Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

  • Why you should look around

    Since 2003, Chinese-forums.com has been helping people learn Chinese faster and get to China sooner. Our members can recommend beginner textbooks, help you out with obscure classical vocabulary, and tell you where to get the best street food in Xi'an. And we're friendly about it too. 

    Have a look at what's going on, or search for something specific. We hope you'll join us. 
Fred0

格非《人面桃花》

Recommended Posts

Fred0

This title was recommended to me by a Chinese literature professor who finds this book to be one of the most beautiful texts in contemporary Chinese literature. So, I have interrupted my reading of 半生缘 to read at least the opening of this novel. Since this is the first text I am attempting without having an English translation to turn to, I expect to have considerable problems. My first couple are in this quotation: 

 

( The context is this old lady has been playing mahjong with a guy who won a lot of money from her and then went of eating two of her 柿饼. The cotton thread just broke as she has been working at her spinning wheel. Her neighbor has suggested that she not play with that guy anymore. We are in late Qing times.)

 

“我不和他打,和谁打?”孟婆婆道,“普济这地方就这么几个老搭子,缺了谁都凑不满一桌子,也怪我手气背,纺棉花也断线。”

 

What does 普济 mean and what is a 老搭子?

 

Also, when she describes what she lost to him she says: “刚从我这赢了二十吊钱走的,他手里紧了,就到我这里抠我两文棺材钱, 赢了就走,再央他打一圈也是不能,临走还吃我两块大柿饼。" 

 

Is she saying that she lost enough money to buy two coffins?; or wood to build two coffins? (Here I am taking 文 as the old measure word for coins.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

Publius

普济 is a (fictional?) place name. 普济 and 这地方 are in apposition, i.e. they refer to the same entity, "This place Puji...."

 

搭子 was originally a mahjong term. It means a set of three tiles (chow) of the same suit and in sequence, or two tiles with the potential to form a chow. It's then used metaphorically to refer to partners in an activity. So 老搭子 here means regular mahjong buddies.

 

两文钱 is easy to understand, right? 两 is not an exact number. It's just some money. 棺材钱 further describes the intended use of that money -- it's the money she's been saving up for her own funeral, it's her "coffin" money (as a figure of speech).

  • Like 1
  • Helpful 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fred0

Very helpful. Thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
imron
17 hours ago, Fred0 said:

this is the first text I am attempting without having an English translation to turn to

Congratulations.  Even though it might be slower to read, it will actually help you improve your language skills at a faster rate.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fred0

秀米问她谁是韩昌黎,翠莲说,就是当年大败金兀术的那个人。

 

Xiumi is a pubescent age girl whose father is insane. She is trying to find out what drove him insane. She asks the maid who tells her that it was due to the flap over the map of Peachblossom Spring which was supposedly made by Han Changli. Xiumi asks her who Han Changli was, and she answers that he was a 大败金兀术 of that time. 

 

What is the meaning of this phrase?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fred0

宝琛从十二岁时就跟在父亲左右,父亲因“盐课”一案受到株连,在扬州府学任上罢官回籍,他是唯一跟随父亲南迁的随从

 

The author is explaining Baochen's history with Xiumi's father, and how her father was caught up in a salt tax scandal, and lost his job, to then return to his ancestral home followed by Baochen.

 

Does 学任 mean an academic appointment, an education official, or what?

 

Does the last clause mean: He followed the father in his move to the south as his only follower (companion, factotum)?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Publius

Cuilian mistook Han Changli (real name Han Yu, a Tang dynasty writer, poet, and government official) for Han Shizhong (a Song dynasty general who defeated Wuzhu of Jin).

大败 to soundly defeat

金兀术 personal name

 

扬州府学 title of a government official who is in charge of the prefectural school system

任 tenure

在……任上罢官 he was removed from his office of...

 

And yes to your last question.

  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fred0

父亲罢官来到普济的头几年,两人诗词酬唱,酒食征逐,颇有相见恨晚之意,那张宝图据说是韩昌黎的真迹,原是丁家藏书楼的镇楼之宝。

For the first few years after losing his job and returning to Pu Ji, a few guys who would get to together to recite poetry, eat, and drink, reached out to invite him in. He rather wished he’d met these guys earlier. That treasure map was the authentic work of Han Changli. Originally it was kept in the Ding family library as it’s place of safe-keeping.

 

There seems to be something I’m not understanding about this sentence so I wrote out my translation for whatever corrections it needs.

 

The last clause is most difficult for me. Do I take it as a 是。。。的 structure? “The guard house of precious (things) was the Ding family library?” If not, how to read 的镇楼之宝?

 

And finally, is it odd that the sentence suddenly switches from talking about the 两人 to talking about the map? Do we assume that it’s from these new friends that he learned the story of the map? The immediately following sentence is: 二十多年前,丁家藏书楼在一场大火中化为灰烬,这张宝图却奇迹般地存留下来。

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Publius

First off, it's a painting, not a map. There's a note by the author that says 〔桃源图:传说为唐代韩愈所绘。普济丁氏代代相传,后又几易其手。1957年8月,经北京市和江 苏省文物局组成的专家小组鉴定,被证明是伪迹。现藏于普庆市博物馆。〕 This note itself seems part of the fiction. Han Yu (alias Han Changli), for all we know, only wrote a poem of the same title.

Treasure map is 藏宝图 in Chinese. 宝图 may conceivably be a shortened form in other contexts, but here it simply means a treasured painting (may or may not be associated with magic, cf. 法宝).

 

镇X之宝 is a set expression which usually refers to the most valued object of a house/shop/museum/library/country/etc -- sometimes believed to have the power to repel evil and keep the place safe.

This 桃源图 was 丁家藏书楼's 镇楼之宝.

 

酒食征逐 is a chengyu. 征 'to invite', 逐 ‘to follow’. So it means they are drinking buddies.

 

两人 is Xiumi's father 陆老爷, who is a former government official, and the local teacher 丁树则, who runs a one-man private school 私塾 out of his house. These two men enjoy poetry composing/reciting together, drinking and dining together. They find such a kindred spirit in each other, they are like "why haven't we met earlier?"

 

As to why the sentence suddenly turns from their friendship to the painting, that's because the painting is the narrative device that strings together the plot. This whole section is about Xiumi trying to find out why her father went mad. Cuilian tells her it's all because of that stupid painting, which is revealed later to be a gift Ding Shuze gave Master Lu for his 50th birthday.

 

By the way, the subject matter of the painting, as well as the place name 普济 (lit. 'to salve/relieve universally'), has some hidden meaning, I believe. We know the novel tells a story of a utopia. And Peach Blossom Spring is a fable about a utopia much like Shangri-La. Some knowledge of cultural and literary tradition is required, I'm afraid, to fully appreciate this novel.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fred0

Thank you. This is very helpful. I thought it was a painting until I saw the expression宝图, which threw me off.

About the note in parentheses:

Does the phrase 后又几易其手 mean “subsequently it again changed hands several times?”

Does the expression 是伪迹 indicate that the painting is authentic or a fake?

 

I am also very grateful to have your insights into the cultural allusions. Understanding some of the cultural and literary tradition certainly enhances the pleasure of reading.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Publius
4 hours ago, Fred0 said:

Does the phrase 后又几易其手 mean “subsequently it again changed hands several times?”

Yes.

 

4 hours ago, Fred0 said:

Does the expression 是伪迹 indicate that the painting is authentic or a fake?

Fake.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fred0

Cuilian has discovered lao ye to have gone frankly insane. When he asks her the nonsensical question, does he seem to be a cuckold, she runs to tell mu qin.  The author writes:

 

母亲当时正为着宝琛瞒着她去梅城逛窑子的事而生气,也就没顾上理她。


Mu qin at that time, really due to her being angry at Baochen, who was going to Mei City behind her back to visit a cheap whorehouse, didn’t pay much attention or concern herself with it (i.e. with Cuilian’s report).

 

Please offer corrections to this translation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jim

That looks about right, but is muqin not just her mother? It's the standard way of writing it.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fred0

I would have said "the mother" but it's so awkward in English. In Chinese people seem to be preferably referred to by their relationship to others in the family. I suppose that's the more Confucian way. It's already the third "chapter" and we as yet do not know the mother's name.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fred0

Mother brings in various practicioners, using various methods, to find a cure for father's insanity.

先是请来了郎中唐六师,给他猛灌汤药,遍体扎针。秀米记得父亲只穿着一条短裤衩,被宝琛绑在藤椅上,身上缀满了金针,杀猪般地吼叫。随后是和尚作法,道士驱鬼。再往后,阴阳先生和瞎眼神巫也跟着来了,把那麻衣相法,六壬神课,奇门遁甲全都试了个遍,就差把他的骨头拆下来放在锅里煮了

 

I read the last clause to to say: for all the difference it made in father's 骨头 (moral character?)  you might as well cut it all up (拆下来  ) and throw it in a pot to boil (In other words, to make a soup out of it).  I have little confidence in this reading. An alternative reading is:  then take (all of these treatments) , tear open his skull (骨头) and throw them in together as though in a pot to boil. Neither seems really right. Please help.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Publius

The confusion seems to be caused by 差 cha4 v. 'to fall short of'.

The idea is that they tried everything except the impossible: Short of taking his bones out and boiling them in a pot (to get rid of the evil spirit that had possessed him, apparently), they tried all this, this, and that.

 

You can find more examples in http://www.jukuu.com/search.php?q=就差

The tricky part is, 就差做某事了 and 就差没做某事了 essentially mean the same (kind of like the "couldn't care less" vs "could care less" situation). For example, this sentence from Uncle Tom's Cabin is translated into Chinese using 就差:

I've raked, and scraped, and borrowed, and all but begged,--and the price of these two was needed to make up the balance, and I had to give them up.

我搜搜刮刮,东挪西借,就差没有向人家磕头了……但还得把这两个人的身价加进去才偿得清差额,因此我不得不忍痛牺牲他们。

 

 

  • Helpful 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fred0

It's so satisfying to have a sentence which was completely opaque, suddenly become clear as pure water. Thank you. And thanks for the reference to JuKuu. I will make  use of this site in the future. It's like a Chinese-English version of the Rosetta stone.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fred0

这年夏天,父亲在花园里散步,走得累了,往石桌上轻轻一靠,桌子就翻了。宝琛从村里叫来了几个壮汉,打算把桌子扶正,几个人唱着号子舞弄了半天,那桌子还是纹丝不动。他只要一高兴,就爱打人玩。他一巴掌能把宝琛打得原地转上个四五圈。

 

My best attempt to understand the last two sentences is: "So long as (since) he was feeling happy,  he was  willing (爱)to get involved in playing with them (打人玩).  He was able to lend a hand (一巴掌) to the men (壮汉)and bao chen, and after four or five tries they stood it (the stone table) upright in its original place." I'm not confident of this understanding, and I don't understand how the second sentence is sturctured. Does 把宝琛 indicate that Baochen is the direct object of the verb 打? I also don’t understand the structure 个四五圈。

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jim

I'm a bit confused as to who's the subject of the sentence too, but I think it's the father. I think 他只要一高兴,就爱打人玩 is 'As soon as he was in a good mood he liked to hit people'  with 打人玩 in the sense of hitting people for the fun of it. Makes me think it's the father as this fits with being a bit not right in the head. Might well have this wrong though.

他一巴掌能把宝琛打得原地转上个四五圈 is 'with one punch/slap he sent Baochen reeling - 一巴掌 is the one punch, the 个四五圈 is 转上个 then the 四五圈 modifies that - one smack sends him turning, turning how? Enough to rotate four or five times, though obviously this is rhetorical. 

  • Helpful 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fred0

Well, I'm glad I asked! That makes perfect sense now, even though what it is describing is crazy. Yes, the subject is the crazy father. Thanks very much.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×