Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Fooling the foreigner

燕 人 生 於 燕 , 長 於 楚 , 及 老 而 還 本 國 . 過 晉 國 , 同 行者 誑 之 ; 指 城 曰 : 「 此 燕 國 之 城 . 」 其 人 愀 然 變 容 . 指 社 曰 : 「 此 若 里 之 社 . 」 乃 喟 然 而 歎 . 指 舍 曰 : 「 此 若 先 人 之 廬 . 」 乃 涓 然 而 泣 . 指 壟 曰 : 「 此 若 先 人 之 冢 .」 其 人 哭 不 自 禁 . 同 行 者 啞 然 大 笑 , 曰 : 「 予 昔 紿 若 ,此 晉 國 耳 . 」 其 人 大 慚 . 及 至 燕 , 真 見 燕 國 之 城 社 , 真 見 先 人 之 廬 冢 , 悲 心 更 微 .

A man of Yan, was born in Yan but had grown in Chu. When he was old, he returned to his native country. As they were crossing the state of Jin, his fellow travellers played a joke on him. Pointing to a city, they said : "here's a city of Yan". Our man's face blemished. Pointing to an altar : "this is the soil altar of your village". He let a deep sigh and moaned. Pointing to a house : "this was the home of your ancestors." His tears became to flow. Pointing to a mounnd : "and here are the tombs our your forefathers". Our man could not but weep. "Haha!" The fellow travellers let a loud laugh, and said : "we have been fooling you all along. This is just the state of Jin." Our man was very embarassed. And when he finally arrived in Yan, really saw the cities and altars of the state, when he truly looked at the home and tombs of his ancestors, his heart was slightly less heavy.

Vocabulary and grammar (for those so inclined)

燕 人 生 於 燕 , 長 於 楚 , 及 老 而 還 本 國
A man of Yan had been born in Yan but had grown in Chu. When he became old, he returned to his native state.

燕 Yan, the northermost state, around modern Beijing.
楚 Chu, the southernmost state
燕 人 A man of Yan

生 to be born
長 to grow up

於 in, introduces a complement of place. It is generally put after the verb, at the end of the sentence (whereas the complement of time is usually at the beginning).

生 於 燕 to be born in Yan

及 to arrive, to reach,
老 old, old age

而 and, conjunction
還 to return, to go back
本 origin, original (here native)
國 State, kingdom, country

而 here is used to mark the simultaneity of the two last propositions,

He Was born in Yan, (then) he grew up in Chu, (then) he reached old age and returned to Yan.

過 晉 國 , 同 行者 誑 之 ; 指 城 曰 : 「 此 燕 國 之 城 . 」 其 人 愀 然 變 容
As the crossed the state of Jin, one of his fellow travellers fooled him. Pointing to a city, he said : “this is a city of Yan” The man’s face changed, growing pale.

過 to pass, to exceed
晉 Jin, a central state
晉 國 the state of Jin, state is specified here to avoid confusion :
過 晉 could mean that they crossed a city named Jin (ie the capital of the state, which could be named this way), it is unspecific.
過 晉 國 is more precise

同 same, together
行 to walk, here to travel
同 行 to travel together
者 makes a noun of what preceeds : 同 行者 a fellow traveller.

誑 to fool someone, to lie to someone
之 complement third person : him

指 Originally, a finger, by extension to point at
城 a city, or a wall

此 this, in sentences beginning with this character, the 也 at the end can be omitted
此 A = this is A

燕 國 之 城 a city of the state of Yan (之 is a relative, this construction is the same as in modern chinese)

其 人 that man, 其 is a demonstrative here

愀 to change colour of one’s face, to blemish, to grow pale
然 like, as : as a suffix makes what preceeds an adverb (like the suffix –ly in english)
愀 然 blemish-ly,

變 to change
容 attitude of someone (refers to physical looks), here « face », expression

變 容 to change one’s expression,

愀 然 變 容 : litt. : the expression on his face changed as if he was pale : he grew pale

指 社 曰 : 「 此 若 里 之 社 . 」 乃 喟 然 而 歎
Pointing to an altar to the god of the soil, he said : « this is the altar to the soil of your village.” Then he sighed and moaned.

社 god of the soil, or its altar.
若 you, here possessive : your
里 village

乃 then
喟 to sigh
歎 to moan
A然 而 B, he A and B, the 然 implies that A qualifies B,
喟 然 而 歎 : sighing, he moaned

指 舍 曰 : 「 此 若 先 人 之 廬 . 」 乃 涓 然 而 泣
Pointing to houses, he said : « these are the home of your ancestors”. His tears then began to fall.

舍 house
先 before, past
先 人 a parent who has died, an ancestor
廬 house, cottage, home

涓 to trickle, a drop of water
泣 to cry

指 壟 曰 : 「 此 若 先 人 之 冢 .」 其 人 哭 不 自 禁
Pointing to mounds, he said : “these are the graves of your ancestors” The man wept and could not stop.

壟 mound, grave
冢 tomb, grave

哭 to cry, to weep
禁 to stop, to cease
不 自 禁 without stopping

同 行 者 啞 然 大 笑 , 曰 : 「 予 昔 紿 若 ,此 晉 國 耳 . 」 其 人 大 慚
The fellow traveller let a big and noisy laugh, and said: “I was fooling you all along, this is the state of Jin.” The man was very ashamed.

啞 a shout, to shout, to speak or laugh noisily
大 great, big
笑 to laugh

予 I
昔 past, ancient, here for long, all along
紿 to fool, to trick, to lie to someone
耳 and this is all, that’s it, used in spoken language to conclude an affirmation.

慚 shame, ashamed, to feel ashamed

及 至 燕 , 真 見 燕 國 之 城 社 , 真 見 先 人 之 廬 冢 , 悲 心 更 微 .
When they finally reached Yan, when he really saw the cities and soil altars of the state of Yan, when he really saw the houses and graves of his ancestors, the sadness in his heart had turned small.

及 finally
至 to reach
真 real, true, here really真 見 he really saw, he saw the real…
悲 sad, sadness, affliction
心 heart
更 to change
微 small, minute

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