Sunday, August 27, 2017

A poem by Du fu

In Jakdan's fifth fascicle, he has a translation of a poem by Du Fu, for which he gives the title as Qingjiang (清江). Since Stephen Owen has recently made a complete translation of all of Du fu's poetry freely available, I thought it would be interesting to compare Jakdan and Owen's translations. The same poem is found in Owen, vol. 2, book 9, poem 9.30 (under the title 江村). I won't include Owen's text here since it doesn't belong to me, but it is easy to find.

First, there are a few textual differences between the Chinese text in Jakdan and that in Owen. Here are the two poems, side-by-side:

Owen 9.30Jakdan 5.7



For his translation, Jakdan has chosen an en rhyme, which means the rhyming lines must end in -en, -in, -un, -ūn. He has also followed the same AAxA-xAxA rhyme scheme as Du Fu, though in the third line he has an accidental rhyme (cibin) that was probably unavoidable. Lastly, he has translated each line as seven Manchu words, reflecting the seven characters per line of the original.

Here is Jakdan's Manchu translation:

cing giyang ula

cing giyang-ni emu mudanggai tokso erguwere eyen,(Rhyme)
ula toksoi sidaraka juwari-i baita anan-i elehun,(Rhyme)
cihai deyenere cihai donjirengge daibu-i dergi cibin,(Accidental rhyme)
sasa halanjire sasa halanarangge musei dorgi kilahūn,(Rhyme)
sakda sargan hoošan jijurengge tonio tonikū-i muru,
ajige juse ulme dabtarangge welmiyere dehe-i efin,(Rhyme)
nimeku hūsibuhai baiburengge damu okto hacin dabala,
ser sere beyeci tulgiyen geli ai erecun.(Rhyme)

I think the en rhyme must have been a particularly challenging rhyme for Manchu poets because no Manchu finite verb forms end in -n. This forces every rhyming line to end in a noun or adjective, limiting the poet to an extremely narrow set of possible phrase types.

It also poses a challenge for the translator from Manchu, as you might see below in my very literal translation from Jakdan:

The Qingjiang River

A winding bend of the Qingjiang river, which flows around a village,

The events that unfold at the river and village each summer are continuously peaceful,
Those which come and go freely flying are the swallows above the oars,
Those which come and go trading places with us are our own gulls,
What the old lady draws on the paper is the shape of a chess board,
The children hammering on needles, a game of fishhooks,
Other than the kind of medicine that is sought by those who are sick,
Aside from this slight body, what could one expect?

Owen's translation and Jakdan's are generally fairly close, aside from the re-phrasing that Jakdan had to undertake to use the en rhyme. Obviously textual differences lead to differences in translation, so Owen's swallows are "in the hall" but Jakdan's are "over the oars", and the seventh line is completely different.

There are a few interesting oddities about Jakdan's text that bear mentioning, and I'm not sure what they say about Jakdan's process of translation.

1. Clearly, from the Chinese text, the swallows should come and go flying. In Manchu they certainly go flying (deyenere), but instead of coming flying they "listen" (donjire). Is this donjire just a mistake for *deyenjire, "come flying"? Or is this an intentional play on words on Jakdan's part, to inject a new meaning into the translation that was not present in the original?

2. From the Chinese text, the swallows are above the oars (桨), but the word used in the Manchu text is one I have not been able to identify: daibu. I am not sure what the origin of this word is, so I am not entirely sure about the meaning.

3. In the Chinese text, the children of the village very clearly tap on needles to make fishhooks. In Jakdan's Manchu, this is a game (efin), but the word efin sounds a bit like a synonym for needle, ifin.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Jakdan Remembers his Nephews

Jakdan wrote this note at the beginning of the first fascicle of Jabduha ucuri amtanggai baita. It gives you some insight into what it took to publish a Manchu book in early 19th century China.


kemuni gūnici, abkai fejergi-i baita, dembei mangga bime dule ja ningge bi seci, ja waka bime mangga akū ningge inu bi.Often, when I think that things in this world must reach the extremity of hardship before they become easy, they turn out not to be easy but not really so difficult either.

adarame seci, dembei manggangge tacin-i hūsun inu, ja wakangge, ulin-i hūsun inu juwe hacin gemu mangga bime, emu erinde yongkiyabuki seci, udu nokai ja ningge waka secibe, inu tere niyalma-i nashūn ucaran-i antaka be tuwara dabala.

For example, something that is exceedingly difficult is academic effort, and something that is not easy is having financial resources. But while each of these is difficult, and it is not at all easy to achieve them both simultaneously, consider the opportunity that it presents to a person.

mini beye tušan ci nakaha amala, jabšande KUN YA siyan šeng be ucarabufi, gūnin mujin uhei acabume, tuweri juwari seme giyalabun akū, lii lii ung ni julgei šu fiyelen be pileme oyonggo babe tucibuhe geren bithe be, ubaliyambufi acabume šanggafi, emgeri faksi de folobuha be tuwaci, maka dembei mangga bime dule ja ningge waka semeo?

After I myself retired, by good fortune I met Mr. Kun Ya (崑崖), and finding ourselves to be of like minds we worked winter and summer without a break, translating and compiling the texts identified as important classical works by Li Li Weng (李笠翁). We completed that, and once I saw [the printing blocks] carved by the craftsmen, I wondered, is this something that is extremely difficult but easy in the end?
te geli irgebun ucun juru gisun be, acabufi sarkiyame wajihabi.

Now again we have completed this draft compilation of poems, songs and couplets.
jing untuhun folome šuwaselara hūsun akū-i jalin jobošome(?) bisirede, mini banjiha jalahi jui sunglin ho ting, sungh'eo, yūn kiyoo, meimeni emte tanggū yan menggun be alibume jafafi, bithe foloro fayabun obuha be tuwaci, ere geli ja waka bime mangga akū ningge nikai!

Just as I was worrying about the fact that we lacked the resources to carve it for printing, my nephews Songlin He Ting (松林鶴汀), Songhe (松鶴) and Yun Qiao (雲翹) each put up a hundred taels of silver, and when the expenses for carving had been met, this again was not easy and yet without difficulty!
juwe manggangge emu erinde yongkiyaha be dahame, terei nashūn ucaran-i jabšan ohongge, yala antaka ni!

Since the two difficult things were accomplished simultaneously, the situation turned into a fortunate opportunity. How about that!
banjiha haji niyalma-i turgunde, ceni hoo hio sere yabun be burubuha be jenderakū ofi, tuttu iletuleme tucibufi ejehebi.I cannot bear to let the magnanimous actions of my dear relatives disappear without a trace, so in this way I have publicly commemorated them.