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renzhe

Project for 2011: 水浒传

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renzhe

Hah!

I was going to report when I was half-way through -- which should take me another week or two -- but you stole my thunder :) Yeah, I'm still plowing through it. Choo-choo!

I still think that this is the most interesting classic for me to read, and I'm enjoying it very much. 三国 would be my next choice too, but whoah, I'll need to finish this first, and then I'll need a loooong break...

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ZhangKaiRong

Man, you're really awesome! I just started to read 水浒传, but I'm reading the 少儿彩图版. I read the first two chapters, but I think even this children's edition is hard as hell, every sentence has 3 or 4 成语, and they're not the easy ones. Man, after the first chapter I was pissed like hell. But your project motivates me, so I also try to finish the children's edition :)

How is your progress now?

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renzhe

It's slow, but I don't want to look for excuses. I guess it was a bad idea to start this right before the busiest part of my life. I'll finish it this year, in any case. The problem is that I can't do this 15 minutes at a time, I really need 2-3 hours per sitting to make sense of it.

Go for it, the book is awesome. The further I get, the better it becomes.

Actually, the awesome one is rob07. He started learning Chinese long after me, and he's finished two classics already!

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roddy

Renzhe, you've maybe posted this elsewhere (Aims and objectives) but I thought we might all like to hear how this went...

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Pingfa
I'm sixteen chapters into this. I already read through the English translation twice years ago so the characters and story aren't new to me. Easily my favourite of the four classics (I've read all but 红楼梦 in English, which I read about a third into and then got bored with).

 

I've also read a few chapters into 西游记 and 三国演义. I can tell you 三国演义 is much heavier on the 文言文 than 水浒传, but there are less poems and they are easier to understand than 水浒传 (I don't recall having much trouble with the poems in 三国, whereas the poems in 水浒传 are largely lost on me).

 

I've been told that 西游记 is the easiest of the classics and is usually the first Chinese people read. I recall it starts off hard, though, and can be heavy on the prose - there's a long chapter or two that has a fisherman and a woodcutter sharing poems throughout the whole chapter; I stopped reading at that point.

 

Anyhow, I'm reading this more casually than Renzhe as I'm not bothering to decipher the poems - sorry, you're on your own there. ;-) This book was actually one of the reasons I wanted to learn Chinese, along with 三国 (even though I find 三国 rather boring before 诸葛亮 comes into it). I hope Li Kui comes into it within the next few chapters, he's the most memorable character for me, he's even crazier than Lu Da. =-p

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roddy

Where would you like the champagne sent? 

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renzhe

To somebody who slacks less.

You pressed the wrong button, btw. It should have been the red one :)

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roddy

Yeah, I just upvote your posts before reading them. Or instead of reading them, sometimes. 

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imron
imron was right

:mrgreen:

 

it will not improve your Chinese one bit.

I disagree with this.  I'm sure your Chinese improved at least one bit - if only by dint of the fact that you now have an understanding of an important cultural work and are familiar with names and stories that many Chinese will know.

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Lu

Chugging away at one too-difficult project for four years is something like the opposite of slacking. Congratulations on finishing it! I have a copy somewhere but will take your advice and find an annotated (or translated) version instead.

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renzhe

The last thing I want is to discourage people from reading it! It is an insanely rewarding experience, and despite being quite a gruelling task, I've been beaming ever since finishing it. It's a 1000 page behemoth written in 500 year old Chinese vernacular, and finishing it feels awesome. Like imron says, I can now put a face to Lin Chong, Wu Song, Lu Zhishen and others, and that's priceless.

I should have been a bit more realistic when starting, that's all. Reading 5000 pages of regular Chinese over 2 years would have put me in a much better position to tackle this, as would an annotated version and a good time plan. Doing it while learning a completely different language, like I did, is not a good plan. Taking years to finish a book simply means that I didn't go about doing it in the best way. My Chinese level was basically not good enough for this -- I could read it, but with too much effort, making the whole process longer than it should be. Your Chinese is (considerably) better than mine, so with some extra reading (including old-fashioned prose like Jin Yong), you should be better prepared for it than I was.

I won't tackle another classic before reading at least 5000 pages of easier stuff and having a firm grasp of at least 4000 characters.

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Lu

I may or may not have better Chinese, but you certainly have more patience. I wouldn't want to spend four years on a book. Four months is already a bit too long.

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renzhe

Stubbornness is more like it.

Rob7 finished Three Kingdoms in about a month, IIRC. So it's doable, as long as your Chinese is up to it and you approach it seriously.

EDIT: Three months, not one month, my mistake.

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laurenth

renzhe, what a feat. As I wrote in some other thread, reading a (French) translation of 水浒传 was what finally convinced me to start the whole Chinese adventure. And even reading it in my own language took quite some time. Seeing how you managed to read the original version, the whole 1000 pages of it, is very inspiring. I have two abridged versions on my shelf. Last time I tried, even *that* was too hard. But now, I want to emulate your stubborness (starting with the abridged versions, of course).

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renzhe

Don't rush it. Make sure you are really comfortable reading easier stuff. Finish some Jin Yong novels first.

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tooironic

What an incredible effort Renzhe, and thanks for posting that interesting and very useful write-up. If you are ever inspired to write more about your experiences reading the novel, please don't hesitate to post them. You are probably among a mere handful of non-native speakers who have read the text in the original Chinese.

 

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anonymoose

Now that you've had so much exposure to old Chinese, do you find any of this has rubbed off on your Chinese and end up using weird vocabulary or sentence constructions in your speaking?

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