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Stories like both Confucius's Analects and Ying Shao's Fengsu Tonyi seem to use the characters in different ways than I've encountered so far.

As an example, I'm currently working on translating a part of Chapter 9: Guiashen from Fengsu Tonyi:

世間多有狗作變怪

謹按:桂陽太守汝南李叔堅,少時為從事,在家,狗人立行,家言當殺之。叔堅云:「犬馬諭君子,狗見人行,效之何傷?」叔堅見縣令還,解冠榻上,狗戴持走,家大驚,時復云:「誤觸冠,冠纓挂著之耳。」狗於竈前蓄火,家益怔忪。復云:「兒婢皆在田中,狗助蓄火,幸可不煩鄰里,此有何惡?」里中相罵,不言無狗怪,遂不肯殺。後數日,狗自暴死,卒無纖介之異。叔堅辟太尉椽、固陵長、原武令,終享大位。子條、蜀郡都尉,威龍、司徒掾。

But I'm getting confused after the first sentence because my understanding of the words seems to be very different from what Ying Shao intended. Any tips for translating these types of stories in the future? Or any help getting started on this one?

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imo, the story is straightforward, and easy to compenhend.

here's my suggested interpretation:

世間多有狗作變怪.朴殺之.以血塗門戶.然眾得咎殃

there're many canine monsters in the world (世間多有狗作變怪)

kill a dog (朴殺之), use it's blood to paint the door (以血塗門戶); but, people would have bad luck and disaster (然眾得咎殃).

謹按.桂陽太守汝南李叔堅.少時為從事

here's a legend (謹按): the administrator (太守) of 桂陽, mr 李叔堅, whose was born in 汝南, was a 從事 (an official position) when he was young.

[name and official title were not translated]

edited.

well, a more precise translation of "謹按" is "cautious note" (謹慎+按語). however, mr 應劭 used this term so often, that; these're always part of the text, not as explanatory note of particular sentences/paragraphs.

my apologies for any confusing caused :(

在家.狗人立行.家言當殺之.叔堅云.犬馬諭君子.狗見人行.效之何傷

[one day] when he's at home (在家), his dog stand, and walk like a man 狗人立行. his family members said they should kill it (家言當殺之).

he said (叔堅云): "dogs and horses are metaphors of superior person (犬馬諭君子). so, our dog observe human's behaviour (狗見人行), and make replication, what's the problem? (效之何傷)"

Any tips for translating these types of stories in the future

one need certain level of competence to read classical / literary chinese; prior to make translation. the only method is read more, and more.

have fun :)

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Well, to translate you must needs first understand. A simple rendition of the words in English will not work, even if you are dealing with modern Chinese.

For a presentation I translated the first poem in 诗经。Must be more than 2000 years old, possibly 3000. The first verse is:

关关雎鸠,在河之洲。
窈窕淑女,君子好逑。

Now, 关关 is onomatopoeia, it's just 'quack quack' or some similar water fowl sound,not 'shut shut' or anything like that.

For 窈窕淑女,君子好逑。 I wrote "Fair maiden, I love thee." then 逑 is 配偶 here, want a mate, in a complex allusion to the aforementioned birds, indicating to me strong sexual attraction, which can be romantically rendered as 'I love thee'

I bow to 水巷孑蠻's superlative knowledge and experience and always admire his excellent answers. However, for 謹按 I might try 'a cautionary tale', depending on the rest of the text.

  • great, i made severe error here. answer edited. – 水巷孑蠻 Mar 31 at 12:26

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