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Old DDJ translations


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#1 Mig

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Posted 29 December 2016 - 12:33 AM

Finally I had little time to check this voluminous site full of information especially about DDJ. I was able to download old translations of the DDJ and I wonder how the scholars of that time before and after 1900's were able to translate the DDJ. It is my understanding that during those times the majority of scholars sinologists or not, didn't speak the common language or had very little command and they had a Chinese scholar who, most likely, was bilingual or proficient enough in western languages to help those scholars in their translation of the DDJ among other classics. I read over and over, their translation was not accurate, meaning those scholars didn't understand the meaning of a word or the meaning of a sentence in Classical Chinese. Or the translation is not good, etc. Do somebody has an example to show how different those translations are wrong or inaccurate from scholars as Wieger, Julien, Remusat, Legge, Henricks among many others.

 



#2 dawei

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 09:55 AM

Interesting question...   I'm not sure I'd put Hendricks in that group as he seems more contemporary.

 

One anecdotal story about Legge... hope it's not fake news :)

 

I read that when he completed his translation of the I Ching, he still wasn't completely sure of what he had written and understood...

 

He has done a tremendous amount of translation... and just look here for various older translators: 

 

Internet Sacred Text Archive - Taoism


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#3 dawei

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 09:58 AM

I guess I'll share a general thought...  while some might translate more verbose to get the meaning across or more literal to stick to the brevity of characters, most scholars and sinologists are usually not going to go after a more mystical or spiritual sense.  And for me, this is one aspect they overlook as that is not their training, practice, and focus of such texts.

 

Having said that, I read a wide range of translators as it is interesting to see the lens they have viewed the text through. 


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#4 Marblehead

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 11:37 AM

I was hoping you would see and respond to this thread Dawei. 


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#5 Mig

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 02:33 PM

Interesting question...   I'm not sure I'd put Hendricks in that group as he seems more contemporary.

 

One anecdotal story about Legge... hope it's not fake news :)

 

I read that when he completed his translation of the I Ching, he still wasn't completely sure of what he had written and understood...

 

He has done a tremendous amount of translation... and just look here for various older translators: 

 

Internet Sacred Text Archive - Taoism

True, Hendricks shouldn't be in that list. I am pretty sure is not fake news better hilarious observation. Interesting that nobody talks about their language proficiency and how well they understood the classics.. I can only imagine that foreigners scholars before 1800 and before 1949 lived in their compound and didn't have real contact with the locals except mandarins or such.


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#6 Mig

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 02:42 PM

I guess I'll share a general thought...  while some might translate more verbose to get the meaning across or more literal to stick to the brevity of characters, most scholars and sinologists are usually not going to go after a more mystical or spiritual sense.  And for me, this is one aspect they overlook as that is not their training, practice, and focus of such texts.

 

Having said that, I read a wide range of translators as it is interesting to see the lens they have viewed the text through. 

As I said, I keep hearing and reading that some of those translations are wrong. I get that some translate 圣人as lord, sage or other term that was more related to their religion. Aside that, there were also some interpretations that were meant to their religious audience. I understand that translation is science and craft so there are some good translators who understand the meaning and know how to put it in an elegant way. Although, the more I have read some old translations of the DDJ the less I understand and without commentaries I am totally lost whether I read it in French or English. Do you have an example of how some translations are misleading the original text i.e. DDJ.

 

Thanks,


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#7 dawei

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 02:43 PM

Finally I had little time to check this voluminous site full of information especially about DDJ. I was able to download old translations of the DDJ and I wonder how the scholars of that time before and after 1900's were able to translate the DDJ.

 

So I do think a big challenge was understanding the idiomatic meaning of certain phrases that we can now say show up in other ancient texts and help explain the meaning.  

 

Also, the discovery of the two oldest Laozi texts were not until 1973 (Mawangdui) and 1993 (Guodian).   Hendricks is the only person to translate both, although several have done the former.  A challenge that was revealed by these discoveries was that the oldest version, Guodian, is actually written in Chu script... which means later editions attempted to update the text with current characters. 

 

The Guodian Laozi on bamboo slips was written in Chu script prior to unification.  Chu was considered the southern 'barbarians'.

 

see TDB Thread:  Timetable of the tao te ching

 

In the end, I think they were greatly handicapped at attempting for the first time a classical chinese text that was not likely as straight forward as say one of the Confucian texts.   

 

This is an interesting thesis:  A comparison of the Guodian and Mawangdui Laozi texts


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#8 Mig

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 01:18 PM

So I do think a big challenge was understanding the idiomatic meaning of certain phrases that we can now say show up in other ancient texts and help explain the meaning.  

 

Also, the discovery of the two oldest Laozi texts were not until 1973 (Mawangdui) and 1993 (Guodian).   Hendricks is the only person to translate both, although several have done the former.  A challenge that was revealed by these discoveries was that the oldest version, Guodian, is actually written in Chu script... which means later editions attempted to update the text with current characters. 

 

The Guodian Laozi on bamboo slips was written in Chu script prior to unification.  Chu was considered the southern 'barbarians'.

 

see TDB Thread:  Timetable of the tao te ching

 

In the end, I think they were greatly handicapped at attempting for the first time a classical chinese text that was not likely as straight forward as say one of the Confucian texts.   

 

This is an interesting thesis:  A comparison of the Guodian and Mawangdui Laozi texts

Great link and very useful. As in the beginning of my posting I am curious to know what is when I hear that DDJ translation is not accurate or the translator didn't understand, what do they mean by that? Any examples?



#9 dawei

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 04:15 PM

I am curious to know what is when I hear that DDJ translation is not accurate or the translator didn't understand, what do they mean by that? Any examples?

 

I had put together something till the SQL errors popped up... so glad I checked back :)

 

---

 

the irony is that the very first line of DDJ1 is problematic because nobody knew the original character Heng was replaced with Chang.    That may not produce the greatest discrepancy in the text, but is confusing and misleading at the outset, to see the various early attempts.

 

Balfour, 1884

The Tao or Principle of Nature, may be discussed [by all]; it is not the popular or common Tao

 

Legge, 1891

The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao

 

Goddard, 1919

The Tao that can be understood cannot be the primal, or cosmic, Tao

 

 

These three older translations are all over the place trying to figure out how best to describe "Chang" ()... 

 

But the original character is "Heng" (), which somehow the below early asian translator seemed to imply that meaning although he also only have "Chang" to work from.  

 

Ch'u Ta-Kao, 1904

The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao

 

I wrote on Heng and Chang :

 

Heng

 

Chang

 

 

An issue often raised is that of comma placement; the original does not have any but many translates assume them at certain places and that drives their interpretation.  Chapter 1 is a litmus test for some because depending on the comma placement (even mentally there), you get a different meaning... look at lines 3 and 4:

 

Using Wang Bi's received version:

無名,天地之始

有名,萬物之母

 

 

Chan

The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth;

The Named is the mother of all things.

 

Chen

Nameless (wu-ming), the origin (shih) of heaven and earth;
Named (yu-ming), the mother (mu) of ten thousand things.
 

 

無,名天地之始
有,名萬物之母

 

Lok Sang Ho

Emptiness is the origin of heaven and earth;
Existence is the mother of everything that had a birth.

 

Chad Hansen

'Not-exist' names the beginning (boundary) of the cosmos (Heaven and earth) 

'Exists' names the mother of the ten-thousand natural kinds . 
 
 
If you just want where the early translators were wrong, then we'd likely need to do a bit of a study on them as I don't really read them that much but I am sure there was much learned since their translations.

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