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戰國策 (王力 古代漢語 Wang Li, Classical Chinese)


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The next text is quite long and full of metaphors, so it's taking a bit long for me to finish it, what with all the busy days before the Chinese New Year break. Let me post some comments and questions on the first paragraphs, though, and hopefully I'll be posting the remainder tomorrow.

First the whole text. I noticed the CTP version is not exactly the same as the one used in Wang Li, and have changed it in some places to fix that.









Alright, don't be scared, there's a lot of parallel structures in there.


楚襄王 is the son of 懷王, who was captured by the Qin army, who took him to Qin, where he died. 莊辛 is an inhabitant of Chu. (Quick geography reminder: Qin was in the area of what is now Xi'an, while Chu was closer to present-day Wuhan.)


州侯 and 夏侯 are loyal members of 楚襄王's retinue. 輦 niǎn is an ancient type of cart, pulled by manpower. 從 is to be read as zòng here, meaning 'to follow'. 鄢陵君 and 壽陵君 are two of the King's favourite courtiers.


專 means 'only'. 淫逸侈靡 is basically to behave strangely and live wastefully. 郢都 is the capital of Chu.


悖 is 'confused'. A 祅祥 is a bad omen. Note that while 祥 often means 'auspicious', it can also be a neutral word meaning 'omen', and this is the meaning used in this compound. So 祅祥 refers only to bad omens.


卒幸 means 'to love to death'. But I don't completely understand this. If he does not stop spoiling his four sons, 楚 is doomed. But who are those sons? Or am I missing something here?


淹留 is a compound word here.


鄢, 郢, 巫, 上蔡 and 陳 are all geographic names. Wang Li points out the Shiji does not record any attacks on 上蔡 nor on 陳, and that the Shiji states conquering the other towns took two years altogether, with the king of Chu fleeing to 陳.


城陽 is present-day 成陽 in 河南. Note the loss of the radical, I wonder how that happened.


發 is 'to despatch'. 騶 here probably refers to a messenger on horseback.

莊辛曰:“諾。” 莊辛至,襄王曰:“寡人不能用先生之言,今事至於此,為之奈何?”

諾 makes another appearance.


A 鄙語 is simply an idiomatic expression.


Cute. A 牢 is a sheepfold.


湯 and 武 were good rulers, while 桀 and 紂 presided over the fall of the Xia and Shang dynasties, respectively.


What exactly is his point here? He is trying to console the king, who has just lost lost a huge swathe of land. He says that King Tang and King Wu only ruled over small areas, but still managed to be good rulers, unlike the other two mentioned, whose writ extended farther afield. But how does the 豈特 come into this?


夫 is a demonstrative here, and a 蜻蛉 is a butterfly. 獨 serves to make this a rhetorical question.


飛翔 gives an impression of 'flying freely', much like fish who swim 從容 in the Zhuangzi.


啄 is technically 'a beak', which only birds have, so Wang Li says this should not be taken literally.


If I understand correctly, 調鈆膠絲 is a way to catch butterflies and insects, which involves putting a sweet substance on a sticky string of rope, which is attached to a rod. But do correct me if I'm wrong, since all the insect-killing I am ever involved in here on Taiwan consists of swatting mosquitoes. No butterflies for us.

As I said, I hope to be posting comments on the remainder of the text tomorrow.

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The gloss on 城阳 seems to be identifying it with the 成阳 that's used in other texts; it doesn't appear to have been positively identified with any particular modern-day location. Here is a rundown of the various explanations in ancient commentaries, and on this page you can find four possibilities several possibilities, including a location in Xixian, Henan, or in the city of Xinyang, Henan, among others.

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Just the obligatory chengyu remark: this is the source for 亡羊補牢.

州侯 and 夏侯 are loyal members of 楚襄王's retinue. 輦 niǎn is an ancient type of cart, pulled by manpower. 從 is to be read as zòng here, meaning 'to follow'. 鄢陵君 and 壽陵君 are two of the King's favourite courtiers.

The 從 confuses me. Wang Li has zòng, but my dictionaries don't include any meaning for this reading. I guess one of the little discrepancies one has to live with. Does 輦 refer to the chariot of the King? Otherwise I wouldn't see the problem Wang Li raises...

(Also, one of the two supplementary textbooks has it as cóng)

卒幸 means 'to love to death'. But I don't completely understand this. If he does not stop spoiling his four sons, 楚 is doomed. But who are those sons? Or am I missing something here?

I don't think it refers to any sons, but to his four 寵臣

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Thanks for the comments, zhwj and chrix! Much appreciated. chrix, a 輦 would indeed seem to have been the king's chariot.

Here are some comments for the last piece of this text.


其小者 'an example on a small scale'


以 = 已


What exactly do you think 茂樹 is? 噣 'to peck'


類 should have been 頸 according to the annotation Wang Li quotes. 招 is 'a target'. Do you think I would be right in thinking that 公子王孫 referred to children and grandchildren from aristocratic backgrounds, as in, kids who do not have to work and can therefore go out and cause a bit of mischief?


And what happens to birds that do not watch out? We eat them, of course. 倏忽 shūhū​​ is a compound word meaning 'quickly, abruptly'.


Note the parallel structure.


沼 is a pond.


A chance to work on your vocabulary: 鱔 is a 'yellow eel' and a 鯉 is a 'carp'. The former seems to be especially good in preserved soybean paste.


An approach seen in many classical Chinese texts, 莊辛 uses the same phrase as above to underline how similar the stories he is telling are. He has to be careful, obviously, not to offend the king by being too direct and blunt, so instead he relies on a gradual approach.


碆 is a stone-head arrow, but I'm not entirely sure what 盧 is doing here. Wang Li says it is a 黑弓, so I assume a 碆盧 is a particular kind of bow?


As noted above, a gradual approach.


The CTP says 彼, Wang Li says 被. Quite a difference. And 礛 is not the character used in Wang Li either. Anyway, the point is clear.


鼎 (dǐng​) and 鼐 (nài) were ancient cooking vessels. Photo of the 毛公鼎, now in the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei.


Wang Li has 蔡靈侯, not 聖, but does note some editions have 聖 instead. 蔡 was a fiefdom on the upper reaches of the 准 river.


The 巫 mountains are identified as being in Sichuan, but that's to the north of neither 蔡 nor 成陽. It's also probably quite far from 蔡, at least judging from my map.


茹谿 is a stream in the 巫 mountains. 湘波 is the 湘水 in Henan. (This seems a bit strange to me, since they would have been quite far from each other if the 巫 mountains referred to here were indeed in Sichuan.)


馳騁 is a compound word.


According to this text, 子發 had received orders from 宣王 (Wang Li has 靈王) to capture 蔡靈侯, but Wang Li points out the Zuozhuan says this was 棄疾's mission.


And there we finally are.


As earlier.


飯 used as a verb 'to eat' here!


Much like 蔡靈侯, right? And if the king disapproved of 蔡靈侯's behaviour, he could not suddenly become angry with 莊辛 now.


ráng. 襄王 could not go to 黽塞, since it was occupied by the 秦 army led by 穰侯.


變作 'to change'. 珪, an aristocratic title. The 淮北之地 is part of the territory lost to the 秦 army.

*wipes sweat off his forehead* It's hot today in Taiwan, and we can't switch on our air-conditioning units yet, so the past three hours of looking up rare words in dictionaries were a bit exhausting. But a nice text, albeit difficult. Please forgive any mistakes and do feel free to point them out or add further comments! Oh, I will look up the text in the 新序 Wang Li refers to at the end and post it here tomorrow with some comments, if it's interesting.

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As promised, let me post a link to the 新序 version of this story, which is similar in terms of content, but whose language is quite different. Of course, the content is not exactly the same: there's a rebuke from 莊辛 to the King which is not included in the 戰國策, and 蔡侯's story is also told differently here.

The Sanmin annotations answer the question I had about 豈特: 特 means 只 here. But that's not why I looked up this text: it's because of Wang Li's suggestion to 見劉向新序 on the military campaign. As you can see, the differences are that the 新序 explicitly says the plans to take that piece of territory back were made by 莊辛, and that this text is a bit more specific about the territory taken back. No accounts of heroic battles, however.

I hope to be posting (the first part of) the next text from the 戰國策 tomorrow. Happy Chinese New Year, everyone!

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  • 4 months later...

'为之驾' probably means 'get him a carriage'. in my understanding '驾' wasnt used as a verb during the warring states. its a noun, meaning either the 'carriage' or the 'driver'. a typical ancient carriage had 3 guys, the driver in the center, the master on the behind right (if i remember correctly) and the guard on the behind left. if its a war carriage, the master which is usually the drummer, stands on the right, the spearman left, and the driver still remains in the center.

so 驾 is either the carriage or the driver. the verb usage probably derived from the 'driver' definition.

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