‘Beauty is truth’?: Translating Oscar Wilde’s “The nightingale and the rose”

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


It is widely acknowledged that Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) is not only a brilliant humorist, playwright, and fiction writer but a distinguished story teller for children. Many of his fairy tales, such as “The Happy Prince,” “The Selfish Giant,” and “The Young King” have long become canons in Children’s Literature. Due to its great important and influence, Wilde’s fairy tales have been translated into Chinese by many translators. However, Wilde’s tales, featuring his frequent use of figurative language, his sensitivity to (non-)human emotions and interactions, unique juxtaposition of words and syntax, and extensive allusion to myths and legends, prove to be challenging for many translators. This difficulty is evidenced by Ba Jin’s (巴金) (1904-2005), a prestigious Chinese writer and translator, comment that, although he had the idea of translating Wilde’s stories long ago, the work did not come into being until twenty years later because he was so intimidated by the delicate style and the musical language used in Wilde’s texts and was afraid he was not up to the task. In addition to Ba Jin, Lin Hui Yin (林徽因), a famous architect and writer in the 20th century, was smitten by Wilde’s stories and translated some into Chinese. Unlike Ba Jin, whose translation tends to be literal and faithful, Lin’s rendition appears more lyrical and personal. Reading Ba Jin’s and Lin Hui Yin’s renditions of Wilde’s “The Nightingale and the Rose,” this paper discusses Ba’s and Lin’s translation strategies, their individual insights and drawbacks, and the implications. Copyright © 2018 Taiwan Children’s Literature Research Association 8th Annual Conference.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018



Chang, H. (2018, November). ‘Beauty is truth’?: Translating Oscar Wilde’s “The nightingale and the rose”. Paper presented at the Taiwan Children’s Literature Research Association 8th Annual Conference, Soochow University, Taipei, Taiwan.


  • Oscar Wilde
  • Fairy tales
  • “The nightingale and the rose”
  • Ba Jin
  • Lin Hui Yin