BEIJING: A team of international experts is to translate the essential books of Confucianism studies, "Five Classics," into nine foreign languages.
The "Five Classics," or "Wujing" in Chinese, is a body of five ancient books about Confucianism studies.
The five books are: Yijing (Classic of Changes), Shijing (Classic of Poetry), Liji (Classic of Rites), Shujing (Classic of History) and Chunqiu (Spring and Autumn Annals). The last one is said to be written by the great philosopher and educator Confucius himself.
Until now, there have been no comprehensive foreign language translations of these books.
Experts said only parts of the work had been translated into French, English and German, but these versions were very dated and scarce outside professional libraries of Chinese culture.
"A translation of the 'Wujing' is urgently needed. Only by translating a complete set of the work will the essence of Chinese culture be fully recognized and accepted by the international community," said Xu Lin, director of the Office of Chinese Language Council International, in Beijing on Monday at a meeting on the study and translation of the Five Classics.
The project was first launched by the office in 2008 after suggestions from international experts and scholars.
The translation committee consists of more than 30 experts and scholars from China, the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy and Israel.
The committee is currently mapping a detailed schedule for the translation.
The experts will first spend three and a half years completing the Chinese-to-English version on which the translations into French, German, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi and Malay will be based.
Each foreign language version will have a preface, notes and explanations to guide foreign readers, Xu said.
It is estimated that the "Wujing," with around 700,000 Chinese characters, will translate into about a million English words.
Hao Ping, vice minister of education, said the "Wujing" would make clear how the ancient Chinese people thought of the relationship between human beings and nature, and enable them to understand why modern Chinese cherish harmony and peace.
The project comes amid booming interest in Chinese culture as 256 Confucius Institutes for Chinese language study have been set up in 81 countries as of March.
The government's goal is to establish 500 institutes by 2010, said the Office of Chinese Language Council International.
Statistics show at the end of 2008, more than 40 million foreigners around the world were learning Chinese in 3,000 schools in 100 countries.