十分酒

cando

Senior Member
English - British
#1
The poem 《问少年》 by Bai Juyi contains the line: 十分酒写白金盂。

Is 十分酒 a type of very strong liquor/wine or does it have another idiomatic meaning? The phrase appears to be used in other Chinese poems too, but the literal "very wine" makes no sense in English.

Thanks.
 
  • Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    #2
    十分酒 usually serves as an adjectival predicate (e.g., 他是十分酒, 萬分悲) describing the state of having drunk to the full, especially to hilarity. Here, it serves as a noun refering to the maximum amount of alcohol that one can stomach.
    瀉白金盂 literally means "to be drained off the silver cup". It is an innovative and interesting way to describe the action of pouring it (= alcohol, the content of the silver cup) into one's stomach.
    So, 十分酒瀉白金盂 literally means "The maximum amount of alcohol that one can stomach has been drained off the silver cup." In other words, he has drunk as much as he can. He has drunk to the full. He is completely intoxicated.
     
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    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    #3
    but the literal "very wine" makes no sense in English.
    Although 十分 reflects "very" in modern Chinese, you should know that its literal and original meaning is "10 out of 10". So you can understand Chinese poems better.
    We use 几分 to describe a certain rate of something.
    E.g.
    三分醉: 30% drunk
    七分醒: 70% awake
    八分饱: 80% full
    不带有半分遗憾: without any bit of regret
     

    cando

    Senior Member
    English - British
    #4
    Thanks very much for both answers, which are really helpful. That makes more sense now of his inclusion of 写 in the line. So perhaps "Having drunk to the full from [drained] the silver cup of literature [writing]" (the previous line refers to a jade casket stuffed full of poems).

    I am enjoying the challenge of exploring how Tang dynasty poetry uses the language in a much more condensed way and often, of course, with different idiomatic and cultural contexts.
     
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    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    #5
    I think:
    案 refers to a desk (in this context) or a tray (as in 舉案齊眉), not a casket or a box.
    堆 means "to pile up".
    寫 here does not mean "to write" or "writing". It means 洩 (see 康熙字典). 寫 (音瀉,上聲) and 瀉 (音寫,上聲) are homophones in Middle Chinese, and both can mean 洩. That is, 寫 = 瀉 = 洩.
     
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    cando

    Senior Member
    English - British
    #6
    I think I was being misled by trying to impose my own poetic interpretation as well as misreading the character. So lots of newbie errors. Thanks again for the patience and guidance.
     
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