Lichtung and Lu Zhai: nine ways of looking at trans-civilizational imaginations of Wan Wei

This essay explores a range of questions related to trans- civilizational translations or trans-civilizational imaginations in translational activities and thus broadens the field of translation studies to include considerations of its philosophical, historical, cross-cultural, postcolonial implications. Underlining this study is the concern with problems arising from a Western universalism overriding a cosmopolitan vision of the world that occur in translating works from a non-Western civilization such as the Chinese. The investigation, informed by theories of literature, translation, cultural studies, psychoanalysis, and philosophy, focuses on a specific case: how “Lu Zhai,” a four-line poem by China‟s Tang poet Wang Wei, is variously translated and what problematic assumptions lie behind them. This essay questions the limitations of a Western spirit of universality, whether subtly or explicitly manifested. It concludes with a speculative comparison of “Lu Zhai” with Heidegger‟s metaphor Lichtung, as an example of an affinity between the Western and Chinese civilizations, affirming the Derridean humor that the Babelian confusion of many tongues may have a divine purpose.