Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What is the difference between 卽 (즉) and 卽經 (즉경)?

卽 (즉) can sometimes mean "then," but it can also have the meaning of 卽時 (즉시), which means "at once" or "immediately." The meaning "immediately" implies present action or present tense, but what if you wanted to use it to describe past action? In such cases you could follow it with the past tense marker 經 to avoid confusion. The past tense would be translated in the verb or verbs that follow.
()()()()()()()(), ()()()()()(), ()()()護.()
In the early part of the Seventh Month (七月初間), the [Yangtze] River (江) water (水) gradually (漸) rose (長). Immediately (卽經) [the authorities] prepared (籌備) provisions (料物) [and] day (晝) and night (夜) kept watch (防護).

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What does 冰山難靠 mean?

冰山難靠 (빙산난고) literally means, "An ice mountain (冰山) is hard (難) to rely on (靠)." Why? Because it does not last; it melts when the weather is hot. It is an old saying (古事成語 - 고사성어) from the Tang Dynasty period (618 - 907 A.D.)

When Yang Guozhong (楊國忠 - 양국충) was Head of the Legislative Bureau (右相 - 우상), during the Tang Dynasty, he had so much authority that he was compared to Mount Tai (泰山 - 태산), one of China's "five sacred mountains" (五嶽 - 오악). People hoping to enrich themselves gathered around him, but a man named Zhang Tuan (張彖 - 장단)  was not so easily convinced. The following is a 752 A.D. entry in the "Zizhi Tongjian" (資治通鑑 - 자치통감), which is where the old saying 冰山難靠 supposedly originated.
()()()()()()()()()()()(), "()(), ()()()()()."
Someone (或) advised (勸) a palace graduate from Shan Commandery (陝郡進士) [named] Zhang Tuan (張彖) to visit (謁) Guozhong (國忠), saying (曰), "[If you] meet (見) him (之),  riches (富) and honors (貴) immediately (立) can (可) be obtained (圖)."
()(), "()()()()()()()()(). ()()()()()(). ()()()()(), ()()()()()()()()?"
Tuan (彖) said (曰), "You guys (君輩) rely on (倚) Legislative Head Yang (楊右相) as if (如) [he were] Mount Tai (泰山). I (吾) consider [him] (以為) an ice mountain (冰山) only (耳). If (若) the bright (皎) sun (日) is out (既出), [won't] you guys (君輩) get (得) nothing (無) [and] lose (失) what you rely on (所恃乎)?

進士 - palace graduate; someone who has passed the highest level civil service exam
陝郡 - Shan Commandery
既出 - already (既) came out (出)
The entry was recorded in 752 A.D. - 唐紀 (당기) 玄宗天寶十一年 (현종천보 12년)

What does 代爲 (대위) mean?

This is basically a reposting of a comment I made on a post at 一歸源 (Kuiwon), an excellent blog that deals with classical Chinese writings from the perspective of a Korean-American hobbyist who actually knows quite a bit about classical Chinese.

Anyway, a question was raised about Chinese word order being more similar to English word order than to Korean, which is true, but there is some Chinese word order that is more similar to Korean than to English. Relative clauses is one example.

與我同行之人 (여아동행지인) is a relative clause that means "the people who went with me." In Korean and Chinese the head noun (人 - "people") appears at the end of the clause, but in English it appears at the first of the clause. 與我同行 means "with (與) me (我) together (同) go (行)," and 之 essentially just works as a marker, separating the descriptive part of the clause from the head noun.

In addition to relative clauses, sometimes it is easier to translate Chinese using your Korean mind rather than your English mind. For example, recently I came across the combination 代爲 (대위) while translating some Chinese from the 1800s. The sentence was as follows:

()()()()()()()()()()()()(), ()()()().
Last year (客歲) the American (美國) consul (領事官) asked someone (託人) to act on his behalf (代爲) to buy (買) land (地) to build (蓋起) an official residence (公館).”
At first I had a little trouble making sense of the character 爲 using my English mind, feeling that 爲 was unnecessary, but then I searched through Korea’s “Annals of the Joseon Dynasty” and noticed that 代爲 appeared quite often. Then I started using my Korean mind and suddenly it made perfect sense.

I may be wrong, but now I interpret 代爲 as being the Chinese version of the Korean word 대신하여, 代 representing 대신 and 爲 representing 하여. In English, 代 means "on behalf of" and 爲 means "to do," "to make," or "to act." Anyone who has lived in Korea for any length of time has almost certainly heard 대신하여 or 대신해서 used in conversation. It is usually followed by a verb telling exactly what is being done on behalf of the person in question.

After more than 1500 years of reading and writing Chinese, Koreans have probably adopted many styles and expressions from the Chinese. How do you say, for example, 대신하여 in pure Korean? 사람을 바꿔서? Even though 代爲 is not a combination found in Naver’s Chinese character dictionary, the meaning seems pretty obvious if you use your Korean mind.