Fighting Conventions, Shattering Glass Ceilings, Translating Cultures – It’s all in a Day’s work with the CHIN Translation Team

By Kate Ritchie GAICD


Sometimes a translation project comes along that really captures the imaginations and creative juices of our Chinese translators. Recently two such projects inspired us: “Goddess” and “Here Lives Our Culture”.

A cultural project which has been of huge interest to Melburnians and visitors at ACMI is titled “Goddess: Power, Glamour, Rebellion”. Goddess celebrates 120 years of women and “transcending superstars who … fought a system that tried to exploit them.”

The exhibition features costumes, sketches, interactive experiences, audio tours, cinema and characters from Marilyn Monroe to Margot Robbie. There are workshops and performances and screenings.


This expo is ‘catalogued’ into themes: Crafting the ideal, Breaking the binary, Dangerous women, Weaponising glamour and Fighting back. 

But how to tell the story to a new and wider audience where language might be a barrier? Budget and space doesn’t always allow translation into multiple languages, but in ACMI’s case they selected two important ones: Hindi and Chinese and their audiences have been captivated by the storytelling and powerful imagery.

It is the recognition of the importance of translation in telling stories and being multiculturally aware that can transmit these powerful messages and role models to a wider audience.

Another cultural project that Chin’s translators fell in love with is at The University of Melbourne’s Baillieu Library: “Here Lives Our Culture”, a free exhibition showcasing treasures from their 20,000 item rare East Asian Collection..

Here Lives Our Culture is a starting point to examine the historical, literary and cultural links shared by rare materials – both Chinese and Japanese – from the Collection.

We were engaged to bring the exhibition to life for Chinese visitors in Chinese translation.

To give you an insight into the complexity of the task facing our Chinese translators:

“Culture (文) is a complex concept in China, with multi-faceted connotations that have changed over time. Originally it meant ‘pattern’ (纹), but this slowly evolved to mean ‘natural pattern’ (天文), and ‘the configuration of nature by humans’ (人文). The meaning ‘culture’ (文化), which is the translation adopted in this exhibition, was derived from the The Book of Change (周易): “transform all under Heaven via the human configuration of nature” (观乎人文, 以化成天下).”

As translators, our role is to research extensively to capture the meaning, the style and to ensure both accuracy and authenticity while ‘translating’ into something non-academics amongst us can appreciate too.

The collection comes about after the use of paper was popularised during China’s Han Dynasty (202 BCE – 220 CE) and the number of books in libraries greatly increased. From there a system of classification became a necessity: Classics, History, Masters and Literature was in place for over a thousand years and underpins the exhibition.

To help bring the works to life for both Chinese and English speakers, Chin’s translation team was engaged to assist with the translations and produce the final catalogue, didactics and stories. The collection and information on display includes: the history of the written text where the Chinese were the first to invent paper and print technology and the earliest surviving imprint of a genre known as chantefable, or story related in verse and prose. The exhibition also explores Japanese prints – one of the library’s largest holdings.

Daniel Yang and Ben Owen travelled to the Baillieu Library to see CHIN’s beautiful work in action

You can find out more online or in person:

Here Lives our Culture is on until March 2024, Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne

Goddess until 1 October 2023 at ACMI.

If you would like help to translate your creative story into other languages, or not sure where to start, please contact the CHIN team for advice.




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