Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Are Fish More Caring than Birds?

I have been studying Classical Chinese using Paul Rouzer’s book, “A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese.” The book is good because Mr. Rouzer explains the grammar very well, but one problem I have with the book is that it is big and unwieldy. It is not something you would want to carry with you on a bus or subway.

Another thing I like about the book is the Translation Exercises from Chinese to English and English to Chinese. One of the reasons I like them is that many of the sentences are unitentionally comical. Here are a few examples from today’s lesson:
1) The bird raised its tongue and laughed. The fish was in the water and did not hear.
鳥擧舌而笑. 魚在水而不聞

2) The father wants to leave the house and drink in a tall tree.

3) Water that is shallow is not as good as trees that are tall.

4) The bird roosted in a lofty tree for its own sake, whereas the fish abandoned shallow water for the sake of its children.
鳥爲己宿高樹, 而魚爲其子去淺水
I think Mr. Rouser may have mistranslated Sentence #4. Instead, I think it should be translated as follows:
“Birds roost in tall trees for their own sake, but fish go to shallow water for the sake of their offspring.”
去(거) can mean “to go," “to leave” or “to abandon.” Mr. Rouzer translated 去(거) as “abandoned,” but I think it should be translated as “go to.”

Birds build their nests in tall trees because it is safer for them and their offspring, but fish lay their eggs in shallow water, possibly to prevent their eggs from being eaten by big fish. However, by going to shallow water to lay its eggs, a big mother fish risks being caught by an animal or becoming stranded in the shallow water. Therefore, I think the “proverb” meant to say that a fish risks its life for its offspring, but a bird does not.

1 comment:

  1. Hi. BTW my name is Arlan and not Arian. :)

    Actually with regards to sentence no.4, for me, I believe your translation makes more sense than the other one. I did a quick search on the net and from here:


    It mentioned fish laying eggs on shallow waters. The seeming contrast 鳥爲己 versus 魚爲其子 suggests translating 而 as "but" and following from the above link, fish do "go to" shallow water.

    Actually there are several minor errors (that I am sure are errors) in the book like for instance in Chapter 2, 敗北 was Hanggeulized as 패북 but of course we know it should be 패배 instead.

    Anyway, as I've said, your translation is more reasonable and makes more sense for me right now. I hope we could have someone like Kuiwon to comment though. :) Do you know him ? From his blog, he seems to be fond of Hanmun too. :)