstream readership.
Holmwood and her publisher Maclehose Press are planning to publish the novel in a total of twelve volumes, of which the first one, "A Hero Born," has already been completed and is set to be published next year in February.
Holmwood, who studied Chinese literature as a college student at Oxford University, first learned of Jin Yong’s Wuxia series during the time she spent living in Taiwan.
According to an interview with The Guardian, Holmwood expressed that she felt a great weight of responsibility in translating the series as, “these books are read by so many Chinese people when they are teenagers, and the work really stays in their minds.”
Agent Peter Buckman, who sold the publishing rights to the publisher, said that he came across Jin Yong’s name when he searched for “bestselling authors” on the internet and found out that Jin Yong’s name was among the top 10 bestselling authors worldwide. At the time he had not even heard of Jin Yong’s name.
After further research, and consulting with his old friend Christopher MacLehose, who is the founder of the MacLehose Press, realized that Jin Yong’s extraordinary popularity and influence to the mainstream culture in the Chinese-speaking world is comparable with that of Simenon’s to the French, and Tolstoy’s to the Russians.
Jin Yong’s novels are a hugely present in the mainstream culture in Chinese-speaking countries and areas including Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong, with enthusiasm passing down from generation to generation.
The biggest challenge so far in translators’quest in translating the incredibly popular novels has been thoroughly depicting the kung fu moves, as well as the traditional Chinese philosophical and religious elements that can be seen throughout the entire storyline.
Take one of the most deadly fighting skills of Guo Jing, the main character in "Legends of the Concord Heroes" for instance, which literally translates to "the 18-palm attack that defeats the dragons," is derived from a Taoist classic created by the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, giving it a philosophical meaning in addition to its physical movements.
Holmwood has stated that she believes most readers like a bit of a challenge when reading, which is why she did not explain everything in the books, although she did include a prologue which explains some of the elements of the Wuxia world.
Holmwood now lives in Malmö, Sweden, with her Taiwanese husband and son, where she continues to work on the upcoming volumes of well-known series.