Visualising Kluang: a translator’s psychogeography

I recently had the pleasure of translating a literary non-fiction work by Malaysian writer Angel Lee about her adoptive hometown Kluang.

Translators often need to create a mini-world in their heads (known in the trade as a schema), so as to properly visualise what the author is talking about.

This is particularly important when working out of Chinese, which manages to be super-concrete and specific when it comes to actual objects, foodstuffs and minute cultural details, while also highly context-dependent when it comes to things anglophone readers take for granted, like tense.

I was excited to get this assignment, because literary non-fiction is my favourite thing of all. But I have never lived in Malaysia. I’ve been on holiday to Kota Kinabalu, and I’ve been to KL on a work trip.

But my lived experience of traditional Chinese culture is highly specific to Hong Kong and Taiwan. I’d never even heard of Kluang, although its mountain gets a cursory mention on an online database of hikeable/climbable peaks in Malaysia.

It became pretty clear that I was going to have to get more closely acquainted with Kluang, so I took a bit of a Google Maps hike around the town, and up the main trail to the summit of Gunang Lambak, in search of a narrative voice that would suit the town, its people and Angel Lee’s voice in Chinese.

I checked out the town centre, the trail-side notices, the structure on the summit, saw play and recreation areas filled with people of all ages, and started to form an imagined Kluang I could work with in my mind.

I started to imagine the people as fairly straight-talking, practical folk who like to stay healthy and enjoy the basic pleasures, people who love to stand around on a mountain chatting while also getting exercise. A bit like the group of aunties and uncles who once rescued me and my dad from a hillside about the Palace Museum in Taipei and whisked us down to a local temple for chicken soup, before giving us a lift back into town. When I went back to Lee’s piece, I felt as if I could hear their voices, and hers, more clearly.

I also searched out some visual references for traditional Chinese tenon-and-mortise furniture, which I hadn’t ever thought much about before reading Lee’s touching and fascinating portrait of life a lived more slowly, yet savoured fully, with her partner K. I wanted to be able to imagine it all fully and as accurately as possible.

The site that commissioned the translation is called This is Southeast Asia, and boasts some beautifully written pieces from authors working in a number of local languages and writing about places that are meaningful to them in great detail. Anyone wishing to support Southeast Asian literary non-fiction, and its availability in English can make a donation HERE.


About me

I’m a UK-based translator and editor working from Chinese into English.

I have experience with a wide variety of texts, and can offer the following specialisms:

  • News and current affairs.
  • Contemporary Chinese literature, including poetry.
  • Transediting and transcreation of Chinese content, particularly websites, where translated texts are changed in order to appeal to a new audience.
  • General political, economic and business-related texts.


  • BA (Hons) Modern Chinese Studies (Leeds)
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Translation (Portsmouth)
  • MA in Documentary (Beds)
  • Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (PDF)

Another award for WhyNot’s feminism feature

The WhyNot web feature, Preserving the Erased Decade of the Feminist Movement, to which I contributed translations including that of the opening essay by Mimi Yana, has won another award – a Silver Telly award.


Congratulations to the WhyNot team!

A recent history of Chinese feminism

Screenshot from Online Journalism Awards website

I was honoured to contribute some translations, including that of Mimi Yana’s introduction, to this amazing feature by WhyNot, that I hope will continue to be a resource to feminists and anyone interested in China for some time to come.

For young people in China, feminism has permeated every aspect of their social media experience. There is a plethora of media targeting young women, including talent shows, film, TV dramas and podcasts by and for women. Women – and the media written for them – seem to be the secret sauce for boosting page views and leveraging capital. A string of recent viral stories about domestic violence have dominated online debate. Feminist ideas continue to feature in these discussions, alongside the anger and anxieties of average women.

From the introduction to “Preserving the erased decade of the feminist movement in China” by Mimi Yana, translated by Luisetta Mudie.

I was delighted that the feature won the Small Newsroom, Feature category of the Online Journalism Awards.


Hong Kong Human Rights Award

Happy to hear that this essay — translated into English by me — won a prestigious award in Hong Kong.

What is the most effective way for a dictator to deal with an influential dissident?

Do away with him or her? No. A sudden disappearance would only boost their influence. The collective mourning sparked by such deaths often marks the transformation of speech into political action. From the point of view of the dictator, the dissident is less important than those who follow him or her. What matters most is regaining control of their hearts and minds…

Read the full essay here:


Pathlight – Tong Weiger

Pathlight-2016-3The literary magazine Pathlight published one of my short story translations, of the story “Weekend” by Tong Weiger. You can read the issue containing that story and many more, here (PDF).

Pathlight is a new English-language literary magazine produced by the Chinese literary website Paper Republic and People’s Literature Magazine (《人民文学》杂志社).

Pathlight is currently available in print edition in select bookstores around China, and in ebook version from Amazon and the iTunes bookstore. It is listed with EBSCO for university subscriptions.

Short story review

DFakbHYW0AE8jPeReview of a short story recently translated by me for the latest edition of Chinese Arts & Letters.

Yu Yiming is a writer from Nanjing who is still relatively unknown. He writes short stories almost exclusively, one of which was first translated into English in early 2017 and published in the first issue of the year of the journal Chinese Arts and Letters (CAL 2017 No. 1). One of his best known works, “The Straw Men” (“稻草人”) was twice nominated as one of the best short stories of 2015.

Read more of this review (French only): http://www.chinese-shortstories.com/Auteurs_de_a_z_Yu_Yiming.htm

3rd Bai Meigui Translation Competition

Talented linguist wins translation honour

A talented masters student at the University of Portsmouth has proved the language of humanity is universal by winning an award in a prestigious translation competition for the second time.

Luisetta Mudie’s translations of three Chinese poets into English showed exceptional versatility, the judges said.

Luisetta, who is studying for her MA in translation studies in the University’s School of Languages and Area Studies, was awarded an honorary veterans award in the third Bai Meigui (White Rose) Literary Translation Competition, specifically for Chinese-to-English translations.

Earlier this year she won first prize in the same competition for reportage – an entirely different style of writing and language.

Luisetta found the first competition ‘fairly familiar as a genre’ because she has a journalistic background. Translating poetry was, she said, much more challenging.

The competition featured three challenging poems, and after much discussion, our judging panel of Canaan Morse, Eleanor Goodman and Heather Inwood awarded overall first place – and the 2017 translation summer school bursary – jointly to Helen Tat’s translation of Chi Lingyun and Liu Jia’s translation of Qin Xiaoyu, with special commendations to Theresa Munford and William Wallis for their translations of Xu Xiangchou. An honorary veteran’s award goes to our previous winner Luisetta Mudie, who has proved exceptionally versatile in translating both reportage and poetry. Many congratulations to all our winners!

All of the winners will be appearing in a special edition of Stand magazine, guest-edited by Writing Chinese, on the theme of Chinese Journeys, to be published in March 2017.

2nd Bai Meigui Translation Competition

A University of Portsmouth student has beaten entries from all over the world to win a prestigious Chinese translation competition.

Luisetta Mudie won the Bai Meigui Translation Competition for her translation of a non-fiction piece of text by Li Jingrui, an author and journalist who writes a column for the Chinese edition of The Wall Street Journal.

The competition is part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project ‘Writing Chinese: Authors, Authority and Authorship’ supported by the White Rose East Asia Centre.