8 January 1854|
Houguan, Fujian, Qing Empire
|Died||27 October 1921
Guanhang, Fuzhulang, Republic of China
|Alma mater||Royal Naval College, Greenwich|
|Notable work(s)||Gong Jin'ou|
|Title||President of Fudan University|
|Predecessor||Ma Xiangbo 馬相伯|
|Successor||Xia Jing'guan 夏敬觀|
Yan Fu (simplified Chinese: 严复; traditional Chinese: 嚴復; pinyin: Yán Fù; Wade–Giles: Yen² Fu⁴; courtesy name: Ji Dao, 幾道; 8 January 1854 — 27 October 1921) was a Chinese scholar and translator, most famous for introducing western ideas, including Darwin's "natural selection," to China in the late 19th century.
Yan Fu studied at the Fujian Arsenal Academy (福州船政學堂) in Fuzhou, Fujian Province. In 1877–79 he studied at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, England. Upon his return to China, he was unable to pass the Imperial Civil Service Examination, while teaching at the Fujian Arsenal Academy and then Beiyang Naval Officers' School (北洋水師學堂) at Tianjin.
It was not until after the Chinese defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95, fought for control of Korea) that Yan Fu became famous. He is celebrated for his translations, including Thomas Huxley's Evolution and Ethics, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty and Herbert Spencer's Study of Sociology. Yan critiqued the ideas of Darwin and others, offering his own interpretations.
He became a respected scholar for his translations, and became politically active. In 1895 he was involved in the Gongche Shangshu movement. In 1912 he became the first principal of National Peking University (now Peking University).
He became a royalist and conservative who supported Yuan Shikai (袁世凱) and Zhang Xun (張勛) to proclaim themselves emperor in his later life. He also participated the foundation of Chouanhui (籌安會), an organization which supported restoring monarchy. He laughed at "New Literature Revolutionaries" such as Hu Shi (胡適).
Yan stated in the preface to his translation of Evolution and Ethics (天演論) that "there are three difficulties in translation: faithfulness, expressiveness, and elegance" (譯事三難：信達雅). He did not set them as general standards for translation and did not say that they were independent of each other. However, since the publication of that work, the phrase "faithfulness, expressiveness, and elegance" has been attributed to Yan Fu as a standard for any good translation and has become a cliché in Chinese academic circles, giving rise to numerous debates and theses. Some scholars argue that this dictum actually derived from Scottish theoretician of translation, Alexander Fraser Tytler.
- Benjamin I. Schwartz (1964). In Search of Wealth and Power: Yen Fu and the West. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
- (Chinese) Shen Suru 沈蘇儒 (1998). Lun Xin Da Ya: Yan Fu Fanyi Lilun Yanjiu (論信達雅：嚴復翻譯理論硏究 "On faithfulness, understandability and elegance: a study of Yan Fu's translation theory"). Beijing: Commercial Press.
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