What’s the best translation of The Nine Cloud Dream?

I’ve now read this book three times. I’ve read the 2019 Fenkl translation twice and the 1922 Gale translation once. I haven’t read the out-of-print 1974 Rutt translation. The Fenkl translation is more faithful to the original text, but the Gale translation is okay. For more information on all three translations, visit We Love Translations: World Literature in English:

» What’s the best translation of The Nine Cloud Dream?

See below for a list of characters in The Nine Cloud Dream.

I’ve given the character names as spelled by Fenkl and Gale and also the English meanings as given by Fenkl and Gale. Fenkl uses Chinese-style names using archaic-feel Wade-Giles romanization and Gale uses Korean-style names mixed with English names. I’m pretty sure Fenkl is using the same names that Rutt used.

(Scholars have determined that the original was written in classical Chinese, not Korean Hangul, but I think Gale was using a Hangul source text.)

Beware spoilers! Knowing who the characters are is a bit like knowing the plot.

Characters in The Nine Cloud Dream

The family name is underlined.

Frame Story Characters’ Names

Liu-kuan – master of a Buddhist monastery
English (Fenkl): Six Perceptions
Korean (Gale): Yook-kwan
English (Gale): Six Temptations

Hsing-chen – top disciple at the Buddhist monastery – main character
English (Fenkl): Original Nature
Korean (Gale): Song-jin
English (Gale): Without Guile

Main Story Characters’ Names

Yang Shao-yu aka Ch’ien-li (A Thousand Li) – reincarnation of Hsing-chen – main character
English (Fenkl): Small Visitor or Brief Resider
Korean (Gale): Yang So-yoo
English (Gale): Little Visitor

Ch’in Ts’ai-feng – first fairy
English (Fenkl): Rainbow Phoenix
Korean (Gale): Chin See
English (Gale): Phoenix
(Shao-yu met her near the willows on the way to his exam; she disappeared and later turned up in the palace)

Kuei Ch’an-yueh – second fairy, a dancing girl
English (Fenkl): Moonlight
Korean (Gale): Kay Som-wol
English (Gale): Moonlight
(Shao-yu invited himself to a party and won a poetry competition where she was the prize)

Cheng Ch’iung-pei aka Princess Ying-yang (Blossom) – third fairy, daughter of Minister Cheng, adopted by Empress Dowager
English (Fenkl): Jasper Shell
Korean (Gale): Cheung See (Cheung Kyong-pai) aka Princess Yong-yang (Blossom)
English (Gale): Jewel
(Shao-yu pretended to be a musical priestess to catch a glimpse of her)

Chia Ch’un-yun – fourth fairy, Ch’iung-pei’s servant and friend
English (Fenkl): Spring Cloud
Korean (Gale): Ka Choon-oon
English (Gale): Cloudlet
(tricked Shao-yu into believing she was a fairy or ghost)

Ti Ching-hung – fifth fairy, close friends with Chan-yueh, a dancing girl
English (Fenkl): Shy Wild Goose
Korean (Gale): Chok Kyong-hong
English (Gale): Wildgoose
(disguised herself as a boy; was secretly sent to Shao-yu by Chan-yueh one night)

Li Hsiao-ho, aka Princess Lan-yang (Orchid) – sixth fairy, daughter of the Empress Dowager
English (Fenkl): Panpipe Harmony
Korean (Gale): So-wha, aka Princess Nan-yang (Orchid)
English (Gale): Flute Harmony
(she pretended to be someone else to capture the minister’s daughter)

Shen Niao-yen – seventh fairy, an assassin
English (Fenkl): Cloud of Starlings
Korean (Gale): Ok-kyon
English (Gale): Swallow

Po Ling-po – eighth fairy, the Dragon Princess
English (Fenkl): Whitecap
Korean (Gale): Pak Neung-pa
English (Gale): White-cap