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renzhe

Project for 2011: 水浒传

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renzhe

水浒传 (also known as "Water Margin" or "Outlaws of the Marsh") is one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature. I'm going to read it in 2011 and I'm looking for people to join me.

It is said that you haven't really learned Chinese until you've read at least one of the great classics. Well, I have the 120 chapter version here and I'm going to read it. We've had projects which covered books, short stories, TV series, comics and movies, but I don't think that we've ever really tackled one of these beasts. This will not be something most of us can finish in a month, so it's not technically a "Book of the Month", though the idea is the same.

Some reasons for reading 水浒传:

- it's a classic.

- it is a story about 108 outlaws, so there's lots of action.

- it's considered to be one of the early precursors of the wuxia genre, but it's not magical like 西游记.

- it is a classic.

- I might be wrong, but I have the feeling that it is less commonly read than the other three, especially 红楼梦, so chances are that most of us haven't read the original.

- your credibility with native speakers will skyrocket.

This won't be easy, and it shouldn't be your first book. The language is not much harder than Jin Yong, but it's 500 years old, and there's more than a 1000 pages of it. Still, we have quite a few posters here who can manage to get through it comfortably. Upper intermediate and advanced people with a few thousand pages of reading behind them can probably survive the ordeal without lasting damage.

Since this is one of the most important Chinese books in history, it would also make sense to have beginners read one of the translations and join the project in this way. Here we have several really good options, including Sidney Shapiro's "Outlaws of the Marsh", Pearl Buck's "All Men are Brothers", and Alex and John Dent-Young "The Marshes of Mount Liang". However, I think that the focus should be on the original.

So, that's my idea. I was hoping to start sometime in late January or early February, which means that there's plenty of time to get your hands on a copy (you don't want to read this online). Is anybody interested, or should I fight my way through this alone? I know rob07 worked his way through 红楼梦, which is similar in scope and difficulty. Perhaps it's time for the next one? :)

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imron

It sounds like an interesting project, but I'm probably going to give reading along a miss. At the moment my aim is to read a ton of modern literature to help build up vocab and language sense before starting on any of the classics. I might change my mind if things look interesting or if there's a lot of active participation, but I've also already lined up most of my reading material for next year and don't want to have those books just sitting idle on the shelf (it's great motivation to see the pile of unread books shrinking :))

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roddy

Wow, big project. I like it.

Also, there will be TV and audio versions as well, I imagine - probably multiple versions. Might be another form of support for anyone who needs it.

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gato

Good idea.

I highly recommend the fully annotated version of 水浒传 published by 中国少年儿童出版社. The complete text is included and is much more extensively annotated than almost any other version because it's intended for young readers.

http://product.dangdang.com/product.aspx?product_id=9258632

水浒传(全本注释版)(全四册)

作  者:迟赵俄,余以德 校注整理

出 版 社:中国少年儿童出版社

There is also an audio 评书 version of 水浒 available for download on verycd. 评书, as you might know, are oral version of stories adapted from books, since in the old days many people were illiterate and could not read books themselves. The storytellers are not reading the books verbatim but are adding a good deal of embellishments and personality of their own. Many of the storytellers become famous in their own right. 评书 are still popular on the radio in China, particularly in the north.

http://www.verycd.com/topics/40863/

《评书: 水浒全传》(单田芳)全360回

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aristotle1990

It's pretty damn hard, even for Chinese people. Try your luck with chapter one here.

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rob07

Great project.

My first contact with Chinese culture was when a friend lent me a copy of Sidney Shapiro's "Outlaws of the Marsh" (a great read). What I found the most fascinating was how the "good" characters in the book sing songs about how much they like killing innocent people for fun. Nevertheless, the good characters are presented as highly moral people, it is just that they are members of a brotherhood of warriors and the code of morality they live by only recognises real moral obligations to other warriors. So if you can manipulate someone to your advantage by murdering a young child, murdering the young child is not only nothing to feel guilty about, it is the correct moral choice according to the moral code pushed by the book. The book also takes mysogyny to an extreme that can be very funny, probably unintentionally. Real men aren't interested in women, apparently.

As I've already read a translation, I don't see myself reading the whole thing, but I would be interested in the discussion and may read the odd chapter here and there.

Also, there will be TV and audio versions as well, I imagine - probably multiple versions.

They are just doing a big budget new version with Jackie Chan as Wu Song.

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gato
It's pretty damn hard, even for Chinese people.

That's true. 红楼梦 would be an easier read, being almost 400 years more recent than 水浒. 红楼梦 was written in the 18th century, whereas 水浒传 was in the 14th.

See here, for example:

http://lz.book.sohu.com/chapter-314-110624510.html

第三回 贾雨村夤缘复旧职林黛玉抛父进京都

作者:曹雪芹

 黛玉方进入房时,只见两个人搀着一位鬓发如银的老母迎上来,黛玉便知是他外祖母.方欲拜见时,早被他外祖母一把搂入怀中,心肝儿肉叫着大哭起来.当下地下侍立之人,无不掩面涕泣,黛玉也哭个不住.一时众人慢慢解劝住了,黛玉方拜见了外祖母. ____此即冷子兴所云之史氏太君,贾赦贾政之母也.当下贾母一一指与黛玉:"这是你大舅母, 这是你二舅母,这是你先珠大哥的媳妇珠大嫂子."黛玉一一拜见过.贾母又说: "请姑娘们来.今日远客才来,可以不必上学去了."众人答应了一声,便去了两个.

  不一时,只见三个奶嬷嬷并五六个丫鬟,簇拥着三个姊妹来了.第一个肌肤微丰, 合中身材, 腮凝新荔,鼻腻鹅脂,温柔沉默,观之可亲.第二个削肩细腰,长挑身材,鸭蛋脸面, 俊眼修眉,顾盼神飞,文彩精华,见之忘俗.第三个身量未足,形容尚小.其钗环裙袄, 三人皆是一样的妆饰.黛玉忙起身迎上来见礼,互相厮认过,大家归了坐.丫鬟们斟上茶来.不过说些黛玉之母如何得病,如何请医服药,如何送死发丧.不免贾母又伤感起来,因说:"我这些儿女,所疼者独有你母,今日一旦先舍我而去,连面也不能一见,今见了你,我怎不伤心!"说着,搂了黛玉在怀,又呜咽起来.众人忙都宽慰解释, 方略略止住.

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roddy

Come on folks, he knows it's difficult and he's said so - he's looking for people to read it with him, not tell him he should do something else instead.

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feihong

Renzhe, you are Chinese-learning beast.

佩服,佩服。

Sadly, I don't think I'm quite ready for this. And the comic book versions of 水浒传 don't seem very faithful to the original text, to say nothing of the video games. I do have an abridged kids version, though, so maybe I'll crack that open.

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rob07

I don't think 水浒传 should be at all difficult for an educated Chinese person. I've read a couple of chapters and skimmed a couple more and I agree with Renzhe that the language is not much harder than Jin Yong.

I also don't think that 水浒传 is harder than 红楼梦. Both are written in baihua and the few hundred years between 水浒传 and 红楼梦 as well as between 红楼梦 and the present day make surprisingly little difference. You can see from the 红楼梦 extract quoted by gato that it is basically modern Chinese despite being written hundreds of years ago; similarly, the language between 水浒传 and 红楼梦 is pretty much the same despite the time gap. The storylines in 水浒传 are generally very straightforward (aa hits bb), unlike 红楼梦 where there is a lot of poetry, allusions, wordplay, complicated customs etc.

The hardest thing, for a Chinese person or Western learner, is finding the time and motivation to read something over 1000 pages long.

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renzhe

Wow, I was expecting zero answers, and we actually have a party here! I do appreciate all the comments.

This is not going to be a walk in the park, and I'm quite aware of this. I was also expecting many people to pass because of the difficulty, and that's OK. Imron told me in a PM that he'd like to build up some more reading first, and that might very well be a more sound strategy (his reading is leaps and bounds ahead of mine anyway). On the other hand, jumping head-first into something that's hard has worked for me in the past (with Jin Yong in particular), so I'm hoping that this will push me forward after I get to grips with it. I've been reading short stories and comics throughout 2010, and I feel like it's time to tackle something longer again. And, like rob07 said, it's not THAT hard. Any of the advanced regular posters here can get through it.

In any case, I have my copy, and it's a shame to let it sit on my shelf, so I'll be reading it. So, anyone wishing to join me? :)

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Yezze

I actually started reading this a few weeks ago, in English ofc, since I've only studied 4 years of high school Chinese (in my fourth year of class now, high school senior). I would be more than willing "read it with you guys", but I will have to read the English translation.

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Lu

Oh wow, I want to join that... and renzhe is right that I probably can read it, Jin Yong is just within my reach so it's possible... but it'll take an amount of time and dedication that I don't think I'll be able to muster up for long enough. (I only managed some 100 pages of Jin Yong when I was riding the Transsiberian and had so much time to spare that there was at some point just nothing else to do, and then you don't need that much dedication.) I'm afraid I'll have to pass. But let us know if it really is not that much harder than Jin Yong, and perhaps I'll try in the future. I know the Honglou Meng is a whole lot harder, and I don't think I'll manage to read that in this lifetime.

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rob07
but it'll take an amount of time and dedication that I don't think I'll be able to muster up for long enough

The book explains the history of each of the 108 heroes before they join the band on Mt. Liangshan. The length of each of these stories range from about half a page to several chapters. Each of these stories can be read and enjoyed separately, so this is a book that is very easy to read bits of without committing to the whole thing.

The most famous of these background stories is the story of 武松, which has its own spin-off long novel, the notorious 金瓶梅, sometimes viewed as the fifth great classical novel.

There's a lot of good stuff on wikipedia for this book (see Renzhe's link), notably a complete ranking list of each of the 108 heroes, which I hadn't seen elsewhere. There's a lot of scope for discussion there. I'm not sure how definitive it is (no source is given), there are a couple of things that seem debatable.

The author of 水浒传 is 施耐庵 and it is thought that this may be a pseudonym for 罗贯中 who also wrote Romance of the Three Kingdoms/三国演义. That would make for a pretty impressive CV - having written half of the four great classic novels! 罗贯中 seems to have at least edited 水浒传. Wikipedia points out that 施耐庵 may be a pun on 是乃俺 - it is still me!

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roddy

Renzhe, whether or not you get people reading along with you, I'd absolutely love to see regular updates on your progress (or stalling).

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wushijiao

I think I'd like to take part in this project, but I'll probably get started later in February or so.

Congrats Renzhe on this idea!

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anonymoose

Not much harder than Jin Yong, eh?

Here's the second paragraph of Shui Hu Zhuan from the link that aristotle provided:

祥云迷凤阁,瑞气罩龙楼。含烟御柳拂旌旗,带露宫花迎剑戟。天香影里,玉簪朱履聚丹墀;仙乐声中,绣袄锦衣扶御驾。珍珠帘卷,黄金殿上现金轝,凤羽扇开,白玉阶前停宝辇。隐隐净鞭三下响,层层文武两班齐。

Now if anyone knows what 簪, 墀, 轝 and 辇 are without looking them up, then you've got my respect.

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wushijiao

With those crazy ancient characters in mind, when I read 三国, I was very impressed by this version and publisher: 新课标语文必读书: 三国演义,长春出版社. They also have a 水浒传, which should annotate a lot of those old characters by giving pinyin, or vocabulary-wise, giving modern Chinese equivalents...all without being too intrusive.

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Daan

I've actually read one of the chapters of the 水滸傳 and found it quite enjoyable. I can't promise I'll read all the chapters of the book, as I simply won't have the time, but if you post updates every now and then I will hopefully be able to join you for a few chapters!

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renzhe
Not much harder than Jin Yong, eh?

Hehe, I remember when imron posted some impossible Jin Yong passage, also from the very beginning of one of his novels. It completely stumped me, but most of 射雕 was relatively easy to understand once I got through the first book.

Aristotle's link does not make it clear, but the part you quoted is a poetic description, typeset cursive in the printed version, and those are notoriously difficult to understand. Most of the prose is considerably easier (try the third paragraph). The same goes for Jin Yong. I didn't understand all poems in 射雕 either, but the prose was OK once I got used to the vocabulary.

Welcome to the club, wushijiao and Daan! :clap The starting time is flexible, I still have a thesis to hand in in January.

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