Saturday, August 20, 2016

What does 知其必以賄死 mean?

In "Du's Handbook of Classical Chinese Grammar," the following Chinese sentence and English translation appear, minus the Korean pronunciation:
()()()()() ()()()() ()()()()()()
“When Shuyu was born, his mother looked at him and knew that he would certainly die as a result of venality.”
This is how I would translate it:
()()()()() ()()()() ()()()()()()
 “As for Shuyu’s birth (叔魚之生也), [when] his () mother () saw () him (), [she] knew () his () need () to use () bribery () [and] murder ().”
The sentence appeared in a section of "Du's Handbook" that said 其 (기) could be translated as "that he" when it was at the beginning of the object phrase after such verbs as 知 (지 - "to know"), 患 (환 - "to be upset"), 見 (견 - "to see"), 聽 (청 - "to allow"), and 恐 (공 - "to fear").

Though I have no problem with translating 其 as "that he," I chose to remain consistent and translate it as "his" since it seems to be just a stylistic preference. The problem I had with the translation was with how they translated 以賄死 (이회사), which was to translate 以 as "as a result of." I feel that if the writer had meant it to mean "as a result of," he would have written the sentence as follows:
[She] knew (知) that he (其) must (必) die (死) as a result of (以) bribery (賄).
If the writer had meant it as "Du's Handbook" translated it, why cause confusion by moving 以賄 (이회) to the front of the verb "die"? By doing so, it would not only separate the auxiliary verb "must" from the main verb "die," but it would also allow for the possibility that someone might read it as I have translated it. Also, unless we know that Shuyu (叔漁 - 숙어) was executed as a result of giving or accepting bribes, there would be nothing to support the translation in "Du's Handbook."

I have read the sentence in context and did not see anything to suggest that my translation would be wrong, so I think this might be a case of people simply accepting a translation from the past, a past when a word such as "venality" was more popular than "bribery."

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