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Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 3)

A bamboo mesh with the characters '浮生六記 / 坎坷記愁' superimposed on itThis is a sentence-by-sentence translation and break-down from the chapter 坎坷記愁 (Kǎnkě Jì Chóu) in Shen Fu’s 浮生六記 (Fú Shēng Liù Jì) - Six Records of a Floating Life.

(See the index of 浮生六記 translations)

浮生六記第六卷:坎坷記愁 → Section 3

庚戌之春,予又隨侍吾父於邗江幕中,有同事俞孚亭者挈眷居焉。 In the spring of 1790, I went again to work for my father at the secretariat in Hanjiang. He had a colleague there called Yu Futing who had brought his family to live with him.

This line starts with a reference to the sixty-year cycle: 庚戌 is the forty-seventh year, in this case of the Qianlong reign.

吾父謂孚亭曰:「一生辛苦,常在客中,欲覓一起居服役之人而不可得 。 My father said to Futing: “I have had a life of toil, often away from home. I would like to find someone to live with me and serve me, but have not been able to.”

_Here the Shen Fu's father uses 客 - 'guest' - to refer to being away from home. 服役 here is a binome meaning "in service" or "to serve"._

兒輩果能仰體親意,當於家鄉覓一人來,庶語音相合。」 “If my son could look up to me and respect my wishes, it would be proper for him to find someone to come from my home county, so that our dialects would be the same.”

輩 refers to the son's generation, and suggests filial obligations. 相合, translated as "be the same", is literally something like "mutually fit".

孚亭轉述於余,密札致芸,倩媒物色,得姚氏女。 Futing passed this on to me, and I secretly wrote a letter to Yun, asking her to be a matchmaker; she found a girl surnamed Yao.

倩 here is equivalent to 請. The end of the line is literally "a girl of the Yao clan."

芸以成否未定,未即稟知吾母。 As my father was still not decided, Yun did not let my mother know immediately.

_This line uses an 以 construction, as in "Taking [the fact that my father] had not yet decided, Yun..." Shen Fu's father is not explicitly indicated, but it makes the most sense that it is him. 稟 means "report to a superior" and indicates the pecking order between Yun and Shen Fu's mother._

其來也,托言鄰女為嬉游者,及吾父命余接取至署,芸又聽旁人 意見,托言吾父素所合意者。 When the girl arrived, we used the excuse that she was a neighbour’s daughter whom we were to entertain, and when my father ordered me to bring her to his residence, Yun followed someone the advice of other people, using the excuse that my father had desired her for some time.

托言 is an interesting construction that literally means "to rely on speech", i.e. to make an excuse. 嬉游 means "to entertain" or "to amuse", so 嬉游者 could be "one who is having fun", but "whom we were to entertain" seemed more idiomatic for the translation. 素 here means something like "usually" or "all the time since..."

吾母見之曰:「此鄰女之嬉游者也,何娶之乎?」 When my mother found out she said “This is just the neighbour’s daughter who was visiting, how can he take her as a concubine?”

There isn't really a way to translate 嬉游者 very closely here, so it's been rendered as "visiting". 娶 means "to marry", or in this case "take as a concubine". The components are "take" and "woman".

芸遂並失愛於姑矣。 Thereupon, Yun also lost the affection of my mother.

This is literally "lost love from aunt", referring to Shen Fu's mother.

壬子春,余館真州。 In the spring of 1792, I was living in Zhenzhou.

Another sixty-year cycle reference, this time to the forty-ninth year.

吾父病於邗江,余往省,亦病焉。 My father fell ill in Hanjiang, and when I went to visit him I also fell ill.

省 here is read 'xǐng' and is used to describe visits to relatives that are older than oneself. The final character 焉 means something like "from it" or "in this".

余弟啟堂時亦 隨侍。 My brother Qitang at that time also worked for my father.

芸來書曰: Yun sent a letter saying:

「啟堂弟曾向鄰婦借貸,倩芸作保,現追索甚急。 」 “Younger brother Qitang once took a loan from a neighbouring woman, and asked me to be the guarantor, and now she is anxiously demanding repayment.”

余詢啟堂,啟堂轉以嫂氏為多事,余遂批紙尾曰: I asked Qitang, but he shifted it to saying his elder brother’s wife [Yun] was meddling in his affairs, and so I acted on this, and wrote at the end of a letter:

「父子皆病,無錢可償,俟啟弟歸時,自行打算可也。」 “Father and son are both ill, and do not have the money to repay it, wait until brother Qi returns, and he can deal with it himself.”

未幾,病皆愈,余仍往真州 。 Before long, the illness was all healed, and I returned to Zhenzhou.

芸覆書來,吾父拆視之, Yun’s letter of reply arrived, and my father opened and read it;

中述啟弟鄰項事,且云: inside was described brother Qi’s issue of the loan from the neighbour, and Yun had also written:

「令堂以老人之 病皆由姚姬而起,翁病稍痊, Your mother thinks the old man’s illness is all because of the Yao girl, so when his illness is a little better,

宜密囑姚托言思家, you should secretly have Yao use the excuse that she misses home;

妾當令其家父母到 場接取。 I will then ask her parents to come and take her back.

實彼此卸責之計也。」 This way each side can avoid responsibility.”

吾父見書怒甚, When my father saw this letter he was extremely angry,

>詢啟堂以鄰項事,答 言不知, He asked Qitang about the issue of the loan from the neighbour, but he replied that he didn’t know about it,

遂札飭余曰: Thereupon he wrote a stern letter to me, saying:

「汝婦背夫借債,讒謗小叔, “Your wife owes money behind your back, and slanders your brother;

且稱姑曰令堂, 翁曰老人,悖謬之甚! moreover, she refers to her mother-in-law as ‘your mother’ and to me as ‘old man’ - this is outrageous to the extreme!

我已專人持札回蘇斥逐, I have already sent someone to take a letter back to Suzhou expel her,

汝若稍有人心,亦當 知過!」 and if you have even a little human sentiment, you should likewise recognise your transgressions!

余接此札,如聞青天霹靂, When I received this letter, it was like hearing thunder from a clear sky;

即肅書認罪,覓騎遄歸, I promptly wrote a respectful letter admitting my guilt, and sought transport to hurry back,

恐芸之 短見也。 afraid that Yun would do something ill-considered.

到家述其本末,而家人乃持逐書至, I got home and described the whole issue, and the person from home then arrived with the letter of expulsion,

歷斥多過,言甚決絕。 chronicling and reprimanding the many transgressions, written with absolute severity.

Series: Six Records of a Floating Life

  1. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 1)
  2. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 2)
  3. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 3) (this article)
  4. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 4)
  5. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 5)
  6. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 6)
  7. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 7)
  8. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 8)
  9. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 9)
  10. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 10)
  11. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 11)
  12. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 12)
  13. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 13)
  14. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 14)

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