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Tung Chung-shu, 'Ch'un-ch'iu fan-lu': Uppiger Tau des Fruhling-und-Herbst-Klassikers; Ubersetzung und Annotation der Kapitel eins bis sechs.

Competition would be fierce were there ever an attempt to award a prize for the most blatant neglect and misunderstanding of an ancient Chinese philosophical text; but if such a contest were held, one can be sure that the Chunqiu fanlu would at least rate an honorable mention. This eighty-one-chapter collection of essays and fragments (of which three are missing from the extant text), allegedly by the Former Han Confucian Dong Zhongshu, has never been fully rendered into English or any other Western language, and enjoys the dubious distinction of being one of the few important Chinese texts to lack a Japanese translation (the Shunju hanro by Hihara Toshikuni |Meitoku, 1977~, despite its title, covers only the first five chapters). Moreover, discoveries made during the past thirty years but largely ignored until quite recently have made the vast majority of previous studies of the text and its alleged author at least partially obsolete.

The work under review is an annotated translation of the first six chapters of the Chunqiu fanlu, with copious notes, a superficially impressive apparatus of textual criticism, and reproduction of the Chinese original. What do we have a right to expect? First, of course, that it be as reliable and accurate as possible; but also, in the case of such a problematic and frequently questioned collection, that it provide background information on both the contents of the work and the controversies that have surrounded it. Gassmann's book, while a welcome addition to the study of a particularly neglected portion of a disregarded and misunderstood text, is not an unqualified success on either score. Especially when it comes to the authenticity and background of the work, it tends to deal with problems by ignoring them, an ignorance that sometimes reflects itself in the translation and produces unnecessary error and confusion.

A brief sketch of the text's history may serve to illustrate the risks entailed by any attempt to go at it blind. Although the Chunqiu fanlu has been widely reputed to be from the hand of Dong Zhongshu (c. 195-115 B.C.), the effective founder of the Former Han Gongyang tradition and arguably the most important Confucian of the entire Han dynasty, no work of that name can be attested in contemporary sources. Its closest equivalent, listed in the bibliographic treatise to the Hanshu, is a collection entitled simply Dong Zhongshu. This was 123 chapters long, and the most common assumption has been that the 81 chapters of the Chunqiu fanlu represent the portion of the Dong Zhongshu that survived the battering of time between the end of the Han and the early sixth century, when the Chunqiu fanlu is first mentioned in bibliographies and cited by name in the works of other scholars. However, the remarks by Ban Gu at the end of Dong Zhongshu's Hanshu biography seem to indicate that several chapters near the beginning of the present Chunqiu fanlu were not included in the Dong Zhongshu. They seem to have formed part of another, independent collection, perhaps partially from Dong's hand but not listed under his name in contemporary sources. What this collection might have been, and how it was transmuted into the present Chunqiu fanlu, are two of the many relevant problems that Gassmann either glosses over or disregards entirely.

From the viewpoint of textual history, the Chunqiu fanlu is problematic; when one analyzes its content, the questions proliferate. Studies by Keimatsu Mitsuo (1959), Dai Junren (1968), and Tanaka Masami (1969) have brought into sharp focus a fact that was already beginning to dawn on several late Qing scholars of the classics: there is a drastic mismatch between the picture provided by the Chunqiu fanlu and all other contemporary accounts of Dong's thought. In particular, as Keimatsu and Dai have conclusively proved, the common assumption that Dong was the great synthesizer who brought Five Forces cosmology into the Confucian mainstream is quite false--as the title of Dai's 1968 article proclaimed, "Dong Zhongshu did not theorize about the Five Forces." Tanaka went on to point out that the Five Forces-related material in the text is not even internally consistent (though he does assume, without clear proof, that some of it still derives from Dong). And if this is true of chapters whose cosmological peculiarities make them relatively easy to characterize (and even to date, sometimes well after Dong's death), we are clearly on very shaky ground if we assume a single author and a single date for the less well understood and less easily discriminated Chunqiu elucidation which in one way or another occupies the first seventeen chapters of the Chunqiu fanlu.

The glaring weakness of Gassmann's translation is precisely the lack of an overall supporting structure addressing these larger questions. This is partially explicable by its status as a byproduct of another project: Gassmann's book on the doctrine of "correcting names" (Cheng Ming, the previous volume in the Schweizer Asiatische Studien Monographien, published 1988). But even given this, the introduction is incredibly short--a page and a half, and acknowledgements take up a third of it. Moreover, some of the remarks made there serve to highlight Gassmann's lack of specialized knowledge: the dates he gives for Dong's life have long been known to be inaccurate; the authenticity problem which has bedevilled the text since the Southern Song dynasty is nowhere hinted at; and Chunqiu fanlu is given its literal translation as "Luxuriant Dew of the Spring and Autumn Annals"--Gassmann appears unaware of the argument by Su Yu that Chunqiu fanlu is a "ghost-title" born of the violent collision of the bibliographic category (Chunqiu) and the original title of the first essay ("Fanlu"). Last but definitely not least, the content of what is to follow is not even sketched, much less introduced. Given the almost entire lack of thematic unity in the chapters Gassmann has translated, this silence will make for a slow and painful journey to comprehension on the part of all but the specialist reader.

Another immediately obvious weakness is Gassmann's curious concept of textual criticism. He cites a total of six different texts, referring to them as A (Sibu beiyao), B (Ling Shu), C (Sun Guang), D (Sibu congkan), E (Su Yu's Chunqiu fanlu yizheng, the choice of most serious scholars), and Hihara; but since Hihara's Chinese text is a reproduction of Ling Shu's, any note that cites "Text B" and "Hihara" independently will mislead the reader into thinking that two independent sources were used. Several other of Gassmann's texts are related (cf. the chart of Chunqiu fanlu textual filiation in Sarah Queen, "From Chronicle to Canon: The Hermeneutics of the 'Spring and Autumn Annals' According to Tung Chung-shu" |diss., Harvard, 1991~, 329ff.), and all go back to an edition of 1211 which was photoreprinted last year, too late for Gassmann to have used. Thus, even if the methodology had been impeccable, the textual work here would already be out of date.

It is good to see a Chinese text reproduced in the same volume as a translation, with side-notes in the translation keyed to its pagination. However, even here a bit more forethought could have produced a much better result. Leaving aside whether the Sibu beiyao edition was in fact the best that could have been used (for one thing, its notes are printed in a size so close to the text that it is sometimes difficult to keep the two apart), why do the page headers for the sections of notes and Chinese text refer to the chapter by its number, while the headers in the translation itself reproduce the chapter's name? This makes flipping back and forth between translation, text, and notes rather frustrating, at least until one memorizes the name and number of every chapter.

As far as the simple business of translation goes, Gassmann is largely but not entirely accurate. On occasion his errors can do serious damage to the meaning of the original text: thus in the first chapter xian de "doubtful moral power" (that is, moral power which is more show than substance) is translated as "unzweifelhafter Tugendhaftigkeit" ('undoubted rectitude'). Sometimes the error is due to a shaky command of grammar: in the fourth chapter he inserts an extra question and answer exchange into the text by misreading a rhetorical qi ... zai construction as a real question rather than an exclamation, and at another point he asserts that in a chapter two passage where one version reads jin an jing nai sishiyi yue fang qu and another jin an jing nai sishiyi yue nai qu, the particles nai and fang are "semantisch gleichwertig," semantically equivalent--which is only very broadly true, even if their Grammata Serica Recensa definitions, quoted in proof, happen to overlap. Fang has a strong sense of "at that very time"; nai expresses sequence, introducing new information. (Incidentally, the commonly accepted first best source for the meaning of words in Classical Chinese, Morohashi's Dai Kan-wa jiten, is never cited by Gassmann.)

Even when accurate, Gassmann's renderings have a tendency to keep painfully close to the Chinese original. For instance, in a passage from chapter 1, he translates the common ren you ... zhe ... 'there was a man who ...' formation as "Unter den Menschen gibt es solche ...". In chapter 6 he reassembles bu neng xing du zhi fa wen zhi li into "Man konnte keine Massnahmen und Verordnungen in die Praxis umsetzen, und |man konnte~ sich nicht vollendetes rituelles Verhalten zum Vorbild nehmen", with no apparent knowledge that du zhi is a compound found elsewhere in descriptions of Dong's ideas, and wen a technical term: 'not able to implement properly measured regulations, or rituals modelled on |the cosmological norm of~ "refinement".' This word-by-word approach sometimes leads him to lose the forest for the trees, so that he comes up with translations which, seen in the larger context, are very unsatisfactory: he renders wu gai er tian shou xian yi in chapter one as "Die Dinge sind geandert worden, und der Himmel hat die Auszeichung verliehen", without noticing that the speaker, who has been asking a series of questions, is here conceding one point before raising the next. There should in fact be a pause after shou, giving the meaning, 'Things being changed, Heaven confers |the Mandate~--this has become apparent.'

Indifference to the larger picture also mars the extensive annotations. For instance, when translating the discussion of music in the first chapter ("Chu Zhuang wang"--Gassmann does not mention that this essay must originally have been entitled "Fanlu"), no reference is made to the question-and-answer exchange on this topic between Dong Zhongshu and Emperor Wu which forms part of the memorials preserved in Dong's Hanshu biography (juan 56). In the next chapter, Gassmann omits any warning to the reader that Su Yu queried the authenticity of several passages, and a long quotation from the writings of Jia Yi--particularly interesting as one of the few citations of a near-contemporary in the Chunqiu fanlu text--is left unmarked, despite the fact it was pointed out by Su Yu. In chapter five, there is no reference to a parallel passage in the Shuoyuan by Liu Xiang, a useful source for checking the early existence of Chunqiu fanlu texts (cf. my article in T'oung Pao 75 |1987~). Again, chapter five contains a strong denunciation of the "suburban" sacrifice carried out by Lu during the Warring States, a sacrifice that is justified and defended in chapters found later in the Chunqiu fanlu--a blatant contradiction all the more interesting since these later chapters appear to have a good chance of being authentic. Several of the Chunqiu passages interpreted in chapter six are discussed in indisputably authentic material from Dong Zhongshu quoted in the "Treatises on the Five Forces" of the Hanshu, but Gassmann never supplies reference to these. This is not to say that the notes are scanty: they often quote a massive amount of supporting material, especially from the Gongyang commentary itself. However, the nature of this outside material has clearly been shaped by Gassmann's earlier project: it concentrates on the "correction of names" to the almost entire exclusion of "Dong Zhongshu." It would be unfortunate if the unsuspecting reader were to mistake usefulness in elucidating one facet of the problem for a faultless treatment of the text as a whole.

One detailed example of how neglect of the overall context can derail Gassmann, even on the level of straight translation, can be found in his rendition of the opening passage of chapter four. This is, admittedly, enigmatic--Su Yu suspected part of it might be misplaced--but it is not totally opaque if one follows the text as it stands and then searches for the motivation behind its superficially puzzling statements. The key section reads:

Gassmann translates this as:

Wenn die Richtigstellung der Bezeichnungen die Funf Generationen zum Aufbluhen bringt und wenn dann in den Aussern |Kommentaren~ der Funf Kommentare Schones und Hassliches Gestalt annehnen, dann kann gesagt werden dass man bereits das Echte am |Anfang~ erlangt hat. Er ist nicht etwas, das Tzu-lu sehen konnte.

It is acceptable to render ming zhi zheng xing wu shi as "wenn die Richtigstellung der Bezeichnungen die Funf Generationen zum Aufbluhen bringt"--this takes the xing as transitive and the wu shi as its object: "causes five generations to flourish" (another possibility, which I prefer, would be to take xing as intransitive and the wu shi as a temporal compliment: "has flourished for five generations"). But "wenn dann in den Aussern |Kommentaren~ der Funf Kommentare Schones und Hassliches Gestalt annehnen" makes very little sense. Surely, here we have not wu zhuan "Five Commentaries" but rather wu chuan "transmitted five (times)" and wai as "after" (Hihara, op. cit., 130 renders the phrase into colloquial Japanese as godai no ato ni). The meaning thus becomes:

When the correction of names has flourished for five generations, after five transmissions |of the canon, from master to disciple~, all the potentials |of the text~ will have been fully realized, and we will be able to say |the tradition~ has attained the truth. It was not something that Zi Lu could have seen.

The reference to Zi Lu evokes the famous Analects 13.3 dialogue between him and Confucius on the rectification of names, as Gassmann, of course, points out. However, apparently ignorant of the rivalry between the two different filiations of the Gongyang tradition in the Han (one of which made Dong the patriarch of the school, and another which replaced him with his slightly older contemporary Master Huwu, premier Gongyang teacher in the Qi region), he fails to realize that this "five generations of transmission" is characteristic of Master Huwu's partisans and the legend they had propagated of "five generations" between the beginning of the Gongyang tradition of oral transmission and their own candidate setting down the truth in written form. (The choice of "five" generations for the period of oral transmission, far too few for the time involved, was probably motivated by Mencius 4B.22 "the beneficient influence of a Gentleman terminates after five generations"--especially since in 4B.21 Mencius had discussed the Chunqiu.) The presence of this reference, the creation of a Gongyang faction which was attempting to denigrate Dong, argues that he was not the author of this section of the Chunqiu fanlu. It thus becomes all the more important for future scholars to do what Gassmann has conspicuously neglected: study how individual passages fit into their overall ideological and historical context.

For all that, I do not wish to be too negative. The neglect of the authenticity question is made less serious by the fact that the work translates a section of the Chunqiu fanlu where this problem is less severe than it is elsewhere--there is general agreement these essays are early Gongyang material, whether Dong Zhongshu or someone else was their author. Much of the supporting material found in the notes will be convenient to specialists on Han thought, though the fact that Gassmann has missed a number of points which Su Yu discusses will force them back to the latter's Chunqiu fanlu yizheng at frequent intervals. Students of comparative traditions of canonical interpretation might find this translation useful, especially those who do not read Chinese, provided they can surmount the unnecessary barriers posed by Gassmann's style, his occasional errors, and his failure to provide a general introduction or overall context. It was worth doing; the depressing thing is that with a little more care, it could have been much more useful.
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Author:Arbuckle, Gary
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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