Picture–text congruence in translation: images of the Zen master on book covers and in verbal texts

Hailing Yu*, Zhongwei Song

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    The study aims to demonstrate how cover pictures and verbal texts are congruent with each other in presenting the Zen master Huineng in two English translations of the Platform Sutra. The focus is on the interpersonal/interactive meanings and the analytical tools adopted are systemic functional linguistics and Kress and van Leeuwen’s visual social semiotics. Results show that the visual techniques employed to depict Huineng on the book covers are in consistency with the verbal choices adopted to present Huineng in the translated texts. While the medium to close shot and eye-level angle complement the choice of speaker-plus “we” as dominant interactive subject person, and qualified statements and polite suggestions/commands in Wong’s translation, the very long shot matches the use of speaker “I” and addressee “you”, and categorical statements and direct commands in Cleary’s translation. In this way a consistent image of Huineng is presented in each translation: friendly and willing to be close to the viewer/audience in Wong’s translation, but authoritative and distant in Cleary’s translation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)604-623
    Number of pages20
    JournalSocial Semiotics
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • picture–text congruence
    • book covers
    • verbal texts
    • translation


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