Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China

(NPPLC) Chapter #7 - He Calls the Tune


Recommended Posts

This thread is for the discussion of chapter seven 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.


So, somehow a week totally blew past without me realizing. Anyhow, here is the thread for chapter 7, which was scheduled for last week. This week has no lesson scheduled on account of 春節, so it works out.

Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

I feel like the grammar this week cranked up a notch. This business of the "Passive Co-verb Constructions" (the 難以 vs. 難 vs. 難為 patterns) are perhaps not so well explained by Rouzer -- or maybe he is doing the best he can. Anyhow, I hope we can shed some more light on these patterns by putting our heads together. I'll give it a shot here; if anyone has something to add go for it!

Modern Mandarin preserves many examples of the simple usage of a passive co-verb C with a main verb V. In Classical Chinese you can freely use this construction as in sentences such as: 國難治 (the state is difficult to govern), but in Modern Chinese you only have certain fixed expressions, which act like adjectives:

難看 =difficult to behold = ugly

難吃 = difficult to eat = disgusting (in the literal sense)

可怕 = capable* of being feared = scary

可愛 = capable* of being loved = cute

I don't know of any similar examples of 易 or 足, but maybe studying some would help clarify the Classical meanings of the underlying co-verbs.

For the C+以 form, the Modern 可以 is helpful as Rouzer points out, but 難以 and 足以 are apparently also common.

Then we have the construction with 為, which is awesome but hard to translate indeed! Thankfully Rouzer gives a number of exercises and examples for this construction. I tried to diagram this, but I'm at a loss. I'll have to find a linguistic text on Classical...


There is one sentence from the text that I had particular trouble with:


Rouzer gives:

"Not only is strumming the zither like this -- worthy people are also so."

I suppose what threw me off the most was how 也 is used in the first clause, without its own comma. It would have been easier if we had just the simpler sentence:


And then we apply the "非獨A, B." pattern, dropping the nested comma.

The final key is to realize that 然 is referring back to "若此“.


(*) I don't like translating this as "capable" or "feasible"... it sounds too tentative. From the Mandarin meanings, it seems that a stronger modal meaning is implied by 可... Then again, in english we say "lovable" or "detestable" with connotations that go beyond the mere ability of someone to be loved or the ability of something to be detested.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I must have gotten my calendars mixed up as I was thinking this past week was off for 春節. However, I looked at the course schedule from the proposal thread an realized this will be our week off. My apologies for falling down on that, I should have checked the schedule.

If we are all up for it though, shall we tackle lesson 7 this week as was scheduled for the last? Or shall we have the week off as planned as a catch up week?


Again I am impressed you are on top of the game and already have completed the lesson!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...


I feel like the grammar this week cranked up a notch.

I completely agree! I had a hard time with the passive voices in this one. Working through the 7.2 grammar exercises helped, I think I understood them by the end...

The last sentence threw me for a loop. I read it exactly the wrong way according to the note by Rouzer, until I read the 7.5 grammar 'explanation sentences with 者 and 也'. Seemed to make more sense after that. But, I have a feeling that this will be a difficult structure to work with in the future. One more thing to keep an eye on! :wink:

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 years later...

Still not sure if anyone is reading these but I'll persevere anyway.  First the text:


Same as above, the line 非獨鼓琴若此也,賢者亦然 gave me some trouble but not because of the grammar but rather because of the meaning.  I don't really get the analogy between Bo Ya giving up the Zither and the worthy man...?


I also had trouble with the last line which I couldn't work out was either "The horse didn't go 1000 Li by itself, it waited for Bo Le and then went (with him)" or "The horse didn't go 1000 Li by itself, it waited for Bo Le and then went (to him)"


More and more I'm having the problem of not even being able to understand what I (or Rouzer) have translated into English.


The grammar points in this lesson are the hardest there have been yet I feel and I agree with navaburo that Rouzer has perhaps not done as good a job here as he has done with previous explanations.  The first English to Chinese exercise was a total failure for me where I had subject and object in reversed positions for every answer, even with checking and correcting after each one!  I can however take small comfort in the fact that I finally got it right when it came up again in the last exercise.  I think I'm going to have to rely on experience and instinct in future when coming across this kind of grammar in the future.


I guess the difference between





would be:


Confucius, sufficient to raise an army for. (Confucius is worthy of having an army raised for him)

Raise an army, sufficient for Confucius. (Confucius would be satisfied with having an army raised for him)


Maybe sticking in that imaginary comma before 足为 or something similar could be a useful technique in future.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 year later...
Same as above, the line 非獨鼓琴若此也,賢者亦然 gave me some trouble but not because of the grammar but rather because of the meaning.  I don't really get the analogy between Bo Ya giving up the Zither and the worthy man...?



As I see it, it could mean that it's not enough (非獨) to have someone play the zither like this (= as magnificently as Bo Ya), one also needs such a wonderful or virtuous (賢) listener (as virtuous as Zhongzi Qi).


In other words, if you want to create good music or establish true friendship, it takes two people: you need both a wonderful player and a sensitive listener, as shown when Zhongzi Qi understands Bo Ya's intention or vision (志) just by listening to him play. When Bo Ya loses his friend and best listener, he stops playing.


In the same manner, Ji the good horse could not express its value (run a thousand li) until a true expert (伯乐: Wikipedia) recognized that value.


Just a suggestion.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Just finished this one. Even though the grammar is getting more complex I'm finding it easier and easier. I think all the reading I've done (the 書面 stuff) since I did Lesson 6 (a year ago!!) has really reinforced a lot of the elements of classical Chinese in my thinking (eg topic/comment type structures, naturalising the use of 以, 於,爲 etc - though certainly not 也 and 者 as in this lesson). The example sentences in the commentary are also excellence for reinforcing the grammar. I was even having fun making up my own 者。。。也 sentences and sending them to friends!


The only part I found a bit difficult was the top of p. 77, where Rouzer talks about sentences like 齊人失妻者 possibly being interpreted as partitive sentences. Had to go check up on that again from lesson 3. But still not quite clear to me. Might read it again to try and clarify.


While doing all the exercises I'm still amazed at how terse classical Chinese is. It's beautiful. And I also see how completely awful it may be for the modern world. I really do wonder if this language did, as the revolutionaries supposed, hold back science in China! Anyway...


Here's how I translated the last part of the paragraph (which is basically where the meat of this chapter is). I think I got it fairly close to Rouzer's (in terms of meaning,if not expression)


"... Believed there was no one in this world who was worth playing the zither for. It's not only playing the zither that is like this, it's the same for virtuous people. Even if there are virtuous people, if there is no one who will appreciate their virtue, why would they be extremely virtuous?"


also @laurenth - thanks for the background on that story.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

These last few posts have thrown some good light on this chapter - one I remember troubling me quite a lot.  I think my original translation of 接 ("treat") and 忠 ("be loyal to") were not quite capturing the true intention of the author.  Here is the offending line:




I guess my problem is the 忠 at the end - are we talking about the 贤者 being loyal to the person that can appreciate his worth, or the person who appreciates his worth being loyal to the 贤者.  Really this is just a grammatical technicality, and the actual meaning of the analogy has been well captured by your comments laurenth.

Link to post
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...