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(NPPLC) Chapters #16, 17 & 18 Assassin-Retainers: 聂政(1, 2 & 3)

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This thread is for the discussion of chapters sixteen, seventeen and eighteen in A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese by Paul Rouzer.

 

Not much love for the classical Chinese subforum at the moment.  That's OK, please feel free to add your comments at any point.  I can't really afford to go through this at any reasonable pace and I hope to get done with Rouzer before the end of the year.  I've got a feeling that once we're done with the biographies and move onto the philosophy there is going to be a huge jump in difficulty.  Anyway, here is the text from part 1:

 

其後四十餘年而軹有聶政之事。

  聶政者,軹深井里人也。殺人避仇,與母、姊如齊,以屠為事。

  久之,濮陽嚴仲子事韓哀侯,與韓相俠累有卻。嚴仲子恐誅,亡去,游求人可以報俠累者。至齊,齊人或言聶政勇敢士也,避仇隱於屠者之閒。嚴仲子至門請,數反,然後具酒自暢聶政母前。酒酣,嚴仲子奉黃金百溢,前為聶政母壽。聶政驚怪其厚,固謝嚴仲子。嚴仲子固進,而聶政謝曰:「臣幸有老母,家貧,客游以為狗屠,可以旦夕得甘毳以養親。親供養備,不敢當仲子之賜。」嚴仲子辟人,因為聶政言曰:「臣有仇,而行游諸侯眾矣;然至齊,竊聞足下義甚高,故進百金者,將用為大人麤糲之費,得以交足下之驩,豈敢以有求望邪!」聶政曰:「臣所以降志辱身居市井屠者,徒幸以養老母;老母在,政身未敢以許人也。」嚴仲子固讓,聶政竟不肯受也。然嚴仲子卒備賓主之禮而去。

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somethingfunny

I'll keep things tidy and post each section separately.  Here is part 2:

 

久之,聶政母死。既已葬,除服,聶政曰:“嗟乎!政乃市井之人,鼓刀以屠;而嚴仲子乃諸侯之卿相也,不遠千里,枉車騎而交臣。臣之所以待之,至淺鮮矣,未有大功可以稱者,而嚴仲子奉百金爲親壽,我雖不受,然是者徒深知政也。夫賢者以感忿睚眥之意而親信窮僻之人,而政獨安得嘿然而已乎!且前日要政,政徒以老母;老母今以天年終,政將爲知己者用。”乃遂西至濮陽,見嚴仲子曰:“前日所以不許仲子者,徒以親在;今不幸而母以天年終。仲子所欲報仇者爲誰?請得從事焉!”嚴仲子具告曰:“臣之仇韓相俠累,俠累又韓君之季父也,宗族盛多,居處兵衛甚設,臣欲使人刺之,終莫能就。今足下幸而不棄,請益其車騎壯士可爲足下輔翼者。”聶政曰:“韓之與衛,相去中間不甚遠,今殺人之相,相又國君之親,此其勢不可以多人,多人不能無生得失,生得失則語泄,語泄是韓擧國而與仲子爲仇,豈不殆哉!”遂謝車騎人徒。

 

The text in the link I was originally using seems to have a problem with this part so I've taken it from here.

 

Also, all online sources split the text up differently from how Rouzer has.  The final sentence in this part is actually the first half of a sentence that should end with a comma.  I'll address this issue in my comments.

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Part 3:

 

聶政乃辭獨行。

  杖劍至韓,韓相俠累方坐府上,持兵戟而衛侍者甚衛。聶政直入,上階刺殺俠累,左右大亂。聶政大呼,所擊殺者數十人,因自皮面決眼,自屠出腸,遂以死。

  韓取聶政屍暴於市,購問莫知誰子。於是韓縣之,有能言殺相俠累者予千金。久之莫知也。

  政姊荌聞人有刺殺韓相者,贼不得,國不知其名姓,暴其屍而縣之千金,乃於邑曰:“其是吾弟與?嗟乎,嚴仲子知吾弟!”立起,如韓,之市,而死者果政也,伏屍哭極哀,曰:“是軹深井里所謂聶政者也。”市行者諸眾人皆曰:“此人暴虐吾國相,王縣購其名姓千金,夫人不聞與?何敢來識之也?”荌應之曰: “聞之。然政所以蒙污辱自棄於市販之間者,爲老母幸無恙,妾未嫁也。親既以天年下世,妾已嫁夫,嚴仲子乃察擧吾弟困污之中而交之,澤厚矣,可奈何!士固爲知己者死,今乃以妾尚在之故,重自刑以絕從,妾其奈何畏殁身之誅,終滅賢弟之名!”大驚韓市人。乃大呼天者三,卒於邑悲哀而死政之旁。

  晉、楚、齊、衛聞之,皆曰:“非獨政能也,乃其姊亦烈女也。鄉使政誠知其姊無濡忍之志,不重暴骸之難,必絕險千里以列其名,姊弟俱僇於韓市者,亦未必敢以身許嚴仲子也。嚴仲子亦可謂知人能得士矣!”

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OK, here is my translation and comments on part 1.  I found this much easier than the first part from last week but had a lot of trouble following the conversation between Nie Zheng and Yan Zhong zi.  Anyway:

 

 

More than forty years later we have the story of Nie Zheng, a man of Deepwell town in Zhi.  Because he had killed and needed to evade his enemies, he went with his mother and sister to Jin and worked as a butcher.

 

A while later, Yan Zhongzi from Puyang worked for Marquis Ai of Han and had a feud with the Han government minister Xia Lei.  Yan Zhongzi feared for his life so fled and wandered the land searching for someone who could take revenge against Xia Lei, eventually arriving in Jin Qi.  People in Jin Qi spoke of the brave knight Nie Zheng, hiding from his enemies and masquerading as a butcher.  Yan Zhongzi went to his house many times to inquire and eventually prepared a banquet in honour of Nie Zheng's mother.  Once the banquet was underway, Yan Zhongzi made an offering of 100 Yi of gold and toasted to the long life of Nie Zheng's mother.  Nie Zheng was surprised and, finding the generosity of the gift to be strange, firmly turned it down.  Yan Zhongzi insisted but Nie zheng again refused, saying, "I am fortunate to have my mother here, and my family is poor, therefore I work as a dog butcher and everyday am able to obtain good food to help look after my family.  I am able to provide sufficiently for my family so I do not dare to accept your gift."

 

Yan Zhongzi dismissed the other guests and then said to Nie Zheng, "I have enemies, and I have wandered amongst the feudal Lords, ultimately arriving here in Jin where I have heard of the extent of your just nature.  The reason I insist on this humble offering capable of providing only coarse grain for your parents is merely to instigate a friendship.  Would it be that I dare seek anything else?"  Nie Zheng replied "I have sacrificed my will and humiliated my body, living in a market town and working as a butcher, only because I have the good fortune to be able to care for my mother.  As long as she is here then I dare not accept your offer.  Yan Zhong finally conceded that Nie Zheng would not accept his offer and after completing the appropriate host and guest rituals took his leave.

 

A lot of the problems I had with this text were in the precise details of how meaning is expressed.  That is to say, I don't have a lot of trouble understanding what the meaning is, rather I have difficulty understanding how this meaning has been precisely expressed.  You'll see what I mean:

 

  1. 杀人避仇 Is this "He killed to evade his enemies" or "He killed and needed to evade his enemies" or something else similar?  It doesn't really matter, the point is this guy killed and needs to run away, but the exact meaning evades (sorry) me.
  2. 与韩相侠累有隙 Look out for the meaning of 相 here.
  3. 求人可以报侠累者,至晋 Again, is he wandering the lands searching for this person, eventually arriving in Jin.  Or is he wandering the lands and, in order to find this person goes to Jin?  I'm inclined to go for the first as, only upon arriving in Jin does he here of Nie Zheng.
  4. 然後具酒自暢聶政母前 and 前為聶政母壽.  What exactly is happening here?  In both cases I find the use or 前 to be confusing given it multiple meaning.  "He arranges a banquet and, with his own cup, goes in front of Nie Zheng's mother."??? Does the second 前 imply the order in which the events are occurring, he first makes the toast and then presents the gold???
  5. 客游以为狗屠 What does 客游 mean? I've forgotten precisely how 以为 works in this situation and can't find the relevant part of the book.
  6. It's confusing that they both refer to themselves as 臣 and more so that Yan Zhongzi refers to Nie Zheng as 足下, I'd have thought this would have been reserved for someone a little higher than a hired killer masquerading as a butcher.
  7. I enjoyed the mention in the end about not leaving until he'd completed the necessary rituals!

So, like I say, the general meaning is extracted without too much effort, but the precise details elude me a little.  I guess I'll have to give up my hopes of being an expert in the linguistics of ancient Chinese.  

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This is my translation for part 2:

 

 

After some time, Nie Zheng's mother died.  when he had already buried her and completed the mourning period he said, "Alas! I am just a man of this market town and I wield this knife as a butcher while Yan Zhuangzi is the town minister of a feudal lord, the distance between us is great indeed.  He came out of his way to look for and befriend me and the way that I received him was shallow and meagre.  I have no great achievements of which I can be proud, and he even offered a gift of 100 gold in honour of the long life of my relatives.  Even though I did not accept his gift, his actions show that he understands me deeply.  For an honourable man, preoccupied by his hatred, to show such personal faith in a poor, secluded man like me, 而政独安得默然而已乎!Furthermore, before when he requested my services, I could only act for my mother, but now my mother is dead, I ought to act for the person who understands me."

 

He then proceeded west to Puyang and seeing Yan Zhongzi said, "Before, the reason I did not accept your offer was that my mother was still alive but now she has died.  Who is the person that you wish to take revenge against?  I request to carry out the affairs with regard to him."  Yan Zhongzi announced, "The one I seek revenge against is the Han government minister Xia Lei, who is also uncle of the Han lord.  He has many prosperous clans and the land where he lives is prepared with the troops of Wei guards.  I wish to send someone to kill him, but none amongst the masses has thus far completed this mission.  Now you treat me well and have not given up on me.  I request that you take advantage of an entourage of strong men to act as your support."  Nie Zheng replied, "The distance from Han to Wei is not far.  I am going to assassinate a man's minister, a minister who is also a relative of that states Lord.  Under these circumstances, the people who go cannot number too many.  If there are many people we may be unsuccessful.  If we are unsuccessful, word will get out and then the state of Han will mobilise its forces to take revenge against you.  Would you not be in danger?"  With this, he proceeded to turn down the offer of an entourage.

 

A few points:

 

  1. 待 Rouzer seems to translate this as "to treat" as in the way you would treat a guest.  I guess this follows from the meaning of "to depend on" via "to wait on".
  2. 具告 I'm assuming 具 has an adverbial meaning indicating the way in which he spoke...?
  3. 请益其车骑 Should I take 其 to mean "this"?
  4. 今杀人之相 Does the 人 here mean one man, or men in general?  Is he saying "Today we kill a man's (the lord) minister" or is he saying "Today we kill the minister of (a) people"?
  5. I was unable to translate 而政独安得默然而已乎.

A few things have occurred to me while working through this.  The meaning of 臣 and 相 and similar terms need to be considered carefully.  Clearly 臣 operates as a way of referring to oneself but also to be in another's service.  I usually translate it as "to act as a minister" but really it seems to just mean "to be in a persons employ".  To me, a minister is like a minister of state, or a member of the executive, and I highly doubt that is the service that is being sought here.

 

The whole 知己 thing is at risk of being overly simplified.  I doubt that Nie Zheng's sentiment was really "because he offered me loads of money, I know that he really understands me", this is simply ridiculous.  So either he is overstating the significance of the gift in the name of the "game of politeness and etiquette" that Rouzer mentions, or there is a more nuanced translation to this recurring theme.

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evn108

Hi. It seems like a lot of these issues are really difficult for me to explain, it's that same old problem of having to understand the story before you're able to explain the grammar...but if you don't understand the story, how can you get the grammar? It's very circular. But here is how I understand the tricky points you raise in your last post. Forgive me for using 繁體字, it's more comfortable for me:

 

1. 殺人避仇: "He killed a person, and fled from the revenge" [that would have resulted from this]. He's on the lam, essentially, not from the law, but from personal revenge from the person that he killed. 

2. 相 is a title, like 宰相. Not sure if this is a question, or just a hint. Sorry if I spoiled the fun...

3. I think this more or less just a punctuation issue. I would do it like this: 求人可以報俠累者。至齊,....

 The grammar in the first part is actually one of those super complicated 可以 things that Rouzer loves to spend tons of time explaining. As far as I understand, we could understand the sentence like this: [He] searched among the people (求人) for one who could be used (可以...者) to repay Xia Lei. Or maybe, "Searched for a person, one who could be used to repay Xia Lei." No matter what the grammar is, I think the meaning is pretty clear. But when you put the 至齊 as the beginning of another sentence, it kind of dispels the ambiguity there. (It is Qi right? Or is there another version that uses Jin?)

4. Yeah, the use of 前 is weird here. Another tricky thing is that I think 觴 is  verbed here. As Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) once said, Verbing weirds language. I suspect the same thing is happening with 前. But first the 觴: He prepared a banquet, and personally "gobletted" (raised a glass to, offered a glass to, etc) before (前) Nie Zheng's mother. Then, later, 前 is used in a slightly different way. He 前 moved forward to give it [the gold] for the sake of Nie Zheng's mother's health/long life. 

5. 客遊 "wander as a guest/traveler" (Someone away from his homeland, basically living as a wandering stranger) 以 "and in this way" 為 "becoming" a dog butcher. 

6 & 7: These are good details, I think they show how Yan Zhongzi is being really obsequious and polite to Nie Zheng. This comes into play later, when Nie Zheng has his little soliloquy about how well Yan Zhongzi treated him (Another thing I like: Nie Zheng is much more eloquent when he is talking to himself, and is relatively plainspoken and direct when talking to Yan Zhongzi. I really like this piece a lot. 

 

(Next part)

1. I think the relationship in English between "to serve" and "to wait [on]" is kind of a coincidence with 待 here. But maybe not? I have no idea. At any rate this is a typical usage of 待.

2. I think 具告 means "told him everything" or "thoroughly explained"

3. 其 = 他之 ?

4. I think 人之相 is something like "A minister/leader of the people"

5. The 獨 is kind of confusing, maybe sort of idiomatic? I dunno. I think it means something like, "and yet how could I alone remain silent and do nothing more?" Maybe the 獨 is something a little bit like 豈 here. 

 

about 臣 and 知己, i think you're right. Chen is just the subordinate in a 君臣 relationship, employer/employed, etc., but it' sjust a general deferential second person pronoun. "I humbly," etc. It's just a polite way to refer to yourself. 

As for 知己, I've always taken it to include both the grandness of the gift, but also the highly respectful way Yan Zhongzi treats him. Maybe he is being obsequious, but having a full banquet performed in honor of one's mother is not something that dog butchers typically get to enjoy. Remember, Nie Zheng is not a dog butcher by birth. Maybe we don't know what his actual class is, but we have to assume that he's posing as a lowly person in order to avoid attention from anyone. Yan Zhongzi knows that he is not a dog butcher, but is actually a brave warrior 勇敢士, and from the beginning treats him as an equal or even a superior. So I think Nie Zheng is happy to have met someone who appreciates his true self, not the lowly position that he's been forced to stoop to due to circumstances.

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evn108, thank you again for your reply.  This is massively helpful.  No problem with 繁体字, this is the classical Chinese forum after all, I'm just used to using simplified.

 

You're right, it is Qi, that's my bad, I'll go ahead and change that.  Interestingly, most online sources have it punctuated the way you have suggested, whereas Rouzer still tags the 至齐 onto the end of the sentence rather than starting a new one.  Even the text I copied and pasted here has it punctuated your way, so I'm going to go ahead and leave it like that.

 

Your "gobletted" interpretation makes sense.  And now that I've checked, Rouzer does provide "to offer a toast" as one of the meanings of 觞.

 

In the second part, I'm not sure 其 can be used as 他之 as Yang Zhongzi is offering that Nie Zheng use his own men as an entourage, so wouldn't it have to be 我之? Or have I made a misinterpretation here?

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Here is part 3:

 

 

Nie Zheng left and, alone, carrying his concealed sword, went to Han.  At that time, the Han minister Xia Lei was seated in the government offices, himself clutching a two-pronged spear and surrounded by a mass of guards.  Nie Zheng rushed straight in and assassinated Xia Lei.  All the surrounding people were in confusion and Nie Zheng cried out, killing ten more people.  Upon which he cut off his face, gouged out his eyes, and butchered his intestines, ultimately dying.  The Han people brought out his corpse and hung it in the market, offering a reward for information.  However, nobody knew the man.  At this, a reward was offered to anyone that could say who the man that killed the Han minister Xia Lei of 1000 gold.  After a while, still nobody knew who it was.  

 

Nie Zheng's sister heard that someone had killed the minister of Han but his name was not known and while his body hung in the market a reward was being offered.  Sighing, she wondered, "Could this be my brother?  Alas!  Yan Zhongzi knows my brother!"  She went to the market in Han and found that the dead man was indeed her brother.  She lay down his body and in extreme sorrow said, "This is Nie Zheng of Deepwell town in Zhi."  All of those in the market said, "This man savaged our state's minister, the king has offered a reward of 1000 gold for his name, have you not heard?  How do you dare come here and recognise him?"  Rong answered, "Listen: All of the shame and poverty that Zheng suffered, casting himself aside here in the market amongst the peddlers, was all for the sake of his mother and because I had not yet married.  When my mother died and I had taken a husband, then Yan Zhongzi inquired after him and lifted him from poverty and difficulty and befriended him.  Of this generous blessing, what can be done?  Knights insist on dying for those that understand them.  Due to the fact that I am still here, he heavily punished (disfigured) himself and broke all connections.  Should it be that I fear death, and in doing so destroy my brothers famous name?"

 

All of the Han people in the market were surprised.  In the end, she cried to the heavens three times and then sighing with sorrow, died by her brother's side.  Jin, Chu, Qi, Han, all those that heard this said, "Not only was Zheng capable, but also his sister was a heroic woman.  If he had truly known that his sister did not have the will to tolerate, be willing to suffer great savagery, risk a long journey to ensure her brothers name was known and that they would both die in the Han market then indeed he would not have dared to accept Yan Zhongzi's proposal.  It can indeed be said that Yan Zhongzi knows men and can obtain knights!"

 

There are again some formatting issues with the text in Rouzer, but they've been fixed in the text provided here.  It's been a long day (I won't be attempting three of these at once again) so I'm not going to bother going in to great detail on this one - I think we've exhausted the precise analysis for the time being.  A few things bugged me about this one.  Mainly, how Zheng's sister Rong didn't got the whole thing wrong about Yan Zhongzi waiting until their mother was dead and she was married before searching him out.  I assume that she kills herself?  And I assume the reason is because it's inevitable that the Han people will kill her as revenge?  I get the feeling that this Yan Zhongzi fellow is a pretty nasty piece of work and basically has just used Nie Zheng to fulfill his will.  I don't really understand the honour for Nie Zheng in dying for a man that just has a score to settle with some ex-workmate.

 

Finally, I feel it must be said, 於邑 as an onomatopoeic sighing?  Seriously?  You've got to be f**king kidding me.

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evn108

Oh yeah--about the 請益其車騎壯士可爲足下輔翼者, I think in this case it just means "these." "Please add these carriages, riders, and strong soldiers, so that they may serve as your support." I went through this whole explanation of how it could mean "your" but then realized that is a much simpler way of explaining it. A possible definition of 其 from 漢語大辭典 is 代詞。遠指這些那些。 So, I'm satisfied with the simple explanation :)

 

As to whether or not Yan Zhongzi is using Nie Zheng... I definitely agree that he is. But after all this is Nie Zheng's story, and not Yan Zhongzi's. (Though arguably it's Nie Zheng's sister who ends up the most exemplary of them all). Regardless of what kind of guy Yan Zhongzi is, Nie Zheng feels as though his true talent has been recognized, and because of that becomes determined to fulfill his duty. The idea that part of Nie Zheng's honor is his ignorance of the lengths that his sister would go to in his name is also weird, but that's also part of what makes this such a compelling story. A lot of the 刺客列傳 have these kind of complex ethical transactions... I dunno how much we can really empathize with them as modern people, but if you can at least understand all of the different emotions and committments going on, you can still appreciate the complexity of the story

 

Yan Zhongzi recognizes Nie Zheng's talent; Nie Zheng pledges allegiance to Yan Zhongzi, and so fulfills his task at the cost of his own life, but at the same time, he knows that he has to protect both Yan Zhongzi as well as his own family (if Nie Zheng was found to have committed a crime, his family would suffer punishment also, so just dying is not enough, he has to eliminate all traces of his involvement). Meanwhile, Nie's sister knows her brother so well that she still recognizes him, and knows that he had to die for honor but did it in a way that would protect his family. But, on the other hand, she realizes that if Nie Zheng remains anonymous, no one will ever be able to know that he died so bravely. Many of the 列傳 from 史記 feature something like this--not only does a person have to do a notable thing, but someone else has to be around to record the fact that it happened for later generations. Her choice is either to record his name and expose herself, or let him remain anonymous and preserve her own life. So she tells everyone who she is, knowing that it is certainly going to kill her--and then she just dies right there anyway. Oh, that reminds me, that last sentence is really tricky:

 

鄉使政誠知其姊無濡忍之志,不重暴骸之難,必絕險千里以列其名,姊弟俱僇於韓市者,亦未必敢以身許嚴仲子也。

 

"IF Zheng truly had known that his sister 1) lacked a will that was soft and compliant, 2) had no concern for the calamity of exposing her corpse in the marketplace, 3)[and] would certainly risk a long journey to record his name so that sister and brother would both end up dead in the marketplace of Han, indeed, THEN he would not necessarily dare to have pledged himself to Yan Zhongzi." 

 

What a mouthful.

 

Also yeah 於邑 is irritating. 

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I guess the fact that Nie Zheng's sister can recognise him is a testament to how good she is, as opposed to Yu Rang's wife who was unable to recognise him even though his friends could.  It's not clear how she dies though, is it safe to say that she kills herself?  Also, I missed the bit about Nie Zheng's ignorance of his sister's heroism made him even more honourable.  Could you elaborate?

 

You're 100% right about how difficult it is to emphasise with the people in the stories.  I'm from the UK and we simply don't have this kind of history or historical record.  I remember a history class where I had to consult the domesday book to read about land ownings where I lived 1000 years ago.  This is going the same amount of time and more again, and in an entirely different part of the world.

 

Am I right in assuming that this is the only historical record we have of these people?  There's nothing else to verify the stories?  How do we know these people actually existed and Sima Qian wasn't just making the whole thing up?  Forgive me, my ancient Chinese history isn't great.  You seem pretty knowledgeable though, are there commentaries for the Shi Ji, or have you just read the whole lot and taken a bunch of classes on them?

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evn108

 

I guess the fact that Nie Zheng's sister can recognise him is a testament to how good she is, as opposed to Yu Rang's wife who was unable to recognise him even though his friends could.  It's not clear how she dies though, is it safe to say that she kills herself?  Also, I missed the bit about Nie Zheng's ignorance of his sister's heroism made him even more honourable.  Could you elaborate?

 

You're 100% right about how difficult it is to emphasise with the people in the stories.  I'm from the UK and we simply don't have this kind of history or historical record.  I remember a history class where I had to consult the domesday book to read about land ownings where I lived 1000 years ago.  This is going the same amount of time and more again, and in an entirely different part of the world.

 

Am I right in assuming that this is the only historical record we have of these people?  There's nothing else to verify the stories?  How do we know these people actually existed and Sima Qian wasn't just making the whole thing up?  Forgive me, my ancient Chinese history isn't great.  You seem pretty knowledgeable though, are there commentaries for the Shi Ji, or have you just read the whole lot and taken a bunch of classes on them?

 

I'm not sure how she dies either! I don't know how strongly I feel about this idea that Nie Zheng's ignorance of his own sister's devotion is part of what makes him remarkable, but the story certainly seems to be phrased that way. I don't really have a good explanation :(

 

As for other accounts of these stories, I know at least Zhuan Zhu is recorded in Zuozhuan (I think, or maybe Guoyu?) but I don't know about any of the others. In that case I think it's pretty clear that this earlier source is what Sima Qian was working with. Even if there aren't any other corroborating sources, based on the fact that we do know that tons of other materials from the period have been lost over the ages and Sima Qian's generally favorable reputation, Shi ji is usually taken pretty seriously as a historical record. Of course I don't think anyone would argue that every little narrative flourish is a totally faithful representation of reality, but I would also be surprised to hear someone seriously argue that the entire thing is pure fiction. It would be equally hard to find any persuasive evidence of that...

 

There are loads of commentaries for Shi ji I think, and a full English translation is under way by professor William Nienhauser, maybe even close to being finished. Another scholar writing in English who has done a lot on Shi ji is named Stephen Durrant. I'm familiar with these stories mostly from using Rouzer's book as a textbook for a class.

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somethingfunny

What was it like using Rouzer in class?  How long did it take to get through the whole thing?  How much supplementary material did your professor provide?  Was it a difficult class?

 

Sorry for all the questions.

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rylixe

My translation of part 1.

 

Over forty years after this, the matter of Nie Zheng took place in Zhi [a town in Wei]. Nie Zheng was a man of Shenjing Village in Zhi. Because he had killed someone, he fled to avoid his enemies. With his mother and older sister, he went to Qi, and he became a butcher.

 

Quite a while later, Yan Zhongzi of Puyang had served Duke Ai of Han. He had a feud with the Han minister Xia Lei. Fearing harm, Yan Zhongzi fled and went on a trip. As he searched for someone who could take vengeance against Xia Lei, he arrived in Qi. Some people of Qi said that Nie Zheng was a brave warrior, but had hidden himself as a butcher to avoid his enemies.

 

Yan Zhongzi went to his gate to seek him, but was turned back several times. Only then did he prepare a feast and personally offered a toast before Nie Zheng’s mother. As the party was going on, Yan Zhongzi brought forward 100 yi of gold as an offering to the long life of Nie Zheng’s mother. Nie Zheng was alarmed and confused at this generosity, and insisted on declining the gift. Yan Zhongzi insisted on offering it, but Nie Zheng refused, saying: “I am fortunate to have an elderly mother. My family is poor. But I traveled abroad and became a butcher of dogs, and by working day and night can obtain good food to support my family. My family being well supplied, I do not dare to accept your gift.”

 

Yan Zhongzi dismissed his men. Following this, he told Nie Zheng: “I have enemies, and thus have traveled among the various feudal lords many times. As such, I arrived in Qi, and secretly heard that you are a very righteous man. Thus I came to offer 100 yi of gold, to be used a gift of money for your parents and thus obtain the joy of forming a friendship with you. How would I dare to ask for any more?”

 

Nie Zheng said: “The only reason I have surrendered my ambitions and humiliated myself as a market butcher is for the good fortune of providing for my elderly mother. So long as my elderly mother lives, I don’t dare to promise myself to another.”

 

Yan Zhongzi continued to insist on giving his gift, but Nie Zheng still did not accept it. Finally, Yan Zhongzi prepared the rites of host and guest and left.

 

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rylixe

Part 2:

 

Some time later, Nie Zheng’s mother passed away. After the mourning period ended, Nie Zheng said: “Ah! I am a commoner who wields a butcher’s knife. Yan Zhongzi is high minister of the feudal lords, yet he did not mind traveling a great distance and going out of the way of his mounted escorts so that he could get to know me. Yet the way I treated him was meager and scanty. Though I lacked any great accomplishment worthy of praise, yet Yan Zhongzi offered a hundred pieces of gold for the long life of my mother. And though I did not accept this, only he who acts in this way truly knows me. In my case, although this worthy man was in deep fury, he sought to get to know and trust this poor and isolated me. How could I merely offer him silence in return? Moreover, when he previously sought me out, I rejected him only because of my mother. But now that my mother has passed, I will offer my services to the one who knows me!”

 

Thus he went west to Puyang. He called upon Yan Zhongzi and said : “The reason I did not agree to you before was only because my mother was still here. But now my mother has passed. Who is it that you want to take revenge on? Allow me to carry out this task!”

 

Then Yan Zhongzi told him everything, saying: “My enemy is the Han minister Xia Lei. This Xia Lei is the younger uncle of the Lord of Han and has many clan members. His residence is very well-guarded by soldiers. I want to send a man to assassinate him, but in the end, no one was able to accomplish this. But today you bring me good fortune in not rejecting my request. Allow me to give you mounted warriors and other strong men, so that they may assist you.”

 

Nie Zheng said: “Han and Wei are not far from one another. In killing the minister — this minister also being the Lord’s relative — there cannot be many people involved. If there are many people, then one cannot avoid debates over how to go about things. And once such a dispute arises, then the word will leak out, and the whole nation of Han will make things difficult for you. That would be a disaster!” Thus, he refused the mounted warriors and other followers.

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rylixe

Part 3:

 

Yan Zhongzi then departed, and traveled alone to Han, disguising his sword as a walking stick. Han minister Xia Lei was just then sitting in his office, armed with his spear and with numerous guards. Nie Zheng entered straight into hall, and assassinated Xia Lei. His retainers were put in chaos, and with louds cries, Nie Zheng slew several dozen men.  Then he peeled off his own skin, gouge out his own eyes, butchered himself so that his bowels fell out, and committed suicide.

 

Han took Nie Zheng’s body, exposed it in the marketplace, and offered a reward for information about it. No one knew who it was. Then, Han hung up a bag of gold as a reward, offering a thousand gold pieces to the person who could identify the killer. A long while passed, but no one knew who it was.

 

Then, Zheng’s sister, Ying, heard that someone had killed the Han minister, but because no one knew who it was, his body had been exposed and hung in the marketplace with a reward of a thousand gold pieces. She sighed deeply, and said, “Is this not my little brother? Aye! Yan Zhongzi truly knew my little brother!”

 

Immediately, she set out for the Han city, and found that the dead man was indeed her brother. She bowed before the corpse, and lamented greatly, saying, “This is Nie Zheng of Zhi Shenjing.”

 

All the people in the marketplace said, “This man savagely murdered a minister of our country, so the king offered a reward of a thousand pieces for the person who identifies him. Have you not heard of this? Yet you still dare to recognize him as your brother?”

 

Ying answered, “I have heard of this. But the reason Zheng bore humiliation and cast himself aside among the mongers in the marketplace was for the sake of his elderly mother and his unwed sister. After our mother passed away, and I married, Yan Zhongzi then sought out my brother, lifted him up out of his dire straits, and got to know him. He showed him great favor, but what of it? A knight certainly will die for the one who knows him. But because I remained alive, he heavily disfigured himself to disguise his identity. Yet how could I fear death for myself and extinguish my brother’s good name?”

 

This greatly surprised the people of the Han city. Then with three great cries toward heaven, she at last sighed mournfully and died beside Zheng. The people of Jin, Chu, Qi, and Wei heard about this, and all said, “Not only was Zheng capable, but his elder sister also a heroine! Suppose that Zheng had known his sister would not be able to bear this? That she would not fear a violent death and would risk the dangers of a long journey to make his name renowned, leaving brother and sister both killed in the Han city? Then he would not necessary have pledged himself to Yan Zhongzi. Truly, Yan Zhongzi is one who knows others and obtains their fealty!”

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