Classical Chinese

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Re: Classical Chinese

Unread postby Liu Yuante » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:09 am

Posting this here for Sang, this is the list of tools/texts I use for working on Classical Chinese texts:

An Introduction To Literary Chinese by Michael A. Fuller - This is an introductory textbook aimed at students wishing to learn Classical Chinese. Short of actual classes, which may not be feasible, this is the place I would encourage someone to start. When I first started working with 3K texts I was getting nowhere fast, and that's because I was trying to translate into English before I even knew how to read and understand the language itself. This book got me back on a solid path.

Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar by Edwin G Pulleyblank. This is not a textbook, but a reference book. I will use it to look up constructions and phrases when I am stuck and I also would read the sections that were related to whatever lesson I was working on in the Fuller book. Both books can probably be gotten less expensively used at other sites, but I've linked to Amazon because it's easiest.

New Age Chinese-English Dictionary - Pricey but worth it. Recommended to me by Lady Wu and it has served me well. There is an updated, 2008 edition - it is even more expensive though, and I haven't gotten it yet. The link above is for the 2001 edition.

SGZ - This is a paper copy of the SGZ and if you are going to work on translating anything from it, you are going to want to have a hard copy. If nothing else, it makes comprehending proper names and such a million times easier - without it, you have to get those things through context and that is a frustrating proposition. Only downside is the website is in Chinese. You also will want this for possible textual inaccuracies in online texts - just today I found where an online text erroneously had 王 - king, instead of the correct 壬, which is the 9th heavenly stem (part of the Chinese calender system).

Online text of the SGZ in Traditional characters - It can also be very useful to have an online copy of the text to work from. This is not the one I use - it went away a long time ago, and I've carried my saved .html from PC to PC over the years - but it looks ok to me. Pei Songzhi's notes are done as links to another page, which is interesting.

Online text of the SGZ in Simplified characters - Useful primarily because the dictionary above is organized by Simplified characters (although it also gives the Traditional forms). Again, not the one I use - it, too, is long gone - but looks ok.

MDBG Online Dictionary - Most of the time, for convenience, I work from an online/.html text. The pluses to this are that the text is laid out left-to-right and top-to-bottom, like an English text, as opposed to the top-to-bottom, right-to-left organization of a standard text. The easiest way to use an online text - at least until you start getting your vocabulary down - is using a tool like MDBG. You can annotate a block of text and it will give you the pinyin and some definitions, as well as doing things like radical identification. This is also useful for making paper dictionary lookup easier, since they are organized by radical and pinyin - and you will be consulting the paper dictionary a lot. MDGB is useful but it isn't everything.

Additional tools that I use but that aren't strictly necessary include Kingsoft Powerword, which is a more robust version of the MDGB service, kind of like a software version of the paper dictionary above. The downside is that it is about $75 and right now Google Chrome gives me warnings about their North American purchase site. However, it gives a lot of usages and has a lot of archaic and literary usages.

I also keep a copy of Rafe de Crespigny's To Establish Peace around because it contains an excellent article on military organisation at the time of 3K as well as an excellent glossary at the back. The text is available online at his website, but doesn't contain characters, which makes identifying various titles and ranks difficult. His website is useful for the article on the civil administration of the time as well, though again it lacks characters. I also have a copy of Achilles Fang's Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms that I sometimes consult. Both works contain a lot of notes by de Crespigny and Fang and since Sima Guang used SGZ as a source, sometimes these notes can help with a passage.


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Re: Classical Chinese

Unread postby Sang » Mon Jan 30, 2012 9:54 pm

Liu Yuante wrote:Posting this here for Sang, this is the list of tools/texts I use for working on Classical Chinese texts:

Finally the books has arrived. Thanks Liu Yuante. But sadly, the program I am in right now is pretty hard because there are a lots of information to remember. But I will try what I can to self-taught myself of this new language.

Thanks again for the links. :)
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Re: Classical Chinese

Unread postby Liu Yuante » Sun Feb 05, 2012 6:11 am

Sang wrote:
Liu Yuante wrote:Posting this here for Sang, this is the list of tools/texts I use for working on Classical Chinese texts:

Finally the books has arrived. Thanks Liu Yuante. But sadly, the program I am in right now is pretty hard because there are a lots of information to remember. But I will try what I can to self-taught myself of this new language.

Thanks again for the links. :)


No problem - best of luck to you.

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Re: Classical Chinese

Unread postby Jordan » Fri Feb 17, 2012 7:11 pm

I've started studying Paul Rouzer's A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese. I bought Fuller's book, but found it more difficult to get started with than Rouzer's. I thank you for the recommendations though, especially the online links. In a few years once I've had some study, I'll probably look into Pulleybank's book and your other suggestions. I've bookmarked this page.
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Re: Classical Chinese

Unread postby Liu Yuante » Wed Feb 22, 2012 6:18 pm

Jordan wrote:I've started studying Paul Rouzer's A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese. I bought Fuller's book, but found it more difficult to get started with than Rouzer's. I thank you for the recommendations though, especially the online links. In a few years once I've had some study, I'll probably look into Pulleybank's book and your other suggestions. I've bookmarked this page.


How is the Rouzer book? I saw it on Amazon and thought it looked interesting, especially for someone with 3K interests, because of its emphasis on pre-Han and Han texts. The reason I like Fuller so much is because of the overall strategy for comprehension that he lays out - in other words, you understand the meaning of an individual word through its context in a part of a sentence; you understand that part of a sentence through its relationship to the rest of the sentence; you understand the sentence in relation to the rest of the passage; the passage is understood through its context in the entire work; and you understand the work through its context in place and time of composition.

For me that has always been the best way to figure out difficult passages and characters and to arrive at a good understanding, but I'm curious that you are saying Rouzer's book is easier to get into. Does he present an overall strategy or how exactly is the book layed out?

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Re: Classical Chinese

Unread postby Jordan » Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:22 am

Rouzer explains early on more or less the same thing: A word in Chinese can have several different meanings. He stresses the point in the same way as Fuller does, stating that not only is it useful to understand the context of a word by looking at the sentence, but also to understand context by looking at the paragraph as well as the historical time period in which the passage was written. At various times he gives examples of how one word might mean something different in later literary Chinese as opposed to earlier writings. In the vocabulary lists for each chapter, he will usually give all the meanings of a word while putting an asterik next to the meaning that's relevant for the chapter. At the end of the chapter he gives extensive notes to explain grammar and syntax, and includes practice exercises as well.

For whatever reason, I had a hard time starting out with Fuller's book. I've occasionally referenced it from time to time, but mostly I've been sticking to the lessons in Rouzer's primer. It may be that I am unused to the format that Fuller lays out. Rouzer's book seems more like the kind of textbook I am used to from all my other classes. I found the introductory lessons easier to follow and grasp than Fuller's first chapter. Rouzer's book was layed out in such a way that, once I finished learning his vocabulary and reading the grammar rules for the first couple chapters, I could more or less understand the passages in Chinese characters that he included for those sections. With Fuller, I looked over the vocabulary and read his notes, and I still found myself stumped on what exactly everything meant once I read the first Chinese passage he included.

Admittedly, I am a complete and total beginner on all of this.
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Re: Classical Chinese

Unread postby Liu Yuante » Wed Feb 29, 2012 11:19 pm

Jordan wrote:Rouzer explains early on more or less the same thing: A word in Chinese can have several different meanings. He stresses the point in the same way as Fuller does, stating that not only is it useful to understand the context of a word by looking at the sentence, but also to understand context by looking at the paragraph as well as the historical time period in which the passage was written. At various times he gives examples of how one word might mean something different in later literary Chinese as opposed to earlier writings. In the vocabulary lists for each chapter, he will usually give all the meanings of a word while putting an asterik next to the meaning that's relevant for the chapter. At the end of the chapter he gives extensive notes to explain grammar and syntax, and includes practice exercises as well.

For whatever reason, I had a hard time starting out with Fuller's book. I've occasionally referenced it from time to time, but mostly I've been sticking to the lessons in Rouzer's primer. It may be that I am unused to the format that Fuller lays out. Rouzer's book seems more like the kind of textbook I am used to from all my other classes. I found the introductory lessons easier to follow and grasp than Fuller's first chapter. Rouzer's book was layed out in such a way that, once I finished learning his vocabulary and reading the grammar rules for the first couple chapters, I could more or less understand the passages in Chinese characters that he included for those sections. With Fuller, I looked over the vocabulary and read his notes, and I still found myself stumped on what exactly everything meant once I read the first Chinese passage he included.

Admittedly, I am a complete and total beginner on all of this.


Out of curiosity, when you started reading Fuller and Rouzer, were you completely unfamiliar with Chinese characters? I've read some online reviews and it seems Rouzer is finding more favor with folks in that situation. I'm thinking it's possible I may have found Fuller useful because I had already spent a couple of months working on Cao Cao's bio and so had some familiarity already. Regardless, different books work for different learning styles and I'm glad you found one that works for you. i will probably pick it up myself at some point so I can take a look.

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Re: Classical Chinese

Unread postby Jordan » Tue Mar 20, 2012 10:15 pm

I wouldn't say I was completely unfamiliar, but I was mostly unfamiliar, yes. I had taken slightly more than a semester of Mandarin, but otherwise was inexperienced. As far as "literary Chinese," I had no experience at all. I think that's why I preferred Rouzer. I'm not planning on abandoning the other book though. I'll get back to it when I have the chance. I also plan on getting Pulleyblank's book when I get the chance because Rouzer mentions it fairly extensively.
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Re: Classical Chinese

Unread postby Liu Yuante » Sun Oct 07, 2012 9:02 pm

Discovered just today that Skritter.com - which unfortunately is a commercial website, but they do have a free trial - has in their textbook libraries a couple of classical texts - Classical Chinese: A Functional Approach and Classical Chinese Medical Texts.

I decided to give it a whirl and, to be honest, it's pretty cool. I'm awful about remembering to do vocab drills and flashcards and one of the things that hurt me so much when I started working on this stuff again after a 4 year layoff is having to re-learn so much of the vocabulary.

This lets you do the flashcard/vocab thing on your computer or Apple device and so far I'm reasonably impressed. Will I keep it past the trail period? Dunno. But I might, and it might be useful for others to check out.

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Re: Classical Chinese

Unread postby Liu Yuante » Sun Jan 18, 2015 6:58 pm

A Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese

That is the Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese. Focuses specifically on meanings from the Classical and Medieval age, without mixing them all up with modern definitions.

I want it.
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