Ana Journal of Chinese Philosophy The Analects of Confucius: A Literal Translation with an Introduction and Notes. Translated by...
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BOOK REVIEW The Analects of Conficius: A Literal Translation with an Introduction and Notes. Translated by Chichung Huang. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. pp. ix + 216. Hardback, US$39.95. ISBN 0-19-506157-8. Paper, US$10.95. ISBN 0-19-51 1276-8. Despite an already crowded field, Chichung Huang has produced a new translation of the Analects. The first thing readers will want to know is whether Huang's rendering offers anything new, and whether it will supplant older translations like Arthur Waley's and-D. C. Lau's that have long held prominence in classrooms and reading rooms. The answer to the first question is "yes," but what Huang offers is not necessarily what is most needed by students, general readers, or scholars, so I doubt that this new version will become a standard. This translation presents a very traditional view of the Analects, from the perspective of a deeply committed, native Chinese scholar. In an age of pluralistic approaches to texts, this is a voice that ought to be heard, but in the end Huang's version falls short of modern, critical, scholarly standards. The title promises a "literal translation." Th~smay be oxymoronic as an ideal, but it does indicate a desire to stay as close to the original text as possible - translating awkward passages into awkward language, refixing to gloss over textual problems or puzzling constructions, and resisting the urge to read the interpretations of later generations into archaic phrases. Although this can be a valuable translating strategy, Huang succeeds only partially. He does sacrifice English literary polish in order to remain close to the word order of the original, and he makes some attempt to be consistent in translating technical Chinese philosophical terms. Nevertheless, h s caution and reticence are undermined by the numerous notes that he affixes to nearly every passage of the text. Some of these comments are helpful - identifications of places and persons are always welcome, as are cross-references to related pa; ssages, and I especially liked the alternative translations he provides - but many of Huang's interpretations strike me as Journal of Chinese Philosophy 25 (1998) 273-280 Copyright 0 I998 by Dialogue Publishing Company, Honolulu, Hawaii, LISA. 274 BOOK REVIEW unnecessarily restrictive, as when he regularly equates "man" with "a ruler," or identifies obscure pronouns as "the Way" or "the rites." For instance, he presents 7.18 in translation with footnotes as follows: When the Duke of She' asked Zi-lu about Master Kong, Zi-lu did not reply. The Master said: "Why did you not say: 'He is a man who, when absorbed,2 forgets his meals; when enrapt~red,~ forgets his anxiety, not even aware that old age is drawing neat and the like?" ' Title of Shen Zhu-liang, a worthy minister of Chu, which was a large non-Chinese state to the South of the Yangtze River. I.e., when absorbed in his studies. I.e., when enraptured by the Way. Huang's explications in notes 2 and 3 close off interpretive possibilities too soon. W h y not leave room for Confucius's other well-documented enthusiasms such as teaching, music, fhendship, or statecraft? So also, a comment like that appended to 5.12 seems tendentious at best: "Humanity stems from innate goodness, for the most part endowed by nature, and cannot be acquired merely through postnatal effort. Hence the Master's comment." And readers are likely to be puzzled when Huang just as confidently asserts the opposite in his note at 17.2: "Human nature is neutral at birth. Goodness and evil are acquired in later life, owing to the environments in which people are brought up and the company they keep." Huang bases his translation and notes on a wide range of commentaries, and this is not a problem; indeed, it would be impossible (or at least extremely inadvisable) to translate without them. What I found troubling was the fact that these various commentaries are never identified.' There is a tremendous difference, for example, between Han and Song commentaries, and the unsuspecting reader of this volume is barraged with both. This does not have to have been the case, even in a popular translation, as Wing Tsit-chan showed in the excerpts from the Analects that he translated in A Source Book of Chinese Philosophy. Yet the fact that Huang does not tie his translation directly to Chinese scholarship limits the appeal of this new version for scholars (there are no BOOK REVLEW 275 Chinese characters in the volume, aside from the dedication). For interested students with access to a college library, t h ~ s translation similarly offers less than it could because it does not tie into the larger world of English language Chinese scholarshp. Here I blame Huang's editors.' There was no reason not to include Mao Instead, we get numbers for references to the Shying. idiosyncratically translated titles such as "The Book of Poetry, Minor State Affairs, I Walk Its Wilderness" (Ma0 #188, cited at 12.10). Other Confucian Classics are unhelpfully cited by page number in the Shisanjing zhushu. Students also need more reliability in the introduction and appendixes (more on this in a moment). As for common readers, they are unlikely to trade readability for literalness, and indeed, this translation offers many unfortunate renderings, including: 2.4 - "At fifteen, I bent my mind on learning" [Ouch!] 2.16 - "To apply oneself to heretical theories is harmful indeed!" [This implies an orthodoxy which is anachronistic in the Spring and Autumn Era] 2.23 - "Whoever may succeed the Zhou, even a hundred dynasties hence, things are predictable." [Grammar?] 4.2 - "A humane man is at ease with humanity, a wise man benefits from humanity." [Although there are precedents, I find "humanity" an awkward translation for ren, especially where the context allows readers to equate "humanity" with "people."1 12.18 - "Sir, if you are not lustful, even though you should reward them, they would not steal." ["Lustful" in English has a more specialized meaning thanyu, "greedy"] s reading is both 13.3 - "the rectification of characters" m unconventional and ambiguous in English. In his note, Huang does use the phrase "rectification of names," which is necessary for those seeking more information on the concept]. 17.22 - "a small man who possesses courage but wants righteousness will become a rebel" [This is ambiguous; "wants" means "lacks" here, rather than "desires"]. 19.5 - "He who each day acquires something he lacks and each [Why "moon" ratherthan "month*' moon does not forget . . (this occurs at 6.7 and 7.13 as well), especially since Huang does not translate ri as "sun"?] .I1 So far, this review has been rather critical, so let me hasten to 2 76 BOOK REVIEW add that there were also passages in which Huang's translations succeeded admirably or led me to new insights. For example, I think that "no vexation, no enlightenment; no anxiety, no illumination" conveys the terse couplets of 7.8 nicely, and "the gentleman rests at ease in adversity" brings out another meaning of gu at 15.2. And as I mentioned above, I liked Huang's inclusion of alternative readings and interpretations, which might help students see the text of the Analects as the subject of a long philosophical and scholarly conversation. Huang offers a serious, useful translation, even if in the end it is not precise enough for scholars and students, or felicitous enough for general readers. And yet this is not the whole story. Huang does present something quite new, and in its own way, quite valuable. For the first time, English readers can get a line-by-line sense of what the Analects means to a traditional Chinese scholar who is personally committed to the Confucian tradition. Huang's notes are laudatory rather than critical. He consistently refers to Confucius as Yhe Master" and he is quick to defend him, as when Conhcius admits ignorance at 3.1 1 and Huang hastens to explain: "In saying he did not know, the Master was trying to avoid discussing the subject."' Huang is also willing to bend his definitions a bit in order to make Conhcianism attractive. For instance, at the first occurrence of ren at 1.2, Hung's note reads "All-embracing love as the supreme doctrine of Master Kong's Way" [sic]. "Love" is an appealing word to modem ears, but this note makes ren sound like a Mohist principle. Huang's uncritical but passionate approach to Confucianism is most clearly seen in his introductory essays, where he provides both a general introduction and a discussion of some twenty key terms from the Analects. The latter is all right - it is always helpful to see passages dealing with the same concepts arranged side by side, and I was intrigued by his comments on quan "expediency" - but Huang's observations are not as insightful as Lau's introductory remarks, and they fall far short of the rigor of Herbert Fingarette, A. C. Graham, Benjamin Schwartz, or David Hall and Roger Ames (none of these path-breaking scholars are even mentioned). Instead, Huang gives a great deal of attention to etymologies of characters and early definitions from the Shuo Wen. This is a very traditional approach indeed, and while it has its place, I wonder how much benefit nonChinese-reading students will derive from it, especially because these introductions are not particularly well-edited. For instance, on page 277 BOOK REVIEW 1 1, we read: "The first character lun (with the word radical) means 'to discuss' when pronounced in the fourth tone . . . ,I' when we at least And ought to see l'lun (with the 'word' radlcal) means . . unfortunately, the translation itself does not always follow the definitions laid out in the introduction. For example, Huang renders 13.12: .'I The Master said: "If there should emerge a sage man, it would surely take a generation for humanity to prevail." I have no idea why he would translate wang as "sage man," when he discusses sheng ren "sage men" as one of his key terms (p. 14) and explicitly notes there that wang means "king." It is easy to find fault with Huang's general introduction, which is peppered with unwarranted assumptions (righteousness = reason), strange applications, odd evidence (the Canberra Times reporting on an event in Paris), vague definitions, and historical anachronisms ("serfs," "rights").' For readers who want to know something of the history of the text (an indispensable aid to interpreting conflicting passages) - how it came into being and how it has been transmitted and interpreted through the centuries . Huang's treatment offers very little. Yet Huang's enthusiasm for his subject is infectious and his breezy moralizing gives a sense of a living, dynamic tradition: In a mditional Chinese family, the parents love their children, but they also hscipline them. When a child does somethmg wrong, the parents criticize her or him, sometimes even punish her or him. They don't "spare the rod and spoil the chld," as is unfortunately widely practiced in China proper today due to the one-chld policy. @. 5 ) And again: Farmly ties, including marriage ties, are still cherished, though not quite so strongly as they used to be. Supporting the parents in their old age is still a son's or a daughter's undisputed duty. In fact, living with a son's or a daughter's family, a grandparent can be taken care of much better than in a nursing home, and she or he can do a much better job of talung care of and educating the grandchild(ren) than the daycare center can. The reason is simple and clear: There is genuine love involved 278 BOOK REVIEW in either case. (p. 8) I am especially charmed by Huang's progressive assumption that daughters as well as sons have filial obligations to their parents (in t h ~ sintroduction, Huang, to his credit, does criticize Confucius for his overly conservative attitude toward the rituals). Chchung Huang's translation of the Analects is not a critical, scholarly rendition, but it is nevertheless a serious and thoughtful attempt to transmit the teachings of the Master to English speaking readers. It is, more importantly, the work of a man who obviously loves the text and tries to apply its teachings to his own life and times (I was not at all surprised to discover that Huang had dedicated his labors to the memory of a parent). The chief value of this translation is that it conveys to readers the outlook 0f.a modem, but traditional, Confucian scholar on the most important text in the canon. UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT ASHVILLE GRANTHARDY NOTES I Huang's rendering of 4.1 is a welcome exception to this rule. Other editkg errors and misjudgments include the non-Pinyin use of dashes in names and "IOU" for "You"; "Moist" for "Mohist"; page 9 has two note #17s; the note promised in 15.8 never materializes; and notes 2 and 3 at 18.4 appear to have been reversed 3 A similar strategy is adopted in his interpretation of 9.8. And even though Huang cannot defend Confucius's deliberate deception at 17.19, he does not condemn it either. 4 There are additional historical problems in the introduction to terms,which speaks of "county magistrates" in Confucius's time (p. 31) and asserts that ranks of Chinese nobility "are identical with the Western system" (p. 32). 2 BOOK REVIEW CHINESE GLOSSARY 279