Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China

The Grand 文言文 Reading Project


Recommended Posts

Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

Some vocab items from the first session reading this text (feedback welcome!):


hán wéi

To rise from humble beginnings, be of lowly origins

出身微賤。(古文觀止 • 唐 • 駱賓王 • 為徐敬業討武曌檄)


huī dí

Fan made of long-tailed pheasant feathers, a symbol of the status of primary Empress (元后); > shorthand for that status.

(古文觀止 • 唐 • 駱賓王 • 為徐敬業討武曌檄)

Envy, be jealous of, hate


痛恨(古文觀止 • 唐 • 駱賓王 • 為徐敬業討武曌檄)


lín cháo

To control and administer the imperial court and government

指治理朝政(古文觀止 • 唐 • 駱賓王 • 為徐敬業討武曌檄)


To murder someone to whom one owes filial respect; regicide in the case of a minister, murder of a parent in the case of everyone else.

臣殺君,子殺父母曰弒。(古文觀止 • 唐 • 駱賓王 • 為徐敬業討武曌檄)

wěi (TW wèi)

Derogatory term for one who usurps the throne

對僭竊者的貶稱(古文觀止 • 唐 • 駱賓王 • 為徐敬業討武曌檄)


To show, appear, reveal, display (like 現)

通「現」,顯現。(古文觀止 • 唐 • 駱賓王 • 為徐敬業討武曌檄)


yǎnxiù gōngchán

be good at framing or slandering others (slandering hidden behind the sleeve)

掩袖佯差,善於進讒。(古文觀止 • 唐 • 駱賓王 • 為徐敬業討武曌檄)



F.E. wolfish; rapacious and ruthless


bāocáng huòxīn

V.O. harbor evil intentions

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I found the passage in simplified characters from Baidu and pasted it below.




  南连百越,北尽三河;铁骑成群,玉轴相接。海陵红粟,仓储之积靡穷;江浦黄旗, 匡复之功何远!班声动而北风起,剑气冲而南斗平。喑呜则山岳崩颓,叱吒则风云变色。 以此制敌,何敌不摧?以此图功,何功不克?

  公等或居汉地,或协周亲;或膺重寄于话言,或受顾命于宣室。言犹在耳,忠岂忘 心。一抔之土未干,六尺之孤何托?倘能转祸为福,送往事居,共立勤王之勋, 无废大君之命,凡诸爵赏,同指山河。若其眷恋穷城,徘徊歧路,坐昧先几之兆,必贻 后至之诛。请看今日之域中,竟是谁家之天下!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

An official call to arms to eradicate Empress Wu Zetian for the revival of the Tang dynasty. Before researching the title and the author,

I didn't even know what it was about and who the author was. Now I know and found it very interesting reading indeed. Good choice to start

off the Classical Chinese Reading Project.

A declaration of civil war / revolt / restoration of the Li family's Tang Dynasty?

Much harsher than merely an arrest warrant. They wanted to obliterate her. It was stated that even the gods(God) and all people abhorred her; heaven, and earth could not stand her. Wow, her crimes must have been really serious. Or did the plotters just wanted to find good excuses to get rid of her?

Sure she became corrupt with power, as Orwell proposes: "absolute power corrupts absolutely". But aren't most people who attain such high authority corrupt and in some ways forced to do "bad" things? In this light, Wu Zetian would have been no different from any other corrupt leader in China's history. It wasn't totally her fault that she was brought into the palace. She wasn't the one who had initially chose to do this. She had been chosen by court representatives. So it wasn't all fair that they dumped all the blame on her.

What do others think? Please continue the discussion...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, the official first text for the project is the 《蘭亭集序》 by 王羲之, though of course we can discuss the 駱賓王 here if people want. I put that text up as an example of the sort of thing we'll be reading, and because (as you pointed out) it's very interesting and will hopefully pique people's interest. It seems that a lot of 文言文 classes tend to consist of reading some pretty dry, esoteric material, so I think it's a good idea to try to stick with more colorful, interesting reading if we can.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, I think that was pretty successful today. We were a bit slow in the beginning but then picked up the pace and towards the end it all came together quite nicely, I think. I'd definitely encourage anyone reading along who's also in Taipei and who wasn't there today to join the reading group next week!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for coming by, Daan! Sorry I had to leave early, this move has made things a bit hectic.

It was a little slow at first, but partly because our group was twice the size it was last week (we had six people altogether), which was great. Thanks to Geoff for putting up a poster. If you're in Taipei and want to join us, we meet in front of the 博愛 Building at 師大 (that's the MTC building) on Wednesdays at 5.

Our text for next week is 《祭鱷魚文》 by 韓愈.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After reading Luo Binwang in class and in the study group, I got excited and drafted a vague and loose translation of sorts. Here it is - feedback and rotten tomatoes welcomed...

駱賓王 為徐敬業討武曌檄

Luo Binwang

Call to arms against Wu Zhao


That one called Wu who has usurped the running of court affairs, whose nature is not amiable, whose origins are humble indeed.


Formerly serving Taizong in the front palace, eventually entered his favour through assisting him in changing clothes.


Once [Taizong] had reached his dotage, [Wu] indulged in wanton behaviour in the Spring Palace [i.e., with the Crown Prince].


When the late emperor's personal staff went into seclusion, [Wu] secretly entertained plans [to enter] the walls of the rear palace [the private quarters].


Once inside the gates, [Wu's] envy became manifest; beauty does not yield to others. Using skill to entice, flatter and bias, [Wu] seduced the ruler [高宗 Gao Zong].


Trampling on the Principal Empress, [Wu] grasped the pheasant feather fan [a symbol of the status of Principal Empress], trapping our Emperor into sharing a woman [with his late father, thereby giving rise to accusations of incest].

加以虺蜴為心,豺狼成性。 近狎邪僻,殘害忠良;殺姊屠兄,弒君鴆母。

To this can be added [Wu's] serpent heart and ruthless nature, bringing dishonest people close while persecuting the loyal and virtuous, murdering sisters and slaughtering brothers, committing regicide and poisoning the mother of the nation.


This is something that gods and men hate, that heaven and earth cannot endure.


Still harbouring evil intentions, secretly eyeing the imperial throne; the Emperor's precious son is imprisoned in a distant palace; a bandit's alliance of crooked relations has been appointed to all the most important posts.


Alas! Huo Zi Meng cannot act; Zhu Xu Hou is no more.


[As with] Yan Zhuo Huang Sun, all knew the fortunes of the Han would soon fail; the Long Li Empress signalled the rapid decline of the Xia [*it seems that this latter should refer to the Western Zhou].


[Xü] Jing Ye has long served the Great Tang, and is the eldest son of a duke.


Accepting the task of continuing the late emperor's great work, he bears resposibility to uphold the benevolence of the imperial court.


Song Wei Zi's lament is truly moving [*良:的確, but 以??*]; can the tears of Yuan Jun Shen have fallen in vain?

[song Wei Zi was apparently the elder brother of the last Shang emperor, and had to watch the decline of his dynasty from the sidelines; Yuan Jun Shen I'm not too sure about]


Therefore, as all righteous people are filled with righteous fury, resolved to pacify the nation [symbolized by 社稷], according to the grievance felt by all under heaven, following the outpouring of confidences among all under heaven, the banner of righteouness is borne aloft to remove all traces of the evildoer.


The south is joined even to the three rivers of the north.


The valiant knights are so numerous that the jade hubs of their chariots are linked as one.


The grainstores of Hailing [so full that they can let it] rot hold bottomless [provisions]; yellow banners [symbolizing righteousness] [flutter] on the riverbanks, how can the rescue of the nation be far away?


The neighing of the warhorses brings the north wind; the [brightness] of the clashing blades equals Sagittarius.


[such] rage [(?) 喑嗚 , note 46 explains 懷怒氣] would topple mountains; [such a powerful] rebuke would change the very cloud and wind.


What enemy can face such power unbroken? [Worked with] such design, what successes cannot be achieved?


Noble lords, those residing on the Han lands [i.e., those of many families enfeoffed for service], those like the kin of Zhou [i.e., those who are of the imperial family], those who accepted the orders of the late emperor, and those who follow the will of the late emperor's true executors.


The words still ring in your ears, how can a heart forget this loyalty?


The 'handful of earth' [i.e., the emperor's grave] has not yet dried, how can a six-chi [i.e., not yet fully grown] orphan shoulder this burden?


If sorrow can be turned to triumph, the dead honoured and the living supported; [if] together we serve the throne rather than discarding our great lord's decree; then all shall be awarded, together indicating the mountains and rivers [referring to swearing fealty when accepting rank and position from the emperor].


If you yearn for your mean city [i.e., feel too attached to your current fief], and hesitate at the crossroads, sitting


Please, look at our country now, to which family will our world belong?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

I don't have a text selection yet for this week, because I'm not sure what level the new group members will be at. I'm up for doing something just here in this forum though, if anyone has a suggestion.

I'd also like to hear more suggestions for texts to read. It may very well be that most of the group members this fall are complete beginners in 文言文, in which case it may turn into more of an intro class than a study group, at least for the first several meetings. If that happens, I plan to continue with the Grand Old Project here, but I may also make separate threads for the more basic stuff we cover. Either way, I'm interested in hearing suggestions. A few I had in mind, mostly because they're in both 古文觀止 and the high school reader I have called 《文言文40篇大探索》:










Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...