Sunday, January 15, 2017

What does 下學而上達 mean?

In his book "Confucius Analects," Edward Slingerland translates Passage 14.35 as follows:
()()()()()(). ()()()()(). ()()()()()().
“I am not bitter toward Heaven, nor do I blame others. I study what is below to comprehend what is above. If there is anyone who could understand me, perhaps it is Heaven?”
The only problem I have with Mr. Slingerland's translation is his translation of 下學而上達 (하학이상달), which he translated as follows: "I study what is below to comprehend what is above." As mentioned in my post HERE, 上達 (상달) means "to report to a superior," not "to comprehend what is above." Therefore, I would like to suggest the following translation:
“[I] do not () resent () Heaven () [and] do not () blame () others (). To inferiors () [I] teach (), and (而) to superiors () [I] advise (). [As for] someone who understands me (知我者), perhaps () it is Heaven (天乎)?”
Notice that I translated 下學而上達 (하학이상달) as follows: "To inferiors (下) [I] teach (學), and (而) to superiors (上) [I] advise (達)."

As I explained in my previous post, when you "report to a superior" (上達- 상달), you convey information or give them advice, both in a respectful manner. The opposite of 上達 is 下達 (하달), which means "to convey information to or to command an inferior," probably without showing much respect. Therefore, both 上達 and 下達 essentially mean "to convey information" or "to teach," but one is done in a polite way and the other is done in a less polite way. The same thing can be said of 下學 (하학) and 上達 (상달).

下學 (하학) means "to teach inferiors," and 上達 (상달) means "to advise or to inform superiors," so both phrases are similar in that they mean "to convey information," but the difference is a matter of etiquette. In other words, you teach inferiors, but you advise superiors. One would not presume "to teach a superior," especially a king, so the more proper expression for teaching a king is "to advise a king." A king has advisers, not teachers. Therefore, 下學而上達 (하학이상달) could be translated more simply as "I teach (下學) and (而) I advise (上達)."

Confucius may have been somewhat frustrated by the fact that people had a hard time understanding his "teachings" and "advice," but he seemed to have been comforted by the thought that, at least, "Heaven" probably understood.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

What does 君子上達, 小人下達 mean?

In his book "Confucius Analects," Edward Slingerland translates Passage 23 in Book 14 (14.23) as follows:
()()()(), ()()()().
“The gentleman understands higher things, whereas the petty person understands only the low.”
My Korean dictionary defines 上達 (상달) as "to report (to a superior)," and defines 下達 (하달) as "to command" or "to order." 達 (달) means "to communicate" or "to convey," so 上達 literally means "to a superior (上) communicate (達)," and 下達 (하달) literally means "to an inferior (下) communicate (達)." When you communicate with a superior, you are either reporting to him or giving him advice or opinion, but in both cases you are being very polite. When you communicate with an inferior, you are usually giving an order, without worrying about being polite. Therefore, trying to be a gentlemen, I would like to suggest the following translation:
()()()(), ()()()().
“The gentleman (君子) gives advice (上達); the petty man (小人) gives orders (下達).
The suggestion is that a gentleman should speak to people with respect, as if giving advice or opinion to a superior. The petty man speaks rudely, as if giving orders to an inferior.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

What does 勿恃富而欺窮 (물시부이기궁) mean?

I am rewriting an old textbook on Literary Chinese so that it can be used by English-speaking Koreans or by English-speaking Korean language learners. The project is taking longer than I expected because I am having to retranslate a lot of the original translations. Today, for example, I came across the following Chinese sentence and translation:
“Do not rely on wealth and ill-treat the poor.”
The translation makes sense, but one should suspect it is missing something because the ancient Chinese philosophers and scholars were some of the most clever men in history. A lot of thought went into their sentences. They could squeeze a whole paragraph into a cleverly constructed, 4-character sentence, therefore, when I see a translation that does not have, at least, a double meaning, I get suspicious and start looking for the hidden meanings or clever wording.
Therefore, I would also like to suggest the following translation:
"Do not (勿) trust (恃) the rich (富) if (而) [you] cheat (欺) the poor (窮)."
In other words, if you are willing to cheat the poor, you should assume the rich are willing to cheat you since they may see you as poor. The character 而 (이) can also mean "and," "but," or "while," so here are a couple more possible translations.
"Do not (勿) trust (恃) the rich (富) and (而) cheat (欺) the poor (窮)."
"Do not (勿) trust (恃) the rich (富) while (而) cheating (欺) the poor (窮)." 
The character 恃 (시) can mean "to rely on" or "to depend on," but it can also mean "to believe" or "to trust."

Monday, January 02, 2017

Who was Edwin George "Ted" Pulleyblank?

Edward G. Pulleyblank (Aug. 7, 1922 - Apr. 13, 2013) was the author of a rather famous book entitled "Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar," which is the only book of his that I have read. I bought his book in 2009 and have read through it and have continued to reference it ever since. Soon after buying the book, I became curious to know more about Mr. Pulleyblank's history and how he came to study Chinese, but did not find much information. Today, you can read a Wikipedia article on Mr. Pulleyblank HERE, but back in 2009/2010 there was no such article, which did not seem right. Sometime after Mr. Pulleyblank's death in 2013, someone did remember Mr. Pulleyblank with a Wikipedia article. Also, today, I came across the following videos, in which Mr. Pulleyblank is remembered by family, friends, former students, and colleagues. I am glad people remember him.

What does 夫子之謂也 mean?

In Edwin G. Pulleyblank's book "Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar," the following Chinese sentence and translation appears:
“It (the poem) refers to you, sir.”
Mr. Pulleyblank explains the Chinese sentence was derived from 謂夫子 (위부자) "by moving the object fū zĭ 夫子 in front and repeating with zhī 之 more literally: 'Your honour, him it refers to.'"

I am surprised by Mr. Pulleyblank's explanation because he not only misinterprets the 之 (지), but also ignores the noun predicate marker 也 (야). The 之 (지) in the sentence is the possessive marker, not the pronoun "him." Also, the 謂 (위) should be translated as a noun, not as a verb. Here is my translation of the sentence.
“It is a reference to you, sir.”
The sentence literally translates as "It is your (夫子之) reference (謂也)." 夫子 (부자) was used by disciples to address their master, but it can also be used as a polite "you," which is how it was used here. 謂 (위) can mean "to indicate" or "to denote," which translates in Korean as 가리키다. That means the sentence could translate in Korean as "선생님의 (夫子之) 가리킴이다 (謂也)."

Here is another example from Mr. Pulleyblank's book that uses the same faulty explanation:
“I do not mean this.”
Mr. Pulleyblank believed the sentence came from 不謂此 (불위차) and explained its construction as follows:
The use of fēi 非 as a negative particle in the above example is a carry-over from the earlier construction, in which the exposed element was often introduced by wéi 唯 (惟, 維), its negative fēi 非, or adnominal particles such as jiāng 將 or  必.
 Again, Mr. Pulleyblank seems to be way overthinking the sentence. The 之 (지) in the above sentence is simply the possessive marker, not a pronoun representing an exposed element. Also, the 非 (비) is simply the special negative particle used with noun predicates, not a "carry-over" or anything. Here is my translation:
“It is not () an indication of this (此之謂也).”
The special negative marker 非 (비) and the noun predicate ending 也 (야) are indications that 謂 (위) should be translated as a noun, not as a verb. 此之謂 (차지위) literally translates as "this' (此之) indication (謂)," which would translate in Korea as "이것의 (此之) 가리킴이다 (謂也)." That means the full sentence would translate in Korean as follows: "이것의 가리킴이 아니다."

The above two sentences seem to be rare examples of Mr. Pulleyblank's analysis of Classical Chinese grammar slipping into the Twilight Zone.