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weather: cold & wet
outside: 7.8°C
mood: brooding
Excerpt from the Foreword of the Tao Teh Ching translated by John C. H. Wu:

Both Confucianism and Taoism complement each other, however incompatible they seem at first sight to be. The former places a man in his proper relation to his fellow-men, the latter in proper relation to nature. A third philosphy, Buddhism, though introduced from India, deals with the problem of human suffering and with man's ultimate destiny. These three inheritances ... have moulded the thinking not only of the Chinese people but of all Eastern Asia. There is truth, then, in the common saying that every Chinese wears a Confucian cap, a Taoist robe and Buddhist sandals.

Whereas Confucius counseled his people to labor untiringly for the welfare and dignity of man in society, Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu on the other hand cautioned them against excessive interference. In their view, the urge to change what by nature is already good only increases the sum-total of human unhappiness. These two urges: on the one hand, to do something, and on the other hand, not to do too much, are forever contending in our natures. The man who can maintain a just balance between them is on the road to social and intellectual maturity.

Arthur W. Hummel,
Former Head, Division of Orientalia
Library of Congress, Washington D.C.
1962

I bought it because it has the 道德經 text in Traditional characters alongside Dr. Wu's English translation.


Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
kaseido
Nov. 2nd, 2005 06:37 am (UTC)
Hm, interesting. I'd always seen Confucianism and Taoism as directly contrary, rather than complementary. Is Hummel's view widely held? Do you have thoughts on the matter?
bride
Nov. 2nd, 2005 06:50 am (UTC)
Is Hummel's view widely held? Do you have thoughts on the matter?

I'm not too sure, but I'm thinking it has to be a better fit than "directly contrary". If they were really diametrically opposed, conflicting and incommensurable philosophies, how could they both be espoused side by side, in harmony by an entire culture for thousands of years?

I haven't studied it enough to really understand.

I used to be very put off by Taoist principles. I'd always wondered if it wasn't just the translations that were missing something. John Wu caught my eye, being a bilingual, native Chinese speaker. And I thought it was high time I looked at Taoism again. =)
bokane
Nov. 2nd, 2005 12:42 pm (UTC)
my two cents...
There's a lot of bad, bad, bad translations of the 老子 out there, but that forward, at least, implies that its author (or at least his friend) was a thinking man.
Robert Henricks' translation of the 马王堆 texts under the title Lao Tzu Te-Tao Ching is excellent, as is Victor Mair's translation, which I think is "The Way and its Integrity," or something like that.

But really - I find 庄子 to be ever so much richer than the 老子. Again, Mair's translation is probably the best out there; A.C. Graham's is good, but he rearranges things based on what he perceives (mostly rightly, I think) to be ideological threads and evidence of different hands or factions in the text's creation. But of course it's most fun to read in the original; it's probably the most straightforward 文言 you'll ever find. I find that my thinking and sense of humor are growing increasingly in line with Zhuangzi's, and the overwhelming sense of a real, thinking, breathing human being behind the book is just amazing.
bokane
Nov. 2nd, 2005 12:43 pm (UTC)
Re: my two cents...
Foreward. Foreward. I'm still at work. It's been a long day.
bride
Nov. 3rd, 2005 02:02 am (UTC)
Re: my two cents...
I find 庄子 to be ever so much richer than the 老子.

I kinda get that feeling too. Any particular title you especially recommend?

I so wish I had the time to take a course or something =\
bokane
Nov. 3rd, 2005 02:12 am (UTC)
Re: my two cents...
You mean which chapter? 秋水 is pretty incredible, but it pays just to sit down and read the thing through from the start. One thing that's particularly interesting is the figure of Cunfucius in the Zhuangzi, and the way he's handled. Sometimes he's a parody of a Confucian; sometimes he's a Daoist; sometimes he's a bumbling moron.
He has a very interesting line in one of the earlier chapters regarding life and anima -- unfortunately, I can't remember off the top of my head which chapter it's in, exactly. Will post it here once I get home and have a look.
pingva
Nov. 3rd, 2005 02:30 am (UTC)
Re: my two cents...
Are you familiar with this translation? What would you say about it?

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1569372829/
bokane
Nov. 3rd, 2005 02:45 am (UTC)
Re: my two cents...
Huh - hadn't seen that one. I don't remember being particularly impressed by that translator's verion of the Laozi, but I'll withhold judgement 'til I actually see the thing.

I will say that one of the key things in the Zhuangzi is how funny it is in places. Mair's translation is the one where that comes through best, I think, though Graham does a pretty good job as well. I flipped through Burton Watson's translation a couple of times and thought it was as generally dull as everything else he translates.
pingva
Nov. 3rd, 2005 03:14 am (UTC)
Re: my two cents...
I've only read Zhuangzi in its entirety in Russian translation (Malyavin's), and it is truly hilarious, quite often. (my personal favorite is the story about sword tournaments, but it is a wonderful book throughout)

the original is going to be quite out of my reach, for a long time (perhaps, forever).
bokane
Nov. 3rd, 2005 03:28 am (UTC)
Re: my two cents...
Hard for me to pick a favorite, though the conversations between Zhuangzi and Hui Shi are always good for a laugh. Zhuangzi was the master of the classical Chinese putdown. There's also the story where a hobbled man named Shushan Wuzhi ("Shushan No-Toes;" Mair translates it as "Toeless Nuncle Hill," I think) goes to see Confucius and is rebuffed, and then gets the last word with a brilliant inversion -- this is, I'm pretty sure, in the same chapter as the story I mentioned before where Confucius gets an interesting line about anima or life-force or whatever you want to call it. Now that I think of it, bride, the chapter is 德充符 - one of the innre chapters.

The nice thing about the original is that it is about as easy as Classical Chinese ever gets. The language is much clearer and less stylized than other thngs, so it's possible to read it even if your classical Chinese is mostly coming though by way of modern Chinese, as mine is.

Bride - here's the passage about the hobbled man:

鲁有兀者叔山无趾,踵见仲尼。仲尼曰:“子不谨,前既犯患若是 矣。虽今来,何及矣!”无趾曰:“吾唯不知务而轻用吾身,吾是以 亡足。今吾来也,犹有尊足者存,吾是以务全之也。夫天无不覆,地 无不载,吾以夫子为天地,安知夫子之犹若是也!”孔子曰:“丘则 陋矣!夫子胡不入乎?请讲以所闻。”无趾出。孔子曰:“弟子勉之 !夫无趾,兀者也,犹务学以复补前行之恶,而况全德之人乎!”

无趾语老聃曰:“孔丘之于至人,其未邪?彼何宾宾以学子为?彼 且以蕲以囗(左“讠”右“叔”音chu4)诡幻怪之名闻,不知至 人之以是为己桎梏邪?”老聃曰:“胡不直使彼以死生为一条,以可 不可为一贯者,解其桎梏,其可乎?”无趾曰:“天刑之,安可解! ”
pingva
Nov. 3rd, 2005 04:03 am (UTC)
Re: my two cents...
when I put it side by side with the translation, I can almost persuade myself that I partly get it =)) (Hanzi Bar plugin for FireFox comes in handy, too.)

But I'm sure it's totally worth the effort. Maybe you can recommend a primer on 文言? (the structure of the sentences seems so weird my head hurts. seems like even a bit of an explanation would go a long way)

So, what would be a good translation of the "punch line"?

The Russian translation that I have says something like "How can you free someone how's been punished by heaven itself?"

bride, sorry for this intrusion ;) I hope it's not too inappropriate.


pingva
Nov. 3rd, 2005 04:05 am (UTC)
Re: my two cents...
> how's been

that is, "who's been".
bride
Nov. 3rd, 2005 04:08 am (UTC)
Re: my two cents...
It's quite alright. I'm sitting here in complete fascination =)
bokane
Nov. 3rd, 2005 05:30 am (UTC)
Re: my two cents...
As with Chinese in general, there aren't that many good teaching materials. Shaddick had a series of readers that were pretty good, but are kind of dated now (they use Wade-Giles, etc.). BLCU has some textbooks, but they're only so-so.

The Russian translation is pretty accurate, but remember, the guy saying this has been hobbled - mutilated by having his toes cut off - for some unspecified past crime; that's why Confucius rejects him. Where No-Toes is impeded in his movement because of a punishment inflicted upon him by men, Confucius is impeded in his thought because of a punishment inflicted upon him by Heaven. I think Mair actually translates No-Toes' last line as "Heaven is hobbling him."
kaseido
Nov. 4th, 2005 12:08 am (UTC)
how could they both be espoused side by side, in harmony by an entire culture for thousands of years?

I find that an intriguing question. For me, I wouldn't even know where to start looking, in terms of Chinese cultural history.

I used to be very put off by Taoist principles.

*g* *So* not surprised! You're the most Confucian person I've ever known! I'll be *very* interested in hearing of your impressions this time around.

My favorite translation is the Stephen Mitchell, but it's very idiosyncratic, and probably the far extreme of not your thing/unhelpful in providing insights into the original....
bride
Nov. 4th, 2005 01:50 am (UTC)
You're the most Confucian person I've ever known!

Haha! To be fair, I don't agree with everything that's attributed to Confucius either =)

My favorite translation is the Stephen Mitchell, but it's very idiosyncratic, and probably the far extreme of not your thing/unhelpful in providing insights into the original....

Ah, interesting... I had to go make sure that wasn't the "Tao of Pooh" guy. =)
kaseido
Nov. 4th, 2005 04:49 am (UTC)
Ah, interesting... I had to go make sure that wasn't the "Tao of Pooh" guy. =)

*wince*

Sheesh! :P

No, I'm partial to freer translations - I've got Mitchell's Gilgamesh sitting on my in-shelf, and I'm wild about the Lombardo Iliad and Odyssey -
pingva
Nov. 3rd, 2005 01:20 am (UTC)
Have you seen this edition?

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0679776192/

This is my favorite English transation. Unlike many others, it is much more compact and free-flowing.

This edition also has the original text.
bride
Nov. 3rd, 2005 02:03 am (UTC)
Ooo, thanks =)
pingva
Nov. 3rd, 2005 02:26 am (UTC)
there's also Zhuang Zi "Inner Chapters", by the same translator, same format.
kaseido
Nov. 4th, 2005 12:09 am (UTC)
Wow, that looks wonderful. Adding it to my shopping cart -
da_rosas
Nov. 9th, 2005 01:41 pm (UTC)
Hello bride! Hope you've been well.

I'm a lurker from guangdong (you've given me a lot of incredibly great feedback in the past). This morning I just posted something there in reference to Kuan Yin etc. and then I realized you touched on the Chinese menage e trois here recently on your own blog. *grins* Would love your feedback, if any!, if you have the time and inclination?
http://www.livejournal.com/community/guangdong/29232.html

Thanks much!
bride
Nov. 9th, 2005 10:40 pm (UTC)
Heya =) Wow, thanks for thinking of me =)

Unfortunately, I'm running around trying to get packed and ready to take off on vacation. I leave tomorrow morning, so I'm kinda going bananas =P XD

But, just very quickly:

I have the Guan Yin Sutra in Traditional Chinese here and [supposedly] an English translation here.

I don't think of the Guan Yin as a "goddess". I don't believe in deities. Rather, prominent Buddhist figures are souls, just like you and me, they have been human at one point, but they have attained a level of understanding or enlightenment that is much higher than ours.

Guan Yin is the Bodhisattva of Compassion, the Observer of the World's Cries. The Guan Yin is actually a Buddha and has attained the highest level of enlightenment, entitled to enter Heaven, but has refused it so as to stay behind and assist every soul to enlightenment.

I try not to use pronouns or attribute male or female characteristics to them. They're supposed to be able to take whatever form is most conveniently understandable by whomever they are trying to help (in some depictions, the Guan Yin appears as a dragon). I also think that enlightenment means transcending human-defined male/female gender definitions and restrictions.

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama is supposed to be the most recent incarnation of the Guan Yin - the Boddhisattva Avalokiteshvara. I personally do not believe that he is, but I respect the beliefs of those who do. He has said on occasion in public that he was "considering not reincarnating after this death and being the last Dalai Lama".

I haven't seen or heard exactly what he said, in context, so I could be very much mistaken. And I understand his hardship from persecution, but those do not sound like the words of a Boddhisattva to me.
da_rosas
Nov. 9th, 2005 11:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much!
Appreciate your taking the time to respond and give me the links (I'll read them later) in your blog! Great reply and really appreciate your thoughts. One specific response to:
I try not to use pronouns or attribute male or female characteristics to them. They're supposed to be able to take whatever form is most conveniently understandable by whomever they are trying to help (in some depictions, the Guan Yin appears as a dragon). I also think that enlightenment means transcending human-defined male/female gender definitions and restrictions.

Fabulous point and what at least one other person (that I've had a *real life* conversation with) addressed the point of giving souls (and deities) or fundamentally human qualities, characteristics, and restrictions, including (but not exclusively) to gender. One thing I've heard notably about the Boddhisattva Avalokiteshvara specifically is that in different human traditions, the presumed gender changed or was mutable.

Thanks tons at so many levels. At a later date, I'd love to ask for more of your thoughts.

For now, have a FABULOUS vacation!!!
bride
Nov. 9th, 2005 11:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks so much!
Hey, no problem at all =)

Keep talking at me here or e-mail me random questions whenever you think of them to me (bride at livejournal dot com) if you like. I'll look at it when I get back or bored on the plane or something =) I'm looking for some writing prompts for further thought and journal entries too =D
da_rosas
Nov. 10th, 2005 01:09 am (UTC)
Just friended you :)
Hey bride, thanks much for your replies, info., etc., etc., etc.

Finally decided (after all these months!) to friend you. A good number of my posts are friends only. No need to friend me back; I hope you won't mind me friending you (though certainly let me know if you didn't want me to, I'll unfriend you if requested).


Also, if you've never perused my user etc., in short I consider myself a diehard liberal in most ways, though people infrequently also consider me unexpectedly conservative at times. I love intelligent, academic, and earnest folks with sensitivity and I consider you all of the above. Be forewarned, I sometimes rant and get stupidly silly on my blog, so if you can tolerate that... thanks. :) The major issues that might be intolerable, I can be a mumbler, grammatically incorrect, misquote, use big words I don't often understand adequately, and otherwise difficult (annoying) to read. I'm not a great writer by any means and I tend to be just one of those ramblers at times.

Best wishes, thanks oogles of noodles, et al.
bride
Nov. 10th, 2005 01:45 am (UTC)
Re: Just friended you :)
No worries. =)
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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