Yan Fu bigraphy, stories - Chinese translator

Yan Fu : biography

8 January 1854 - 27 October 1921

Yan Fu ( courtesy name: Ji Dao, 幾道; 8 January 1854 — 27 October 1921) was a Chinese scholar and translator, most famous for introducing western ideas, including Darwin's "natural selection," to China in the late 19th century.


Yan Fu studied at the Fujian Arsenal Academy (福州船政學堂) in Fuzhou, Fujian Province. In 1877–79 he studied at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich, England. Upon his return to China, he was unable to pass the Imperial Civil Service Examination, while teaching at the Fujian Arsenal Academy and then Beiyang Naval Officers' School (北洋水師學堂) at Tianjin.

It was not until after the Chinese defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95, fought for control of Korea) that Yan Fu became famous. He is celebrated for his translations, including Thomas Huxley's Evolution and Ethics, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty and Herbert Spencer's Study of Sociology. Yan critiqued the ideas of Darwin and others, offering his own interpretations.

The ideas of "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest" were introduced to Chinese readers through Huxley's work. The former idea was famously rendered by Yan Fu into Chinese as tiānzé (天擇).

He became a respected scholar for his translations, and became politically active. In 1895 he was involved in the Gongche Shangshu movement. In 1912 he became the first principal of National Peking University (now Peking University).

He became a royalist and conservative who supported Yuan Shikai (袁世凱) and Zhang Xun (張勛) to proclaim themselves emperor in his later life. He also participated the foundation of Chouanhui (籌安會), an organization which supported restoring monarchy. He laughed at "New Literature Revolutionaries" such as Hu Shi (胡適).

Translation theory

Yan stated in the to his translation of Evolution and Ethics (天演論) that "there are three difficulties in translation: faithfulness, expressiveness, and elegance" (譯事三難:信達雅). He did not set them as general standards for translation and did not say that they were independent of each other. However, since the publication of that work, the phrase "faithfulness, expressiveness, and elegance" has been attributed to Yan Fu as a standard for any good translation and has become a cliché in Chinese academic circles, giving rise to numerous debates and theses. Some scholars argue that this dictum actually derived from Scottish theoretician of translation, Alexander Fraser Tytler.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine