Friday, July 04, 2014

How did Korean children learn to read literary Chinese in the early 20th Century?

This text is entitled "Beginning Level Literary Chinese for Children" (蒙學漢文初階), published in 1907. It is composed of 213 lessons, which are essentially just 213 simple sentences or short paragraphs written in progressively more difficult sentences. For more information on the text, visit Kuiwon's site HERE.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Has anyone translated the "Annals of King Taejo" into English?

Yes, Honam University Professor Choi Byong-hyon has just published an English translation of "The Annals of King T'aejo, Founder of Korea's Choson Dynasty," a 4-year project. This is the first time this 600-year-old history has ever been translated in English. The book is 1000-plus pages, which includes an index and a glossary of terms.

(The photo to the left comes from THIS KOREAN ARTICLE.)

The book is well formated, and the translation seems good, but the binding of my hardcover version seems a little weak. I suspect the book will be coming apart before I get to the end of it, so some people may prefer to get the Kindle version since it is also being sold HERE on Amazon.

I would not buy the NOOK version of the book, even though it is about $9 cheaper than the Kindle version, because NOOK does not display Chinese characters. You do not need Chinese characters to read the English translation, but some characters are used in the footnotes, and there are almost 100 pages of glossaries in back of the book that list Chinese characters. If Chinese characters are not that important to you and you have a NOOK, then save $9 and get the NOOK version.

UPDATE: The Kindle version is now selling for $33.49, which is a good deal.

The "Annals of King Taejo" include entries on matters both  trivial and interesting. For example, here is what was entered on the First Day of the Fourth Month in the Year 1394, a date I picked by just randomly opening the book.
1st Day (Kyŏngo)
There was frost. 
The king ordered to recruit the people in the town who were good at stone fights to make a military unit and named it "Stone-Throwing Army" (ch'ŏksŏkkun).  
The Censorate and the Board of Punishments jointly submitted a memorial urging the king to eliminate members of the Wang royal clan. The king replied, "Gather various members of the Wang clan at one place and protect them well. Wang U, Lord of Kwiui, who lives in Majŏn County to sacrifice to his ancestors, should be excepted in discussions of the matters related to the Wang clan.
As you can see, some of the expressions may be a little awkward, but it is still pretty good English. Also, this day in Korean history seems to have been a little boring, but I suspect there will be much more excitement on other days.

Imagine reading a Korean history written 600 years ago. I am very excited.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Who are the Barberettes?

I don't know, but I like their style.

Here is another one I like.

사랑해, I love you / 그러니까 쿠커리츄 /  사랑해, I love you / 쿠커리츄 사랑의 주문.

일, 이, 삼, 사, 오, 육, 팔 / 마음이 열리는 시간 / 이젠 smile, 행복해져라 / 웃어라 내게 와라.

간절히 원하면 / 안되는게 하나도 없죠 /  온 세상이 도와준대 /  오늘은 서쪽에서 / 내일은 동쪽에서 / 그대를 기다리네 / 쿠커리츄 내 맘을 알아줘요.

어색해? I love you / 그러니까 쿠커리츄 / 부끄러? I love you / 커리츄 비밀의 주문.

빨주노초 파남보 /  마음이 열리는 색깔 / Lucky style, 행운을 줘라 / 빛나라 날개를 달아.

간절히 원하면 / 안되는게 하나도 없죠 / 온 세상이 도와준대 /  오늘은 북쪽에서 / 내일은 남쪽에서 / 그대를 기다리네 / 쿠커리츄 내 맘을 알아줘요.

Here is another good one.

조그만 가시내들이 /  모여서 노랠 부르면 /  온동네 청년들은 마음 설레어 하네 /  가시내들 노래 들으러 오네.

When little girls gather / and sing their [little] songs, / excited local boys / all come out to hear them.

꽃 피는 봄날이 오면 /  어여쁜 새 옷을 입고 /  새로 만날 나의 님 맞을 준비를 하네 /  가시내들 마음 설레어 오네.

When spring flowers appear, / excited little girls / in pretty, new dresses / come out to seek romance.

아아 나는 몰라 정말로 몰라 / 다가와 말을 걸면 / 아아 볼엔 새빨간 꽃물이 들고 / 머리는 엉클어지네

I don't know, truly don't know, / why my cheeks turn bright red, / why my thoughts get tangled / when they come to greet me.

아아 나는 몰라 정말로 몰라 / 다가와 웃어주면 / 아아 바람소리는 노래가 되고 / 마음은 일렁거리네.

I don't know, truly don't know, / why the wind sounds like song, / why my head starts bobbing, / when they walk up smiling.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mencius said what?

I recently came across a James Legge translation of a Mencius quote that I did not agree with. Here is the quote and translation:
()()()()()()()()()()(), ()()()()()()()()()()(), ()()()().
Legge’s Translation:
Mencius said, “That whereby the superior man is distinguished from other men is what he preserves in his heart – namely, benevolence and propriety.”
James Legge was a famous 19th century sinologist, who translated a number of classical Chinese works into English. One of the works he translated was “The Works of Mencius,” from which came the above quote. My problem with the translation is that it seems more of an interpretation than a translation.

I have learned that can mean “with,” “by,” “to take,” “to use,” “in order to,” and “because.” I also know that 所以...者 can be translated as "that by which." Also 以其 seems to be an abbreviation of 爲以其, which translates as "[is] by his." And the Naver dictionary translates 存心 as 마음속의 생각, which can be translated as "beliefs," so here is how I would translate the Mencius quote.
Mencius (孟子) said (): “That by which the superior man (君子所以) is different () from () others (人者) [is] by () his () [heart-felt] beliefs (心也). The superior man (君子) takes () benevolence () [and] stores () [it in] his heart (), [he] takes () propriety () [and] stores () [it in] his heart ().”
I have corrected mistakes in my original post.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What is 三昧境 (삼매경)?

三昧境 (삼매경) literally translates as "the three (三) dawns (昧) state (境) [of body and mind]," but the 三昧 portion is supposedly the Chinese pronunciation for the Sanskrit word "Samadhi," which is a Zen state of mind that is so focused that your body and mind seem to separate from everything else. The 境 is short for 境地 (경지), which means "a state" or "a condition."

I am not into Buddhism or meditation and know very little about the subjects, but I once experienced something that might have been a form of Samadhi.

I was about 28 years old and living in Seoul, Korea. I had just returned from somewhere to my second-floor room in a house I shared with a Korean couple and was lying on my bed, not because I was sleepy but because I was trying to cool off. It was a warm, sunny day, and there was a gentle breeze blowing into my room through my unscreened window, causing the sheer white curtains over my window to silently and gently float up and down above me. Looking up from my bed all I could see out the window was a clear, blue sky. All I could hear was children laughing and playing somewhere in the distance.

I had cooled down and felt extremely relaxed as I watched the white curtains float in the air on the cool breeze above my head and seemed to get more and more relaxed as I lay there and focused on my curtains. My arms were at my sides and my body was perfectly still. My arms and legs seemed heavy, and then I seemed to lose the ability to move them and my head. It was as if I was paralyzed and no longer had any control of my body. Then I started feeling my body slowly being lifted into the air up off my mattress until I seemed to be floating a few inches above my bed. Again, instead of simply floating up into air; my body seemed to have been lifted up into the air. My body still seemed to have weight, but like the curtain, seemed to have been lifted up on a cushion of air.

The feeling was so blissful that I soon started thinking about how I could continue the experience. However, my very thoughts of how to continue the experience seemed to be weighing me down, so I tried to stop thinking and empty my head, again, but the thought of trying to empty my head is itself a thought, so I continued to sink back down into my bed until the bliss I had felt was gone. If only I had stayed focused on the floating curtain in the room, maybe the bliss could have lasted longer.

As far as I know, I did not fall asleep; I did not wake up; I did not dream. I just seemed to fall into a state of relaxation so intense that my body became as light as the white curtain floating above me and my bed. Everything seemed to take place within a five to ten minute period, with the floating lasting about twenty seconds. I think my eyes were closed while I was floating. That was the only time something like that has ever happened to me.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

What does 매치매치바 mean?

매치 매치바 means "Match Match (candy) bar," a Korean candy bar from the 1980s.

I just woke up from a dream about this candy bar, a candy bar I ate almost everyday in Korea in the early '80s. The jingle from the TV and radio commercials will probably be in my head for the rest of my life:  "못생겨도 맛은 좋아 ("Even though it's ugly, it tastes good.")

This candy bar reminds me of the song in the post immediately below:

"You ask me if there'll come a time when I grow tired of you. Never, my love; never, my love."

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Why do songs bring back such faint memories?

When and where, I've forgotten, but there was a time and a place.
Who and why, I've forgotten, but there was a sweet embrace.
The face is veiled, the words are lost, only this song remains.
An echo of a lovely, wafting memory is all my heart retains.

by Gerry Bevers

Monday, January 27, 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).

Wednesday, January 15, 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.