Thursday, November 29, 2012

Who was Sama Gwang (司馬光)?

Sama Gwang (司馬光) was a historian, scholar, and high chancellor during  the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279). The Chinese pronunciation of his name is Sima Guang. Sama (司馬) was his 2-character family name, and Gwang (光) was his given name. You can read more about Sama Gwang HERE.

The following passage describes something Sama Gwang did as a child that made people realize he was no ordinary child.

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When Sama Gwang (司馬光) was a child (幼), he, with (與) a group of (群) children (兒), was playing (戲) when one (一) child (兒) fell (墜) into (中) a big (大) water (水) jar (甕) and had already (已) sunk below the surface (沒). The group (群) of children (兒) were afraid (驚) and ran away (走), so they could not (不能) save (救) him. Gwang (光) picked up (取) a rock (石) and broke (破) the jar (甕) so the child (兒) could (得) get out (出). People (人) realized (知) his (其) wisdom (智) was not (不) ordinary (凡).

7 comments:

Arlan Rodrigo said...

Hi, It's me. :) Very nice short story. Was this your own translation or is it a translation of some other person ? :) Anyway, I just find one sentence translation weird, at the moment.

The group (群) of children (兒) were afraid (驚) and ran away (走), so the child could not (不能) be saved (救).

I was thinking this way, "The group of children got startled/afraid and ran away, not being able to save [the child in the jar].

Gerry Bevers said...

You might be right, Arian, but I wonder why the pronoun 之 (him) was not written after 救 (i.e. 不能救之)?

Actually, instead of 不能, I was thinking of 不可, for some reason, even though I wrote 不能. Maybe, I was thinking of 不可能.

Anyway, I have learned that if 可 comes before a verb, the verb is read as passive. To keep the verb active, you have to use 可以 before it. I am not sure if 能 works the same as 可 or not, but 易(이), 難(난), and 足(족) do.

The English translation is mine, but I got the story from a Korean book entitled "한문에게 말걸기." The Korean translation was as follows:

"여러 아이들은 놀라 달아나서 구할 수가 없었는데"

Gerry Bevers said...

Arian, I think your translation is correct, so it should probably be translated as follows, or something like it.:

"The group of children were afraid and ran away, so they could not save him."

I will make the change to the post.

Arlan Rodrigo said...

"The group of children were afraid and ran away, so they could not save him."

However, I was suggesting earlier the following, "The group of children got startled/afraid and ran away, not being able to save [the child in the jar].

I'm a beginner at Hanmun so I'll just make a guess on this next one. I think I've read somewhere that 3rd person are sparsely mentioned in Hanmun so maybe it's possible here that 不能救之 and 不能救 have the same meaning. I'm not sure on this, I hope Kuiwon would be here to comment. But it is a bit obvious here that 不能救 was referring to the child in the jar.

As to active and passive verbs in Hanmun, I haven't encountered them yet so I can't comment on that but thanks for that additional information. :)

Gerry Bevers said...

Arian,

Literary Chinese does not use a 3rd-person "subject" pronoun, but does use a 3rd-person "object" pronoun (之) on a regular basis.

Your translation suggests the "cause" of the children's running away was their not being able to save him, but the Korean translation suggests that was the "result," not the cause.

Arlan Rodrigo said...

Hmmm..."여러 아이들은 놀라 달아나서 구할 수가 없었는데", Yes,

...The children couldn't save the boy in the jar because they got startled and ran away...

However if we look back at the original text, does it mean that way ? 群兒驚走不能救

So the question is, is there any hint here that will give us an idea of what the cause and the effect is ? If there is NO HINT at all, will it be wrong to read it "linearly" as I have suggested before ? This is a question I ask, and I have no SURE answer right now.

Hopefully, kuiwon will be able to see this and make some comments. :)

Arlan Rodrigo said...

I've given it a bit of some more thought and I have reason to believe that the Korean translation is much more suitable and makes more sense.

Here, it was mentioned 司馬光's wisdom was not ordinary 不凡 so a comparison would make that much more clearer. Hence, we can use the children's attitude/wisdom towards the situation as a point of comparison.

Other children's attitude - 群兒驚走
hence...because of this attitude, they weren't able to save the child in the jar.

司馬光's attitude - picked up a stone and broke the jar.

From here we have a direct comparison of attitudes which gives the people/observers a clear basis for saying he wasn't ordinary.

So what I suggested earlier "The group of children got startled/afraid and ran away, not being able to save [the child in the jar] is...wrong :)

Korean version is perfectly fine. :) This is what makes Hanmun challenging and fun... you have to look at previous sentences or sentences afterwards to make a more accurate meaning of the sentence you are translating. For me, this case is solved and I'm looking forward to the next Hanmun adventure... :)