Questions tagged [classical-chinese]

Classical Chinese (古文, Pinyin: gǔ wén, "ancient text") is the language of the classic literature from the Spring and Autumn period through to the end of the Han Dynasty, a written form of Old Chinese. The term is also used for Literary Chinese (文言文 wényán wén, "text of written language"), a traditional style of written Chinese modelled on the classical language, making it different from any modern spoken form of Chinese.

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足: why is “foot” also “enough”?

足 is an ancient character meaning "foot". However, it also means "enough" or "sufficient", and this second definition is also very old. Consider this excerpt: 兵甲已足。——诸葛亮《出师表》 This is from 《出师表》, ...
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Do 之 and 的 come from the same word?

In modern Chinese 之 is thought of as the literary genitive particle and 的 as the colloquial. In most reconstructions of Old Chinese 之 looks very similar to the way 的 is pronounced now. For example in ...
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Classical Chinese Literature - What languages could be written with it? And why?

I understand that classical Chinese (see Wikipedia) was very different from spoken Chinese (at least in the last centuries of its usage). Nevertheless, despite or maybe even because of this, it was ...
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Reasons for Chinese changing from monosyllabic to disyllabic?

Classical and Middle Chinese are often considered monosyllabic languages - most words are single syllables. Modern Chinese however is considered disyllabic - most words are two syllables. For example,...
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Specifics of the idiom “四海一家”

There are several sayings and idioms similar to 四海一家 which reference "四海". Does the 四海 actually refer to 4 specific oceans such as the Indian, Pacific etc. or is it more of a metaphor for all of the ...
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Use of 以 in 臣以弑君、可謂仁呼

I'm not sure what this sentence means. My dictionary lists 以 as having an adverb-like function of indicating purpose or result so my best guess in translation would be "A vassal intending to kill/...
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How is 青 and 苍 used in classical Chinese to denote colors?

Here is what the dictionary says about 青:  1. 深绿色或浅蓝色:~草。~苔。 Dark Blue or light green.  2. 靛蓝色:靛~。~紫。 Indigo blue.  3. 黑色:~布。~衣。 Black. Similar case is 苍:  1. 深青色,深绿色:~翠。~天。 Dark blue ...
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What is the classical Chinese meaning of 或?

I am reading a text that uses the following phrase: 或謂鄭相曰 I understand it generally to mean that someone told to the prime minister of Zheng saying However, I don't understand exactly what ...
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Resources for learning classical Chinese

I have a very strong interest in classical Chinese (文言文), but I am unable to find any ressources for learning it that don't assume Chinese is your mother language. Can anybody give me some pointers?
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what does triple 有 mean (非汝佛有有有无也明矣)

In Li Zhi's 焚书 there is a following sentence: "既目前无佛,他日又安得有佛也?若他日作佛时,佛方真有,则今日不作佛时,佛又何处去也?或有或无,自是识心分别,妄为有无,非汝佛有有有无也明矣" I am confused aboout this triple 有 with 无 at the end. Should it be read like 有有,...
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黃中 = being employed as an imperial government official/having a career in the imperial government?

Many Chinese clans have a "昭穆", a kind of poem from which each generation of the clan picks a successive character as a prefix to given names, so we can easily identify people from one generation to ...
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How can the expression “高就” be understood grammatically?

I've heard the phrase 您高就 without an interrogative rise at the end. The way it was spoken sounded like a statement, but in context it was more like a question. Can this phrase be a question? Or ...
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meaning of 傳 in 傳不習乎?

In Analects, chapter 4, 「吾日三省吾身 為人謀而不忠乎? 與朋友交而不信乎? 傳不習乎?」 I would translate it: Master Ceng said: everyday I check three things in myself: do I plan my behavior without loyalty? do I make friends ...
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What is the ancient Chinese one-character name for woman like '子’ means man?

青青子衿,悠悠我心。但为君故,沉吟至今 Here: 子,对对方的尊称 子 implicitly implies the poem is addressing a man. The poem talks about how a lady misses a man. I just wonder if there is a corresponding word for Chinese. (i.e. ...
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What is the difference between 吾 and 我 in 文言文?

For instance, in the phrase 「我善养吾浩然之气」 I notice both 我 and 吾 are used. Is there a reason for this?
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Why is 景 written “wrong” on the Nestorian Stele?

I noticed that 景 is written on the Tang-era Nestorian Stele with the "boxes" switched, ie. the 口 is above and 日 is below. Would this be a standard way to write the character during that time, or is it ...
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If Confucius came back to life today and scribbled a message, could most modern Chinese people understand it?

For example (and I am not sure if this is a good example), if presented the following stone inscription (石鼓文, source, c. 374 B.C.), could most modern Chinese people understand it (even vaguely)? (...
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how to translate “何如” in 呂氏春秋?

this question is made, and answer provided; in response to a comment in another question: How to translate the phrase 利而物利章 in context? cause, my explanation is too long to put in the comment area; ...
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Unknown Traditional Chinese characters on lacquered boards

I'm a East Asian preparing to celebrate the Lunar New Year and have been given these pictures of lacquered boards from my father. The first picture I suspect contains stylized Seal scripts. I cannot ...
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What is a one-character translation of the English word “Freedom”?

I've been trying to find a single-character translation of the word "freedom," but I can't seem to find one anywhere. The best translation I can find is, of course, 自由, which seems to be a fairly ...
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What Chinese characters are rare in modern but common in classical Chinese?

I browsed randomly through texts written in classical Chinese, and I noticed there were a lot of Chinese characters that were frequent in classical Chinese but never or rarely being present in modern ...
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How do I analyze “是其于主也至忠矣”?

I'd like to know how to analyze "是其于主也至忠矣" word for word. 公行之计,是其于主也至忠矣, I would appreciate your help!
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A better translation of 假作真时真亦假,无为有处有还无。

In the Chinese classic 红楼梦 ("Dream of Red Mansions"), there is a famous couplet: 假作真时真亦假,无为有处有还无。 Pinyin: jiǎ zuò zhēn shí zhēn yì jiǎ, wú wéi yǒu chù yǒu huán wú. This has been translated into ...
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Need help with Classical Chinese

I'm a postcrosser and deltiologist. A few days ago, I received a postcard from China. There was some Chinese text along with the artwork on the front side of the card: I tried the Google Instant ...
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Chinese Chengyu (Idiom): Refute somebody with his own argument

Is there a Chinese Idiom for "Refute somebody with his own argument"? I thought this is not quite the same as "self-contradictory" 自相矛盾. Thank you.
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What's the difference between Classical Chinese and Modern Chinese?

What I mean by difference is its grammatical difference. How is Classical Chinese grammatically different from today's Chinese? Is modern Chinese's golden rule similar or equivalent to some rules in ...
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In Dao De Jing, 常 should be translated as “eternal” or as “common”?

I'm doing a translation of the Dao De Jing, using some originals and some translations to english and portuguese. I've noticed that 常 chang is almost always translated as "eternal", "fixed", "...
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How to explain the structure of “将在外,军令有所不受。”

In my own opinion, this sentence should be "将在外,军令不受". I can hardly imagine any use of "有" and "所" here. Could someone explain the structure of this sentence?
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How to translate the phrase 利而物利章 in context?

I am reading a passage from 呂氏春秋. I think I understand the basic meaning of the three first quarters, but then it becomes difficult. The hard part is the tiny snippet below and especially the last ...
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What kind of typology does ancient Chinese belong to?

Modern Chinese belongs to the group of languages are isolating, just like English, but even purer. English once was not isolating but possessed flection. Is the situation with English similar to that ...
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What does the classical construction X 何由 Y mean?

I almost never see this construction in classical prose. (In fact, I'll venture I've never seen it.) However, it's in two of my favorite poems. In this one, it's from the poem "晨詣超師院讀禪經" by 柳宗元: ...
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are there any free bilingual sources of chinese proverb?

In reference to the thread Is this [Ivanka Trump] Chinese proverb real? —“Those who say it can not be done, should not interrupt those doing it” and related news, I've created this question, and ...
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道 vs 途 in religious texts

As we all know, 道 is an important concept in classical Chinese, meaning "the way" in the metaphorical sense. It is a central concept in Taoism, but it was also used in Buddhism and Confucianism to ...
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How do I look up a graph in 說文通訓定聲?

I'd like to look up 䟠 in 說文通訓定聲. My library has at least two versions of this (multi volume) book. A (poorly) scanned version of it lives here: http://ctext.org/library.pl?if=gb&res=1866 (it's ...
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(古文) Is ‘attract’ for 援 in 人所援也 acceptable?

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 ...
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What does the phrase “足矣” mean?

I saw this phrase recently in a post online. The whole sentence is 人生得一知己足矣. I think 人生得一知己 means "getting a BFF(?) in one's life". (The only meaning of the word 知己 that I know of is BFF, but please ...
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What is the usage of 蔑 as a negation word in classical chinese?

I read someone mentioning 蔑 as a negation word in classical Chinese, but unfortunately without explaining how it works or an example sentence. So I looked it up in my dictionary and it only showed me ...
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What is the relationship between vernacular and literary Chinese?

I don't quite get the difference between and relationship of vernacular Chinese to literary Chinese. I know that "literary Chinese" does not represents sounds, the way an alphabet does, so it is ...
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What does 乃 mean here?

On a particular forum is a banner reading: 此乃舊貼唯讀區 which I imagine is a highfalutin way of saying that this thread is read-only. Now, 乃 has many senses in my dictionary. What is the sense of 乃 ...
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For a long time, I caused the <wide world> to be <manlang 漫浪>

I'm working on a literary translation of a 16th century Joseon prose narrative, and I'm here to ask for help with a few of the bits I'm finding gnarly and confusing. I've hit on the passage: 久作江湖之漫浪。 ...
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Is there strong evidence that Classical Chinese was ever spoken?

Classical Chinese (Wenyan) diverges sharply from modern varieties, as any student of classical texts will note whether foreign or native Chinese. Wenyan has a long written history, but is there ...
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Confucius quote: what's the original?

The man who moves a mountain starts by carrying away small stones. This is (reportedly) a quote from the Analects of Confucius. I have tried looking for 山 in the whole Wikisource text and found the ...
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Meaning of 道生一,一生二,二生三,三生万物

During one class we talk about how Chinese families give name to their children, however the conclusion is a little bit confusing for me. Context: they give to a child the following name -> 冯一 Can ...
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Tang Dynasty Inscription

In researching a Tang inscription (661 CE) I came across this in a journal article. 此外,玄导时代刻经有年号、施主、住僧可考的,有唐显庆六年(661)涿城府左果毅都尉杨社生及其一家施刻的“心经”[附注11]  (11)显庆六年“心经”题记:“雍州栎阳县游骑将军守左卫涿城府左果毅都尉杨社生、母段、妻扈、息怀庆、...
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Is “之” usually used as a possessive pronoun (attributive) in Classical Chinese?

True or False Question: In classical Chinese, “之” is usually used as a possessive pronoun (attributive), “其” is usually used as a subject, and “彼” is usually used as an object. a. True b. ...
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What is the character for romantic love in classical Chinese?

In Mandarin, 愛 means romantic love. However, New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese by Paul Rouzer has this to say about its use in literary Chinese: This character [愛] usually does not imply "...
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What does 荠麦之茂,荠麦之有 in 《猗兰操》 mean? 韩愈《猗兰操》“荠麦之茂,荠麦之有”一句作何解释?

This question is about understanding a verse in a poem by Han Yu of the Tang dynasty. 请问韩愈《猗兰操》里“荠麦之茂,荠麦之有”一句作何解释? 此句下一句,即全诗末句,“君子之伤,君子之守”,“言君子居可伤之时,故君子有可见之操守”;那么“荠麦”的比喻,是否是说荠麦茂于雪霜之时,方见其坚强之节操? 《...
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What character is this? (yu2)

The book "A First Course in Literature" from Shaddick uses this character: In the vocabulary section it is explained as "TV to cross; to exceed". But I can't seem to find this character anywhere else ...
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Can “未” modify descriptive adjectives?

Can “未” modify descriptive adjectives (in either classical or modern Chinese)? I've previously asked about the correctness of the phrase "未長未短", but I think 長 and 短 are used as verbs (instead of ...
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Ancient forms of characters

According to Wiktionary, "This character, 朙, is an ancient form of 明". I'd like to know what exactly ancient forms are and their current role in the language together with some academic reference, as ...