The ancient Mediterranean and China were connected in the 100s BCE with the opening of the Silk Roads. However, due to the natural segmentation of the Silk Roads by geographic and other barriers, China had very little direct contact with the Mediterranean until the 13th and 14th centuries, when Christian missionaries first arrived in China to spread the word of God. Although the missionaries of the 16th and 17th centuries in particular often became quite competent in Chinese, both Latin and Greek were still introduced to China in modernity as a result. The first formal school of Latin was established in China in the 1720s, while the first school of Greek in China was established in the period of the Republic (1912-1949), displaying the emphasis that was placed on Latin over Greek.
This presentation explores two Chinese translations of Euripides' Medea, in combination with the original Greek, to investigate how closely each translation adheres to the original. The translations of Luo Niansheng (1938) and Zhang Lihua (2009) are compared with each other, with attention paid to two factors in particular: the 'Sinicization' of the ancient Greek with the insertion of Chinese idioms and references to ancient Chinese classics; and explicit mentions of sex, which defy typical Chinese convention and yet are not unusual in the Greek. In addition, I discuss other factors, in particular those of a cultural nature, that influence the ways in which a Chinese audience may interpret a work of Greek tragedy.