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Classical Chinese

Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 5)

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

(See the index of Fu Sheng Liu Ji translations)

浮生六記第六卷:坎坷記愁 → Section 5

余曰:「卿自情癡耳,此中人何情之有哉? I said “You, my dear, were simply besotted, that’s all. What feelings could this mediocre person have?

卿 is a respectful term of endearment and intimacy (literally 'minister'). 情癡 is a binome meaning besotted, or having deep feelings. 中人 refers to a normal / mediocre person (i.e. 芸 is better than a 中人). 有 is like 有什么 here.

況錦衣玉食者,未必能安於荊釵布裙也,與其後悔,莫若無成。」 How much more so someone who leads a life of luxury, who would surely never be content with a modest existence? It’s better to fail now than to have regrets later.”

_況 means "how much more so". There are two idioms in this line: 錦衣玉食 is literally "brocade garments and jade meals", and refers to a life of luxury. 荊釵布裙 is literally "thorns for a hairpin and cloth for a skirt", and refers to a lowly, modest existence. 其後 is like the modern 以后._

因撫慰之再三。 Accordingly, I comforted and consoled her repeatedly.

_因 alone usually means 'accordingly'. 撫 is physical (comfort), and 慰 is emotional (console). Literally, he comforts her three times._

而芸終以受愚為恨,血疾大發,牀席支離,刀圭無效,時發時止,骨瘦形銷。 But to the end Yun regarded being duped as a cause for grief, and her blood illness flared up; the beds and mats were in disarray; the medicine had no effect; sometimes the disease flared up, sometimes it stopped, and she became greatly emaciated.

_Notice the 以 structure at the beginning. 受 here is a passive marker. 支離 means 'disarray' (Yun is unable to tidy the house). 刀圭 is medicine. 骨瘦形銷 is an idiom, literally meaning something like "bone thin with melted form", here translated as "greatly emaciated"._

不數年而逋負日增,物議日起,老親又以盟妓一端,憎惡日甚,余則調停中立,已非生人之境矣。 Before a few years, our debts increased by the day, as did the gossip about us; because she had pledged an oath of sisterhood to a prostitute, my parents’ hatred for Yun also grew daily; I acted as a neutral mediator - certainly not way for a human being to live.

_一端 here means 'one cause'. 調停 is a binome meaning 'mediator', and 中立 is another meaning 'neutral'. 已 here is 'very much' or 'certainly'._

芸生一女名青君,時年十四,頗知書,且極賢能,質釵典服,幸賴辛勞。 Yun had given birth to a girl named Qingjun; when she was fourteen she was quite literate, and moreover was very capable; she sold hairpins and pawned clothes, and we were lucky to be able to rely on her toil.

_It's fairly bizarre that Shen Fu has never mentioned his daughter before, and pretty much introduces her with "Yun had given birth to a girl about fourteen years before this". Qingjun is not treated very well later on in the story, either._

子名逢森,時年十二,從師讀書。 Our son’s personal name was Fengsen; at that time he was twelve years old, and was learning literacy from a teacher.

_Note that 名 can generally be translated as 'name', but it is only part of a complex system of Chinese names._

余連年無館,設一書畫鋪於家門之內,三日所進,不敷一日所出,焦勞困苦,竭蹷時形。 I was without work for a few years, so I set up a calligraphy inside the entrance of our home; but the income of three days did not cover one day’s expenses; I was weary and distressed, and our destitution was frequently evident.

_There's an elegant double structure with 所 here, literally "what came in in three days was not sufficient for what went out in one day"._

隆冬無裘,挺身而過,青君亦衣單股栗,猶強曰:「不寒。」 In the depth of winter I did not have a fur coat, but I had to brace myself and get through it; Qingjun also wore only one layer of clothing and shivered, but she bravely said “I’m not cold.”

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)
  4. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 4)
  5. Six Records of a Floating Life, 3: Kanke Jichou (Section 5) (this article)
  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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