Chinese journal reaches English audience

Updated: 2014-07-23 07:19

By Deng Zhangyu (China Daily)

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Foreign readers may soon be able to read an influential Chinese academic journal on literature, history and philosophy in English online.

The journal has entered into a partnership with academic publisher Brill to "introduce China's social sciences to people across the world".

According to editors at the Journal of Chinese Humanities, the first issue will concentrate on the development of Chinese society, from the time the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) unified China to the Revolution of 1911. It features papers from six Chinese and three foreign scholars.

The journal's next issue will focus on the dialogue between Confucianism and Christian civilization. And there will be discussions on concepts like Taoism in future issues.

 Chinese journal reaches English audience

Journal of Chinese Humanities will help English readers better understand China through its culture and history. Provided to China Daily

The journal is planned to have a semi-annual print run for the first two years. After three years it will change into a quarterly publication. The English version is only available in electronic formats outside China.

However, it's still unclear how much the electronic journal will cost per view and how it will be accessed. The publisher Brill, which is based in Leiden, the Netherlands, is adding more Asian academic titles to its stable. It finished its first round of promotion of the Chinese journal in Singapore on July 17.

But for the editors of the journal, the biggest problem is translation.

"We have lots of difficulties in accurately translating our culture into other languages," says Wang Xuedian, chief editor of the journal, explaining that many things in Chinese culture and history do not exist in the Western world.

To solve the problem of translation, the journal hired foreign scholars visiting China to research Chinese studies to help them translate Chinese papers into English.

The editorial board of the journal's English version has 24 well-known scholars on Chinese studies including Ying-shih Yu, Roger Ames and Tomohisa Ikeda.

"We want foreigners to understand China's rise through its culture and history, not just by looking at its economics and politics," Wang says.

More people outside China are interested in the emerging power and eager to understand more about the country. That is why Wang and his team decided to publish an English version.

Many Chinese journals on economics and science have already published English versions, working with international publishing houses or book agents. But Wang says there are very few academic journals on China's social sciences that reach overseas markets.

Wang and his staff have adopted a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to who will be interested in the academic journal and what kind of topics can attract readers.

"We are trying our best to provide a cultural angel for foreign readers to better understand what is happening in China," Wang adds.

The Chinese government has long encouraged academic journals to produce English versions. Xu Qingshen, head of the social sciences department of the Ministry of Education, said at the journal's launching ceremony on June 25 that his department is considering investing more money and having more polices to support English versions of academic journals.

"We're optimistic about the overseas market. What matters is the quality and level of our academic journals," president of Shanghai Century Publishing Group Chen Xin told the Oriental Morning Post. Chen's company will publish 50 English versions of academic journals and books within two years.

Founded in 1951, the Journal of Literature, History and Philosophy is a renowned university journal of Shandong University and an academic leader. It has held many influential discussions on Chinese culture and history in past decades. Chinese linguist Ji Xianlin said in 1998 that to publish a paper in the journal was "really a great achievement".

The Chinese journal has had subscribers outside China since the 1950s. By the end of 2008, it had 545 overseas subscribers, according to the China National Publications Import and Export Corporation. Most are libraries of universities and academic institutes.

(China Daily 07/23/2014 page20)