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Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by idialegre, Sep 16, 2013.

  1. idialegre Senior Member

    Hamburg, Germany
    USA English
    Hi everybody,

    I am studying the poem 沁园春•雪 by Mao Zedong. I'm having some trouble understanding the line


    (The whole line is 惜秦皇漢武 略輸文采.)

    I understand 文采 as "literary matters, and I believe 輸 here means "lose." But I am unsure about 略. Does it have the meaning of "rather?" As in, "They (these two emperors) rather lost (interest) in literary matters?" The dictionary also gives the meaning "plunder" for 略. Does it then mean that the two emperors plundered (i.e., were more interested in plundering) and lost interest in literary matters?

    Thanks in advance for any help!
  2. tarlou Senior Member

    略 means "slightly". 秦皇漢武 are great and famous emperors in Chinese history. 略輸文采 means they are not as good as "us" in literary matters.

    略輸文采 is grammatically parallel to 稍遜風騷 in the next sentence, and they have the same meaning.

    If you read this together with the next few sentences, the meaning is basically "
    秦皇漢武 唐宗宋祖 成吉思汗 (although are great men in history) are all just 'nerds'. If you want to find a real 风流人物, you have to think about today". Supporters interpret the poem as saying the people devoted to revolution are much greater than the most famous emperors. Opposers think it means the author think himself as a best-ever emperor.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2013
  3. idialegre Senior Member

    Hamburg, Germany
    USA English
    Thank you for your explanation, tarlou. Am I correct in understanding 輸 as "losing" or perhaps "lacking"?
  4. Ghabi

    Ghabi Moderator

    Cantonese (Hong Kong)
    Hi! It's "lacking" as you say. He's practically boasting that he's better then the other emperors mentioned as he's the only one who's well-versed in both the pen and the sword (at least he thinks so).
  5. tarlou Senior Member

    It means they "lose" in the "game" of comparing literary with "us". So you may interpret the sentence as "losing in literary matters". Of course, if you want to be more specific about what "winning" and "losing" are in this comparison, then "losing" is "lacking".
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2013
  6. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    Agreed. 漢武帝, known for his fond of literature, did not "lack" literary talents (文采: 指文学才华). His poems received high praise from scholars of later dynasties. The author used 輸 "lose" not 缺 "lack" to imply comparison or competition. Basically, he set the rules of the "game", acted as the judge himself, and proclaimed himself the winner, with [FONT=新細明體]數風流人物,還看今朝[/FONT] in that poem making his ego even more obvious.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2013
  7. idialegre Senior Member

    Hamburg, Germany
    USA English
    Thanks, everybody! Your comments really helped.
  8. SuperXW Senior Member

    I agree. It's like saying: "Even those great emperors who were known for their abilities and scholarship, are still not as good when comparing to 'you know who'. ;) "
    When we were in school, we learnt the poem and the official note says 風流人物 refers to "the people". No one should get the answer wrong. We naive students believed it. What a brainwash.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2013
  9. tarlou Senior Member

    I would not like to speak for someone who makes me feel disgusted. However, it seems everyone has the same interpretation about the poem and are strongly opposing the other side. I don't think the poem reveals enough information for either side and it is not "scientific" to draw a conclusion with just the above analyses. 汉武帝、唐太宗 are known for their 文采, but what about 秦始皇、宋太祖? I have only heard of 焚书坑儒 and 太祖长拳. And 成吉思汗 is obviously just an illiterate compared to average man. Moreover, speaking of political abilities, 成吉思汗 and 秦始皇 are very controversial. I don't think the emperors mentioned were explicitly selected "standards" to "beat". They are just famous names and representing one single thing ---- You have to think about the view of the world of the author, i.e. the theory of the evolution of human societies. He thought he (and the party) has found the key to solve all problems, and therefore they are better than any past politicians. This is probably not boasting one person, but actually boasting a theory and a group of people (called "the people" in his mind).
  10. SuperXW Senior Member

    I also have considered your point of view, seriously. I admit there is a possibility that 風流人物 could mean the people in general, or some better people he expected to see, not necessarily himself.
    The poem is quite a good one, and the controversial sentence actually shows the beauty of ambiguity in literature. It makes readers wonder and try to decipher its meaning.
    However, this is what I think:
    1. It's a brainwash if a textbook set "the people" as the standard answer.
    2. If he really meant "the people" but quite a lot of readers felt the other way, then it's a failure on delivering his true idea.
    3. Personally, I don't think "the people" can be compared to those emperors. They are not comparable in any aspect. One vs. Many? Emperor vs. civilians? Comparing 文采風騷 to ordinary Chinese at that time? Could they all write poem? When you said 略輸文采, that meant the mysterious competitor should be physically as strong as those emperors on 武功. Were the people?
    4. Thinking about the view of the world of the author, i.e. the theory of the evolution of human societies. Mao thought he (and the party) has found the key to solve all problems. True. He had a lot of works illustrating that. But this poem was just comparing "who's 風流人物". To me, "I'm 風流人物" sounds much more like the answer comparing to the far-fetched theories. (Even he did want to surpass those emperors, it was charming. Every leader should have that ambition. Nothing wrong. But I'm really not satisfied with my textbook...)

    Sorry, this is obviously off-topic. We shouldn't discuss this here.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2013
  11. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    That's right. Shouldn't be carried away :)
    But if you want to continue or to discuss other non-linguistic issues, look at the forum index for "culture/cultural" forums. They may be the right places to post.

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