Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Chogonka, part 1

My goal is to post roughly 20 lines of the poem each post.  I'm only going to do the 訓読 based on Hagiwara's citation of the poem; this uses some different kanji and a few different kundoku from the 新釈漢文大系 (SKT) text that I'm using for annotations.  If you want to see the original Chinese text and pinyin, go to the Wikisource page.  That page has a good natural translation so I'll try to be a bit more literal and explain some more of the terms and such.

長恨歌 (Song of Everlasting Regret/Neverending Sorrow)

1 漢王、色を重んじて、傾国を思ふ。
The King of Han valued sex, and wanted a beautiful woman.

- The "King of Han" is a poetic conceit to avoid naming Emperor Xuanzong, since the Tang Dynasty was still ruling.  There is no doubt who the poem is about, though.  The suggestion is that this is about Emperor Wu of Han and his relationship with Consort Li.  Li has been suggested as one model for the Kiritsubo Intimate.  The term 傾国 also comes from the Book of Han's biography of Consort Li; see the translated passage at wiktionary.

- "sex" is kind of a bold translation of 色 but I couldn't come up with a better one.  "Love" or "romance" don't really work.  Maybe the wikisource's choice of "dalliances", although somewhat Victorian, is more appropriate.

2 御宇(あめのしたしろしめして)多年求むれど、得ず。
He searched during the many years of his reign, but couldn't find any such beauty.

3 楊家に女(むすめ)あり、初めて長(ひと)と成れり。
In the House of Yang there was a daughter who had just come of age.

4 養はれて深閨に在りて、人未だ識らず。
She was raised and kept in the inner house, and people did not yet know her.

5 天の生(な)せる麗質、自ら棄て難し。
Her natural beauty was difficult to ignore.

- I'm not entirely sure how to interpret 自難棄; apparently it's just "impossible to ignore" but I don't fully understand the construction of that meaning.

6 一朝選ばれて、君王の側に在り。
One day, she was chosen, and went by the King's side.

7 頭を回らし、一たび笑しては百の媚生(な)る。
By turning her head and laughing once, it was one hundred times as sexy.

- None of the editions I've looked at really translate the meaning of the words, they just go with something like "Her entrancing smile could melt anyone's heart".  I'm really not sure if my more literal interpretation is accurate at all.

8 六宮の粉黛、顏色無し。
The powdered beauties of the palace had no beauty.

- Presumably in comparison to Yang Guifei.  A less literal translation would be "The other women in the palace could not compare to her."

9 春寒くして、浴を賜ふ、華清の池。
In the cold spring, the King gave her the gift of bathing in the Huaqing Pool.

10 温泉の水、滑らかにして凝れる脂を洗ふ。
The waters of the hot spring were smooth, and cleansed her white skin.

- 凝脂 is kind of an odd phrase; it seems to mean "(skin) white like solid fat" and is derived from the Shi jing.

11 侍兒(おもとひと)、扶け起して、嬌て力無し。
Her serving women helped her exit; she was slender and had no strength.

12 始を是れ新たに恩沢を承くる時。
This is just when she began to receive the King's favor.

-SKT reads 始 as まさしく and says it means "Just now".

13 雲の鬢(つら)、花の顏ばせ金の步搖(さしくしやり)
She had hair like a cloud, a face like a flower, and gold jewelry in her hair.

- 雲 may just mean "dark" but it might also refer to other aspects of clouds as well.

14 芙蓉帳暖かにして春宵を度る。
They spent the spring nights behind a warm screen of hibiscus.

15 春宵短きを苦しんで、日高(たけ)て起く。
They lamented the shortness of the spring nights, and rose when the sun was high.

16 此れ従、 君王、早朝(あさまつりごと)せず。
From this point, the King no longer did his morning government duties.

-従 is evidently read より here.

17 歓を承け宴に侍するに間暇無し。
She pleased the Emperor and accompanied him to banquets; she had no free time.

- SKT emends 宴 to 寝 from other manuscripts and says this means "she spent time in his sleeping chamber".   承歓 is evidently some kind of idiom.

18 春は春の遊びに従ひ、夜は夜を専にす。
In the spring she accompanied him on his spring outings, and at night she was with him every night.

19 後宮の佳麗、三千人。
There were three thousand beautiful women in the palace,

- SKT emends 後 to 漢 from other manuscripts, changing the meaning to "In the Han Palace..."

20 三千の寵愛、一身に在り。
(but) the love for the three thousand was with one woman alone.

Sounds like a great love story!  What could go wrong?


  1. Sounds like a great love story! What could go wrong?

    Yeah! Looking forward to what I am sure will be a happy ending with Imperial grandkids and so on.

    I like the daring of "valued sex" but I don't think I could get behind it in an academic context. It's kind of self-defeating: if he valued sex, then he surely shouldn't care if he's having it with a country-toppling beauty or just a regular ol' beauty. So he must be after something more than just sex, and that something more is what's missing from the translation "sex". That said, I can't think of a better translation either. My naiive reading of the line would be that he valued BEAUTY ("form", etc. -- I'm clearly influenced by my Buddhocentric reading here), and (therefore) sought someone maximally beautiful -- makes logical sense, but I guess that isn't considered the correct interpretation of 色.

    難自棄 is interesting. If you assume that "自棄" means something like "abandon of one's own volition", there seem to be two possible readings: either it was hard for HER to disavow her own beauty (and thus avoid the Emperor's attentions), or it was hard for THE EMPEROR to ignore her beauty (to "discard" it, pretend he had not seen it) of his own volition -- and who was going to force him to do it? That second intepretation is presumably where translations like "impossible to ignore" come from. (The construction kind of reminds me of the English expression "[s]he had a[n] X that wouldn't quit", but I guess that would require interpreting the phrase 難自棄 to mean that the beauty couldn't throw itself away, which seems dubious.)

    "百媚" is in the 日本国語大辞典 with the definition "さまざまのなまめかしい姿態、様子。". ("一笑百媚" is in there too.) So I don't think it's "100 times the 媚 (than X)" so much as "all kinds of 媚" or "extremely 媚".

    凝脂 is an amazing word. Yellow forehead, green eyebrows, and skin like coagulated fat: now that's beauty.

    1. ザ・もろこしんどFebruary 17, 2013 at 4:35 PM

      I must be a die-hard Chinese to see nothing bizarre out of 凝脂... To me it is not far from 玉 and totally confirms with the usual Chinese aesthetics (clichéd as it is) of feminine skin, which values whiteness and "fineness" (dunno if it's the right word though, flatness and uniformness of the surface, to put it more unambiguously).

    2. Yeah, reading an explanation it makes logical sense to me. It's totally a cultural thing -- pale and smooth as 凝脂 is, its other associations with cooking residue and so on get in the way for me. I've no doubt that English is just as entertaining to people of appropriate dissimilar cultures: "Her cheeks were 'rosy'? You mean all wrinkled and full of bugs?!"

  2. ザ・ニュービーFebruary 17, 2013 at 4:30 PM

    It's amazing, from a Chinese perspective, to see some of the kundoku readings diverging from the usual reading in China. I'm refering to the "長(ひと)と成れり" part. To a Chinese ear, 長 is "to grow up" (the usual kundoku for this should be たける, but it doesn't seem to be very accurate), and 成 a completative complement. So in Chinese it is read as "to finish growing up", not "to become (成) an adult (長)". The meaning is the same, though.

    (Just back from China, the land without blogspot and livejournal.)

    1. Some other editions have 長成(ちょうせい)す for that.

      My 漢和辞典 does give "an adult" as a meaning for 長; ひと is not given as a reading but kundoku is fairly arbitrary. Although in that case you would expect it to be reversed (成長) I suppose?

    2. ザ・ニュービーFebruary 17, 2013 at 5:11 PM

      "ひとになる" would indeed be "成長", although I have never thought is along these lines. Its too high frequency in modern written Chinese prevented it being analyzed.

      This kundoku is indeed much less mechanistic than what is usually encountered: "步搖(さしくしやり)", "早朝(あさまつりごと)". As a learner of Japanese, I applaud this style, though people may entertain other opinions.

    3. The newbie (also in English)February 17, 2013 at 5:19 PM

      Ouch, mechanical. I should be writing English more often or else I wouldn't come out with anything comprehensible...

    4. It could be that Hagiwara wasn't satisfied with any of the single-word Japanese expressions for "grow up", and so he used "hito ni naru" instead, with "-eri" corresponding to the completative complement. (What would the usual reading of 成 be in that context?)

      Pre-Meiji and especially Edo-period kundoku is usually much more inventive and rewarding than the modern variety. For all the talk about mechanistic transformations, my subjective impression is that the text was approached in a much more natural and even "free" manner -- reading "閉話休題" as "さて" and so on. One really noticeable change is that nowadays two-kanji compound words tend to be read as kango, while back in the day it was much more common to assign the unit an appropriate native Japanese reading (which may or may not have anything to do with the standard kun reading of the actual characters involved!).

    5. Incidentally, the version given in the 新潮日本古典集成 also has ひととなれり for this. Their introduction to the poem says 読み下し文は、大東急記念文庫所蔵の金沢文庫旧蔵本に付せられた訓点を参考にして作製した。これによって、ある程度まで、平安時代に行われていた古い訓読文の面影を再現し得たかと思う。

      As for あさまつりごと, the term is used in the Kiritsubo chapter as a direct reference to the Chogonka so that would certainly influence such a kundoku even if it weren't the standard.

    6. ニュービーになりけりFebruary 18, 2013 at 4:20 PM

      Thanks Matt, the "-eri" for "成" thing totally makes sense! I was wondering why they suddenly have a tense marker in a Chinese text, because in my intuition Chineseness implies lack of tense and politeness marking, and indeed this is confirmed in for example "傾国を思ふ" which would be "思っていた" in kōgo and with some past marker ("けり"?) in a less Chinese style, if I can trust my half-baked Sprachgefühl.