This study is an analysis of selections from two Chinese translations of the Qur'an. The analysis primarily examines the relation between these translations and the Arabic source text. The analysis concentrates mainly on linguistic and rhetorical features, though exegetical aspects have not been excluded. The study is an attempt to find out how the merging of disparate conceptual systems takes place, and what the exact nature of the resulting hybrid texts is. For such texts provide the raw-material for the local interpretation of the Holy Book of the increasingly active and self-conscious Muslim Chinese population, and it is therefore important to increase our knowledge about them.
The two translations studied are Gulanjing yijie by Wang Jingzhai (1932, Literary Chinese) and Gulanjing by Ma Jian (1981, Modern Chinese). The latter is the current standard Chinese translation of the Qur'an, and the former is the first complete translation of the Qur'an made by a Chinese Muslim. The selection of the passages to be analysed has been made on the basis of criteria of form and content in the source text, and is an attempt to provide a fairly representative sample of different types of Qur'anic discourse, without claiming completeness. The passages analysed are Sura 1, 2.183-187, 12.1-14, 78, 81, 96, 97, 112 and 114.
The conclusions, which should not be unduly generalised, can be summarised as follows: Significant differences were found between the source text and the two translations. Although the shifts that occur during the transition from source to target never amount to cultural adaption, the translations show clear influences from the conceptual system of Chinese and do not always follow the source text closely. The translations are in a profound sense hybrid texts —hybrid in form and content— as a result of an attempt to produce formally and dogmatically faithful but at the same time accessible translations for the modern Chinese readership. The analysis shows in detail exactly which structures and elements constitute hybridity and what kinds of shift have taken place. A set of shifts familiar from translations in general are also evident: neutralisation, explicitation, generalisation, explanation and intellectualisation. This contributes to the emerging overall picture of translations which mediate between the Qur'?n and its Chinese readership.