Chinese Numerical Proverbs using Semiotic Features to Describe Cultural Elements of Ancient Chinese Society

Authors: He Zongjin , Adi Yasran Abdul Aziz (Universiti Putra Malaysia)
Speakers: He Zongjin
Strand: Semiotics and Semiology
Session Type: General Session


The symbol is the carrier of meaning as well as the conditions for its expression (Zhao, 2011). It originated from the specific human activities in ancient Chinese society which recorded history, natural rules, phenomena, and logical things. And in this definition, a figure or numeral conception is one of the most famous symbols in linguistic symbolism. As a treasure of the Chinese, the Chinese numerical proverb is a unique linguistic term and cultural expression used by the ancient Chinese people to express their cultural thoughts. Meanwhile, the numeral conceptions in Chinese proverbs are related to Chinese philosophy and ancient Chinese society. For example, the figure “one” in ancient China society can refer to the beginning of nature or the whole thing, which is a cultural symbol according to the thought of the Taoism religion. Therefore, it’s challenging for both non-native learners, learning Chinese as a foreign language to comprehend the cultural meanings of numeral conceptions in Chinese proverbs and translators to translate linguistic and cultural symbols from Chinese to English correctly. In past studies, many researchers tend to compare multiple languages with numeral cultures or focus on translating Chinese proverbs culture instead of the number cultural of Chinese numerical proverbs. They didn’t connect the proverbs with symbols and the culture of Chinese society. Hence, in this study, it will deeply explore the relationship of Chinese numerical proverbs with the semiotic features of proverbs formed by numerical concepts. This study intends to analyze the cultural meanings of numeral conceptions of Chinese proverbs and how the semiotic features of Chinese proverbs can link to the cultural activities of ancient Chinese society. The cross-cultural theoretical framework is adopted to investigate which translation methods are used to translate the cultural and semiotic features of numeral conceptions in Chinese proverbs, and how these semiotic features can be translated and conveyed to English for teaching and learning Chinese as a second language. This study adopted the symbolism theory of Zhao Yiheng (2011), the cultural symbol theory of Wu Huiyin (2013), and the translation methods proposed by Lawrence Venuti (1995) to find out the relationship between symbols, semiotic features and cultural meanings of Chinese numerical proverbs and ancient Chinese society, and identify appropriate translation methods adopted to describe the cultural meanings of Chinese proverbs.

Keywords: Chinese proverb, numerical conception, semiotic feature, cultural meaning, translation method, cross-culture