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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Learning Classical Chinese II - 蒙學漢文初階

This is the translation of the second fifty chapters of the Korean book for learning Classical Chinese.  For the first fifty chapters, see

Lesson 51

或告童子曰           someone told a child boy said
海中有魚能飛       sea in have fish able fly
兒不信                   child not believe
以問其父曰           and_so asked his father said
有之是名飛魚       have it is named flying fish

Someone told a child that in the ocean, there are fish that can fly.  The child does not believe and went to ask his father who said,
"There is and is called flying fish."


There are many meanings of .  The more common ones are "or" and "perhaps"

或曰 = someone who said
或人 = someone
或一 = what if
或种 = 某種 = some type
或時 =有時 = sometime.
或日 = 某曰, 有一天, one day
或者 is more difficult to translate by itself because it is context dependent due to  which can mean someone, something, the thing that…  It can also be someone! The general meaning of modern usage is "perhaps", a choice between the two.

It can be used to emphasize uncertainty as in,

莫或興之 = don't be too happy about it.
莫或除之 = don't really want remove it

Lesson 52

或畜一虎      someone raise one tiger
囚之檻中      imprison it cage inside
一日              one day
虎逸出四走  tiger escape out four run
衆奔避          crowd ran hide
莫敢前          not dare forward

Someone raised a tiger in a cage.  One day, it escaped and was all over the place. The crowds dashed into hiding and no one dared come out.


1.  For see previous chapter.

2. has two pronunciations and with many meanings.  It can mean a banister or a balustrade.  The commoner meaning is a cage used to transport prisoners in the old days where the prisoner is made to stand inside it with the head sticking out of the top.  The cage need not be enclosed on the sides, just enough bars that the prisoner cannot escape through them.  This cage can also be just a cart with the prisoner wearing a cangue, sort of a portable pillory.

3. 四走 is short for 四處走動 "four place running movement".  The four represents the four directions, hence everywhere.  In other words, running all over the place.

Lesson 53

某兒行道        some child walk path
腹飢無所食    stomach hunger nothing to eat
採樹上生桃    pluck tree on_top raw peach
食之                eat it
腹痛大病        stomach pain great illness
數日不食        several days not eat

A child was walking along a road.  He was hungry and there was nothing to eat.  So he plucked an unripe peach and ate it.  His stomach was in pain and fell ill.  For several days he could not eat.


1.  here is a particle introducing a relative or passive clause.

2.  has at least 20 meanings.  One of which is "raw".  However, in this context unripe is the best translation.

Lesson 54

麋與鹿相似  Moose and deer mutual alike
大者曰麋      big thing called moose
小者曰鹿      small thing called deer
鴻與鴈相似  eastern_bean_goose and wild_goose mutual alike
大者曰鴻      big thing called eastern_bean_goose
小者曰鴈      small one called wild goose

Moose and deer are similar.  The larger one is called moose and the smaller one, deer.  The Eastern Bean Goose and the wild goose are similar.  The larger one is the Eastern Bean Goose and the smaller one, the wild goose.

1.  is a particle denoting the thing that is described by the preceding adjective noun phrase or word.  Technically, the translation of 大者 should be "the one which is big…".  However, this is too wordy and too technical.
2.   is a variation of .  The first one appears more in calligraphy.

Lesson 55

風雪中有呼寒而乞者 wind snow in have call cold and beg one_who
一八歲童子哀而         one eight age child son pity and_so
與之錢                         and [pp] money
見者稱善                     see the_one_who praise good

Literal translation

In the wind and snow, there was one who is a beggar crying, "cold".  A child of eight years old pitied him and gave money.  The ones who saw, praise good.

Translating by meaning

There was a beggar moaning about the cold in a windy and snowy day.  A child of eight saw and pitied him.  He gave the beggar some money.  Those who saw, praised what a kind child he was.  [or "Those who saw, praised the good deed of the child"]


It was quite difficult to read in the original for there is no punctuation or delineation!  At first I thought the winds were howling and the beggar was eight years old!

Lesson 56

某生問          one student ask
作文之法      compose words [pp] rules
師曰              teacher said
作文無别法  compose words no special rules
多讀書          many read books
通義理          understand meaning reasoning
則自能作文 then self able write words

One student asked,
"How to write an essay?"

The teacher replied,

"There is no special way.  Read many books and understand the way of argumentation.  Only then will you able to compose an essay well."


1.  .  See Lesson 53.  One of the many meanings of the character.  Has to see in the context to which it is applied!

2.  作文, literally means to "make words"  In another words an essay.  In classical Chinese, is used as a verb while in modern usage, 作文 case becomes a noun phrase.

3.  讀書, literally means to "read books" In another words, "to study" or "study".  Very similar to 作文.

Lesson 57

一兒獨出失路     one child alone out lost way
母之遣人              mother for_it dispatch person
四處求之不得    four areas seek him not can
母終夜哭             mother entire night cry
明日或送兒歸    next day someone brought child return

A child went out alone and was lost.  The mother sent forth people [to look for him].  Everywhere, he could not be found.  The mother cried all night.  [However,] the next day, someone brought him back.


1.  Here is a particle to indicate the person/object being mentioned.

2.  Be aware of the similarities between , to dispatch, dispel with , remnants.  The former has does not have a component but the bottom component of .

3. 或送.  See commentaries in Lesson 51

Lesson 58

一鷄行田畔          one chicken walk padi_field bank
從容覔食甚樂      lax manner looking eat very happy
怱過一鷹              suddenly came_by one eagle
奮然下                  exerting_oneself the_state_of down
以爪攫之而去      with claws grab_seize it and went
人雖哀鷄而惡鷹  man although sad chicken and hate eagle
其於強弱何          this alas strong weak how_why

One chicken was strutting happily along the banks of the rice field to look for food when suddenly an eagle came by.  Exerting itself, it swooped down and with its claws, seized the chicken and off they went.  Although man is sad for the chicken and despises the eagle, alas what can he do?


1. This is a variant of is a short tailed bird.  Perhaps this chicken has long tail, a rooster.

2.  is actually the padi or rice field.  Not any other kinds.

3. is an archaic variant form of

4.  .  Here it is used as a verb. See commentaries in Lesson 11

5.  Another moral lesson in oppressive tyranny of those in power.

Lesson 59

一兒食物太多   one child eat things too many
得腹瀉病           got stomach runs illness
病愈父誡之曰   illness recovered, father warned him said
爾病初愈           your illness in_the_beginning well
當少食               ought less eat
兒曰唯               child said yeah

A child ate too much and got the runs.  When he recovered, the father warned him and said,

"You just got well, ought not to eat too much".

The child replied, "Yeah".


1.  食物 can also be a noun phrase in which case means food or edible things.  Therefore the sentence can mean, "A child has too many edible things"!  However, from the context, we know it is not the case. It can also be translated as "A child had too much food".

2.  is another way of writing . The modern equivalent is , an interjection indicating agreement, approval or appreciation.  唯唯, self deprecating form of saying yes.  唯唯諾諾 = obsequious, a yes man.

Lesson 60

做善者不求人知     do good one_who not seek man know
做惡者不使人知     do evil one_who not cause man know
人不知之善為大善 man not know its good becomes great benevolence
人不知之惡為大惡 man not know its evil becomes great wickedness

Those who do good need no others know.  Those who do evil will cause others not to know.  Hence, those not knowing of the good being done, then these good deeds are of great benevolence.  Those not knowing of the wicked doings, then these are of great evil.

Another way,

Good deed doers need no others know.  Evil doers will cause others not to know.  Thus, not knowing of good deeds done, then they are great benevolence.  Not knowing of the wicked deeds done, then they are great evil.

Lesson 61

一兒畜犬於家  one child raise a dog at home
繫銅片於其項  fasten copper/bronze sheet at its nape
鐫其名曰          engrave its name called
黃小兒              yellow small child
呼黃小              call yellow small
犬即摇尾而至  dog then wag tail and approach

One child raised a dog in his home.  Fastened to its neck was a copper tag.  Engraved on it was its name, "Small Yellow Child".  Upon calling "Small Yellow", the dog came wagging its tail.

Lesson 62

溫水一杯          warm water one cup
以糖和之          with sugar harmonize it
見水不見糖      see water not see sugar
飲之則甘          drink it then sweet
以鹽和水亦然 with salt harmonize water also the_state_of

With one cup of warm water, mix sugar into it.  What is seen is the water but not the sugar.  When drinking it, you know it is sweet.  Mix water with salt, same scenario [but the taste will be salty].


1.  has many different meanings.  The most common being "and".  To harmonize with another is to make peace.  To "harmonize" with things means that the mixed blends into what is being mixed into.  Therefore in translation, a simple "mix" will do.

2.  It is understood figuratively that the water become salty in Chinese.  However, it may not be apparent in the English case because of cultural differences.  This hinges on the words "亦然", denoting a rhetoric statement which is not apparent in the English version.  Hence the bracketed line.

Lesson 63

無毒之毒最毒   no poison [pp] poison most poisonous
宴安可畏           feast peace can feared
勿藥之藥是藥   not medicine [pp] medicine is medicine
衛生宜慎           protect life appropriate caution

Poison that does not look like poison is the most poisonous. Its insidious nature is most feared.  Medicine that does not exhibit its medicinal qualities is true medicine. So use appropriately in guarding one's health.


1.   This is one of the more difficult passages to understand and translate.  The first line can be translated as "The poison without poison is most dangerous".  However it makes no sense in English if translated in this way!

2. is a feast, a time for relaxing and entertainment. means peace.  In other words, peace during a feast.  Therefore its figurative meaning is "to feel happy and content.  Another translation of this line can be "Complacency is to be feared".  There is a common saying, 宴安為, Greed for the pleasures of life is like drinking poison.

As an interrogating particle, means rhetoric "where" or "how".  For example, 不入虎穴, 安得虎子, If not entering a tiger's lair, how can it be to get its cub?  Another translation is, "… whence its cub can be gotten?".  Functions the same as.

3. In modern usage, 衛生 it is a noun phrase meaning "hygiene", "hygienic" or "sanitation".  In classical terms, is used as a verb, "to protect", "to guard" or "to defend".

Lesson 64

王生不能解書     Wang_last_name student not able know book
師罸之                  teacher punish him
生求免                  student seek removal
師曰                      teacher said
既畏罸何不勤學  since fear punishment why not diligent study
今罸汝因汝惰也  now punish you because you lazy [ep]

Student Wang did not know his studies.  The teacher punished him.  The student begged leniency.  The teacher said,

"Since you are afraid of punishment, why not study hard? Today's punishment is because you are lazy!"

Note: can also mean to "understand" and thus can be translated as, "Student Wang did not understand his books".  However, translating this way gives an impression of that the teacher is at fault for not teaching him to understand.  From the context, we know that Student Wang was lazy and therefore unable to comprehend.

Lesson 65

今日當為之事     now day ought to_be for [pp] matter
不可俟                 not can wait
明日為之明日     next day to_be [pp] next day
或有他事將不暇 or have other matters about_to not leisure
為今日之事矣     to_be now day [pp] matters alas

Today's matters are cannot be delayed. Tomorrow's ought to be tomorrow's or perhaps are too urgent and thus became today's!

Lesson 66

井深一百二十丈者  well deep one hundred two ten ten_foot thing
其水多熱                   its water many hot
以地中火故也           because ground inside fire reason [ep]
溫泉即此理耳.          warm spring so this reason end_of_it

There is a well that is  one thousand and two hundred feet deep.  Its water is hot.  This is because there is fire in the ground.  Hence because of this reason, it is called a hot spring.

1.   A "Chang" is approximately ten feet.
2.   Cultural differences.  A hot spring is known as a "warm" spring in Chinese.

Lesson 67

以手重按身          with hand heavy press body
覺內有緊硬之物  feel inner have tight hard [pp] thing
是曰骨                   is call bone
骨之外曰肉           bone [pp] outer called flesh
肉之外曰皮           flesh [pp] outer called skin

With the hand press heavily against the body.  Feel the insides that are dense and hard.  These are called bones.  From without the bones are called the flesh.  Those without the flesh are called skin.

A more natural translation:

Pressing heavily the body, one feels the insides that are dense and hard.  These are known as bones.  The outer parts that are covering them are known as flesh and those that are covering the flesh are known as skin.

Lesson 68

海洋之水           sea ocean [pp] water
其味鹹               its taste is salty
河湖之水           rivers lakes [pp] water
其味淡               its taste insipid
淡水可飲           insipid water can drink
鹹水不可飲也   salt water not car drink [ep]

The waters of the seas and oceans are salty.  The waters of rivers and lakes are insipid.  Insipid waters can be drunk.  Salty water cannot be drunk!

Lesson 69

火性最烈          fire nature most intense
植物遇之          plant thing meet it
頃刻燒燬          short_time moment burnt destroyed_by_fire
動物遇之          move things meet it
立能斃命          immediate able death life
故湏謹防之也  thus ought caution avoid it [ep]

The nature of fire is most violent.  When encountering plants, they will soon be burnt and destroyed.  When living things encounter it, death may immediately be the result.  Thus out to be cautious and avoid  it.


1.  It is illogical to translate as "when plants encounter…" because plants has no mobility like animals.

2.  is a variant of, to be destroyed.  With the fire radical, its emphasis that the destruction is made by fire.

3.  We first encountered this variant in Lesson 6.  The two other meanings are
      a.  To wash the face
      b.  a variant of, describing the movement of water.

Lesson 70

悅樂曰喜        pleased  joy called bliss
忿憤曰怒傷    indignation resentment called anger hurt
感曰哀             irritation/thought called grief
恐畏曰懼         fear dread called phobia
眷戀曰愛         concern attachment called love
憎疾曰惡         hatred envy called evil
貪愛曰慾         greed love called lust
謂七情             designate seven emotions

Being pleased and happy is known as bliss. Indignation and resentment becomes anger. Irritation is grief. Fear and dread becomes phobia. Concerned attachment is known as love. Hatred and envy are the basis of evil.  Greed for love is lust.  Thus these feelings are designated as the Seven States of Emotions.


This is one of the most difficult passages to translate.  This because these terms have the general meaning that comes in various shades and degrees of seriousness. 

Depending on the school of thought, there are at least three versions.  The above example is from Confucianism.  From Buddhism, we have 喜怒憂 (longing) (phobia) (love) (hatred) (desire/lust). In Chinese medicine, the last four states are changed to (longing) (sorrow) (fear) (fright).
Accompanying this are the Six Desires (六慾): (sex)  形貌 (appearance) 威信姿態 (prestige and attitude)、言語音聲 (flattery)、細滑 (charms)、人想 / (looks).  Again there are slight differences in different schools of thought.

Lesson 71

不忍害物謂之仁                  not bear_to harm things said_to_be it benevolent
處事合宜謂之義                  handle process fitting appropriate said_to_be it righteousness
進退周旋合於天理謂之禮  advance retreat thorough revolve fitting to heaven will said_to_be propriety
能别是非善惡謂之智          able differentiate yes no good evil said_to_be it wisdom
誠實不偽謂之信                   honesty truth not fake said_to_be it  trustworthiness
急人之難謂之俠                   urgent man [pp] hardship said_to_be it hero
是六者皆人之美德也           is six things all man [pp] beauty virtue [ep]

Those who cannot bear hurt the living are said to be benevolent; those able to handle things well and appropriately are said to be righteous; to be able to advance and retreat and socialize according to the laws of heavens socialize are said to have propriety; able to distinguish the right and the wrong; good and evil are known as the wise; having honesty and integrity are said to be trustworthy; to help those in danger are known as heroes.  These six qualities are man's good virtues!


A character can have a totally different meaning when it appears in a combined form.  In this passage, there are two such examples,

1. 周旋  = to mix with others; to socialize; to deal with; to contend
2. 是非 = right or wrong; quarrel; gossip; things that lead to misunderstanding of human relationships.

Lesson 72

一生問諸師曰 one student various teacher said
暑天每見犬     summer day every see dog
張口流沫         open mouth flow foam
何也?               why [ep]
犬之汗             dog [pp] sweat
不出皮膚         not out skin skin
而出於舌         and out from tongue

One student asked various teachers, "Why do dogs foam at the mouth during summer?"

[The teachers] replied, "This is the sweat of the dogs.  It does not come out from the skin but from its tongue."


Here is another category in which each character means the same thing but used as a compound.  The example here is皮膚.  Mandarin particularly likes to have such redundancy.  In true classical Chinese, one character usually suffices.

Lesson 73

古人云                ancient man say
天圓地方           heaven round earth square
其實不然           this truth not so
地浮於空氣中   earth float in empty air inside
形圓如球           shape round like ball
唯其體極大       only its body extremely huge
人不能覺圓也   man not able feel round [ep]

The ancients sayeth: "The Firmament is round and the Earth is squarish." The truth is not so.  The Earth floats within in the airless space.  Its shape is round like a ball.  Only because of its immense size that man does not feel is roundness.


In modern usage, 空氣 means the atmosphere.  In classical Chinese, it literally means "empty air" i.e.  the space/area without air!

Lesson 74

植物之枝葉     plant things [pp] branches leaves
動物之肺膚     moving things [pp] lung skin
皆有微孔          all have tiny hole
空氣時能出入 empty air time can exit enter

Leaves of plants and the lungs of animals all have microscopic holes so that air can enter and exit during breathing.

1.  In contrast to the previous lesson, 空氣 uses the modern meaning of air.  This shows that in classical Chinese, the context is extremely important to deduce the correct meaning!
2.  The original character in the book shows a variant form of.  Instead of a it has a 口 (mouth)

Lesson 75

動植物生時           moving plant things born time
空氣能入以養之   sky breath able enter to nurture it
動植物死時           moving plant things die time
空氣即入以敗之   sky breath then to enter corrupt it.

When animals and plants are born, air is able to enter to nurture them.  When they die, the air enters to corrupt the body.

Note: As you can see from the previous lessons, can have several meanings.  So it is difficult even when doing a word for word translation.  I have used different but appropriate ones as variably as I can.

Lesson 76

植物之花          plant things [pp] flowers
受睛天之烈日  subjected clear_weather sky [pp] intense sun
每於夜中發光  every at night middle emit light
其光由花中      its light from flower inside
所含電氣          that_which contain electrical energy
及花上之粉      and flower on [pp] powder
所致也              cause cause [ep]

Plant flowers subjected to the intensity of the sun in clear weather, from each night, it will emit light.  This light is caused by the electrical energy contained within the flowers and also because of the powdery substance on them.

Actually, means to keep something in the mouth without chewing, thus extended to mean contain.  For example, 含冤受屈 is translated as "silently to suffer wrongs of being falsely accused".  In actual fact, it means to have the "wrong" contained in the mouth without swallowing and suffer the accusation. 

Lesson 77

古語云           ancient words say
山川而能語   mountains rivers and able talk
葬師食無所   bury teacher eat no cause
肺腑而能語   lungs internal_organs and able talk
醫師色如土   doctor/heal teacher color like earth

Before translating, I would like to comment on this passage first.  Even with word for word translation, it is still very puzzling to the modern reader in trying to figure what all these means.  

This is a saying taken from the Classics, 山經 (The Mountain Classic) and 相冢書 (The Book of Physiognomy & Burial Mounds).  Here a 葬師 is a geomancer skilled in the art of Fengshui (風水).  (Teacher) is an honorific term for those skilled in such noble professions.  Ancient Chinese, like ancient Egyptians are obsessed with where and how one's grave should be for it will have effects on later generations.

Literal translation

Ancient words sayeth, "If mountains and rivers can speak, then geomancers have nothing to eat.  If lungs and other internal organs can talk, then the colors on the doctors will be like those of the earth."

Translation by meaning,

An old saying, "If mountains and rivers can speak, then geomancers will starve to death.  If lungs and other internal organs can talk, then what is there any use of having doctors?"

Lesson 78

有鳥自巢中出    have bird self nest inside out
兒呼父觀之        child call father see it
父曰                     father said
天初明                 day beginning bright
鳥必飛出覔食    bird must fly out seek food
鳥為食而飛        bird because food and fly
不飛必餓死矣    not fly must starve death alas.

There was a bird emerging from the nest.  The child called his father to see it.  The father said, "When dawn comes, birds have to fly to forage for food.  Because of this, it must fly.  If it does not fly, it will starve to death!"


can be used as a verb here as well.  If I had chosen this course, the translation will become, "… birds have to fly in order to eat. In order to eat, it must fly."

Lesson 79

鴨性喜水,          duck nature likes water
掌如葵扇           palm like sunflower fan
故能游水           thus able to swim water
喜羣而不喜獨   likes group and not like alone
其肉雖亞於雞   its meat although second to chicken
而亦適口也       and also appropriate mouth [ep]

The nature of ducks is water loving.  Its webbed feet are like a Chinese palm fan.  Thus it is able to swim.  It likes to be in a group and not in solitariness. Its meat, although second only in taste to chicken, is quite tasty too!


1.  Although   means sunflower.  It is not made from it.  It is the shape that looked like a sunflower to ancient Chinese.  Nevertheless, in English it is called a palm fan from its form.  Below is a picture.


2.  Of course this is debatable.  However, Chinese eat more chicken than duck because the chicken is more common in the south.  Even so this is a highly subjective taste.

Lesson 80

人世不能無統治者         man world not don't_have united govern thing/person
故史學家謂                     thus history learn person say
天開之始曰天皇氏         heaven open [pp] start called heaven emperor clan
地闢之始曰地皇氏         earth cultivate [pp] start called earth emperor clan
人生之始曰人皇氏         man life [pp] start called man emperor clan
以歷史上統治者之始也 thus undergo history top united govern person [pp] beginning [ep]

Literal translation:

The world cannot, not have someone governing it.  Thus historians quote, "In the beginning when heaven came into being, it was known as the clanship of the heavens.  When the earth began to be cultivated, it was known as the clanship of the earth and when in the dawn of mankind, it is known as the clanship of man.  Thus it is so the beginnings of governance!

Translation by meaning:

The world has always been governed.  When the heavens came into being, there was the Celestial Sovereign.  When the earth was cultivated, there was the Earthly Sovereign and when the dawning of the Age of Man, there was the Human Sovereign.  Thus it is so the beginnings of governance!


These three mythical emperors are known collectively as the Three Sovereigns (三皇).  After them came the Five Emperors (五帝).  For more information see,

Lesson 81

牛耕於野不勤 ox plough at field not diligent
牧童鞭之         to_herd boy whip it
牛曰                 ox said
吾甚苦             I much hardship
牧童曰             to_herd boy replied
智不若人         wisdom not like man
宜為人役         should thus_be man to_enserf

The ox was not ploughing the field hard enough.  The shepherd boy whipped it.  The ox replied, "My life is hard".  To which the shepherd boy replied, "Your wisdom is not great as man's.  Thus, enslaved to man".


1.  It can also be translated to "cow".  However, Chinese do not use them for ploughing or tilling of rice fields; only the male ones are used.  Thus eating of ox is a taboo food.  Cows can be eaten though not often as pork, no such taboo exists.

2.  Other meanings of are forced labor, corvée ,obligatory task, military service / to use as servant, servant (old),  war, campaign, battle…

Lesson 82

二童拋皮球       two children throw skin ball
甲童誤打乙童   first child mistakenly hit second child
面痛甚               surface_face pain much
甲童惶恐謝過   first child feared afraid apologize mistake
乙童以其無心   second child for_which him no heart
並無怒容           at_all  no anger  countenance

Two children were playing with a leather ball.  The first child mistakenly hit the second child in the face and was in great pain.  The first child was terrified and apologized profusely. However, the other knowing that it was not intentional, did not have anger at all.


1.  Old fashioned balls are made from leather.  Thus "skin" here means just that.

2.  is the first of the ten heavenly stems/branches and so can mean "number one", "the first" or in the same English usage of Roman numeral designating of "I", "II", "III".  For more information of the Ten Heavenly Stems and the Twelve Earthly Branches see,

Lesson 83

龜與兎賽步             tortoise and hare compete running
兎謂龜曰                 hare told tortoise said
我能躍                     I able leap
雖睡片時亦能及你 although sleep bit_classifier hour also able in_time_for you
既而睡熟及醒         thus and sleep deep and woke
龜而先至                  tortoise and first arrived

The tortoise and the hare were going to compete in a race.  The hare told the tortoise and said, "I can leap, even if I take an hour of sleep, I can still beat you."  Thus the hare slept soundly and woke up.  The tortoise had already reached [the finishing line]

Note: is a variant of .

Lesson 84

揭猪脬蒙鼓  lift pig bladder covered drum
叩之鼕鼕然  beat it dong dong (onomatopoeia) state
以其聲小      because it sound small
力擊之          strong attack it
皮破              skin breaks
自咎曰          self fault/blame say
鼓小聲小     drum small sound small
吾不量力     I not measure strength
以致此宜哉 use convey this appropriate alas

Pick up a drum that is made from pig's bladder and beating it will cause a "dong-dong" sound to be heard.  Because it is small, its sound is small.  Using greater strength to beat it, the skin broke.  I have to fault myself in that a small drum will have a small sound.  I did not know my strength well and to such an extent that alas, it happened appropriately so.

1. means to lift or pick up something that is covered.  Thus 揭開, "to lift and open", i.e. "to expose" something that can be secretive.

2.  As in Lesson 1 explaining the meaning of , this is another meaning, "covered".

3.  As a compound, 以致 means "to such an extent as to", "down to" or "up to". 

Lesson 85

甲兒以拳示人曰    "A" child with fists show people said
孰開此                      who open this
與以掌中錢             and from palm inside money
一兒力劈之開         one child strength split it open
無所有                     no all have
責甲兒狂言             blame "A" child crazy word
甲曰                         "A" said
汝誠貪乎                You honest greedy?
我特虛耳                I especially dishonest

Child A showed others with his clenched fist and said, "Whoever can pry open it, shall have the money in my palms."  Another child used all his strength to pry it open.  There was nothing in it and began to berate A child of his delirious utterances.  A said, "You, are you honest or greedy?  I am especially dishonest!"


1.  Here   is used to label things, like in English using "a", "b" "c", etc for subheadings.

2.  in this context does not mean virtual, non-reality.

Lesson 86

某兒晨起          one child morning up
聞鵲噪聲          heard magpie noise sound
問曰                  ask said
俗謂鵲噪報喜  custom say magpie noise announces bliss
信之有乎          believe it have?
父曰                  father said
吉凶之事          auspiciousness calamity [pp] matter
人尚不能先知  man yet not able before know
况鳥乎              moreover birds?

One child woke up in the morning. On hearing the magpies chirping nosily, he asked,

"Conventional wisdom says that when magpies make noises, it announces bliss.  Is it true?"

The father replied,

"Matters of fortune and calamity, man does not know beforehand.  So how could birds?"


This lesson as well as the previous one teaches how to use the interrogative particle .  Depending on the context, it can mean, "what", "how", "why" etc. The modern equivalent is 嗎.

Lesson 87

乙童見道傍桃實其美 B child saw path side peach fruit its beauty
謀採食                         plot/scheme pluck eat
甲童曰                         A child said.
桃有主不可採也         peach has master not can pluck! [ep]
乙曰                             A said
無知者                         no know the_one_who
甲曰                             A said
子知我知何謂無知    You know I know, how say not know

Child B,  saw on the roadside, a peach so delicious looking and plotted how to pluck it. [Child] A said,

"You cannot pluck it as it peach belongs to someone."

B said, "Nobody knows."

A replied, "You know, I know, how you can say no one knows!"


1.  here means "you" and not "son" or "master".

2.  Since I used delicious looking, I can omit the inference that the child is going to pluck and eat it.

Lesson 88

某兒自塾歸行急大汗  some child self private_school return walk hurriedly big sweat
至家欲脫衣且索冷水  arrive home wanted strip clothes moreover demand/ask cold water
父曰                              father said
兒且坐                          child for_time_being sit
汗自亁勿觧衣              sweat self dry no_need untie/loosen clothes
亦勿飲於冷水              also no_need drink from cold water
恐受寒也                      afraid suffer cold! [ep]

One child came home sweating profusely as he walked hurriedly from school. On entering, he wanted to strip off his clothes and asked for cold water.  The father said,

"Son, for the time being, just sit down.  Your sweat will automatically get dried, no need to loosen your clothes and don't drink any cold water.  I'm afraid you might catch a cold from drinking it."


1. See the notes on Lesson 1 and 39 for
2.  I don't think translation for for demand in this context is appropriate.
3. Note the differences between the characters, and .  The former means dry with a or component on the bottom left.  The other means celestial as in乾隆, Emperor Chien Lung or "The Bountiful of Heaven".  Many native Chinese do not know the difference!  Since it is difficult to see, even most modern dictionaries have these two characters lumped together as one and give it all the meanings.

Lesson 89

學課畢,                learn lesson done
先生學生動手     before born learn student move hand
齊作為大掃         together do for big sweep
除整清潔學堂     remove make clear pure learn hall
先生曰                 before born said
整理清潔吾人     make manage clear pure I man
最要之事也         most wanted [pp] matter! [ep]

When classes were over, teacher and students together began their big cleanup for their classroom.  The teacher said, "Cleaning is our most important task!"


1.  See Note 2 in Lesson 11

2.  Even in today, Japanese students clean the school toilet, classroom etc.  I don't know about China, Taiwan or Korea.  I believe it is a good practice to instill civic mindedness and not dirtying public places.

Lesson 90

凡動物之有紅血  all move things [pp] have red blood
有脊骨者              have back bone the_one_who
如鳥獸龜蛙之類  like bird animal tortoise frog [pp] kind/species
曰有脊動物          said/call have back move things
無紅血無脊骨者  no red blood no back bone the_one_who
如蚯蚓蜘蛛之類  like earthworm earthworm spider spider [pp] kind/species
曰無脊動物          said no bone move things.

All creatures that have red blood have backbone such as birds, mammals, tortoises or frogs.  They are known as vertebrates.  Those without red blood and backbones like earthworms or spiders are known as invertebrates.

1.  動物, things that can move are known as animals.  is usually translated as "beast".  However, in this context, in my opinion it is better to translate it as "mammals".

2.  Certain compound Chinese words cannot be broken up either because they mean the same or does not appear in another combination.  Other examples include 葡萄 (grape), 蝴蝶 (butterfly), (cricket)…

3. It is more natural than translating as "Species such earthworms, spiders…" or "earthworms, spiders and the like…"

Lesson 91

試以手按犬馬飛禽之身 try with hand press dog horse flying creature [pp] body
則覺其溫煖若是者         then feel its warm warmth if like the_one_who
曰溫血動物                     say warm blood moving thing
以手按魚蛇蛙蟆之身     with hand press fish snake frog toad [pp] body
則覺其寒冷若是者         then feel its cold cold like has the_one_who
曰冷動物.                        say  cold moving thing
此二類皆屬於                 this two kinds all consider from
有脊者也                         have back/spine the_one_who! [ep]

Try using the hand to touch the body of a dog, a horse or a bird, you will feel its heat.  Such warmth-like are called hot-blooded creatures.  Using the hand to touch a fish, a snake, a frog or a toad, then you will feel its coolness.  Such cool-like creatures are known as cold-blooded.  However, both these two kinds are considered as vertebrates.

Lesson 92

天下共有六大洲  Heaven under together have six large continents.
曰亞細亞洲          call Asia
曰歐羅巴洲          call Europa
曰阿非利加洲      call Africa
曰北阿美利加洲  call north America
曰南阿美利加洲  call south America
曰澳大利亞洲      call Australia
澳洲又曰大洋洲  Australia also call big ocean continent.

In the world, there are six continents, called Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America and Australia which is also known as the Great Ocean Continent.

I did not bother to give the literal translation of each character this time because they are transliterated sound in English with the exception of Europe.  Europe is named after Europa, a Greek mythological figure.  She was the love of Zeus who seduced her by becoming a magnificent bull and tricking her to climb on his back.  While in their tryst, Zeus' wife, Hera came barging.  The surprised Zeus turned Europa into a heifer.  However, Hera was not fooled but feigned ignorance and asked for the beautiful Heifer as a present.  Once she had the creature, she sent it away to wander with a gnat bothering her to such an extent that she became mad.  Finally after several years, she was freed from the madness and returned to her true form.  The place where she landed was named in her honour - Europe.

Lesson 93

地球之上有五大洋 ground/earth ball [pp] up has five great oceans
曰太平洋                 call grand calm ocean
曰大西洋                 call great west ocean
曰印度洋                 call India ocean
曰北氷洋                 call north ice ocean
曰南氷洋                 call south ice ocean

On Earth, there are five great oceans, called the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and the Antarctic.


1.  is a variant of .

2. Pacific means peaceful or tranquil.  Magellan had the good fortune of good circumnavigating it which for most part of the year has violent storms.  However, Atlantic does not mean "Great Western Ocean".  It is named after the Greek mythological giant, Atlas.  Arctic comes from Greek meaning "bear" in reference to the Ursa Major Constellation in the north.  Antarctic means opposite of "arctic".  These oceans are known as 北極洋and 南極洋 = terminating point.

Lesson 94
東方初無君長            east side at_first no lord leader
有神人王儉                has god man Wang Geom
降於太白山檀木下    descended at grand white mountain sandalwood tree under
國人立以為君            country man establish thus become lord/king
與唐堯並立國            with Tang Yao together establish country
號朝鮮                        called morning brightness
是為檀君朝鮮            has become sandalwood lord/king morning brightness

In the beginning, there was no sovereign in the Eastern lands.  A celestial being descended onto Mt. Taebaek and was born under a sandalwood tree.  Together with Emperor Tang Yao, they established a kingdom called the land, Chosun.  Thus he became the Sandalwood Ruler of Chosun.


1.  Since this is a Korean book on its history, I tried to use Korean names as I can find on the internet.  Another reason is that for example, there is another 太白山 in China. Thus using the Korean name implicitly refers to the one in Korea.  太白 (supreme whiteness) is also known as the Star or Planet of Venus.  For example, 太白金星 (the Golden Supreme White Star).  It is also the name of the God governing this star.  China's greatest poem, Li Po has the same name.  It was rumoured that his mother on giving birth to him, dreamt that the Star of Venus descended into her womb.

2.  東方 usually is translated as the "orient".  However, here it refers to the eastern lands and nothing more.

3.  Wanggeom is considered by Koreans to be the founder of their race and country.

4. Tang Yao is one of the Five Sovereigns of mythical times.

Lesson 95

花木之類曰植物             Flower tree [pp] kind call plant (verb) thing
鳥獸虫魚之類曰動物     bird beast insect fish [pp] kind call move thing
金石銅鉄之類曰礦物     gold, stone, copper iron [pp] call mineral thing
礦是固體而水亦屬礦物 mineral is solid body but water also considered mineral thing

Things like flowers and trees are called plants.  Things like birds, beasts, insects and fish are called animals.  Things like gold, stone, copper and iron are known as minerals.  The bodies of minerals are solid but water is considered is a mineral.


1.  植物 is literally translated as things that can be planted.  Hence plants.  Same for "things that can move", i.e. animals and "things from the ground or things that can be mined", i.e. minerals, ore etc.

2.  can also be translated as either gold or metal.  can be copper or bronze.  I used "gold" and "copper" here because of "iron", an element.  Of course stone is not an element.

3.  There are many meanings of such as "and",  "as well as",  "and so", "but (not)",  "yet (not)",  indicating causal relation,  indicating change of state or indicating contrast.

Lesson 96

植物有生气而無知者也   plant thing have raw breath but no know the_thing_that [ep]
動物有生气有知覺者也   move thing have raw breath has know feeling the_thing_that [ep]
礦物無生氣無知覺者也   mineral thing no raw breath no know feeling the_thing that [ep]

Plants are things that can breathe but has no consciousness! Animals are things that have breath and have consciousness!  Minerals are things with no breath or awareness!


1.  Plants do not have breath but can breathe.  Hence subtleties in the target language must be observed during translation.

2.  I used "awareness" just to break the monotony of having using so many "consciousness".

Lesson 97
胃腸曰消化器            stomach intestine call eliminate transform apparatus
肺與气管曰呼吸器    lung and air tubes call breathe suck apparatus
腎與膀胱曰排泄器     kidney and bladder bladder call elimination drainage apparatus
腦筋與血管曰循環器 brain sinew and blood tubes call follow loop apparatus
耳目口鼻皮膚曰感覺器 ear eye mouth nose skin skin call feel awareness apparatus

The stomach and intestines are known as the digestive organs.  The lungs and the windpipe are known as the respiratory organs.  The kidney and the bladder are the urinary organs.  The brain with all its veins and arteries are known as the circulatory organs.  The ears, eyes, mouth, nose and skin are known as the sensory organs.

Lesson 98

eliminate transform apparatus eliminate transform apparatus eat things the_one_who [ep]
breath suck apparatus breath suck sky air the_one_who [ep]
elimination drainage apparatus let_go abandon waste material the_one_who [ep]
follow loop apparatus follow loop blood liquid the_one_who [ep]
feel awareness apparatus have sight hearing smell taste touch feel [pp] able_to the_one_who [ep]

The digestive organs digest food. The respiratory system is used for breathing.  The urinary organs are to rid of body wastes.  The circulatory system is used to circulate blood.  The sensory organs have the ability to see, to hear, to taste and to touch.


I have taken a more natural approach in translating the passage.  For example, the translation of the first line is closer to the original: "The digestive organs are THE THINGS that do digestion" or "The digestive organs are THE THINGS that digest food".

Lesson 99

我國十三道              my country ten three provinces
以京畿道為中央     with capital area_around_the_capital province as middle center
外有江原道曰關東 outside have rivers pasture province called fortress east
忠清南北道               loyalty pure south north province
全羅南北道               complete silk south north province
慶尚南北道               celebrate esteem south north province
曰三南                       known three south
黃海道                       yellow sea province
平安南北道              flat peace south north province
曰兩西                       known as two west
咸鏡南北道曰關北 complete/harmonious brilliance south north known fortress north

My country has thirteen provinces with the capital as the central.  Outside of it is the Gangwon Province, also known as the Province of Kwandong.  The north and south provinces of Chungcheong; the north and south provinces of Jeolla; the north and south provinces of Gyeongsang;  these are known as the Three South. The provinces of Hwanghae and Pyongan are known as the Two West.  The north and south provinces of Hamgyeong are known as Rason.


1.  In this case, imperial Korea.

2.  Here the translation (noun) is very tricky!  During the Tang Dynasty, it is equivalent to a province.  However, in Ming and Ch'ing dynasties, it is used for something this is just below that of a province status.  Korea and Japan retain the province meaning since Chinese culture was heavily imported during the Tang period.

3. 關東 (Fortress East)  Kwandong (Korean), Guandong (Chinese) Kanto (Japanese) as each country has its regions with the same name.
江原 (Original River)           Gangwon (South Korea) Kangwon (North Korea)
忠清 (Pure loyalty)               Chungcheong
全羅(All Collecting)             Jeolla             
慶尚(Esteem Celebration)    Gyeongsang      
黃海(Yellow Sea)                 Hwanghae          
平安(Peace)                          Pyongan
咸鏡(Complete Brilliance)   Hamgyeong
 關北 (Fortress North)          Rason

I guess Gangwon is the place since the capital is in the south during Imperial Korea.  As of the time the book was printed, the original eight traditional Chosun provinces  were replaced with three of the original ones and the remaining five subdivided into two.

Lesson 100

日暮散學                    Day dusk scatter school
兄與二弟                    elder_brother and two younger_brother
出門遊玩                    out door wander play
見一黃牛卧於田中    saw one yellow ox lying at field middle
弟曰異哉                    younger brother said strange [exclamation particle]
此馬有角                    this horse has horn
兄曰非馬也                older brother said, not horse [ep]
牛也                            cow [ep]

Everyday when school is out, the older brother and his second younger brother went out to play.  They saw a yellow ox lying in the middle of the field.  The younger brother exclaimed, "How strange!  This horse has horns!".  The older brother corrected, "This is not a horse! But a cow!"


1.  日暮 can mean "dusk". I don't think school is this late.  In classical usage and in poems, the other meaning is most often used.

2.  二弟 can also mean two younger brothers.  However, later in the passage we know that this is not the case.  What second younger brother means here is that he is the second in the family.  Here denotes his rank in the family and does not imply that he is the second brother defined in terms of the older brother.  Chinese traditions consider the family as the first and foremost unit and not in terms of its individuals.

3.  See Lesson 81, Note #1

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