What do you think of the unique nouns in Chinese Novels?

Each novel has its own unique nouns, and these nouns should be the problems encountered in translation. If you can understand and solve the translation of these nouns, then the progress of the translation of the novel will speed up.Right? :#
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  • I'm a Chinese so naturally it intrigues me how you guys translate those words and phrases. I can learn from you actually.
    I have noticed that many of these words could be translated into a "adj+noun" form. For example, 屠龙刀(probably one of the most famous weapons in all Chinese fantasy novels) is usually translated as "Dragon-Slaying Blade". This way the meaning of the original name is expressed clearly enough although as a Chinese it amuses me every time I read these translated nouns. But laughter besides, I admire this method. Do you know most of these special nouns couldn't be translated like this from English or other languages into Chinese? Sure you can translate Excalibur into the word 湖中剑(Sword from the Lake), but you won't be so lucky when you translate the word  Balmung or Gram or Gae Bolg. 
  • I had to study a bit of translation a whlie back.

    When translating terms or words, you have to first understand what concept or idea that word evokes in someone who understands it. I don't speak or understand Chinese myself, so I'll use AdmiralAdraps's examples.

    the term - 屠龙刀 - the word itself
    concept - what it means to Chinese; a famous weapon, one of the most famous ones in these novels, even
    concept in English - what meaning does the translator want to convey?
    the term in English - something that's short, but accurate, but also conveys the original meaning

    In Chinese, there are at least two words for "sword".
    刀 - dao
    Literal meaning: knife
    Concept: a  one-edged cutting sword, usually slightly curved and/or wide and top-heavy, and from what I've read used somewhat from horseback. I don't know what kind of people are associated with the 刀 sword, but it seems some brigand types and some blood-thirsty soldier types tend to have 刀 swords.

    Similar swords that have English names might be called sabers (curved sword, often a cavalry weapon) or "curved swords". Loanwords from other cultures that had somewhat similar swords include scimitars, or tulwars and katanas. Sometimes, these are translated as "single-edged sword", or "blade", or "sword".

    剑 - jian
    Concept: a straight, double-edged sword. Not used from horseback as often, or at least not associated with it. They're associated with educated gentlemen and heroic people.
    There are many swords that are visually very similar - The Roman gladius is also a straight double-sided sword with a small guard. Viking swords were straight, double-sided and some had small guards. The stereotypical knightly sword is straight, double-sided, and has a cross pommel (剑 has a relatively smaller guard). On the other hand, a rapier or a dueling sword might evoke an image of the right type of user - someone well-off, not just any riff-raff.

    So, what are good translations?

    For 刀, it seems words that emphasize its heaviness or crudeness or brutality in comparison to 剑 would be good. Saber is okay, since at least it separates it from a sword (which could then be used for 剑 jian), but saber is often associated with military and cavalry, but not brigands. Blade is a better one too, since it evokes a bit more brutal image. Image search for "blade weapon" gets many results with serrated edges. For specific characters, it might even be better to translate 刀 (dao, 'saber') as an especially heavy or big sword, or even an executioner's sword, if it's associated with brutality or barbarism in that scene (like I think it can be).

    剑 (jian) on the other hand feels like it could use a bit more oomph than just a 'sword' with no descriptor. If a new and precious 剑 is introduced, maybe the description could say that it's a scholar's sword, or noble/elegant/righteous weapon, even if the Chinese description only says that it's a jian, but the context is important. For a specific character in a specific context, even "dueling sword" might be fine.

    Of course, since that's too wordy for normal text and especially for fight scenes, saber/blade and sword are usually good enough. If the translator tries to be too specific, it also changes the way it's read. "King Arthur rode into battle with the The Holy Sword, Excalibur, and then when he drew his sword, he saw to his horror it wasn't his own Holy Sword, Excalibur!"
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