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The Reconstruction of Narratives in Chinese Supernatural Fiction: A Case Study of Samuel Wells Williams’s Translation of Liao Zhai

Zhang Qiang

Samuel Wells Williams is a Sinologist and one of the earliest who translated Strange Tales of Liao Zhai in English. This essay explores the reconstruction of narratives in the selected stories of translation by Williams in The Middle Kingdom, Easy Lessons in Chinese and Chinese Repository. It argues that Williams’ strategy of translation includes religious treatment of literary texts, free translation under the form of literal translation, and thematic reconstruction via selected translation. His choice of translation strategy has profound historical and practical reasons. On the one hand, Williams ignored the differences on interpretations of the same story between Chinese and Western readers, and he injected significant subjective interpretation in respects of the choice of words, the transformation of narrative perspective, and the deletion of plots. On the other hand, his identity as a missionary endows his translation of stories with strong religious orientation, making them a narrative reconstruction of the source text to prove the feasibility, necessity and urgency of the missionary work in China.