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Anyone familiar with Chinese culture will know that Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a great Chinese classic. Notwithstanding their territorial disputes with the Chinese, the Japanese adore this saga so much that they’ve created games and even cartoons to celebrate Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Indeed, this classic gives excellent insights into the trials, tribulations, morals, code of honour, cruelty and pure ingenuity of the Chinese people.
The trouble is, this piece of work can also be fiendishly difficult to read, even for Chinese readers. Translating every chapter, word for word and in chronological order, will definitely not help the non-Chinese reader. The subplots are too complex, not to mention the dizzying numbers of names and characters. What’s more, the original author Luo Guan Zhong had made the assumption that the readers at his time understood the cultural and historical background of the Eastern Han Dynasty.
I shall be devoting the next 12 months of my life attempting to translate and interpret this piece of work in a way that even Western readers can understand or appreciate. The beauty of this classic lies in the fact that there are no real good or bad guys, no permanent friends and foes – just like in real life.
© Chan Joon Yee
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