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Thread: DOMD Translation

  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    Aug 2004

    Default DOMD Translation


    So, as most everyone knows, Minford has a translation of DOMD out. It's (IMO) rather poorly translated, and only book 1 of 3 is actually available. The other 2 books are basically ridiculously overpriced (100 dollars +), and even book 1 is around 50 dollars. This is... basically unacceptable. I'm sure Minford isn't even seeing close to that amount, so I have no idea where the money is going. But 250+ dollars for a single novel is ridiculous.

    Book 1 is readily available off Amazon. Buy that to support him. That's more than enough money for the novel (most novels are 10 dollars... 250? no way). Book 2, as far as I can tell, is completely off the radar. I couldn't find a single decent copy (I'm not paying 140 dollars for some used copy). So, I only have Book 3 (which is fine, at least we have a conclusion).

    Now, I don't like his translation, not one bit. So here's what I can do, if the mods don't shut it down.

    I'll post the translation bit by bit, edited so that it's "readable" by people familiar with Jin Yong and Wuxia. The updates will be regular and speedy. Further, as soon as the book is actually available for purchase, I'm more than willing to take down all the translations. Finally, since I will be making significant edits, I don't really see the problem of posting it.


    Let me know in the next 24 hours or so, and if nobody complains or no mod whispers me, I'll start posting. Otherwise, I'll just read the poorly translated crap by myself. Satrap Wu? Really?

    I haven't finished reading through yet, but I THINK I found the Minford book #2.

    We have a couple of options now:
    Edit (heavily edit, change almost everything) Minford's translation from beginning to end. This will avoid any copyright issues since my revised translation will look almost nothing like his. I'd be aiming for a more "casual" tone in the writing. Jin Yong is not meant to be an academic work (if anything, the language is rather vulgar), but Minford makes reading it a chore. What a bore.
    2. Figure out where book #2 starts and do speed edits of book 2 and 3 (maybe 5-10x faster than plan 1). Note, Minford is REALLY REALLY boring. Like... really really really. I'd rather rewrite it myself than read his work. Not saying he isn't a distinguished scholar (he is), but he's a white guy. His tone is just totally wrong.
    3. Still can't find book 2 (possible, but I think I have it, the source material is just a pain in the butt to winnow through), just do Book 3 (fastest) (2x faster than plan #2).

    Obviously, I don't have any experience editing Chinese translations. However, DOMD is probably the "best" thematically of JY's works, and I want to do it justice. Consequently, any supporting editors to catch my errors (there will be many) would be appreciated. Its summer right now, and I plan to finish at least 1 book by summer's end (at the very least). This may be optimistic, but at least 5-10 pages of typed text should be edited/rewritten per day (it's easy since I don't have to actively translate the Chinese myself unless absolutely necessary).

    Ok that was long.
    Last edited by HuntingX; 07-02-08 at 02:12 AM.

  2. #2
    Junior Member HeYanFeng's Avatar
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    Jun 2008
    Chicago, IL


    Please do. I don't have access to the chinese texts and my chinese is piss-poor beyond those words I learned from songs

    If you need any help with the wordings please don't hesitate to shoot me a pm or something.
    Last edited by HeYanFeng; 07-02-08 at 05:23 PM.

  3. #3
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    Deer and Cauldron

    Based on Minford’s studious research and core translation in:
    The Deer and the Cauldron

    Thanks to:
    for various resources vital to this editing/translation effort.

    As explained earlier, had the translation been done in accordance with “Asian” feel and the price reasonable ($280 by my last calculation for all 3), I would not have bothered. I also can’t just post a rip of his translation, as that is quite illegal. So I’ve taken the middle road, and done a comprehensive edit of his work. Many of the sentences I found awkward are rewritten. Minford’s prose is needlessly flowery and complicated; this is changed. His unorthodox names and symbolisms are changed to the “standard” ones. Many of his sentences are quite smooth and well written; these of course are left as is. Some of his name choice for main characters is horrible. The biggest examples are:
    Trinket = Wei Xiaobao
    Laurie = Xiao Gui Zi
    Satrap Wu = Wu San Gui

    Clearly, such nonsense will be taken care of.

    Other times, he mistranslates organizations or otherwise

    Two large examples of this are:
    Jianghu = Rivers and Lakes Society
    Heaven and Earth Society = Triads (????)
    I could also use Tian Di Hui, but many American readers would get confused by that. Translating that as Triads is just really bad in any event.

    Without further bullcrap from me, here we go:

    DOMD, Chapter 1, Part 1

    Along a coastal road somewhere south of the Yangtze River, a detachment of soldiers, each of them armed with a halberd, was escorting a line of seven prison carts, trudging northwards in a bitter wind. In each of the first three carts sat a single caged scholar; two middle aged, one already old. The four rear carts were occupied by women, the last of them by a young mother holding a baby girl at her breast. Despite the mother’s best efforts, the baby could not help but emit a despairing wail. One of the soldiers marching alongside, irritated by the baby's crying, violently kicked the cart shouting: ‘You little brat, if you don’t stop crying we’ll see what happens to you!’ The baby, startled by this sudden violence, cried even louder.

    Under a large house, some distance away from the road, a middle-aged scholar was standing with a young boy at his side. He was evidently affected by this little scene, for a groan escaped his lips and he appeared to be very close to tears. 'Poor things!' he murmured to himself.

    'Papa,' said the little boy, 'what have they done wrong?' 'What indeed!' said the man, 'During these last two days, they must have made more than thirty arrests. All of them were are best scholars, and none guilty of the crimes charged,' he added in an undertone, for fear that the soldiers might hear him.

    ‘But they captured a baby girl!,' said the boy. 'What can she possibly be guilty of? It's wrong.'

    'So you understand that what the Government soldiers do is wrong,' said the man. 'Good for you, my son!' He sighed. ‘They are the cleaver and we are the meat. They are the cauldron and we are the deer.' 

    Ok my first sidebar. These will obviously be deleted as we continue editing the translation.

    I really dislike the title Deer and the Cauldron. Anyone have a better idea? PM or post what you think. If nothing good comes out, we’ll stick with it I guess.

    'You explained the first phrase the other day, papa,' said the boy. 'It's what they say when people are massacred or beheaded; like meat or fish being sliced up on the chopping-board. Does ‘they are the cauldron and we are the deer’ mean the same thing?'

    ‘Basically,' said the man. 'Let's go indoors now, it's too windy to be standing outside.' As he spoke, the column had already receded into the horizon.

    The man picked up a writing-brush and moistened it on the ink-slab, then, on a sheet of paper, he wrote the character for a deer. 'The deer is a wild animal, but although it is comparatively large, it has a very peaceable nature. It eats only grass and leaves and never harms other animals. So when other animals want to hurt it or to eat it, all it can do is run away. If it can't escape by running away, it gets eaten.' He wrote the characters for 'chasing the deer' on the sheet of paper. 'That's why in ancient times they often used the deer as a symbol of Empire. The common people, who are the subjects of Empire, are gentle and obedient. Like the deer's, it’s their fate to be oppressed. During the Han Dynasty, it was written that "Qin lost the deer and the world went chasing after it;’ in other words when the Qin Emperor lost control of the Empire, it created a power vacuum that endless warlords sought to fill. In the end it was the first Han Emperor who got this deer by defeating the Xichu Bawan.'  Should I use that?

    'I know,' said the boy. 'In my story-books it says "they chased the deer on the Central Plains". That means they were all fighting each other to become the Emperor.'

    The scholar nodded, pleased with his young son's astuteness. He drew a picture of a cauldron on the sheet of paper. 'In olden times they didn't use a cooking-pot but rather a three-legged cauldron and lit a fire underneath. Thus, deer would be cooked in such a cauldron. Many ancient Emperors were hardly enlightened; it was not uncommon to fabricate charges against loyal officials and punish the “crimes” by boiling them alive. In one record, Lin Xiangru says to Qin Shihuan, "Deceiving Your Majesty was a capital offence. I beg the cauldron." What he meant was, "I deserve to die. Put me in the cauldron and boil me."'

    'Often in my story-books I've seen the words "asking about the cauldrons in the Central Plain",' said the boy. 'It seems to mean the same thing as "chasing the deer in the Central Plain".'

    'It does,' said the man. 'King Yu of the Xia dynasty (the first dynasty of China), collected metal from all nine provinces of the Empire and used it to cast nine great cauldrons. "Metal" in those days meant bronze. Each of these bronze cauldrons had the name of one of the nine provinces on it and a map showing the mountains and rivers of that province. In later times whoever became master of the Empire automatically became the guardian of these cauldrons. In the Chronicle of Zuo, it states that when the Viscount of Chu was reviewing his troops on Zhou territory, the Zhou king sent Prince Man to him with his royal compliments, and the Viscount questioned Prince Man about the size and weight of the cauldrons. Of course, as ruler of the whole Empire, only the Zhou king had the right to be guardian of the cauldrons. For a mere Viscount like the ruler of Chu to ask questions about them showed that he was planning to seize the Empire for himself.'

    'So "asking about the cauldrons" and "chasing the deer" both mean wanting to be Emperor, ' said the boy. 'And "not knowing who will kill the deer" means not knowing who is going to be Emperor.'

    'That's right,' said the man. 'As time went by these expressions came to be applied to other situations as well, but originally they were only used in the sense of wanting to be Emperor.' He sighed. 'For the common people, the subjects of Empire, our role is to be the deer. It may be uncertain who will kill the deer, but the deer will get killed nonetheless. On the second point, there's no uncertainty.'

    *** Editor’s Sidebar ***

    I’m really bad with Chinese folk sayings. Anyone with a copy of DOMD open want to help out a bit? I’m basically just using Minford’s translation for this stuff, since I’m not confident in what I can write myself.

    ***End Sidebar****

    He walked over to the window and gazed outside: the sky had now turned a bleak and snow was on its way. He sighed again, 'He must be a cruel God up there. There will be hundreds of poor peasants under that freezing sky. Haven’t they suffered enough?'

    Two figures caught his eye, moving along the highway to the south. They walked close together, side by side, wearing straw hats and rain-capes. As they drew nearer, he recognized them with a cry of pleasure. 'It's Uncle Huang and Uncle Gu,' he said to the boy as he hurried out to greet them. 'Zongxi, Yanwu, what brings you here?'

    The one he addressed as 'Zongxi' was a somewhat portly man with a plentiful beard covering the lower half of his face. His full name was Huang Zongxi and he, like his host, was a man of the Zhe-jiang Province. The other one, a tall thin man with a dark complexion, was Gu Yanwu, a native of Kunshan in the Jiangsu Province. Huang Zongxi and Gu Yanwu were two of the foremost scholars of their day. Both of them, from patriotic motives, had gone into retirement when the Ming Empire collapsed, being unwilling to take office under a foreign power. Gu Yanwu drew a little closer before replying. 'Liuliang, we have something serious to discuss with you. That's what brings us here today.'

    Lu Liuliang was our speaker’s name: his family had lived for generations in Chongde, a prefecture in the Hangzhou district of Zhejiang Province. Like Huang Zongxi and Gu Yanwu, he is an historical personage, famous among those Southern gentlemen who, during the last days of the Ming dynasty and the early days of the Manchu conquest, buried themselves away on their estates and refused to take part in public life. Lu Liuliang observed the grave expression on his visitors' faces. Knowing how astute was Gu Yanwu's political judgement, he realized that what the latter had referred to as 'something serious' must be important indeed. With clasped hands and bowed head, he said 'Come inside. Drink a few cups of wine first, to warm yourselves.' As he ushered them into the study, he gave an order to the boy. 'Baozhong, tell your mother that Uncle Huang and Uncle Gu are here. Ask her to prepare some goat meat to go with our wine.'

    In a minute or two the boy came in again, accompanied by his younger brother. They were carrying three sets of chopsticks and wine-cups which they laid on the study table. An old servant followed them carrying a wine-kettle and some plates of cold meat. Lu Liuliang waited until the two boys and the servant were outside the room and closed the door. 'Come, my friends, ' he said. 'Wine first.'

    Huang Zongxi declined gloomily with a brief shake of the head, but Gu Yanwu, helping himself unceremoniously from the wine-kettle, downed half a dozen shots in quick succession.

    'I suppose your visit has something to do with this Ming History business, ' said Lu Liuliang. 'Precisely, ' said Huang Zongxi. Gu Yanwu raised his wine-cup and started reciting a couplet: ‘The cool wind sways not me, howe'er it blow; For me the bright moon still shines everywhere. That's a splendid couplet of yours, Liuliang, ' he said. 'Whenever I drink wine now, I have to recite it. ', all the while flourishing his wine cup.

    In spite of Lu Liuliang's patriotic unwillingness to serve, a local official, impressed by what he had heard of Lu's reputation, had once sought to recommend him as a 'hidden talent' and a summons to the Manchu Court for employment; but Lu had made it clear that he would die rather than accept such a traitorous officialship, and the matter had been dropped. Some time later, however, when another high-ranking official sent forward his name as a 'distinguished scholar of exceptional merit', Lu realized that his continued refusal would be construed by the Court as an open slight, with fatal consequences. Accordingly he left the public world behind and became a monk in name only; this act convinced the Manchu officials of his determination and they ceased urging him to come out of his retirement.

    Gu Yanwu's enthusiasm for Lu's somewhat mediocre couplet sprang from the fact that it contained a hidden message. In Chinese the word for 'cool' is qing (the word chosen by the Manchus for their new 'Chinese' dynasty) and the word for 'bright' is ming (the name of the old Chinese dynasty they had supplanted). So the couplet Gu had recited could be understood to mean: The Qing wind sways not me, how e'er it blow; For me the Ming moon still shines everywhere. In other words, 'I will never bow to the Manchus, whatever their threats. I shall always remain a loyal subject of Great Ming.' Although the poem in which these lines occurred could not be published, all scholars were well familiar with their meaning. Huang, hearing them recited by Gu, responded to the challenge by raising a wine-cup in homage. 'Yes, it is a very good poem,' he said, and drained it in a single a gulp. ‘Thank you both, but it doesn't deserve your praise,' responded Lu Liuliang.

    Chancing to glance upwards at that moment, Gu Yanwu found his attention caught by a large painting which was hanging on one of the walls. It must have measured almost four feet from top to bottom and well over three yards horizontally. It was a landscape, so magnificently conceived and boldly executed that he could not help but utter a cry of admiration. The sole inscription on this enormous painting was the phrase ‘This Lovely Land' written in very large characters at the top. 'From the brushwork I should say this must be Erzhan's work,' he said. '

    You are absolutely right,' said Lu. This Erzhan's real name was Zha Shibiao. He was a well-known painter in the late Ming, early Manchu period and a good friend of the three men present. 'How is it that so fine a painting lacks a signature?' said Huang. Lu sighed. ‘The painting had a message, ' he said. 'But you know what a stern, careful person Erzhan is. He wouldn't sign it and he wouldn't write any inscription. He painted it for me on a sudden impulse when he was staying with me a month or so ago. Why don't you two write a few lines on it?'

    Gu and Huang got up and went over to examine the painting more closely. It was a picture of the Yangtze rolling majestically eastwards between innumerable peaks, with a suitable garnish of gnarled pines and strange rocks: a very beautiful landscape were it not for the all-pervading mist and cloud which seemed calculated to create a feeling of gloom in anyone looking at it.

    'This lovely land under the heel of the barbarian!' said Gu Yanwu. 'And we have to swallow our humiliation and go on living in it. It makes my blood boil. Why don't you do an inscription, Liuliang—a poem that will give voice to what Erzhan had in mind to say?'

    'Very well,' said Lu Liuliang, and he took the huge scroll carefully down from the wall and spread it out on the desk, while Huang Zongxi set about grinding him some ink. He picked up a writing-brush and for some minutes could be observed talking to himself. Then, writing straight on to the painting and with few pauses, he quickly completed the following poem:

    Is this the same of Great Song's south retreat,
    This lovely land that hides its face in shame?
    Or is it after Mount Yai's fateful leap?
    This lovely land then scarce dared breathe its name.
    Now that I seem to read the painter's mind,
    My bitter teardrops match his drizzling rain.
    Past woes I see reborn in present time:
    This draws the groans that no gag can restrain.
    Methinks the painter used poor Gaoyu's tears
    To mix his colours and his brush to wet.
    'This Lovely Land' was commentary enough;
    No need was there for other words to fret.
    The blind would see, the lame would walk again,
    Could we but bring, back Hong Wu's glorious days.
    With what wild joy we'd look down from each height
    And see the landscape free of mist and haze!

    Finished, he threw the brush to the floor and burst into tears.

    'It says all there is to say, ' said Gu Yanwu. ‘Masterful!' 'It lacks subtlety, ' said Lu. 'In no way could you call it a good poem. I merely wanted to put Erzhan's original idea into writing so that anyone looking at the picture in days to come will know what it is about.' 'When China does eventually emerge from this time of darkness, ' said Huang, 'we shall indeed "see the landscape free of mist and haze". When that time comes, we shall gaze at even the poorest, meanest, most barren landscape with a feeling of joy. Then, indeed, we shall look down with "wild joy . . . from each height"!' 'Your conclusion is excellent, ' said Gu. 'When we do eventually rid our country of this foreign scum, the feeling of relief will be infinitely greater than the mixed pleasure we get from occasionally uncorking our feelings as we do now.'

    Huang carefully rolled up the painting. 'You won't be able to hang this up anymore Liuliang, ' he said. 'You'd best put it away somewhere safe. If some evil person like Wu Zhirong were to set eyes on it, you'd soon have the authorities asking questions and the consequences could be serious not only for you but probably for Erzhan as well.'

    ***Editor’s Note***

    I didn’t notice this on first inspection, but Minford randomly uses casual speech interspersed with formal speech. I have two options as I can see it. One is to use formal speech when scholars are talking and informal everywhere else. The second is just informal everywhere. I really don’t think that Jin Yong ever uses “formal” speech like we would in English besides the “Court Speech” which is hardly formal in our language. What does everyone think?
    *End Editor’s Note***

    ‘That vermin Wu Zhirong!' said Gu Yanwu, smiting the desk with his hand. 'I could tear his flesh off with my teeth!'

    'You said when you came that you had something serious to discuss with me, ' said Lu, 'yet here we are, like typical scholars, wasting our time on poetry and painting instead of attending to business. What brought you here?'

    'It has to do with Erzhan's kinsman Yihuang, ' said Huang. The day before yesterday Gu and I learned that he has now been named in connection with the Ming History affair.' 'Yihuang?' said Lu. 'You mean he's been dragged into it too?'

    'I'm afraid so, ' said Huang. 'As soon as we heard, the two of us hurried as quickly as we could to his home in Yuanhua Town, but we were a step too late. They said he'd gone off to visit a friend. In view of the urgency, Yanwu advised the family to make their getaway as soon as it was dark. Then, remembering that Yihuang was a good friend of yours, we thought we'd come and look for him here. '

    'No, ' said Lu, 'no, he's not here. I don't know where he could have gone.'

    'If he had been here, he would have shown himself by now, ' said Gu. 'I left a poem for him on his study wall. If he goes back home, he will understand when he reads the poem that he is to go and hide. What I'm afraid of, though, is that he may not have heard the news yet and may expose himself unnecessarily outside and get himself arrested. That would be terrible.’

    'Practically every scholar in West Zhejiang has fallen victim to this wretched Ming History business, ' said Huang. ‘The Manchu Court has a grudge against us. You are too well known. We both think that you ought to leave here for the time being. Find shelter for yourself in the coming storm.’

    Lu Liuliang looked angry. 'Let the Tartar Emperor have me arrested and carried off to Beijing!' he said. 'If I could curse him to his face and get rid of some of the anger that is pent up inside me, I think I should die happy, even though it meant having the flesh ripped from my bones!'

    'I admire your spirit, ' said Gu, 'but I don't think there's much likelihood of you meeting the Emperor personally. You would die at the hands of nameless nobodies. Besides, the Emperor is still a child who knows nothing about anything. The Government is in the hands of the all-powerful Au Bai. Huang and I are both of the opinion that Au Bai is behind this Ming History affair. The reason they are making such a fuss about nothing is as an excuse to break the southern Scholars.'

    'I'm sure you are right,' said Lu. 'When the Manchu troops first came inside the Wall, they had pretty much open reign in Northern China. It wasn't until they came south that they found themselves running into resistance. The scholars in particular, as guardians of Chinese culture, have given them endless trouble. So Au Bai is using this business to crush the us is he? Humph! What does the poet say? The bush fire cannot burn them out For next year's spring will see them sprout. —Unless, that is, he plans to wipe out the lot of us!'

    ‘Indeed,' said Huang. 'If we are to carry on the struggle against the Manchu, we need anyone who can be of use to stay alive. Indulging in heroics at this juncture might be satisfying, but would be merely falling into their trap.'

    Lu suddenly understood. It was not only to look for Zha Yihuang that his friends had come; they wanted to persuade him to escape. They knew how impetuous he was and were afraid that he might throw his life away for nothing; this was true friendship. 'You give me good advice, ' he said, 'I can hardly refuse. I'll leave with the family first thing tomorrow.'

    Huang and Gu were visibly delighted and voiced their approval of his decision, but Lu looked uncertain. 'But where can we go?' The whole world belonged to the Manchu. Not a single patch of land was free of their presence. He thought of the poet Tao Yuanming's story about the fisherman who, by following a stream that flowed between flowering peach trees, had stumbled on an earthly paradise—a place where refugees from ancient tyranny had found haven. 'Ah, Peach Tree Stream,' he murmured, 'if I could but find you!' 'Come,' said Gu, 'even if there were such a place, we cannot, as individuals, opt out altogether. In times like these—' Before he could finish, Lu struck the desk with his hand and jumped to his feet, loudly disclaiming his own weakness, 'You do right to rebuke me, Yanwu. The citizen of a conquered country still has his duty. It's all very well to take temporary refuge, but to live a life of ease in some Peach Tree Haven while millions are suffering under the iron heel of the Manchu would be inhuman. I spoke without thinking.'

    Gu Yanwu smiled. ‘I’ve been wandering around a great deal this last few years and made friends with extraordinary people. Wherever I've been, be it North or South, I've discovered that resistance to the barbarians is everywhere. Many of our most ardent patriots are small tradesmen, Yamen runners, or even peasants—people belonging to the very lowest ranks of society. If you'd care to join us, the three of us could travel to Yangzhou together. I have a number of contacts there I could introduce you to. What do you think?'

    'That would be terrific,' said Lu Liuliang delightedly. 'We leave for Yangzhou tomorrow. If the two of you will just sit here for a moment, I'll go and tell my wife to start getting things ready.'

    He hurried off to the inner quarters, but was back in the study again after only a few minutes. 'About this Ming History business,' he said. 'I've heard a good deal of talk about it outside, but you can't believe everything people say. In any case, much of it is in darkness and I'm isolated here. Tell me, how did it all begin?'

    Gu Yanwu sighed. 'We've all seen this Ming History. There are, obviously, passages in it which are not very complimentary to the Manchu. It was written by Zhu Guozhen, who was a former Chancellor of the Ming. When he came to wrote about the "antics of the Chief of the Jianzhou tribe", which is how the Ming Court used to refer to the Manchu, it's a bit hard to see how he could have been polite.' Lu nodded: 'I heard somewhere that a member of the Zhuang family of Huzhou paid one of Chancellor Zhu's heirs a thousand taels of silver for the manuscript and published it under his own name— never dreaming, of course, that it would lead to such terrible consequences.' Gu went on to tell him the whole story.

    The Ming History:

    Coming next time, if there’s enough interest.

  4. #4
    Senior Member tweety365's Avatar
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    Oct 2002
    Southern California


    Thank you so much for re-translating the novel. I just couldn't bring myself to read the English version with so many funky names IE Trinket. Not only is it confusing, it just sounds bad. Enough to keep me away.

    Thanks again!

  5. #5
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    Mar 2007


    Thanks a lot, i bet many of the readers here will be thanking you but you are doing a great job. As said by you the English Translation done is good but it takes the fun away from reading and almost makes it a chore and the character names sure turn me off.

    Do continue the good work and do ask if you need help, people here are really helpful, you just need to raise you hand.

  6. #6
    Junior Member spyro's Avatar
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    Dec 2004


    I've read this novel on a forum. It was kinda awful but I had no choice since I'm chinese illiterate. This is one of my favourite JY's works.
    Thank you, HuntingX. I really appreciate it.

  7. #7
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    The Ming History

    Hangzhou, Jiaxing, and Huzhou, the three prefectures of Zhejiang Province around the southern shores of Lake Taihu, are situated on flat, low-lying, and extremely fertile soil. It is an area which produces rice and silk in abundance. Huzhou has always been a great cultural hub, the birthplace of scholars and artists alike. The poet Shen Yue in the sixth century, who first gave names to the four tones of the Chinese language, and Zhao Mengfu in the thirteenth, equally famous for painting and for calligraphy, were both from Huzhou. The brushes of Huzhou, the ink-sticks of Huizhou, Xuancheng paper, and the inkstones of Zhaoqing and Duan are celebrated as the writer's Four Treasures.

    The city of Nanxun in Huzhou is actually larger than the average county town or district capital, despite only being a market town. Among the richest and most distinguished of its families where Zhuang, the most famous of which was Zhuang Yuncheng. This Zhuang Yuncheng had several sons: the eldest Zhuang Tinglong, was devoted to literature from his early youth and had many friends and acquaintances among the scholars. Some time during the reign of the first Manchu Emperor Shun Zhi, Zhuang Tinglong lost his sight due to overstudying. Even the most renowned doctors failed their attempts at restoring his vision. Eventually, he became depressed and bitter as well as blind.

    One day, a young man named Zhu turned up in the Zhuangs' neighborhood with a manuscript written by his grandfather the Ming Chancellor, which he offered as security for a loan of several hundred taels. Zhuang Yuncheng was a generous man and in any case well-disposed towards anyone claiming relationship with the famous Chancellor. He agreed at once to the loan but waived the need for a security. However, the young man insisted on depositing the manuscript. He said he was going on his travels as soon as he had the money and feared it might get lost if he took it with him. On the other hand he was nervous about leaving it at home. Zhuang thus received the manuscript as a diversion for his blind son.

    The greater part of Zhu's Ming History had found its way into print and was already in circulation. The manuscript that his grandson had given the Zhuangs as security was the final, yet still unpublished and thus completely new, part consisting of individual biographies. After listening for some days to the retainers' readings from it with growing interest, Zhuang Tinglong suddenly had an idea. ‘Among the scholars of old, Zuo Qiuming was blind like me, yet he wrote The Chronicles of Zuo, immortalizing his name. My blindness has made me idle and bored; why don't I write a history that will carry on my name?'

    Money solves all problems. Immediately, scholars and servants began to delve through the manuscript, editing and amending in accordance with Zhuang Tinglong’s will.

    Unfortunately, he was still blind and unable to verify the accuracy of his work. If in fact the work turned out to be rubbish, he would be a laughingstock of the scholarly world. Consequently, he hired even more scholars and specialists to study and analyze his new history. For those scholars unable to be bought, he alternated between social connections and humble invitations.

    Scholars abound in the area surrounding Lake Taihu. Due both to the admirable nature of Zhuang Tinglong as well as illustrious reputation of the Ming History, the majority of invited scholars eventually came to help with the undertaking. The new Ming History in its completed form was now a collective work by the most distinguished scholars in the area. Shortly after its completion, Zhuang Tinglong died.

    To honor the memory of his beloved son, Zhuang Yuncheng undertook the printing of the book without delay; in the Manchu reign this was nontrivial. Before the actual printing could begin, engravers had to cut the many wooden blocks representing a double page of the text. The Ming History was a large book with many chapters; the cost would be enormous. To the Zhuangs, this cost was inconsequential. They set aside several spacious rooms to serve as workshops, engaged large numbers of printers and engravers, and in the course of several years succeeded in getting the whole work into print. It was entitled An Epitome of Ming History. Zhuang Tinglong was named on the title page as the book's author, and a distinguished scholar, Li Lingxi, was invited to write a preface. In it the names of the scholars who had helped in the production of the book were listed, eighteen of them in all. There was also a statement to the effect that the book had been based on an original manuscript by a Mr Zhu. As a former Chancellor of Ming, Zhu Guozhen's name was too well-known to be mentioned in full. 'Mr Zhu's manuscript' was deemed the least dangerous way in which to pay homage to the original author.

    After undergoing the improvements of so many gifted scholars, this Epitome of Ming History was immaculate in the organization and presentation of its material; its historical narratives, though rich in detail, were of commendable clarity; and the whole of it was written in the most elegantly beautiful prose. Its publication was greeted with acclaim by the learned world. It should be added that the Zhuangs, being more interested in fame than in profit, had set a very reasonable price to encourage circulation.

    In its treatment of the period when the Manchus play a part in the story, the original manuscript had been too critical. These had all been carefully removed by the scholarly editors. Inevitably some passages in which the Ming Court was presented in a favorable light remained. This was not long after the fall of the Ming, and educated readers still felt a connection to the old regime. The book was wildly influential and Zhuang Tinglong's name was on everyone's lips. Although grieved for the loss of his son, the Elder Zhuang took comfort in knowing that his name would live on.

    It should be noted that the times were unjust; the wicked would often be rewarded and the virtuous punished. In the Gui'an district of Huzhou prefecture, the District Magistrate Wu Zhirong had earned the fierce hatred of the locals with his corrupt and oppressive practices. He was eventually denounced by his subordinates and dismissed from the court.

    During his tenure, Wu Zhirong accumulated a sum of more than ten thousand taels. In order to avert the Search and Confiscate order following his dismissal, he had to use his entire fortune to bribe his superiors. His cronies, seeing his condition, had all melted away into the shadows. Alone, jobless, and penniless, he was reduced to knocking on rich men's doors and soliciting 'subscriptions' to pay his way back home. He presented himself as a poor but honest official who had lost his job through misfortune and lacked the money even to return to his hometown. Some of the men gave him a few taels to make him go away, but when he came to the residence of the Zhu family, the master of the house, Zhu Youming, a rich and upright man, not only refused to make any contribution but gave him a tongue-lashing. 'During your period of office you did a great deal of harm to the people in this area,' he said. 'If I had any money to give away, I would sooner give it to the poor people you wronged.'

    Wu was furious, but there was nothing he could do. No longer an official, he had to take the insults as they came. Instead of fighting a losing battle, he went to Zhuang Yuncheng.

    A patron of poor scholars, Zhuang had the upmost contempt for greedy officials like Wu. When the latter arrived begging for money, he laughed and handed him a packet containing a single tael of silver. 'When I consider the sort of person you are,' he said, 'I'm not sure I ought to be giving you this. However, the people of Huzhou are longing to see the back of you, so, insofar as this single tael may slightly hasten your departure, I suppose it will do some good.'

    While he struggled to conceal his fury, Wu's eye chanced to light on a copy of the Epitome of Ming History lying on the sitting-room table. This Zhuang fellow likes to be flattered,' he thought. 'You've only got to say what a wonderful job they've made of this Ming History, and the silver will flow from his hands like water.'

    He smiled ingratiatingly. 'It would be discourteous of me to refuse your contribution, Mr Zhuang,' he said, 'but actually my big regret in leaving Huzhou now is that I can't take a copy of the Treasure of Huzhou with me. It would have been an eye-opener to the provincial folk back home.' 'What do you mean by the Treasure of Huzhou?' asked Zhuang.

    Wu smiled. 'You are being modest, Mr Zhuang. Who doesn’t know about the Epitome of Ming History by your late son, whether from the point of view of historical genius, command of material, or style, is an unparallel achievement in any age. Already people are saying the Four Great Historians are Zuo, Ma, Ban, and Zhuang. The Treasure of Huzhou is, of course, the Ming History.'

    These repeated references to his son’s masterpiece pleased Zhuang Yuncheng. He knew that his son had not been the sole writer of the History and that knowledge had always gnawed at him. The fact that Wu continuously implied the sole ownership of the History belonged to Zhuang delighted him. He was thinking that although this man is certainly corrupt and a money-grubbing official; he is still educated and has some discernment of quality.

    In spite of his wish to be severe, a broad smile suffused his face.

    ‘This expression you just referred to, the Four Great Historians, Zuo, Ma, Ban, and Zhuang,' he said: 'I don't quite comprehend, Mr Wu. Please explain.' The sudden change of expression on the old man's face from sternness to genial showed Wu that his plan had succeeded.
    'You really are too modest, Mr Zhuang,' he said. ‘The Chronicle of Zuo by Zuo Qiuming, the Annals of an Historian by Sima Qian, and Ban Gu's History of the Han Dynasty are universally recognized to be the greatest histories ever written. From Ban Gu's time until recently there hasn't been any really great historian. Ouyang Xiu's History of the Five Dynasties and Sima Guang's Mirror of History, though stylistically very fine, lack the touch of genius. Only this Epitome of Ming History from your late son can be said in the same breath as those masterpieces. Hence the coining of this new expression—the Four Great Historians, Zuo, Ma, Ban, and Zhuang.'

    By now Zhuang was beaming. 'Too kind, too kind,' he said, his hands clasped courteously. 'But the Treasure of Huzhou, that may be going too far.'

    ‘Why not?' Wu replied with a perfectly straight face. ‘There's even a rhyme going around: Brushes, silk, and a book Are Huzhou's treasures three. And the greatest one among them Is Zhuang's History.'

    Silk and writing-brushes were Huzhou’s most famous products. Despite actually being uneducated and philosophically ignorant, Wu was gifted with a certain verbal dexterity and his neat coupling of 'Zhuang's History' with 'Hu brushes' and 'Hu silk', as they were called, had the desired effect of making Zhuang even more delighted.

    Wu pressed on. 'I arrived here to take up the magistracy in this area with a clean slate, Mr Zhuang, and I am leaving it no richer than I came. Let me be bold. My real reason for visiting you today was to beg a copy of the Ming History. It would become an heirloom in my family. My sons and grandsons would read and study it day and night. It would improve their minds. It would enable them to get the sort of jobs that would make them a credit to their ancestors. And all that would be thanks to your generous gift.'

    'You shall have a copy, of course,' said Zhuang graciously. Wu added a few courtesies, but since his host showed no sign of wanting to move, he was obliged to fall back on further eulogies of the Ming History. In fact he hadn't read a single page of it and his eloquent comments on the book's amazing historical genius, superb command of material, were general comments that are wholly unrelated to the subject matter. Zhuang at last got up. 'Make yourself comfortable Mr Wu while I leave you for a moment,' he said, and retreated to an inner room.

    After a long wait, a servant came in with a large cloth-wrapped bundle, set it down on the table and went out again. Since there was no sign of Zhuang returning, Wu quickly lifted the bundle from the table and tested it for weight. In spite of its bulk, it was light as a feather and could not, he concluded with dismay, contain any silver. After he had waited a little longer, Zhuang came in again, ceremoniously picked up the bundle from the table with both hands and smilingly presented it to his guest. 'Since you have shown your appreciation of our Huzhou products, Mr Wu, allow me to present you with this sample.'

    Wu thanked him and took his leave. On his way back to the inn where he was staying he slipped his hand inside the bundle and felt around. The contents turned out to be a book, a hank of raw silk, and a few dozen writing-brushes. So all that ingenious talk which he had hoped would bring him not only the book but several hundred taels to go with it had been wasted! That brilliant bit about 'Huzhou's treasures three' which he had invented on the spur of the moment had been taken literally and Zhuang had, though not in the sense he intended, given him what he asked for. ‘Damn!' he thought. ‘Why did I say that? If only I'd told him that the three treasures of Huzhou were gold, silver, and the Ming History, I might have made quite a haul.'

    He reached the inn in a thoroughly bad state; dumping the bundle on the table, he soon went to bed. When he awoke it was already night. The inn had long since ceased serving supper, but he didn't feel he could afford to order a separate meal. Hungry and anxious about his current state, he could hardly fall asleep. To pass time he began to read the book he had previously lauded to the sky. After he had read a few pages, he thought he could see the glint of gold. He turned over the page and there, shining before him, was a whole sheet of gold leaf. His heart pounded with excitement. Could it be? He rubbed his eyes and looked again. Yes, it was gold all right. He picked up each volume in turn and shook it wildly. From each of them sheets of gold leaf dropped out, ten in all. Each sheet, he calculated, must weigh at least five pennyweights. That meant a total of five taels of gold. The relative value of gold to silver at that time was eighty to one, so five taels of gold represented four hundred taels of silver.

    Wu's joy knew no bounds. 'That Zhuang's a crafty old devil, ' he thought. 'He was afraid that once I'd got him to give me a copy of the book, I might throw it aside and forget it without even looking at the contents. He put these sheets of gold leaf inside this copy of his son's book to make sure that only the first person who actually read it would discover them. All right, then. I'll read two or three more chapters, and when I call round tomorrow to thank him for the gold, I'll recite a few passages from memory and tell him how wonderful they are. —who knows?—he might cough up a whole lot more.'

    At once he turned on the lamp and began reading. On and on he read until the history arrived at the year 1616. It was the year in which the Manchu Nurhachi proclaimed himself First Emperor of the Later Jin dynasty, but here in the book it was referred to as 'the forty-fourth year of the Ming Emperor Wan Li'. He read on. Here it was again: the year 1627 when Abahai succeeded Nurhachi as Emperor of Later Jin was referred to as 'the seventh year of the Ming Emperor Tian Qi'; 1636, when Abahai changed the name of the Manchu dynasty from 'Later Jin' to 'Qing', was given as 'the ninth year of the Ming Emperor Chong Zhen'; 1645 was called 'the firstyear of Long Wu', and 1647 'the first year of Yong Li'. ('Long Wu' and 'Yong Li' were the reign-titles of Prince Tang and Prince Gui, Ming Princes who set up shortlived regimes in the South after the Manchus had established themselves in Peking.) It was patently obvious that the author of the book had followed Ming Court practice throughout for his dates, totally disregarding the existence of the Manchus.

    Wu hit the table loudly and involuntarily let out a shout. 'But this is treason! This is outrageous!' The table was shaken so much by his blow that the lamp fell over, splashing his hands and the front of his gown with oil. As he sat there in the dark he had a sudden inspiration that made him fairly crow with delight. 'Heavens, ' he thought, 'I thank you for this fortune! This could make me rich. I could be promoted.' Energized by this revelation, he let out a rather loud cry of joy. It was shortly followed by an urgent knocking at the door. 'Hello, sir. Hello. Are you all right?' 'It's nothing,' he said, laughing. 'I'm all right.' He re-lit the lamp and went back to his reading. The roosters were already crowing when he went to bed fully clothed. From time to time he chuckled in his sleep. He had discovered between seventy and eighty violations of taboo.

    Whenever there is a change of dynasty, the incoming regime is always extremely sensitive about dates. There is insistence that the new forms should be used correctly. Lapses, whether in speech or writing, of a kind likely to awaken nostalgic memories of the previous dynasty are regarded as particularly heinous. As a narrative of Ming events, the Epitome of Ming History had followed the Ming system of dating; but though this had seemed perfectly natural to the original author, it was likely to have disastrous consequences at a time when new regulations about these matters were being applied with ever-increasing stringency. Most of the scholarly specialists who had taken part in the editing had worked on only one or two sections of the book and never read it through, whilst those who worked on the last few sections were precisely the ones with the most inveterate hatred of the new Court, men for whom the use of the 'Great Qing' formula in a book like this would have been unthinkable. As for Zhuang Tinglong himself: it was hardly surprising that a wealthy young amateur who was blind should have overlooked loopholes that a mean-spirited reader might exploit.

    At noon next day Wu took an eastbound boat to Hangzhou. There, as soon as he had found lodgings, he wrote a letter of denunciation and delivered it, together with his copy of the History, to the headquarters of General Songkui, the Military Governor, confident that as soon as the General saw it, he would be summoned for an interview. This was a period in which anyone who gave the Manchu authorities information leading to the apprehension of a rebel could expect a very generous reward. In return for so important a service Wu could be sure at the very least of getting back his old post and perhaps of being promoted two or three grades as well. Yet though he waited and waited in his lodgings until he had been staying in the same inn for more than half a year, and though he went every single day to the General's headquarters to make inquiries, there was no response. It was as if he was a drop of water in a vast ocean. Eventually the receptionists got annoyed at the constant inquiries and prohibited him from coming.

    Wu was now seriously worried. The money he had got from selling the gold leaf given to him by Zhuang Yuncheng was gone, yet all his efforts had come to naught. Not only was he irritated, he was also confused. One day while strolling, he chanced upon the Wen Tong Tang bookshop. He had no intention of buying anything, but he figured he could waste some time by browsing the literature. As he did so he noticed, among the other books on the shelves, three copies of the Epitome of Ming History. 'Surely,' he thought, 'those things I found wrong with the book ought to have been enough to get Zhuang Yuncheng arrested? I'll just have another look and see if I can find some really seditious bits. Then tomorrow I'll write another letter and take it to the General's headquarters.' The Provincial Governor of Zhejiang at this time was a Chinese civilian; the Military Governor was a Manchu. Wu was afraid that, as a Chinese, the Provincial Governor might be unwilling to start a literary witch-hunt in his area. That is why he was determined that the Military Governor should again be the one to receive his denunciation.

    He took a copy down from the shelf, opened it up and began to read. He hadn't read more than a few pages when he felt like he had been immersed in ice water. All traces of seditious writing had disappeared. From 1615 onwards, the year in which Nurhachi proclaimed himself Emperor, every single date was expressed in terms of Jin or Qing reign-titles. The disparaging references to the 'antics of the Paramount Chief of the Jianzhou tribe' had vanished. So had all references to the Southern Courts of the Ming Princes as those of legitimate rulers. And yet there were no breaks in the text, no signs of erasure or alteration. What conjurer's magic could have produced so extraordinary a transformation? For some time he stood there in the bookshop, holding the book in both his hands and gaping like an idiot. It wasn’t long before he figured out what had happened. 'Of course!' he said to himself out loud.

    The cover of the book was brand-new, the pages were dazzling white, and when he made a few inquiries of the bookseller's assistant, the latter confirmed that the Huzhou agent had only recently delivered it. The copies had in fact only been in stock for seven or eight days. ‘That Zhuang's a cunning devil,' he thought. 'No wonder they say money can work miracles. He's withdrawn the book, had new blocks cut, and brought out a new edition in which all the offensive bits have been removed. Humph, you won't get away with it that easily, my friend!'

    Wu's surmise was correct. General Songkui, the Military Governor in Hangzhou, was unable to read Chinese. Wu's letter had gone straight to his Chinese secretary, who had broken out in a cold sweat when he saw its contents. He knew what serious repercussions a letter like this would have and his hands, as they held it, shook uncontrollably.

    The name of this secretary was Cheng Weifan, a Shaoxing man, like a great many other Yamen secretaries of the Ming and Qing periods: indeed, 'Shaoxing secretary' and 'Yamen secretary' had become almost synonyms. These Shaoxing secretaries were trained by their older countrymen in the mysteries of their profession before they entered employment, so that when they did so they were able to discharge their duties, whether legal or financial, with complete assurance. All official correspondence passed through their hands; and since they were all fellow-countrymen, it was very unusual for documents sent for approval from a lower to a higher Yamen to meet with criticism or refusal. For this reason the first thing any candidate for office would do on receiving his posting would be to acquire, at whatever cost, the services of a Shaoxing secretary. During the Ming and Qing dynasties very few Shaoxing men reached positions of authority, yet for several centuries they virtually controlled the administration. This is one of the great paradoxes of Chinese history.

    This Cheng Weifan was a heroic man. He firmly believed that 'good works may be done even in local offices', by which it is meant that, since a Government official has powers of life and death over the people in his jurisdiction, and since, as a consequence, the secretary who takes down his commands can, by a mere shift of emphasis, either utterly ruin a man or save him from certain death, more good can be done by a conscientious secretary than monks praying in an isolated temple. Well aware that an inquiry into the Ming History could threaten the lives and fortunes of countless people in West Zhejiang, he acted swiftly. Asking the General for a few days' leave, he hired a boat to take him to Nanxun in Huzhou prefecture, travelling through the night for greater speed, and went straight to see Zhuang Yuncheng.

    The effect of suddenly being made aware of the calamity that hung over him was sufficient to send old Zhuang into shock. His whole body became paralyzed, a dribble of saliva ran from his mouth, and for some time he was incapable of making any response. Eventually he stood up from his chair and kowtowed to Cheng Weifan repeatedly while begging him for a way to avert disaster.

    Cheng Weifan had already though of a plan during the long boat journey from Hangzhou to Nanxun. The Epitome of Ming History had already been in circulation for some time. It was therefore too late for concealment. The only method left was to reduce the damage already done — by removing the burning fagots from underneath the pot, as it were, in order to reduce the heat. The first step was buyback as many copies of the original manuscript as possible to limit exposure. Meanwhile, the second step was to set the engravers to work day and night on a new edition from which all the offensive bits had been removed. Then, flood the market with this new edition. When the authorities started investigating, they would submit the new edition for inspection. Wu's charges would be dismissed as groundless and a hideous disaster would have been averted. Old Zhuang listened with a mixture of surprise and delight as Cheng Weifan unfolded his plan and kowtowed many times in gratitude when he had finished. The latter added a number of tips on handling the authorities — which officials to bribe and how much, which secretaries in which Yamens to contact, and so on— all of which were gratefully received.

    After his return to Hangzhou, Cheng Weifan allowed more than two weeks to go by before forwarding Wu's letter and copy of the book to the civilian Governor of Zhejiang. He added a brief covering note in which he played the affair down as much as possible, pointing out that the writer of the letter was an ex-magistrate who had been dismissed for dishonesty and who appeared to be highly self-interested. He ended by praying His Excellency to kindly look into the matter and deal with it as he thought fit.

    While Wu sat in his Hangzhou lodgings anxiously waiting for news, a regular flood of silver from Zhuang Yuncheng was busy doing at work. The Provincial Governor's Yamen and the Literary Chancellor's Yamen were already in receipt of very substantial bribes. Matters of publication fell within the domain of the Literary Chancellor, the Governor decided, so after holding on to the file for a fortnight or so, he passed it on with another covering note to the Literary Chancellor. Following its arrival in the Literary Chancellor's office, the secretary managed to put off opening it for about three weeks. He then took a month's sick leave, and only after his return set about, albeit very slowly, drawing up a directive to be sent in due course, along with the book and the rest of the file, to the Chief Education Officer in Huzhou prefecture. This individual managed a delay of some three weeks or more before issuing directives to the Education Officers of Gui'an district and Wucheng district requiring them to furnish him with a report. Long in advance of this, both Education Officers had received hefty bribes from Zhuang Yuncheng; and by this time the printing of the revised Epitome of Ming History had been completed, so they were able to send in copies of the new edition along with their reports. In these they stated—the words of one more or less echoing the words of the other—that they had read the whole book carefully, that they had found it indifferently and somewhat carelessly written, with little in its contents conducive to moral uplift, but that they had failed to find any instances in which taboos, regulations concerning the correct wording of dates, and so on, had been infringed. And so, in somewhat shady fashion, the affair was laid to rest.

    Wu had realized what he was up against as soon as he came across the new edition of the Epitome in the Hangzhou bookshop. He now saw that he would only get the case reopened if he could find another copy of the original edition. In all of Hangzhou every copy appeared to have been bought and subsequently destroyed. He therefore set about hunting for one in the remoter towns and cities of East Zhejiang; but there, too, not a single copy was to be found. In the end, demoralized and now broke, he conceded defeat and returned home.

    It was at this low point in his fortunes that the heavens smiled upon him. One night at an inn, he observed the innkeeper nodding while reading a book. Upon closer inspection, he realized the book was none other than the original version of the Epitome of Ming History. Figuring that the innkeeper may refuse to sell the book, and realizing his was basically penniless, he decided to steal it. Sneaking from his bed in the deep of night, he was able to make off with the book unnoticed. Suspicious that all the powerful officials in Zhejiang Province had received Zhuang's bribes, Wu thought 'Very well, in for a penny, in for a pound!' and resolved to take the case all the way to Beijing. When he arrived, Wu wrote out three more copies of his denunciation, one addressed to the Board of Rites, one to the Court of Censors, and one to the Chancellery, this time adding an account of how the Zhuang family had evaded justice by bribing Government officials and by printing a new, innocent edition of the seditious book.

    To his astonishment, this denunciation was also rejected. After waiting in Beijing for a whole month, he received the same dismissive reply from all three departments. They had carefully examined the Epitome of Ming History by Zhuang Tinglong and found no infringements. The allegations made by the disgraced District Officer Wu were without foundation and inspired by malice. As for his allegations about the bribery of officials, these appeared to be totally groundless. The Chancellery's finding was even more severe, stating that 'the said Wu, having himself been dismissed from office for corrupt practices, was evidently seeking to tarnish the reputation of honest officials.' Acting on Cheng Weifan's advice, old Zhuang had long sent copies of the new edition to the Board of Rites, the Court of Censors, and the Chancellery, and suitable “donations” to the relevant officials and secretaries.

    Again Wu had nothing to show for all his work; and as he now had no money left for his journey back home, he was faced with the prospect of becoming a nobody in a city in an unfamiliar city. The Manchu Court was at this period extremely severe in its treatment of Chinese intellectuals. Normally the punishment for the slightest infringement of a taboo found in their writings would be summary execution by beheading. If the charges made by Wu had been laid against an ordinary writer, they would long since have been acted on. It was only because their target was the member of a very wealthy family that he had encountered so many obstacles.

    Having no other recourse, he resolved, even at the risk of imprisonment, to follow this case through to the bitter end. He wrote out four more copies of his denunciation which he addressed to four great Counselors of State. At the same time, sitting in his Beijing lodgings, he wrote out several hundred copies of a fliers outlining his main charges which he pasted up everywhere in the city. This was a very risky move, for if the officials got irritated and discovered the source of the fliers, he would be executed for promoting public panic.

    Soni, Suksaha, Ebilun, and Oboi were the names of the Counselors of State whom Wu had sent his complaint. These four Manchu statesmen, distinguished for the parts they had played in the foundation of the new state, had been nominated by the dying Emperor Shun Zhi to act as Regents for his Heir, the boy Emperor Kang Xi. Oboi was by far the most powerful of the four. He had the most followers at Court and was a virtual dictator. In spite of this he was paranoid of his political rivals and employed a regular army of informers, both at the capital and in the provinces, to keep an eye on their activities. It was from a secret report sent in by one of these spies that he learned of the fliers which had been appearing all over Beijing denouncing a Zhejiang commoner called Zhuang who had written a seditious book, and claiming that the Zhejiang authorities had taken bribes settle the matter.

    On receipt of this information Oboi at once ordered an investigation. At last things began to move, this time with lightning speed. At just this moment, Wu’s letter arrived at Oboi’s office, who summoned him for an interview without delay. He ordered his Chinese secretaries to take the copy of the original edition of the Epitome of Ming History and review it thoroughly. Needless to say, Wu's allegations were now all substantiated.

    Oboi, who had won his dukedom and high office by virtue of his military exploits, had an inveterate contempt for civilians, especially Chinese officials and scholars. In order to consolidate his monopoly of power in the state he needed a few large show trials which would cow the nation into submission, not only to extinguish Chinese hopes of a rebellion, but also as a means of deterring the rival factions at Court from acting against him. A Special Commissioner was accordingly dispatched to Zhejiang to pursue the investigation. His first act was to arrest all members of the Zhuang family and send them to Beijing. General Songkui and the Provincial Governor of Zhejiang, all members of their staffs, and all subordinate officials of whatever rank were immediately suspended and placed under investigation; and all scholars whose names were inscribed in the preface of the Epitome were imprisoned.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2004


    As a note, Minford's work on the histories is generally quite good. I kept maybe 30-40% of his sentences unaltered, and only minor changes in another 20-30%. Thus, I only had to completely rewrite 30% of his work in this section, compared to maybe 80-90% in other portions. That's basically the only reason why I was able to get through so much so quickly.

    The biggest changes will be in the Jianghu chatter and so forth. Since Minford actually has a lot of experience writing history, his translation of the historical portion is: surprise surprise--> good! Since Minford has apparently no experience dealing with Chinese themes, his translation of those aspects is pretty poor. As an unrelated sidenote, if you want the most boring translation of a Wuxia novel in existence, consider reading his translation of the Book and the Sword. That stuff puts me to sleep.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Jean's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002


    Oh goody, actually I'm doing some of the subtitles for the China made 2008 production of this book, so reading it will give me an idea how close is the adaptation to the book and I was too lazy to plough through the chinese version.

    I could help with some of the jianghu terms if I'm free.

    I've only read the 1st chapter's post, and you were asking about Xichu Bawang. Another name you can consider is King of Western Chu. Since his real name is Xiang Yu, and Xichu Bawang is sorta title, so not many may know the name?

    Also, typo on the name Qin Shihuang. Should be Huang and not Huan if you're planning to use hanyu pinyin. OR you can use Emperor Qin, since his name is supposed to be Ying Zheng.

    hope this helps, I have not read the rest.

  10. #10
    Member LiarLiar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004


    I have a question. Are you editing Minford's work only or are you going to add some of the stuffs that Minford had missing in his translation?

  11. #11
    Senior Member Han Solo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    I'm sorry that i have to close this thread.

    We cannot have a thread where passages from a published book is just posted online en masse.

    If you decide to re-translate DOMD in your own effort/style, then you are welcomed to.

    John Minford's work is published and hence have certain copyright protection that deserves respect.

    Han Solo

    Quote Originally Posted by bliss
    I think they're probably at the same level as or one level below Ah Qing, which is about the level of a 2nd or 3rd generation Quan Zhen disciple.
    Troll Control

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