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 OALibJ  Vol.7 No.10 , October 2020
An Analysis of the Chinese Version of Lin Hua’s “From Dawn to Decadence” from the Perspective of Contextual Adaptation Theory
Abstract: Based on the perspective of contextual adaptation theory, this paper studies the Chinese translated book “From Dawn to Decadence” by American writer Jacques Barzun, translated by Lin Hua. With the framework of contextual cohesion, intertextuality, and sequencing under the linguistic contextual adaptation, and adaptation in the physical world, social world, and mental world under the communicative contextual adaptation, this paper analyzes the original text and the translated text comparatively, to give an explanation how the theory works in each aspect and thus the merits and problems of Lin’s translated version. Then this paper probes into how to use contextual adaptation theory to guide the translation of social science culture and literature and provide some suggestions. This article argues that Lin Hua’s translation in the above six aspects still has improvement in adapting and coordinating the cultural differences between Chinese and English. Translation should conform and adapt to the original language and the original culture, as well as the target culture and the reader’s perception.

1. Introduction

1.1. Jef Verschueren’s Contextual Adaptation Theory

Belgian Linguist Jef Verschueren (1999) has issued the concept of Contextual Adaptation in his book Understanding Pragmatics to illustrate some aspects of the meaningful functioning of language. In Understanding Pragmatics, Verschueren has talked about that “context is not a vague notion since contexts are themselves generated or even actively constructed (as choices made from the infinite range of possibilities, for specific instances of language use) and this generation process” (Verschueren, 1999: p. 75) [1] in Chapter 3, and he has divided contextual adaptation theory into two sections, which are communicative contextual adaptation and linguistic contextual adaptation. Moreover, he has issued that in the process of language use, the choice of language, or diction, ought to reach the adaptation of the two kinds of contexts.

As a matter of fact, to discuss translation from the perspective of pragmatics is not a novel topic. Hatim and Mason are the premier people who have introduced research findings in pragmatics into translation studies (Hatim & Mason, 1990) [2]. After that, Leo Hickey (2004) [3] has collected articles probing into translation from each aspect of linguistics by scholars of translation studies (Deng Juan, 2011: p. 125) [4]. Domestic scholars have discussed translation from the perspective of pragmatics, thereby developing “pragmatic translation” theory, and have divided it into pragmatic language equivalence translation and social pragmatic equivalence translation (He Ziran, 1997) [5], and Zhang Xinhong and He Ziran have made a further study in pragmatic translation (Zhang Xinhong & He Ziran, 2001) [6].

In addition, scholars at home and abroad have also observed translation from the perspective of adaptation. Ran Yongping (2011) has proposed that “the pragmatic translation concept is based on the intended reader or listener, and emphasizes the accuracy of the understanding of the original information and the appropriateness, suitability, and acceptability of the choice of the translation form” [7]. He later has pointed out that translation needs to use “translational expressions that approximate the readers’ habit, reproduce pragmatic information and communicative intention, and conform to the readers to the greatest extent” [7]. He has emphasized that the translation conforms to the target reader. It is worth noting that Nida’s translation theory also refers to translation as “adaptation” (Nida, 2001: p. 259) [8]. From this, we can see that translation adaptation theory is not a completely novel theory. After Verschueren’s systematic overview of pragmatics, translation adaptation theory has been further developed and a more comprehensive view of translation practice has been obtained.

1.2. Jef Verschueren’s Contextual Adaptation Theory

From Dawn to Decadence was created by Jacques Barzun, an American scholar. This book is a great work that Jacques Barzun has produced after he has studied the whole western culture in 1500. It also represents a huge work among cultural treatises in the 20th century. And critics have praised this work as a milestone in the history of cultural work creation. And that is the reason why here this paper has applied this book as a source text. This book is of great value for us to learn better about western culture and get to know how these reforms of ideas and physical objects make a difference in shaping nowadays’ world we can see. However, there is only one Chinese translated version by Lin Hua. And there is little article concerning it. Therefore, there is still a huge improvement in the Chinese translated version, and it is worth discussing the Chinese translated version.

Translation refers to a kind of cultural communicative activities between the author and the reader; as a result, it is unavoidable for translators to be influenced or restricted by linguistic context and communicative context. The paper attempts to provide a comprehensive and systematic perspective on Lin Hua’s Chinese translation of Jacques Barzun’s works from the contextual adaptation perspective, to have a general outlook on the translation work’s adaptation to these levels and to bring some new inspiration and guidance to translation practice in cultural fiction.

2. Translation Analysis under the Linguistic Contextual Adaptation

Linguistic context is the context in which we speak. People’s utterances, including words, sentences, and segments, are regulated by the context in which they are located. Linguistic context mainly includes three aspects: contextual cohesion, intertextuality, and sequencing. This requires translators to faithfully and faithfully convey the original meaning in the context of the book during the translation process.

2.1. Contextual Cohesion

Contextual cohesion means that in order to achieve the semantic relevance of the text, translators should use anaphora, juxtaposition, exemplification, repetition, comparison, explanation, logical relations, ellipsis, numerals, highlighting and other means to deal with text (Verschueren, 1999: p. 104) [1]. This aspect in linguistic contextual adaptation requires that the translator is supposed to on a ground view to look at the original text and pay much attention on the means and techniques that the original author has employed, in order to make the translated version fluent and readable enough to achieve contextual cohesion. Here are several examples in Lin’s Chinese translated book of Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence.

Example 1: Between the great upheaval of the 1500s and the present, only three later ones are of the same order [9].

Translated version: 从16世纪的大动乱到现在,仅有后来三场动乱也可以称之为革命 [10]。

Prior to this example, it talks about the features that a revolution possesses to people’s habit or ways to deal with matters in their life, as well as all the culture. In this original sentence, “only three later ones are of the same order” means that later three revolutions are like the Reformation, which can be called revolution. According to the context, he author tries to avoid repetition and to use “ones” to substitute “upheavals” instead. While, in the Chinese translated version, Lin has rendered the pronoun into its referential meaning. English language always concentrates on repetition in language using while Chinese may be not so much. In addition, in the original text, “of the same order” has not something meaningful related to “order”, “顺序” in Chinese, but in a relatively native way connotes that the three upheavals have the same features as the Reformation in 16C. Therefore, they are qualified to be called as “revolution” as well. Here, the author chooses to use anaphora pattern when the entity he wants to express has the same nature or belongs to the same thing, thereby reaching the form of co-reference. On the other hand, the translator does not choose to use characters which are equivalent with the original words, but to adapt the means or techniques the author uses when dealing with the context, in order to translate it more naturally and cohesively in a contextual background.

In the original text, this book is intended for anyone who is interested to learn about western culture, art, thoughts, social life and other western civilization, therefore, the words should be readable and available for the universal, but not pedantic. In the Chinese translated text, the translator uses plain and simple vernacular to make the translation readable, natural and smooth, and make the readers of the translation have the same understanding and feeling as the original readers, which adapts the original text in wording.

However, due to the differences between Chinese and Western cultures, some Chinese and English words cannot be matched one by one. And there is some Latin, or ancient English expression, which cannot find an equivalent Chinese expression to match it. To reach this kind of adaptation in contextual cohesion, the translator should employ various means to deal with the gap in vocabulary between the source language and the target language to achieve the semantic relevance of the original text. First and foremost, a correct understanding of the cultural connotation of vocabulary is a prerequisite for translation. For instance, in the original text, the author has written that “Many besides Luther had felt true piety and wanted to worship sincerely, not buy their way into heaven. One form of awakened faith was significantly called devotio moderna” [9]. Here, “devotio moderna” is from Latin, which means “modern devotion” belonging to one of the kinds of belief reform. However, in the Chinese translated version, Lin simply has rendered it into “现代信仰”, which may cause cultural message missing compared with the original text. When it comes to contextual cohesion in religious matter or other information like this, the translator not only should try his best to make the translated work adapt the original English version, which based on his full understanding on the source language’s linguistic cognition and culture, in order not to make readers be at a loss because of strangeness. On the other hand, the translator is supposed to make his translated work adapt Chinese linguistic culture and characteristic. Therefore, it will succeed in achieving the adaptation from both Chinese and English. And, going back to this matter, the translated version can bracket the original words, the “cultural carrier”, as an added note for readers to have a relatively comprehensive grasp about this topic. And, as a matter of fact, as for this matter, the translator has applied the way mentioned above to some cases, such as: 达瓦・索贝尔(Dava Sobel)所著的《经线》(Longitude) (Lin, 2002: p. 221) [10] and other instances of the names of people and books. However, what is worthy of mentioning is that the translator ought to be consistent in the form of rendering this matter.

2.2. Intertextuality

Intertextuality refers to the topic being discussed, what type of style or what various pragmatic styles and contextual factors will affect and restrict the discourse itself (Verschueren, 1999: p. 106) [1]. There are at least three intertextual dimensions if there is a way of interpreting the intertextuality of a text or discourse. First, it is the discursive status which carries part of the meaning from its intertextual connectedness with the body of a longer text, such the prologue part of From Dawn to Decadence. Second, the embeddedness of critical discourse analysis in a much wider range of critical approached in the social science needs to be grasped (Verschueren, 1999: p. 107) [1]. This dimension of intertextuality requires that translators are supposed to be familiar with and have a comprehensive understanding about the original text. The third intertextual dimension is being about discourse of a specific type, which has an influence on the linguistic characters that translator has picked up. For the reason that a good diction can resonate with readers’ experience, and thus help readers achieve a better understanding of the original text. Here are several examples in Lin’s Chinese translated book of Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence.

Example 1: I take these (revolutions) to be: the violent transfer of power and property in the name of an idea [9].

Translated version: 前前后后所发生的一连串事件都具备了革命的特征:为实现某个信念,通过暴力造成权力和财产的易手 [10]。

This example talks about the revolutionary features in 16C, which is the violent transfer of power and property in the name of an idea. First, “in the name of an idea” in the original text belongs to a noun phrase. In the Chinese translated version, the translator has rendered this noun phrase into a pattern of a verb and an object, to indicate the purpose of the revolution. In the type of Chinese linguistic styles, Chinese is more likely to place the part which describes the result or purpose prior to the part which describes the cause or reason, or the manner or means of dealing with things. In other words, Chinese is more like a result-prior, cause-posterior linguistic style. In the other way round, English is more like a cause-prior, result-posterior linguistic style.

Second, “the violent transfer of power and property” concerns about the path or the way that the revolution takes to realize its goal or intension. In this original sentence, “violent” is an adjective to modify “transfer”, and the two combining together belong to the character of the power and property. While when it comes to the Chinese translated version, this relation has changed. Violence becomes the path or the mean of the people who possess power or poverty to make, or achieve transfer. And this may cause intertextuality loss between original English contexts and translated Chinese contexts.

Example 2: We have got into the habit of calling too many things revolutions. Given a new device or practice that changes our homely habits, we exclaim: “revolutionary!” [9].

Translated version: 我们动辄把事物称作为革命,已经成了习惯。一有改变我们习性的新发明或新做法出现,我们立刻惊呼“革命了”! [10]。

This example depicts that before revolution happens, or people realize there is a revolution happening, something new or something changing people’s habits or ways of life is appearing or has been doing. In the English original text, when people realize this is happening, they exclaim “revolutionary”. And here, this linguistic type can often be applied to indicate a motion, instead of a static state. Revolutionary can be a person who either actively participates in, or advocates revolution. Obviously, here, it is being used as an adjective, which refers to something that has a major, sudden impact on society or on some aspect of human endeavor, which has the familiar meaning or understanding with the sentence proceeding to this adjective. Therefore, it is also a kind of linguistic type in English, in order to avoid repetition by employing derivative words. In another hand, in Chinese translated version, according to Chinese linguistic type, it is unreasonable to say the adjective meaning of “revolutionary” in this sense. Therefore, here the translator has rendered this adjective into a verb pattern. It not only adapts to the linguistic principle that Chinese is a dynamic language, and English is a static language, but also adapts to the content of the original English text, as well as the understanding of linguistic feature and the way of making speech of Chinese readers.

2.3. Sequencing

Sequencing focus on discourse coherence (Verschueren, 1999: p. 108) [1], and translators should adjust the discourse order on the premise of contextual logic. It is understandable to say that sequencing has always been a meaningful part of linguistic context.

For example, the author’s note and prologue in the front of the book, From Dawn to Decadence, have their own internal relation between the places they are lay and their function and status in this book. And what is needed to mention is that in the author’s note part, almost at the end of this part, the author has mentioned that, the indications like “early”, “mid”, or “late” next to the centuries specify times more closely. This kind of article always merely tends not to show the recommendation purpose, and also to provide a general framework for a comprehensive and better understanding about the body at least. However, the author may not notice this sequencing element in the linguistic contextual adaptation. In the first paragraph in the part of “The West Torn Apart”, Barzun has described that “the train of events starting early in the 16C and ending more than a century later has all the features of a revolution”. While, in the Chinese translated version, Lin renders it as “从16世纪改革开始,到一个世纪以后改革结束”. In the terms of this sentence, the translator has not grasped the detailed information of the author’s note, which lays a prior foundation about the time thing. Here are several other examples in Lin’s Chinese translated book of Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence.

Example 1: He is far from being “another Christ”, as the Catholic ordination of priests puts it, but he does not need the Roman hierarchy as middleman; he has direct access to God. That top-heavy apparatus, a burden throughout the West, is useless [9].

Translated version: 他绝非天主教神职人员受礼时所说的“又一个基督”,但他也不需要罗马教廷做中间人。他自己能直接靠近上帝,西方各地头重脚轻的教会体制是无用的 [10]。

Adaptation in sequencing lies in the punctuation in this translated sentence. In the original English text, in the first sentence, there exists a comparison between the former part and the latter part. The former part talks about the identity Luther has thought of himself, neither Christ the Catholic puts, nor the dependent man of Roman hierarchy. The latter part talks about what he has and he is that Luther has thought about himself. And the second sentence talks about that in Luther’s mind, the church system is of no use. While, in the Chinese translated version, the author has put the former part of the first sentence into a single sentence. And the latter part of the first sentence is combined with the second sentence, which becomes the second sentence in the Chinese version. And we can see that “he has direct access to God” has no juxtaposition relation with the church system here. Therefore, we can say that Lin has not done well in sequencing adaptation.

3. Translation Analysis under the Communicative Contextual Adaptation

Communicative context is a non-linguistic factor in context. It focuses on context and cultural differences, including the physical, social, and mental worlds, and emphasizes the awareness of adaptation. For translation, the communicative context includes the social and cultural background of the work and the specific language environment of the characters in the work.

3.1. Adaptation in the Physical World

Time signifiers and space signifiers are the two most studied and the most obvious ways of language selection anchored in the physical world. In the material world in which we live, time and space play a significant role. In the translation, translators should note that the time and space between the author and the reader and the relative spatial distance between the two parties also become one of the factors affecting communication. The physical world pays attention to the entire material world constructed by the original text, and requires that the translation can be translated in accordance with the space-time relationship of the original text, the position of the communicative characters, and the body posture (Verschueren, 1999: p. 95) [1]. Here are several examples in Lin’s Chinese translated book of Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence.

Example 1: THE MODERN ERA BEGINS, characteristically, with a revolution. It is commonly called the Protestant Reformation, but the train of events starting early in the 16C and ending―if indeed it has ended―more than a century later has all the features of a revolution [9].

Translated version: 现代社会以一场革命开端,与这一时代的特征恰好吻合。这场革命通称新教革命,然而,从16世纪改革开始,到一个世纪以后改革结束(是否真的结束了还是个疑问) [10]。

As we have discussed in 3.3, the author has mentioned that, the indications like “early”, “mid”, or “late” next to the centuries specify times more closely. However, here, in the Chinese translated version, the translator has not noticed this detail. When discussing time signifier in translation, translator should be aware of the specific event time, time of utterance and reference time. The boundary between times is should be put on the table when this boundary has meaning, and is considered as a reference time, rather than a random dividing line. Therefore, here, the “early”, and “more than” which is listed to modify as a reference time to specify a matter, is supposed to be silent in the Chinese translated version, in order to reach the adaptation in the temporal aspect in the physical world.

Example 2: the last thing he wanted to do was to break up his church, the Catholic (=“universal”), and divide his world into warring camps [9].

Translated version: 他当时绝对无意造成他所属的天主(=“普世”)教会的分裂,或者把他的世界分为两个敌对的阵营 [10]。

This example talks about the purpose that Luther posted his 95 propositions on the door of all Saints’ church. And here, “his world” is a spatial word which refers to the place Luther was living on a general view. And according to the context, we can see clearly that “his world” refers to the Western Europe. In many aspects, the concept of space is the core of human thought. And here, the spatial concept has a connection with the reference, which can be called reference space. Therefore, the person, Luther, should be salient in this sentence. And the ground should be the geographic name of “his world”. In this way, the translated version can indicate “his church” and “his world”, which coordinates the way the Roman hierarchy or the Catholic judges Luther.

3.2. Adaptation in the Social World

The communicative world of translation means that if the communicator is in a social situation, social environment and language community, the language choice of the translator must meet the communicative norms. The communicative world of translation requires translators to adapt to the social context of the original text, not only to translate the true meaning, but also to take into account the social context of readers in China, so that readers can understand (Verschueren, 1999: p. 91) [1]. Here are several examples in Lin’s Chinese translated book of Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence.

Example 1: Luther was the strong man, Erasmus the intellectual; therefore the good that came out of rebellion we owe to the strong man [9].

Translated version: 路德是个硬汉,而伊拉斯谟是个学究,所以反抗的成果归功于硬汉 [10]。

In the relations between linguistic choice and social world, one of the most important phenomena is the social settings. And in the first chapter of this book, it describes Luther’s Ninety-five Theses to Boyle’s “Invisible College”. While we can see, before talking about Luther and his religious movement, what affects the translator is that the translator should do the translation practice work about Luther standing on a whole overview. Because before talking about Luther, the author has mentioned Erasmus, who was impetuous in pushing his cause well before Luther thought of having one. What the translator should pay attention to is that Erasmus was the greater scholar, had more wit, and a different kind of literary genius, which should be salient when translating his thoughts and ideas.

Example 2: Many besides Luther had felt true piety and wanted to worship sincerely, not buy their way into heaven. One form of awakened faith was significantly called devotio moder [9].

Translated version: 除了路德以外,还有许多人真心虔诚敬神。他们愿意真诚信教,而不是买通通向天堂之路。这些觉醒的教众采取各种不同的信仰形式,其中有一种叫作现代信仰,这个名字真是意味深长 [10]。

Culture, and its norms and values, have always been the components of the pragmatic literature that best reflect the relationship between the social world and language choice. The adaptation of language to the social world is indeed ubiquitous. Therefore, in translation, the translator is supposed to try to make the culture and language adaptation in the relations between the social world and linguistic choice. In the original English text, when the author describes one form of awakened faith by the sincere worshipers was significantly called “devotio moderna”, which is a Latin word and means “modern devotion” in English. However, the translator has rendered it into “现代信仰”. It is obvious that there is meaning loss in this culture matter. In the terms of culture elements in the adaptation in the social world, words, especially Latin, or French, has their own specific norms and values in that time and because of cultural difference between west and east, there exists some foreign words which have no equivalence in Chinese. Then, the translator not only should understand foreign culture behind the words well, but also should make a balanced adaptation between the original English text and the translated version. Here, perhaps the translator can put a note to bracket the original Latin words.

3.3. Adaptation in the Mental World

Psychological context conforms to cognitive and emotional factors such as the personality, emotions, and desires of both parties. The translator sees the author’s intention and communicates it to the reader through the translation. This not only shows the original author’s psychological world, but also meets the reader’s psychological expectations. In the adaptation process, the translator sometimes has to consider the emotional factors of the role and the psychological intention of the author (Verschueren, 1999: p. 87) [1]. Here are several examples in Lin’s Chinese translated book of Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence.

Example 1: His mastery of Greek, then a new accomplishment, made him a favorite of princes eager for learning, and he became the oracle of the enlightened on all subjects of timely interest [9].

Translated version: 他(伊拉斯谟)精通希腊文,这在当时是鲜见的一大才能,因而受到好学的王公们的特别青睐。在时事的所有问题上,开明人士把他视为预言家 [10]。

When Barzun has described that Erasmus was a courageous, independent fighter in revolution, the greater scholar, and he had more wit, and a different kind of literary genius (Barzun, 2000: p. 11) [9]. Afterwards, when Lin translated the things which Erasmus took, for example, Erasmus was good at Greek, which is a novel skill at that time, and Erasmus has edited the New Testament and so on, it not only shows the original author’s psychological world about the genuine of Erasmus, but also meets the readers’ mental expectation of this role. The mental world activated in language use contains cognitive and emotive elements. While the former provide a bridge between the mental and the social in the form of conceptualizations in terms of which social interaction is interpreted, the latter provide a bridge in the form of phenomena usually studied under labels such as affect and involvement, the attitudinal prerequisites for engaging in, sustaining and “coloring” interaction (Verschueren, 1999: p. 90) [1].

4. Discussion

To sum up, a table follows illustrating some examples of what has been discussed above within the framework of the Contextual Adaptation theory.

Therefore, according to what have discussed in a detailed way in the third and fourth part of this paper, it finds that with regards to the theory of Contextual Adaptation, Lin’s Chinese translated work to Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence has reached a good adaptation under the linguistic contextual adaptation theory, specifically, contextual cohesion, intertextuality, and sequencing. While in terms of the communicative contextual adaptation theory, adaptation in the physical world, social world and mental world to be specific, this discussed translated work has revealed some mismatches with the original work. Accordingly, there is a suggestion that translation should conform and adapt to the original language and the original culture, as well as the target culture and the reader’s perception.

5. Conclusion

This paper has discussed the Chinese translated book From Dawn to Decadence by American writer Jacques Barzun, translated by Lin Hua from the perspective of the sub-classification of linguistic contextual adaptation: contextual cohesion, intertextuality, and sequencing, and the sub-classification of communicative contextual adaptation: adaptation in the physical world, adaptation in the social world, and adaptation in the mental world the six aspects. Based on the perspective of contextual adaptation theory, this paper analyzes the original text and the translated text, and finds that Lin’s work has reached a good adaptation under the contextual adaptation theory, then the translator deals well with conforming and adapting to the original language and the original culture, as well as the target culture and the reader’s perception. However, there are also some mismatches in Lin’s translated work. Therefore, there is a suggestion that translation should conform and adapt to the original language and the original culture, as well as the target culture and the reader’s perception.

语境顺应论视域下林华《从黎明到衰落》中译本分析

摘要:本文立足语境顺应论视角,对林华中译的美国作家雅克・巴尔赞的作品《从黎明到衰落》进行了研究,从语言语境顺应下的语境衔接、互为语境性、和话语序列,以及交际语境顺应下的物理世界顺应、交际世界顺应、和心理世界顺应多个角度分析原文和译文,阐释译文在各个层面上的顺应情况,分析林华中译本的优点及问题,并探究如何运用语境顺应理论指导社科文化文学翻译,并提供借鉴之处。本文认为,林华中译本在以上六个方面顺应和协调汉英两种文化差异仍有提高之处。翻译应既是在顺应原文和原语文化,同时也是在顺应译入语文化和译文读者的认知。

关键词:语境顺应,《从黎明到衰落》,语言语境,交际语境

Cite this paper: Bai, X.Q (2020) An Analysis of the Chinese Version of Lin Hua’s “From Dawn to Decadence” from the Perspective of Contextual Adaptation Theory. Open Access Library Journal, 7, 1-12. doi: 10.4236/oalib.1106805.
References

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[3]   Hickey, L. (1998) The Pragmatics of Translation. Muiltilingual Matters Ltd., Clevedon, Philadelphia, Toronto.

[4]   Deng, J. (2010) Context and Adaptability—Meanings of “le2” from the Perspective of Pragmatics. Foreign Language Research, No. 4, 74-77.

[5]   He, Z.R. (199) Pragmatics and English Learning. Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, Shanghai, 7.

[6]   Zhang, X.H. and He, Z.R. (2001) Pragmatic Translation: Application of Pragmatic Theories to Translation Practice. Modern Foreign Languages, No. 3, 285-293.

[7]   Ran, Y.P. (2011) Pragmatics. Foreign Languages in China, 8, 1+33.

[8]   Nida, E.A. (2001) Language and Culture—Contexts in Translating. Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, Shanghai.

[9]   Barzun, J. (2000) From Dawn to Decadence. HarperCollins Publishers Inc., New York.

[10]   Barzun, J. (2002) From Dawn to Decadence. Lin, H., Trans., CITIC Press, Beijing. (in Chinese)

 
 
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