14 Lesson 13 – 晏子

晏子 (《晏子春秋》)

Yàn Zǐ  (Yàn Zǐ chūnqiū)

景公問太卜曰: “汝之道何能?”  對曰:“臣能動地。”  公召晏子而告之曰:“寡人問太卜曰: ‘汝之道何能?’  對曰: ‘能動地’。  地可動乎?”  晏子默然不對,出,見太卜曰:“昔吾見鉤星在四心之閒,地其動乎?”  太卜曰:“然。”  晏子曰:“吾言之,恐子之死也;默然不對,恐君之惶也。子言,君臣俱得焉。忠于君者,豈必傷人哉!”  晏子出,太卜走入見公,曰:“臣非能動地,地固將動也。”  陳子陽聞之,曰:“晏子默而不對者,不欲太卜之死也;往見太卜者,恐君之惑也。晏子,仁人也,可謂忠上而惠下也。”


景公问太卜曰: “汝之道何能?”  对曰:“臣能动地。”  公召晏子而告之曰:“寡人问太卜曰: ‘汝之道何能?’  对曰: ‘能动地’。  地可动乎?”  晏子默然不对,出,见太卜曰:“昔吾见钩星在四心之间,地其动乎?”  太卜曰:“然。”  晏子曰:“吾言之,恐子之死也;默然不对,恐君之惶也。子言,君臣俱得焉。忠于君者,岂必伤人哉!”  晏子出,太卜走入见公,曰:“臣非能动地,地固将动也。”  陈子阳闻之,曰:“晏子默而不对者,不欲太卜之死也;往见太卜者,恐君之惑也。晏子,仁人也,可谓忠上而惠下也。”

Lesson 13 Vocabulary

太卜 tài bǔ Grand Diviner
動(动) dòng to move, to shake
silent
默然 mò rán to be silent,silently
last night
鉤 (钩) gōu Sickle (star)
xīng star
四心 sì xīn Four Hearts (a constellation ) ancient belief that confluence of stars causes earthquakes
[a modal particle]
rán to be thus; it is so, yes
yán to say
jūn lord, ruler
huáng to be terrified, to be frightened
chén official, minister
to be satisfied
zhōng loyal
in, at, to [equivalent to於]
must, necessarily, definitely
傷(伤) shāng to hurt, to harm
to enter
jiàn to have audience with, to give audience to
陳(陈)子陽(阳) Chén Zǐyáng
huì to be kind, gracious to
huò to be deluded, confused
shàng superiors; the ruler
xià inferiors

Commentary to lesson 13:

This passage may seem confusing without some knowledge of the nature of Confucian rationalism. In lesson 11, we saw that a minister was trying to persuade his lord to ignore folk-beliefs and superstitions. Here again, Yanzi is concerned over the harm that may come to the state through the ruler’s gullibility. Confucians attributed natural disasters – earthquakes, floods, etc. – to the rational operations of the cosmos, in particular the influence of the conjunction of stars and other astrological phenomena. Thought this may seem superstitious to us, it was actually an attempt to find an explanation for the way the world works and to discount the influence of personal agents (demons or sorcerers) over the natural order. The Diviner in this passage knows from the stars that an earthquake will occur; he uses this knowledge to persuade the ruler that he can cause the earthquake himself through his (here, something like “magical arts”).

1.1: This use of 其 here is hard to define; linguists differ in explaining it. Dawson translates it simply as an auxiliary verb meaning “should” or “will”; Shadick explains it as follows: “Giving an imperative or optative mood to the sentence: ‘May you…’; intensifying an exclamatory sentence: ‘doubtless, in fact, indeed, simply, only, almost’; adding to the rhetorical force of a question to which now answer is possible, and calling for an English auxiliary verb ‘could’, ‘should’, etc. in the translation; giving a presumptive force to a question that calls for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.” As you can see, it can mean practically anything. Most probably its use here falls in with Shadick’s last suggestion; 地其動乎 means something like “the earth will move, won’t it?”

1.2: Keep in mind that 人can often be translated as “others.”

1.3: Another use of 者. Here it is part of a construction: “…者…也”, in which the second phrase explains the first. The translation is usually “the reason why…is because…” There is a more explicit version of this pattern as well: “所以…者, 以…也.”

Grammar Note 12

1.  In Grammar Note 11 we look at some uses of subjects (semantically: topics) and predicates (semantically: comments). These included topic-comment as actor-action. Note that we’re treating actor-action simply as one type, although a frequent type, of topic-comment, and not as a category distinct from topic-comment. We also look at a sentence in which the topic and comment formed two sides of an equation; and sentences in which the’ old information’ supplied by the topic was simply a setting in time.

Another topic-comment use makes the topic condition, the comment a consequence of the condition (‘ if-then’). We reviewed several such constructions in Grammar Note 10, for example:

數人飲之 不足
shù rén yǐn zhī bùzú
[IF] several people drink it [THEN] it won’t be enough

One reason for grouping these various sentences together under the broad headings of’ topic’ and’ comment’ is that if we think of all these uses we have encountered- actor and action, condition and consequence, etc. — as variants of major categories topic and comment, it should help us to deal less stressfully with the ambiguities of Classical Chinese structure. What we need to grasp is the character of actor-action, etc. as variably distinct, and sometimes instinct types of topic and comment.

Take for instance the sentence:

有陰德者, 天報之以福  (lesson 8)
yǒu yīn dé zhě tiān bào zhī yǐ fú

which we can translate as:

[If] there is one of hidden virtue [then] heaven will reward him with good fortune.

but couldn’t we equally well have translated the conditional part of this sentence as a temporal part?  e.g.:

[When] there is one of hidden virtue..

In fact, our choice between the conditional and temporal interpretation of this sentence depends on (a) our arbitrary choice of English translation-‘ if or’ when’; or (b) upon our equally arbitrary expansion of Chinese text:

若有陰德者 if there is one…
ruò yǒu yīn dé zhě
有陰德者之時 when there is one…
yǒu yīn dé zhě zhī shí

In other words, the way we categorize Classical Chinese sentences may be an artifact of the English-speaker’s translation process. Choices compulsory in English, such as between, “if” and  “when,” may not be compulsory in Classical Chinese; for while possible in Classical Chinese, as in the expansions proposed above, to write an unambiguously conditional or an unambiguously temporal topic (involving a choice between and 若 ruò and 之時 zhī shí), it is also possible to write a sort of generic topic (as in the original sentence from Lesson 8) in which the ambiguity remains perfectly happily unresolved. Learning Classical Chinese, like learning about life, means learning to live with ambiguity, at least from time to time. All languages are ambiguous in some degree. If it were not, communication would be hopelessly constricted. At the end of the day and in the aggregate, Classical Chinese may or may not be more ambiguous than English. But it does possess something English (relatively speaking) lacks: the freedom of variable ambiguity, seen also in the lack of compulsory singular or plural number, etc. Compared to English, Classical Chinese is relatively at liberty to be only as unambiguous as the occasion demands. Where it isn’t logically necessary to choose between conditional and temporal reference, Classical Chinese doesn’t make it grammatically necessary. Often the relation between topic and comment is extremely sketchy, as in:

如是者 三旦
rú shì zhě sān dàn
[its being] like that [was for] three dawns (lesson 12)

An interesting case is presented by a kind of judgmental sentence in (see Grammar Note 7) which as a whole is made a comment related often in an extremely loose way to preceding topic, such as:

1. 今[公]上山見虎, 虎之室也
   jīn [gōng] shàng shān jiàn hǔ, hǔ zhī shì yě
now [as for] your climbing the mountain and seeing a tiger, [that was a case of its being] the tiger’s home

Lesson 13 presents two similar sentences:

2. 吾言之,恐子之死也
     wú yán zhī,     kǒng zǐ sǐ zhī yě
3.  默然不對,恐君之惶也
     mè rán bú duì,      kǒng jūn zhī huáng yě.

In sentences 1 and 3 the topic accords with fact, as the Duke did climb the mountain and 晏子 yànzǐ did keep silent. This suggests the English translations, “When you climb the mountain,” and “When I kept silent”.   In sentence 2, the topic states (in English terms) a contrary-to-fact condition: “If I had spoken about it.”  But the Classical Chinese wording in no way reflects this distinction between “if” and “when”.

Some writers restrict the term” topic” to the relatively uncommon case of initial element in the sentence which appear to be predicates, or parts of predicates, transposed to initial position for emphasis. We’ll deal with instances of such constructions as they come up, treating them as just one among the several (more or less ill defined) kinds of topic.

Note again that many topics, and many comments, are units (” independent clauses”) which could stand themselves as sentences. As such, each topic or comment is itself divisible into a comment and, preceding it, an explicit or implicit topic.

 

2. Note that Lesson 13 contains, in its last two lines, four particularly clear instances of the equational sentence, the first three using the most explicit form X 者 zhě Y 也 yě. Apparently of the same kind is this sentence of Lesson 12:

此三者皆務欲得其前利, 而不顧其後之有患也
cǐ  sān zhě jié wù yù dé  qí qián lì,  ér bú gù qí hòu zhī yǒu huàn yě
These three are all [instances of] concentrating upon the desire for a profit  immediately before one, and disregarding troubles [that are coming] after

3.  其 qí in the construction 地其動乎 dì qí dòng hū is not the same word as the homophonous其 qí “his, her, its their”.  Rather, it is the so-called “modal” qí related to 豈 qǐ, with which it is sometimes interchangeable.  Modal qí  gives a sentence some sense other than declarative, exclamation, or (as here) makes a question rhetorical.

4.  非 fēi, as we have seen in lesson 4, can mean “wrong” as opposed to 是 shì “right”. The most common use of 非 fēi is quite different, as a negative before nouns or noun phrases which denies an equation (we haven’t seen examples of this yet). Here we have a third kind of 非 fēi which comes before verbs and negates a verb phrase in a special sense: “it’s not that…” or “it isn’t as if…”. [1]

[1] On this construction see Christoph Harbsmeier, Aspects of Classical Chinese Syntax (London and Malmo, 1981), pp. 19-24.

 

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Introduction to Classical Chinese by Patrick Hanan; David Lattimore; Judith Zeitlin; Margaret Baptist Wan; Anthony George; Xiaofei Tian; Regina Llamas; Hu Hsiao-chen; Liu Lening; Paul Rouzer; Shang Wei; Andrew Schonebaum; and Kong Mei is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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