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許慎 writes for 媛:美女也。人所援也。

I am inclined to translate 人所援也 as ‘someone who attracts people’, but I might be mislead by English ‘attractive’. It sounds so modern. (Being a beginner with CC, I also wonder: did I get 所 right?)

許慎 himself defines 援 as 引也 (to pull). Kroll (A Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese) has (I) (1) pull up, pull on (a) take in hand, take by hand; draw toward one; e.g. 援筆 take up the writing-brush (2) pull along, lead on, guide (a) cite, adduce (b) recommend; appoint (3) resort to .... (II) (1) aid, assist ... (p. 576).

1

媛=belle

援也= whom people pull close

非漢望也 means : not what Han is hoping for

A faithful translation to the original text would be :

媛: 美女也, 人所援也

The word "belle" means: "a beautiful woman, whom people (men) want to pull close to himself."

"媛" is the topic, "美女也, 人所援也" is the comment. It is a common [topic + comment/opinion] sentence structure.

The word "所" in "美女也, 人所援也" functions as a pronoun (e.g. what; whom) for the object. Which the subject (人) (n) is acting on.

In this case, it is "pull close"(援)(v)

  • The phrase 非漢所望也 also has an active voice, therefore : "not what Han is hoping for" is a pretty accurate translation to the original text.
  • I realize I made the mistake of making the object of the verb 援 the subject (even though I didn't intend to). It happened because the subject of ‘draw, pull’ in English draws the object to him or her and not the other way around. Passive voice does not solve this normally: I pull the cord → the cord is pulled by me [I am still the agent]. Beautiful women attract people → people are attracted by beautiful women. Your translation works because you don’t translate 援 as ‘to pull’ but as ‘to be attracted by’, but that passive meaning was not mentioned by 許慎 or Kroll. – hurdsean Dec 20 '16 at 9:37
  • I see that young99’s modern translation does have an active voice (...whom people like to get close [to]...). I think it partly may have been my confusion about the direction of ‘to pull’ that made me hesitate about my translation. – hurdsean Dec 20 '16 at 9:40
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    To be faithful to the original text, see my edited answer then. – Tang Ho Dec 20 '16 at 10:03
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From《漢語大詞典》,

所(19),助詞。表示結構。與動詞結合成名詞性詞組。
structural particle; combine with a verb to form a noun phrase

援(2),動詞。攀緣的意思。
verb; to climb the social ladder through pull; to seek connections in high places

所援, 名詞性詞組, is the object (對象, the beauty here) that people like to get close.

東漢 許慎《說文解字》
媛,美女也,人所援也。
美女是人們想要攀緣、親近、討好的對象。
A beautiful female is whom people like to get close and to win her favor.

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人所援也 as "someone who attracts people"

this translation is quite good :)

about "所": in classical chinese, the structure of "人所" + verb + "也" is common. here're 2 examples, hope you can find the induction.

i would interpret "所" as a pronoun, which the verb is aimed at.

說文解字 貝部 
    財﹒人所寶也

財 - wealth / money

人 - people

所 - which

寶- cherish

so, "財﹒人所寶也" would be "wealth, which is cherished by people"

說苑 尊賢
    良臣﹒人所願也

良 - good

臣 - statesman

所 - whom

願 - hope / wish

so, "良臣﹒人所願也" would be "good statesman, whom is wished by people"

have fun :)

  • I’m wondering about the passive voice in the answers and examples. Would the active voice not be more natural, or is there a special reason to make the translation passive? For example: "財﹒人所寶也" wealth is something that people cherish. "良臣﹒人所願也" A good statesmen is someone who people wish for. See also my comment to Tang Ho’s answer. – hurdsean Dec 20 '16 at 9:40
  • based on my experience, using passive voice in the structure "人所" + verb + "也" is more, natural, authentic, to the original classical text. cause, most of the time, there's a noun (e.g. 媛, 財, 良臣) in front of "人所"; which is what the author wanted to emphasise. meanwhile, who, the agent of the verb is less important. btw, in general, the subject in classical text is always, or most of the time, omitted; using passive voice is easier to translation / interpretation. anyway, it's just my opinion :) – 水巷孑蠻 Dec 20 '16 at 13:12
  • I get that the topic is important, but isn't in the structure 人所, the grammatical subject 人 very much not being omitted? And if the subject usually is omitted, isn't it significant then, that it is explicitly given here? Forgive me for asking this, I come from learning Japanese, where an explicit grammatical subject usually is not to be ignored. Also, when translating into English from Japanese, a subject implicitly given though the context is still to be translated in English, and "killing" the subject by translating into passive voice a mistake. – hurdsean Dec 20 '16 at 14:16
  • maybe my comment is not clear :( anyway, what i said is that "in general, subject is omitted". in the above examples, 人 is the subject. last, imo, dealing with classical text, english translation using passive voice, is appropriate, most of the time. have fun :) – 水巷孑蠻 Dec 21 '16 at 1:39
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You are getting close

美女(也) pretty girl (she is!)

人[所]援(也) people [being ] attracted to (her!)

引 means attract in these context, as in 吸引。

(也) is similar to some language nominative case. The complicate part is the second sentence 人所援(也), 也 are pointing to the previous subject.

  • I took this instance of 所 as ‘when placed in front of a verb it nominalizes it and mostly commonly stands for the direct object’. Example: 所殺 THOSE WHOM he killed; other example: 非漢所望也 It is not WHAT Han hopes for. But you say ‘someone who’ is wrong, instead 所 means ‘being’? – hurdsean Dec 19 '16 at 17:20
  • @hurdsean to make things simple, It is not WHAT Han [being] hopes for, normally English speaker just omit "being". – mootmoot Dec 19 '16 at 17:28

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