Joseph Percy Bruce’s Interpretation and Translation of Zhu Xi’s Philosophy of Human Nature


Author: LAI Wenbin, Professor, School of Foreign Languages, Nanchang University.


Joseph Percy Bruce (1861-1934), a British missionary Sinologist, gained a deep understanding of Chinese culture and its unique characteristics from almost four decades living in China. Bruce undertook the task of interpreting and translating Zhu Xi’s philosophy of human nature from a comparative perspective, with a particular emphasis on preserving the inheritance and ethics of Zhu Xi’s philosophy. Through the domestication method in translation, Bruce aimed to find common ground between Chinese and Western cultures.

Drawing upon primary sources, this paper analyses Bruce’s interpretation and translation of Zhu Xi’s philosophy of human nature from three key angles: Chinese history, Western culture, and cross-cultural communication. It then explores the reasons behind certain misinterpretations and mistranslations in Bruce’s work.

While acknowledging Bruce’s significant contributions in opening a new path for the systematic study of Neo-Confucianism in the English-speaking world, the paper highlights the language and cultural disparities between China and contemporary Western nations, which may have contributed to some of the misinterpretations found in Bruce’s study.


Joseph Percy Bruce, Zhu Xi, Human Nature, Interpretation, Translation

Full Text (International Version):

LAI Wenbin jscc