Another Music Inspiration

I was listening to one of my favorites – The Butterfly Dream Concerto and once more my Muse came for a visit.  This the result of one revision.  The performer this time is Takako Nishizaki (西崎崇子) on the violin.  I just love her crane motif 花間春眠長 Aug 20red dress.  Such a classic and classy garb.

花間春眠長,  By the flowers, a long spring slumber,
人生蝶夢短.Life is but a short dream of the butterfly.
飛燕梅楊去,The flying swallows, the plum blossoms and the poplars are all gone,
水流不斷斷.Only the river still flowing unceasingly.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Chinese reader might be puzzled by the word order of 梅楊 which usually means the Chinese strawberry (Myrica rubra).  Actually, the double meaning in the poem do not refer to their literal meanings.  They are the names of three great beauties in Chinese history.  I have listed their names in chronological order.  “Flying Swallow” is Chao Fei-yen, the Han Dynasty Empress. The “plum blossom” is the official title of a Tang Dynasty concubine because of her love for it.  As for the “poplar”, it is the last name of the imperial concubine who later replaced the former as the emperor’s new favourite.  Once they were the number two in the land but in the end were dealt with a tragic end.

Without launching into a lengthy discussion, the butterfly dream in the poem refers to the dream of the philosopher Chuang Tze who was wondering if he had dreamt of himself as a butterfly or that it is the butterfly dreaming of a man.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Metamorphosis of a Poem

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sudden phrases pop into my mind as usual when I am busy with something else.  This time it was 飛雪紅梅 (flying snow, red plum blossoms).  I had to place it somewhere in a box of my mind for later retrieval.  Then as I lay in bed and pondered on it,  my feet were literally getting cold despite being 002safely tucked underneath the blanket.  A theme began to coalesce — the colder it is, the blossoms will bloom with greater vigor.  No wonder the Chinese admire this flower so much.  It has the tenacity to not be afraid in the face of adversity.  Along with the two other “Friends”,  the pine tree and the bamboo, it is prominently featured in the traditional arts, whether in paintings or as porcelain-ware motifs.

My idea was about the mores of a frustrated scholar in his preparation to pass the imperial examinations.  In today’s terms, “study hard and be successful”.

飛雪紅梅又一冬      Fluttering snow and plum flowers blossoming – another winter
十年苦讀功未成/通 Ten years of hard study gone by and still unable to succeed/understand

For a few days, I was stuck.  I could not proceed beyond these two lines.  I tried to look at the masters for inspiration but no such luck.  I just had to let it lie there and languish.  Then a few more days later, a friend posted a link on Facebook.  It was a video about an interracial marriage between an Australian lady and a Singapore man in the 1960s.  The video talked about their love lasting through the decades despite harassment and prejudice in the societies they lived in.

It was the inspiration I was looking for.  The first line is so appropriate to their situation.  A draft was formed along the lines of,

飛雪紅梅又一冬, flying snow red plum again one winter
流水盡去與夢同. flowing waters completely flow past and dream same
蝶殘花香早已謝, butterfly crippled flower fragrance early already withered

I could not end the poem. The last line eluded me.  To put my mind at ease, I continued to read more articles on this couple. April 16th came and I suddenly remembered an old 1930’s movie, The Enchanted Cottage,

Finally I could cap the poem with the theme of the movie,

心中視覺仍龍鳳     In hearts, still seeing we are the dragon and phoenix.

The “Dragon and Phoenix” is a great metaphor for male prowess and feminine beauty.  Now with the structure complete, I could work on the refinements…

First of all, I felt that 飛雪 (flying snow) was not colorful enough.  A quick change was easy.  白雪紅梅 (White snow red plum) is bursting in color. However, in the English mind of mine, I was thinking in modern terms that unless it is polluted, the color of snow can only be white.  To me, this is redundancy and a waste of words.  “Red plum blossoms” is fine since they can take on other colors.

There is movement in 飛雪橫梅 (flying snow, sideway plum blossoms), colors being hinted at and the imagery is good — stretched out boughs, laden with blossoms looked as if there were being blown flat by the wind.  With more word twiddling,

白雪横飛紅梅冬, The white snow flying across a red plum blossom winter

A good compromise,  however, I ran into trouble as the second line is now out of place and the change of scene is too abrupt.  “又一冬” (Again another winter) in the first line is the lead-in to the next.

“Flowing waters” denotes the swiftness of time passing.

I considered splitting the idea into two lines,

白雪横飛又一冬, White snow flying sideways again another winter passes
紅梅盡放 ?  ?  同

The problem now is that I do know how to fill in the places denoted by the question marks. To change the theme or rhyme is something which I did not want. Have to leave this as it is and continue with the rest of the poem.  The last line has the idea but the wording is coarse and inelegant.  More mulling and I came up with,

彼此彼此仍龍鳳 Each other, with one another,  still a dragon and a phoenix.

At first I was quite happy but the repeat of 彼此 bothered me.  It hints of exasperation, a mood I do not want to portray.  I wanted something happy…

彼此相觀仍龍鳳, In each other’s gaze, still a dragon and phoenix.

Though an improvement, something is still amiss. My present inspirations, like the magic potions in the computer game that I am now playing, were all used up.  I just have to wait for another day of renewal…

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I rewrite my essays over again and again to gain refinement.  Unlike typing with versatility on an English keyboard, it is better to kill two birds with a stone by practising my Chinese “calligraphy” with the brush in an old-fashioned manner.  Sure enough, as the poem was repeatedly written, like some gene mutation over a time, words began to transform and ideas become more settled.  The flow seemed more fluent as the characters were expressed through the ink and brush.

In the end, I decided to forgo the idea of having color in the first line.  After all, there’s plenty of “colors” through the shades in the black-inked character strokes contrasting with the snow-white underside of the now scrap paper of a now defunct computer printout.  Yes, I do recycle.

The first line remained the same while the second became,

江水盡流與夢同. The river waters flow unceasingly like a dream.

盡流 can be interpreted either as the flow had completely stopped or that its flow is carefree with no sign of stopping!

I remembered I had learnt 倦蝶 (tired butterflies) from a Chinese writer in an “italki” essay, which I now will use it to the fullest.  Whoever that unknown writer is, “I thank you”.

倦蝶殘香早已逝 tired butterfly crippled/weak fragrance early already passed.

Here 逝 also evokes the imagery of death.  Still, the final line lacks the punch I intended. I had considered other characters such as 看, 望 but not 見 (since 相見 means “to meet up”).  They did not make the cut.  Then I remembered a song from an old classic Chinese movie of the 1960s, 江山美人, The Kingdom and the Beauty starring Lin Dai (林黛).

The theme song was in a form of a classical poem,

一瞥驚鴻影, One furtive glance, a startled swan,
相蓬似夢中. Our meeting is like a dream.
廣寒身未到, To the Lunar Palace of the Great Cold not reached yet, (a sexual allusion)
分手太匆匆, Too quickly is our departure.

Unabashedly, I am lifting 瞥 to convey the full force of the poem’s intent of a furtive gaze of an old couple whose love had endured the ages.

飛雪橫梅又一冬,  Across the laden boughs of plum blossoms, snow blows of yet another winter,
江水盡流與夢同. The river flows without care, like time passing in a dream.
倦蝶殘香早已逝, Tired butterflies and withered fragrance had long since gone,
彼此相瞥仍龍鳳. To each other, a furtive glance exchanged, a dragon and a phoenix we still are.

By no means this is the end of the story. As time passes and with more experience and knowledge gained, there may be changes yet to come.


What prophecy!  No sooner than what I had written was proofread by someone and posted on my blog, a minor change occurred as I tried to get a better brush writing version.  I accidently wrote a wrong word which proved to be a blessing.  Instead of writing 流 (flow), I wrote 去 (to go, past).  I pondered on this and finally decided that this new change was for the better since there is hint of something long gone.  At the same time, there is no need to have extra words  in the English translation when there are none in the Chinese version.

江水盡去與夢同.The river-flow passing fast like a dream.

Friday, April 24, 2015

One Sunny Spring Saturday in Southern California

Another winter had passed.  It is now spring.  A sunny day indeed in Southern California but under the bamboo grove, the blowing wind is cold.  As I sat and admired the garden scenery sipping my hot cup of Chinese tea and listening to the Butterfly Concerto performed by Vanessa Mae, I can’t help but to ponder what’s up in the heavens.

Surely eternal youth and beauty are there without physical pains or aches from this mortal world.  At least this is the image that I am led to believe.  How great it is to be an immortal without Old Age nibbling away at Youth and without the worries if one had all the 10401 entries correctly filled out for the dreaded looming tax day of April the fifteenth!  How I all hate the IRS!  I suppose that’s the price to pay to live in an almost weather paradise of a sunny Southern California.  Now you know the reason of my being in the garden.

I long to be a denizen of that upper world.  However, on a second thought, beware of what you wished for.  I should be grateful and satisfied with all the good things my life had brought me. I am sure that there are plenty of others who would envy the kind of life I have now.  At least I am not in some war torn country nor a disease ravaged place.  I should be counting my blessings instead and not bemoaning such trifles as the IRS.

Once more my mind is drifted to the ethereal realm for a quick respite.  I needed the break from the daily drudgery of the week.  Jeff, Jeff, Jeff! Can’t blame you for thinking otherwise.  After all you are a human being and yes, each and every one of us do have dreams.  Without them, life even with material comfort will not soothe the restless mind.  Fantasy journeys are good for our mental health; as long as they don’t become an opiate.  So stop your yearnings.  Write some poetry instead!

蝴蝶兒花香,         Oh butterflies, the fragrance of flowers is weak
春日和風来冷.    A warm spring day but the blowing wind is cold.
瑶池2仙子無3,       The fairy from the Jade Pool without a companion,
黄臉4凡妻難比! Can hardly be compared to that of an aged wife!

So I fibbed!  Actually, I am in the office, longing to be out there in the warm sunshine but alas…  It is also true that I am listening to the repeated Vanessa’s Mae’s violin playing with my headphones on as I try to seek inspiration to write something as I am waiting for the computer to finish its processing…  I hate idle minds.  Better to finish things quickly here and get out of this air conditioned place and literally fly to my garden sanctuary before the sun goes down!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

  1. 1.  The number of the US income tax form.
  2. Paradise.
  3.  It can also mean that no one is good enough [for her]
  4.  Literally “yellow face”.

The characters in red was changed on Thursday,  April 23, 2015

A Dream Meeting With The Servant Girl

There, her image was clear in my mind, still the same as it was eons ago.  Why she came to me in a dream, I do not know.  All I wanted to ask of her now was of her family, her background, her likes, her dislikes, and her hopes.  She was just a servant girl, older by a few years than this teenage boy of 15 or so.  Thus her name or rather her title was “Older Sister Plum Blossom”.  Of course “sister” was just a civility; a mere deference accorded to her in acknowledging that she came into this world earlier than my siblings and I.

It was not that I am the young master and she, of a lower status; but someone, a companion or perhaps even a friend.  All I cared about was how we interacted.  Her background, her station and her past meant nothing to me.  A friend to chat with after school.  How I wish I could have gone back in time, armed with today’s technology of a digital camera and a laptop to record my life both in pictures and in videos.

In my dream, I asked of her family.  She replied without hesitation.  Her father was a no good bum who barely kept debtors away from their doorstep.  More questions asked; more answers given.  Now in my awakened state, I remember them not.  The crux of this dream is that I told her that I had never been a real friend to her since I had never asked of her personal background as a friend should.  She replied with a thank you.  I could not help myself but to quip that this meant I wasn’t a friend at all then.  She just smiled and said something to the effect, “never too late”.  As she continued on with her maternal side of her family, this dream ended abruptly, the same way she came to me so suddenly.  All the exact words and details have turned into a distant fuzziness.  However, the nostalgia, the meaning and the warmth remain.

Of course, things were never easy.  The very, VERY much older female servant was jealous of our coziness.  I was too innocent and naive.  Now, I can see her fear that this upstart might one day become her superior, her mistress.  How silly of the grownups!  If they only knew what my inclinations were.  I think my mother had tried to have a talk with me filled with innuendoes and subtle warnings.  Of course, this “talk” resolved to make our bonds even stronger as we faced someone not from our age group, an adversary arising from jealousy.  So many misunderstandings and so many suspicions.  However, everyone’s fears were allayed when they saw I had other interests to pursue – my hobbies, my schoolwork, my male school friends that were beginning to occupy most of my spare time.  One day, we were told that she was leaving us since the children were getting older and no longer need supervision.

I could not go back to sleep.  I was thinking.  After all these years, never once had I dreamt of her or thought of her.  Why did she come into my dream now? Was this meeting, an occasion for her last words of goodbye before stepping into the world yonder?  I know that this is but a dream.  Strange is the mind seeking closure to address lingering wishes unfulfilled.

As I am recording this, I wonder where had she been all these years after leaving the service of my family.  In my dream, I should have asked, “Did you get married?  If so, you should by now have become a grandmother.  Did you have a good life?”

Time, a cruel master, taking one-by-one away and insidiously replacing clear memories of yore with haziness; repackaging a sleek version of charm and nostalgia.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015, 5:13am – 6:20am

一首夜吟醉夢鄉 – Sighing in the Night, Dreaming of Home

065廣寒1無心照花香, The moon did not shine because the flowers are fragrant,
默對蓮塘醉夢鄉.  Silently upon the lotus pond I gaze in drunken stupor, dreaming of home.
枕上葉下2常樂伴,   On the pillow, under the leaves, forever together in bliss,
眼前飛來幾片霜3.   Then a few flakes of frost came fluttering before my very eyes.

  1. Literally, the “Grand Cold”, name of the lunar palace.
  1. It is quite confusing if you don’t know traditional culture.  Traditionally, on the pillows, a pair of Mandarin ducks is depicted under some lotus to denote conjugal bliss.  Here the comparison is cast between reality and the imaginary.  The real pond is empty because the plant grows only during summer.
  1. Can mean tears.

Of course, this is the result of many reincarnations spanning over a period of time.  I am not good enough to pen such a poem immediately.  It is the seed of an imagery that after tender loving care has now bloomed.  The original idea was conceived on October 07, 2014.

蟾宮寒意桂花香,  The Toad Palace is cold and the Osmanthus is fragrant,
荷池默對綠紗窗.  The lotus pond gaze silently at the green gauze window.
枕上鴛鴦常樂伴,  On the pillow, the Mandarin ducks are in eternal bliss,
驚破思緒幾片霜   Suddenly my thoughts broken by a few flakes of frost.

The idea and rhyming scheme are there but I find it to be too direct.  Later thinking, I had the last line changed to,

眼前忽落幾片霜. Suddenly before my eyes, a few flakes of frost floating down.

On 08 Oct, the first line was changed to

廣寒無意見桂香, The moon unintentionally saw the fragrance of the moon.

Something is still amiss and the elegance I sought is not there.  Almost two weeks later on 21 Oct, it was morphed into this form,

廣寒無意照花香   The moon did not shine because the flowers are fragrant,
默對蓮塘醉家鄉.  Gazing silently at the lotus pond, in drunken stupor I think of home
枕上葉下常樂伴,  On the pillow, under the leaves, forever together in eternal bliss
眼前飄来幾片霜.   Suddenly, before my eyes, a few frost flakes came wafting by.

Finally on 01 Nov, On the second line, was changed into as I think it is more elegant and on the last line,  飄 into  because the new character is easier for me to write with a brush.  There is no change in tone of this replaced character.

Learning Classical Chinese II

This is the translation of the second fifty chapters of the Korean book for learning Classical Chinese.  For the first fifty chapters, see

Lesson 51

或告童子曰           someone told a child boy said
海中有魚能飛       sea in have fish able fly
兒不信                  child not believe
以問其父曰           and_so asked his father said
有之是名飛魚       have it is named flying fish

Someone told a child that in the ocean, there are fish that can fly.  The child does not believe and went to ask his father who said,

“There is and is called flying fish.”


There are many meanings of 或.  The more common ones are “or” and “perhaps”

或曰 = someone who said
或人 = someone
或一 = what if
或种 = 某種 = some type
或時 = 有時 = sometime.
或日 = 某曰, 有一天, one day

或者 is more difficult to translate by itself because it is context dependent due to 者 which can mean someone, something, the thing that…  It can also be someone! The general meaning of modern usage is “perhaps”, a choice between the two.

It can be used to emphasize uncertainty as in,

莫或興之 = don’t be too happy about it.
莫或除之 = don’t really want remove it

Lesson 52

或畜一虎      someone raise one tiger
囚之檻中      imprison it cage inside
一日             one day
虎逸出四走  tiger escape out four run
衆奔避         crowd ran hide
莫敢前         not dare forward

Someone raised a tiger in a cage.  One day, it escaped and was all over the place. The crowds dashed into hiding and no one dared come out.


  1. For 或 see previous chapter.
  1. 檻 has two pronunciations and with many meanings.  It can mean a banister or abalustrade.  The commoner meaning is a cage used to transport prisoners in the old days where the prisoner is made to stand inside it with the head sticking out of the top.  The cage need not be enclosed on the sides, just enough bars that the prisoner cannot escape through them.  This cage can also be just a cart with the prisoner wearing a cangue, sort of a portable pillory.
  1. 四走 is short for 四處走動 “four place running movement”.  The four represents the four directions, hence everywhere.  In other words, running all over the place.

Lesson 53

某兒行道        some child walk path
腹飢無所食    stomach hunger nothing to eat
採樹上生桃    pluck tree on_top raw peach
食之               eat it
腹痛大病        stomach pain great illness
數日不食        several days not eat

A child was walking along a road.  He was hungry and there was nothing to eat.  So he plucked an unripe peach and ate it.  His stomach was in pain and fell ill.  For several days he could not eat.


  1. 所 here is a particle introducing a relative or passive clause.
  1. 生 has at least 20 meanings.  One of which is “raw”.  However, in this context unripe is the best translation.

Lesson 54

麋與鹿相似  Moose and deer mutual alike
大者曰麋      big thing called moose
小者曰鹿      small thing called deer
鴻與鴈相似  eastern_bean_goose and wild_goose mutual alike
大者曰鴻      big thing called eastern_bean_goose
小者曰鴈      small one called wild goose

Moose and deer are similar.  The larger one is called moose and the smaller one, deer.  The Eastern Bean Goose and the wild goose are similar.  The larger one is the Eastern Bean Goose and the smaller one, the wild goose.


  1. 者 is a particle denoting the thing that is described by the preceding adjective noun phrase or word.  Technically, the translation of 大者 should be “the one which is big…”.  However, this is too wordy and too technical.
  2.  鴈 is a variation of 雁.  The first one appears more in calligraphy.

Lesson 55

風雪中有呼寒而乞者 wind snow in have call cold and beg one_who
一八歲童子哀而         one eight age child son pity and_so
與之錢                        and [pp] money
見者稱善                    see the_one_who praise good

Literal translation

In the wind and snow, there was one who is a beggar crying, “cold”.  A child of eight years old pitied him and gave money.  The ones who saw, praise good.

Translating by meaning

There was a beggar moaning about the cold in a windy and snowy day.  A child of eight saw and pitied him.  He gave the beggar some money.  Those who saw, praised what a kind child he was.  [or “Those who saw, praised the good deed of the child”]


It was quite difficult to read in the original for there is no punctuation or delineation!  At first I thought the winds were howling and the beggar was eight years old!

Lesson 56

某生問          one student ask
作文之法      compose words [pp] rules
師曰             teacher said
作文無别法  compose words no special rules
多讀書         many read books
通義理         understand meaning reasoning
則自能作文  then self able write words

One student asked,

“How to write an essay?”

The teacher replied,

“There is no special way.  Read many books and understand the way of argumentation.  Only then will you able to compose an essay well.”


  1. 生.  See Lesson 53.  One of the many meanings of the character.  Has to see in the context to which it is applied!
  1. 作文, literally means to “make words”  In another words an essay.  In classical Chinese, 作 is used as a verb while in modern usage, 作文 case becomes a noun phrase.
  1. 讀書, literally means to “read books” In another words, “to study” or “study”.  Very similar to 作文.

Lesson 57

一兒獨出失路   one child alone out lost way
母之遣人           mother for_it dispatch person
四處求之不得    four areas seek him not can
母終夜哭           mother entire night cry
明日或送兒歸    next day someone brought child return

A child went out alone and was lost.  The mother sent forth people [to look for him].  Everywhere, he could not be found.  The mother cried all night.  [However,] the next day, someone brought him back.


  1. Here 之 is a particle to indicate the person/object being mentioned.
  1. Be aware of the similarities between 遣, to dispatch, dispel with 遺, remnants.  The former has does not have a貴 component but the bottom component of 官.
  1. 或送.  See commentaries in Lesson 51

Lesson 58

一鷄行田畔          one chicken walk padi_field bank
從容覔食甚樂      lax manner looking eat very happy
怱過一鷹             suddenly came_by one eagle
奮然下                 exerting_oneself the_state_of down
以爪攫之而去      with claws grab_seize it and went
人雖哀鷄而惡鷹  man although sad chicken and hate eagle
其於強弱何         this alas strong weak how_why

One chicken was strutting happily along the banks of the rice field to look for food when suddenly an eagle came by.  Exerting itself, it swooped down and with its claws, seized the chicken and off they went.  Although man is sad for the chicken and despises the eagle, alas what can he do?


  1. This is a variant of 雞.  隹 is a short tailed bird.  Perhaps this chicken has long tail, a rooster.
  1. 田 is actually the padi or rice field.  Not any other kinds.
  1. 覔 is an archaic variant form of 覓
  1. 惡.  Here it is used as a verb. See commentaries in Lesson 11
  1. Another moral lesson in oppressive tyranny of those in power.

Lesson 59

一兒食物太多   one child eat things too many
得腹瀉病           got stomach runs illness
病愈父誡之曰   illness recovered, father warned him said
爾病初愈           your illness in_the_beginning well
當少食               ought less eat
兒曰唯               child said yeah

A child ate too much and got the runs.  When he recovered, the father warned him and said,

“You just got well, ought not to eat too much”.

The child replied, “Yeah”.


  1. 食物 can also be a noun phrase in which case means food or edible things.  Therefore the sentence can mean, “A child has too many edible things”!  However, from the context, we know it is not the case. It can also be translated as “A child had too much food”.
  1. 唯 is another way of writing 惟. The modern equivalent is 嗯, an interjection indicating agreement, approval or appreciation.  唯唯, self deprecating form of saying yes.  唯唯諾諾 = obsequious, a yes man.

Lesson 60

做善者不求人知     do good one_who not seek man know
做惡者不使人知     do evil one_who not cause man know
故                           hence
人不知之善為大善  man not know its good becomes great benevolence
人不知之惡為大惡  man not know its evil becomes great wickedness

Those who do good need no others know.  Those who do evil will cause others not to know.  Hence, those not knowing of the good being done, then these good deeds are of great benevolence.  Those not knowing of the wicked doings, then these are of great evil.

Another way,

Good deed doers need no others know.  Evil doers will cause others not to know.  Thus, not knowing of good deeds done, then they are great benevolence.  Not knowing of the wicked deeds done, then they are great evil.

Lesson 61

一兒畜犬於家  one child raise a dog at home
繫銅片於其項  fasten copper/bronze sheet at its nape
鐫其名曰         engrave its name called
黃小兒             yellow small child
呼黃小             call yellow small
犬即摇尾而至  dog then wag tail and approach

One child raised a dog in his home.  Fastened to its neck was a copper tag.  Engraved on it was its name, “Small Yellow Child”.  Upon calling “Small Yellow”, the dog came wagging its tail.

Lesson 62

溫水一杯          warm water one cup
以糖和之          with sugar harmonize it
見水不見糖       see water not see sugar
飲之則甘           drink it then sweet
以鹽和水亦然    with salt harmonize water also the_state_of

With one cup of warm water, mix sugar into it.  What is seen is the water but not the sugar.  When drinking it, you know it is sweet.  Mix water with salt, same scenario [but the taste will be salty].


  1. 和 has many different meanings.  The most common being “and”.  To harmonize with another is to make peace.  To “harmonize” with things means that the mixed blends into what is being mixed into.  Therefore in translation, a simple “mix” will do.
  1. It is understood figuratively that the water become salty in Chinese.  However, it may not be apparent in the English case because of cultural differences.  This hinges on the words “亦然”, denoting a rhetoric statement which is not apparent in the English version.  Hence the bracketed line.

Lesson 63

無毒之毒最毒   no poison [pp] poison most poisonous
宴安可畏          feast peace can feared
勿藥之藥是藥   not medicine [pp] medicine is medicine
衛生宜慎          protect life appropriate caution

Poison that does not look like poison is the most poisonous. Its insidious nature is most feared.  Medicine that does not exhibit its medicinal qualities is true medicine. So use appropriately in guarding one’s health.


  1. This is one of the more difficult passages to understand and translate.  The first line can be translated as “The poison without poison is most dangerous”.  However it makes no sense in English if translated in this way!
  1. 晏 is a feast, a time for relaxing and entertainment. 安 means peace.  In other words, peace during a feast.  Therefore its figurative meaning is “to feel happy and content.  Another translation of this line can be “Complacency is to be feared”.  There is a common saying, 宴安為鴆毒, Greed for the pleasures of life is like drinking poison.

As an interrogating particle, 安 means rhetoric “where” or “how”.  For example,不入虎穴, 安得虎子, If not entering a tiger’s lair, how can it be to get its cub?  Another translation is, “… whence its cub can be gotten?”.  Functions the same as焉.

  1. In modern usage, 衛生 it is a noun phrase meaning “hygiene”, “hygienic” or “sanitation”.  In classical terms, 衛 is used as a verb, “to protect”, “to guard” or “to defend”.

Lesson 64

王生不能解書     Wang_last_name student not able know book
師罸之                teacher punish him
生求免                student seek removal
師曰                    teacher said
既畏罸何不勤學  since fear punishment why not diligent study
今罸汝因汝惰也  now punish you because you lazy [ep]

Student Wang did not know his studies.  The teacher punished him.  The student begged leniency.  The teacher said,

“Since you are afraid of punishment, why not study hard? Today’s punishment is because you are lazy!”

Note: 解 can also mean to “understand” and thus can be translated as, “Student Wang did not understand his books”.  However, translating this way gives an impression of that the teacher is at fault for not teaching him to understand.  From the context, we know that Student Wang was lazy and therefore unable to comprehend.

Lesson 65

今日當為之事     now day ought to_be for [pp] matter
不可俟                not can wait
明日為之明日     next day to_be [pp] next day
或有他事將不暇  or have other matters about_to not leisure
為今日之事矣      to_be now day [pp] matters alas

Today’s matters are cannot be delayed. Tomorrow’s ought to be tomorrow’s or perhaps are too urgent and thus became today’s!

Lesson 66

井深一百二十丈者  well deep one hundred two ten ten_foot thing
其水多熱                 its water many hot
以地中火故也          because ground inside fire reason [ep]
溫泉即此理耳.         warm spring so this reason end_of_it

There is a well that is  one thousand and two hundred feet deep.  Its water is hot.  This is because there is fire in the ground.  Hence because of this reason, it is called a hot spring.


  1. A “Chang” is approximately ten feet.
  2. Cultural differences.  A hot spring is known as a “warm” spring in Chinese.

Lesson 67

以手重按身         with hand heavy press body
覺內有緊硬之物  feel inner have tight hard [pp] thing
是曰骨                 is call bone
骨之外曰肉          bone [pp] outer called flesh
肉之外曰皮          flesh [pp] outer called skin

With the hand press heavily against the body.  Feel the insides that are dense and hard.  These are called bones.  From without the bones are called the flesh.  Those without the flesh are called skin.

A more natural translation:

Pressing heavily the body, one feels the insides that are dense and hard.  These are known as bones.  The outer parts that are covering them are known as flesh and those that are covering the flesh are known as skin.

Lesson 68

海洋之水           sea ocean [pp] water
其味鹹               its taste is salty
河湖之水           rivers lakes [pp] water
其味淡               its taste insipid
淡水可飲           insipid water can drink
鹹水不可飲也   salt water not car drink [ep]

The waters of the seas and oceans are salty.  The waters of rivers and lakes are insipid.  Insipid waters can be drunk.  Salty water cannot be drunk!

Lesson 69

火性最烈          fire nature most intense
植物遇之          plant thing meet it
頃刻燒燬          short_time moment burnt destroyed_by_fire
動物遇之          move things meet it
立能斃命          immediate able death life
故湏謹防之也  thus ought caution avoid it [ep]

The nature of fire is most violent.  When encountering plants, they will soon be burnt and destroyed.  When living things encounter it, death may immediately be the result.  Thus out to be cautious and avoid  it.


  1. It is illogical to translate as “when plants encounter…” because plants has no mobility like animals.
  1. 燬 is a variant of毁, to be destroyed.  With the fire radical, its emphasis that the destruction is made by fire.
  1. We first encountered this variant in Lesson 6.  The two other meanings are
  2. To wash the face
  3. a variant of潣, describing the movement of water.

Lesson 70

悅樂曰喜        pleased  joy called bliss
忿憤曰怒傷    indignation resentment called anger hurt
感曰哀            irritation/thought called grief
恐畏曰懼        fear dread called phobia
眷戀曰愛        concern attachment called love
憎疾曰惡        hatred envy called evil
貪愛曰慾        greed love called lust
謂七情            designate seven emotions

Being pleased and happy is known as bliss. Indignation and resentment becomes anger. Irritation is grief. Fear and dread becomes phobia. Concerned attachment is known as love. Hatred and envy are the basis of evil.  Greed for love is lust.  Thus these feelings are designated as the Seven States of Emotions.


This is one of the most difficult passages to translate.  This because these terms have the general meaning that comes in various shades and degrees of seriousness.

Depending on the school of thought, there are at least three versions.  The above example is from Confucianism.  From Buddhism, we have 喜怒憂 (longing) 懼(phobia) 愛 (love) 憎 (hatred)慾 (desire/lust). In Chinese medicine, the last four states are changed to 思(longing) 悲 (sorrow)恐 (fear) 驚 (fright).

Accompanying this are the Six Desires (六慾): 色 (sex)  形貌 (appearance) 威信姿態 (prestige and attitude)、言語音聲 (flattery)、細滑 (charms)、人想 /相(looks).  Again there are slight differences in different schools of thought.

Lesson 71

不忍害物謂之仁                  not bear_to harm things said_to_be it benevolent
處事合宜謂之義                  handle process fitting appropriate said_to_be it righteousness
進退周旋合於天理謂之禮  advance retreat thorough revolve fitting to heaven will said_to_be propriety
能别是非善惡謂之智          able differentiate yes no good evil said_to_be it wisdom
誠實不偽謂之信                 honesty truth not fake said_to_be it  trustworthiness
急人之難謂之俠                 urgent man [pp] hardship said_to_be it hero
是六者皆人之美德也          is six things all man [pp] beauty virtue [ep]

Those who cannot bear hurt the living are said to be benevolent; those able to handle things well and appropriately are said to be righteous; to be able to advance and retreat and socialize according to the laws of heavens socialize are said to have propriety; able to distinguish the right and the wrong; good and evil are known as the wise; having honesty and integrity are said to be trustworthy; to help those in danger are known as heroes.  These six qualities are man’s good virtues!


A character can have a totally different meaning when it appears in a combined form.  In this passage, there are two such examples,

  1. 周旋 = to mix with others; to socialize; to deal with; to contend
  2. 是非 = right or wrong; quarrel; gossip; things that lead to misunderstanding of human relationships.

Lesson 72

一生問諸師曰 one student various teacher said
暑天每見犬     summer day every see dog
張口流沫         open mouth flow foam
何也?              why [ep]
曰                    said
犬之汗            dog [pp] sweat
不出皮膚         not out skin skin
而出於舌         and out from tongue

One student asked various teachers, “Why do dogs foam at the mouth during summer?”

[The teachers] replied, “This is the sweat of the dogs.  It does not come out from the skin but from its tongue.”


Here is another category in which each character means the same thing but used as a compound.  The example here is皮膚.  Mandarin particularly likes to have such redundancy.  In true classical Chinese, one character usually suffices.

Lesson 73

古人云               ancient man say
天圓地方           heaven round earth square
其實不然           this truth not so
地浮於空氣中   earth float in empty air inside
形圓如球           shape round like ball
唯其體極大       only its body extremely huge
人不能覺圓也   man not able feel round [ep]

The ancients sayeth: “The Firmament is round and the Earth is squarish.” The truth is not so.  The Earth floats within in the airless space.  Its shape is round like a ball.  Only because of its immense size that man does not feel is roundness.


In modern usage, 空氣 means the atmosphere.  In classical Chinese, it literally means “empty air” i.e.  the space/area without air!

Lesson 74

植物之枝葉     plant things [pp] branches leaves
動物之肺膚     moving things [pp] lung skin
皆有微孔         all have tiny hole
空氣時能出入 empty air time can exit enter

Leaves of plants and the lungs of animals all have microscopic holes so that air can enter and exit during breathing.


  1. In contrast to the previous lesson, 空氣 uses the modern meaning of air.  This shows that in classical Chinese, the context is extremely important to deduce the correct meaning!
  2. The original character in the book shows a variant form of微.  Instead of a几 it has a口 (mouth).

Variant 微

Lesson 75

動植物生時           moving plant things born time
空氣能入以養之   sky breath able enter to nurture it
動植物死時           moving plant things die time
空氣即入以敗之   sky breath then to enter corrupt it.

When animals and plants are born, air is able to enter to nurture them.  When they die, the air enters to corrupt the body.

Note: As you can see from the previous lessons, 空 can have several meanings.  So it is difficult even when doing a word for word translation.  I have used different but appropriate ones as variably as I can.

Lesson 76

植物之花          plant things [pp] flowers
受睛天之烈日  subjected clear_weather sky [pp] intense sun
每於夜中發光  every at night middle emit light
其光由花中      its light from flower inside
所含電氣          that_which contain electrical energy
及花上之粉      and flower on [pp] powder
所致也             cause cause [ep]

Plant flowers subjected to the intensity of the sun in clear weather, from each night, it will emit light.  This light is caused by the electrical energy contained within the flowers and also because of the powdery substance on them.


Actually, 含 means to keep something in the mouth without chewing, thus extended to mean contain.  For example, 含冤受屈 is translated as “silently to suffer wrongs of being falsely accused”.  In actual fact, it means to have the “wrong” contained in the mouth without swallowing and suffer the accusation.

Lesson 77

古語云           ancient words say
山川而能語   mountains rivers and able talk
葬師食無所   bury teacher eat no cause
肺腑而能語   lungs internal_organs and able talk
醫師色如土   doctor/heal teacher color like earth

Before translating, I would like to comment on this passage first.  Even with word for word translation, it is still very puzzling to the modern reader in trying to figure what all these means.

This is a saying taken from the Classics, 山經 (The Mountain Classic) and 相冢書(The Book of Physiognomy & Burial Mounds).  Here a 葬師 is a geomancer skilled in the art of Fengshui (風水).  師 (Teacher) is an honorific term for those skilled in such noble professions.  Ancient Chinese, like ancient Egyptians are obsessed with where and how one’s grave should be for it will have effects on later generations.

Literal translation

Ancient words sayeth, “If mountains and rivers can speak, then geomancers have nothing to eat.  If lungs and other internal organs can talk, then the colors on the doctors will be like those of the earth.”

Translation by meaning,

An old saying, “If mountains and rivers can speak, then geomancers will starve to death.  If lungs and other internal organs can talk, then what is there any use of having doctors?”

Lesson 78

有鳥自巢中出    have bird self nest inside out
兒呼父觀之        child call father see it
父曰                   father said
天初明               day beginning bright
鳥必飛出覔食    bird must fly out seek food
鳥為食而飛        bird because food and fly
不飛必餓死矣    not fly must starve death alas.

There was a bird emerging from the nest.  The child called his father to see it.  The father said, “When dawn comes, birds have to fly to forage for food.  Because of this, it must fly.  If it does not fly, it will starve to death!”


食 can be used as a verb here as well.  If I had chosen this course, the translation will become, “… birds have to fly in order to eat. In order to eat, it must fly.”

Lesson 79

鴨性喜水,          duck nature likes water
掌如葵扇           palm like sunflower fan
故能游水           thus able to swim water
喜羣而不喜獨   likes group and not like alone
其肉雖亞於雞   its meat although second to chicken
而亦適口也       and also appropriate mouth [ep]

The nature of ducks is water loving.  Its webbed feet are like a Chinese palm fan.  Thus it is able to swim.  It likes to be in a group and not in solitariness. Its meat, although second only in taste to chicken, is quite tasty too!


  1. Although 葵 means sunflower.  It is not made from it.  It is the shape that looked like a sunflower to ancient Chinese.  Nevertheless, in English it is called a palm fan from its form.  Below is a picture.


  1. Of course this is debatable.  However, Chinese eat more chicken than duck because the chicken is more common in the south.  Even so this is a highly subjective taste.

Lesson 80

人世不能無統治者         man world not don’t_have united govern thing/person
故史學家謂                     thus history learn person say
天開之始曰天皇氏         heaven open [pp] start called heaven emperor clan
地闢之始曰地皇氏         earth cultivate [pp] start called earth emperor clan
人生之始曰人皇氏         man life [pp] start called man emperor clan
以歷史上統治者之始也 thus undergo history top united govern person [pp]beginning [ep]

Literal translation:

The world cannot, not have someone governing it.  Thus historians quote, “In the beginning when heaven came into being, it was known as the clanship of the heavens.  When the earth began to be cultivated, it was known as the clanship of the earth and when in the dawn of mankind, it is known as the clanship of man.  Thus it is so the beginnings of governance!

Translation by meaning:

The world has always been governed.  When the heavens came into being, there was the Celestial Sovereign.  When the earth was cultivated, there was the Earthly Sovereign and when the dawning of the Age of Man, there was the Human Sovereign.  Thus it is so the beginnings of governance!


These three mythical emperors are known collectively as the Three Sovereigns (三皇).  After them came the Five Emperors (五帝).  For more information see,

Lesson 81

牛耕於野不勤 ox plough at field not diligent
牧童鞭之         to_herd boy whip it
牛曰                 ox said
吾甚苦             I much hardship
牧童曰             to_herd boy replied
智不若人         wisdom not like man
宜為人役         should thus_be man to_enserf

The ox was not ploughing the field hard enough.  The shepherd boy whipped it.  The ox replied, “My life is hard”.  To which the shepherd boy replied, “Your wisdom is not great as man’s.  Thus, enslaved to man”.


  1. It can also be translated to “cow”.  However, Chinese do not use them for ploughing or tilling of rice fields; only the male ones are used.  Thus eating of ox is a taboo food.  Cows can be eaten though not often as pork, no such taboo exists.
  1. Other meanings of 役 are forced labor, corvée ,obligatory task, military service / to use as servant, servant (old),  war, campaign, battle…

Lesson 82

二童拋皮球       two children throw skin ball
甲童誤打乙童   first child mistakenly hit second child
面痛甚               surface_face pain much
甲童惶恐謝過   first child feared afraid apologize mistake
乙童以其無心   second child for_which him no heart
並無怒容           at_all  no anger  countenance

Two children were playing with a leather ball.  The first child mistakenly hit the second child in the face and was in great pain.  The first child was terrified and apologized profusely. However, the other knowing that it was not intentional, did not have anger at all.


  1. Old fashioned balls are made from leather.  Thus “skin” here means just that.
  1. 甲 is the first of the ten heavenly stems/branches and so can mean “number one”, “the first” or in the same English usage of Roman numeral designating of “I”, “II”, “III”.  For more information of the Ten Heavenly Stems and the Twelve Earthly Branches see,

Lesson 83

龜與兎賽步             tortoise and hare compete running
兎謂龜曰                 hare told tortoise said
我能躍                     I able leap
雖睡片時亦能及你 although sleep bit_classifier hour also able in_time_for you
既而睡熟及醒         thus and sleep deep and woke
龜而先至                  tortoise and first arrived

The tortoise and the hare were going to compete in a race.  The hare told the tortoise and said, “I can leap, even if I take an hour of sleep, I can still beat you.”  Thus the hare slept soundly and woke up.  The tortoise had already reached [the finishing line]

Note: 兎 is a variant of 兔.

Lesson 84

揭猪脬蒙鼓  lift pig bladder covered drum
叩之鼕鼕然  beat it dong dong (onomatopoeia) state
以其聲小      because it sound small
力擊之         strong attack it
皮破             skin breaks
自咎曰         self fault/blame say
鼓小聲小      drum small sound small
吾不量力      I not measure strength
以致此宜哉  use convey this appropriate alas

Pick up a drum that is made from pig’s bladder and beating it will cause a “dong-dong” sound to be heard.  Because it is small, its sound is small.  Using greater strength to beat it, the skin broke.  I have to fault myself in that a small drum will have a small sound.  I did not know my strength well and to such an extent that alas, it happened appropriately so.


  1. 揭 means to lift or pick up something that is covered.  Thus 揭開, “to lift and open”, i.e. “to expose” something that can be secretive.
  1. As in Lesson 1 explaining the meaning of 蒙, this is another meaning, “covered”.
  1. As a compound, 以致 means “to such an extent as to”, “down to” or “up to”.

Lesson 85

甲兒以拳示人曰    “A” child with fists show people said
孰開此                   who open this
與以掌中錢           and from palm inside money
一兒力劈之開        one child strength split it open
無所有                   no all have
責甲兒狂言            blame “A” child crazy word
甲曰                       “A” said
汝誠貪乎                You honest greedy?
我特虛耳                I especially dishonest

Child A showed others with his clenched fist and said, “Whoever can pry open it, shall have the money in my palms.”  Another child used all his strength to pry it open.  There was nothing in it and began to berate A child of his delirious utterances.  A said, “You, are you honest or greedy?  I am especially dishonest!”


  1. Here 甲 is used to label things, like in English using “a”, “b” “c”, etc for subheadings.
  1. 虛 in this context does not mean virtual, non-reality.

Lesson 86

某兒晨起          one child morning up
聞鵲噪聲          heard magpie noise sound
問曰                 ask said
俗謂鵲噪報喜   custom say magpie noise announces bliss
信之有乎          believe it have?
父曰                 father said
吉凶之事          auspiciousness calamity [pp] matter
人尚不能先知  man yet not able before know
况鳥乎             moreover birds?

One child woke up in the morning. On hearing the magpies chirping nosily, he asked,

“Conventional wisdom says that when magpies make noises, it announces bliss.  Is it true?”

The father replied,

“Matters of fortune and calamity, man does not know beforehand.  So how could birds?”


This lesson as well as the previous one teaches how to use the interrogative particle 乎.  Depending on the context, it can mean, “what”, “how”, “why” etc. The modern equivalent is 嗎.

Lesson 87

乙童見道傍桃實其美 B child saw path side peach fruit its beauty
謀採食                       plot/scheme pluck eat
甲童曰                       A child said.
桃有主不可採也        peach has master not can pluck! [ep]
乙曰                          A said
無知者                      no know the_one_who
甲曰                          A said
子知我知何謂無知    You know I know, how say not know

Child B,  saw on the roadside, a peach so delicious looking and plotted how to pluck it. [Child] A said,

“You cannot pluck it as it peach belongs to someone.”

B said, “Nobody knows.”

A replied, “You know, I know, how you can say no one knows!”


  1. 子 here means “you” and not “son” or “master”.
  1. Since I used delicious looking, I can omit the inference that the child is going to pluck and eat it.

Lesson 88

某兒自塾歸行急大汗  some child self private_school return walk hurriedly big sweat
至家欲脫衣且索冷水  arrive home wanted strip clothes moreover demand/ask cold water
父曰                            father said
兒且坐                        child for_time_being sit
汗自亁勿觧衣              sweat self dry no_need untie/loosen clothes
亦勿飲於冷水              also no_need drink from cold water
恐受寒也                     afraid suffer cold! [ep]

One child came home sweating profusely as he walked hurriedly from school. On entering, he wanted to strip off his clothes and asked for cold water.  The father said,

“Son, for the time being, just sit down.  Your sweat will automatically get dried, no need to loosen your clothes and don’t drink any cold water.  I’m afraid you might catch a cold from drinking it.”


  1. See the notes on Lesson 1 and 39 for 塾
  2. I don’t think translation for 索 for demand in this context is appropriate.
  3. Note the differences between the characters, 亁 and 乾.  The former means dry with a 千 or 干 component on the bottom left.  The other means celestial as in乾隆, Emperor Chien Lung or “The Bountiful of Heaven”.  Many native Chinese do not know the difference!  Since it is difficult to see, even most modern dictionaries have these two characters lumped together as one and give it all the meanings.

Lesson 89

學課畢,                learn lesson done
先生學生動手     before born learn student move hand
齊作為大掃         together do for big sweep
除整清潔學堂     remove make clear pure learn hall
先生曰                 before born said
整理清潔吾人     make manage clear pure I man
最要之事也         most wanted [pp] matter! [ep]

When classes were over, teacher and students together began their big cleanup for their classroom.  The teacher said, “Cleaning is our most important task!”


  1. See Note 2 in Lesson 11
  1. Even in today, Japanese students clean the school toilet, classroom etc.  I don’t know about China, Taiwan or Korea.  I believe it is a good practice to instill civic mindedness and not dirtying public places.

Lesson 90

凡動物之有紅血  all move things [pp] have red blood
有脊骨者              have back bone the_one_who
如鳥獸龜蛙之類  like bird animal tortoise frog [pp] kind/species
曰有脊動物          said/call have back move things
無紅血無脊骨者  no red blood no back bone the_one_who
如蚯蚓蜘蛛之類  like earthworm earthworm spider spider [pp] kind/species
曰無脊動物          said no bone move things.

All creatures that have red blood have backbone such as birds, mammals, tortoises or frogs.  They are known as vertebrates.  Those without red blood and backbones like earthworms or spiders are known as invertebrates.


  1. 動物, things that can move are known as animals.  獸 is usually translated as “beast”.  However, in this context, in my opinion it is better to translate it as “mammals”.
  1. Certain compound Chinese words cannot be broken up either because they mean the same or does not appear in another combination.  Other examples include 葡萄 (grape), 蝴蝶 (butterfly), 蟋 (cricket)…
  1. It is more natural than translating as “Species such earthworms, spiders…” or “earthworms, spiders and the like…”

Lesson 91

試以手按犬馬飛禽之身 try with hand press dog horse flying creature [pp] body
則覺其溫煖若是者         then feel its warm warmth if like the_one_who
曰溫血動物                     say warm blood moving thing
以手按魚蛇蛙蟆之身     with hand press fish snake frog toad [pp] body
則覺其寒冷若是者         then feel its cold cold like has the_one_who
曰冷動物.                        say  cold moving thing
此二類皆屬於                 this two kinds all consider from
有脊者也                         have back/spine the_one_who! [ep]

Try using the hand to touch the body of a dog, a horse or a bird, you will feel its heat.  Such warmth-like are called hot-blooded creatures.  Using the hand to touch a fish, a snake, a frog or a toad, then you will feel its coolness.  Such cool-like creatures are known as cold-blooded.  However, both these two kinds are considered as vertebrates.

Lesson 92

天下共有六大洲  Heaven under together have six large continents.
曰亞細亞洲          call Asia
曰歐羅巴洲          call Europa
曰阿非利加洲      call Africa
曰北阿美利加洲  call north America
曰南阿美利加洲  call south America
曰澳大利亞洲      call Australia
澳洲又曰大洋洲  Australia also call big ocean continent.

In the world, there are six continents, called Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America and Australia which is also known as the Great Ocean Continent.


I did not bother to give the literal translation of each character this time because they are transliterated sound in English with the exception of Europe.  Europe is named after Europa, a Greek mythological figure.  She was the love of Zeus who seduced her by becoming a magnificent bull and tricking her to climb on his back.  While in their tryst, Zeus’ wife, Hera came barging.  The surprised Zeus turned Europa into a heifer.  However, Hera was not fooled but feigned ignorance and asked for the beautiful Heifer as a present.  Once she had the creature, she sent it away to wander with a gnat bothering her to such an extent that she became mad.  Finally after several years, she was freed from the madness and returned to her true form.  The place where she landed was named in her honour – Europe.

Lesson 93

地球之上有五大洋 ground/earth ball [pp] up has five great oceans
曰太平洋                 call grand calm ocean
曰大西洋                 call great west ocean
曰印度洋                 call India ocean
曰北氷洋                 call north ice ocean
曰南氷洋                 call south ice ocean

On Earth, there are five great oceans, called the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and the Antarctic.


  1. 氷 is a variant of 冰.
  1. Pacific means peaceful or tranquil.  Magellan had the good fortune of good circumnavigating it which for most part of the year has violent storms.  However, Atlantic does not mean “Great Western Ocean”.  It is named after the Greek mythological giant, Atlas.  Arctic comes from Greek meaning “bear” in reference to the Ursa Major Constellation in the north.  Antarctic means opposite of “arctic”.  These oceans are known as 北極洋and 南極洋.  極 = terminating point.

Lesson 94

東方初無君長            east side at_first no lord leader
有神人王儉                has god man Wang Geom
降於太白山檀木下    descended at grand white mountain sandalwood tree under
國人立以為君            country man establish thus become lord/king
與唐堯並立國            with Tang Yao together establish country
號朝鮮                        called morning brightness
是為檀君朝鮮            has become sandalwood lord/king morning brightness

In the beginning, there was no sovereign in the Eastern lands.  A celestial being descended onto Mt. Taebaek and was born under a sandalwood tree.  Together with Emperor Tang Yao, they established a kingdom called the land, Chosun.  Thus he became the Sandalwood Ruler of Chosun.


  1. Since this is a Korean book on its history, I tried to use Korean names as I can find on the internet.  Another reason is that for example, there is another 太白山 in China. Thus using the Korean name implicitly refers to the one in Korea. 太白 (supreme whiteness) is also known as the Star or Planet of Venus.  For example, 太白金星 (the Golden Supreme White Star).  It is also the name of the God governing this star.  China’s greatest poem, Li Po has the same name.  It was rumoured that his mother on giving birth to him, dreamt that the Star of Venus descended into her womb.
  1.  東方 usually is translated as the “orient”.  However, here it refers to the eastern lands and nothing more.
  1. Wanggeom is considered by Koreans to be the founder of their race and country.
  1. Tang Yao is one of the Five Sovereigns of mythical times.

Lesson 95

花木之類曰植物             Flower tree [pp] kind call plant (verb) thing
鳥獸虫魚之類曰動物     bird beast insect fish [pp] kind call move thing
金石銅鉄之類曰礦物     gold, stone, copper iron [pp] call mineral thing
礦是固體而水亦屬礦物 mineral is solid body but water also considered mineral thing

Things like flowers and trees are called plants.  Things like birds, beasts, insects and fish are called animals.  Things like gold, stone, copper and iron are known as minerals.  The bodies of minerals are solid but water is considered is a mineral.


  1. 植物 is literally translated as things that can be planted.  Hence plants.  Same for “things that can move”, i.e. animals and “things from the ground or things that can be mined”, i.e. minerals, ore etc.
  1. 金 can also be translated as either gold or metal.  銅 can be copper or bronze.  I used “gold” and “copper” here because of “iron”, an element.  Of course stone is not an element.
  1. There are many meanings of 而 such as “and”,  “as well as”,  “and so”, “but (not)”,  “yet (not)”,  indicating causal relation,  indicating change of state or indicating contrast.

Lesson 96

植物有生气而無知者也   plant thing have raw breath but no know the_thing_that [ep]
動物有生气有知覺者也   move thing have raw breath has know feeling the_thing_that [ep]
礦物無生氣無知覺者也   mineral thing no raw breath no know feeling the_thing that [ep]

Plants are things that can breathe but has no consciousness! Animals are things that have breath and have consciousness!  Minerals are things with no breath or awareness!


  1. Plants do not have breath but can breathe.  Hence subtleties in the target language must be observed during translation.
  1. I used “awareness” just to break the monotony of having using so many “consciousness”.

Lesson 97

胃腸曰消化器            stomach intestine call eliminate transform apparatus
肺與气管曰呼吸器    lung and air tubes call breathe suck apparatus
腎與膀胱曰排泄器     kidney and bladder bladder call elimination drainage apparatus
腦筋與血管曰循環器 brain sinew and blood tubes call follow loop apparatus
耳目口鼻皮膚曰感覺器 ear eye mouth nose skin skin call feel awareness apparatus

The stomach and intestines are known as the digestive organs.  The lungs and the windpipe are known as the respiratory organs.  The kidney and the bladder are the urinary organs.  The brain with all its veins and arteries are known as the circulatory organs.  The ears, eyes, mouth, nose and skin are known as the sensory organs.

Lesson 98

eliminate transform apparatus eliminate transform apparatus eat thingsthe_one_who [ep]
breath suck apparatus breath suck sky air the_one_who [ep]
elimination drainage apparatus let_go abandon waste material the_one_who[ep]
follow loop apparatus follow loop blood liquid the_one_who [ep]
feel awareness apparatus have sight hearing smell taste touch feel [pp] able_tothe_one_who [ep]

The digestive organs digest food. The respiratory system is used for breathing.  The urinary organs are to rid of body wastes.  The circulatory system is used to circulate blood.  The sensory organs have the ability to see, to hear, to taste and to touch.


I have taken a more natural approach in translating the passage.  For example, the translation of the first line is closer to the original: “The digestive organs are THE THINGS that do digestion” or “The digestive organs are THE THINGS that digest food”.

Lesson 99

我國十三道              my country ten three provinces
以京畿道為中央     with capital area_around_the_capital province as middle center
外有江原道曰關東 outside have rivers pasture province called fortress east
忠清南北道               loyalty pure south north province
全羅南北道               complete silk south north province
慶尚南北道               celebrate esteem south north province
曰三南                       known three south
黃海道                       yellow sea province
平安南北道              flat peace south north province
曰兩西                       known as two west
咸鏡南北道曰關北 complete/harmonious brilliance south north known fortress north

My country has thirteen provinces with the capital as the central.  Outside of it is the Gangwon Province, also known as the Province of Kwandong.  The north and south provinces of Chungcheong; the north and south provinces of Jeolla; the north and south provinces of Gyeongsang;  these are known as the Three South. The provinces of Hwanghae and Pyongan are known as the Two West.  The north and south provinces of Hamgyeong are known as Rason.


  1. In this case, imperial Korea.
  1. Here the translation道 (noun) is very tricky!  During the Tang Dynasty, it is equivalent to a province.  However, in Ming and Ch’ing dynasties, it is used for something this is just below that of a province status.  Korea and Japan retain the province meaning since Chinese culture was heavily imported during the Tang period.
  1. 關東 (Fortress East) Kwandong (Korean), Guandong (Chinese) Kanto (Japanese) as each country has its regions with the same name.

江原 (Original River)           Gangwon (South Korea) Kangwon (North Korea)
忠清 (Pure loyalty)               Chungcheong
全羅(All Collecting)             Jeolla
慶尚(Esteem Celebration)    Gyeongsang
黃海(Yellow Sea)                 Hwanghae
平安(Peace)                          Pyongan
咸鏡(Complete Brilliance)   Hamgyeong
關北 (Fortress North)          Rason

I guess Gangwon is the place since the capital is in the south during Imperial Korea.  As of the time the book was printed, the original eight traditional Chosun provinces  were replaced with three of the original ones and the remaining five subdivided into two.

Lesson 100

日暮散學                    Day dusk scatter school
兄與二弟                    elder_brother and two younger_brother
出門遊玩                    out door wander play
見一黃牛卧於田中    saw one yellow ox lying at field middle
弟曰異哉                    younger brother said strange [exclamation particle]
此馬有角                    this horse has horn
兄曰非馬也                older brother said, not horse [ep]
牛也                            cow [ep]

Everyday when school is out, the older brother and his second younger brother went out to play.  They saw a yellow ox lying in the middle of the field.  The younger brother exclaimed, “How strange!  This horse has horns!”.  The older brother corrected, “This is not a horse! But a cow!”


  1. 日暮 can mean “dusk”. I don’t think school is this late.  In classical usage and in poems, the other meaning is most often used.
  1. 二弟 can also mean two younger brothers.  However, later in the passage we know that this is not the case.  What second younger brother means here is that he is the second in the family.  Here 二 denotes his rank in the family and does not imply that he is the second brother defined in terms of the older brother.  Chinese traditions consider the family as the first and foremost unit and not in terms of its individuals.
  1.  See Lesson 81, Note #1

漁父辭 – 楚辭 The Fisherman’s Song – Songs of Chu

漁父1辭  – 楚辭2 The Fisherman’s Song – Songs of Chu

I found two other translation of this “song”.  For those who are interested, one is in English from a Korean blog and the other, a Cantonese interpretation which I find to be very succinct and delightful.

Translation is difficult due to cultural differences in the source and target language.  I shall attempt to give a more literal and accurate translation given along the side of the original.  A more polished and natural version in the target language is given later.

Ch’ü Yuan was let go.

Wandering leisurely along rivers and lakes

While walking and sighing along the banks

Looking haggard

appearing withered

An elderly fisherman saw and asked him,

Are you not a feudal lord of the Three Great Clans?11

Why are did you come here?

Ch’ü Yuan said,

The entire world is polluted, I am only pure

The people are drunk, I am only sober

you see my exile.

The elderly fisherman said

Saints, not because of things would freeze and make them sluggish. Moreover able to push and shove the world.

people in the world are polluted, then why not stir the mud and raise the waves?

The masses are drunk why not eat its sediment and suck at its filtered wine?

Why care so much in your deep thoughts to become lofty and cause yourself to be exiled?

Ch’ü Yuan said,

I hear that the newly ones who had cleaned their hair would flick their caps [to rid of the dust]

Those who cleaned their bodies would flap their clothes

How can then the body that is spotless

be suffered by things that are impure?

rather that I would meet the waters of River Xiang and be buried inside the fish bellies.

How can the purity of whiteness be obscured by the dirt  of the vulgar world?

The elderly fisherman with a smile and a laugh, rowing the oar and left.

Then he sang

Alas, if the waves are clean, I can wash my tassel

Alas, if the waves are dirty, I can wash my feet

Thus left and did not return nor replied.

Ch’ü Yuan was let go of his post and was wandering without any care amongst the rivers and lakes.  While strolling and sighing along the banks, he was looking haggard and appeared to be a shadow of his former self.  An elderly fisherman saw him and asked,

“Are you not a Lord from the Three Great Clans? Why are you here?”

Ch’ü Yuan replied,

“The world is polluted but not me.  All intoxicated but only I, am sober.  Hence what you see is my exile.”

The fisherman remarked,

“Nothing can hold the enlightened back. They can change the world. If all the men are polluted why not stir the mud to make it even muddier?  If the multitudes are intoxicated, why not eat the wine sediment and imbue its poor quality? Why do you have to think so loftily to become so special that you get yourself exiled?”

Ch’ü Yuan explained,

“I hear those who newly washed their hair always flick the dust off their caps;  those with a cleansed body would flap their clothes to rid of the dust first. How could I? With cleanliness, how can I allow things of impurity be near me? I rather jump into the River Xiang and become fish food! How can I let the dirt of the vulgar world cover my purity?”

The fisherman gave a smile and with a laugh started to sing,

“Alas, if the waves are clean, I’ll wash my balding hair.  Alas if the waves are dirty, I’ll wash my feet!”

Thus the fisherman left and did not return, no longer caring for anymore conversation.

  1. Cannot be translated as “father”. It is a common honorific term of address to an elderly man.
  2. Also known as “Songs/Verses of the South”
  3. See
  4. Here “let go” means that he was exiled.
  5.  It can also mean to sing or in a tone of reciting poetry. Given the context, “singing” would not be appropriate since he was exiled. Recitation of poetry is another possibility since he was a poet. Perhaps he was also composing a poem of his own.
  6. Any place where water is gathered naturally. Therefore, a pond, a lake or even marshes and swamps can be a possibility. To translate this as well, would be considered redundant in English.
  7. The modern meaning is “color”. Here it refers to the color in his face.
  8. Here it means “you” and not “son” or “master”
  9. A unit containing 25 families. Here it means the three clans that made up the royal house of the State of Chu, the 屈, 景 and 昭.
  10.  Here it means a senior official of feudal China and not a doctor!
  11. The fisherman recognized him. The question is rhetorical.
  12. Same as 哺, to eat.
  13. To sup or to suck as sucking in one’s soup. It is considered as a variant of 啜 or 欼.
  14. In other versions, the character given is 醨 a thin or inferior wine.
  15. 沐 means to wash the hair. 浴 means to cleanse the body. Thus沐浴更衣 means to wash the hair, clean the body and change into clean clothes. A cleansing ritual for some important ceremony, rituals etc.
  16. Literally to mean flick the cap. Scholars or persons of high personage are allowed to wear caps to denote their position. It means to adjust their caps properly so that they can present themselves to their superiors.  Wang Yi, the imperial court historian of the Han dynasty, annotated commented that this means to flick off dust from the cap.  See
  17. There are two ways in which it can be translated, the azure green color of the waves or the waves in the vastness of the body of water. I chose the former interpretation because of the purity of the water.
  18. Tufts of hair-like or things that are made of string or rope ornaments. For example,  紅纓槍 is a Chinese spear with red tufts of hair like adornment where the wooden bar meets the metal head.  Since it is near the top, I interpret this as the hair tufts surrounding a bald head.紅纓槍

Thursday, September 11, 2014