Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Chinese Xianxia 仙侠 Web Novels and Community Translation Public Deposited

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  • Chinese web novels first emerged on online forums in the 1990s and later on sites like Qidian. They gained popularity further west as amateur fan translators started posting their translations online. A global community now bases itself around Chinese web novels, consisting of Chinese media companies and platforms, Chinese authors, fan translators, and readers. This paper seeks to explore fan translations of web novels, specifically xianxia 仙侠 novels, in the context of them being a community effort, as well as discuss the unique qualities of the fan translation community. Xianxia, which translates to ‘immortal heroes,’ is a popular fantasy genre based on classical Chinese myths, tropes, and ideologies. It also contains world-building characteristics, making it a challenging genre to translate and ideal for finding patterns in areas where fan translators may struggle. I explore the web novel industry's background and then discuss community translation in the context of xianxia novels. This inquiry involves a group of questions surrounding the different sub-groups of the Chinese web novel community and the impact of their interactions. I explore the unique characteristics of the Chinese web novel industry and how they became popular among Anglophone readers. Also, the processes and dynamics of community fan translation and the search for patterns in the translations. To understand the unique language and interactions within the Chinese web novel community, I analyzed various xianxia novels that had multiple translators contribute. Some defining features of this genre include cultivation, magical themes, and objects. I identify unique passages throughout these web novels, which occur in footnotes and translator notes, where translators explain, express doubts, or ask for advice. Other notable passages or phrases are ones in which translators make distinct translation decisions. The commodification of web novels in China led to media companies promoting them to foreign audiences, thus creating an effect where fans started translating web novels. Since the web novel is an internet-based product, it is easy for people to group to translate them, even if it is informal comments. Finally, the world-building and traditional Chinese cultural aspects of the xianxia genre show the many difficulties translators face.

Date Awarded
  • 2022-11-02
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Last Modified
  • 2022-11-09
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