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DrWatson

(NPPLC) Chapter #1 - A Few Proverbs

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DrWatson

Ground rules:

  • To prevent much confusion and a messy web forum, try to keep discussion related to the material in the chapter; it is fine to refer backward to other lessons for examples of usage or for further explanation, but let's not get into other lesson content
  • Anything not related to material in the book (but still literary/classical Chinese) can be posted as a general question in the Classical Chinese subforum. There may be very knowledgeable people in the forum who do not participate in the study group but may be able to help understand general literary/classical Chinese.
  • I am a "newb" to literary Chinese, as I suspect are some others in this study group, so don't be afraid to ask a question!
  • While most members also probably study the modern language, let's be welcoming to learner's who are primarily interesting in the literary/classical aspects and are not so concerned with the modern language.

Suggestions for discussion:

  • Questions about the lesson text: meaning, translation, vocabulary, etc.
  • Grammatical structures
  • Textbook English -> 文言文 exercises -- do you have a better way of expressing language than the textbook suggests? Do you disagree with the provided solution?
  • Relevant background information on the subject of the lesson
  • Interesting cultural or historical anecdotes
  • Correlation to Modern written and/or spoken Chinese
  • Warnings about possible errors in the text (e.g. mistranslations, incorrect usage, etc.)
  • Web links or print resources for more information on the lesson topics or original source
  • ...

Look forward to learning with you all!

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navaburo

The grammar and vocabulary was pretty clear for me in this first lesson, so I'm focusing on interpretation. The second and third proverbs are clear enough, but the first's meaning eludes me.

What does it mean to 知命? Or to 怨天?知己 is clear but 怨人 is again vague.

I wont even guess at interpretation. I read the few translations from the previous thread, but the meaning still escapes me. I think an understanding of the concepts of 命 and 怨 is key...

Can anyone help?

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xuexiansheng

Glad to get this study group started!

@navaburo

I think 怨 is best translated as 'to resent'. I liked Rouzer's explanation in the note on the character "怨 usually describes the bitterness, sadness and anger that result from being treated unfairly." So 怨天 would be 'to resent Heaven'.

This is how I think about the the 1st three characters 知 'to know' and 命 'fate' = 'to know fate'. Then we add the 者 '...kind (of people)' to give 'to know fate kind (of people)' or as Rouzer translates it better "One who knows his fate". Same thing for 知己 'to know oneself' + 者 = 'to know oneself kind (of people)' or as Rouzer better translates "one who knows himself"

From the answer key Rouzer (page 365) translates it like this:

One who knows his fate does not resent Heaven; one who knows himself does not resent others.

Note: The contrast between 已 and 人: 人 should not be interpreted simply as "people"

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DrWatson
What does it mean to 知命?

According to my Far East Dictionary, 命 has several meanings in English. The first--which I am familiar with from Japanese as "inochi"--means "life", and is quite common in modern language as meaning "life". For example (Japanese), 命を守る, or "to protect life." Unfortunately, I'm not sure if this is the same in modern Chinese. The translation "One who knows life does not resent the heavens" does actually make sense somewhat, but it doesn't quite feel right...

The second meaning was listed as "fate". To me, "knows fate" or "know (one's) fate" in the context of "resenting the heavens" fit much more contextually. I was also tipped by 天, or "the heavens", in the text. Fate seems to be a concept that extended all over the ancient world and in classical works such as old proverb books. Thus, "One who knows (his) fate does not resent the heavens" makes more sense to me.

Does any of that even make sense? I hope that I was addressing your question by describing my thinking process for translating the text. Of course, as a non-native Chinese speaker saying that something translated to English "sounds" correct is probably borderline insanity...

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orpheus22

Picking up DrWatson's comment about the classical concept of fate, I agree that it is the best translation. "Fate" in English derives from the Latin "fatum," a substantive formed from the verb "for, fari, fatus sum," which means something like "speak/tell" in English. "fatum," or "fate" is then "that which is said or decreed." This older meaning that still determines the sense of the English word fate is somewhat closer to "command," Rouzer's first definition, than "life," his second; I think both of the two senses can be captured by "fate" though, if one considers that which is decreed or said to be just the extent of one's life. In this way, the equivocation between the two meanings may be resolved into the difference between the act of speaking and that which is said or spoken of.

In other ancient languages I have studied, word order is not as important for sense but it is crucial as a matter of style, so that what comes first in a sentence is that which receives emphasis or bears greatest significance. What do you think of trying to capture the word order of this first text in this way?

"Knowing his fate, he doesn't resent the heavens; knowing himself, he doesn't resent others."

I feel like this is somewhat different in English than "he who knows his fate doesn't resent the heavens..."--in this second rendering the stress is placed upon the lack of resentment; in the first, the stress is placed upon the knowledge or recognition of fate, oneself. Does anyone have a sense that one translation is more true to the ancient text? As a non-native, I suspect I cannot appreciate these finer points of translation.

My knowledge of Mandarin is quite limited. How am I to understand the lack of a tone on 命, "ming"? I remember there being a neutral, fifth tone in Mandarin, but I recall it having only a very limited use. Am I mistaken in this?

I found the second text, from 怨人 onward a little tricky. Having run it by the answer key (thanks to xuexiansheng for pointing this out!) I realized that what I was missing was the conjunction between the two objects, ear and eye. Any help with the syntax here? Should I be prepared to jettison my Western dependence upon conjunctions (anyone who has studied ancient Greek will know what I mean)?

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xuexiansheng

@orpheus22

My knowledge of Mandarin is quite limited. How am I to understand the lack of a tone on 命, "ming"? I remember there being a neutral, fifth tone in Mandarin, but I recall it having only a very limited use. Am I mistaken in this?

I think it's a typo. It's listed properly as a 4th tone in the glossary.

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navaburo

@xuexiansheng:

Thanks for the correction. Perhaps we could keep track of these sort of errata and communicate them to the author at the end of the course.

@DrWatson:

I don't think anyone is a native-speaker of classical Chinese :). Sure, being a native speaker of modern Chinese will get you a head-start, but you will still need glosses for classical-only senses of words (e.g. 是 and 之, which can supposedly be pronouns in classical...). Perhaps we are even at an advantage coming to classical from the outside.

@orpheus22:

I appreciate your comparisons with Latin; keep them coming!

Also, regarding 耳目: No, you are not missing a conjunction here. 耳目 is one of the many two-character nouns that fall into the class of so-called "collective nouns", formed by juxtaposing two single-character nouns of some class to signify the whole class from which the components are drawn. So, 耳 and 目 both being sense organs, we can guess that 耳目 means "the sense organs" or just "the senses". Compare other (modern) examples: 父母 (father + mother = parents), 飯菜 (cooked rice + vegetable dishes = cooked food in general), and many others. (These are in contrast to the more common modifier-head type compounds such as 木耳 (tree ears, a type of edible fungus that grows on trees in the form of ears).)

Perhaps the broad meaning of 命 can also be understood by looking at the collective nouns (or verbs) it takes part in. Compare the following modern usages:

命令 (fate + command = order/command) as in 我命令你們服從他,就像你們服從我一樣。 (I command you to follow him, just as you followed me.)

性命 (character + fate = one's life) as in 你救了我的性命。(You saved my life.)

生命 (life + fate = life in more biological sense) as in 生命的東西 (living things), or in the more literary 生命不息,戰鬥不止。(So long as I have a breath of life in me, I will not stop fighting.)

要命 (need + fate = perilous) as in 快跑,我們必須跑出這個要命的花叢。(Run quickly! We must escape this perilous flower patch!)

Sure, these are modern usages (culled from 綠野仙蹤), but I suspect that they hint at the many shades of meaning of the classical 命 that we may run into in our 文言文 readings.

Cheers!

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skylee
What does it mean to 知命?

I don't know what NPPLC Chapter #1 is. But when you reach the age of 50, you are supposed to be able to 知命. I am getting there. :) This is probably not what you guys are discussing though.

Ciao. :P

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DrWatson

These proverbs in the early part of the book appear to come from 《說苑校證》according to the author. I have not had much luck tracking down an online version through Google Taiwan, perhaps it is still under copyright. Or perhaps I just haven't look hard enough. Anyone know anything about this source though? I wonder are these proverbs based on Confucian learning? Do they pre-date Confucianism? I am just curious as to the origin.

In the USA, if anyone has access to Stanford University Library, it appears they have the book. It appears that Princeton, Penn, Pitt, Rutgers, and UNC Chapel Hill all have a copy as well. Library of Congress has it too apparently, quite a hassle for me to get over there, but I may make a day trip out of it at some point.

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DrWatson
I don't know what NPPLC Chapter #1 is.

Please kindly see this thread.

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OneEye
《說苑校證》

That sounds like it's just an authoritative or scholarly edition of the book, which is just called 說苑. You can find the whole text here, and the 知命者 line in context here.

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Mr B

I know this thread is a little dated, but I am hoping the more experienced members, who, having completed NPPLC, will decide to help a willing student through the minefield of classical Chinese!


 


I have completed Unit 1, done the questions and practice exercises, checked my answers, and had a couple of questions regarding the practice exercises.


 


For the last set of practice exercises (p.10), I gave the following answers:


 


1. 耳目以禍報不知。


2. 善者以心生德。


3. 知己者以自禁命天。


 


The answers given in the answer key are as follows:


 


1. 耳目報不知以禍。


2. 德生於善人以心。


3. 知己者命天以自禁。


 


The answers I have given have a somewhat different syntax, and I am wondering if my 'mistakes' are acceptable alternatives or whether they would simply be considered errors, pure and simple. 


 


Any educated opinions appreciated!

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xuexiansheng

I'm not an expert, but I'll venture an educated guess.

 

Those sentences should be correct, but I think the point Rouzer was trying to make in the exercise was the emphasis that putting the object in the last position by using 以 will create.

 

So, he asked for a translation into classical of: It is with disaster that [our] eyes and ears repay ignorance. 耳目報不知以禍。

 

Your sentence: 耳目以禍報不知. Might read something like: Our eyes and ears repay with disaster (their) ignorance(or the ignorant). I feel like it needs an implied receiver like in the sentence above 自禁者以德導欲。The person who restrains herself leads her desires with virtue.

 

But, I'd wait for the experts/native speakers to weigh in on this one. Good luck!  Great book, eh?

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Mr B

Thanks. I've reread the explanatory notes and I think your take is correct in that the emphasis is what differs. I will try to take that on board and study accordingly.

 

It is indeed a great book!

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xuexiansheng

Please keep contributing to the older post, I was hoping that as we were creating them with the original group 2+yrs ago that other will find these post and keep bringing up topics questions.

 

I still consult that book on a fairly regular basis using it as a 'classical usage only' dictionary. The explanations and definitions are excellent.

 

Now we just need to summon user OneEye to make a final call on our grammar question.  PAGING ONEEYE!  

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OneEye

I'm afraid I won't be much help on this one (and I really hope I wasn't the "expert" you referred to earlier!). They both seem fine to me, and in fact I might have also written 以禍報不知, because it seems more "normal" to me.

 

Then again, classical Chinese grammar isn't really my strong suit. I can read the stuff reasonably well, but haven't studied the grammar in any real way. It's one of those things I keep meaning to do (I even have about 8 books or so on the subject) but haven't gotten around to yet.

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somethingfunny

For the translation of 德生於善人以心 I used the, again, slightly different syntax of 善人生德以心. I guess this would give something like "Good people create/produce virtue from their heart".  I'm not a big grammar person so the shift in emphasis between the two is slightly lost on me, but I'm assuming my translation is at least, technically, correct.  Am I writing in assuming my translation no longer needs the 于 preposition?  I guess 以 is acting as a preposition in this case?

 

Another question I have is concerning the 为善人天报以德.  Is it right to see 为善人 as the subject of this sentence, rather than 善人?It's just a little confusing if I have the subject 为善人 followed immediately by the object 天.

 

My grammar isn't very good so I might have misused some terms.  Also, I'm viewing this entirely in the context of modern mandarin, which the book advises against, but I'm doing it anyway.

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xuexiansheng

@somethingfunny There are some things that when I look at them with Modern Mandarin in mind and they work just fine. There are other things that will throw me for a loop, until I remember to use the classical grammar. If you are interested, I recommend Fuller's An Introduction to Literary Chinese. I'm not much of a grammar guy (I use grammar books to put me to sleep at night :P ) But, when I do read it it does help cement some of those distinctions between Modern and Classical Chinese. I don't have any useful insights on your other questions, but I'm following along with your posts and am glad someone is using our old forum posts on Fuller's books. Keep up the good work! 加油!

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somethingfunny

Xuexiansheng, I actually bought both the Rouzer and Fuller books at the same time and started with the Fuller (it was smaller, and easier to handle) but found the grammar/linguistic discussion at the start a bit heavy going so decided to work through the more "user-friendly" Rouzer first and then go back to the Fuller.  I figure the best way to really learn this stuff is to go over it multiple times from different angles anyway. 

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