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Old 2013-02-21, 17:59   Link #61
LeoXiao
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Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Vereinigte Staaten
Age: 22
The problem with Classical Chinese is that oftentimes the exact meaning of a character may be lost on someone who is not familiar with the context (which would be a lot of people, who aren't historians), which IMO would lead to a feeling of repetitiveness and even contradiction.

I can't draw any actual conclusions from this, but as an example: in the Classic of Filial Piety there is the line "其教不肅而成,其政不嚴而治", which, according to the translation of James Legge, is given as "...their teachings, without being severe, were successful, and their government, without being rigorous, secured perfect order." In modern vernacular Chinese the term 嚴肅 means "strict" or "serious", but it is split into "severe" and "rigorous" in the classical text. Basically, what was once two different concepts is now one idea. If one is not careful you might get the impression that Confucius was telling people to do their teachings and government in the same way, when in fact there would be differences. Further complications arise when the English terms used in translation are also vague, easily-conflated synonyms of each other and may also obscure the (possible) intent of the original author.

Later on in the text, the concept of 嚴 is again mentioned regarding its use in education, and then strangely enough the line quoted in the earlier paragraph makes its appearance again. If one conflates 嚴 and 肅, it might appear that there would be a contradiction - i.e. why did Confucius advise to use "severity/rigorousness" in teaching when he spoke against it earlier? This is why a precise knowledge of the characters and not just a general idea is important.

As it regards the Art of War, I have read somewhere that many of the terms used by Sun Zi, while they appear vague, actually had more precise definitions and were related or rooted in to Daoist theories. So in two places in the text when he may appear to be talking about the same thing, there may be subtle differences lost over the years or through the translation.
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Old 2013-02-21, 18:05   Link #62
DonQuigleone
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Join Date: Dec 2007
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We talk about the Prince, but where's the love of Homer guys?
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Old 2013-02-21, 23:35   Link #63
willx
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^ I didn't major or minor, but did take a significant amount of classical literature. So, Illiad, Odyssey, Argonautika -- it's very neat.

Leo -- I've ready the Daodejing. Didn't enjoy it either..
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Old 2013-02-21, 23:58   Link #64
sa547
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Join Date: Oct 2007
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Does Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo of Jose Rizal count? Although it's sad that they were reprinted now as uninspiring school textbooks, in its day both novels -- considered subversive by the colonial Spaniards -- were underground bestsellers, and although it advocated peaceful greater recognition of Spain towards Filipinos, instead it provoked an idea of an armed revolt against the colonists.
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Old 2013-02-22, 01:04   Link #65
LeoXiao
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willx View Post
^ I didn't major or minor, but did take a significant amount of classical literature. So, Illiad, Odyssey, Argonautika -- it's very neat.
I've read an abridged version of the Odyssey, called "The Adventures of Ulysses", and parts of the actual poem. Good stuff but it requires some external support (i.e. spoilers). I also read Oedipus Rex (in German no less) and found it quite good.

Quote:
Leo -- I've read the Daodejing. Didn't enjoy it either..
When did I mention the Daodejing?
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Old 2013-02-22, 09:23   Link #66
Kirarakim
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Irenicus View Post
Yes, but that's epic.

I guess Westerners just approach this one differently. To me -- and other East/SE Asians -- it's a special sort of story, a mythology. It's war, it's history, it's politics and glory and the lens from which you make sense of the chaos in your world. You know them, you grow up with them. You make proverbs, snappy sayings, political metaphors from them. The Peach Garden Oath is how you swear a brotherhood; Red Cliff is where hubris gets served; Liu Bei visits Kong Ming three times to win over the genius man; Cao Cao takes to cruel actions to end chaos. Good kids want to be Liu Bei, bad kids want to be Cao Cao. Boys who think they're big and tough want to be Zhang Fei. Smart kids want to grow up to be Zhuge Liang. The grownups think the kids should act like Guan Yu, the honorable God of War. Nobody likes Sima Yi, the sonofabitch.
I know this is a really old quote but I just want to say I am not sure what my issue is because I couldn't get into the book either, and yet I have read long stories with many names that cover many years and even focuses a large part on war. (War & Peace).

I also did love The Prince but that is quite a bit shorter.

Perhaps it was the translation I read or perhaps there is something in the story that does appeal to us differently.

Anyways I've read a lot of classic literature but most of it has been from the US, UK, and the rest of Europe. I've read very little classic literature from Asia ( should correct that).

The closest thing would be The Good Earth but that was a US book written by an American who lived in China for a time. Of course as an American depiction of China, I am sure it had imperialist undertones even though I think Ms. Buck really did love China, at least I got that from her writing.

Edit: I also never read the Odyssey or the Iliad (only parts in a mythology book). I did read the play Oedipus the King about 5 million times .

Actually come to think of it I guess I've read very little of the "Classics" as they are usually defined. Most of my classic literature reading is from the 18th to the early 20th century, well and some Shakespeare.
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Old 2013-02-22, 10:18   Link #67
willx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LeoXiao View Post
When did I mention the Daodejing?
You didn't, but you mentioned Sun Zi may have been referring to specific Daoist theories or terms when "sounding repetitive" -- I found the Daodejing very circular and irritating as well. Admittedly, this may be because of my personality type and how I was raised, but I'm a "get to the point" kind of guy. I also didn't know you were fluent in German? That's amazing! I know English and am conversational in Cantonese and that's it really.. Never had a flair for languages ..

Spoiler for Slight Sidebar -- Methods of Thinking / Understanding:

Oh god, people actually finished War & Peace? I know many people that own it, but no one has finished it. It reminds me of the shock when I heard Sume had sat through a continuous seating of the Der Ring des Nibelungen.
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Old 2013-02-22, 11:37   Link #68
Kirarakim
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willx View Post
think that people/the world moves in terribly slow motion.[/Spoiler]
Oh god, people actually finished War & Peace? I know many people that own it, but no one has finished it. It reminds me of the shock when I heard Sume had sat through a continuous seating of the Der Ring des Nibelungen.
I actually love War & Peace I think it is a great book. Okay it has some slow moments, but many wonderful moments too and you really get to know the characters.

But as far Tolstoy, I slightly prefer Anna Karenina.
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Old 2013-02-22, 12:09   Link #69
DonQuigleone
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I think Western Classics might be more readable in English then Chinese ones, not necessarily because the Western Classics are better, but simply because there's more translations.

If you think about it, there are 100s of English translations of the Iliad, and most people read one of the "best" ones. Meanwhile, there's only been maybe two translations of Romance of the Three Kingdoms. And those two translations were not necessarily made with popular reading in mind, but probably more academic reading (IE they're accurate, but not necessarily readable).

More generally, I quite liked Don Quijote. Fairly light, based upon a compelling idea (the intersection of fiction and reality...). Not something I see very often. A lot of Spanish works are under appreciated in English, actually. I also greatly enjoyed reading "The Conquest of New Spain" by Bernal Diaz del Castillo. Conquest of the Aztecs from the perspective of one of the soldiers, it helped me understand how Conquistadors thought.


One "classic" author I particularly loath is James Joyce. In Ireland all our literati are crazy over him, but I just find his books nasty. I feel dirty just reading them, and he's tremendously pretentious.
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Old 2013-02-22, 12:18   Link #70
Kirarakim
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A bad translation can definitely damper a reading experience. I think the worst is when they try to stick too close to getting the exact word of the text but sometimes it makes the reading come off a bit dry and you actually lose the feel of the original.

I mean I do like when translations are close to the original as possible but sometimes as close as possible doesn't have to mean word for word. I guess it's more about finding the right balance.

Although even with western/European literature sometimes there is only one translation. It might be a bad example because today there is more than one, but for many years you could only get the Lee Fahnestock and Norman McAfee. translation of Les Miserables. This was the one I read, it was a very good translation in my opinion though.
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Old 2013-02-22, 15:41   Link #71
DonQuigleone
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The other thing to bear in mind that languages like French, German or even Latin or Greek are much easier to translate into English then a language like Chinese. Often in these European languages the syntax is similar, and you can pretty much preserve the original sentence and paragraph structure. not only that but there are many words with 1 to 1 translations, and few words without a direct counterpart in English. In Chinese though, you might have to change things around a lot more to get the original meaning through.
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