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laurenth

Reading Gu Long's "流星•蝴蝶•剑"

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laurenth

 

I'm pretty sure 休 in 梦醒便休 means "end", not "rest". Life is a big dream. Life ends when you wake up from the dream.

 

Oh yes, it looks obvious now. Thanks for pointing that out. There are probably many more mistakes like that, big and small, elsewhere in my attempts at translation.

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laurenth

第五章

 

Chapter 5 starts with a lengthy discussion about fishes. Or more specifically the special relationship between  assassins and fishes. Han Tang loves fishes (p. 134):

 

养鱼的人大多数寂寞。韩棠更寂寞。   他没有亲人,没有朋友,连奴仆都没有。    因为他不敢亲近任何人,也不敢让任何人亲近他。

 

Most fish lovers are loners. Han Tang even more so. He has no relative, no friend, even no servant. And just as he does not dare to approach anyone, he does not dare to let anyone approach him.

 

Meng Xinghun comes to pay a visit to Han Tang and kill him (p. 136):

 

像韩棠这种人,你若想杀他,就得用自已的性命去作赌注,否则你无论用多复杂巧妙的法子,也一样没有用。现在他找到了韩裳。

 

If you want to kill someone like Han Tang, you have to stake you very life. Otherwise, your plans, no matter how cunning or clever, will be useless anyway. And now, [Meng] was coming to get Han Tang.

 

Han Tang hears him coming, though, and he says:

 

“你来杀我,就因为怕我,就因为你知道我比你强。”

 

"You want to kill me because you fear me. Because you know I'm more powerful than you."

 

After much chatting about fishes, life, death, the universe and everything, they end up...

 

fishing together before the inevitable showdown.

 

他不想隐瞒,因为韩棠也不想隐瞒,韩棠现在已是他最大的敌人,但他却突然发现,自己在这个人面前居然可以说真活。能让他说真话的人,他并没有遇见几人。

 

[Meng] didn't want to hide because Han Tang didn't want to hide either. Han Tang was now his greatest enemy, but he suddenly realized that, in front of that man, he could tell the truth. He had not met many people like that, who could allow him to tell the truth.

 

 

Much psychological pressure is applied, the tension is mounting - but suddenly, there's a somewhat confusing scene, with many men coming in groups, all pretending they are Uncle Bo's friends but who, it turns out, are in fact members of the Twelve Flying Pengs sect, coming to kill Han Tang. As Meng Xinghun has witnessed all this, the thugs decide to kill Meng Xinghun as well. They offer a one-on-one fight. Meng chooses the most powerful of the three, Tu Dapeng. Then Meng attacks first. He is killed almost instantly, during his first suicidal assault (p. 152):

 

“我不懂这孩为什么要选你?”

   屠大鹏淡淡道: “因为他想死!”

 

"I don't get it. Why did that guy choose you?"

Tu Dapeng blandly said: " Because he wanted to die!"

 

Then the Ten Thousand Peng King's men attack Han Tang and defeat him too. But – of course there's a but...

 

Meng is supposed to be the hero of this book, right, and we're only at page 150, so he cannot die, can he?  It turns out that Meng, knowing he did not stand a chance against those three powerful thugs threw himself on the knife voluntarily. As a professional assassin, he just knows where the blade can pierce through his body without killing him (p. 154):

 

他让屠大鹏的刀锋刺入他身上不能致命的地方,这地方距他这心脏只有半寸,但半寸就已足够。杀人最难的一点就是准确,要准确得连半分偏差都不能有。 

 

He had let Tu Dapeng's knife pierce his body at a place where it could not have killed him. That place was just about half an inch away from his heart, but half an inch was enough. The most difficult point, when killing, is accuracy. You cannot deviate by a whisker.

 

So while bleeding semi-unconscious on the ground, he sees Han Tang killed.

 

 

Before killing Han Tang, they reveal to him that there's a traitor on Uncle Bo's side, and that traitor is – Lü! Once Han Tang is dead, the Peng men leave.

While bleeding on the ground, Meng thinks about this and suddenly realizes that, most probably, Tu Dapeng let him live on purpose – he thought that Meng was Uncle Bo's man and he wanted him to tell Bo that Lü is a traitor... (p. 157)

 

“但屠大鹏那一刀为什么会差上半寸呢?”

    孟星魂一直在怀疑,现在突然明白。

    他没有死,只不过因为屠大鹏根本就不想杀死他!

 

"But why did Tu Dapeng's knife deviate by an inch?" Meng Xinghun had been doubting but now he suddenly understood. If he had not died, it was because Tu Dapeng did not want to kill him!

 

So now Meng knows that Uncle Bo can only rely on Lü, and hence (p. 158):

 

万鹏王要借孙玉伯手将律香川除去!

万鹏王要孙玉伯自己除去他自己最得力的干将。

因为在万鹏王眼中,最可怕的人不是韩棠,而是律香川。

    要杀孙玉伯,就—定要先杀了律香川。

    这计划好毒辣。

 

The King of the Ten Thousand Pengs wanted to use Uncle Bo's hand to eliminate Lü Xiangchuang! He wanted Uncle Bo himself to eliminate his own most capable right arm.

Because, for the King, the most fearful person was not Han Tang, but Lü Xiangchuan. In order to kill  Bo, Lü had to die first. How was that for a sinister plan?

 

Then Meng is rescued by Ye Xiang. Contrary to Ye Xiang, Meng really believes Uncle Bo is now alone (p. 160):

 

“我也知道他不是个容易被击倒的人,但无论多大的树,若已孤立无依,也都很容易会被风吹倒。”

    叶翔道:    “一棵树若能长得那么高大,就必定会有很深的根。”

    孟星魂道:“你的意思是说……”

    叶翔道: “我的意思是说,大树的根长在地下,别人是看不见的。”

- I know that it will not be easy to knock down such a man, but no matter how high a tree is, once it's isolated, it can easily be felled by the wind.

- If a tree could grow that high, it must have very deep roots, said Ye Xiang.

- What do you mean? asked Meng.

- I mean that the roots of big trees grow underground, they are invisible to people.

 

Ye Xiang again recommends that Meng drop the case. Meng again refuses.

 

After that, we go to Uncle Bo's residence, where he is discussing the situation with his old friend and ally Lu Mantian (陆漫天). They already know that Han Tang was killed. It appears that Bo already suspects Lü to be a traitor: after all, he was the one who prepared the funeral of the Tie family, so he could have tipped the Ten Thousand Peng King. He may have changed sides when he went to see the King. He may also have engineered Han Tang's death. Uncle Bo has an idea to test Lü: he will send him on a mission to kill Han Tang. If he eludes the mission, he must be a traitor.

 

Lü apparently accepts the mission.

 

Before leaving, he goes to see his wife and, among other naughty things, tells her about his new mission.  After he's left, she learns from one of Uncle Bo's man that Han Tang, in fact, is already dead.

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laurenth

Although there haven't been any update recently (Chinese study time is an endangered species, I have to make choices), I'm still reading (now at page 420, chapter 21), and though the book remains very accessible, there *are* places where the language tends to be more difficult. For instance, I'd like to ask a few questions about chapter 20.

 

Some context: Lao Bo and a young prostitute called Feng Feng are in hiding in a secret cave. They are chatting to while away the time and having a 100% misogynistic conversation. Here are several sentences I find difficult:

 

1.    “有人说,女为悦己者容,也有入说,女为己悦者容,我觉得这两句话都应该改一改。”

 

Some people say that … while others say that .... In my opinion, these two sentences should be modified.

 

2.    她眨着服笑道:“女人若是不喜欢你,你就算要她下厨房去炒个菜,她都会有一万个不愿意的。”

 

She smiled while blinking and said: "If a woman does not like you, have her go in the kitchen to cook some food, she will have ten thousand things (?) she doesn't want." (???)

 

3. 凤凤道: “就好像男人只肯为自己喜欢的女人买衣服一样, 他若不喜欢你, 你即使耍他买块破布送给你, 他都会嫌贵的。”

 

Feng Feng said: "It's as if (?) a man only wanted to buy clothes for the woman he loves (wanted to buy clothes only for the woman he loves?). If he does not love you, even if you want him to buy you worn clothes, he will dislike/begrudge (?) you."

 

4.    其实女人多数都很聪明,她若已知道无法将你击倒的时候,她自己就会倒在你这边来了。

 

In reality, most women are very clever. When/If (why 已? why both 若 and 的时候?) she knows there's no way to strike you (?) , she will come by your side (?).

 

 

Thanks for any help.

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dwq

女为悦己者容 is 文言文。See: http://baike.baidu.com/view/1729936.htm

Women wears make-up for 悦己者 or 己悦者。

悦己者 here probably means "people who likes her"

己悦者, then, means "people whom she likes". Basically the subject and object are reversed.

(Though the above link says 悦己者 has both meanings, here they are used for contrast)

就算...都会... even if you ... (ask her to cook one single dish) she will ... (have ten thousand reasons not willing to do it)

你即使...他都会... same pattern.

一万个不愿意 just means 不愿意,although I put down "have ten thousand reasons", 一万个 is really just for emphasis.

嫌贵 means "(he'll) think/mind that it's too expensive".

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laurenth

Thanks Skylee and dwq. It's clearer now.

 

About "女为悦己者容", that's the kind of things that I would never have guessed, due to the lack of cultural background (though, because of the parallelism and the obscure meaning, I could have suspected that it was some kind of ancient set phrase). Sometimes I look at a page of whatever Chinese novel I'm reading and I have to admit to myself that, even when I do understand all the words and the sentences, I may be just seeing the tip of an iceberg. But I'd rather see the tip than nothing at all, and it's very rewarding when people give hints about the interesting stuff that lies under sea level.

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roddy

Also, on 3) - the start draws a comparison between the two situations. Women are like this - Yes, it's like when a man...

 

4) Off the top of my head, I'd maybe translate as "Women are smart. She'll know when she can't get you to fall at her feet, and she'll fall at yours."

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character

Congratulations on finishing the novel! If you have more thoughts on reading this novel versus the material you were reading before, it would be interesting to hear them. Are you now considering trying more Gu Long, or perhaps Jin Yong?

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laurenth

Hello character, I'm not sure what sort of thoughts you'd be interested in, but here goes.

 

 

It's very hard to grade novels in terms of linguistic difficulty. To take the novels I've read this year, my impression was that Gu Long's "流星•蝴蝶•剑" was approximately on the same level as the novel I'd read just before that, i.e. 璇儿's   第十二夜-万灵节之死 (a detective story). And it felt slightly easier than the antepenultimate novel I'd read, i.e. 张牧野's 鬼吹灯 (a tomb raider story, see this thread), mainly because Zhang Muye *loves* chengyus/idioms and uses more descriptions, while his style is much more varied and informal (dialectal forms, profanities, broken Chinese at time, etc.) than Gu Long's. The latter, on the other hand, almost systematically uses short sentences and repetitive structures.

 

The parts that were harder in Gu Long's novel were a few fight scenes. In particular, there was one fight scene in the third quarter of the book where I could barely understand that people were trying to annihilate each other, but the details were mostly lost to me. Then of course, there's the vocab associated with the genre (tomb raiding vs. kung fu) that is not always easily found in dictionaries.

 

I liked all three books, though "流星•蝴蝶•剑" and "鬼吹灯" are much more interesting, from a cultural standpoint, than "万灵节之死" (though there *is* some interesting information in this book, e.g., about Tibet). I learned a lot about China's past and present in "鬼吹灯". And "流星•蝴蝶•剑" was, as far as I can tell, a good introduction to the wuxia genre, which is of course culturally significant.

 

 

I won't read other books by Gu Long now, mainly because there are other books waiting on my shelf - no need to buy more. Also, Jin Yong is too intimidating right now, he will have to wait. At my level,  reading a Chinese novel is *never* a matter of simply cracking open a book that looks interesting and start reading. It's always a challenge and I'm never certain I will be able to read more than a few pages. For instance, yesterday, I started reading another book of 璇儿's detective series 第十二夜, i.e. 天方夜谭. But guess what? I've  struggled to decipher the first two pages. It felt much harder than Gu Long. On the other hand, I know from experience that the first few pages of any Chinese book tend to be hard, so I'll try to persevere and see what happens.

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character

Thanks laurenth, that was the sort of thing I was looking for. It can be hard to understand how certain novels compare to other novels, and to graded material, in terms of difficulty.

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imron

*shameless plug*

This is basically one of the main reasons I wrote Chinese Text Analyser.  It helps you assess the difficulty of a given piece of text against your known vocabulary.  This makes it relatively easy to compare the difficulty of certain novels compared to other novels you have read and help you choose material suited for your vocabulary.

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laurenth

Indeed, the proportion of unknown words is the best benchmark to assess the relative difficulty of a text. Yet, other factors sometimes come into play. You could conceivably imagine two writers with approximately the same vocabulary, but one would be harder than the other because his style or syntax would be more convoluted or because he would use more complex sentences. The characteristics that make Gu Long relatively easy to read include the short sentences, the repetitions and a tendency to use parallelisms (maybe in order to sound like "ancient Chinese"? I don't know). But that kind of things is much harder to measure with a programme...

 

 

BTW, the whole 第十二夜 series is available online. So it's the perfect candidate for use with Chinese Text Analyser. I could run it to check whether there's some objective basis to my feeling that 天方夜谭 is harder than 万灵节之死.

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imron

It probably wouldn't be so difficult to add average sentence length to the statistics.

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laurenth

One more thing on your todo list   :P

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imron

It almost grows faster than it shrinks.

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roddy

Congrats on the finish, and thanks for sharing as you went!

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realmayo

Thanks very much laurenth for this. I wouldn't have thought of reading this otherwise. But it's great, loaded it up onto my tablet with Pleco a few weeks ago and found it much easier than I'd expected. And actually quite fun -- it's the first time I've actually looked forward to reading something in Chinese to find out what happens next. The online version had a fair few wrong characters but that wasn't really a problem, although I can imagine some people getting bogged down there. I too got completely stuck on #23 above, should have checked here.....

Not sure whether to find another of his books now or try something different. But this one should definitely go on any Chinese Forums suggested list of books-to-ease-you-in-gently, in paper format at least, and online if there was a reliable text.

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stapler

Just started reading this. Thought I'd have a look around to see if anyone else had too. Pleasantly surprised to find this thread. Hopefully I can get something useful out of it once I get a bit further into the book!

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stapler

This is my first time reading anything to do with kungfu. There are a few phrases on the first couple of pages that have caused me a bit of trouble. While I can understand the broad meaning I'm wondering if anyone could help clarify a bit.

 

第一章:

 

"急风骤雨七七四十九枪“ - I get that this is the name of some kungfu move called "furious storm" but what does the "七七四十九枪" mean? What's the relationship between this weird number and the spear?

 

”七道埋伏暗卡" - Is this meant to be a really long name? It's describing 金枪李's fort. Would this be translated as "The Seven Path Hidden Ambush Blockade"? Or is this actually a "normal" sentence - 也得先突破 "seven paths of hidden and dark guardhouses/blockades" ?

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