Once adored by Abraham Lincoln and quoted by Dr Martin Luther King; still televised in Russia and performed by Bob Dylan amongst others, the work of Scotland’s national Bard is celebrated at home and around the globe.
There are more than 250 Burns Societies worldwide, but no known celebrations in China . . . until now.
A leading Professor of English Literature from China’s Hebei Normal University has based himself at the University of Stirling as he continues his life-long passion to translate 100 Burns poems into contemporary Chinese.
Self-professed Burns’ fan, Professor Li Zhengshuan said: “I shared Burns’ labouring experiences and I liked his style so when I was young, I learned many of his poems by heart.
“Dozens of Burns’ poems have been translated into Chinese, some by poets who used them as an inspiration to write their own poems.
“In some versions, Burns became a Chinese poet speaking the words only the ancient Chinese could understand. I thought Burns’ English was modern so I tried my hand at translating a few of his poems. It’s far from easy and the main problem is the understanding of the dialects.”
Undeterred, Professor Li is based for six months at the University of Stirling’s new Centre for Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies where he will oversee a partnership translation programme between Stirling and Hebei.
“It is important to have translators of literature and culture as well as interpreters and teachers,” added Professor Li, who is also chair of the Hebei Shakespeare Society. “Only with enough practice can we teach well and only with enough theoretical knowledge can we translate better.
“Burns is not as well-known as Shakespeare in China, but he is popular where English literature is studied. Poetry is taught less and less in China now, but it will always be well-known in my university.”
As well as a joint undergraduate degree with China, Stirling’s Centre for Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies has taught postgraduate and research degrees in Translation Studies in six different languages. It is also exploring potential opportunities in Specialised Translation and in Business Interpreting as it continues to form new partnerships.
To mark this, the Centre is holding an International Translation Conference on Monday 26 and Tuesday 27 January 2015, including guests from China, Denmark, Russia and Spain.
Professor Kirstie Blair is Chair of English Studies at Stirling and organised the conference along with Dr Saihong Li and Dr Anne Stokes.
Professor Blair said: “The interest in Robert Burns from around the world never ceases to amaze and as well as the interest from Professor Li, we will also be welcoming ten Russian academics representing seven different universities, all experts in the fields of literature, linguistics and translation studies.
“They tell us that Robert Burns is also very popular in Russia, but they have never attended a traditional Burns’ Supper so we are delighted to invite them to ours at the Stirling Court Hotel on Burns’ Night. With the traditional toasts given by Professor Li and two of our Russian colleagues, it will be a truly international celebration of Scotland’s Bard.”
Stirling recently moved into the top 50 research intensive universities in the UK and as well as a vibrant School of Arts & Humanities, produces world-leading research in psychology, health sciences and aquaculture amongst others.