Vulgar translation of 'Stray Bird' taken off shelves

Chinese writer Feng Tang and his new translation of "Stray Birds." [File photo]
Copies of the latest translation of "Stray Birds" -- the classic collection of poems by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) -- have been taken off the shelves after immense controversy regarding the inaccuracy and vulgarity of the lines rendered by the Chinese writer Feng Tang.
"In line with the controversy in the literary and translation field over the publication of 'Stray Birds,' translated by the Chinese writer Feng Tang, we decided to recall the books from every physical and online bookstore," Zheng Zhong, head of the publisher -- Zhejiang Literary and Arts Publishing House -- announced on its official Weibo (China's equivalent to twitter) yesterday (Dec. 28, 2015).
According to Zheng, the decision was made after the publisher has been subject to considerable criticisms and protests against the contentious content of the translation. Therefore, the publisher is retrieving the books for further assessment.
"People always enjoy certain freedom when reading translations of genuine literary works," Zheng said in an interview with, an online news media outlet.
"On one hand, the book has received considerable compliments from experts as some lines outperformed the most authoritative translated version by prominent Chinese writer Zheng Zhenduo who first introduced 'Stay Birds' to China in the 1920s," said Zheng. "On the other hand, the disputes over the content, either sublime or vulgar, voice concerns over the possibility that the book will misguide adolescent readers as the book market in China has not yet established a rating system."
Despite the recall of the books, Feng sent a message to, saying that history and literature will eventually make a judgment, implying that time will tell if his translations were inadequate or misleading.
Published in July, 2015, the translation of "Stray Birds" only recently made headlines when the bold and odd lines were highlighted in social media networks online.

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