Tim’s Preface to Jing Shen

On the translation of Jing Shen – chapter 7 of the Huainanzi

Our group has been meeting for more than twenty years. The thrust of our work has been the joy of learning about translation from Chinese helped by our illustrious guides, and the insights we gain from the process of producing a translation paying scrupulous attention to the original Chinese characters and text.

The group was formed after an inspiring talk from Fr Claude Larre at a Traditional Acupuncture Society conference in Warwickshire in 1982. Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée became involved as Fr Larre’s assistant from early on, took on increasing responsibilities and became our formal tutor when Fr Larre died.

Membership was originally drawn from the acupuncture community. Our first work was on the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, (Nei Jing), but rapidly expanded to include the Daode Jing and then the Zhuangzi. Later we would venture to Liezi, Huainanzi, Guanzi and even find time for Confucius. The wider interest was reflected in a broader membership whose backgrounds included languages, sinology, music, banking, Buddhism, Daoism and just plain ‘interested’. We have worked in Paris at the Institut Ricci, in Oxford, Cambridge and latterly in London, mostly by the river where we are soothed by the making and ebbing of the tide and the passing water traffic.

We worked on Huainanzi chapters 1 and 6, and when we came to 7, realized that no reliable English translation was available. Propitiously this chapter was also the subject of Fr Larre’s doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne and the decision was made to prepare our own translation for publication. Now, some years on, it has been worked on by a skilled and diligent band of group members, and is deemed ready for the world.

The core phenomenon sustaining our group is the dedicated zeal with which Fr Larre and Elisabeth provide help with translation to folk who are not in the academic community, but who want to stick to rigorous standards and pay full regard to original texts. Their teaching is always done with elegance and a certain lightness.

So this text is dedicated to the memory of Father Claude Larre, to Elisabeth Rochat and to the continuation of the group.

Tim Gordon, London 2010

Our translation group at Tim’s house spring 2016:


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