QUESTIONS on old chinese matters specific enough to attract expert ANSWERS

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QUESTIONS on old chinese matters specific enough to attract expert ANSWERS

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Dic 18, 2007, 11:48am


text: 野有蔓草、零露溥兮。有美一人、清揚婉兮。邂逅相遇、適我願兮。野有蔓草、零露瀼瀼。有美一人、婉如清揚。邂逅相遇、與子偕臧

Legge, Waley & Pound all imagine a WOMAN happy to have found a good-looking man and having HER way with him. Kaionji 海音寺and another Japanese translator (i read and lost his name) imagine a MAN happy if he can find a beautiful woman and enjoy mutual refreshment (if you will pardon my using a Mark Twainism).

English translations: Male => Female vs. Japanese translations: Female => Male
English translations: Past tense vs. Japanese translations: supposition (& possibly proposition)

Legge also translated Zuan-ji asking the ministers of Zheng to choose poems. One chose the one in question and here is the relevant quote:

Zi Zou then sang the Ye you man cao, and Xuan Zi said, "Good! young Sir. I have the same desire."

Because people in many cultures have no problem with singing songs from the other sex's perspective, this does not necessarily contradict WOMAN=>MAN, and the desire may be the desire to meet up with such a forward woman. Q1: Is that true for ancient Chaina as it is in Japan today? Q2: But the simpler reading would probably be a MAN=>WOMAN interpretation of the poem, would it not? Q3: Or, could the poem be truely neutral, or ambi-sexual?

Q4: Does the character on the end of some lines 兮 which i take to be emphatic (q:true?) justify making the experience past-tense,i.e. something that happened and is being related? Q5: Or, is the Chinese so unspecific that the dreamy Japanese (~ au-naraba / otagai yokaro / ~ ni nurete) hope for such a nice thing to occur is also a valid reading?

Waley finishes his translation with "Oh, sir, to be with you is good" -- Q6: Is there anything in the original 與子偕臧 to even suggest spoken words? (If there is nothing, I suspect they were made so to heighten parallels with Manyoshu's first poem thereby improving the contrast of the sexual vectors!)

The beauty 美人,now generally a woman, is said to have been used to mean the ruler (even Buson, a Japanese poet who was well-versed in classical chinese used it that way concerning a brilliant lone peony!). Q7: Any chance that it might have alluded to a king at the time this poem was first made or sung (sub-Q7a: Could the poem have been sung before written down?)? If so, the parallel with the Manyoshu #1 poem grows even further and helps explain Waley's choice of it for his opening poem.

Q8: Is there anything in the modification of the dew or the reversal of modifications of the person that hint at all night dew-to-dew lovemaking as Pound's "night thru" makes explicit?

Waley's translation takes 適我願兮for the desire for sex ("had my will"). The Japanese make it more ambiguous, suggesting that the poet had an aesthetic wish and the person encounter fulfilled that ideal of beauty (Pound hints at the ideal with his "MY clear-eyed man," putting him on the Japanese side). Q9: Is one right and one wrong about this?

Q10. If there is a question I should have asked but did not, please feel free to. answer that, too.

Dic 21, 2007, 2:29pm

While we wait for experts to have time to answer your specific questions, Google lets us explore some of the translation alternatives.

The site to which we referred before elsewhere seems to have been taken down.

Here is another with the Chinese and Legge's translation.
And here with Chinese, Legge and Granet.

Here is Waley after Allen's restoring the original order.

And here is the other translator you mention: Pound.

A better edition is Legge with notes.
And Granet with notes.

In particular, note that Legge says that the "beautiful lady" interpretation is ruled out by 子. But that Yan Can (嚴粲) had it that way.
And that Granet brought in the second person, too, making it into a dialog like Waley. I think they both do this elsewhere.

Others include Couvreur.
And William Jennings, who tends to get lost in the shuffle of later translators. (Just preview, but the whole thing is on
Note the lack of explicit gender.

Equally interesting, the husband and wife team of Yang Xianyi (楊憲益) and Gladys Yang (aka Dai Naidie 戴乃迭) in the FLP edition of The Book of Songs (all combined together: here is the specific book), which matches the first one on this page. This has feminine pronouns, making it like your Japanese translations.

I'm curious whether this one by Helen Waddell is meant to be a (free) translation of this poem or some other one.

Dic 21, 2007, 6:17pm

MMcM, thanks a million! Yes, etext the other day worked only via the google Cache!

Here i am enjoying what Waley did and Allen restores the order?!

LEGGE'S WITH NOTES ARE A GREAT HELP -- showing the contradiction/debate began early in china! -- we need expert opinions on that 子point here. Confucius (外伝II.14 ) using it "to illustrate the accidental meeting of himself and another worthy" does not argue against a beautiful man interpretation as a metaphor of happy meeting need not match sexes, but it was interesting Legge noted it so.

Most of Granet's french is beyond me but the plant being associated with sages helps explain why the metaphor might appeal to Confucius... Anything else interesting in it?
I love Jennings! Lost, indeed! I had never heard of him. Brilliant solution! I had tried to make a neutral translation myself and failing utterly, thought English wasn't up to it. Oops, it was me! I'd like to get his book and put it next to Pound's, for just look at the terse yet playful style of translation of the poem after the one in question, which ends: "When Tain and Wai / Flow deep and clear, / Then men and maids / In crowds appear/ / And maids will ask, &c,&c." (and the proposition here from the antsy maidens). i hope the reproduction is cheap enough for me to buy!

I was unable to find the double Yang team's translation. I would love to see an English translation with a female beauty and their arguement for it, if they offer one. Maybe, our name is Yang, not Yin, we had to translate from the male perspective?

I vaguely recall seeing something like Waddell's poem but, it may not have been the whole poem --- What if she is combining poems to create new ones in translation? And, if she isn't, has anyone?

One outside expert is nibbling. With your hyperlinks added for additional bait, now i will try to send him here!

Editado: Dic 21, 2007, 7:37pm

Looks like originals of Jennings' translation go for £3 on ABE. Don't miss that you can download it from for free, though. Apparently (based on title page) he was a retired missionary: Vicar of Breedon, Berks, Late Colonial Chaplain, Incumbent of St. John's Cathedral, Hongkong. Some of it tends toward Old High Translationese, though, don't you think?

Gladys Yang was the daughter of a missionary and the first Oxbridge grad in Chinese. She was with FLP at the start. Didn't the Loho page come through? Must be some damn cookie. Since it's in China, I won't worry about copyright:
In the wilds grew creepers,
With dew-drops so heavy and thick.
There was a girl, beautiful and bright,
Her features so delicate and charming.
By chance we met each other,
She embodied my long-cherished wish.

In the wilds grew creepers,
With dew-drops so full and round.
There was a girl, beautiful and bright,
Her features so charming and delicate.
By chance we met each other,
Together with her life will be happy.
The book also has a Modern Chinese translation, so it's really trilingual.

Dic 22, 2007, 12:49pm

Thanks, that rounds off the translation types beautifully! Gladys Yang may be a missionary's daughter, but there is no biblical knowing in that translation, until after the marriage implied in her bold last line (with a comma between her and life sic or missed).

I do not know about china or not china re copyright, but when translations are shown for the sake of criticism and not to compile them into an anthology copyright should not apply (if, by any chance, it still does the law would be wrong).

I have not read enough of Jenning to second or unsecond my impression based on the two i read. Later, on that. I look for two things 1)style 2)skill and courage demonstrated by whether the ideas are found and expressed or even developed on the one hand or obfuscated by "direct"(直訳) but meaningless translation (which can be either bare bone or fancy). But i would need to look carefully at maybe half a dozen poems before being sure of my judgment.

Editado: Jun 7, 2008, 1:06am

NEW QUESTION: Chinese equivalents of Japanese 狂歌、狂詩。

I am now compiling translating and explaining Japanese kyoka, or "mad poems." Hundreds by the Tenmei era genius comic poet Ota Nanpo (aka Yomo no Akara, Shokusanjin, etc) et alia are included (as might be expected), as well as all sorts of comic Wacky waka dating back to the Manyoshu, haikai that seem like kyoka and some slightly longer imayo and the Chinese-style kyoshi to help give readers broad perspective.

If Professor J. I. Crump -- whose two books of Mongol era poetry entertained me -- were only still with us, I would send him my files and ask just how much of the same can be found in Chinese. I might even have asked for it in five or ten pages for an appendum. Needless to say, terms may not mean the same thing in both languages, and the matter of the non/existance of similar rhetoric and styles of poems will not prove there was a causal relationship. But i would like to find out more than the Songs of Xanadu (not in LT touchstones) and some comic poems in Sunflower Splendor tell me if anyone has the time and expertise to spare.

Sep 19, 2008, 3:21pm

>1 keigu: Among this wealth of translations, no one mentioned Karlgren’s. He’s no poet but he is a textual scholar. He remarks in a note, “There has been much discussion whether jen ‘person’ here means ‘man’ or ‘woman’. The attribute in the next line: ts’ing yang yüan hi applies to a woman in ode 47 and to a man in ode 106. The term mei jen ‘the beautiful person’ refers to a man in ode 38 and to a woman in ode 42. It has been argued that tsï in the last line must mean »you, Sir», referring to a man; but we have the same tsï ‘you’ said to a woman in ode 47. Since there is no way of deciding the question it is better to leave it open.”

The Fogies very slightly lean toward the speaker being a woman, for two flimsy reasons: the expression “meet by chance” which would seem to refer to a marriage other than one arranged by the families before the couple had met, likely to be more of a concern to a woman, and to the last line, “I will be buried together with you”, a common way of saying “We will remain married all our lives”, also seeming a bit more like a woman’s concern than a man’s. The earthiness of the idiom is not unusual; cf the promise of a man in ode 78 to a woman he wants to elope with him, 死則同穴 “dead, you shall share my grave” (note here, also, a man addresses a woman as tsï).

Editado: Oct 17, 2008, 4:42pm

For traditional commentaries, it is taken politically. Some scholars deny the assumption that this piece refer to anything between a man and a woman. The “meet by chance”, which the poet desires, refers to a meet of foreign rulers to settle the political unrest in Zheng due to Duke Li. The meeting is not a regular one on schedule, thus “by chance”.