Archive for July, 2008

Modernization Needs Culture 现代化需要文化

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I visited Paris and Madrid recently, and after a few museums and historical buildings it looks to me like medieval European culture by the 1100’s was every bit as advanced as Chinese culture of the time if not more advanced! We’ve all been misled by those mistaken comparisons of the primitive castles of the Medieval kings with the grandiose imperial palaces of China of the same era, and come to the erroneous conclusion that culturally the Europeans have been far behind China until the 1700’s. Not so: the grandeur of Medieval Europe is not to be found in the kings’ abodes, but in the cathedrals and religious monuments. The proper comparison should be made between say, the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, which was at the time “the parish church of Europe’s kings”, and the contemporaneous Song Dynasty imperial palace of the 1100’s. The Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral wins in terms of technology: it’s far taller, and it’s got all those huge, gorgeous stained glass windows!

最近去了巴黎和马德里,看了好几处博物馆和文物建筑,发现到了1100年左右,中世纪的欧洲文化已经跟当时的中国看齐,还可能有过之无不及!不适当的比较误导了我们,把中世纪欧洲国王们原始的城堡跟同时代中国皇帝们的威煌宫殿比较,得到了错误的结论,以为欧洲文化比中国落后很多,一直到了1700年代才追上。其实,中世纪欧洲的辉煌并不在国王的住所,而是在大教堂和宗教建筑物。适当的是,以当时是“欧洲各国国王的御用教堂”即巴黎圣母大教堂,跟同时代即1160年代的宋朝皇宫比较。巴黎圣母大教堂则胜于科技:教堂高度高很多,又有那么多巨大华丽的彩色玻璃窗!

Sigh! So many “China scholars” tell us that Europeans had no culture; they just somehow came into possession of some better ships and some guns some time starting around the 1500’s, and then they conquered the world on that! Not true at all! No, they had a lot more, they had a deep, high culture based on Christianity, just like China used to have a deep, high culture based on Confucianism. The West hasn’t just been advanced for a couple of hundred years; they have been advanced for 1,000 years! The West’s modernity is deeply based on advanced cultural traditions that stretch back 1,000 years.

唉!很多“中国学专家”告诉我们,欧洲人是没有文化的,不过是1500年代开始,不知怎样的,拿到了比人家好的船只和几枝火枪,就征服世界了!但完全不是这样啊!他们还有很多其他的东西,他们有深厚的、高级的、基于基督教的文化,正如中国以前曾经有深厚的、高级的、基于孔教的文化一样。西方不是先进了仅仅那两百多年,他们先进了一千年了!西方的现代化,是深深地基于一套长达一千年的先进文化传统的。

So this proves to me that the thinking that China can disregard and even throw away all that high culture we’ve had for a couple of thousand years back and just somehow modernize, is wrong. The West has built its modernization upon a foundation of a thousand years of Western high culture; can China build its modernization without the foundation of past Chinese high culture? No, for China to modernize, China needs to come to terms with and embrace its past high culture, then add to it where it’s deficient and build on it where it’s advanced or even superior.

对我来说,这证明了现在以为中国可以不理会、甚至可以抛弃所有自己曾经拥有过几千年的高文化,也仍然能现代化起来的思想,是错误的。西方的现代化是在自己一千年文化的基础上建筑起来的,中国可以不在自己几千年的文化基础上建筑现代化吗?不可以的。中国要现代化,就一定要包容和接纳自己过去的文化,然后有缺陷的地方就填补,有先进或甚至优越的地方就加强。

Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明


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Professor Yu Dan’s Talk on Ideals 于丹教授谈理想

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Sigh! I also admire Professor Yu Dan, whose books are wildly popular in China, for promoting Confucius, but in her talk on ideals she really is teaching people the wrong thing; according to her it’s bad to have high ideals, but good to be a hedonist! If you want to reform the country, to bring happiness to the country or peace to the world, then you lack humility. You are not good enough to talk about such things. You are only good enough to have as your ideals “down to earth” things, like going to the countryside in spring, having a party there, singing some songs and relaxing a bit. If this is not keeping the people foolish and enslaved then what is it? This is also putting down those who worry about their country and their people, and praising those hedonists who only think about enjoying themselves! And she talks about it with such conviction and self-righteousness - tsk, tsk!

唉!我也赞赏著书风行中国的于丹教授宣扬孔子,但她关于理想的谈话真是教坏人;依她说,怀抱着高尚的理想是坏的,做享乐主义者是好的!如果你想要改良国家,要治国平天下,那么你就是没有谦虚。你没资格谈这些东西,你的理想就只配是什么脚低下的东西,春天里跟朋友去郊外旅行,开一下party,唱一下歌,轻松一下… 这不是愚民和奴民是什么?同时,这也贬低那些虑国忧民的人,赞扬那些只顾寻求开心的享乐主义者!她还说得这么振振有词,哎呀!

Is everything in the classic Lun Yu always reliable, always correct? To me, this passage in Lun Yu is probably not accurate. Here Confucius is portrayed as a teacher who sneers at but wouldn’t come out and enlighten his student; when a student has high ideals he’s arrogant, yet when a student is more modest then he has denigrated the importance of The Rites. Only when a student obviously of noble birth, haughtily waiting until he has finished playing a lute that only nobles can play so well, give an answer from a hedonistic viewpoint that only a noble can fully appreciate from personal experience, promoting the kind of romantic activity that only a noble accorded a life of leisure can regularly enjoy, only then does Confucius endorse the answer. How could the “Teacher For All Generations” look down upon students of commoner origin and pander to students of noble origin?

《论语》的一切都可靠,都没有错误吗?我看,《论语》里这段,就可能不准确,把孔子描叙为一个嘲笑学生又不明言指点教导学生的老师,学生抱负远大就说他骄傲,学生谦虚一点就说他贬低了礼仪的重要性,唯有那个明明是贵族出身的学生,傲慢地等自己弹完那具只有贵族才会弹得这么好的琴,然后作出只有贵族才体会贴切的享乐主义观点的答案,推崇只有习惯悠逸生活的贵族才会常常欣赏到的风流活动,唯有这个学生孔子才赞同。万世师表,怎会这样藐视平民出身的学生而谄媚贵族出身的学生呢?

He couldn’t. Therefore, Mr. Ma Qian Li, a modern Confucian scholar who has written a whole book to criticize Yu Dan, interprets this passage as the student wanting, not for himself to go play in the countryside during spring, but for everyone in the world to be able to go play in the countryside during spring, to be able to enjoy such leisurely lives, and that Confucius thinks that this is the highest ideal. I think that this interpretation is a bit contrived and does not match the original text, but at least Mr. Ma hasn’t participated in glorifying hedonism, the way that Yu Dan has. I personally think that Lun Yu does have some things that are wrong, some things that cannot be what Confucius would advocate, and this passage is an example. I think that toward things in the Confucian classics, it doesn’t hurt to take an objective attitude - of course we shouldn’t say that everything is wrong, but neither do we need to blindly take everything to be right.

不会的,所以,写了整整一本书来批评于丹的现代儒家学者马千里,就把这篇对话解释为,不是那个学生要自己在春天到郊外玩,而是他的理想是,要天下所有人都能够在春天到郊外玩,享受到这种舒逸生活,同时孔子则认为这个抱负才最高尚。我觉得,这个解释比较勉强,不符合原文,但是最少没有像于丹那样,参加了对享乐主义的歌颂。我本人呢,我就觉得《论语》里面有一些不对的、不应该是孔子所提倡的东西,这段就是例子。我觉得,孔教经典里的东西,我们不妨用客观的眼光来看待,当然不应该全盘否定,但同时也不需要盲目地全盘肯定。

By the way, I think that the kind of thinking that Professor Yu Dan promotes belongs to the school of Confucian philosophical idealism, and follows the same lines as people such as Zhu Xi, which I don’t completely agree with. Moreover, I think their method of thinking is dangerous, and can lead to absolutes, excesses, arbitrariness, cultism and other bad things, of which this extolling of hedonism is just an example. At the same time, however, she is still promoting Confucius, courtesy and integrity and she is making people interested in Confucius and the Chinese intellectual heritage, so all that should be affirmed. I don’t agree with “The Ten PhD’s” who rudely attack Yu Dan,saying that she has no right to interpret Confucius in her own way, and saying that in carrying Yu Dan’s talks the media lacks a conscience and is endangering Chinese culture. If Chinese culture is so weak that it collapses when a professor popularizes it a bit, when ordinary people get to know it a bit, and that it has to be kept hidden in the hot houses of some elite school PhD’s, why do we need this kind of culture? Perhaps The Ten PhD’s are a bit lacking in respect for the Chinese intellectual heritage?

再说,我觉得于丹教授提倡的思想,是儒家的唯心学派别,是步朱熹等人后尘的思想,我并不完全同意,而且还觉得这是一种危险的思想方式,可以导致绝对、过分、专横、过分崇拜等弊端,这里推崇享乐主义便是例子。但是,她总算是提倡孔子,提倡礼义,引发人们对孔子、对中华思维传统的兴趣,这个是必须肯定的。所以,我不同意“十博士”等人那样对于丹作出无礼的评击,说她没权对孔子作出自己的解释,说传媒没良心,刊载于丹就是危害中华文化。如果中华文化这么脆弱,一旦被一位教授普及一下,让普通群众们认识一下,就会崩溃,而只能永远躲在高校博士们的温室里,这种文化要它来做什么?十博士们不会是对中华思维传统缺乏了一点尊敬吧?

The Chinese Cultural Renaissance has begun; no doubt a hundred flowers will bloom and a hundred schools will contend.

中华文化复兴开始了,必将是百花齐放、百家争鸣的。

Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明


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Bringing Up Good Children with Di Zi Gui
用《弟子规》养育好孩子

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

It’s so nice to see a Mom discover Di Zi Gui for herself and her children! Back in the ’80’s I discovered the same thing: I read Di Zi Gui and I went, “Wow! This is exactly what my kids need! This is what I’ve gotta teach them!” They were newborn, 5 and 7 then.

真开心,看到一位母亲为自己和孩子们发现了《弟子规》!八十年代时,我也发现了同样的东西:我看了《弟子规》后说,“哗!这正是我孩子们所需的东西!这正是我须要教他们的东西!”当时他们是:刚出生、五岁、和七岁。

Back then, to teach my North American-born kids I had to translate the work myself, write the Cantonese pronunciation in English next to the Chinese words so my kids can recite the Chinese, and with scissors and much photocopying create my own bilingual textbooks.

当年,为了教我北美洲出生的孩子们,我要自己把文章翻译, 为了让他们能够把原文诵读,要在汉字旁写上广州话的英语字母拼音,又要用剪刀和复印机来创造我自己的双语教材书。

My 4 little ones have all been good as children, they have grown up to be pretty nice people, and, I risk sounding like a cocky parent but I have to put this in: they all got into good colleges - McGill, Harvard, and 2 in Stanford.

四个孩子,小时候都是好孩子,长大了都相当善良,同时,虽然不想做个夸耀自己孩子的家长,但还是要说,他们都进了不错的大学:麦克吉尔、哈佛、两个入斯坦福。

And I credit a lot of it to Di Zi Gui. I think studying Di Zi Gui has not only given them a moral mooring, but has also given them a sense of pride and identity in their Chinese heritage, a quiet self esteem and self confidence that drives them to always do their best, and an inner strength that helps them overcome setbacks and adversity.

这一切我认为《弟子规》功劳很大。学习《弟子规》,不但给了他们道德的指南,也给了他们对自己中华血统的自豪感和认同感,使他们有自尊心和自信心,因而凡事都尽力而为,还使他们有内在的力量,来克服挫折和艰难。

Since then I’ve taught some of my Mandarin-speaking friends’ teenage kids, requiring me to also write in the Mandarin Pronunciation, and now I’ve been teaching it to teenagers. Also I’ve put my bilingual texts online so other people can take advantage of the wonderful Chinese intellectual heritage. Here’s the link: www.tsoidug.org/dizigui.php

之后,我教过几位说普通话的朋友们的十几岁儿女,就把普通话拼音符号也写上了,现在则教其他十几岁的少年。同时,我把我的双语教材放在网上,让其他人都可以享受这个优良的中华思维传统。网址是: www.tsoidug.org/dizigui.php

Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明


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Xiao Shouldn’t be Translated as “Filial Piety”
孝不应译为“子女的虔诚”

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Some people ask me why I translate xiao into English as “being good to parents” rather than the prevalent translation of “filial piety”.  That’s because “filial piety” is open to cultish interpretation.

有人问我,为什么把“孝”用英语翻译为“对父母好“而不是通行的“子女的虔诚”呢?因为“子女的虔诚”一词,有时会令人用过度崇拜的角度来解释孝。

What cultish interpretation?  Well, around 1000 C.E., an intellectual movement came into dominance in China, and some people in that intellectual movement added some tendencies toward absolutes, excesses, metaphysics and cultish thinking onto Confucianism, originally a set of reasonable and practical tenets.

什么过度崇拜?就是公元一千年左右,有一股思潮在中国上升为主流,而这思潮中的一些人,对本来是一套合理实用原则的孔教,加上了一些绝对、过分、形而上学、过度崇拜等倾向 。

When it came to xiao some people with this mode of thinking advocated a sort of god-like worship of one’s living parents, a self-deprecating all-pervasive guilt feeling, constant self-punishment as a form of “offering” and piety, excessive emphasis on obedience and prostration, excessive grieving to the point of quitting all duty and staying night and day next to the parent’s grave for a full three years, and so forth and so on.

说到孝时,那思潮中的一些人提倡,好像对神那样崇拜还活着的父母,对父母怀着一种贬责自己、渗透一切言行的内疚,用不断的自我惩罚来作为“奉献”和“虔诚”,过分强调服从和俯拜,过分哀悼父母乃至丢掉所有职责、在墓旁日

It was precisely when this mode of thinking was at its zenith, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), that Jesuit missionaries working at the Emperor’s court coined “filial piety” as the term for xiao.

正是当这思潮处于巅峰时,即明朝时(1368-1644),在朝廷工作的耶稣会传教士把孝翻译为“子女的虔诚”。

I think xiao should mostly be a normal day-to-day activity of being good to parents and acting in their fundamental interests.  No god-like worship of one’s living parents is needed, no self-deprecating all-pervasive guilt feeling is called for, and no extraordinarily painful, self-punishing, excruciating exertion or sacrifice need be involved, except under certain special circumstances.  Instead of a subjective state of mind, i.e. a “piety”, I think xiao is more of an objective state, i.e. a way of conduct, indeed, as Confucius and Zeng Zi have said in Xiao Jing (The Classic of Xiao), a whole way of living one’s life.

我认为孝主要是日常行为对父母好,为父母的根本利益行事。不需要对还活着的父母好像神那样崇拜,不需要那种贬责自己、渗透一切言行的内疚,同时,除非特殊情况之下,也不需要异常痛苦的、自我惩罚性的、不必要的辛劳和牺牲。我认为孝的主要成分,并非是主观的一种心态或“虔诚”,而是一个客观的状态,是一种行为,事实上,好像孔子和曾子在《孝经》所提出一样,是一整套生活方式。

Thus I think it is more accurate to translate xiao as “being good to parents” than as “filial piety”.

所以,我认为把孝翻译为“对父母好”比“子女的虔诚”更为正确。

Feng Xin-ming  冯欣明

July 6, 2008 edited July 11, 2008


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