Extended Final Draft
Zihan He
Aaron Furgiuele
Connotations of Jiang Hu in the Chinese culture and its translation
Jiang Hu is a phrase having many connotations in Chinese culture. It refers to large rivers and
lakes. However, this denotation was gradually abandoned, and people took other connotations
derived from its literal meaning. In the Spring and Autumn Period (770 B.C. ~ 403 B.C), it was
used as a philosophical term, meaning the civil society away from the court and the ruling class.
In literature and especially in martial arts fiction, it refers to the arena where swordsmen and
greenwood heroes appear. Moreover, in a special context, it is used to refer to the gangland. Later,
it refers to a social environment suitable for the display of human nature and free from the bondage
of authority and law. Considering Jiang Hu's rich connotations, it is difficult to find a suitable
counterpart in the English language to faithfully convey its meanings. In this situation,
transliterating it as Jiang Hu becomes a suitable strategy. In the section below, the author will
introduce its major connotations in respective contexts, and why transliteration is the best strategy.
Chuang-tzu, a Chinese philosopher and founder of Mohism, firstly used Jiang Hu to refer to
rivers and lakes. In one of his literary works, he wrote that the sea cast up two fish into a puddle
on the beach. After it dried up, instead of leaving them to moisten each other with damp and spittle,
it would be better for them to forget each other in their native rivers and lakes. Here, people used
Jiang Hu by its literal meaning, rivers, and lakes. However, other meanings were derived from the
literal meaning to refer to places suitable for the existence of particular groups of people (Liu, &
Zhong, 2010). Consequently, the phrase gradually took the following connotations.
Jiang Hu was frequently used in literary works as a place away from the control of the emperor
and court. For example, in Yueyang Pavilion written by Fan Zhongyan, a statesman and poet in
North Song dynasty, Jiang Hu refers to a place free from the political troubles at court and suitable
for the display of human nature. Therefore, hermits often use this phrase to express their desire of
ridding the control of the court, abandoning official career and living an unfettered and dignified
life in seclusion (Guo, 2012). Men of letters in ancient China often used this phrase to express their
longing for a secluded place for retirement.
Jiang Hu is a phrase frequently used in martial arts fiction. It refers to a network of connections
or a society dominated by swordsmen. In this community, people have no worry about food and
shelter, and free from the punishment from authority (Mok, 2001). They rely primarily on their
martial arts for survival. Also, in this community, the vicious person can slaughter the vulnerable
at their will, and righteous men tend to uphold justice at the critical moment. Answering violence
with violence is commonly seen and well-welcomed in this community. Therefore, it is an illusory
concept describing the relationship in an unorganized and undisciplined social group.
As said before, Jiang Hu in martial arts fiction is used to refer to places where gather
swordsmen and chivalrous men, who were frequently engaged in fights with knives and swords.
However, such life is far from the normal social order and is usually outlawed by authority.
Therefore, gangland was gradually derived as another connotation for this phrase. This connotation
is often used in today’s society to refer to the underworld where violence, crime, and drug are
prevalent. It is often modified by other adjectives to express negative meanings. For example,
“worldly-wise person” (Lao Jiang Hu), refers to villains who have a large circle of bad connections
and who experienced illegal activities. “Brave Jiang Hu” refers to the engagement in activities
outlawed by authority.
In addition to the above connotations known better, Jiang Hu also has other meanings. For
example, it refers to people who move around to make a living as a street performer, drug-seller
and fortune-teller. It also refers to a kind of opera popular in Fujian province.
Transliteration means rendering words in one language into another with closeness in phonetic
sound (Virga, & Khudanpur, 2003). This strategy is used when no corresponding word can be
found in the target language to reproduce the meaning of the original accurately. Therefore, the
significance of this strategy is that it can retain the rich meanings and original flavor of the source
words in the target language, and at the same time enrich the vocabulary of the target language
(Wan, & Verspoor, 1998). China is a country boasting a rather long civilization created by its
people of all ethnic groups. Therefore, culturally-loaded words can be hardly found equivalents in
the target language. In this situation, transliteration can be used to achieve the goal of faithful
As discussed before, Jiang Hu is the phrase carrying rich connotations in different contexts.
This phrase is roughly equivalent to “society” in English. However, this corresponding word
cannot accurately reflect its variable meaning in different contexts. Therefore, it is better to use
transliteration to render the meaning of Jiang Hu in English.
Jiang Hu is a phrase boasting a long history in Chinese culture. It refers to rivers and lakes
initially, and later on, its rich connotations are derived from its original meaning to refer to places
suitable for the survival of particular groups of people. When translating this word into the target
language, for example, English, transliteration can be used to retain its rich original meaning and
flavor. This strategy can help reflect the profundity of Chinese culture in the foreign world.
Guo, Q. (2012). Translation theory and translation studies in China. Proquest Llc, 230.
Liu, D., & Zhong, S. (2010). Acquisition of culturally loaded words in EFL. Foreign Language
Annals, 32(2), 177-187.
Mok, O. (2001). Strategies of translating martial arts fiction. Babel, 47(1), 1-9.
Virga, P., & Khudanpur, S. (2003). Transliteration of proper names in cross-lingual information
retrieval. Acl Workshop on Multilingual & Mixed-language Named Entity Recognition.
Wan, S., & Verspoor, C. M. (1998). Automatic English-Chinese name transliteration for
development of multilingual resources. Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics
& the International Conference on Computational Linguistics.
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