DOI: 10.3390/rel14121546 ISSN: 2077-1444

A Paratext Perspective on the Translation of the Daodejing: An Example from the German Translation of Richard Wilhelm

Xiaoshu Li, Yuan Tan
  • Religious studies

In the German translation history of the Daodejing, the version rendered by the renowned German sinologist, Richard Wilhelm, has vigorously propelled the study of Laozegetics in Germany and stands as a translation of historical and scholarly significance. Wilhelm complemented the concise main text through the use of diverse, precise, and appropriate paratexts, granting his translation both readability and academic rigor. This ensures the admiration of general readers and the recognition of professional scholars. Tailored to the linguistic preferences and educational levels of German readers, Wilhelm frequently employed highly recognizable theological, philosophical, and literary concepts within the German cultural system to elucidate the Daodejing. This translation strategy effectively satisfies the expectation horizon of target readers. In the paratexts, Wilhelm constructs a philosophical framework of Daoism, compares the thought of Confucianism and Daoism, and broadens the dialogue between Chinese philosophical thought and Western intellectual traditions, thereby bestowing upon the Daodejing a renewed vitality in the German-speaking world.