Religious Culture and Translation
Religious culture plays an important role in every language and culture; it has a broad and profound impact on the language of communication in social life. In the practice of translation, only by knowing the background of specific religious and cultural, can we have a better understanding of the true original meaning of the expression and emotion, and thus make their own translation to achieve the dialectical unity of “accurate understanding” and “full expression”.
As we all know, there are considerable differences between eastern and western cultures. Westerners believe in Christianity. They think God created everything. There are many religious words, such as “God,” “Bible,” “church”, “baptism” and so on. The Chinese people believe in Buddhism, Taoism, lots of religious terminology such as “Jade Emperor”, “Goddess of Mercy,” “Buddha”, “Lord Buddha”, “compassion”.
There are many English words, phrases, which express a particular religious meaning. If we merely translate it into Chinese at will, we cannot convey the translation with the full meaning of the term. For example, the word “death”, religion concerns a lot for life and death issues of most concern. In western countries, most of the people believe in Christian, the Christian doctrine is the moral criteria for the whole society to pursue.
A large number of euphemistic word related to “death” are originated from the “Bible” or any other Christian legends and stories, reflects the religious interpretation of Christian view of life and death. God made man by mud, so the person who is dead will “return to earth (to return to dust / earth)”. Born to sin, must sin, so his death is “natural to pay the debt of nature. God is the Lord of everything, so the death of the human is to be called to God / to answer the final summons.
In the culture of the western word, lots of stories come from the Bible and are well-known. They are also the source of literature creation. These simple and vivid idioms can be metaphors for people’s thoughts and feelings and philosophy of life. If we cannot understand them, it may lead to difficulties in understanding, and let alone translation.
For example: a sentence “escape by the skin of one’s teeth (survived),” in “Old Testament • Book of Job” (Old Testament Job) says the Lord God (Johevah) to test Job whether he is absolutely loyal devotion to God in any circumstances, he make Job lost his property and lost his daughter, then the whole body covered with boils of Job (except the teeth, because there is no skin on teeth).
In this danger situation, Job did not shake the belief. The allusion contains a very rich cultural significance. In the sentence, “Being a teacher is being present at the creation, when the clay begins to breathe.” Christianity believes that God created man of clay. Therefore, in English, creation refers to God, while “clay” refers to the person that is created by God.
Read Also: Religious Culture and Translation II
Language and religious culture penetrate and Integrate with each other. Different religious beliefs and historical allusions in the eastern and Western cultures soaked in the expression of their own language. Only by a deep understanding of the East-West cultural differences, understanding of language and cultural content, can we avoid mistranslation, misinterpretation and make the translation really play culture exchange role.
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