Western Theory’s Chinese Transformation


During the mass translation of Western “post-isms” since the 1990s, Saidian postcolonial theory, Orientalism in particular, was introduced to China through interpretation, reception, and appropriation in the Chinese academe, becoming an important discursive tool for the debate about China. The translated work is perceived as the “afterlife” of the original work, and Saidian theory achieves its constantly renewed and comprehensive unfolding through translation and critical reception in China. In this sense, translation contributes to the complexity and multiplicity of traveling theories, which plays an important part in the formation of Chinese literary theories. Arguably, theoretical transformation occurs through debates and dialogue that bring about new insights into the intellectual traditions of both sides. The recent decade has witnessed the rise of “Sinologism” as a critical theory, which can be perceived as a Chinese reply to Orientalism or, rather a Chinese appropriation. Thus, the traveling of Saidian theory to China exemplifies that discursive formation and transformation are characterized by constant bi-directional interaction and exchange between the appropriating and the appropriable, and emphasizes the significance of constructing a dialogic framework that values cultural pluralism.