零金碎玉 "Fractions of Gold Fragments of Jade"

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零金碎玉 "Fractions of Gold Fragments of Jade"

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Redigerat: feb 1, 2007, 12:31 am

I've started to keep a small notebook in which I write down or useful adages
so I can better remember. I think any wisdom apart from Confucius can comfortably be entered here. When my father was a school boy in Bejing, one of his favorite teacher, a woman (rare to have a woman in the teaching profession in the 30's), told the children it wasn't important to keep a journal, but to maintain a little notebook, asking them to title it 零金碎玉 "Fractions of Gold Fragments of Jade."

I heard this in a Chinese film, Qinshi Huang tonight--

韓非子 Han Feizi


I understand the above, but am not sure how to best translate it as it's repetitive. Love to have help with this. We don't throw rotten tomatoes here, so not to worry. Most of us are learning and can help one another.

Redigerat: mar 22, 2007, 2:27 am

孟子曰 (Mengzi said)﹕


"Before heaven favors a man with great honor/appointment,
it will belabor his will, exhaust his flesh."

Redigerat: feb 21, 2007, 3:16 pm

Heaven face of "bi"

Earth face of "bi"

Can anyone identify the period of this piece from their jade book? It's definitely not a imitation of an archaic piece. You can see enlargement on Belle Yang author page. People keep flagging it for removal. So I pigheadedly upload the images again ;)

feb 17, 2007, 11:04 am

I'm a little confused about whether this is the right thread or the other one. I'll guess this one where the pictures are.

I don't know very much about this area myself.

What is the scale? How big is it?

liao's idea of Western Zhou based on the design doesn't contradict what little I do know.

Much earlier, I'm not sure. I thought that neolithic bi were mostly uncarved. That's probably an oversimplification.

Do you know Chinese names for the motifs? The "heaven" side almost looks like a cross between more familiar (to me with my limited knowledge) cloud and mask motifs.

As I understand it, since design can last for a very long time, people who know what they are doing (not me) look at technique. The incising itself was rather crude at the beginning. (Though still not as crude as the fakes in curio shops done with dental tools, the ones where the center hole also goes straight through.) But then a diagonal technique developed that had a more gradual edge. Then more complex designs required further complex techniques.

And even more cutting edge is to figure out where the jade itself came from. But I bet that's way beyond us here.

We just have a plain dark-green one that's nice for its simplicity. Its calcifications give it a bit more interest, but I'm not sure whoever made it back when would agree.

feb 20, 2007, 12:22 am

I'm a little unsure where to post--the pictures have been moved but Belleyang's reply to me is in the other forum. Nevertheless, I too think future discussions belong with the pictures.

Belle, I'm afraid I've never worked in a jade museum but I did work (both paid and volunteer) at the National Palace Museum in Taibei for four years. It was a wonderful experience to be exposed to the art on a daily basis. As I've said elsewhere, my interest was largely focused on the bronzes, although rare books and calligraphy are also high on my list. There were many beautiful jade pieces there but I was also turned off by the jade cabbage--which if one stops to really look at it is magnificent, but it also seemed to be the only piece in the gallery that people remembered. That was a shame.

MMcM, I agree with you. Based on what I've seen, neolithic bi tend to be plain although other pieces were carved starting at least as early as the Hongshan culture, and the Liangzhu culture carved their cong. For this particular bi, the earliest example I can find of the "top" pattern is from the Western Zhou with another example or two from the Warring States. I cannot locate any example of the "bottom" pattern and this troubles me somewhat. Nor can I find examples of different patterns being used on each side.

I'm actually excited about this because I feel as if I have a little mystery to work on. And, although I feel I did this years ago and am sure others have done it, I'd like to work on a little time-table of when certain motifs begin appearing (e.g., clouds, lei-wen, etc). I think its time to turn to the Chinese books on jade and see what I can find.

Redigerat: feb 21, 2007, 1:01 pm

>5 liao: thanks Liao (and MMcM). Yah, as a kid, I found the elaborate carvings like the jade cabbages and ornate balls within balls of ivory fascinating. Now I find them terrible for their desecration of material.

What I call "Earth face" is probably cloud patterns, no?

>MMcM, I am guessing the jade came from the Khotan region.

Redigerat: feb 21, 2007, 3:59 pm

完璧歸趙--wan2 bi4 gui1 zhao--"bi (annular disc) returned to the state of Zhao undamaged"

This comes from the story of the covetous king of Qin who desired a beautiful annular disc in the possession of the Zhao King (the "bi" was named 和氏璧). Qin said he would exchange 15 cities for the "bi." The Zhao king was afraid if he did not send an emissary, Qin would attack. A minister named 藺相如, Lin Xiangru, a brave and wise man, swore he would return the "bi" undamaged to Zhao if he sees that the king of Qin is lying.

When Lin saw Qin king's oily gaze, he knew Qin was not to be trusted. Lin threatened to smash the jade and his own head on a palace column. The Qin king realized the minister would indeed smash the valuable jade and began to show Lin a map indicating the 15 cities he would give in exchange for the "bi." Lin asked the Qin king to go on a 5-day fast before receiving the "bi." Qin king agreed to do so. Meanwhile Lin surreptitiously sent the "bi" back to Zhao

This story is where the 完璧歸趙--"bi” (annular disc) returned to the state of Zhao undamaged) comes from. The phrase is used in regard to any object returned to its rightful owner undamaged. It was quoted in "Journey to the West" when Monkey returned the iron fan, which belonged to the Iron Fan Princess, after he used it to fan out an active volcano.

Redigerat: feb 22, 2007, 4:45 pm

>6 belleyang:

... probably cloud patterns ...

I happened to notice that Archaic Chinese Jades (a thin catalog from an exhibit at Smith forty-odd years ago) rather prosaically describes this kind of design as "C- and T-shaped spirals." So now I'm even more curious to know what they are called elsewhere.

... came from the Khotan region ...

Right. I thought I read something about working out sources in more detail than just "fished out of the Yurungkash." I don't remember any details and I probably read it someplace that was light on them to begin with.

Redigerat: mar 16, 2007, 2:25 am

Ah yes, this is a better place for this one.

So this is ZhuangZi, introduced to me by a friend. I happen to really like this one, possibly because I suit it rather than any deeper meaning.


A rough line by line translation might be:
zhuangzi said
the friendship of gentlemen is flavorless like water,
the friendship of 小人 is sweet like wine,
the gentleman's flavorless friendship lasts,
the 小人's sweet friendship ends.

I can't decide on a translation for 小人. Shallow person? Low life? Common man? What's rattling around in my head is 'party boy' but that's the effect of listening to too much Japanese rock/rap with the kids. I'm also stumbling on wine as sweet, since I think wine generally tastes nasty, and 醴 might be a dessert wine equivalent. Still, I don't think 'the friendship of a party boy is sweet like trokenbeerenauslase ... it's easy come, easy go' will do.

My friend changes my factual 'flavorless' to the poetic 'pale' which enchants me. 'the friendship of gentlemen is pale as water ...'

Redigerat: mar 16, 2007, 11:30 am

>9 mvrdrk:

Burton Watson The complete works of Chuang Tzu does 'petty man', which sounds pretty good, since it means small generally (perhaps somewhat archaically except for things like larceny) and the bad quality in question specifically when applied to people.

Belle, in suggesting a move to this thread were you remembering that this passage is from a part of 山木 telling the story of one Lin Hui and a bi? 林回棄千金之璧,負赤子而趨。 Or was that just a coincidence?

Redigerat: mar 16, 2007, 10:25 pm


How about my attempt below? It's a lot harder than one would expect because that "淡" means dilute, diffuse. It's nice to be able to build uponon mvrdrk's and MMcM's offerings.

My parents always, always warn me about warming up to someone in a flash. A more prosaic way of putting things is: In friendships, don't tailgate--maintain a safe and polite distance-- or you may come to a collision. Does that make sense? :)

Master Zhuang said:

The gentleman's friendship is as diffuse as water
A petty man's friendship is as cloying as sweet wine
A gentleman's diffuseness results in lasting bond
A petty man's cloying sweetness leads to severance


Master Zhuang said:

The gentleman's associations are as diffuse as water
A petty man's associations are as cloying as sweet wine
A gentleman's diffuseness results in lasting bonds
A petty man's cloying sweetness leads to severance

Anywho, thanks for this one mvrdrk. It's interesting to work as a group on a translation.

>10 MMcM: MMcM--No, I've never heard of this adage. What does it refer to? that one's child is more valuable than a "bi" worth thousands of pieces of gold?

mar 17, 2007, 12:06 am

>11 belleyang:

Yes, specifically that the bond with a child is more resilient in the face of adversity, which is how the story relates to the adage originally quoted.

A bit more Googling finds that the book is actually online in Hungary, whose copyright laws are evidently more lax. The Mountain Tree.

mar 17, 2007, 3:18 am

MMcM, 'petty' is perfect.

Belleyang, I really like your translations, especially the second one, since 'friendship' is really a stretch in the translation. Thank you!

mar 17, 2007, 2:17 pm

Master Zhuang said:

The gentleman's associations are as diffuse as water
A petty man's associations are as sweet wine
A gentleman's diffuseness results in lasting bonds
A petty man's sweetness leads to severance

>12 MMcM: mvrdrk--It's always easier to "ride" on someone else's and then fiddle with it. I dropped the "cloying" as it now seems unneccessary.

mar 17, 2007, 4:19 pm

Going back to the beginning. 'as sweet wine' would be better as 'as sweet as wine' for the parallel grammar construction?

mar 17, 2007, 6:30 pm

>15 mvrdrk:

The gentleman's associations are as diffuse as water
A petty man's associations are as sweet as wine
A gentleman's diffuseness results in lasting bonds
A petty man's sweetness leads to severance

Redigerat: mar 20, 2007, 6:46 pm

It makes me laugh to think that mvrdrk, MMcM and yours truly translated the above Meng-Tzu saying nicely. This calls to mind the following cliche:


"Three ignorant cobblers are equal to a Zhu Geliang." So call us the three cobblers.

Zhu Geliang was the great strategist under Liu Bei of Shu Han during the period of the Three Kingdoms.

Starting tomorrow night, I will begin to watch the eighty-some episode t.v. drama of 三國演義, "The Three Kingdoms." I'd read the book 16 years ago with the help of my mother, but it was a struggle.

As I mentioned earlier, these t.v. historical dramas are an enjoyable way to learn Chinese because they have great Chinese subtitles. When I pick up the 三國演義 today, I am reading quite well!

Redigerat: mar 20, 2007, 5:45 pm

Edited to correct for Belle's correction in >19 belleyang:. She is right that 淡 in this quotation is a positive quality. 淡, with its about 15 variations of meaning depending on context, fooled me here.

淡 = diffuse still seems not quite the right choice either, though. Lin Yutang says that in the quoted passage it means "simple" or "simplicity." Thus the relations of gentlemen, while simple or plain like water rather than rich like sweet wine, are nevertheless solider and more durable in nature.

Redigerat: mar 20, 2007, 3:21 pm

>18 pechmerle: 淡 in this particular Meng-Tzu is not a bad quality, so "insipid" isn't the word to use. 淡 here means that gentlemen in their relationships 不過份 "are not excessive."

"Tasteless" and "insipid" have bad connotations. 淡 is a positive connotation as in being "discreet."

Pechmerle or anyone else, can you give us cobblers an altogether different and juicy adage to translate?

Redigerat: mar 20, 2007, 6:04 pm

>18 pechmerle: Pechmerle, I don't think Lin Yutang's "simple" is spot on either but, yes, it is better than "diffuse." I'm still thinking what the word should be....Perhaps "simple" comes closest?

But "simple" connotes ease and, to me, maintaining a discreet relationship is the hardest thing in the world to do whether between friends, lovers, associates or among states. All friction comes from this lack of maintaining 淡.

Thanks mvrdrk for this exercise :)

Redigerat: mar 20, 2007, 6:45 pm

>19 belleyang: I was thinking as "clear" as water or as "mild" as water, but not quite right either. So now the four cobblers have come up with something like this:

A gentleman's relations are as simple as water
A petty man's relations are as sweet wine
A gentleman's simplicity results in lasting bonds
A petty man's sweetness leads to severance

mar 21, 2007, 1:31 am

Wow. I've really enjoyed following this translation. I think I prefer "as simple as water" as that contrasts nicely with the wine.

I've always been interested in this remark because when I studied in Taiwan, my Taiwanese friends and I talked about this one night and they all believed it meant that a gentleman didn't keep friends. That despite the many stories and traditions in China of great friendships that it was however inimical to the relationship between child and parents, subject and ruler and husband and wife. McDermott, I think, in a paper on friendship in the Ming says something similar.

Its interesting because they all "read" 淡 as being weak or insipid. I like "simple" as a reading. I feel that it must be what was meant. Has anyone looked at the commentary on this passage? Oh, I guess I should have done that myself years ago. I'll see if I can find it.

mar 21, 2007, 5:38 am

liao, I'd be very interested in commentary on this passage if you can find it. 淡 is a tricky character here. It has both positive and negative connotations depending on context. At its core, the character has to do with the absence of something. Whether that absence is positive or negative depends on context. For example, soup that is 淡 lacks salt (negative). On the other hand, water that is 淡 lacks salt, i.e. is fresh not brackish (positive).

What I am not sure of is whether the Zhuangzi writer in this passage is making use of this negative/positive potentiality within the character 淡.

Redigerat: mar 22, 2007, 2:07 am

Below a mutton fat nephrite seal from the Song (?) Dynasty. Notice how cleverly the seal carver has used a single water radical. Both characters possess the water radical.

Redigerat: mar 22, 2007, 2:07 am

澹 used interchangeably with 淡

澹泊=淡泊. A 閒章above. In this case, the 淡 also means "minimize" and he it refers to "minimize one's desires for fame and fortune."

扯淡--but here is a negative use of the word: "Talking nonsense"

Redigerat: mar 22, 2007, 2:08 am


When literary Chinese hear "澹泊" they associate the words and sentiment with 諸葛亮 (Zhu Geliang) who was invited thrice by Liu Bei to leave his secluded mountain cottage and join Liu's government. But the above words were part of a letter (前出師表) written to Liu A-dou, Liu Bei's not-so-capable son, before Zhu Geliang embarked on a military campaign. In the letter he told Liu A-dou which men's counsel he should listen to while he, 諸葛亮, was away. The above quote tells of his lack of desire for fame.

Redigerat: mar 22, 2007, 3:03 am

>22 liao: Liao said: "Its interesting because they all "read" 淡 as being weak or insipid. I like "simple" as a reading."

Question: by "they" you mean your Taiwanese friends?

I grew up hearing this passage repeated often by men who are knowledgeable in the Chinese classics; 淡 was never used in the sense of insipid or weak. I've been advised to strive for this quality in relationships in order to keep them long-lasting. Commentaries are only as good as the commentator, right? (The Waley translation of Confucius I've read have been off, and I am still wondering why people praise him.)

Question: is this concept of 淡 in relationships so foreign in Western culture? The cliche "good fences make good neighbors" bears distant kinship to this sentiment.

mar 22, 2007, 3:16 am

"I've been advised to strive for this quality in relationships in order to keep them long-lasting." That's interesting, Belle. What do you think is the English equivalent for the quality that they were recommending that you strive for?

If we accept the "simple as water" meaning of the passage from Zhuangzi, then I do think there are some related concepts for relationships in Western culture. An example: In late Victorian England, social observers made a distinction between the manners practiced by the true aristocrats, vs. the middle class (economically and socially a much more distinct group than today). The middle class favored strong adherence to formalities, more formal dress and behavior for receiving visitors, etc. In contrast, the true aristocrat was thought to have a greater ease in manner and dress while still always putting the guest at ease, staying within the bounds of good taste without making a show of doing so, etc. I think that distinction sort of matches up with the point made in the passage from Zhuangzi.

mar 22, 2007, 1:03 pm


Yes, by "they" I do mean my Taiwanese friends who were all college graduates. Of course the latter fact is really neither here nor there in regards to their ability to read and interpret wenyan. But it is telling, that they all knew this passage and all interpreted it in a similar manner. So although it may not be a literatus' interpretation, it was an interpretation known and accepted outside academic/learned circles.

I'll have to locate the McDermott article and see exactly what he said. But I recall that he said some in the Ming also had the same reading of "weak" or "insipid."

For commentaries I'm stumped. I know all the major Han and Song and Qing commentaries for the 13 classics (uh, gee, that sounds boastful--I don't KNOW them but I know of them and have read various ones, etc) but I don't know of any for Zhuangzi. In fact, I don't think I've ever read Zhuangzi in an academic setting. Any suggestions?

I've been busy at work these past few days so I haven't even had a chance to look up 淡 in Wang Li or Hanyu da cidian. Maybe tomorrow night.

mar 22, 2007, 2:37 pm

I think we can't just look at 淡 in isolation. Perhaps looking at it in conjunction with 甘 and in the whole of the poem itself.

Having said so, here's an attempt:

I think one has to decide if this is a poem about contrasts or about similarities. To me 絕 when discussing friendships is a negative. That could make 親 contrasting positive.

Another part of it is whether you think of 甘 as implying 'cloying'. Cloying is negative, yes?

I think I have an academic book on 莊子. I'll have to see if I can find it.

Redigerat: mar 24, 2007, 6:37 pm

Reference Book: 新譯莊子讀本 published by 三名書局 1974(?)

Turns out this bit is from a longer piece called 山木.

The commentary offers the following explanation:

謂君子之交淡泊若水, 比喩永久不變.
醴是甜酒. 謂小人之交以利結合,故甘若醴.
利不可常,故亦不可久. 按禮記表記云: "君子之接若水, 小人之接若醴, 君子淡以成, 小人甘以壞."
註云: "接,交也." 本篇則直接用"交", 疑本篇出於漢代.

If I understand that correctly, it translates something like: talking about the gentleman's association is as flavorless as water, the comparison to water is it doesn't change (I think that means you can drink it repeatedly and never get tired of it, but I'm not sure). Li3 is a sweet wine. The association with 'petty man' is for the purpose of gain, called sweet like li3. Gain can't be often, hence termed doesn't last. According to liji: gentleman association is like water, petty man association is like li3, gentleman flavorless but succeeds, petty man sweet but fails. Note: "association, aka association/friendship" this piece uses association/friendship for association, this piece (what is this referring to?) is from the Han dynasty.

And that exceeds my language abilites. Corrections are needed!
Added: from my 辭海 dictionary - 淡 also has the usage 淡而不厭 meaning lightly flavored that (one) doesn't get tired of

mar 25, 2007, 3:17 pm

I am told that we are not the first group of cobblers to debate the intension and meaning of ancient sages. People have been arguing for centuries upon centuries, so we are in good company.

Thanks, mvrdrk for #31. My mother was saying the same thing: that water one never tires of, is ever refreshing, unlike sweet ceremonial wine.

okt 18, 2007, 5:13 pm

Sorry to be so late but wanted to say that a good reading of 淡々here is 99.9% certain, at least from one whose background is in japanese! The only question would be which sort of good to stress,

1) the free flow in and outness
2) the cool or dryness using english metaphor of the relations (disinterested/serene says dict)