morning dew

Is Alfred Huang a reliable translator?

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I'm currently enjoying Alfred Huang's The Complete I Ching. I was having a bit of a browse on Amazon, however, and I saw the most popular American review had this to say:

 

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After reading the introduction by the author I had great expectations of the content, seeing as how the author was raised in China and says he has been studying the material all his life. The book is useful in that it includes the significant symbolic relations of the hexagram at the end of each hexagram's chapter, and the author includes historic references to what he thinks the hexagram is alluding to. However, I was really horrified at his lack of ability to understand or translate the ancient Chinese oracle divinations in any kind of illuminating way. It was like he threw concepts together without understanding the core, which kind of shows us how much was lost through China's Cultural Revolution and other tragic events, that present day scholars can't fathom the inspiration of the past. And this is also evident in the commentaries on the judgements, etc, where the author chose to go with Confucius, and only Confucius, as a possible interpretation. I haven't decided whether I want to keep the book, or not. It's kind of like a barren record of the I Ching, rather than being the I Ching. As a record, this book probably has its own historic merit. As a tool for inspiration or divination...I was pretty much turned off.

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R1O33T8U300R9S/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_viewpnt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1594773866#R1O33T8U300R9S

 

I know we have some people who can understand Chinese in here. Would anybody with some experience like to comment on the criticisms levelled at Alfred Huang, especially his abilities to translate?

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I can't read Chinese but have studied the Yi Jing - I think the critique of Alfred Huang is in part justified although you have to bear in mind that he upset a lot of academics by purporting to produce and authoritative Yi Jing translation to replace Wilhelm/Baynes.  Most people say you can't do better that Wilhelm as he was a true scholar of Chinese and his translation is probably the best you can get - even tho' it does have some weaknesses.

 

The approach I use is to consult Wilhelm, Huang (because of the description of the original Chinese characters etc.,) and R. J. Lynn - to compare and contrast translations.

 

 

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On 10/18/2017 at 7:06 AM, morning dew said:

I know we have some people who can understand Chinese in here. Would anybody with some experience like to comment on the criticisms levelled at Alfred Huang, especially his abilities to translate?

 

Sorry, I don't know Chinese but I love the Alfred Huang translation and have a magical connection with it.  I will choose advice from an advanced and experienced Chinese Taoist master any day over some Western non-Taoist academic.  Even the book cover inspires reverence in me.

 

I use it strictly as an oracle rather than as a source of mental BS, and it is amazing how it almost always discusses the question I have with great accuracy and even sometimes the title of the chapter reflects the question at hand.  That's the magical part.  It even happened at the very start.  The first time I used it wasn't as an oracle but out of curiosity and the first hexagram I got was number one, then right after that the second hexagram I got (with the coin toss method) was number two.  These two chapters form the foundation of the book and really provide an education as to how it works.  I would say those two chapters are required reading for those who wish to dig deeper into the oracle.  What are the chances of getting all yang lines with no changes on the first throw and all yin lines with no changes on the second throw the first time you open the book?  The chances are vanishingly small and right away It showed me that there is something synchronistic going on.  It was my first exposure to the idea that the magic I was experiencing more and more as I advanced also had some effect on a book.  Which is another little glimpse of the mystery.  It is said that all legitimate schools of Taoism will lead a person to experience magic, so it seems that both I and Mr. Huang are from authentic schools of Taoism and there is something connecting us, something mysterious.

 

If someone wants to experience a real oracle, written with love by a very wise old real Taoist master who has Chinese as his first language, then the Huang one is the only game in town.

 

Edited by Starjumper
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4 hours ago, Apech said:

I can't read Chinese but have studied the Yi Jing - I think the critique of Alfred Huang is in part justified although you have to bear in mind that he upset a lot of academics by purporting to produce and authoritative Yi Jing translation to replace Wilhelm/Baynes.  Most people say you can't do better that Wilhelm as he was a true scholar of Chinese and his translation is probably the best you can get - even tho' it does have some weaknesses.

 

The approach I use is to consult Wilhelm, Huang (because of the description of the original Chinese characters etc.,) and R. J. Lynn - to compare and contrast translations.

 

 

 

Thanks for the input. :)

 

Yeah, it does say in the blurb somewhere AH wasn't happy with the existing translations and set out to do a better one. I can imagine he ruffled a few feathers with that approach. To be honest, I find Wilhelm quite dry and hard to follow.

 

Yeah, I guess, as with all these books, it's best to get an 'average' over several translations.

Edited by morning dew
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LMAO! Poor old Wilhelm. :( 

 

It's a bit harsh but fair, I would say. I do kind of agree with you on AH. He does have certain advantages over other translators, IMO.

 

It's interesting to read your experiences with his version as well. 

Edited by morning dew
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27 minutes ago, morning dew said:

 

Thanks for the input. :)

 

Yeah, it does say in the blurb somewhere AH wasn't happy with the existing translations and set out to do a better one. I can imagine he ruffled a few feathers with that approach. To be honest, I find Wilhelm quite dry and hard to follow.

 

Yeah, I guess, as with all these books, it's best to get an 'average' over several translations.

 

Yes, I probably didn't make it clear that I like the AH version a lot.  But your question was if he was a reliable translator which some people question in the academic sense.  A good thing he does is that when he sets out the Judgement or name of the sign he tells what Wilhelm and Blofeld called it too.  I have a whole variety of translations including one by Kerson and Rose Huang (no relation I think) and also have you come across Stephen Karcher?  - he's quite wild and wacky but I corresponded with him at one point and he seems a nice guy.

 

Seems to me Alfred Huang was a genuine practitioner rather than an academic and that shines through his work.  Its a beautiful book really.  Hope you have great success with it.

 

 

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8 hours ago, morning dew said:

LMAO! Poor old Wilhelm. :( 

 

It's a bit harsh but fair, I would say. I do kind of agree with you on AH. He does have certain advantages over other translators, IMO.

 

It's interesting to read your experiences with his version as well. 

 

Ya, I felt a bit guilty about the harshness there and was going to return and edit most of it out.  What triggered it was that I got annoyed by that book report you posted in the OP and wanted to present an 'opposing' viewpoint, but since it was liked and quoted it must stay.  No doubt the person who wrote that review was one of the scholarly types (I usually say 'mental jerk off' but I'm being nice for a couple of microseconds).  No doubt Wilhelm had a job to do, just like the rest of us, and I guess he did ok ... for a beginner.

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What makes a reliable translator of the Yijing? It depends on how you see the Yi. When you see it as a Confucian book influenced by Confucianist doctrines you will find a translation good if it shows that influence. The same goes for a Daoist view of the book. 

 

Alfred Huang is a Confucianist (he told me - or at least he was when he wrote his translation). So that is why his translation mostly follows the Confucian view of the Yijing and mentions Wen Wang and Confucius a lot. But the Yi is much older than Confucianism and by now we know that translating yuan heng li zhen 元亨利貞 as

 

Initiating.
Sublime and initiative.
Prosperous and smooth.
Favorable and beneficial.
Steadfast and upright. 

 

...is not the original meaning of that phrase at the time when the Yi is supposedly written (more about that here). And this goes for many other characters and words in the Yi (see my own work on that.) Does that make Huang a bad translator? Not necessarily. Does it make Wilhelm and all the others bad translators? Nah. Call it advancing insights. Nevertheless it is good to realize that your view of the Yijing is a construction, mostly build from the view that your Yi translators had of the book. That construction does not have to agree with the original intention and usage of the book, and translators like Huang, Wilhelm, Legge, Karcher etc. each have/had their own view of the book with different implications.

 

About a year ago I went to Germany to resolve some questions that I had about Wilhelm's translation. Those interested might want to read my 4-part travel diary about my journey and the things I discovered:

 

http://www.yjcn.nl/wp/going-back-to-the-source-the-manuscripts-of-richard-wilhelm-1/

http://www.yjcn.nl/wp/going-back-to-the-source-the-manuscripts-of-richard-wilhelm-2/

http://www.yjcn.nl/wp/going-back-to-the-source-the-manuscripts-of-richard-wilhelm-3/

http://www.yjcn.nl/wp/going-back-to-the-source-the-manuscripts-of-richard-wilhelm-4-the-end/

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18 hours ago, Apech said:

 

Yes, I probably didn't make it clear that I like the AH version a lot.  But your question was if he was a reliable translator which some people question in the academic sense.  A good thing he does is that when he sets out the Judgement or name of the sign he tells what Wilhelm and Blofeld called it too.  I have a whole variety of translations including one by Kerson and Rose Huang (no relation I think) and also have you come across Stephen Karcher?  - he's quite wild and wacky but I corresponded with him at one point and he seems a nice guy.

 

Seems to me Alfred Huang was a genuine practitioner rather than an academic and that shines through his work.  Its a beautiful book really.  Hope you have great success with it.

 

 

 

Ah, I wasn't sure what you thought of it. Yeah, my question is a little bit vague as well. I'm kind of interested in criticisms about AH (and whether they are justified), but also whether people have actually found him useful in terms of an oracle/divination.

Yeah, I'm beginning to notice he does mention what others have called the name of the sign as well. I find that quite helpful.

 

Yes, I bought Stephen Karcher the other week on the cheap. It's quite interesting and that's another one I want to look at a bit more in depth when I get a chance. I'm sure he's a nice guy to chat with.

 

Yeah, AH seems cool so far. I'm quite enjoying reading him. I've got various translations, but right now, as I'm still a bit of a bumbling newbie, I'm just going to focus on one translation and then spread out later on.

Edited by morning dew
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10 hours ago, Starjumper said:

 

Ya, I felt a bit guilty about the harshness there and was going to return and edit most of it out.  What triggered it was that I got annoyed by that book report you posted in the OP and wanted to present an 'opposing' viewpoint, but since it was liked and quoted it must stay.  No doubt the person who wrote that review was one of the scholarly types (I usually say 'mental jerk off' but I'm being nice for a couple of microseconds).  No doubt Wilhelm had a job to do, just like the rest of us, and I guess he did ok ... for a beginner.

 

Well, no harm done. I thought it was quite amusing. In any case, I re-edited my comment to cut out your quote if you're still feeling guilty lol :P 

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4 hours ago, Harmen said:

What makes a reliable translator of the Yijing?

 

Aha! Now this raises my next question. Your post looks very interesting. Thanks for taking the time to share all that info.

 

I'm still having a rummage around the links and will, no doubt, be back with more questions. :D 

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On 10/19/2017 at 7:06 AM, morning dew said:

Well, no harm done. I thought it was quite amusing. In any case, I re-edited my comment to cut out your quote if you're still feeling guilty lol :P 

 

I appreciate your intent there, in a way it's my nature to be a verbal ass (only in writing, not in real life anymore), and if a couple of people liked it then I'm happy to have written it.

Edited by Starjumper
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22 hours ago, Apech said:

Was Wilhelm a fat slob?  I didn't know that.

 

He was overweight but I suppose he wasn't too slobbish.  It's just that slob is common usage with and goes well after the word fat.

Edited by Starjumper
speeling
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3 hours ago, Starjumper said:

 

I appreciate your intent there, but in a way I like being a verbal ass, and if a couple of people liked it then I'm happy to have written it.

 

Fair enough. On a slightly more serious note, I should say that I don't really have any particular axe to grind when I start threads on here, so I'm quite happy for everyone to have their say and to hear all sorts of different perspectives. :) 

Edited by morning dew
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On 10/18/2017 at 8:06 AM, morning dew said:

I'm currently enjoying Alfred Huang's The Complete I Ching. I was having a bit of a browse on Amazon, however, and I saw the most popular American review had this to say:

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R1O33T8U300R9S/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_viewpnt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1594773866#R1O33T8U300R9S

 

I know we have some people who can understand Chinese in here. Would anybody with some experience like to comment on the criticisms levelled at Alfred Huang, especially his abilities to translate?

I met Alfred Huang and he signed my book complete I ching. He has a good perspective about reading symbols before all could read. I found his incites interesting. 

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On 10/18/2017 at 6:14 AM, Starjumper said:

 

Sorry, I don't know Chinese but I love the Alfred Huang translation and have a magical connection with it.  I will choose advice from an advanced and experienced Chinese Taoist master any day over some Western non-Taoist academic slob who wasn't born into the culture.  Even the book cover inspires reverence in me.

 

 

Tbh in magic, things not need to be "real" or "correct" in order to be effective in your work because it is jsut one truth out of many that you use to cause change in the world. Divination is even more finnicky imo. Its good; use whatever that works as long as you have a basis.

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On 19/10/2017 at 1:03 PM, morning dew said:

 

Ah, I wasn't sure what you thought of it. Yeah, my question is a little bit vague as well. I'm kind of interested in criticisms about AH (and whether they are justified), but also whether people have actually found him useful in terms of an oracle/divination.

Yeah, I'm beginning to notice he does mention what others have called the name of the sign as well. I find that quite helpful.

 

Yes, I bought Stephen Karcher the other week on the cheap. It's quite interesting and that's another one I want to look at a bit more in depth when I get a chance. I'm sure he's a nice guy to chat with.

 

Yeah, AH seems cool so far. I'm quite enjoying reading him. I've got various translations, but right now, as I'm still a bit of a bumbling newbie, I'm just going to focus on one translation and then spread out later on.

 

Just try using it regularly but not for anything frivalous ... the more you get to know the Yi Jing the better it gets.

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On 19/10/2017 at 8:32 AM, Harmen said:

 

This was fascinating to read. :) It's quite an honour to be asked to be chief editor of the Dutch version.

 

It was interesting to see the parallel/synchronicity with the swapped names of the symbols in the sixiang and the swapped trigrams on his grave. So you didn't swap the names back in the book? You just made a footnote? Has anyone swapped back the trigrams on his grave yet?

Edited by morning dew

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16 hours ago, Apech said:

 

Just try using it regularly but not for anything frivalous ... the more you get to know the Yi Jing the better it gets.

 

Thanks. Yeah, at the moment I'm just doing readings of the day in the morning to try and get a sense of the 'current' for a particular day.

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1 minute ago, morning dew said:

 

This was fascinating to read. :) It's quite an honour to be asked to be chief editor of the Dutch version.

 

It was interesting to see the parallel/synchronicity with the swapped names of the symbols in the sixiang and the swapped trigrams on his grave. So you didn't swap the names back in the book? You just made a footnote? Has anyone swapped back the trigrams on his grave yet?

 

Not that I know of, but I want to go back next yeat to check it. Bettina Wilhelm, Richard's granddaughter, said she would take care of it.

 

As an editor you cannot change something in the text, even though you assume it is a mistake. Otherwise the Dutch edition would differ from 1. the original and 2. all the other translations. But the Dutch version is the first version which has this essential footnote :-)

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8 minutes ago, Harmen said:

As an editor you cannot change something in the text, even though you assume it is a mistake. Otherwise the Dutch edition would differ from 1. the original and 2. all the other translations.

 

Yeah, that's a fair point. I guess even if he were still alive and you had discussed it with him, it would still create havoc to change it in just one translation for such a book.

 

Also, I didn't realise he had translated so many other books. I don't think I've come across his translation of the Zhuangzi.

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2 minutes ago, morning dew said:

 

Yeah, that's a fair point. I guess even if he were still alive and you had discussed it with him, it would still create havoc to change it in just one translation for such a book.

 

Also, I didn't realise he had translated so many other books. I don't think I've come across his translation of the Zhuangzi.

 

It has a bit of an awkward title: 'Das wahre Buch vom südlichen Blütenland'.

https://www.amazon.de/Das-wahre-Buch-südlichen-Blütenland/dp/3720528235

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