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Quick translation (classical Chinese)


Elisa_F

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Hi,

I'm having a few issues with a sentence. It comes from a letter Emperor Jianwen of the Ming sent to Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1402.

Here it is: 古聖人疆而理之於出

I can loosely grasp its meaning, but if someone could break down the grammar a little, it would be great!

 

Thanks,

Elisa

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I am always humbled by people who can read classical Chinese. Many, many years ago, I took a class on Song dynasty landholding systems. We divided up responsibility based on our strengths. I got to do secondary stuff in Japanese, mainly by a former mayor of Hiroshima, named Sudoh. I think, at the time, the reigning expert was a Cambridge don named Denis Twitchett (spelling corrected). We had one of his top grad students as a guest in our seminar. He entertained us all with funny stories about huge academic battles about where modern scholars wanted to put commas in classical  Chinese texts that didn't have them. Very, very amusing...

Edited by TheBigZaboon
Added a name, and corrected the spelling of a name.
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Maybe off topic, but another funny thing that came out of this class was the difference in the viewpoints expressed about the contracts and their terms and conditions that led to the development of manorial estates in the Song dynasty. We were a very diverse class, made up of westerners (not just Americans, in fact, the son of the famous van Gulick was in one of our classes), Japanese, and a few Chinese. The westerners' level of Chinese varied, but none could really handle classical Chinese, so translation of the actual contracts fell to the Japanese and Chinese students. The contracts were mostly about indenturing you and your family (including future generations) to a local landlord in return for protection from brigands and such.

The discussions were very heated, and hilarious when I look back on them.

The Chinese (at least those in the class) seemed to think that selling the next 25 generations of your family into indentured servitude was reasonable enough in the face of an existential threat that maybe you wouldn't have any decendents at all without the promised protection. The westerners thought this was heresy, of course, and discussions were very lively.

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1 hour ago, lips said:

Indeed, where you put the punctuation can make a difference!

It's true, especially in a language like Chinese, where number and gender are often omitted and verbs usually offer no clue. Thanks again for your help, that comma saved my day!

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1 hour ago, TheBigZaboon said:

battles about where modern scholars wanted to put commas in classical  Chinese texts that didn't have them. Very, very amusing...

I can feel their pain. I'm currently working on a scan of the original document that features no punctuation and every line is an ordeal. On the other hand, the text does have kaeriten and some kun'yomi readings, allowing me to rely on my scarce knowledge of classical Japanese, but I still have a long way to go...

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I admire your perseverance. I still live in Japan, and so I'm often tempted to pick up a kanbun textbook for high school kids, but I never seem to have the courage.

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Thanks for your word. I'm translating this document really for my final paper, I'm about to get an MA in Chinese Studies and the topic of my paper is the tributary relation between China and Japan, so I had to pick up some basic knowledge of classical Chinese. There are many good grammars out there (there is also a thread on this forum, if I'm not wrong).

Kanbun can be tricky at first, but not really if you have practice with literary Japanese, if you know classical Japanese enough, let's say, to read and translate waka poems.

 

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Where are you studying for your MA?  (If you don't mind me asking)  It's always useful to have information and reviews on the board about different China-related courses out there.

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To translate, you need context.

The context:

復載之間,土地之廣,不可以數計。古聖人疆而理之,于出貢賦力役、知禮儀、達於君臣父子大倫者,號曰中國。

 

之 refers to 土地

疆 is used as a verb, 'to demarcate'

于……者,號曰中國 and call the part which ... "Zhongguo"

出貢賦 is like to pay taxes or 捧錢場

出力役 is like to serve in the military or 捧人場 :mrgreen:

 

 

P.S. Kanbun is fun (to a cryptologist), and easy (if you already know the meaning backwards and forwards). :wink:

You don't need a textbook. A web page can teach you all the basics: http://nbataro.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-450.html

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12 hours ago, somethingfunny said:

Where are you studying for your MA?  

Florence, Italy. I can't really tell you much about the course there because I'm part-time student and full-time worker, and almost never attended classes. Also, I'm quite odd in my formation. I got a BA and a MA in Japanese studies almost ten years ago, then I started studying Mandarin by myself in 2013 and was admitted for the MA in 2015.

The MA here is almost exclusively oriented towards contemporary China, especially Mao and post-Mao era, and literature&media of the 20th and 21st centuries. Only since last semester they started opening up to premodern times.

 

 

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okay so "Across all the Earth, which is so big it cant even be calculated, there was a wise man who divided up the land and assigned people to manage it. He made the people managing each part contribute resources and manpower (established feudalism), he taught everyone all the customs and rituals, and built a society in which everyone understood the moral relationship between princes and their servants, and fathers and their sons. This place is called China" ?

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8 hours ago, stapler said:

what does " 古聖人疆而理之,於出貢賦力役 " translate as?

 

Here is my take: "The Sages of antiquity set its [referred to the Chinese Empire] borders and established the tax system and the labour service".

 

4 hours ago, Publius said:

The context:

復載之間,土地之廣,不可以數計。古聖人疆而理之,于出貢賦力役、知禮儀、達於君臣父子大倫者,號曰中國。

 

Thanks for the link!

And this is the complete sentence: "We cannot measure the extension of our country, of what lies between Heaven and Earth. The Sages of antiquity set its borders and established the tax system and labour service, they knew about the rituals and justice, and that these [rituals and justice] extended to the moral relationships between ruler and subject and between father and son. Thus they called [our country] the Middle Kingdom".

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I like a lot about your translation, but I think you're missing a few details. The first bit, for example, 復載之間, isn't in your translation. You could parse this as, "The many years and broad lands cannot be measured." You say "between Heaven and Earth", but where is heaven in the original? Moving on, "rituals and justice" is fine in context, but justice does rather imply a legal context, when  essentially just means "what is right". I would probably gloss 禮儀 as "etiquette and rightness", which also nicely gets across the prissiness of this ideal! I would probably gloss  as "arrived at", as in, after pondering something for a while they arrived at a solution. This neatly sticks with the root meaning in both English and Chinese. So they "arrived at the Great Relations between ruler and minister, and father and son". 大倫 is a moral system, so you can include or leave out the word moral for clarity's sake, but it isn't in the original. Finally, I have to confess I don't like the phrase the Middle Kingdom! I think "central states" might be better, as this sentence refers to the pre-imperial era (as indicated by the word 古).

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