The Opium War fought between Britain and China in 1840-42 was one of the most impactful events in modern Chinese history. Badly defeated, China was forced to cede the Island of Hong Kong to the British, in addition to such other terms as opening new trading ports and paying a huge indemnity. Because of its importance, many studies have been made by historians of various backgrounds. Unfortunately little attention has been paid to the role of translation/interpreting in the negotiation process. The present paper studies the translation issues involved in the peace negotiations between Qi Shan (1786-1854) and Charles Elliot (1801-1875) in late 1840 to early 1841, the so-called “Guangdong Peace Talk.” It analyzes the Chinese and English texts of the dispatches sent by both sides, paying special attention to the two parties’ different understanding over such key terms as “cession” and “Hong Kong”.
Lawrence Wang-chi Wong received his BA (Hons) and MPhil from the Department of Chinese, University of Hong Kong, and earned his PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is at present Chairman and Professor of Humanities at the Department of Translation, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, holding a concurrent position Director of the Research Centre for Translation. He is adjunct professor of Fudan University and Shanghai International Studies University. He is executive editor of Renditions, chief editor of Fanyishi yanjiu (Studies in Translation History), chief editor of Journal of Translation Studies, and series editor of “Fanyishi luncong” (Studies in Translation History) and “Asian Translation Traditions”. His main research areas are translation history of 18-20th century China, 20th century Chinese literature and Hong Kong cultural studies.