Saturday, January 31, 2015

What does 見他失便, 便說他過 mean?

In the old Chinese text "Tractate of the Most High One on Actions and Consequences (太上感應篇)," there is a list of several actions that are considered wicked. Among those actions was listed the following:


(()()()便(), 便()()()()

  • 見 -- to see
  • 他 -- another; others
  • 失 -- to lose
  • 便 -- to be comfortable; urine, feces; then
  • 說 -- to speak
  • 過 -- to pass; mistake

"[Someone who] sees () another () lose () [control of his] urine or feces (便) [and] then (便) speaks () [to] others () [about] the mistake ()."


I have seen 失便 (실편) translated as "lose convenience" or "to be in temporary difficulties," but that does not make sense to me. I think the intended meaning was "lose control of one's bladder or bowels," which would mean it should be pronounced in Korean as 실변 since 便 is pronounced as either 편 or 변 depending on its intended meaning. I am sure that even in old China people pooped or peed their pants every once in a while, especially many of the older people who probably suffered from fecal or urinary incontinence. Consider the following sentence from the medical text 奇效良方:

失便 病患不覺, 大小便自出者, 乃是大小腸無氣也, 後日必死, 慎勿刺之.

Besides, if a person told others that someone accidentally peed or pooped his pants, that person would be wicked, indeed.

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