I’m gonna try and explain some parables. Think of these as the Chinese Aesop’s Fables. But before that, I would like to introduce a 比較形 construction. There are numerous types of these in 漢文 (孰与 is similar), and this one, 不如 is a negative form and is read ~にしかず. A few examples:

(Lit. “Hearing about something one hundred times is not the same as seeing it once.” Similar to “a picture is worth a thousand words”)

妄与不如遺棄物於溝壑 *see below
(Lit. “Giving things away left and right is not the same as throwing it into a ditch (溝壑),” but in practice, “If you’re going to give away things left and right, you might as well throw them into a ditch.”)

With that in mind, let’s move on.





Phew, that’s a mouthful. This is a parable from the 説苑(ぜいえん) compiled by 劉向(りゅうきょう) some few dozen years BC. The 説 in 説苑 is pronounced ぜい, which is to express your opinions and beliefs to other people. せつ is found in words like 説明, to explain, and 解説, to commentate, while ぜい is found in 遊説, to campaign or stump. From the 5th century BC to around the 3rd century BC, during China’s 戦国時代, there were people known as 説客 who traveled around the various kingdoms hoping to be used by the lords. Anyway, on to the parable.

子思: A grandson of 孔子(Confucius). His 名 was 伋, and his 字(あざな) was 子思. The 字 was used by lower-ranked people as a form of respect, while the 名 was used by people of similar status or higher status, or in referring to oneself.
居於衛: 衛 was an ancient country, and 於 is similar to the “in” preposition in English. Roughly translated as “Lived in Ei.” There are numerous usages, うhowever.
縕袍無表: A 縕袍 is a type of kimono, thick and used to protect oneself from the cold. Here, the 表 has fallen off from wear (though admittedly, I can’t imagine what this would look like).
二旬而九食: One 旬(しゅん) is ten days, so nine meals in twenty days. While there is no indicator of this being a のみ clause, the context lends itself to this translation. I wonder if 九食にす is also an appropriate translation?
田子方: A person from 魏(ぎ), a country during the 戦国時代
使人遣狐白之裘: 使 is an indicator of 使役形 and the noun directly following takes ~をして, representing the object (in modern Japanese, ~に・を). 狐白之裘 is a fur coat made from the white fur on the underside of a fox.
因りて: Because
謂ひて: To inform someone.
謂之曰: 之 refers to 子思, but the following dialogue, including the 子方曰… part, is conveyed by the person 子方 sent to deliver the coat.
吾仮人遂忘之: 仮 is 貸す, 遂 does NOT mean “In the end.” It means そのまま. 之 does not mean the item he lent but rather the act of lending (I think).
吾与人也: The 也 in this construction is a particle that refers to a situation or condition. Modern Japanese equivalent might be こと・の.
何故不受: Questions in classical Japanese end in the 連体形, not the 終止形, so 受けず becomes 受けざる. Including や is optional. (Generally, や is only included if 乎 etc is at the end to avoid mixing the two up.)
溝壑: A ditch.
伋雖貧也: 雖 is といえども. The 也 here is the same as the 也 above, that is, a particle indicating condition or situation. In this construction, it is both used and not used (meaning optional), and as such does not have to be read. It may be read や or なり. Potential optional translations: 伋、貧と雖も, 伋、貧やと雖も? or 伋、貧と雖もや?
不忍: ~に堪えない
以身為溝壑: 以~為~ is a set construction read ~を以て~と為す. It means とする・と思う. Occasionally, 以為 appears with nothing between. This can be read 以て~と為す or おもへらく~と. This means だと思う (例:虎以為然。虎、以て然(しか)りと為す or 虎、おもへらく然りと。<虎、なるほどと思った>)
是以: There are two variations to this construction. 是以 and 以是. The first is read ここを以て and refers to the preceding opinion, idea, abstract object. The latter is read これを以て and refers to the preceding tangible object.
不敢当: Literally, “This does not apply to me.” お受けするわけにはゆかぬ


Thus ends the first parable, 子思立節. A poor man who cannot afford to eat but once every other day and dressed in tattered clothes, is offered a coat by a rich man who, in doing so, says that he often gives things to people and forgets about them. Really, giving things away is just like throwing them away. The poor man interprets this as the man saying he might as well throw them into a ditch and, unwilling to consider himself a ditch, rejects the coat.

Was this a smart move? Did pride get in the way of the man accepting charity? Or is this an admirable act on the part of the poor man? That, no matter how down and doubt a man gets, he still has his self-respect.

Would 子思 have accepted the coat if 子方 hadn’t spoken so much? I suspect he would have. Sometimes, good intentions are ruined with poor words.




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