Saturday, August 13, 2016

What does 抇其谷而得其鈇 mean?

Today, I came across the sentence and translation below in "Du's Handbook of Classical Chinese Grammar." The reason I keep pulling sentences from "Du's Handbook" is that I am currently going through the book and finding a few translations that seem either awkward or make no sense to me. Notice I said "a few"; otherwise, I like "Du's Handbook." Here is the sentence I found today:
“He found his axe whilst digging in the valley.”
He was digging in a valley and just happened to find his axe? Wow! That's pretty lucky, isn't it? No, the translation makes no sense to me, but, of course, I do not know the story from which it came. Nevertheless, here is my translation:
“[He] ransacked () the () cave () and () got () the () axe ().
Besides meaning "to dig," 抇 (홀) can also mean "to rummage through" or "to ransack." And besides meaning "valley," 谷 (곡) can also mean "deep cave." The cave could have been occupied, maybe by a band of robbers. Or maybe someone threw the axe into a hole-like cave, and the person went down into the hole to retrieve the axe, by "rummaging around the cave." At any rate, which translation makes more sense?

Finally, this is just a crazy thought that is bouncing around in my head, so don't take it too seriously: Could the character 谷 (곡) have been used to represent 墓 (묘), which means "grave"? Again, I do not know the story from which the sentence came, so I really have no idea.

UPDATE: Maybe the translation in "Du's Handbook" was correct after all. Below is a translation of a Chinese story about an "Axe." This is another example of my writing before Googling.

"The Axe"

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