Or not so much

I heard from a gentleman who does read ancient Chinese. He requested that I not post his excellent and detailed explication of Sun Tzu and the question of Moral Law/morale, but the summary is: you’re wrong on this one and you have no idea what you’re talking about.

If I grasped what he was saying correctly, the underlying problem is that the concept of individual morale as we know it in the West simply isn’t applicable to a society that didn’t view people as individuals per se, but more as appendages of the greater social body. Therefore, the “harmony” translation clearly makes more sense and Giles was right to resist the temptation to use “morale”.

I hope I won’t offend the gentleman by sharing one thing from his email, because it’s quite funny and illustrates how perilous it can be to blindly trust translations. (More on this later, as I’m reading Eco’s new book on the subject right now.) The Chinese scholar compared what is considered to be the best translation of a passage from the I Ching with his own translation from the original:

“Great good fortune: it furthers one to see the Great Man; it furthers one to cross the great Water….etc.”

“Big Man standing in a Pool of Blood: Move the Troops”.

Anyhow, mea culpa. I henceforth renounce my short-lived, inauspicious career in Ancient Chinese translation. Speaking of texts, I could use a OpenOffice or Word document containing the full text of the blog archives here. This would be useful in searching for past posts since the Blogger search function is rather unreliable. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while, but just haven’t gotten around to it.

So, if you’re in the mood for something tedious, please let me know by commenting here in order prevent redundancy.