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the unwary in every language-although the lack of tense distinctions in verbs, renders such errors especially frequent in Chinese. For example a Chinese teacher reported that of a certain number of persons expected on a particular day, "not one came" (-1). Here the ambiguity was precisely like that in the puzzle with which children are confounded, when told that a certain man had nine sons, and had never seen one of them "-the youngest, that is to say, born when the father was absent. What the teacher intended to say, was that of the persons looked for, one did not come (-).
It is homophonous pitfalls to which special reference is now made, over a few of which the reader is hereby invited to stumble. "I have just heard," said a speaker of excellent Chinese, "an expression which is exactly what I wanted. "Two sets of chair coolies disputed as to the route, and one said to the other: You go according to your light [liang], and I will go according to mine,'"-in other words: Let every tub stand on its own bottom. What the coolie actually said, however, was nothing of the kind, but simply this: 'You take your chair (liang) and go along with you, and I will take mine' ( 19 M. ✯ ✯ ✯ ). Here is another example: As heard: 7 *4. — X. ́Father and son both brave, two manly men.' As spoken: ±4. ƒ 7#.When the father is brave, the son is a true man.' Or still another: As heard (with one ear)
i.e. Where there are many persons, there is sure to be much that is wrong. As heard (with the other ear-both wrong [IC]) *. i.e. Those who ask for too much, find that everything goes amiss. The more they ask of others, and the less they in consequence depend upon themselves, the poorer they are; the poorer they are, the more resentment they feel toward others better off than themselves; the more such resentment they feel, the more faults they commit (H). Each of these meanings gives a good sense, and although the first is redundant in expression, so far as the Chinese goes, is unobjectionable. Each is, however, far from being what the Chinese themselves say, as witness the following couplet, found in the Ming Hsien Chi (名賢集):衣服破時賓客少。 識人 SAS. 'When one's clothes are torn, he will have few guests; when one knows many people, there are sure to be many errors.'
The following couplet is from the same source: EUTI W. 5.. Here the second line is self luminous, resembling the proverb: It is easy to look at embroidery, but hard to work it (..). The first line, however, may not improbably remain a perfect enigma, after mature contemplation of which, it might seem not unnatural to conclude that it was prefixed
simply to make a rhyme (such as it is), as if in a nursery "Bab ballad" one were to say, or sing:
'The ram's on the mountain, The cat's in the bran,
The clew is, however, perfectly simple. The moralist is illustrating his point by reference to the inspection of drawings. It is easy to criticize the delineation of distant mountains seen through an intervening shower, or that of snow falling in a smoky atmosphere; but let the critic himself undertake the task of the representation, and he will discover that while "It is easy to look at a piece of work; it is hard to execute it" (. & F#.).
The employment of a long sentence as an adjective, does not tend to facilitate its comprehension; as for example when we hear that an impudent person "came forward with a new-born-calf-not-afraid-of-atiger air”(初生犢兒不怕虎的樣式來。), where the adjective is the first line of a couplet, of which the second line declares that (although so bold when without experience, yet) by the time his horns have grown out, he will be terrified even by a wolf (ƒ. † † E.).
Some of the most apparently enigmatical Chinese sayings, belong to that large class in which the obscurity arises, not from any particular expression, but from the circumstance that something vitally important to the sense, is left to be supplied, a something to which the unhappy auditor (or reader) may have no possible clew. What e.g. is one to make of the following proposition :
'When the ground is clean and the threshing floor bare,
The teacher's heart is filled with care' (****.)
We are to understand that the state of things described is late in the autumn. About the time of the winter solstice the teacher is busy (*), for this is the period when his patrons will engage him, if at all, for the next year. School-teachers are proverbially poor in China: 'It is impossible to be worse off than a school-workman' (最苦不過的是敎書的匠) (RAME**E). He that has three hundred weight of grain, will never be a king over little children' (†
It is his anxiety lest he find no employment for the next year, that disturbs the peace of the schoolmaster in the early winter. Nothing of this, is however, obvious upon the surface.
Equally obscure is the following: The poor man as soon as he hears the first cry of the pedlar of candied pears, starts with fright' (賣糖梨的吆喝了一聲窮漢吃了一驚。). Why? What can there be in the street call of a candy seller, adapted to inspire terror? The reader is expected to have in mind the circumstance, that pears
do not ripen until late in the autumn, that pears are not candied until they are ripe, that by the time pears are ripe and are candied, and are vended, cold weather approaches, and the poor man who is in a chronic condition of unreadiness for that season is reminded that the chilling blasts of winter are at hand, and that his family have no wadded garments ! It is not without reason that M. Callery observes that • Every Chinese inscription resembles the Apocalypse, in that it can not be understood without a commentary.'
The discovery of the microscopist that the mosquito is infested with parasites, is welcomed with a note of joy by an exasperated public. The knowledge that tens of thousands to whom English is vernacular, are all their lifetime subject to the bondage of the orthographical "e and i puzzle,” (receive, believe, &c.) is sweet satisfaction to many a bewildered foreigner. Let us, in like manner, rejoice to be assured that the Chinese find many stumbling-blocks in their own language. A Chinese teacher whose mind was a warehouse of proverbial sayings, was requested to note down a sentence which he had never heard, to wit:* ko #tele i.e. Keeping a boat (with a large crew to support, all of whom are idle while the boat is waiting for business, and during the winter while there is no business] is as expensive as managing a theater, [the players in which are often out of employment]. The following was the surprising form in which the aphorism emerged: ** Hotel i Z'A foreign boat entering a public theater !' three out of the five characters having been misconstrued, and the phrase, as a whole, hopelessly misunderstood.
How many students have been puzzled by the strange statement: • What is worn is clothing, what dies is a wife' (TE* ET 2.). To this adage the most appropriate response, would seem to be that of the inebriated citizen who laboriously spelled out the words of a hardware dealer's sign: “Iron sinks—all sizes.” “Well, who says
' it don't?” That clothing is apparel, and that wives are mortal, no one is prepared to deny. But what of it? The apparent platitude assumes, however, a more rational appearance, when we are informed that the meaning is merely: When your clothing is worn out (so as to be of no service to any one else), it may be said to be (your) clothing; when one's wife is once dead, she is irrevocably one's wife, (for she can not remarry, and become the wife of another*). Nothing, in other words, can be called our own, until we have used it up. It is truly
, refreshing to notice how smoothly the Chinese language glides over difficulties of expression. In this phrase the personal pronouns are • This meaning is made clear in a different version : #FAR.
i.e. 'Worn out it is clothing, when old 'tis a wife.'
the most important words, and they are rendered emphatic, not by a position at the beginning or close of the sentence as in classical tongues, but by being altogether omitted. It is left to the reader's (or hearer's) option to supply the deficiency. Here is another dark saying: # 的莊稼 磨蹭的買賣。 Of this sentence we have seen a translation in print as follows: "Forcing the crops makes a dull market,” a translation which the writer confesses to be a copyright of his own, with no prospect of an infringement. Yet the clew is simple. The business that must be urged forward (in planting or reaping time) is the crops, but traffic is something that can afford to wait, (since a day or two makes no difference). In other words, some things require despatch, and others do not-act according to circumstances(). In this sentence it is the little particle ti () which produces the misconception, and perhaps throws the listeuer completely off the scent.
The proverbs: 天不愛道,地不愛實, would seem as little liable to misconstruction as any other sentence of the same length, in which a word capable of two senses is introduced. Yet we are informed upon good authority, that a certain Commissioner of Customs affirmed the meaning to be that Heaven does not love doctrine, and that earth is not fond of precious things,' whatever that may signify. His "Teacher said so." What his teacher must have said, but what he did not however succeed in making his hearer comprehend, was that ai () is equivalent to ai-hsi (#) to be economical or grudging of, and that the expression simply means: Heaven is not sparing of doctrine, nor earth of treasure.' In Williams' Dictionary, s.v. yu (), we find the following: 又要馬兒好、又要馬兒不吃草。 which is translated (as if the second character were yu ) as follows: "There are good horses, and there are horses which won't eat their straw; i.e. some things are cheap and good, while others are too dear." How such a meaning is extracted from these words, it is difficult to understand, and scarcely less so to discover the relevancy of the explanation which is appended. The real signification is simple, and in the following version is unmistakeable: 又要好、又要巧又要馬兒跑的好、又要馬兒不吃草。 To demand that his horse possess good qualities, that in acquiring him. he gain an advantage, that he should be a swift runner, and besides all this should eat nothing.' Mr. Scarborough (No. 1724) gives the shorter form with a correct translation.
The Chinese are fond of categorical lists, neatly numbered and labeled, referring to subjects and objects ranging through the whole 'diameter of being.' The Chuan Chia Pao, referred to above, contains a formidable collection of this sort, all of which has been translated, and embodied in Doolittle's Handbook, (pp. 389–399).
The following example belongs to the same general class. 'Do not in this life ask for the three hard things; good sons are the first hard thing, old age the second, and a long beard the third' († E 不求三難、好兒一難,高壽一難、長鬚一難). Almost exactly similar would appear to be the saying: 77, which in Williams' Dictionary, s.v. san (E) is translated: "You can not have all the tzuviz: sons, wealth, and a beard," i.e. these constitute a combination of felicity which it would be unreasonable to expect to unite in the possession of any one person. Yet although this interpretation is natural and legitimate, it quite fails to bring out the idea involved.
The following version clearly expresses the true meaning: 最難得的三子全鬍子大兒子孝、 銀子多。i.e.‘It is hard to possess the three tzu [not in combination, but] in perfection—a beard of great length, sons who are filial, and silver in abundance.'
In the Mandarin expansion of the Sacred Edicts (E) under the section upon Filial Behavior, is quoted the proverb: #7. According to a writer in the Celestial Empire several years since, Mr. Wade, after more than fifteen year's acquaintance with Chinese, translated this sentence in the following amazing style: "It may be well enough to kill others, but to kill oneself is destruction." In Williams' Dictionary, s.v. the character hao () is taken as a verb, and the words are translated: "If you love the child greatly, yet he is another's; if you feel that he is a ruined child, still he is my own." It is almost superfluous to remark that the character sha () does not in the least signify "to kill" but is only an adverb of degree, q.d. 'killingly' good or bad.* The meaning is, that another's child, whatever his excellencies, is still the child of another, while one's own child; be he never so bad, is still one's own bone and flesh. The antithesis between hao (7) and huai is clearly explained in Dr. Williams' Dictionary under the latter character, which renders his far fetched translation the more remarkable. "Even the Tiger has his naps." The occasional slips of accomplished Sinologues, confer a kind of respectability upon the grossest blunders of those who gladly sit as their pupils.
Mr. Scarborough's volume is not free from inaccurate translations. In the common proverb, in which by industrious perseverance, an axe— or as another version has it, an iron rafter-is supposed to be rub
* If one is to insist upon invariably rendering sha 'to kill,' what is to be made of the familiar saying: 好殺的婆家不如娘家。好殺的月亮不如白下。
which means, not that 'To be fond of killing one's mother-in-law, is inferior to an own mother,' but that 'The ideal mother-in-law ('killingly best') is not so good as one's own mother; the brightest moonlight does not equal daylight.'