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Lu

I'm translating a text and am having trouble with a sentence. It's about stone carving, and the author is talking about how sometimes, nature already made something beautiful and you don't need to do more than polish the stone and highlight what is already there. She writes: 有时候什么都不需要做,大自然已经在不知不觉中完成了它的雕琢。这也许就是“顺其自然”最好的分寸。

 

My trouble is with that second sentence. I can't parse it into something sensible. 'This is perhaps the best way to know one's limits in following nature', but that doesn't make sense. What am I missing, or misreading?

 

Thanks in advance for any help!

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Luxi

How lovely! The most popular English translation of the 成语 ‘ 顺其自然 ‘ seems to be "Go with the flow". Alternatively, it could be "to let nature take its course" (I like this one better in this case). I think I'd also use 'Mother Nature' for 大自然

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889

It's not a very literal translation, but I'd go with something like, "This means showing restraint perhaps, and letting nature speak for itself."

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Lu

Thanks both! I forgot to mention that I'm translating into Dutch, so translation suggestions are welcome but will only be used for inspiration.

 

I know all the words in the sentence:

这也许就是“顺其自然”最好的分寸。

This | perhaps | is exactly | "going with the flow" | the best | limiting oneself.

Perhaps this is exactly the best limiting oneself of going with the flow.

My trouble is that I don't understand what these words are doing here together, I can't make a sensible sentence out of them. If someone tells me that actually the sentence itself is not good, then I know it's not me, but having been in touch with the author I think she has taken great care of her language and the problem is with my understanding. (I can also ask the author for clarification, but then I need to have first exhausted all other avenues.)

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Luxi
1 hour ago, Lu said:

she has taken great care of her language

 

That being the case, then I would give weight to 分寸. More than just restraint, 分寸 implies also 'propriety'. I can't think of a good English word along the lines of 'restraint with respect' or 'appropriate restraint' without going too far and adding too much.  Maybe Dutch has a good expression for this?

I'd also imagine that these sentences don't mean to say that the sculptor should leave nature alone and do nothing on the rock. Somehow I believe that this is inspiring the carver to follow what Nature has already started, complete her work. Something along the lines of Butcher Ding... Am I overinterpreting it? 

How about then taking 顺's full meaning: obey, follow, etc? 

 

I think 这也许就是“顺其自然”最好的分寸 is trying to say something like 'Maybe the most respectful is to follow Nature with proper restraint' ... Does that sound too clumsy?  Maybe there is a more elegant Dutch way of saying it?

 

...Or maybe I'm totally wrong. Have been reading too much 残雪!

 

 

 

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anonymoose

I agree it's difficult to grasp the exact meaning of this sentence. However, I don't think 分寸 means "limiting oneself". In my understanding, 分寸 means something like "appropriate amount", "measured". I know where you got "limiting oneself" from - 懂得分寸, literally meaning to understand what is the appropriate amount (and not exceed it), thereby limiting oneself.

 

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Lu

Thanks again to all! I'll translate it as 'Perhaps that is exactly the right amount in which to follow nature.' (It sounds slightly better in Dutch.) I'm not entirely satisfied with my understanding and translation, perhaps I'll make a note to the author to see what she thinks of this solution.

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