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somethingfunny

Study Group 史記:《魏其武安侯列傳》

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somethingfunny

Following on from the call in the Classical Chinese study group thread by Xuan, we've decided to try working through 《魏其武安侯列傳》from The 史記.  This is Xuan's choice, so maybe he could give a little background (as I have no idea what it's about).

 

We're going to go through at about 500 characters a week, posting the original Chinese here (taken from ctext) and then after five days or so posting our own English translations.  There would then be a couple of days to look over the translations.  Questions are welcome at any stage.

 

Although this will likely be mainly a conversation between Xuan and I, we've decided the advantage of doing it here is that people can contribute freely whenever they want, and I know that a few people are subscribers to this sub-forum, so they might receive emails when new content comes up.  If you're interested, you should also subscribe to this thread.

 

So, here is the first part of the text:

 

魏其侯竇嬰者,孝文后從兄子也。父世觀津人。喜賓客。孝文時,嬰為吳相,病免。孝景初即位,為詹事。梁孝王者,孝景弟也,其母竇太后愛之。梁孝王朝,因昆弟燕飲。是時上未立太子,酒酣,從容言曰:「千秋之後傳梁王。」太后驩。竇嬰引卮酒進上,曰:「天下者,高祖天下,父子相傳,此漢之約也,上何以得擅傳梁王!」太后由此憎竇嬰。竇嬰亦薄其官,因病免。太后除竇嬰門籍,不得入朝請。孝景三年,吳楚反,上察宗室諸竇毋如竇嬰賢,乃召嬰。嬰入見,固辭謝病不足任。太后亦慚。於是上曰:「天下方有急,王孫寧可以讓邪?」乃拜嬰為大將軍,賜金千斤。嬰乃言袁盎、欒布諸名將賢士在家者進之。所賜金,陳之廊廡下,軍吏過,輒令財取為用,金無入家者。竇嬰守滎陽,監齊趙兵。七國兵已盡破,封嬰為魏其侯。諸游士賓客爭歸魏其侯。孝景時每朝議大事,條侯、魏其侯,諸列侯莫敢與亢禮。

 

孝景四年,立栗太子,使魏其侯為太子傅。孝景七年,栗太子廢,魏其數爭不能得。魏其謝病,屏居藍田南山之下數月,諸賓客辯士說之,莫能來。梁人高遂乃說魏其曰:「能富貴將軍者,上也;能親將軍者,太后也。今將軍傅太子,太子廢而不能爭;爭不能得,又弗能死。自引謝病,擁趙女,屏閒處而不朝。相提而論,是自明揚主上之過。有如兩宮螫將軍,則妻子毋類矣。」魏其侯然之,乃遂起,朝請如故。

 

If you have a copy of 《古代漢語》the 王力 book, you can find it in volume three on page 730.  It looks like I don't have the accompanying text with the modern Chinese translation for volume three, so this could be interesting.

 

You can expect questions through the week, and some translations come Friday/Saturday.

 

Any questions or suggestions are more than welcome.

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ilande

I'll follow this thread, but I fear my classical Chinese is probably not quite up to the level where I can contribute much.

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Xuan

Thanks for starting us off, somethingfunny.  Let's see how well we do.

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Xuan

To ease our understanding of the dramatis personae that appear in the first two paragraphs, allow me to map out the family relations.
The triangles are men, circles are women, single lines show consanguinity, and double lines show conjugal relations.
I think this is how it should look:

 (竇氏)               (竇氏)

◯=△ーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーー△=◯

 |                  |

 ◯ = △              △ = ◯

孝文后| 漢文帝          竇[從兄]  |

竇太后|  孝文              |

竇氏 |                  |

   |                  |

 |ーーーー|               |

 △    △ = ◯           |

梁孝王  漢景帝| 栗姬          △

      孝景|            竇嬰

        |            魏其侯

        △

       栗榮太子

        

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somethingfunny

Ah yes, now I remember how difficult this is.  Maybe we should agree on some terms, so our translations are comparable.

 

侯 Official?  Nobleman?

相 Prime Minister?

詹事 I've no idea what we should call this.

 

And, I have a couple of questions from the first few sentences:

 

  1. 父世 Is there any particular reason we should take this as meaning "the generations (世) leading up to the father (父)"?
  2. 喜賓客 "Fond of having guests"?  I guess this is a comment on the family as a whole.
  3. 病免 Seems like it's saying 婴 took up the office, but then had to relinquish it because of illness.  Yeah?

 

I see this is going to take me a little while to get warmed up.

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evn108

The standard translation of 侯 when it refers to a specific rank is "marquis," if used as a general term (e.g. 諸侯) people often just use "lord." 相 can refer to a number of different positions. Here it's helpful to refer to Charles O. Hucker's A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China--I think there are PDFs floating around online. Of course some of these definitions can be disputed but in general it's a useful place to start. But Hucker recommends "administrator" for the 相 of Han princely kingdoms (王國) like Wu in this case (which Wang Li helpfully notes was at this time ruled by Liu Bang's nephew Liu Bi). Similarly for 詹事 Hucker recommends "overseer of affairs"--seems literal enough. 

 

I'm guessing 賓客 here are more like courtiers or retainers than simple guests

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Publius

侯 is more like lord. There were originally five ranks in the nobility system, later used to translate the British titles: duke 公爵, marquess 侯爵, earl 伯爵, viscount 子爵, baron 男爵. But Han used a 20-tier system, all can be called 侯. And above 侯 is 王. 諸侯 usually only had the power to collect taxes. 王國 on the other hand were much more autonomous, having their own administrations (headed by 相) and troops (hence 孝景三年‘s 七王之亂).

詹事 is like royal butler. 'Overseer of affairs' seems a good translation.

 

And yes about 父世. 《漢語大詞典》有

父世縣
父祖世代居住的縣邑。
 ▶《史記‧淮南衡山列傳》:「真定,厲王母之家在焉,父世縣也。」
 ▶司馬貞索隱:「謂父祖代居真定也。」
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somethingfunny

Thanks guys, good discussion.  Do you have any advice on how we should refer to the people, if we were looking to use the same thing throughout?  For example:

 

窦婴 Lord Dou

孝文后/太后 Empress Dou

孝文/文帝 Emperor Dou

孝景/景帝 Emperor Jing

梁孝王 King Xiao of Liang (Or should we be calling him Wu?)

 

Also, in the line: 是時上未立太子,酒酣,從容言曰:「千秋之後傳梁王。」who is 太子?

 

I'm pretty ignorant about all these different official terms.  Hopefully it will just hold me up at the start and things will get smoother later on.

 

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Xuan
8 hours ago, somethingfunny said:

病免 Seems like it's saying 婴 took up the office, but then had to relinquish it because of illness.  Yeah?

Yes, I read it that way too, more or less.

 

4 hours ago, somethingfunny said:

Also, in the line: 是時上未立太子,酒酣,從容言曰:「千秋之後傳梁王。」who is 太子?

Here, I think 太子 is not a person's name but rather a title/position, which is sitting empty at this moment in the narrative.  "At that time, he had not yet established (designated) a crown prince/successor . ...."

 

4 hours ago, somethingfunny said:

梁孝王 King Xiao of Liang (Or should we be calling him Wu?)

When translating, it might be best to stick with "King Xiao of Liang", as it appeared first in the main text.

 

The imperial titles and positions confound me, so I will defer to others on this.

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somethingfunny
6 hours ago, Xuan said:

Here, I think 太子 is not a person's name but rather a title/position, which is sitting empty at this moment in the narrative.

Ah, yes, I see now.  So I assume this is 梁孝王 that then does the talking later in the sentence?

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Publius
1 hour ago, somethingfunny said:

So I assume this is 梁孝王 that then does the talking later in the sentence?

No, 梁孝王 is 孝景帝's little brother. 上 = 孝景帝. At the time the emperor hadn't decided yet which one of his sons should be the heir. So after a few cups of alcohol he said to his brother "You have the throne after I die."

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Publius

And you should be more concerned with how we refer to 竇氏. She's the wife of 文帝 and mother of 景帝 (two "wise" rulers associated with 文景之治 in textbooks) . So she was the Empress Mother during 景帝's reign, and the Empress Grandmother when she died. But the good historian didn't make the distinction between 太后 and 太皇太后 (a title probably didn't exist).

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somethingfunny
27 minutes ago, Publius said:

上 = 孝景帝

"What does 上 mean in this sentence?" Was going to be my next question.  Nice one.

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somethingfunny
21 minutes ago, Publius said:

And you should be more concerned with how we refer to 竇氏.

I was just going to call her Empress Dou.  Are you suggesting "The Empress Mother-Grandmother"? 

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somethingfunny

Works for me.

 

I guess I'm always reluctant to use terms like "Empress Dowager" and "Marquis" because, as they're not really used in English, I've no experience with them.  But I should probably just stop being ignorant.

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Publius

Yeah. Only seen it once in Game of Thrones (when Margaery the newly-made queen mocks Cersei her mother-in-law: What's the proper way to address you now? Queen Mother or Dowager Queen?)

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somethingfunny

Obviously I'd heard of someone like Empress Dowager Cixi, but never really knew what it meant.  Looking at that wikipedia article, it points out that the late Queen Mother was technically a Queen Dowager - I mean, it's obvious, but it shows how unfamiliar we are with that term given the level of profile she had here.

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evn108

I've always been curious about the term "dowager" because it is one of those words you encounter all the time in English translations of Chinese texts, but it's usually in cases where the widowed empress is basically serving as a regent for her son (or is closely connected to whoever actually is the regent). But I suppose any widowed empress is technically a dowager regardless of how much power she actually has at court? 

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Publius

Yes. In Chinese 后 has a very specific meaning, the official wife (among many wives) of a ruling monarch. So when the monarch is succeeded by his son, the former 后 automatically becomes 太后, because the new monarch will have his own 后. (btw I always find it odd that English uses the same word for 女王 and 王后. It's not like you don't have female monarchs.)

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