Liyan story

A Translation Treasure Hunt - Exploring the World of Taiwan’s Temples

“Sometimes, when you’re a translator, it’s just another day at the office... but sometimes you’re Indiana Jones at a desk.” – Molly


而台灣多元的宗教信仰,在立言翻譯外籍校稿師 Molly 的眼裡充滿著神秘色彩,非凡的傳統建築設計、民間宗教習俗及盛大的繞境活動深深吸引著她。對來自美國的 Molly 而言,翻譯、校稿不僅是紙上談兵,而是在過程中抽絲剝繭,得到台灣文化寶庫中最耀眼的寶石。也許有一天,你也會發現自己不再只是對著螢幕敲打鍵盤的譯者,而是頭戴牛仔帽、腰間掛著長鞭,準備踏入未知旅途的探險家─ Indiana Jones!

I began work here at Liitrans Translation Co., Ltd. in March of last year, and was assigned my first major project in June. Liitrans Translation had just landed a government tender to translate the materials for a tourist website that introduced a hundred temples in Taiwan, and I was designated editor for the English division.


Editing for the project was fascinating; each piece illuminated what for me had been an unfathomable aspect of Taiwan’s past, when the temples were at the center of the country’s religious, social, and official world, when a multitude of gods were present in every corner of the country, and when temple builders were household names renowned for their work, people whose fame spread across the whole of south China.

Technically, it was one of the more difficult projects our team had come across. The translators were wonderful, digging up arcane terms used exclusively for temple architecture and decoration, finding photos and illustrations to help make sense of intricate descriptions, and sharing case files back and forth with me until we had thoroughly worked out obscure passages. Teamwork was of the essence; I remember when PM Caren discovered an old Chinese-language research paper buried somewhere on the internet that contained detailed explanations of Asian roof types, which I was then able to match up to a British webpage with illustrations of English roofing terms. That was a Eureka moment for all of us.

We dealt with temples and churches of every sort; the Grand Mosque in Taipei, the Luce Chapel at Donghai University, major Buddhist monasteries… but my favorites were the Taoist temples with their extraordinary architectural details and their multifarious gods and folk religious practices and processions. The experience turned me into something of a temple aficionado. Since the case, I’ve been to Ximending, Lukang, and Tainan with the primary goal of visiting the temples there and seeing them with my own eyes. Things I had never noticed before now leap out at me: the strongmen atop the corner columns who hold up the temple roofs, Mazu’s royal diadem with its nine strings of pearls hanging down—just shy of the emperor’s own—and her guardians, the tamed demons Wind Ears and Thousand-Mile-Eyes, who see and hear everything and who have their very own backstory nearly as interesting as Mazu’s.


The temple case was an adventure for all us. We really had to have our wits about us to get it done right, but in the end, we were rewarded with a treasure trove of gems from Taiwan’s past. Sometimes, when you’re a translator, it’s just another day at the office…but sometimes you’re Indiana Jones at a desk.