Translator Anna Holmwood is the hero of Jin Yong's wuxia
Translator Anna Holmwood is the hero of Jin Yong’s wuxia
Published: Mar 04, 2018 07:03 PM
With the first batch of books from the A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes series entering the Chinese market in February, the public has given their thumbs-up to foreign translator Anna Holmwood. This is the first time Louis Cha Leung-yung's (pen name Jin Yong) wuxia masterpiece was officially published in English.

Wuxia is a traditional martial-arts fiction which highlights magic, kungfu and warrior spirits. I found that, in my WeChat moments, professional friends in the translation or linguistics fields began to comment on the accuracy of the translation. Some netizens, however, claimed that "the translator ruined the Chinese masterpiece."

Some talked about whether it should be a condor or an eagle for the Chinese character Diao in the original Chinese version. Some asked why certain Chinese names are in pinyin while others are given English (such as Lily, Ironheart and Skyfury) and whether the English explanations were accurate.

When hearing all this criticism, the Chinese buzzword on Urban Dictionary suddenly flashed in my mind: "You can you up, no can no BB," which roughly translates into English as "if you can do it you should go on and do it, instead of criticizing others."

We all agree that Jin Yong is a master and his books are masterpieces. But they are only read among the Chinese community. Without an English version, it was impossible for this national treasure to be acknowledged and shared in the Western world.

The Chinese version of She Diao Ying Xiong Zhuan was first published in the 1950s. It has been adapted for TV and films by different directors and producers. Young actors and actresses can take advantage of these adaptations to make themselves hot, as Jin Yong is an accepted brand.

In recent years, with more and more young foreign students spending their undergraduate years in China, Westerners now have a deeper and more thorough exchange and communication with Chinese people and culture.

Among them are many new, avid fans of wuxia fiction. With excellent written Chinese proficiency, there are also now many foreigners contributing to websites such as and, where true lovers of Chinese wuxia share literature and reviews with a global audience.

In contrast, what are we Chinese wuxia lovers doing? We have quite a few translations and interpretation associations across the country. These translators receive high payment from their clients compared with talents in other fields.

It's not uncommon to hear that one interpreter can get as much as 5,000 yuan ($790) for a day's work. It is clear that they are accepted by the market and thus their multilingual excellence is a big advantage. But it has never occurred to them that they can do the job that Holmwood has done, which requires tremendous talent.

I don't mean that Chinese readers should not discuss and debate the accuracy of Holmwood's translation. Of course they can, as translation has also its own jianghu ("world" in wuxia terms). But it would be better if they could first translate classic Chinese books into English themselves, so that they know and understand just how difficult such a task is before criticizing others. That experience can help them have more practical materials for academic exchange.

When I first learned the news that a foreigner in her 30s would publish an official English version of Jin Yong's wuxia, I - a Chinese woman in my 40s with English as my major - was speechless.

But one thing for sure is that Holmwood has captured the essence of wuxia much better than most Chinese could. She alone has helped spread Chinese literature to the Western world like a real hero right out of one of Jin Yong's books.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Illustration:Lu Ting/GT