8 Lesson 7-狐假虎威

狐假虎威  (《戰國策》)

hú jiǎ hǔ wēi (Zhànguó cè)

虎求百獸而食之,得狐。狐曰: “子無敢食我也。天帝使我長百獸。今子食我,是逆天帝命也。 子以我為不信,吾為子先行,子隨我後,觀百獸之見我而敢不走乎?” 虎以為然,故遂與之行。獸見之皆走。虎不知獸畏己而走也,以為畏狐也。

虎求百兽而食之,得狐。狐曰: “子无敢食我也。天帝使我长百兽。今子食我,是逆天帝命也。 子以我为不信,吾为子先行,子随我后,观百兽之见我而敢不走乎?” 虎以为然,故遂与之行。兽见之皆走。虎不知兽畏己而走也,以为畏狐也。


Lesson 7 vocabulary

qiú to seek
bǎi hundred / all types of
獸(兽) shòu beast, animal
百獸(兽) bǎi shòu animals
shí to eat
gǎn to dare
天帝 tiān dì Emperor of Heaven
長(长) zhǎng to lead, to preside over [c.f. cháng, long]
jīn today, now
to go against
mìng command, order
以為 (为) yǐ  wéi to take as [or to take…as]
xìn trustworthy; to trust
為 (为) wèi on behalf of
xíng to go, to travel
隨(随) suí to follow
後 (後) hòu behind
觀(观) guān to observe
[an interrogative particle]
rán thus
與(与) to accompany; with
wèi to fear
oneself [pronoun object]
jiǎ to borrow, [cf. jià], false
wēi prestige

Commentary on lesson 7:

1.1:  For the use of 無 as negative imperative, see note to 1.2 in lesson 5.

1.2:  This is a typical use of 也 to state equivalence between two noun phrases. 是 is the first phrase, meaning simply “this.”

The phrase 以為 means “to take as,” and often means “to consider,” “to suppose.” It is often implied that such assumptions are incorrect. The two characters can be separated and give two objects, which represent what thing is being speculated about and what is being speculated about it; thus, 以我為不信 “to consider me untrustworthy.”

吾為子先行: 為 wèi (fourth tone) is a preposition (sometimes called a “coverb”) meaning “for the benefit of”; thus, “I will for your benefit go in front.” When 為 is used in this way, it almost always comes before the verb; also note that when the object of the preposition may be assumed, it will be left out. For example, 吾為子先行 “I went ahead for his sake;” but in the context of a narrative, you might see 虎以我為不信, 吾為子先 行 “The tiger thought I was untrustworthy, so I went ahead for [his] sake.”

1.3:  觀百獸之見我而敢不走乎. This is a typical classical construction used with verbs of perception, thinking, etc. We use “that” to link such verbs to our observations, e.g., “I see that you are wearing blue today.” Classical has no word of “that,” so it uses the possessive 之. In such cases, the entire observation becomes a nominal phrase that functions as an object of the verb of observation. In English, the equivalent would be “I see your wearing of blue color today.” In the sentence under discussion, there are two implied sentences: the first is 觀百獸 “[You] observe the various animals” (“observe” here is imperative); the second sentence is 百獸見我而敢不走 “The various animals see me and dare to not run” (in English, we would say “do not dare to run”). Since 乎 at the end of a sentence indicates a question, the second sentence really means “Do the various animals se me and do not dare to run?” Since all of this second sentence is basically the object of the verb 觀, we have here an indirect question: “Observe whether the various animals upon seeing me do not dare to run.” (Literally, “Observe the various animals’ seeing me and daring to not run or not”.) Other examples:

耕者觀我之殺其兔The plowman saw me kill his rabbit.

(Lit. the plowman saw my killing his rabbit.)

無觀其人之先畫蛇乎 Do not observe whether that person drew the snake first or not. (Lit. do not observe that person’s first drawing the snake or not.)

Unfortunately, if the meaning is clear enough, the classical writer will often simply drop the 之; so don’t depend on this construction for all cases of indirect statements and questions.

與 is often used as a preposition (or coverb) meaning “with”; like : 為 wèi (fourth tone), it almost always comes before the verb.


Grammar Note 6

1. The character 為 has two readings and meanings, both of which occur in lesson 7.

a. wèi  “for, on behalf of” occurs in 為子 wèi zǐ “for you, on your behalf”. Functionally equivalent in this usage to an English preposition, it might better be described as a coverb, which, with its object 子 zǐ, forms a secondary verb phrase preceding and modifying the primary verb phrase 先行 xiān xíng. Thus, “on behalf of X, do Y.”

b. 為wéi can be a transitive verb “do, make, regard as.” This usage we see in lesson 16: 乃夜為狗nǎi yè wèi gǒu “then, in the night, acted like a dog.” From “do, make” the meaning of 為 wéi extends to senses such as “make like, serve as, play the role of”: 為君 wéi jūn, “serve as ruler” 為臣 wéi chén “serve as a minister” which is close to saying “be a ruler, be a minister.” Thus為 wéi approaches being a copular verb like English “to be”, although A.C. Graham, the great philosopher and logican of Classical Chinese, denies that this or any other Classical Chinese verb quite means “to be” (more on this later). 為 wéi in this sense often occurs with 以 yǐ “take” as in 以 X 為 Y “take X to be Y” or “take it to be [the case that]…” 以為然 yǐ wéi rán means “take it to be thus” (然 rán “thus, so” appears to be a contraction of 如rú or 若 ruò “like” plus an element meaning “it”, just as 焉 yān contracts 於 yú “in, at…” with an element 之 zhī, “it”. Thus, 以為然 yǐ wéi rán “take it to be like that, take it to be so”)

2. Lesson 6 included several constructions that in sense resemble Indo-European passives, such as 一人之蛇成 yī rén zhī shé chéng, “another man’s snake was completed.” The corresponding “active” form would be 一人成其蛇 yī rén chéng qí shé. Shadick thus states the rule for these constructions:

A transitive verb becomes intransitive when it is preceded by a form that was its object in a previous sentence, or that, in the light of the context, might well have been its object in a previous sentence. In such cases the verb is naturally translated by an English passive voice construction (pp. 771-772).

Consider these pairs of constructions:

不能更鳴 bù néng gèng míng  [if] you can not change your cry.

鳴不能更 míng bù néng gēng  the cry can’t be changed.

兔折其頸tù zhé qí jǐng  the hare breaks its neck.

兔頸折矣tù jǐng zhé yǐ   the hare’s neck has been broken.

Lesson 2 contained a “passive” with the added idea of agency:

身為宋國笑 shēn wéi sòng guó xiào   he himself was laughed at by the [whole] State of Song



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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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