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(NPPLC) Chapter #5 - Master Zeng Refuses a City


DrWatson

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This thread is for the discussion of chapter five in A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese by Paul Rouzer.

Please keep in mind the ground rules posted in the first lesson's thread.

For general discussion and a schedule for the study group, please see the proposal thread.

--

Apologies for my absence the last two lessons. I was traveling for work with limited access to the Internet. I did bring my book along and read the two lessons, however. As time permits I shall go back and participate in the other threads!

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Meng Lelan

I think I will follow this thread as the Gateway to Chinese Classics by Faurot is not much help to me. Thanks for the link to the Rouzer text, I was not aware of it.

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I have a few interpretation comments/questions on this text:

  1. When 魯君 says 請以此修衣, what does the 以此 mean? Rouzer translates "Please use this to mend your clothing." Does he mean use the income provided by the 邑 to mend his clothes? Maybe this would make more sense in the greater context. (Could be fun to go back, after finishing Rouzer, to read the texts from which the excerpts come.)
  2. I like how this short texts employs honorific, humble, and plain forms of 'to give'. When I first read the explanation for 賜 I thought Rouzer had things backwards, but now I see how 魯君 and 曾子 are both speaking of the other as superior to themselves.
  3. I'm shocked at the terseness of the sentence:反,復往,又不受. The first two verbs 反 and 往 have the messenger as their subject, while the third 受 has Zengzi as the subject. The Classical writer has great confidence in the reader: that they will disambiguate the subject even several sentences back! My high-school english teacher (who marked me down for "ambiguous use of pronouns") would be aghast at these long-range null pronouns.

I'm still finishing up the last English->Chinese exercise set. I'll be back after that.

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@navaburo:

Re #3:

I am agreement with you, the mixing of the subjects in that one sentence leaves me baffled. Without a guide like Rouzer helping me through these texts, I no doubt would throw my hands up in frustration and run back to modern Chinese

On the other hand, I am starting to appreciate how much freedom the author has. Perhaps at the time of the actual writing of the text, this was a perfectly normal way to record this. I am noticing in general that classical Chinese seems to be very terse, and for a modern reader there would appear to be many ways to interpret this. But I understand we are not afforded such freedom.

I once was reading some poems by Du Fu, and after reading a particular poem, I though about and reflected on the poem as I would have any poem in anglophone literature. Upon explaining my thoughts to a Chinese native speaker with a background in Chinese poetry, I was quickly chastised and told what meaning should be taken away from the text. There was no "wiggle" room for interpretation or re-analysis.

I have always wondered if learning Classical chinese is like learning to play classical music or learn a martial art. Perhaps it is an endeavor that requires a teacher to guide one through?

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@DrWatson:

Upon explaining my thoughts to a Chinese native speaker with a background in Chinese poetry, I was quickly chastised and told what meaning should be taken away from the text. There was no "wiggle" room for interpretation or re-analysis.

My take is: insofar as the text is a medium for communication, there is no wiggle-room for interpretation: the writer had a single meaning in mind which he was trying to convey to the reader. He may use more or less specific language, but that doesn't change the fact that there is a true meaning. To interpret differently than the writer intended is to misunderstand.

However, insofar as the text is high art, it's all about interpretation. Noone's opinion is any better than anyone elses. At most, there may be a mainstream opinion, which is what your native speaker must have been referring to. But there's nothing wrong with breaking from tradition, at least where I come from. :)

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  • 1 month later...
xuexiansheng

My class is over, so I went back and looked at these lessons in more detail. I know I'm going to have a time with the the grammar point '5.4 Double object constructions'. This still cripples me when reading modern texts!

I really liked Rouzer's explanation of 非. I feel like we've been working with this in my 文言文 class, but never understood that it negated the whole concept it refers to. (Rouzer p. 50)

我不去我父。 I am not abandoning my father.

我非去我父。 It's not that I'm abandoning my father....

@navaburo

#1 (This is a few weeks past and you probably figured it out) I think he is saying 以此修衣 “use this (the income from the gift of the town) to repair your clothes."

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  • 2 years later...
somethingfunny

I have to say this was a pretty tricky lesson.  I didn't really enjoy any of the different ways of saying give something to someone, especially when using a pronoun.  In fact, in the exercise where it says give two ways, but the third one is wrong, I immediately wrote down the wrong one.  Let me go through each practice in turn and then the text from the lesson:

 

Practice 1 (使) This seems to be largely the same as in modern Chinese and didn't cause too much trouble.

 

Practice 2 (非) I didn't really find this to be very clear.  In particular I found the translations provided to be a little strange: "It's not that I don't love my state, but I am unable to value the Lord's plans" doesn't really make a lot of sense to me.  I think it would be better phrased as "It's not that I don't love my state, I am just unable to value the Lord's plans", but I'm not sure if this is the meaning intended in the classical Chinese.  I just get the feeling that Rouzer's joining of the two parts of the sentence with "but" is a little off the mark and I don't know if this is because of his translation or because of the original text.

 

Practice 3 (赐,献,予) Really didn't enjoy this one, there's a whole lot of difficult things going on here.  Which verb do I use for "give"? Where does the pronoun go?  Whats all this stuff with 焉 and 于之?  Then throwing 以 into the mix makes it even more complicated, although the subj. + 以 + dir. obj. + v. + in. obj. is actually a construction I quite enjoy, it's just that there is too much going on here.

 

Practice 4 (Idiomatic inversions) I think the phrase "for some reason that no one understands" says it all here.  This is not a good thing and I don't like it and it came back to bite me when translating the class text.

 

Practice 5 (Overall) Some of these were pretty tricky.  In number 2 the "我自往焉" = "我自往于之" upsets me a bit.  The use of 于 as a preposition like this feels a little strange but my grammar knowledge is not sufficient enough for me to really understand why.  Obviously the idiomatic inversion in number 4 was pretty disgusting.  The use of 以 in number 6 infront of 全 seems like a complete mystery to me.  "Abandoning" translated to 弃 rather than 去 seems a little arbitrary.

 

The text:  Two big points here I feel:

 

1. 先生非求于人,人则献之 The 之 in the second half of this sentence is referring to what?  I get the feeling it's referring to an object in the first half that has been omitted - much like the translation provided in the book.

2. 受人者畏人,予人者骄人 Very terse indeed.  All I can do is translate it as rigidly is possible: "Accept (things) (from) people 者 fear (other) people, give (things) (to) people 者 lord it over (other) people" The use of 者 I understand, its just the implied meaning of everything in the brackets that confuses me.  Wouldn't 受物者畏人,予物者骄人,  I guess its the first 人 in each half that's throwing me off.

 

I've gone into a lot of detail I know and I'm not expecting comments on everything, but if anyone that has time to read my post can enlighten me on any of these points it would be very much appreciated.

 

 

(Edit: spelling)

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somethingfunny

I went over this chapter again today and have a few other points I'd like to clarify.  I might be over-thinking things a bit here but thats what I tend to do.

 

In the second practice, question 1 it asks us to translate 我非骄孔子,我不爱之 should this last part not be 我不之爱 according to the idiomatic inversion we come across later in the chapter?

 

In the last practice question 1 we have to translate "sending Confucius to go to Qi" and we get 使孔子往齐 but should this not have a 于 between 往 and 齐.  I've seen it written like this in other places in the book and its caused me some problems so I'm hoping its optional.

 

Actually theres lots of stuff I'm not sure of in this chapter but I think I'm just going to have to let it go for now and hope it becomes clear over time.

 

Review Time!

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  • 1 month later...
stapler
Practice 2 (非) I didn't really find this to be very clear.  In particular I found the translations provided to be a little strange: "It's not that I don't love my state, but I am unable to value the Lord's plans" doesn't really make a lot of sense to me.  I think it would be better phrased as "It's not that I don't love my state, I am just unable to value the Lord's plans", but I'm not sure if this is the meaning intended in the classical Chinese.  I just get the feeling that Rouzer's joining of the two parts of the sentence with "but" is a little off the mark and I don't know if this is because of his translation or because of the original text.

 

I found this fairly straight forward. Especially after doing the exercises. All the translations you offer seem fine to me. With or without the "but" the meaning is the same in English - "I didn't go to school today, but I stayed home" - "I didn't go to school today, I just stayed home". Yes the first translation is strange in English, but the meaning isn't different. I think Rouzer translated the "but" because in Chinese grammar there really is that strong sense of "but" after the first condition (both in Classical and Mandarin). So adding the "but" makes it a more literal translation, though not necessarily the best for a natural English translation. The question of whether you translate for literalness or to best express the meaning in your own language here is a perennial one.

 

 

 

Practice 3 (赐,献,予) Really didn't enjoy this one, there's a whole lot of difficult things going on here.  Which verb do I use for "give"? Where does the pronoun go?  Whats all this stuff with 焉 and 于之?  Then throwing 以 into the mix makes it even more complicated, although the subj. + 以 + dir. obj. + v. + in. obj. is actually a construction I quite enjoy, it's just that there is too much going on here.

 

賜 is what a superior gives to a subordinate, 獻 is what a subordinate gives to a superior, 予 is neutral.

 

Agreed with the confusion about the pronouns. I followed the examples in 5.4 and managed to work out all the ways to give things to people (and the wrong ways), but I don't fully understand it. That said, my goal isn't to write classical Chinese, just to read it. So as long as I can roughly work out how "giving" can be written it's good enough for me. The one thing that was a bit easier is 焉 at the end of sentence - "to her". 我以酒予焉(or 於之). So I think if you're not using 焉 you generally need some kind of 於 (to) when describing giving - eg. 獻於其君 - give to his lord.... although you can also seem to leave it out... Hmm yeah not clear.

 

 

 

Practice 4 (Idiomatic inversions) I think the phrase "for some reason that no one understands" says it all here.  This is not a good thing and I don't like it and it came back to bite me when translating the class text.

The two character questions I just take as is - 奚爲 - I'm not really vexed by why it's not 爲奚. 

 

The inversion of negatives with pronouns was okay too. 不我驕 immediately sounds strange to me and I quickly read it as 不驕我 after looking at a few of the exercises and reading the text again.

 

It seems a lot of your frustrations are driven by your dislike of ambiguity. Maybe it will help you to know that I gave this text to a few Chinese who are reasonably educated, that is, they have read plenty of classical Chinese and have no trouble understanding the passage from the text. I asked them to translate it into English (and their English is fine too) and they all produced translations that are quite a bit more vague than Rouzer's, but the meaning was the same. Basically they are just much more comfortable with vagueness. You can see that someone is giving something to someone, you can see that there is a "negative" an "object" and "verb" and you can quickly work out what's going on etc. So roll with it!

 

 

 

Practice 5 (Overall) Some of these were pretty tricky.  In number 2 the "我自往焉" = "我自往于之" upsets me a bit.  The use of 于 as a preposition like this feels a little strange but my grammar knowledge is not sufficient enough for me to really understand why.  Obviously the idiomatic inversion in number 4 was pretty disgusting.  The use of 以 in number 6 infront of 全 seems like a complete mystery to me.  "Abandoning" translated to 弃 rather than 去 seems a little arbitrary.

 

The definition of 於 is that it is incredibly vague. Classical Chinese isn't a systematic language - or even a "language" in the sense of something that is spoken so it's hard to force 'normal' grammar rules on it. 

 

Agree on the use of 以. In 足以全其節 I'm guessing it's playing some kind of role like "to". Without it the sentence becomes too vague. 足全其節 could be read as something like "sufficiently preserved virtue”, the 以 makes it more obvious that what has come before is 足 (sufficient) 以 (in order to) 全 (preserve).

 

去 I think has the sense of abandon to go someplace else (as I mentioned in an early lesson, it's still got this sense in Mandarin) where as 棄 is just to give up on

 

1. 先生非求于人,人则献之 The 之 in the second half of this sentence is referring to what?  I get the feeling it's referring to an object in the first half that has been omitted - much like the translation provided in the book.

2. 受人者畏人,予人者骄人 Very terse indeed.  All I can do is translate it as rigidly is possible: "Accept (things) (from) people 者 fear (other) people, give (things) (to) people 者 lord it over (other) people" The use of 者 I understand, its just the implied meaning of everything in the brackets that confuses me.  Wouldn't 受物者畏人,予物者骄人,  I guess its the first 人 in each half that's throwing me off.

 

之 is referring to the 邑. You can see that from the context.

 

yeah I just read it as "people who accept [things] fear others, people who give things arrogant others". I'm actually impressed by the "efficiency" and realise just how much "bloat" real languages have.

 

 

 

In the second practice, question 1 it asks us to translate 我非骄孔子,我不爱之 should this last part not be 我不之爱 according to the idiomatic inversion we come across later in the chapter?

 

Yes I thought so to. - I figure there's three options. One - it's an idiomatic inversion, but not a necessary one. That is, both are okay. Two - the book hasn't discussed the inversion by that point and is more interested in just explaining the 非. Third, it's a mistake. I'm leaning towards 1.

 

 

 

In the last practice question 1 we have to translate "sending Confucius to go to Qi" and we get 使孔子往齐 but should this not have a 于 between 往 and 齐.  I've seen it written like this in other places in the book and its caused me some problems so I'm hoping its optional.

When I translated it I also put in a 於. As far as I can tell, classical Chinese doesn't have strict grammatical rules so you just take it as it goes. Probably both are fine, and you add 於 only when you want to get rid of ambiguity. Otherwise it seems economy is always the main goal.

 

Out of curiosity, I had a quick look at 紅樓夢 - Dreams of the Red Chamber. It seems classical Chinese changes a lot with time (as is to be expected) and the grammar becomes more like Mandarin. I figure if we can master these old texts the rest should be easier.

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somethingfunny

It's funny actually, my very first Chinese teacher would complain about how insistent I was in knowing exactly how each part of a sentence provided it's meaning to the overall meaning of the sentence.  I do get a bit upset about ambiguity, but only because I worry that I'm going to miss something which becomes important later.  I agree with you though, my goal is not to write classical Chinese but rather understand it when I read it.  I guess I should allow a little more space for different interpretations.  What's funnier is that Fuller (if you've read any of his book) takes the most extreme stance possible.  In fact, theres a part in his book where he provides a sentence and says something along the lines of "Now, it's very easy to understand what the sentence means, but we need to look at how it means that" and then launches into a very involved page long discussion of grammar that mainly went over my head!

 

红楼梦 as I understand it was written much, much later than the texts we're looking at here.  A quick wikipedia search tells me it's 18th Century where as these texts are generally around 2000 years earlier!  So yeah, hopefully the closer we get to the modern day, the easier it becomes for those of us that speak Mandarin.

 

Good to have your feedback on my comments by the way!  Thanks.

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Michaelyus

红楼梦 is not conventionally considered to be "in" Classical Chinese, but early vernacular Chinese (白話文). The 四大名著 are all considered to be in that category, although they have varying amounts of passages in Classical.

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  • 1 year later...
laurenth

(I'm joining this thread three years late but, as I'm currently studying Rouzer, these "old" comments are invaluable. I may or may not have the time to continue studying Rouzer. I may or may not add other comments).

 

I'm shocked at the terseness of the sentence:反,復往,又不受. The first two verbs 反 and 往 have the messenger as their subject, while the third 受 has Zengzi as the subject. The Classical writer has great confidence in the reader: that they will disambiguate the subject even several sentences back! 

 

 

I think the ambiguity is lessened by the fact that the first two verbs (反,往) indicate a movement and the only person who's been moving before is the 使, so one can suspect he is the subject. In addition, the verb 往 was used before with 使 as a subject (魯君使人往至邑焉). On the other hand, the verb 受 was used before with 曾子 as a subject (曾子不受). So maybe the writer takes it for granted that the subject of the two first verbs is 使 while the subject of the third is 曾子.

 

受人者畏人,予人者骄人 is an extremely concise, accurate and striking way  of describing the fact that gifts, in many societies past and present, have been used to create a dependency relationship: the one who receives becomes dependent, the one who gives, in a way, becomes a superior.

 

My main  problem with this lesson is in the review part, translation into Chinese. In many cases, my translation is not the same as Rouzer's but I'm not sure whether my solution is acceptable or not, e.g. :

  • In the first sentence I wrote 齊公具酒,期以朝。while Rouzer writes: 齊公具酒,以朝期。As the text of lesson 5 has: 齊桓公 .... 期以日中, I'm not sure whether my translation is wrong.
  • In the penultimate sentence I wrote 鳥對曰: 縱公有禮,我不復求公屋。Rouzer places 縱 between the subject and the verb (and uses 子 instead of 公 and 家 instead of 屋), like this: 子縱有禮,我不復求子家。However, in lesson 5, the 縱 is placed before the subject: 縱君有禮,不我驕也。So, is my sentence wrong or not?

 

Among the 15 sentences of the exercice I have similar questions for 8 sentences, which makes the whole exercise slightly frustrating. Probably, as DrWatson says "it is an endeavor that requires a teacher to guide one through".

 

 

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My advice: take heed of Rouzer's own words at the beginning of the book. There is no "grammar" of classical Chinese in the way there is for Latin. People learn by example rather than the study of grammatical rules. Or in other words, almost no one is going to be able to tell you if the sentence is "right or wrong" unless you're doing something very obviously incorrect. At best someone who is familiar with classical Chinese will tell you if it "feels right" or not. Or another way, I think in classical Chinese there are many more ways to write something than in Mandarin, which has a much stricter grammar. So I wouldn't get too caught up on whether your sentences are right or wrong in as much as they make sense according to the habits classical Chinese. I'd take Rouzer's example as a guide rather than definitive answer.

 

As for your specific questions, here are my suggestions (I have zero training/and little to no exercise with classical Chinese so I'm sure some wiser people will disagree)

You wrote 齊公具酒,期以朝 and Rouzer wrote 齊公具酒,以朝期

Here I'd suggest both are correct. But Rouzer's is better because it follows the "topic-comment" structure, which seems preferable in classical Chinese.

 

The same again for the second sentence. Just a stylistic preference.

 

And to emphasis this again, stylistic considerations in classical Chinese seem just as, if not more important than grammatical clarity. I think a good example of this is one of the exercises at the end of chapter 6 (i think) that asks you to translate a story from English into classical Chinese. If you look at the example Rouzer provides it follows all the rules of classical Chinese but it feels very weird. And that's not just because of the subject matter (a talking bird), but because it's classical Chinese being used in a extremely functional form.

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Hello Stapler, thanks for the sound advice, you're most probably right about  ancient Chinese grammar being more flexible and less standardized than that of modern Mandarin. And, yes, Rouzer insists that sometimes, authors would deliberately write strange stuff, for example in order to make nice 4 character sentences contrasting with each other.

 

By the way, the two examples I give come precisely from the weird translation exercise (English to ancient Chinese) in which a talking bird discusses avian pride with the Duke and his ministers. It comes after lesson 5, in the review exercises.

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somethingfunny

Glad to see these threads beings of use to someone else.  They can get a bit quiet Laurenth, but there should usually be someone checking here for questions.

 

I looked back at my copy of Rouzer and I wrote the exact same thing as you did, I even wrote: 齊公具酒,期以日朝.  I imagine stapler is right here and Rouzer is going for what he sees as a 'preferred' or 'standard' way of writing, whereas the text in Lesson 4 where this example is taken from is an original form.  One of the things about Rouzer is that by using actual texts he leaves himself having to deal with all the idiosyncrasies of actual authors who wouldn't have been that bothered about gramme as the modern student.

 

It's a similar story for the penultimate sentence as well.  I think there are two important things here: Firstly, that you can actually get something down that makes some sense when asked to translate English to Chinese, and secondly, that you can understand Rouzer's own translations, even if they are different from your own or you disagree with them.

 

Anyway, welcome aboard and I look forward to more discussion. 

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