translating weeds

Ingo Vetter & Shuling Yuan

A collaborative work with Shuling Yuan, developed from a WeChat dialogue between Guangzhou and Bremen. The initial idea was to find the original Chinese quotes of some English texts about the Tree of Heaven. The „good for nothing tree“, translates back from the Detroit urban language „Ghetto Palm“ – „Tree of Heaven“ – „Ailanthus altissima“ – to the Chinese „Chu“ or even „Stinking Chu“ – „椿“. The daoist philosopher Zhuangzi (369 BC – 286 BC) discusses in his text „Happy Journey“ value und use /non-use based on this tree. A motif what many successors in the Chinese philosophy used and in today’s China common knowledge is.

Translating back from the English to Chinese brings up many questions, as the Chinese language is full of interpretations and ambiguity. So, the initial idea must take detours and bring in additional approaches (special thanks to the Taipeh translator Wu Chiehhsiang and her colleague, the calligrapher Lu Han Ping). It is a dialogue and Shuling and I end with the current „Tang Ping“ movement in China – „lying flat“ and refusing usefulness.