In preparing the translation of the Hsiâo King for the present work, I have made frequent reference to four earlier translations.
Two of them were made by myself;--the one about thirty years ago, simply as an exercise for my own improvement in Chinese; the other four years ago, when I was anxious to understand fully the Confucian teaching on the subject of Filial Piety, but without reference to my earlier version.
The third is a translation in the fourth volume of the Chinese Repository, pp. 345-353 (1835), for the accuracy of which much cannot be said. Very few notes are appended to it. The fourth is in the 'Mémoires concernant les Chinois' (Paris, 1779), being part of a long treatise on the 'Ancient and Modern Doctrine of the Chinese about Filial Piety,' by P. Cibot. In a preliminary notice to his version of our classic, he says:--'P. Noël formerly translated the Hsiâo King into Latin. Our translation will necessarily be different from his. He laboured on the old text, and we on the new, which the scholars of the Imperial College have adopted. Besides this, he has
launched out into paraphrase, and we have made it our business to present the text in French such as it is in Chinese.' I have not been able to refer to P. Noël's translation in preparing that now given to the public; but I had his work before me when writing out my earliest version. The difference between the old and modern texts is too slight to affect the character of translations of them, but P. Noël's version is decidedly periphrastic. The title of his work is:--'SINENSIS IMPERII LIBRI CLASSICI SEX, nimirum Adultorum Schola, Immutabile Medium, Liber sententiarum, Mencius, Filialis Observantia, Parvulorum Schola, e Sinico idiomate in Latinum traducti à P. Fr. Noël, S.J. (Prague, 1711).' The present version, I believe, gives the text in English, such as it is in Chinese, more accurately and closely than P. Cibot's does in French.