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In the novella I am reading this sentence appears:

他的瘦小的身体穿过时间之光,一寸一寸地长大。

I am rather sure that 「穿過時間之光」must mean "with the passage of time". But If I try to translate it literally, I come up with:

pierced by the rays of time ,

which is a very odd metaphor for me. Is this a common saying in Chinese, or some kind of literary flourish?

The author is 魏微,born in 1970. Hails from Jiangsu Province, studied in Nanjing. The relevant chapter can be found here.

4

时间之光 is not the long version of 时光.

时光 is short for 时间光阴

  • 时间 (time + interval ) = time (time consist of countless moments)

  • 光阴 (light + shade) = day and night = 'time' (cycles of day and night mark the passing of time)

Similarly 寒暑 (cold + hot) = winter and summer = time (cycles of seasons mark the passing of time)

时间之光 literally means 'the light of time'. Time itself is an abstract idea, the author metaphorically used 'light' to represent 'time's passing'. Light never stops and it only goes forward

  • 光 in Chinese also means 'glory' 穿过时间之光 (through the light of time) literary express the sense of 'through the glory of time'

As you suspected, it is a literary flourish

5

时间之光 is the long version of 时光.

时间之光 = 时光 = 韶光 = 光阴 = time

光 = 时 = time

《重编国语辞典》[名]4

时间。如:“光阴”、“时光”。
唐.李白〈前有一樽酒行〉二首之一:“青轩桃李能几何?流光欺人忽蹉跎。”

国学大师 - 光 〈名〉(8)

光阴,时光 [time]
始屏忧以愉思,乐兹情于寸光。——南朝宋· 鲍照《观漏赋》

They all have the same meaning, the time.

穿过时间之光 is just a writing technique.
It is the same as 随着时间, with time.

We can also interpret as follows.

The light won't stop.

穿过时间之光 is similar to 经过时间的流逝 or 随着时间的流逝, as time goes by.

1

时间之光 I think is just literary flourish. It's not commonly used, but people won't have problem understanding it. It certainly is related to the common word 时光 (meaning "time", same as 时间).

穿过 is probably better translated as "went through", so literally "His body went through time", there is no passive tense here.

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I think it's a figurativeness. image that little boy passed through the time tunnel, where you see the glare of time from the tunnel, like the one you see in a science fiction movie.

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