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The Eight-legged Essay

imperial examinations essays Ming qing administration mandarin

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#1 Meiguo Laowai

Meiguo Laowai

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 01:12 PM

Having started on the path of CHF imperial exams, the topic of the eight-legged essay (ELE) cropped up from somewhere in the back of my mind. This one will probably never rate as a HOT topic in CHF forums, mostly I'd guess because the ELE is now universally disesteemed as pedantry useless as preparation for an official in the real world. Still, as an artifact of imperial China that occupied the intellectual effort of numberless mandarins, I have wondered about the structure and content, and the "eight" legs.

The general treatments of the ELE found in online encyclopedias offer some grounding - the Wikipedia article provides an English-language introduction, and Baidu articles provide examples. The links below should be glanced over before continuing into the examples.

I have weaved together examples from the two sources, one in classical Chinese 古文 and one in vernacular Chinese 白话, to break out the eight legs and their purpose, and included Goggle automatic translations, which are barely adequate for the old language and only a little more useful for the vernacular. I have also inserted a description of each leg, taken from the Wiki article.


The result of these annotated exhibits gives a satisfactory introduction to the eight-legged essay, perhaps suggesting how the thought of the exam candidates was "boxed" in by this ironclad approach. Poetry has structure and rules, too, but at least there are many forms of poetry to offer some variety.


The different sources vary on which legs they identify and include, so it would appear that for some reason, unknown to me, there is disagreement on what actually were the eight legs and when they were to be used in an essay.


八股文范文 Eight-legged Essay Example

2007年03月22日 星期四 23:31

http://hi.baidu.com/...fafaed5031.html

Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia....ht-legged_essay


八股文范文 Eight-legged Essay Example

(题目:志士仁人)(作者王守仁)(明代进士,儒家大师,心学创始人,著有 《传习录》)(Title: lofty ideals) (Wang Shou-ren) (Chin Ming Dynasty, Confucian master, founder of the Mind, has a teaching record ")

圣人于心之有主者,而决其心德之能全焉。(破题)”Saints in the heart of the Lord, and must the heart of Germany can Yan. (破题) (Essay)”

Opening (破題): Two sentences of prose whose function is to broach the topic (Wikipedia).


夫志士仁人皆有心定主而不惑于私者也,以是人而当死生之际,吾惟见其求无惭于心焉耳,而于吾身何恤乎?此夫子为天下之无志而不仁者慨也。(承题)”Husband lofty ideals both heart given principal had no doubts in private also, so the people and when the occasion of life and death, I provided are reflected in its request no ashamed at the heart Yan ear, Ho-shirt in times daily between? 此夫子为天下之无志而不仁者慨也。 This Master is the world of the blog without the benevolent generous. (承题) (Cheng question) “

Amplification (承題): Five sentences of prose, elaborating upon and clarifying the theme.


故言此而示之,若曰:天下之事变无常,而生死之所系甚大。固有临难苟免,而求生以害仁者焉;亦有见危授命,而杀身以成仁者焉,此正是非之所由决,而恒情之所易惑者也。吾其有取于志士仁人乎!(起讲)”Therefore, words and show, said: the Incident impermanence of the world, life and death is tied to very large. 固有临难苟免,而求生以害仁者焉;亦有见危授命,而杀身以成仁者焉,此正是非之所由决,而恒情之所易惑者也。 Pro inherently difficult Goumian survival to harm benevolent Yan; also see the danger mandate to kill the body into benevolent Yan, this is a non-s run by the decision, and the constant love easily confused. 吾其有取于志士仁人乎! I have taken from people with lofty ideals almost (起讲) (From the talk)”

Preliminary exposition (起講): Prosaic writing


夫所谓志士者,以身负纲常之重,而志虑之高洁,每思有以植天下之大闹;

所谓仁人者,以身会天德之全,而心体之光明,必欲有以贞天下之大节。(起二股) “Cardiff so-called patriots, who are charged with Tsunatsune heavy, consider the virtuous Chi, each thinking the row to the plant world;
所谓仁人者,以身会天德之全,而心体之光明,必欲有以贞天下之大节。 The so-called Habitat for Humanity, the body will be Germany, heart body of light, which must have a large section of Ching world. (起二股) (From the two shares)”

Initial argument (起股): A specified number (4, 5, 8 or 9) of sentence pairs written in parallel, developing the initial argument. The parallel sentences address the topic and convey similar meanings, with similar structure but different words.


是二人者,固皆事变之所不能惊,而利害之所不能夺,其死与生,有不足累者也。(过接) “Two, solid all Incident can not scared, and the interest of wins, the Death and Life, the lack of tired also. (过接) (Guo access)”

过接is not cited in wiki article.


是以其祸患之方殷,固有可避难而求全者矣,然临难自免则能安其身,而不能安其心,是偷生者之为,而被有所不屑也;

变故之偶值,固有可以侥幸而图存者矣,然存非顺事则吾生以全,而吾仁以丧,是悖德者之事,而彼有所不为也。(中二股)” Its scourge, Fang Yin, natural refuge and perfection by men, and difficult since natural Pro Free is able to security of its body, but not security of its heart, the drag on those to be some disdain; 变故之偶值,固有可以侥幸而图存者矣,然存非顺事则吾生以全,而吾仁以丧,是悖德者之事,而彼有所不为也。 The misfortune of even values ​​inherent luck to survive men, and then to deposit non-Shun things my life in full, but I benevolence to the funeral, perverse virtues Erbi certain things also. (中二股) (In shares)”

Central argument (中股): Sentences written in parallel, with no limit as to their number, in which the central points of the essay are expounded freely.


彼之所为者惟以理,欲无并立之机,而致命遂志,以安天下之贞者,虽至死而靡憾;

心迹无两全之势,而捐躯赴难,以善天下之道者,虽灭身而无悔。(后二股)”He 's as to the extent that management, For side by side of the machine, and deadly then Chi Ching who tranquility, although death extravagant regret;
心迹无两全之势,而捐躯赴难,以善天下之道者,虽灭身而无悔。 State of mind co-existence of potential, and died in Funan, a good thing in the world Road, off the body and no regrets. (后二股) (Two shares)”

Latter argument (後股): Sentences written in parallel, with no limit as to their number. Here, points not addressed in the previous section are discussed; otherwise, the writer may continue padding the ideas in the central argument. It is to be written in a serious tone rooted in realism.


当国家倾覆之余,则致身以驯过涉之患者,其仁也而彼即趋之而不避,甘之而不辞焉,盖苟可以存吾心之公,将效死以为之,而存亡由之不计矣;

值颠沛流离之余,则舍身以贻没宁之休者,其仁也而彼即当之而不慑,视之而如归焉,盖苟可以全吾心之仁,将委身以从之,而死生由之勿恤矣。(束二股)”National overturning more than is caused by the body in order to tame related to the patients, their benevolence Biji trend of not avoid, sweet without any hesitation Yan, cover and can be saved in my heart of public Xiaosi thought, and survival by excluding the men; 值颠沛流离之余,则舍身以贻没宁之休者,其仁也而彼即当之而不慑,视之而如归焉,盖苟可以全吾心之仁,将委身以从之,而死生由之勿恤矣。 Value displaced his life to Yi did rather break its benevolence and Biji when rather than deterrence, as of and if owned by Yan, cover Gou can the benevolence of the whole my heart, will be committed to the, and the Life and death of not-shirt men. (束二股) (Beam, shares)”

Final argument (束股): Parallel sentence groups, each one consisting of either two to three, or else four to five, lines. Here, the main theme is revisited and loose ends are tied up.


是其以吾心为重,而以吾身为轻,其慷慨激烈以为成仁之计者,固志士之勇为,而亦仁人之优为也。视诸逡巡畏缩,而苟全于一时者,诚何如哉?以存心为生,而以存身为累,其从容就义以明分义之公者,固仁人之所安,而亦志士之所决也,视诸回护隐伏,而觊觎于不死者,又何如哉?是知观志士之所为,而天下之无志者可以愧矣;观仁人之所为,而天下之不仁者可以思矣。”Is to my heart as the most important times daily for light, and its generous intense thought to pay the price of the plan, for the courage of the solid Chester, also Habitat for Humanity of excellent also. 视诸逡巡畏缩,而苟全于一时者,诚何如哉? Depending on various deterred shrink and Gouquan at one time, Cheng Ru holy? 以存心为生,而以存身为累,其从容就义以明分义之公者,固仁人之所安,而亦志士之所决也,视诸回护隐伏,而觊觎于不死者,又何如哉? Intention of living to save, as the tired, the calm die a martyr to the next sub-righteous public, solid-hearted man of security, while also patriots must also, as the various nursing insidious, and the coveted not dead, but also ru zai? 是知观志士之所为,而天下之无志者可以愧矣;观仁人之所为,而天下之不仁者可以思矣。 Are to know the concept of Chester, and the world of no Chi shame men; concept of Habitat for Humanity for the world is not benevolent thinking men.”

Conclusion (大結): Prosaic writing where free expression and creativity are allowed. The concluding remarks are made.

大結 is not specified in this example.


Vernacular Eight-legged Essay example

http://hi.baidu.com/...8daa07289ad9e89

【白话八股文范例】 [Vernacular Eight-legged Essay example


[题目] 学习与时俱进 [Title] to learn "the times"、[破题]“与时俱进”[1] ["To keep up with the times"] 四个字,“时”和“进”二字是关键词[2] ["keywords"]。 The words of one, [the essay] "Times", "" and "import" the word is the key word. “时”者时代也、历史也;“进”者进步也、改革也。 "Those times, history;" into "those who progress, reform.

Opening (破題): Two sentences of prose whose function is to broach the topic.


2、[承题]21世纪属于什么时代? 2, the [Cheng question] 21st century belongs to the era? 属于全球化时代。 Is the era of globalization. 我们将怎样取得进步? How will we make progress? 按照全球化的发展规律行事,就是进步。 To act in accordance with the law of development of globalization, that is progress. “与时”,不墨守历史成规:“俱进”,改革开放,进入先进国家行列、实行先进的经济和政治制度。 "And" clinging to historical conventions: "the times", reform and opening up into the ranks of advanced countries, the implementation of the advanced economies and political systems.

Amplification (承題): Five sentences of prose, elaborating upon and clarifying the theme.

3、[起讲]世界各国都在进步,我国岂能例外? 3 [from speaking] countries around the world are making progress, how can an exception in China? 经济从工业化进步到信息化;政治从专制制度进步到民主制度;文化从知识禁锢进步到知识解放。 Economic progress from the industrialized to the information; political progress from autocracy to democracy; culture detained from the knowledge of the progress to the knowledge of liberation. 这是全球化时代的脉搏。 This is the pulse of the era of globalization.

Preliminary exposition (起講): Prosaic writing


4、[入手](提股)全球化时代的主要特点是信息化。 4, [start] (mentioning shares) the main features of the era of globalization of information technology. 信息技术迅猛发展。 The rapid development of IT. 电视、电脑、手机,以及层出不穷、功能奇特的信息产品,成为主导资源。 TVs, computers, mobile phones, as well as an endless stream of strange information products, to become the leading resource. 由此,劳动力从农业和工业转向流通和服务产业,劳动密集产业转向知识密集产业,白领工人多于蓝领工人。 As a result, the labor shift from agriculture and industry distribution and service industries, labor-intensive industry to a knowledge-intensive industries, white-collar workers than blue-collar workers. 知识成为主要资本。 Knowledge as a major capital.
美国的农民只占人口的百分之一点几,工人只占人口的百分之十几。 American farmers account for only a few percent of the population, workers only account for more than ten percent of the population. 工农阶级在人口比例中变成极少数。 Workers and peasants into a very small number of classes in the proportion of the population. 如果不是亲自在美国和日本看到“没有农民的农场”和“没有工人的工厂”,我将继续高呼“耕者有其田”和“全世界无产阶级联合起来”。 If not personally see the farmers farm "and" workers of the factory in the United States and Japan, I will continue to shout "land to the tiller" and "proletariat of the world unite".

入手 and 提股are not referenced in the Wiki article.


5、[起股]信息化不神秘。 5 [from stocks] information is not mysterious. 说话、写信、打电话、看电视、用电脑,都是信息化。 Speak, write, phone calls, watching television, using computers, are information technology. 能讲普通话,走遍中国,不要翻译,信息化。 Can speak Mandarin, traveled to China, do not translate, and information technology. 在电脑上输入拼音,自动变为汉字,跟网友互通电子邮件,信息化。 Pinyin input on the computer, automatically into Chinese characters, e-mail interoperability with users of information technology. 在电脑查找美国国会图书馆的书目和资料,信息化。 Search the Library of Congress bibliographic and information in the computer and information technology. 电脑和手机结合,进行通信、通话、传递图片和摄像,跟国内外学术同行作学术交流,信息化。 Computer and cell phone combination of letters and telephone calls, transfer pictures and video, with academic counterparts at home and abroad for academic exchanges and information technology. 信息化在你身边。 Information technology on your side. 信息化使你得到新消息和新知识。 Information technology so that you get new information and knowledge.

Initial argument (起股): A specified number (4, 5, 8 or 9) of sentence pairs written in parallel, developing the initial argument. The parallel sentences address the topic and convey similar meanings, with similar structure but different words.

6、[中股]今天,任何国家都一方面继承和改进本国的传统文化,一方面利用和创造国际的现代文化,这叫做双文化时代。 6 [share] Today, no country, on the one hand, inherit and improve the country's traditional culture, on the one hand, the use and creation of the modern international culture, this is called the era of bi-cultural. 双文化促进文化的发展,也引起文化的冲突。 The bicultural promote cultural development, and also caused a clash of cultures. 在先进与落后的冲突中,在复古与创新的矛盾中,“与时俱进”是历史导航的方向盘。 Advanced and backward conflicts, in contradiction of retro and innovative, "Times" is the steering wheel of the history of navigation.
追求先进生产力要从学习模仿进而能发明创造,前提条件是开辟自由创造的环境。 The pursuit of advanced productive forces, from learning to imitate and thus inventions is a prerequisite to open up the freedom to create the environment. 追求先进文化要摆脱思想的束缚,先进文化是自由土壤中萌发出来鲜花。 The pursuit of advanced culture to get rid of the shackles of ideology, advanced culture and the freedom of the soil germination out of flowers. 广播、电视、电脑等信息工具,要充分运用,不要限制运用。 Radio, television, computers and other information tools to make full use, do not limit use. 信息化时代而限制信息,何以自解? The era of information and limit the information, why the self?
时代更易,容易发生社会动荡。 Times more easily prone to social unrest. 鸡犬相闻、老死不相往来,相安无事。 Along the never in contact with, no problem. 十八只螃蟹放在一个竹篓里,哪能不我挟你、你挟我? 18 crabs in a bamboo basket, how can I rely on you, you rely on me? 一个把黑袍从头盖到脚,一个穿比基尼游泳装、肚脐眼儿也露了出来,这两人能携手在王府井大街一同溜达吗? A black robe from head to foot, one wearing the bikini swimwear, navel children has revealed that the two can work together with a walk in Wangfujing Street? 文化冲突实际是文化差距的摩擦。 Cultural conflict is actually a cultural gap between the friction.[3] ["conflict arising from cultural disparity"].

Central argument (中股): Sentences written in parallel, with no limit as to their number, in which the central points of the essay are expounded freely.


7、[后股]“与时俱进”不是自愿选择,而是客观规律;不是特殊策略,而是一般公式,只能一时背离,不能长期背离。 [Stock] "times" is not a voluntary choice, but an objective law; special strategy, but the general formula can only be temporary departure from, you can not deviate from long-term. 社会进步有层次程序,倒退是偶然,超越也是偶然,循序前进是常规。 Level program social progress, retrogression is by chance, beyond also the occasional sequential forward is conventional.
社会发展有四次飞跃:从部落社会到奴隶社会是第一次飞跃;从奴隶社会到封建社会是第二次飞跃;从封建社会到资本社会是第三次飞跃;从资本社会到后资本社会是第四次飞跃。 Four leap: social development is the first leap from tribal society to slave society; second leap from slave society to feudal society; third leap from feudal society to capitalist society; from capitalist society to a capitalist society is four leap.
“与时俱进”提醒人们不要犯时代错误。 "Times" to remind people not to commit the anachronism. 专制残暴,穷兵黩武,纳粹败亡,苏联解体。 Brutal authoritarian, militaristic, Nazi downfall, the disintegration of the Soviet Union. 21世纪不会再出现勃列日涅夫的“发达的社会主义社会”,因为那是宣传,不是真实。 The 21st century will not occur again Brezhnev's "developed socialist society", because it is propaganda, not true.

Latter argument (後股): Sentences written in parallel, with no limit as to their number. Here, points not addressed in the previous section are discussed; otherwise, the writer may continue padding the ideas in the central argument. It is to be written in a serious tone rooted in realism.


8、[束股]真理也“与时俱进”,不是一成不变。 8, the beam [shares] truth, "the times", is not static. “实践是检验真理的惟一标准”。 "Practice is the sole criterion for testing truth." 真理不怕批评,批评是真理的营养品。 Truth are not afraid of criticism, criticism is the nourishment of truth. 怕批评的不是真理,而是未能适应时代的宗教和教条。 Afraid of criticism is not the truth, but a failure to adapt to the era of religion and dogma. 迷信时代要过去了,盲从时代要过去了,现在是独立思考、择善而从、不拘一格、奋力求进的“与时俱进”的时代了。 Superstitious era passed, and blind obedience to the times to be passed, now is the time for independent thinking, strive for good, eclectic, struggling to strive for "advancing" age.

2003.11.8 周有光 时年98岁 原载《修辞学习》 2003.11.8 Zhou You Guang when he was 98-year-old former contained rhetoric learning.

Final argument (束股): Parallel sentence groups, each one consisting of either two to three, or else four to five, lines. Here, the main theme is revisited and loose ends are tied up.

Conclusion (大結): Prosaic writing where free expression and creativity are allowed. The concluding remarks are made
Not noted in this example.


------------------------------------------

[1] To keep up with the times.

[2] keywords

[3] conflict arising from cultural disparity



#2 Yizheng

Yizheng

    State Undersecretary (Shangshu Lang 尚书郎)

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 09:13 AM

Now i can see why human translators still have jobs, and probably will have for quite a long time.

Any kind of academic set form can be turned into an rigid formality based on empty pedantry, but anyone who has mastered the form and genuinely has knowledge and understanding, can display real thought even within the restrictive frame that is set.

The main problem with the classical essay, as I see it, is not the essay itself, but the fact that it remained the main criteria for official scholarly success and promotion even as it became more and more imperative to test other aspects of prospective officials.

As with any system, over time it becomes easier for those who manage it to leave it unchanged, and all parties have a vested interest, examinors and examined (who spent all that time training in the system).

It developed under the Song, but I think many thinkers of that time are anything but rigid and pedantic. Under the Ming it became the entrenched basis of the examination system. Under the Qing, Kangxi wanted to abolish it, but retreated on that idea. Yongzheng was pretty attentive about choosing officials and interested in far more than their ability to write a nice essay, and he didn't have much trust in that scholar class, though he picked and chose among them, but he left the exam system alone. Guangxu abolished it to much outcry, then it got reinstated, then abolished again by Cixi (repeating Guangxu's decision that she earlier had cancelled).

I think a good scholar could have still made something of it, not necessarily just written a formulaic stream of blah-blah. It's also not an entirely bad thing to learn how to fit your thoughts into a rather restrictive frame. I personally went to university in France, which had very different traditions to what I was used to, and there were set ways of writing essays in different subjects. Literary essays were supposed to be 'thesis-antithesis-synthesis'. When I had a law class, one of the first things we got told was the importance of writing the exam in a format of two main parts and 4 sub-parts. It was a rigid kind of way of work, but not bad, just different, made me learn to set out and express my thoughts and logic in a different way.

#3 Meiguo Laowai

Meiguo Laowai

    Provincial Governor (Cishi 刺史)

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  • Interests:Fiction writing, historical fiction about China, Chinese and Japanese language/literature, landscape photography, skin diving, tidepools, camping, rafting, fishing, fencing, chess, astronomy.
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Posted 27 June 2012 - 11:34 PM

Yizheng! Are you really in Moscow (Russia...not Idaho)? R U an original Muscovite, or merely a
transient? Over here we hardly expect cogent reasoning and eloquent English from das Rooskies
(comes from being informed mostly by Hollywood; they probably don't regard highly our Russian, either).

We here, who paid attention, were taught in high school about how, in a general manner, to prepare an
essay, and that did have somewhat more structure than just beginning, middle, end. But to be
completely honest, I would be hard-pressed to recall any of it in detail without googling around for
rememberances of my high school English teacher's instruction (the high school debate team would recall it
better).

So, if we were to agree that essays all have some structure, however much that may vary 'round the
globe, possibly due to common dictates of logic, then perhaps the eight-legged essay need not be
regarded quite so harshly. I still have to wonder if such essays had any impact on the minds of
mandarins, if perhaps they recalled the structure - even thought sometimes in that structure, or just had
memories of struggling to write within those confines. It's interesting to note that the ELE begins with
a parallel couplet - so many Chinese stories, and chapters in novels, do the same...for whatever
reason.

The subject of machine translation, however, cannot be regarded with such generosity.

夫志士仁人皆有心定主而不惑于私者也,
Husband lofty ideals both heart given principal had no doubts in private also

以是人而当死生之际,
so the people and when the occasion of life and death

吾惟见其求无惭于心焉耳,
I provided are reflected in its request no ashamed at the heart Yan ear

而于吾身何恤乎?
Ho-shirt in times daily between?

此夫子为天下之无志而不仁者慨也。
This Master is the world of the blog without the benevolent generous.

Thank you, C3PO.

Not having dabbled in machine translation, I'm guessing that one reason this comes out in gobbletygook is because the dictionaries have many definitions for each word and the program has no useful algorithm for selecting the righ meaning for the context. Not exactly AI.

But it's still curious that the vernacular automatic translation would come out so much closer to the actual meaning. What can one suppose there is about the translation algorithm that would make it do better with vernacular Chinese (allowing that this sample from Google is representative)?

世纪属于什么时代?
21st century belongs to the era?

属于全球化时代。
Is the era of globalization.

我们将怎样取得进步?
How will we make progress?

按照全球化的发展规律行事,就是进步。
To act in accordance with the law of development of globalization, that is progress.

Edited by Meiguo Laowai, 28 June 2012 - 12:02 AM.


#4 Yizheng

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 01:49 AM

I really am in Moscow Russia, but I'm not a native Muscovite, like many of Moscow's population. Indeed, I know hardly any native Muscovites, so many people come from elsewhere for work etc. Is there a Moscow in Idaho? I've never been to the USA.
I wouldn't rely on Hollywood for perceptions of other peoples and cultures, just like I wouldn't rely on Russian media for a view of the world. I wouldn't rely on any one point of view alone. There are plenty of stereotypes about America and Americans here too, but I prefer not to make generalisations, especially about what I have not even seen myself.

I have never had anything to do with machine translation and don't know how it is done really. But I imagine the problem is that the programmes can only deal with words and not with context and overall analysis. I have worked as a simultaneous interpreter, and to do this successfully you need above all not understanding of each specific word, but logic and analysis - you need to understand what is being said, why, to whom, in what context, and if you understand this, even if there are some gaps in your knowledge of the words, you will be able to provide accurate enough transmission of the message. That is the key - to transmit not words, but a message. The machine does not see the message in the classical Chinese because it has been programmed to deal with standard structures and words, not with the meaning they convey. Classical Chinese is too different in structure from the standard situations the machine translation is designed for, and it is very elliptical (I think that's the term...) I mean, it has a lot meaning implied but does not 'fill in all the gaps', like modern Chinese would. If you took anything in classical Chinese and 'translated' it into modern Chinese, it would come out a lot longer because of 'filling in the gaps'.

#5 Meiguo Laowai

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 03:24 PM

Besides Idaho, there are 26 other states in the US with a town named Moscow. And I agree with your approach to viewing the world – there is much risk in relying on the perceptions of others, as so many circumstances can bias a person’s point of view (to wit, the “Rashomon Syndrome,” illustrating how differently people can witness, or report, the same event). One’s own experience is usually most reliable, if one has the opportunity and time to acquire experience.

I have interpreted Chinese, but not simultaneously. A real simultaneous interpreter, a CNN or NPR correspondent on the ground in China, perhaps, more so than a UN interpreter in a booth at some distance from a speaker, would seem to need a gestalt-like perception of language, voice, inflection, and expression in order to comprehend thought and convey meaning. When I interpreted for medical patients, and the terminology was so foreign – or rather the concepts were, I spent much time describing difficult terms (rather than “cardiac stress test,” I’d say “the doctor wants see how your heart is doing by using this machine that you can walk on,” which the patient could understand). An algorithm to represent this experience would seem extraordinarily difficult to create (except in a science-fiction android).

And in translation, where we have more leisure to make comparisons, ambiguity remains a constant nuisance. After examining the arguments of schools promoting literal, and figurative, translation, I decided there also was another way. My own approach to translation is more a rendering of what another person might say in their language under the same circumstances. There is an example in the Underfoot of the novel Yang Shen:

…in the Yang Shen preface “In Medias Res” Lay Wah-duc says: “Have a small heart tonight – use care. We are in dangerous water, and the sky will soon be black.” This began as: “Be careful tonight. We are in dangerous water, and it soon will be dark.” The spoken Chinese might be: 晚上小心, 這水危險, 天快黑了 wan-shang hsiao-hsin, che shui wei-hsien, t’ien k’uai hei-le. Hsiao-hsin 小心 is “be careful” but literally “have a small heart.” And for “it’s getting dark” a Chinese commonly might say t’ien k’uai hei-le 天快黑了, “the sky will soon be black.” This piquant rendering conveys a feel of native Chinese syntax without loss of American English meaning and enhances the characterization.


In this example, the literal meaning is left in place where it usually would be changed to American idiom – not really an illustration of my theory. Elsewhere in the novel, Hsüeh Huan laments over the difficulties he faces as the new governor of Jiangsu in 1860.

我國家多事之秋,人人皆知以和為貴,而和若稍不審慎,則後患無窮.惟欲盡如我願,審時度勢,亦有力不能到者. Now is the autumn of affliction for my country. Everyone knows that peace is to be treasured, but if peace is even slightly imprudent, endless calamity will follow. To get all we want, as conditions are now, we still have not yet attained the strength.


Here the translation is not exact but the rendering does convey Hsüeh Huan’s meaning in language an American might have used (this particular example was further complicated by the necessity of making it different from the translation already published in Earl Swisher's 1951 China's Management of the American Barbarians).

These are further illustrations of the difficulty of developing a consistent translation algorithm. And just to nail this point to the door of Castle Church, there is the example given in a little book by Eliot Weinberger called Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei that presents Wang Wei's poem the Deer Park in nineteen different translations!

Edited by Meiguo Laowai, 02 July 2012 - 03:29 PM.






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