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

Polyhistor

Chinese in between Classical and Modern

Recommended Posts

Polyhistor

As part of my survey of Chinese over the centuries, I've tried to read selections of works from over the dynasties. 春秋、汉、晋 (mostly history)、唐、宋 (mostly poetry)、明、清 (mostly literature) and more recent. I have noticed some significant changes in style and comprehensibility as I move forward in time, but I'm still in the embryonic stages of my investigations into Chinese literature so I don't wish to speak on my observations yet. 

 

For the present, one major task I would like to embrace is improving my ability to read 明 and early 清 literature. My question is simple: How? 

 

I'm working my way through Rouzer's text on Literary Chinese, Gregory Chiang's Language of the Dragon, but these focus more on the earlier period of literary Chinese. I'm basically trying to move backwards from the 1930s fiction I've read most and understand best through to 清末年, then back to 18th century stuff like 阅微草堂笔记 and 聊斋志异,  as well as forward, going from 论语 to 史记 to 神仙传 of 晋朝, hoping to converge around the 明代 literature I'm most fascinated by (for now). 

 

If anybody knows of any era-specific resources to help provide a more solid anchor for the intermediary periods of Chinese language and literary development, that would be most helpful. As it is, I feel like I'm walking a bridge from the foundations of the academic literature on either ends in time, but with only examples of the literatures of the ages serving as flimsy planks occupying the span of the bridge.

 

Anything you can suggest, from a dictionary to a readable book from 唐 to a youtube video, even a method you've found helpful for tracking the changes of meaning of a zi, I'm interested in absolutely anything that'll help me on this journey. I just want to learn, but I have nothing to guide me, and using my own experience in language learning more generally has allowed me to swim to this point, but now I'm stranded deep in the ocean where there is almost no more help anywhere. Can you help? Can you be my lifejacket? 

  • Like 1
  • Good question! 1

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.

realmayo

You could try Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader I & II (sample chapter here https://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/7453 )

At the other end of the spectrum there are textbooks for English speakers written around the early 1900s which teach the written language of that time. e.g. https://archive.org/details/progressiveexerc00bull/page/164/mode/2up

 

But I don't know of anything that spells out the differences era to era. I'd be interested if what other suggestions people are able to provide. My instinct would be that with a very solid base in the really old stuff, the later language becomes rather easier, and because people have typically started 'at the beginning', that's where the grammars and the explanations are, and then you're left more to work out the later stuff for yourself. Perhaps it's enough to read a translated text with the Chinese version and the English version side by side?

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dani_man

I have seen specialized Chinese dictionaries per dynasty (Tang, Song, Yuan). These were however Chinese-Chinese dictionaries. I do not remember the publisher unfortunately. But they are available. I also found Hanyu Da Cidian always very helpful as it always includes all meanings throughout all periods.

 

Another option will be to use annotated texts by Chinese literary scholars (annotated in Chinese). These books are often with the word "校释" in the title. For example 唐人小說校釋 for Tang stories, annotated by 王夢鷗. The glosses do not focus specifically on characters but on sentences, context, places and other things that will not be clear for a contemporary reader (like, silk production techniques etc...).

 

I hope this helps. 

 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Polyhistor

I had high hopes for the Tang Dynasty Tales, but they're all in English with no accompanying Chinese. They do offer very small glossaries for each story with a handful of Chinese words, but it isn't that helpful. I am enjoying the copious footnotes, but they tend to be more historical than philological. 

 

Thanks for reminding me about the old primers on Archive. I was using one a few months ago, but I'd moved on. It was helping me improve my ability to read traditional characters quite well. I shall go back to looking at them. 

 

I own maybe 300 Chinese books, with many of them being annotated (from sparsely so to extremely frequent and detailed) versions of old texts. By far the best I've found are the orange hardcover 中华经典名著•全本全注全译丛书 (and the worst may be the softcover, 307 page 国学典藏书系, which are quite randomly edited down to fit the universal length, no matter how nonsensical the final product, as I realized after hours of extreme frustration a couple weeks ago). 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...