Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chogonka, part 4

Evidently the way to sink double-digit reader to single-digit reader is to spend months on a Chinese poem. :-)  I promise this will be the only such long digression in the chapter.  The second half of the poem is drawn on more heavily than the first for the "Kiritsubo" chapter.

61 春風、桃李花の開く夜
The windy spring nights when the peach and plum trees bloomed,

- SKT and wikisource read 日 instead of 夜.

62 秋雨、梧桐葉の落る時。
The autumn rains, when the leaves of the Wutong trees fell.

- SKT interprets these lines as meaning "In all the times described, the King could not forget Yang Guifei," whereas wikisource says that the spring days have been replaced by the autumn rains.  Neither interpretation is literally in the original but something more is going on than the literal translation.

63 西宮、南、秋草多し。
The western palace and the southern gardens had many autumn plants.

- SKT and wikisource have 南内 here (southern palace).

64 宮葉、階に満ちて紅掃はず。
The scarlet leaves of the palace covering the stairs were not swept away.

- SKT and wikisource have 落葉 (fallen leaves)

65 梨園の弟子、白髮新なり。
The children of the Pear Garden had newly white hair.

-  梨園弟子 is a term for the singers and performers of the Pear Garden musical group in the palace.  SKT says this was led by Xuanzong himself.

66 椒房の阿監、青蛾老たり。
The women in the Jiaofang's eyebrows had grown old.

- The Jiaofang was where the Empresses of the Han Dynasty lived; 青蛾 is a symbol of youth. 

67 夕殿に螢飛びて、思ひ悄然
In the evening palace the fireflies flew, and the King was alone and sad.

68 孤燈挑(かか)げ尽くして、未だ眠ることを成さず。
The lamps were lit and burned out, but still he could not sleep.

- SKT has 秋 instead of 孤.

69 遅遅たる鐘鼓、初て長き夜,
The slow bells and drums, the long night had just begun.

- SKT has 鐘漏, saying this is a water-based clock.

70 耿耿たる星河, 曙なんと欲する天。
The brightly shining stars; he wished the morning would come.

71 鴛鴦瓦冷にして、霜の華重く,
The duck tiles were cold, and the crystallized frost was heavy.

- SKT indicates that the "duck tiles" means tiles that are closely spaced, like the mandarin ducks were said to be close in poetry.

72 翡翠衾寒して、誰とにか共にせん。
The jade quilt was cold, who would share it with him?

- SKT emends the first part to 旧枕故衾.

73 悠悠たる生死別て年を経,
Years passed since they had suffered the long separation of life and death,

74 魂魄曾て来て夢にだに入らざる。
Her soul had not even appeared once in his dreams.

75 臨邛の士、鴻都の客,
A Daoist priest from Linqiong came as a guest to Hongdu.

- "Hongdu" is a gate of the palace that was near a school and a library; it didn't exist in Emperor Wu's time so the SKT suggests this just means the Daoist priest was coming to study.

76 能く精誠を以って魂魄を致す。
He had the spiritual power that let him call spirits.

77 君王、展転の思を感ぜしめんが為に
Because he noticed that the King was afflicted with longing for his beloved,

78 遂に方士をして殷勤に覓して教む。
The King had the priest earnestly seek out her spirit.

79 空を排し、気に馭して、奔ること電の如く,
The priest was like lightning as he parted the skies and sent his spirit out riding in the air.

80 天に昇り、地に入て之を求ること遍し。
He ascended to the heavens and back down to the earth, searching for her everywhere.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chogonka, part 3

41 君王、面を掩て救て得ず。
The King covered his face, unable to save her

42 首を回せば、血と涙と相ひ和して流る。
When he turned his head, he saw blood and tears combining and flowing away.

43 黄埃(こうあい)、散漫として風蕭索(せうさく)たり。
The yellow dust scattered sadly in the breeze.

44 雲の棧、縈り紆りて劍閣に登る。
The walkways in the clouds wind around and climb up through Jiange.

- Or "the passes of Mount Jian," a border gate in modern Sichuan. The next few lines continue to describe the King's journey home.

45 峨嵋山の下人の行くこと少まれ也
There were few people going through the foot of Mount Emei.

- Both SKT and the wikisource point out that Emei isn't on Xuanzong's route but it was a common place in poetry and it was a famous part of Shu.

46 旌旗光無して日色薄く。
The banners had no light and the sun was pale.

- In other words the sky was cloudy so the sun couldn't illuminate the King's banners.

47 蜀江、水碧にして蜀山青し。
The water of the Shu rivers was blue, and the Shu mountains were green.

- 青 here refers to the lush plant growth, so it's not "blue".

48 聖主朝朝(あさなあさな)暮暮(ゆうべゆうべ)の情、
The King's feelings morning and night

- This is another line where I don't fully understand the grammar of the original.  SKT indicates this line means "(But in contrast to the lushness of the mountains and river,) the King's felt downcast because he thought about her morning and night."  Wikisource has "Our liege lord thought about her night and day."  It seems more to me like this should lead into the next lines, describing the King's 情.

49 行宮に月を見ては心を傷むる色,
Watching the moon in his temporary dwelling reflected the pain of his heart.

50 夜の雨に鈴を聞ては腸を断つ声。
Hearing bells on a rainy night was a sound of deep sorrow.

- SKT emends 鈴 to 猿, suggesting this is based on a 故事 about a mother monkey crying for her children.

51 天旋り、日転りて龍馭を廻へす,
The heavens turned and the sun moved, and the Emperor's chariot returned.

- This is a poetic way of saying the rebellion ended.  I believe that Xuanzong had abdicated by this point and was a retired Emperor.

52 此に到て躊躇して去ること能はず。
When he reached this place he hesitated and was unable to depart.

- "This place" is Mawei, where Yang Guifei was killed.

53 馬嵬の坡の下泥土の中,
In the mud and dirt at the base of Mawei's slopes,

54 玉顏を見ずして空しく死せし処。
He did not see her jeweled face, but only the place where she uselessly died.

- wikisource suggests that 玉 here is a reference to Guifei's birth name 玉環, although 玉 is a fairly conventional symbol of beauty.

55 君臣、相顧みて盡(ことごと)く衣を霑(うるほ)す,
The King and his ministers looked at each other, and they all soaked their clothes [with tears].

56 東の(方)都門を望み、馬に信(まか)せて帰る。
They turned towards the Eastern gate of the capital, and let their horses make their way home.

57 帰り来て池苑、皆な旧きに依る,
When they returned, the ponds and gardens were just like before.

58 太液の芙蓉、未央の柳。
The lotuses of Taiye and the willows of Weiyang.

- Weiyang palace was a Han Dynasty location, but in the Tang dynasty a pond had been built in the palace called Weiyang.  Wikisource says that the Taiye ponds were constructed by Emperor Wu, making this yet another reference to him.  Incidentally, this line is quoted verbatim in "Kiritsubo"; the only direct quote of the poem.

59 芙蓉は面の如く、柳は眉の如く,
 The lotuses were like her face, and the willows were like her eyebrows.

60 此に対して如何ぞ涙を垂(給は)ざらん。
Faced with this, how could the King not cry?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Kiritsubo, a new translation

I mentioned before that I'm moving back to the US and doing other things, so I've been too busy to get out posts. Just to keep something going here I'll post the first part of an attempt at a new translation I've been doing while working on my dissertation. My idea was to write a translation (or retelling?) with no annotation, but that incorporated the usual commentary into the translation through the vehicle of the narrator (who is always more present in the original than in any translation). Here's the first part.


This was in some past reign, although I'm not entirely sure which one. There were many women serving the Emperor, from the high-ranking Consorts to the lower-ranking Intimates. Among all these women, there was one who was somewhat lower ranking. The Emperor loved her so much that he treated her beyond what her station should have warranted. Now the highest-ranking Consorts had assumed that they would be the ones to receive the Emperor's favor, and they looked down on this upstart with scorn. She was an Intimate, and the Emperor's action made all the other Intimates even more uneasy. Her constant service in the palace shocked everyone.

She had to put up with a great deal of spite from these other women, and it may be because of this that she began to get sick. More and more she seemed to spend more time at her mother's residence than in the palace, and she always had a distracted, lonely look on her face. But this only made the Emperor love her more, and look on her with increased pity. Even as the Emperor he was not immune to criticism from others, but he couldn't pay any attention to it – the way things were going, it was obvious that his behavior was going to end up as a cautionary tale for a later generation.

The men, too, were aghast. The high-ranking nobles and privy gentlemen were helpless to deal with the situation and turned away their eyes in shame. “The Emperor's love for this Intimate is embarrassing,” they said. They knew of the many examples from Chinese history of rulers who threw the entire country into chaos due to love, and this seed of worry began to spread into the wider world. Before too long, it was inevitable that people would begin talking of Yang Guifei – the famous Chinese poem about her made a perfect parallel with what was going on in the court. Amidst all this the poor Intimate was subjected to all kinds of disgraceful treatment, but she continued to go to the palace and serve, having nothing to rely on but the grace of the Emperor's protection.

Why was this her only protection? Her father had been a high-ranking Grand Counselor, but he had passed away some time before. Her mother, the main wife of this Grand Counselor, had the grace of an ancient lineage, and she was determined not to let her daughter lag behind these other women who had both parents still living, and who had such high reputations at court. She tried her best to prepare her daughter for any kind of ceremony, but political backing from a male relative was simply too important. Whenever there was particularly important function or official event, she didn't have anyone to rely on, and she could only sit by with a lonely face.

The Emperor and this Intimate must have had a strong karmic bond in their previous life as well. She bore a child, and it was a male – a baby boy more splendid than anyone in the world, looking like a pearl. The birth took place at the Intimate's home, of course, so the Emperor waited expectantly at the palace, impatient to see his newborn son. He had the child brought to him as soon as he could, and was delighted to see the boy's childlike appearance. The Emperor's first son had been born to a high-ranking Consort, the daughter of the Minister of the Right. She lived in the Kokiden wing of the palace. The first son had excellent political backing, and everyone knew that he would someday be the Crown Prince. Even so, he could not compare with the beauty of this newborn son. The Emperor supported his first-born publicly, but in private he lavished all his attention on the new child.

The Intimate, the child's mother, was never of a rank that would have allowed her to do common palace service. Rather than going to the Emperor, the way a serving maid would, she should have stayed in her own room in the palace and waited for the Emperor to arrive. When she first arrived in the palace she had high respect from others, and she always appeared well-bred and elegant. But the Emperor would constantly have her with him during musical events, and any time there was a significant function he would call on her first. Even worse, when he spent the night with her, he would sometimes sleep late and have her continue to serve him in his rooms, not letting her return to her own – because of this, it's natural that others began to look down on her and that she grew to seem common and low-class.

This was the situation when the child was born. After the birth, the Emperor treated her with even more special care, so much so that the Kokiden Consort, the mother of the First Prince, began to grow suspicious. “If this keeps up,” she thought, “it's possible that he would even make this child the Crown Prince, and her the Empress!” This Consort had been the first to arrive in the Emperor's palace service, and naturally assumed she would eventually be Empress. Indeed the Emperor did think of her greatly, and she had given him a number of splendid children. So it's perfectly understandable why the Emperor would take her admonitions seriously, and worry about his own conduct.

As I said, the Intimate relied on the Emperor's august protection, but many other women in the palace looked down on her and sought to do her harm. She was weak and frequently ill, and the Emperor's favor was causing her more worry than benefit.

She lived in the Kiritsubo pavilion of the palace, the furthest place from the Emperor's quarters. Whenever the Emperor wanted to visit her, he had to pass by quite a few people – and he visited her so many times. Is it any wonder that those women he constantly passed by were at their wits' end with anger? She sometimes visited the Emperor instead, and on many such occasions, these other women strewed filthy things all over the walkways around the buildings and the crossbridges between them. The gentlewomen that accompanied her couldn't avoid the mess, and the bottoms of their skirts became horribly fouled.

As if this weren't enough, sometimes the women got together and locked her in a passageway, shutting the doors from both sides. They did everything they could to cause her distress, and she suffered greatly. This sort of miserable conduct only increased, and the Emperor took even greater pity on her than before. The Koroden was very close to his quarters, and he had the Intimate who originally served in there moved somewhere else, and gave those rooms to his beloved as a temporary place to stay when he wished to call on her. Of course, the Intimate who was bounced out bore a particularly implacable grudge.