Negotiating hybridity in Gu Hongming’s English translation of Confucian texts

  • Zhaohan Xu

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis investigates Gu Hongming’s English translation of three Confucian classics Lunyu (1898), Zhongyong (1906) and Daxue (1915). Rather than regarding Gu’s work as extreme domestication, this study reinterprets it as a hybrid translation by considering his ambiguous view of culture in a specific historical context. The focus is on how Gu translated China to the Anglophone world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which is examined through a transdisciplinary approach of postcolonialism, cultural studies, diaspora studies and comparative literature, and a combination of contextual and textual analyses. This study also draws on a variety of primary materials, such as Gu’s English writings, periodicals, and archival materials of his private correspondence with James Stewart Lockhart and Richard Wilhelm, in order to unfold what role translation played in re-envisioning the cultural exchange between China and Anglophone countries.

This thesis explores the multi-layered dimensions of Gu’s hybrid translation from three perspectives: diasporic, postcolonial and linguo-cultural. It examines the role of the translator by analyzing how Gu’s diasporic experience structured his ambiguous and ambivalent cultural consciousness, which influenced the way in which he translated Confucian classics. Through a postcolonial reading of Gu’s motivation, thought, as well as religious and political rendition of Confucian texts, this thesis investigates the complexity of hybrid translation as a negotiating process involving tension, resistance, ambiguity, interplay and creation. This study further analyzes how Gu’s distinctive hybrid strategy reveals the dynamics of translation, and indicates the ethical appeal of Self and Other. Moreover, this thesis explores how Gu’s hybrid translation reflects on various themes such as linguo-cultural (in)commensurability, (un)translatability, and the relationship between foreignization and domestication. As a case study, this thesis probes into hybridity as a constructive yet ruptured term in translation studies.

Thesis embargoed until 31 December 2025.
Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsQueen's University & China Scholarship Council
SupervisorPiotr Blumczynski (Supervisor) & Chen-En Ho (Supervisor)


  • Gu Hongming
  • hybrid translation
  • postcolonialism
  • diaspora studies
  • comparative literature

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