Beyond Translation -- Translating VRA Core 4.0 into Chinese


Beyond Translation -- Translating VRA Core 4.0 into Chinese


Forming its shape in 1996, VRA (Visual Resources Association) Core, now in its 4.0 version, has established itself as the internationally recognized metadata standard for describing works of visual culture and their surrogates. It has been integrated into schemes and tools to record cultural objects and related media files for years. The primary document-- VRA Core 4.0 Element Description and Tagging Examples (VRA Element Description) is available in English, Italian and Greek. To expand its influence in other countries of the world, VRA always planned to have this metadata standard translated into more languages including Chinese. Starting in early 2021, members of the VRA Cataloging and Metadata Standards worked with a team of metadata practitioners in the U.S. to translate this document and invited scholars and practitioners in the U.S., Taiwan and P.R. China to review the translation drafts. After 18 months’ work, in August, 2022, VRA Element Description, in both traditional and simplified Chinese, became available on the Library of Congress’s website (

During this presentation, the speakers will talk about the process and the challenges of this group project. Topics will cover the difference between the two language systems--traditional and simplified Chinese, the scope and phases of the project, how the translators chose the Chinese terms that share similar connotations of the original English terms, how reviewers helped refine the drafts and the unexpected difficulties in formatting the final versions.

This project won’t come to its fruition without a team effort and the guidance from the reviewer group. As Mack Wilberg, American composer and conductor, puts it, “True excellence is a product of synergy.” This collaborative work does not only produce the translation of a great quality, but also lay a good foundation to further standardize the practices of describing cultural objects worldwide. The learning from this project can shed light on many aspects of metadata standards translation work.


Ma, Xiaoli
Deng, Sai


Chinese American Librarians Association




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Bibliographic Citation

Ma, X. L. & Deng, S. (2023). Beyond translation -- Translating VRA Core 4.0 into Chinese. The Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA) Southeast and Southwest Chapters Joint Online Conference. May 19, 2023.

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Ma, Xiaoli and Deng, Sai, “Beyond Translation -- Translating VRA Core 4.0 into Chinese,” CALASYS - CALA Academic Resources & Repository System, accessed May 18, 2024,