Monday, September 26, 2016

Is 以 (이) really that hard to understand?

In the first chapter of his book, "A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese," Paul Rouzer talks about the usage of the character 以 (이).  He writes the following:
以: This is one of the most frequently used characters in literary Chinese, and it has a very wide application. It was originally a verb meaning "to take," "to use." Eventually, it started to be used in combination with other verbs (what English language scholars often call a coverb). It serves the same purpose as English prepositions like "with," "by means of," and "through." It usually comes before the main verb, and it is followed by its own special object.
Is Mr. Rouzer really saying 以 (이) is no longer used to mean "to use" or "to take"? If he is, then I disagree. Here is the first example sentence and translation Mr. Rouzer gives to demonstrate the use of 以:
“Heaven repays with disaster the person who does evil.”
Notice that Mr. Rouzer seems to have translated 以禍 (이화) as "with (以) disaster (禍)." Instead, consider the following translation:
“Heaven () uses () disaster () to repay () those who do evil (爲不善者).”
Perfect! Why translate 以 (이) as "with" when the original meaning of the verb works just fine? And by doing it my way, you do not have to translate out of sequence. If 以禍 (이화) were to come after the verb, instead of before it, then I would also translate it as "with (以) disaster (禍)," but "using (以) disaster (禍)" would also work.

Here is the second example Mr. Rouzer gives:
“The wise person leads the petty person with virtue.”
Instead, I suggest the following translation:
“A sage (聖人) uses () virtue () to guide () a petty person (小人).”
I do not understand why Mr. Rouzer seems to go out of his way to translate 以 (이) as "with" when its original meaning of "to use" works just fine.

Here is my suggestion: When 以 and its object come before the verb, translate it as either "to use," "to take," or "to consider," depending on the intended meaning. When 以 and its object come after the verb, then you can translate it as "with" or one of the other meanings Mr. Rouzer suggested.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

What does 驕 mean?

The Chinese character 驕 (교) means "proud" or "arrogant," as in the Korean word 교만(驕慢)하다, which means "proud" or "arrogant." Notice that the character is a combination of the characters 馬 (마), which means "horse," and 喬 (교), which means "tall" or "high." In English, we have the expression "high horse," which means "an arrogant  and unyielding mood or attitude." I had not noticed the coincidence before today, but that coincidence will probably help me never to forget this character.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

What does 日食大水則鼓於用牲於社 mean?

In "Du's Handbook of Classical Chinese Grammar," the following Chinese sentence and English translation appear, minus the Korean pronunciation:
“For eclipses and floods, we beat the drums and furthermore make sacrifices of livestock to the land god.”
The above sentence was supposedly an example of 於 (어) being used as a conjunction between two clauses with the meaning of either "and" or "moreover," which implies that "Du's Handbook" believed 用 (용) was being used here as a verb. I disagree, and would like to suggest the following translation:
“The rule for eclipses and floods (日食大水則) [is] to beat drums () at () a sacrifice of animals (用牲) to () the land god ().”
日食 (일식) means "eclipse," 大水 (대수) means "flood," and 則 (칙) means 법칙 (法則), which translates as "rule" or "law."  用牲 (용생) means "to sacrifice animals," but because of 於 (어), which means "at," we can assume 用牲 (용생) was being used here as the noun phrase "a sacrifice of animals," not as the verb "to sacrifice animals." In other words, there was no need to create a new usage for "於 (어)."

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

What does 然龍弗得雲無以神其靈矣 mean?

In "Du's Handbook of Classical Chinese Grammar," the following Chinese sentence and English translation appear, minus the Korean pronunciation:
“But if the dragon does not get its cloud, it will not have the means to exert its magical powers.”
"Exert"? "Magical powers"? Where are those characters in the Chinese sentence? The above sentence was taken from a section of "Du's Handbook" that said "無以 (무이)" can be used to mean "not have the means to," but my question is "not have the means to WHAT?" The Handbook says "not have the means to EXERT," but there is no character in the sentence that means "exert." Instead, I would like to suggest the following translation:
“So if () the dragon () does not () get () a cloud (), there is nothing () to take () the soul () [to] its () spirit (靈矣).”
First, 以 (이) was used here with the meaning of "to take." Second, though the characters 神 (신) and 靈 (령) are often both translated as either "soul" or "spirit," the words "soul" and "spirit" are not exactly the same. A soul, for example, is associated with "the living," but a spirit is associated with "the dead." I think the character 神 (신) means "soul," or 넋 in Korean, and the character 靈 (령) means "spirit." When "a soul (神) and "a spirit (靈)" are joined, they create a "divine spirit (神靈 - 신령)" or "god." Before a dragon can become a god, its "soul (神)" must first travel to heaven on a cloud to join with its "spirt (靈)."

Below is the passage from which I think the sentence came. I found it on the Internet in a Korean book entitled "개방소정랑2." Though I think the Korean translation is way off base, I have included it so that you can decide for yourselves.
()()()()(). ()()()()()()(). ()()()() ()()()()()()使()()()(). ()()()()()()()()()()(). ()()()()()()()()()? ()()! ()()()()()()()()()().
A dragon () blows out () steam () to form () a cloud (). The cloud () is definitely () not () the spirit () from () the dragon (龍也). If () [it] were the dragon’s (龍之) spirit (), then () [it would] not be () the cloud (雲之) that () can () be sent (使) to make () a spirit (靈也). So if () the dragon () cannot () get () a cloud (), there would be nothing () to take () the soul () [to] its () spirit (靈矣). [It] loses () the courier that it relies on (所憑依信), isn’t that right (不可歟)? [How] strange (異哉)! That which it relies on (其所憑依) is also () that which itself creates (其所自爲也).
용이 기를 뿜어 내어 구름이된다. 구름은 본디 용보다는 영험하지 않다. 그러나 용은 구름을 타고 아득히 높은 하늘을 난다. 구름이란 용이 있어서 신통한 것이다. 용의 신통함 역시 구름이 있어 그런 것은 아니나, 용이 구름을 만나지 못하면 신통할 재간이 없는 것이다. 용이 의지하는 바를 잃으면 정말 어쩔 없어진다. 기이하구나! 자기가 의지하는 것을 자기 스스로 만드는 구나.
This is how I interpret the passage: The "cloud" (雲) made by a dragon is the "courier" (信) that takes the dragon's "soul" (神) to Heaven to join with its "spirit" (靈), which results in "a divine spirit" (神靈), or "god." Without the cloud (雲), which, again, is the courier (信), the soul cannot travel to Heaven. Interestingly, besides meaning "courier," 信 (신) can also mean "belief," which means the cloud could be a metaphor for "belief." If so, then without "belief" (信), the soul (神) of a dragon cannot travel to Heaven to join with its "spirit (靈)," which would result in a "divine soul (神靈) " or "divine spirit."