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阿城 棋王 一七 translation: Chess King, by Ah Cheng, Chp 1 pt 7

This is the sixth part of a translation of the first chapter of the 1984 novel 棋王 (‘Chess King’) by the Chinese author 阿城 (Ah Cheng).

If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments at the end of the page.

← Part 6 · Part 7 · Part 8 →



这是本异书,也不知是哪朝哪代的,手抄,边边角角儿,补了又补。 It was a strange book - I didn't know what era it was from; it was hand-copied, and it had patched and mended on every side and corner.

上面写的东西,不像是说象棋,好像是说另外的什么事儿。 The things written on it didn't seem to be about chess - they seemed to be about something else.

我第二天又去找老头儿,说我看不懂,他哈哈一笑,说他先给我说一段儿,提个醒儿。 The next day I went to find the old man and said that I didn't understand it; he laughed and said he'd first explain a section to me, and give me a hint.

他一开说,把我吓了一跳。 As soon as he started speaking, he gave me a shock.

原来开宗明义,是讲男女的事儿,我说这是四旧。 As it turned, from the introductory sentence it was about sex; I said this was one of the Four Olds. (开宗明义 is a chengyu meaning 'to set out the general argument'.)

老头儿叹了,说什么是旧? The old man sighed, and asked which of the Olds it was.

“我这每天捡烂纸是不是在捡旧? "Every day when I pick up waste paper - isn't that picking up old things?

可我回去把它们分门别类,卖了钱,养活自己,不是新?” But when I return and sort these things into categories, and sell them for money to support myself - isn't that New?"

又说咱们中国道家讲阴阳 ,这开篇是借男女讲阴阳之气。 He then said that it was our Chinese Daoists talking about Yin and Yang - this opening uses sex to talk about the energy of Yin and Yang.

“阴阳之气相游相交,初不可太盛,太盛则折,折就是‘折断’的‘折’。” "The energy of Yin and Yang are intertwined; at first you can't be too aggressive; if you're too aggressive then you'll break; 'break' is the 'break' of 'break'."

我点点头。 I nodded.

‘太盛则折,太弱则泻’。 "Too strong and you break; too weak and you leak away."

老头儿说我的毛病是太盛。 The old man said that my problem was that I was too aggressive.

又说,若对手盛,则以柔化之。 Then he said that if the opponent was aggressive, then you should be transform him with softness.

可要在化的同时,造成克势。 But at the same time as this transformation, you can overcome them.

柔不是弱,是容,是收,是含。 Softness isn't weakness - it's tolerance, it's acceptance, it's containment.

含而化之,让对手入你的势。 To contain and transform them is to make your opponent come into your strategy.

这势要你造,需无为而无不为。 This strategy must be created by you; it must be through doing nothing and doing everything.

无为即是道,也就是棋运之大不可变,你想变,就不是象棋,输不用说了,连棋边儿都沾不上。 Inaction is the Dao, and it is also the great unchanging spirit of chess; if you want to change it, then it is not chess - you not only certainly lose, but you won't even come close to the boundaries of chess.

棋运不可悖,但每局的势要自己造。 You cannot go against the spirit of chess, but it every round you must create your own dominating strategy.

棋运和势既有,那可就无所不为了 。

玄是真玄,可细琢磨,是那么个理儿。 It was obscure and mysterious, but when I thought about it carefully, I saw that that was what the principle was.

我说,这么讲是真提气,可这下棋,千变万化,怎么才能准赢呢? I said, putting it this way was is certainly inspiring, but playing chess has infinite possibilities, so how can you be sure of victory?

老头儿说这就是造势的学问了。 The old man said that this was where the knowledge of creating your strategy comes in.

造势妙在契机。 The genius of creating your strategy is in turning points.

谁也不走子儿,这棋没法儿下。 If no-one makes a move, then you can't play chess.

可只要对方一动,势就可入,就可导。 But as soon as the opponent makes a move, then your can get into their strategy and then you can direct it.

高手你入他很难,这就要损。 Getting into an expert's strategy is hard - there are bound to be losses.

损他一个子儿,损自己一个子儿,先导开,或找眼钉下,止住他的入势, 铺排下自己的入势。 Taking one of their pieces, losing one of your own pieces; first direct him, or find the crucial moment and pin it down; stop his strategy, and then deploy your own strategy.

这时你万不可死损,势式要相机而变。 At that moment, you can't afford any fatal losses - the style of your strategy must change with the circumstances.

势势有相因之气,势套势,小势开导,大势含而化之,根连根,别人就奈何不得。 Every strategy responds to another's reasoning; strategy overlaps strategy; use your tactics to direct them, and use your strategy to transform them; roots intertwine with roots; your opponent is left with no good choices.

老头儿说我只有套,势不太明。 The old man said I only had set moves, but my strategy was unclear.

套可以算出百步之远,但无势,不成气候。 With set moves you can think a hundred moves in advance, but without strategy it won't amount to much.

又说我脑子好,有琢磨劲儿,后来输我的那一盘,就是大势已破,再下,就是玩了。 Then he said that my mind was good, and it had the strength to refine things; later he lost a game to me, because his strategy was broken; after that, we just played for fun.

老头儿说他日子不多了,无儿无女,遇见我,就传给我吧。 The old man said he didn't have many days left, and had no children; having met me, he wanted to pass this on to me.

我说你老人家棋道这么好,怎么干这种营生呢? I said, your chess game is so good - how you're doing this for a living?

老头儿叹了一口气,说这棋是祖上传下来的,但有训——‘为棋不为生’,为棋是养性,生会坏性,所以生不可太盛。 The old man sighed again and said that he had learnt chess from his ancestors, but there was a saying: 'chess is not a livelihood' - chess nurtures one's nature, but business will damage it, so you shouldn't put too much into business.

又说他从小没学过什么谋生本事,现在想来,倒是训坏了他。 Then he said that he'd never learnt any livelihood, and thinking of it now, he realised the saying had ruined him.

我似乎听明白了一些棋道,可很奇怪,就问: I seemed to understand this way of chess, but it was very strange, so I asked:

“棋道与生道难道有什么不同么?” "How could there be a difference between the way of chess and a way of living?"

王一生说:“我也是这么说,而且魔症起来,问他天下大势。 Wang Yisheng said: "That's what I said, and became obsessed with it, and asked him the overall strategy of the world was."

老头儿说,棋就是这么几个子儿,棋盘就是这么大,无非是道同势不同,可这子儿你全能看在眼底。 The old man said that chess was just a few pieces, the chess board only so big, and that it was nothing but the Dao being the same but the strategy being different; but with these pieces you can see everything before your eyes.

天下的事,不知道的太多。 Of everything in the world, there is too much that you don't know.

这每天的大字报,张张都新鲜,虽看出点道儿,可不能究底。 The daily big-character posters, every page is fresh, and although you can find a little of the way things work in reading it, you can't learn a lot.

子儿不全摆上,这棋就没法儿下。” If you don't set up all the chess pieces, then you can't play chess."

← Part 6 · Part 7 · Part 8 →

If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments at the end of the page.

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