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.

()()()() ()()()() ()()()()()()()
()() ()()()() ()()()()()()()()
()()() ()()()()()().
 
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).

Monday, November 26, 2012

"The Loss of Dignity," by Gerry Bevers

When a man has lost his dignity
and given up on sobriety,
he tends to lose his ability
to function in our society.

He searches for anonymity
in places of ignobility,
hiding from the cruel reality
of society's hostility.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How should the 就 in 就必有德 be translated?

I have been translating the old Korean text "Sa Ja So Hak" (四字小學 - 사자소학), which was once used to teach Chinese writing (漢文) to Korean children, when I came upon the following:
()()()()
People () near () ink sticks () become black ().
()()()()
People () near () cinnabar () become red ().
()()()()
When one takes up residence (), one must () select () neighbors ().
()()()()
That is (), they must () have () virtue ().
Notice that I translated the 就 (취) in the final sentence as "that is" (곧), which is one of the meanings of the character. However, Koreans have translated the 就 (취) in this sentence as 나아가다, which means "to go forward" or "to proceed to." That is also a meaning of the character, but it does not really make sense in the sentence here. Here is how Koreans translate the Chinese:
 나아갈 때엔 반드시 덕 있는 사람에게 가라
When you approach, be sure to go to people of virtue.
I think my translation of 就 (취) is correct. It fact,  就 seems to be a synonym of the character 卽 (즉), which also means 곧 and 나아가다.

In China, they write "that is" as 就是 (취시) or 卽 (즉), which is more evidence that 就 should be translated as "that is" in the above case.

UPDATE: I now think the original Korean translation was correct since the Chinese philosopher Sunja (荀子 - 순자), which the Chinese pronounce as Xun Zi, said something very similar, as is written in the text "Encouraging Learning" (勸學 - 권학).
()()()()()()()()()()()
()()()()()()()()()().

Therefore (故), when a gentleman (君子) takes up residence (居), he must (必) carefully select (擇) the village (鄉), and when he associates (遊), he must (必) approach (就) educated men (士). In this way (所以), he guards against (防) wickedness (邪) and unfairness (辟) and (而) is nearer to (近) balance (中) and correctness (正).
The 也 (야) character at the end of the above passage marks the end of the sentence, acting as a kind of period.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Faraway," by Gerry Bevers

Sometimes I wanna go faraway,
Not to crowded cities like LA.
But to a place with a quiet, blue bay,
palm trees, sand, and a shady cafe.

Start my mornings with a fish filet,
Coconut juice and a nice fruit tray.
Discuss the politics of the day
Meet and greet and exchange hearsay.


If a cute, young waitress comes my way,
I'll smile and order a fruit frappe.
If she smiles back, winks, then says, "Okay,"
I'll wish I weren't so old and grey.