Brief bio sketch

Lloyd Haft (1946- ) was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin USA and lived as a boy in Wisconsin, Louisiana and Kansas. In 1968 he graduated from Harvard College and went to Leiden, The Netherlands for graduate study in Chinese (M. A. 1973, Ph. D. 1981). From 1973 to 2004 he taught Chinese language and literature, mostly poetry, at Leiden. His sinological publications include Pien Chih-lin: A Study in Modern Chinese Poetry (1983/2011; published in Chinese translation as 发现卞之琳: 一位西方学者的探索之旅 in 2010) and Zhou Mengdie’s Poetry of Consciousness (2006). His most recent book, a liberal modern Dutch reading of Laozi's Daode jing, was published as Lau-tze's vele wegen by Synthese in September 2017.

He has translated extensively into English from the Dutch of Herman Gorter and Willem Hussem, and from the Chinese of various poets including Lo Fu, Yang Lingye, Bian Zhilin and Zhou Mengdie.

Since the 1980s he has also been active as a poet writing in Dutch and English. He was awarded the Jan Campert Prize for his 1993 bilingual volume Atlantis and the Ida Gerhardt Prize for his 2003 Dutch free-verse readings of the Psalms (republished by Uitgeverij Vesuvius in 2011). His newer poems are published (some republished) on this blog.

After early retirement in 2004, for a number of years Lloyd Haft spent much of his time in Taiwan with his wife Katie Su. In addition to writing and translating, his interests include Song-dynasty philosophy and taiji quan. He sings in the choir of a Roman Catholic church of the Eastern Rite in The Hague.

Friday, July 1, 2011

‘I am; therefore I co-think’ – Part Two

(Scraps from a Sinological Scrapbook 漢齋閒情異誌, fragment 14)

For another outstanding example of this subjective/objective dilemma, this time drawn from the stylistic world of Classical Chinese or wenyan, we now turn to one of my favorite Undeservedly Unsung Sinological Chestnuts. I am referring (just in case you haven’t already guessed) to Gu Hongming’s 辜鴻銘1906 translation of the Zhong Yong[1] 中庸as reprinted in the 1956 British edition of Lin Yutang’s The Wisdom of China. On page 281 (in Zhong Yong section 20) we read that it is important for ‘every one called to the government of nations’ to attend to ‘identifying himself with the interests and welfare of the whole body of officers.’ (In the original, that whole last bit is 體群臣 .) Here we see ti , often a noun meaning ‘body,’ being used as a transitive verb.
        A few pages earlier (p. 276, from section 16), there is another passage whose original ‘embodies’ a similar verbal use of ti : ‘The power of spiritual inherent in all things.’ (In the original, ‘is inherent in all things’ is ti wu 體物 .)
        If I had to choose between ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ in these two cases, I would say ‘identifying himself with the interests and welfare...’ referred to a ‘subjective’ or mental state, whereas ‘is inherent in all things’ was an ‘objective’ description of a more or less physical fact.
        But let’s look at some other versions of this ti wu passage from the Zhong Yong. Our great and inimitable master translator James Legge translated it

The Master said, ‘How abundantly do spiritual beings display the powers that belong to them! We look for them, but do not see them; we listen to, but do not hear them; yet they enter into all things (italics mine, in the original ti wu), and there is nothing without them’.[2]

曰: 鬼神之為德其盛矣乎! 視之而弗見, 聽之而弗聞, 體物而不可遺。

In his commentary Legge maintains his characteristic deadpan tone, saying that the meaning of the ti phrase in this passage ‘cannot be determined’. He explains that ‘the old interpreters’ take ti to mean ‘to give birth to’, and according to one of them, the ‘spiritual beings’ are themselves the Dao, ‘embodied in Heaven’.
Couvreur translated this passage more than once: in Les quatre livres and in Li Ki, both times in French as well as Latin. In Les quatre livres the phrase I have italicized appears in French as ‘Ils sont en toutes choses...’ and in Latin as ‘Unum corpus efficiunt cum rebus...’[3] In Li Ki the formulations are quite different: in French ‘ils constituent tous les êtres...’ and in Latin ‘Constituunt res...’[4] In his Chinese-French dictionary of classical Chinese, Couvreur lists various meanings for ti used as a verb, including: faire partie d’un tout, former semble un seul et même corps, être étroitement uni. One of the examples cited is the ‘...whole body of officers’ passage I have already quoted from the Zhong Yong, which Couvreur translates ‘considère et traite tous les officiers comme ses membres’.[5]

Richard Wilhelm in his Li Gi wrote:

Der Meister sprach: Wie herrlich sind doch die Geisteskräfte der Götter und Ahnen! Man schaut nach ihnen und sieht sie nicht; man horcht nach ihnen und hört sie nicht. Und doch gestalten sie die Dinge, und keines kann ihrer entbehren.[6]

This word ti also occurs in the Daoist Zhuangzi 莊子, where it is likewise variously interpreted. In Zhuangzi, toward the end of chapter 7 we are advised to ti jin wu qiong 體盡無窮 . In Graham’s translation this is ‘become wholly identified with the limitless’.[7] Burton Watson reads it as ‘embody to the fullest what has no end.’[8] In the German version by Richard Wilhelm this becomes a third-person statement: ‘Er beachtet das Kleinste und ist doch unerschöpflich...’[9] The use of the verb beachten (heed, pay attention to) for ti seems to imply that Wilhelm here sides with the interpreters who take the word in a more psychological sense.
Comparing these versions, we note two overall tendencies of interpretation. Some translators take ti to mean to be one with, or to form a single whole with; others take it more psychologically as a sympathetic or intuitive identification with. Is the most basic reference to a cognitive or psychic process or, on the other hand, to a factual or existential condition of unity? (It seems to me that Legge’s ‘enter into’ could conceivably be taken either way: objectively being part of the composition of, or subjectively being in understanding empathy with.) The eminent nineteenth-century sinologists could not easily decide: not only had they found both meanings attested in ancient Chinese texts; the Chinese commentators themselves read the word now this way, now that.
In the fairly recent (2001) Zhong Yong version by Ames and Hall,[10] what the ‘gods and spirits’ (i.e., the ‘spiritual beings’ or ‘spiritual forces’) do is to ‘inform events’ (ti wu). In the other passage about the ‘whole body of officers,’ Ames and Hall write ‘be inclusive of the whole assembly of ministers.’
How are we as readers supposed to interpert this ‘be inclusive of’? Can we take it ‘psychologically,’ as meaning to be in sympathy with or tolerant or considerate of? I think we can. But can we also read it ‘objectively’ – as meaning that in some sense the ‘whole body’ of other people, that group, are actually present inside, somehow inhere in, the subject? Can the very essence[11] of a person ‘be inclusive of’ a group?
It can. All we need to do is to plug in a Chinese definition of the ‘self’ or ‘person.’ We will do that shortly. But we will also need to take a closer look at Ames and Hall’s translation, because ti is not the only word they translate, let’s just say,  ‘stimulatingly.’ They translate ren as ‘authoritative conduct...’

[to be continued...]

[1] The fact that I write Zhong and Yong as separate words should not necessarily be taken to imply that I construe the title as two back-to-back nouns (cf. Tu Wei-ming’s 杜維明 Centrality and Commonality) as opposed to a verb-object construction (as in Ames and Hall’s Focusing the Familiar) or a noun modified by an adjective (as in Gu Hongming’s Central Harmony). I just don’t subscribe to the idea that in pinyin, wherever possible everything always has to be run together, even people’s first and last names not being written with a space between...
[2] James Legge, The Chinese Classics (7 vols; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2nd rev. edn, 1893), 1,  p. 397.
[3] F. S. Couvreur S. J., Les quatre livres (Sien Hsien: Imprimerie de la mission catholique, 3rd edn, 1930), p. 39.
[4] S. Couvreur, Li Ki (Ho Kien Fou: Imprimerie de la mission catholique, 1899),  2, pp. 440-41.
[5] F. S. Couvreur S. J., Dictionnaire classique de la langue chinoise (Taipei: Kuangchi Press, 1933), p. 1035.
[6] Li Gi, Das Buch der Sitte, aus dem Chinesischen übersetzt und erläutert von Richard Wilhelm (Köln, Eugen Diederichs Verlag, 1958), p. 32.
[7] Chuang-tzu, The Seven Inner Chapters and other writings from the book Chuang-tzu  (trans. A. C. Graham; London: George Allen and Unwin, 1981), p. 98.
[8] Chuang Tzu, Basic Writings (trans. Burton Watson; New York: Columbia University Press, 1964), p. 94.
[9] Dschuang Dsï, Das wahre Buch vom Südlichen Blütenland, aus dem Chinesischen übersetzt und erläutert von Richard Wilhelm (Köln: Eugen Diederichs Verlag, 1969), p. 99.
[10] Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall, Focusing the Familiar: A Translation and Philosophical Interpretation of the Zhongyong. University of Hawai’i Press 2001.
[11] ‘Essence’ is, of course, one of the possible definitions of ti .