ACIAC Seminar: How to Reach the "Realm of Freedom" in Literary Translation?


Date: Monday, 16 September, 2019

Time: 3.00 - 4.00 pm

Venue: EA.G.03, Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture, Western Sydney University Parramatta South campus

FREE. RSVP Essential. Please RSVP HERE (opens in a new window) before 13 September 2019.

The seminar will be in Mandarin.


How can literary translators reach the “realm of freedom”? In this seminar, Professor Li Yao, one of China’s best-known translators of Australian literature, will share his experiences and insights of literary translation, and discuss the evolving understandings of what good literary translation is and how to achieve it.

Drawing on four decades of literary translation experience, including over 50 major translations, Professor Li Yao argues that the best literary translation harnesses the advantages of both languages, achieving a “win-win”. Translators need to play with the two languages and “do what you like, following your heart”. Good translators need to be faithful to the original text. However, translation should be a “creative loyalty” rather than “stupid loyalty”. Professor Li Yao draws on the ideas of well-known Chinese translator and theorist Yuanchong Xu: “The pursuit of faithfulness and aesthetics is the highest standard, which transcends the accuracy seeking stage required by the translation equivalency theory and therefore enters the realm of freedom”. In this seminar, Professor Li will illustrate his views using many practical examples in literary translation, explaining how he navigates the various problems in translation practice.


Li Yao, Visiting Professor of Australian Studies Centre, Beijing Foreign Studies University. Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) awarded by the University of Sydney, Senior Translator.

After graduating from Inner Mongolian Normal University in 1966, Li Yao worked as a writer and editor at journals in Inner Mongolia until his appointment as Professor of English at the Training Center of the Ministry of Commerce, Beijing, in 1992. He began his literary translation career in 1978. In the past 40 years, he has translated and published 53 British, American and Australian literature, culture and history works. He became a member of the Chinese Writers’ Association in 1986, specialising in literary translation. He won the Australia-China Council’s inaugural Translation Prize in 1996 for The Ancestor Game by Alex Miller, and won it again in 2012 for Carpentaria by Alexis Wright, both Miles Franklin-winning novels. He was awarded the Council’s Golden Medallion in 2008 for his distinguished contribution in the field of Australian literary translation in China. He was awarded Certificate of Achievement by FASIC, in recognition of his lifelong contributions to the art of translation and to bringing Australian Literature to Chinese readers in 2018.