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Real life and the day job have been keeping me busy of late, I do miss my home and being a milwaukee car accident attorney but there’s some cool stuff coming up. Eric Abrahamsen, Cindy Carter and I have started up a new blog, Paper Republic, that aims to be a resource for Chinese literature and translation. The site is still somewhat in the process of getting off the ground, but we’ve all already posted a couple of translations, and there’s a database of contemporary authors and translators up there that should hopefully prove useful. There’s one very, very cool thing that’ll be going up there within the week, so add it to your RSS readers.

I haven’t had a lot of free time, but I did take a look through 墨子 Mozi today at lunch as part of my halfassed attempt to get my classical Chinese back up to speed.
Mozi was one of the great Warring States period thinkers. He came up with a number of innovations in optics, military strategy, philosophy of government, and logic that went basically unused for centuries. Needham says that Mozi actually anticipated Newton’s First Law of Motion; Hansen says that Mozi’s rhetorical innovations made philosophy possible in China. I posit that Mozi actually foresaw the George W. Bush presidency:

故雖有賢君,不愛無功之臣;雖有慈父,不愛無益之子。是故不勝其任而處其位,非此位之人也;不勝其爵而處其祿,非此祿之主也。良弓難張,然可以及高入深;良馬難乘,然可以任重致遠;良才難令,然可以致君見尊。
是故江河不惡小谷之滿己也,故能大。聖人者,事無辭也,物無違也,故能為天下器。
是故江河之水,非一水之源也。千鎰之裘,非一狐之白也。夫惡有同方取不取同而已者乎?蓋非兼王之道也。

Even the kindest ruler will not love a useless minister; even a doting father will not love a worthless son. One who occupies a position without being equal to his task is not the person for the position; an enfeoffed man who draws benefits without performing the duties expected of his rank does not deserve his fiefdom. A good bow is hard to draw, yet it can reach great heights and penetrate deeply; a good horse is hard to ride, yet it can bear great loads and traverse great distances. A talented man is hard to command, yet he can be trusted as an envoy to the ruler and an emissary to nobility.
In this way great rivers do not scorn streams and brooks as tributaries; therefore they become great. A great man does not scorn a task or neglect an errand; therefore he becomes a vessel for all under heaven.
Therefore a great river does not arise from a single source, and a fur overcoat worth a thousand yi does not come from the white pelt of a single fox. How then can one accept only those who agree with him and turn away those who disagree? This is not the way of a king who unifies.

Aw, snap.

8 Comments

  1. David wrote:

    What a great translation of Mozi’s “亲士第一”!

    Monday, July 9, 2007 at 11:49 pm | Permalink
  2. juhuacha wrote:

    nice dubya connection. i love how you can manage to make classical chinese references to bush’s incompetence :)

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007 at 10:04 am | Permalink
  3. Derek wrote:

    Best. Post. Evar.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2007 at 3:50 am | Permalink
  4. yz wrote:

    “I posit that Mozi actually foresaw the George W. Bush presidency”-hahahaha~I
    love u so much!!

    Friday, August 3, 2007 at 5:58 pm | Permalink
  5. Absurdfool wrote:

    Mozi actually foresaw the George W. Bush presidency…

    that prose of mozi is really an amazing take.

    great post!

    Friday, August 17, 2007 at 3:27 am | Permalink
  6. memory lane wrote:

    yes, this is the best one ever. don’t know whether mozi and his band really were crucial to the development of philosophy here in china, but the idealism of their tribe is something that modern day china will never go reach back for. sad….

    could you write more stuff that relates the political-economical classics to what’s happening these days. i’d be interested to see any similarities/comparables…

    Saturday, September 8, 2007 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
  7. 冷絃 wrote:

    Great work to translate the thousands-year old Chinese intellectual thoughts to nourish the brains of modern English-speaking readers! (so that they could even criticize G.W.Bush with more arguments… )

    I had a difficulty to understand “夫惡有同方取不取同而已者乎?”, therefore had searched on web for more info, and I found this 《墨子闲诂卷一》
    http://www.white-collar.net/02-lib/01-zg/03-guoxue/%D7%D3%B2%BF/%C6%E4%CB%FB/%C4%AB%D7%D3/mz1.htm
    毕云:“恶读如乌,言圣人之与士同方相合,犹江河同源相得,乌有不取诸此而自止者。”俞云:“‘取不’二字,传写误倒,‘而’ 字当在‘取同’二字之上,‘已’当为人己之‘己’。此文本云‘夫恶有同方不取,而取同己者乎’。同方,谓同道也;同己,谓与己意同也。圣人但取其与道同,不必其与己意同,故曰‘夫恶有同方不取,而取同己者乎。’传写错误,遂不可读,毕曲为之说,非是。”案:俞说近是。

    That explanation of mistake seems quite reasonable, and the corrected version is certainly more clear to understand and fits well in the context. Of course, your understanding (English text) does not conflict with the original idea, but I’d like to mention this just to be a bit picky literally ;-)

    btw, your essays written in Chinese are really amazing! Not only your skill of mastering a (rather difficult) language, but also skills of “playing with words”, and furthermore, the ideas! Very characterful style, I really enjoy reading them! I’d like to write you more via email, but didn’t find your address. Here is mine – henbing点li在UGent点be – contact me if you like.

    Monday, October 1, 2007 at 4:29 am | Permalink
  8. Paul King wrote:

    It’s wonderful to read your translation of Mozi. I was a student of translation and am now a freelance translator. Unlike many Chinese scholars of translation, I believe that Chinese-English translation, especially that of literature or classics, should mainly be done by native speakers so as to ensure readability.

    Thursday, October 25, 2007 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

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