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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.

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


Nov. 3rd, 2005 02:30 am (UTC)
Re: my two cents...
Are you familiar with this translation? What would you say about it?

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.
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).
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! ”
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.

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

that is, "who's been".
Nov. 3rd, 2005 04:08 am (UTC)
Re: my two cents...
It's quite alright. I'm sitting here in complete fascination =)
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."


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