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Transition to modern Chinese


subishii

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古文观止 is a selection of good classical Chinese essays from different times of ancient China. You can look at Ming or Qing dyansty parts. The editors were from Qing Dynasty.

I read 古文观止 when I was in high school and that is a good book.

The following link is from Google book.

http://books.google.com/books?id=57xeihFzKI4C&printsec=frontcover&dq=%E5%8F%A4%E6%96%87%E8%A7%82%E6%AD%A2&source=bl&ots=qgdHBaMOMC&sig=4juRWkfKEOn4QY89BKDRcXkx_dM&hl=en&ei=NmFbTKPBF4H78Aaw-rjkAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CC4Q6AEwBA#v=onepage&q&f=false

The following link is also 古文观止,but it may brought some stupid game pop-up for the first time you browse it...

http://www.tianyabook.com/guwenguanzhi/index.htm

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jbradfor

@skylee and Jane_PA, thanks for those links. I will look further, I hope, when I have some time.

I took a quick (30 minutes) look at them, and I have to confess that I don't really see any difference between them and what you call 白话 -- but that's pretty much because they were all unintelligible to me :P If you could give me some suggestions on what for you distinguishes 白话 texts from modern 文言文 I'd appreciate it....

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I'd never looked at Hong Lou Meng in Chinese before, and at least the online version I just looked at ( http://www.purepen.com/hlm/001.htm ) had a beginning note from the author written in a wenyan-looking register. After the first paragraph though, it is remarkably different in grammar and lexicon from any of the wenyan selections linked above, including the Ming-Qing era ones. I mean, just look for the 也's at the ends of sentences!

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took a quick (30 minutes) look at them, and I have to confess that I don't really see any difference between them and what you call 白话 -- but that's pretty much because they were all unintelligible to me If you could give me some suggestions on what for you distinguishes 白话 texts from modern 文言文 I'd appreciate it....

I am confused... If you don't know Chinese, why do you care to differentiate 白话文 or 文言文?古文观止 is 文言文 for sure. You can ask any Chinese middle school students or 5th graders, they can tell immediately those CHinese they can read, but don't know what that mean because the grammer and the usage are very different from 白话文, or the current way we speak Chinese.

Yes, one way is we usually don't use 之,者in the middle of the sentence, or 乎,也at the end of sentence in 白话文。

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renzhe

jbradfor does know Chinese, he was just saying that the language in 红楼梦 or 西游记 is too difficult for him, to the point that it's incomprehensible. He's also exaggerating, I'm sure he could figure it out since the grammar is completely and utterly different, and the prevalence of 的地得 and the like in modern texts is a giveaway. I could be wrong, but I don't think that personal pronouns such as 我 or 你 were common in classical Chinese either. Punctuation is also a giveaway. Keep in mind that the only thing I know about Classical Chinese is that sometimes sentences end with 也 :P But the bits of 红楼梦 I've read were quite clear.

The four classics are indeed written in early 白话, but the language has changed a lot since that time. Reading these classics is tricky for learners because the language borrows a lot more from classical Chinese than modern literature (之乎者也). There was no real standard back then. The current standard is strongly based on the language used by writers at the turn of the century and closer to the language spoken (and taught) today. You're not going to finish "David and Helen" or "New Practical Chinese Reader" and then start reading a 14th century novel, even if it is written in 白话.

I haven't dared tackle one of them yet, but rob07's example shows that it's doable for someone with a decent grasp of modern vernacular Chinese.

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I had an edition of the 红楼梦 intended for Chinese high school students - this had the full unedited original text, but every few pages there would be a footnote explaining in modern Mandarin the meaning of some now rare word or Qing dynasty cultural practice. This helped quite a bit. None of the footnotes dealt with grammatical points as far as I can remember, the grammar was modern 白话 throughout.

When I read Hong Lou Meng, I always skipped the first one or two chapters and go to the story directly because those are just something not quite relevant to the story.

The first couple of chapters are definitely the hardest. Almost all of the 红楼梦 deals with ordinary day to day life, and this gives quite a lot of contextual help when trying to understand the meaning of the tricky bits. However, fantastical things happen in the first couple of chapters that have various cultural analogies, puns and hidden meanings etc, making them really very difficult. The difficulty does not arise from them being 文言文, they are just extremely difficult 白话, just as there are writers writing in 白话 today whose writing style is very complicated and difficult to understand for foreigners with an upper intermediate level of Chinese.

Generally speaking, when reading the 红楼梦 it is probably a good idea to get hold of a family tree in chart form so you can keep track of who's who - such charts are often included with the book depending on the publisher.

红楼梦 and 西游记 were written in 白话

After watching the TV series 魔幻手机 featuring some characters from the 西游记 in a modern setting(see the Grand First Episode Project for details), I read the two chapters of the 西游记 that featured the 黄眉大王. Based on that sample, I'd say that the 西游记 might be a little harder than the 红楼梦 but they are in the same ballpark. I also read a sample chapter of the 水浒传 and if anything that seemed a bit easier than the 红楼梦 despite being several hundred years older.

I haven't dared tackle one of them yet

It wouldn't surprise me if you didn't find them any harder than 射雕英雄传, so I would really encourage you to do it if you are interested. I also seem to remember Carlo saying on another thread that he thought that the 水浒传 was comparable in difficulty to 金庸. I found the length of the 红楼梦 the hardest thing, but the 金庸 books are mostly the same length.

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jbradfor

While renzhe is being charitable to say that I "know" Chinese, he's basically right.

I guess I phrased my question wrong. Rather than asking how one can distinguish 文言文 from 白话 (e.g. look for 也 at the end), I was asking more about what are some of the defining characteristics of modern 文言文 compared to early 白话.

For example, you can take a 文言文 text, remove all the 也, and it's still a 文言文 text, albeit a bit weird. Similarly, one can take a 白话 text, remove all the 的地得, and it's still 白话.

When you write "the grammar is different", well, I understand that's correct, but it's not very helpful. Can you explain a bit how? Or maybe this is something I just need to read more and it will become obvious?

You can ask any Chinese middle school students or 5th graders

At least I know where my Chinese level is :P

The first couple of chapters [of 红楼梦] are definitely the hardest.

That's good to know. I read it in translation in undergrad, then bought the original in Taiwan. I started from the beginning and asked my roommate to explain it to me. 15 minutes and 2 sentences later, I gave up. Maybe I should pick it up again someday.

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renzhe
It wouldn't surprise me if you didn't find them any harder than 射雕英雄传, so I would really encourage you to do it if you are interested. I also seem to remember Carlo saying on another thread that he thought that the 水浒传 was comparable in difficulty to 金庸.

I've been planning to, but it will probably have to wait for next year -- it is mostly the length keeping me away. Probably 水浒传 to begin with. Nobody will take me seriously until I've finished a classic :P

I've found an excerpt online: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~dporter/sampler/shuihu.html (the complete text can be found at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/23863), and the language is quite easy indeed.

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