I'm looking for alternative translations of this short quote from chapter 45 (四十五回) Dream of The Red Chamber《红楼梦》:


H. Bencraft Joly's translation is as follows:

My monkey was up, and I meant to have taken upon myself to avenge Ping’er’s grievance; but, after mature consideration, I thought to myself, ‘her birthday is as slow to come round as a dog’s tail grows to a point.’ I also feared lest our venerable senior might be made to feel unhappy; so I did not come forward.

Are there any better translations out there?

  • It just means (sb.'s) birthday.
    – user4072
    May 5 '17 at 14:43
  • Yeah that's why I'm looking for a better translation - it seems to be wrongly translated.
    – Mou某
    May 5 '17 at 14:45
  • What do you want this translation for? If you are not satisfied by Joly's translation, plus Tang Ho's very full answer, plus the puppy tail thing explained by 夜是美 plus what you should have done first yourself namely working through Google translate results then please tell us what you want. There are many different ways a translation can be "good." If all you want is another published translation, go for it. There are several for sale for a few dollars an instant delivery as e-books by Amazon. Jun 5 '17 at 11:46


Angered me to the point of desperately wanting to file a grievance on behalf of little Peng.


Carefully deliberated half a day


It is a long awaited day of celebration for (someone's) birthday,

I didn't read the novel, so I don't know whose birthday it was


so I'm afraid the old madam might feel displeased,


therefore I didn't come forward, however, my anger has not been subsided.

  • 小凡'a birthday. I was more hoping for published translations if possible
    – Mou某
    May 6 '17 at 8:54
  • I am very confident that my translations are accurate. Published translations ≠ best translations.
    – Tang Ho
    May 6 '17 at 8:57
  • Yeah, I realize but a published options would be better for my needs. If you could add one or two along with yours I'd appreciate it.
    – Mou某
    May 6 '17 at 9:09

I am a Chinese, very happy to help you, but I am sorry, I can not speak English, can only use Google translation.

“狗长尾巴尖儿” = birthday

Yes, he is the meaning of birthday, but a derogatory word. From a story "legendary puppy in the bitch's stomach, covered with a tail tip will be born"

There is no problem with translation.

  • I need a translation of the entire quote I wrote in my question: “气的我只要给平儿打报不平儿。忖夺了半日,好容易‘狗长尾巴尖儿’的好日子,又怕老太太心里不受用,因此没来,究竟气还未平。” not just that one part.
    – Mou某
    May 6 '17 at 2:10

No. No translation is simply better in every way that Joly's. Some are easier for westerners uninformed on China to read. Others are more literal. Others are less literal. Take your choice on that issue. Many translate more of the book. Joly's strength is that he is intent on conveying obscure references in the text.

Apparently you think Joly got it wrong because he talks about a monkey and there is no monkey in the Chinese. But look at it from a translator's point of view.

As 夜是美 explains, this passage uses a colorful Chinese idiom from a folk tale that westerners are not going to know, about a puppy tail. The phrase ‘狗长尾巴尖儿’ is actually not the usual way to refer to a birthday in China. More often you would say something plainer (and less insulting) like 生日. The author deliberately chose to express the idea in a colorful way--and Joly wants to convey that choice.

So Joly gives you the literal puppy tail. But how is he to convey that this dog's tail is part of a familiar tale? Rather than explain the point in a footnote, he adds a reference to the one Chinese folk tale/classic story that westerners may know: the story of Monkey King. Dog's tail and classic tale in one paragraph.

It is even possible that some of the older Chinese texts actually mention Monkey. But whether they do or not, each translator has to pick which texts to use. Joly chose to convey the folktale character of this image.

  • His monkey was up is obviously just an expression meaning 气的 ......
    – Mou某
    Jun 5 '17 at 12:58
  • @user3306356 Yes, so you see my point. Joly choose that expression, instead of some other, to relate this to folk tales. Jun 5 '17 at 13:14
  • My problem with Joly's translation is that ‘狗长尾巴尖儿’ only means "birthday" but he chose to write ‘her birthday is as slow to come round as a dog’s tail grows to a point’ - which is not what the original text says - at all.
    – Mou某
    Jun 5 '17 at 13:20
  • @user3306356 Okay, I've addressed that now. Jun 5 '17 at 13:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.