Chinese Translators from the Past

Chinese translators first came in existence 5000 years ago as mentioned in Chinese history.  Initially, it began with the translation of Buddhist classics from India and Central Asia.

Chinese monks who were well versed in both Chinese and Sanskrit translated Buddhist classics to local language. Thus one can say that they were the first Chinese translators. This was in the late Han Dynasty. Their translation work continued for several years influencing China’s religion, philosophy and social life.

Then in the era of Late Ming Dynasty in the 16th century the Christian missionaries from West came to China.  These missionaries preached Christianity and brought knowledge of science and technology along with them.

The western missionaries translated the holy book Bible to local Chinese language variants and thus one can say these Chinese translators in form of missionaries were responsible for a cultural change in China.

Buddhist Translators

Chinese translators in the pioneering era have been responsible for the translation of Buddhist literature from Pali and Sanskrit into Chinese and this certainly is a noticeable task looking at the hard work of collection of these Buddhist classics from India.

This translation continued through the 4th century and there were many notable monks known to be great Chinese translators who accomplished arduous projects with the help of their peers. Their task was indeed difficult as Buddhist canon was brought orally from India to China and then it was translated in parts.

The Tang Dynasty had produced many mature Chinese writers who excelled in both Chinese and Sanskrit.  The concluding era spanned 2nd to mid 9th century by which almost all Buddhist scriptures had been translated into Chinese by eminent Chinese translators.

Then came the Later Imperial era when Chinese translators worked with Christian missionaries who came to China to spread Christianity bringing science and technology along with them.  Chinese translators during the Later Imperial China worked in the areas of astronomy, physics, cartography, medicine, mathematics and religion.

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