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香港三部曲


Fred0
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Yi Hong has led the opium dealer Wu Fu into her side room for special guests, for them the smoke some opium.

 

传烟技精灵的容嫂进来主持烟政,制作烟荷侍候。

 

The skillful angel Rong Sao came in to manage the opium affairs. She served them by making an “opium lotus.”

Is the translation correct?

Does anyone know what an opium lotus is?  Could it refer to the manner of spreading the opium paste around inside the bowl of the pipe?

 

Here Wu Fu is bemoaning the increased competition in the opium trade in recent years.

 

「生意差多了,现在可比不得早几年了,同行多,竞争大,价钱愈压愈低,没两个铜板的小洋行不怕死,眼红怡和一本万利,出门几个月,毕打街又开了好几家──」

 

The business has changed greatly. The situation now can’t be compared to a few years ago. There are many new companies, the competition is much more intense, and the more pressure, the more prices drop. Small foreign companies that don’t have two copper coins are utterly fearless. They envy Yi He for having been able to make huge profits from a small investment. Over the past several months quite a few have opened on Pedder Street.

 

吴福拍拍胸口:「怡和卖老字号,怕什么?从前老头子还在,就抽你们商标!」

 

Yi He can boast a long-established reputation. What’s to fear? The old man (who founded the business) is still there; then just pull out your business logo (to impress customers).

 

  「渣甸先生也捞够了,大班山腰的家,地上铺金砖,王买办亲眼看到的──」

 

Mr. Jardine has also fished up enough (money). His home half way up Taipan mountain is paved with gold bricks. Comprodore Wang saw them with his own eyes.

 

This dialogue has been difficult for me. Please improve or correct these translations.

 

Wu Fu has set eyes on the beautiful sing-song girl, Huang Deyun for the first time and wondered why she has been hidden from him during all his previous visits to Yi Hong Pavillion. Yi Hong tells him to stop whining, he knows the rules, but today she is breaking precedent because she wants to see if Deyun’s English lessons have be worth the money.

 

  「今后这儿的烟土,我全包了!」

“Wu Fu pats his stomach, saying, ‘From now on the crude opium  here,  I will wrap it all up!’” (Is this a good translation? Why does he pat his stomach? And what is he implying by this?  Is he perhaps saying, if you’re going to be so stingy with your sing-song girls, I’m just going to keep my opium for myself?)

 

Yi Hong answers him.

 

倚红听出弦外之音:「放心好了,你来我倚红阁,哪回亏待过你?等下找个乖女好好侍候你。」

 

Yi Hong hears what he is implying indirectly. She responds: You can relax. When you have come to Yi Hong Pavillion, when have you ever been unfairly treated? Just be patient; you will find an obedient woman who will take care of you very, very well.

 

Is her answer to reassure him that she will not hold out the beautiful young Deyun for long.

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1. Think you're there or thereabouts, though I'd say in 传烟技精灵的容嫂, 精灵 is an adjective (I think, my grammar is terrible! Not a noun, at any rate.) rather than a noun, so it's "Big Sister Rong, whose opium handling skills were particularly deft..." I think the 烟荷 was the ball of opium paste warmed and softened enough to be smoked but not sure at all.

 

2. Again, I think you've done very well but are slightly off in a few places:

生意差多了,business is much worse

现在可比不得早几年了,nowhere near as good now as it was a few years back

同行多,more companies in this line of business specifically, hence 同行 not that you're wrong

出门几个月, went away for a few months

毕打街又开了好几家 and when I got back there were even more new businesses up Pedder Street

 

3. 卖老字号 literally "selling its status as old and established"  so I'd maybe put it as "Yihe trades on its reputation" rather than boasts of it, though it's a small difference

从前老头子还在,就抽你们商标!Not quite sure what's going on in the second part here without context but on first blush it looks to be saying more "Back before when the old man was still alive, we/he used to smoke your brand."

 

4. Pretty good! 渣甸先生也捞够了 Mr Jardine certainly grabbed his fair share (bit sardonic etc.) 

 

5. 我全包了!I will pay for it all/ put up the money think of e.g. 包房 when you pay for a room. Presume the patting is related to the sense of him as a wealthy man with a big gut from good eating.

 

6. You seem to be there or thereabouts again. "Haven't we always seen you right here at the Yi Hong Pavilion? Just you hang on a minute and we'll find a nice girl who will look after you properly" [with all that implies]. Whether than nice girl will be Deyun can't really tell from that, I'd guess not though.

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On 12/13/2020 at 10:20 AM, Fred0 said:

Wu Fu pats his stomach

The original text is 吴福拍拍胸口, so it should be "pats his chest". Some people will do this when making a promise.

 

On 12/13/2020 at 10:20 AM, Fred0 said:

今后这儿的烟土,我全包了!

When 倚红 saw 吴福, she expressed her fondness to  吴福's opium paste with the sentence "以后想抽口好烟,只有指望你肥佬啰!别的倒还罢了,你们洋行的烟膏不渗假,一等一货色,没话说!"

So I think 吴福 implied that he could provide all the opium paste 倚红 needed from now on If 倚红 asked a nice girl to serve him well.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Deyun has been sent out of the room where her English was being tested by  吴福, friend of Yi Hong, the 娼鸨.

 

得云款步提衣上楼 Deyun lifted her skirt and slowly mounted the stairs.

 

Is this correct? Does 款步提衣 have another meaning?

 

Yi Hong has gone to Heavenly Fragrance House, a more high class brothel than her own, to sell Deyun, her 契女 (slave girl/foster-daughter), to the 老鸨.  She has talked up her looks, her singing and playing the pipa, and especially her ability to speak English. She tells the 老鸨 that Deyun was taught English by the compradore of a foreign company, which would be a man named Wang (王).

 

洋行买办亲自教的!

 

The madam responds:

给最后这句话打动了,天香楼老鸨却作状起身就要送客:She was impressed by that last sentence. However, as she was getting up to show her guest to the door, she added one condition to the deal:

 

  「王买办都上了你的烟榻,找我多馀!」When compradore Wang comes to join you on your opium couch, call me to join you.

 

Please improve my translations.  What I’m not sure about are 作状 and 多余 which seems to mean more remainder.

 

Also, what is 都 doing in that sentence?

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23 hours ago, Fred0 said:

Deyun has been sent out of the room where her English was being tested by  吴福, friend of Yi Hong, the 娼鸨.

 

得云款步提衣上楼 Deyun lifted her skirt and slowly mounted the stairs.

 

Is this correct? Does 款步提衣 have another meaning?

 

I still am wondering about this one bit?

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Yi Hong is extolling the virtues of Deyun:

「契女姿态才貌千中挑一,开口能唱坐下会弹,一口夷语叽哩咕噜,洋行买办亲自教的!」The appearance of this slave girl is one in a thousand, she can sing and play the pipa, and as for speaking English, she can jabber away.

给最后这句话打动了,天香楼老鸨却作状起身就要送客:This last sentence made an impression, however the madam of Heavenly Fragrance House made like she would stand up and show Yi Hong out:

「王买办都上了你的烟榻,找我多馀!」If you have even someone like Mr. Wang accompanying you on your opium couch, you have no need to come looking for me (to buy this girl).

 

[Actually it was not Comprodore Wang, but his assistant, “Fat Man” Wu Fu, who comes to join Yi Hong on her opium couch, and who tested out De Yun’s English, but was not her teacher, so Yi Hong is exagerating.]

 

这才纠正,是王买办的心腹肥佬吴福。

 

「谁教的还不一个样,叽哩咕噜嘛!」

 

Does 才 in the first sentence above have the meaning of “later than expected, finally”  She finally corrected herself that it was Mr. Wang’s assistant?"

 

What is the meaning of the next sentence.  Is this Yi, Hong still speaking or the other madam?  I would read the sentence to be saying: “Who the teacher was is still not the same, it’s just jabbering.” which doesn't make sense,  So is it: It makes no difference who the teacher was, it’s just irrelevant jabbering.”

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5 hours ago, Fred0 said:

I still am wondering about this one bit?

 

4 hours ago, Fred0 said:

Does 才 in the first sentence above have the meaning of “later than expected, finally”  She finally corrected herself that it was Mr. Wang’s assistant?"

both are correct.

 

4 hours ago, Fred0 said:

So is it: It makes no difference who the teacher was, it’s just irrelevant jabbering.”

It's close. I just don't agree with "irrelevant jabbering". I think it's 天香楼老鸨 who is speaking. She doesn't know English at all. No matter who teaches, to her ear it's all 叽哩咕噜, and she can't tell who is better, so no need to translate 叽哩咕噜.

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15 hours ago, EnergyReaper said:

No matter who teaches, to her ear it's all 叽哩咕噜, and she can't tell who is better, so no need to translate 叽哩咕噜.

Funny, I read this line differently. First Yihong goes, Deyun speaks fluent English, it's all bla bla bla this and bla bla bla that! And when called out, she is still selling Deyun's English skills: Well, whoever the teacher was, she can still bla bla bla with the best of them.

 

20 hours ago, Fred0 said:

这才纠正,是王买办的心腹肥佬吴福。

Only when she is called out, she 才 corrects herself, and not a moment earlier.

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@Lu Thanks, I think your understanding is also okay. 

Why did I think 老鸨 said "谁教的还不一个样,叽哩咕噜嘛"?

When I read it first, I thought this sentence was like a kind of 客套话 from 老鸨. At that time,  老鸨 was ready to talk the deal over with 倚红. I thought 老鸨 believed 王买办 and 吴福 should be able to speak English fluently, so no matter which one of them taught, it's all right.

The conversation in my head was like below:

倚红:契女姿态才貌千中挑一,开口能唱坐下会弹,一口夷语叽哩咕噜的,说得很流利,洋行买办亲自教的!

老鸨:连王买办都上了你的烟榻,找我多余!

倚红:啊,刚才说错了,是王买办的心腹吴福教的。

老鸨:呵呵,谁教的还不一个样,就是叽哩咕噜嘛!来吧,咱们来谈谈条件吧。

 

@Fred0 Yeah, I agree this book is not easy to read.

 

 

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Deyun is being transported to the other brothel:

按照华人的审美标准,得云也被打扮得像一朵花,穿上红云缎襟衫,腰系翡翠洒花洋绉裙,满头珠翠,步出两年来一步没离开过的「家」,依依拉住侍候她的仆妇,几次欲言又止,最后还是默默上轿。According to the Chinese standard of beauty, Deyun has been adorned like a flower, dressed in a pale red, lappeled, satin jacket, a flowered jadeite-colored skirt made of foreign crepe, tied at the waist, and her head has been adorned with pearls and jade. She was leaving her “home” for the first time in the two years she had lived there. Reluctent to leave, she clung to her personal maid. Several times wanting to say something to her, but each time being unable to, she finally, boarded the waiting sedan chair.

 

垂下帘子,过了这一带住宅式的半掩门娼馆,轿子转入威灵顿街,一把撕得极碎极碎的纸片从轿内洒了出来,在青色的月光下打转,雪花似的一路飘过去,渐渐混入路旁烧纸衣的火盆里。It’s curtains hanging down, the sedan chair passed through the district of the half-closed-door brothels. As it entered Wellington Street, tiny pieces of torn-up paper drifted through the windows. Revolving in the bluish moonlight, they appeared as snowflakes floating over the street,  gradually sneaking into the braziers by the side of the road in which were burning ceremonial paper clothing. (烧纸衣?)

 

这天是盂兰节,花街一带妓女一年中的大节日,诚心无比的祭饿鬼打清醮,希望今生罪孽已满,转世不致重复这份营生。That day it was the Buddhist ghost festival,  which was for the prostitutes of the red light district, the most important festival of the year, in which, with incomparable sincerity, they made offerings to the hungry ghosts,  hoping that their accumulated sins (their accumulated karma?) would be already full (expiated?), so that they would not be reincarnated in such a way that they would have to repeat this same way of making their living.

 

沿路冥纸堆成小山,家家盆中火舌窜飞,照亮了老妓们风尘的脸,旁立刚解人事的契女,听老妓口中念念有词,一扎扎冥纸恨恨往火盆中投,讨好鬼神之馀,心中忿然。Along the way the joss paper (ritual money) piled up in little mounds,  In each house one after another, from the braziers, tongues of fire leaped,  lighting up the faces of the old prostitutes, marked by the hardships of their lives. Beside them the slave girls, with hard knowledge of the ways of the world (刚解人事?), listened to the old prostitutes murmur prayers under their breath. They crunched up bills of ritual money, and with hatred and regret, cast them into the burning braziers, in hopes of winning favor of the departed spirits remaining (unappeased?)  (之馀?), their hearts full of indignation.

 

几条花街、妓寨火光,仍在承受炼狱似今世不得翻身的熬苦。In these several streets of the red light district, with their blazing brothels, there are those who remain prisoners who will never escape the torments of purgatory which they endure in this life.

 

I would appreciate any corrections to this translation. I am particularly doubtful of:

1. 烧纸衣

2. 刚解人事

3. The final sentence: 几条花街、妓寨火光,仍在承受炼狱似今世不得翻身的熬苦。

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That looks pretty decent, one thing I spotted was this phrase 过了这一带住宅式的半掩门娼馆 - in terms of brothels 半掩门儿 has a particular meaning of sex work not done openly, which I think is why it's mentioned that the building look residential - passing through a district of undercover brothels in residential-style compounds https://baike.baidu.com/item/半掩门儿/8919591?fr=aladdin

烧纸衣 you are right, particularly associated with 寒衣节 in the north, which gets described here: https://bulletin.hds.harvard.edu/turning-ghosts-into-ancestors-in-contemporary-urban-china/ though I see from below that this is a different day. Wasn't aware of 盂兰节 but seems that has similar paper offerings traditions https://baike.baidu.com/item/盂兰盆节/1099214?fromtitle=盂兰节&fromid=2588949&fr=aladdin

I think  刚解人事 means they are fresh/new to their knowledge of the ways of the world, 刚 as in 刚刚, which would fit with them being younger women. I think 讨好鬼神之馀 means "with the mental energy left over from their offerings to the ghosts" i.e. they're fuming with indignation in that part of them not being used to go along with the ceremonials.

Think you've done fine with the final sentence too. I suppose the 妓寨火光 is to contrast the bright lights of the brothels with the suffering of the women working in them.

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10 hours ago, Fred0 said:

几条花街、妓寨火光,仍在承受炼狱似今世不得翻身的熬苦

You might have some omissions. The version of this sentence I read is 几条花街、妓寨火光烟灰熊熊,仍在承受炼狱似今世不得翻身的熬苦.  I'll pause after 妓寨 while reading it, i.e. 几条花街、妓寨 + 火光烟灰熊熊, because I think 花街 and 妓寨 have the same meaning and adding a synonym here just for rhythm.

 

4 hours ago, Jim said:

I think  刚解人事 means they are fresh/new to their knowledge of the ways of the world

Personally, I think 人事 here means more special, not the knowledge of the ways of the world, but the knowledge of sexual activity.

As 百度百科 said, 人事 can mean 男女间情欲之事, e.g. 《红楼梦》第七四回:“或者年纪大些的,知道了人事。”

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