Sunday, June 10, 2007

Translation 3

Chinese writers were/are fond of using history to relate to ideas they want to convey. If the reader does not know Chinese history, he will be lost and cannot understand what the author tries to talk about. Therefore, in translating Chinese writing into another language, the historical reference must be pointed out to convey the author's ideas to the readers.

For example, there is a sentence in Xuan Kong Mi Zhi 玄空秘旨:

富並陶朱 定是堅金遇土

Tao Zhu 陶朱 is the name of a wealthy man in the Spring-Autumn period. It is a beautiful story too long to tell here. In short, after helping a King who lost his country to the invaders to take revenge and restored his kingdom, Tao Zhu (whose real name was Fan Li 范蠡) left his country and started his new life in another country. He was a real commercial genius who became the richest man in just a few years' time.

I remember someone translated the article into English. The translation was ok but the annotation showed poor Chinese history background. The translator mistook Tao Zhu as the family names of two wealthy man Tao and Zhu. The translator further invented the story of these two men competing in luxury by destroying pearls to see who destroyed more.

The common annotation of the sentence in most Chinese books is:

When the water star is 6 and the mountain star is 2, then the people will be as wealthy as Tao Zhu.

This is not really the case. I will only give out a little hint here. Both stars and forms must be examined to see the effect. In fact, the entire article is to be read with this attitude. It is not just about the combinations of stars.



Mary Catherine Bax said...

Dear Joseph,

Is there a mother or pregnant woman mentioned in this story?


Diana said...

I love reading those stories. I love hearing where the ideas and beliefs come from. Are there any books that would give a brief history of these legends without losing the meaning.


Joseph Yu said...

It is not a story or legend but history. In Xuan Kong Mi Zhi, the author just wanted to point out one Feng Shui setting (Ju 局) for wealth. There is no pregnant woman involved.


Mary Catherine Bax said...

Dear Joseph,

Perhaps you will write your translations of the ancient classics in an ebook when your grandson allows. I will pay in advance.


Jeannie said...

Dear Master Yu,

Is it correct to relate the 6 to metal and 2 to earth as shown in the 2nd part of the sentence? Thanks.