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Learning Classical Chinese Query


Mr B
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Hello,


 


I have decided to take the plunge and attempt to study Classical Chinese properly, after living in China for  few years and gaining some degree of fluency in the other skills, although my writing is quite shaky. I should say that I have some familiarity with classical texts both in translation and in baihua editions, but no firm basis as yet.


 


To remedy this, I have started a more or less disciplined course of self-study using a book I have not seen mentioned on this forum, which is strange as it is freely available online. It is the "Introduction to Literary Chinese" by Robert Eno, in 2 volumes, available as PDFs here:


 


http://www.indiana.edu/~e103/Wenyanwen_Part-One_2.0.pdf


http://www.indiana.edu/%7Ee103/Wenyanwen_Part-Two_1.0.pdf


 


I have to say, I am enjoying this book, and plan to progress on to either Fuller or Rouzer, or both once I am finished. I am almost finished the first volume, but am encountering a difficulty in that no answers are given for the exercises, nor are translations given for the texts,  so I am not able to see if I have made mistakes and thus, to correct them and learn from them. 


 


The text translation exercises have not posed any serious problems so far - the texts are punctuated, thankfully, whereas the exercises are not. And I have been able to find translations with which to compare my humble efforts, e.g. Legge, for most of the texts. A closer reading of established translations helps me see where I have gone wrong in my own interpretations too.


 


However, I am getting tripped up by the increasingly complex syntax and abundance of grammatical particles, especially as the exercises are unpunctuated. And despite my best efforts at reading the grammar explanations, and breaking the text into its constituent parts, sometimes I feel I just cannot progress. I would like to think that a book should be self-contained, but it is clear to me now that a teacher is lacking in that regard - it is true that Prof. Eno has made his class-book available freely, for which we have to thank him, but I cannot help but feel frustrated at times! An answer key would have helped greatly in that regard, I think.


 


I don't particularly want to jump from one book to another unless necessary but at this stage I am considering moving onto one of the other books mentioned above and seeing if I can consolidate my knowledge and then return to Eno's unsolved questions.. 


 


If anyone has some experience either of this book or this particular issue and can give me some advice, I would be most grateful. In fact, it may even be worth while starting a thread to explore this book further, and who knows, provide answers and links to existing translations to help other students. Thank you!

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I am getting tripped up by the increasingly complex syntax and abundance of grammatical particles, especially as the exercises are unpunctuated. And despite my best efforts at reading the grammar explanations, and breaking the text into its constituent parts, sometimes I feel I just cannot progress. I would like to think that a book should be self-contained, but it is clear to me now that a teacher is lacking in that regard - it is true that Prof. Eno has made his class-book available freely, for which we have to thank him

I read the introduction to Prof Eno's texts. It appears that they were designed for use by Prof. Eno for teaching his own classes, but not for self-study. That's why there is a big jump in difficulty between the lessons and the lack of detailed explanation and answer keys. You'd be better off using one of the other texts previously recommended on this forum (try a search) that are better for self-study.
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How do Fuller and Rouzer compare with Chinese books, such as those used in secondary schools in China, for classical Chinese? I have a few Chinese books (although haven't got round to studying them yet - don't know if I ever will, as I have many other things I want to learn first), and don't know if there would be any advantage in using Fuller or Rouzer.

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That's a good question. I've actually only ever used test prep books for Taiwanese students, not their actual textbooks, so I'm not sure. The test prep books are essentially glossed readers with a translation into modern Chinese. Some of them have reading comprehension questions, explanations of obscure usages, grammatical constructions, things like that.

 

The Fuller book starts from zero (though it expects some familiarity with modern Chinese, maybe a year or two of university level classes in the West). It explains the grammar, starting with topic-comment constructions, particle usage, etc. IIRC there are exercises that are meant to teach you how to use the various resources out there, with the goal of getting you to the point that you can work through an unfamiliar text on your own and know where to look for help. It also gives an overview of how to read commentary, although it really requires a good deal of training in 訓詁學 to become proficient in that.

 

At any rate, Fuller is a great book to start with. After having worked through the first two-thirds of the book on my own, I joined/co-founded a reading group in Taipei and was able to more or less keep up with the 古文觀止 selections we were reading. I get the impression that the Rouzer book is just as good, I'm just not nearly as familiar with it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Quick update: Have begun Rouzer's book and am finding that excellent so far, having finished the first couple of units. Am looking forward to browsing through the related threads on each chapter and making additional notes as I go along. Thanks for the recommendation.

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