De l'un au multiple| ,
V. Rémunérer la défaillance des mots
The mean, nature, and self-realization European translations of the Zhongyong
Le milieu, la nature et la réalisation de soi Traductions européennes du Zhongyong
Le Zhongyong, qui a une importance intrinsèque dans l’histoire de la pensée spéculative chinoise, occupe un rôle central dans l’histoire des échanges intellectuels entre la Chine et l’Occident. Ce texte ne présente pas de grandes difficultés philologiques. La question qui se pose est celle de la valeur interprétative des équivalences de termes qui semblent s’imposer trop facilement.
Les nombreuses traductions en langues européennes (latin et français du xvie au xviiie siècle ; anglais, français, allemand, russe au xixe siècle ; essentiellement anglais ces dernières décennies) offrent tout l’éventail des stratégies possibles.
Sont examinés successivement les trois mots zhong, xing, et cheng. La traduction de zhong par « milieu » ne semble pas choquante si l’on donne à ce terme la valeur attachée à la notion aristotélicienne de meson telle qu’elle est exposée dans l’Éthique à Nicomaque.
Le parallélisme étymologique qui suggérerait de traduire xing par « nature » (les deux mots sont dérivés de « naître ») serait un argument insuffisant face à l’objection des sinologues selon qui la notion de « nature créée » est étrangère à la cosmologie confucéenne, non théiste. Cependant une analyse textuelle des occurrences de xing dans le Zhongyong montre qu’il ne faut pas simplifier excessivement les spéculations cosmologiques chinoises primitives. Les premiers traducteurs du Zhongyong, nourris de pensées médiévales et de la Renaissance, avaient associé xing à « raison naturelle ». Puis étaient intervenus les débats sur « les lois de la nature ». En définitive, la traduction de xing par « nature » semble la plus acceptable.
L’usage de traduire cheng par « sincérité », valeur que ce mot a en chinois contemporain, ne semble pas justifié. Les différentes occurrences du terme dans le Zhongyong manifestent tout un jeu grammatical. Cheng ne renvoie pas dans ce texte aux notions de vérité ou de sincérité mais décrit un processus de culture morale par lequel l’homme rivalise avec la centralité spontanée attribuée au Ciel et aux schémas immanents de l’univers naturel.
1Among the major classical Chinese texts whose early translation into European languages is of more than antiquarian interest, the Zhongyongis of particular significance for a number of reasons. Beyond its pivotai position in relation to the full range of late Warring States and early Han writings associated with the development of the Confucian textual lineage (daotong ), and its seminal contribution in opening up lines of philosophical speculation which later blossomed into the Neo-Confucian synthesis, the Zhongyong is of special importance for this symposium on European sinological translations in view of its role as a central document in the history of Chinese/Western intellectual exchange. From the doctrinal debates surrounding the so-called “Rites Controversy” in the 16th and 17th centuries1 down to the attempts of Tang Junyi and other modern Chinese thinkers – and their more recent followers such as Tu Wei-ming – to put Confucianism on the map of contemporary philosophical discourse, it has held a position out of proportion to its size as a book.2 Apart from these historical factors, the Zhongyong also deserves our attention by virtue of the fact that the construction of the text itself, in particular certain formal aspects of its argument hinging upon some rather self-conscious manipulations of linguistic pattems, presents a unique challenge to the translator.
- 3 . For an introduction to the issues regarding the textual history of the Zhongyong, see Feng Youlan (...)
2This challenge is not due to any great philological complexity – the language of the Zhongyong falls squarely within the parameters of Warring States/Han philosophical prose. Nor has the textual history of the work, fraught with controversy as it may be, been thrown into turmoil by newly discovered archaeological evidence of major textual variants, as has happened in many other cases.3 Rather, the principal difficulty of translating the Zhongyong may lie, paradoxically, in the fact that it is too easy: it lends itself too readily to the simple transfer of its key terms into the vocabulary of Western philosophical discourse, and these correspondences, then, invite a facile rejection on the part of some sinological scholars. This leaves many of the most interesting questions regarding the comparative analysis and interpretation of the text unresolved.
- 4 . A bibliographical listing of all the European translations consulted in this study can be found i (...)
- 5 . The commentary that was most influential on the work of the early translators seems to have been (...)
3In this paper I propose to reconsider some of the implications of the Zhongyong for comparative studies that are brought out in the process of translation. In pursuing this topic I have attempted to collect as broad a sampling as possible of European renderings: including most of the earliest known Latin and French versions from the 16th to the 18th centuries, some of the major 19th-century reworkings in English, French, German, Russian and other languages, and practically all of the more recent English-language translations of the text.4 A review of these materials demonstrates the entire range of typical translation strategies: from mechanical matching of lexical equivalents to varying degrees of paraphrase or textual emendation, whether based on Chinese exegetical authorities or more innovative acts of interpretation on the part of the translators themselves.5 In what follows, I will reassess these strategies with a view towards moving beyond both facile equivalents on the one side, and automatic rejection of neat correspondences, on the other, in order to explore some of the deeper implications that may underlie what appear to be only superficially shared conceptualizations about human nature and its balanced cultivation.
- 57 . For example, Pauthier, Confucius et Mencius: 87-92; Couvreur, Les Quatre Livres: 50-57; Zottoli, (...)
4In the light of the text’s own unpacking of the idea of cheng, the rendering of the term by many of the Latin and French translators as “perfection” seems to me to come closest to the mark.57 What at first sight looks like a simple superlative (“perfect”) – not so different semantically from “absolute sincerity” and the like – ultimately turns on the literal meaning of the Latin perficere or the French parfaire to express the underlying sense of a fully realized process of cultivation, while at the same time, by the way, lending itself to the successful manipulation of the word in oblique verbal form (e.g., perfectionner). We are thus reminded that the notion of cheng is not about truth or sincerity, but rather describes the active process of moral cultivation whereby one emulates the spontaneous centeredness ascribed to Heaven and the immanent patterns of the given natural universe.
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Noël, François (1651-1729). “Immutabile medium”. Sinensis imperii libri classici sex (Prague, 1711); copy in Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.
Ricci, Matteo (1552-1610) and Michele Ruggieri (1543-1607). “Semper in medio”. Manuscript recently discovered by Francesco D’Arelli in Jesuit archives, Rome.
Zottoli, Angelo. “Medii aequabilitas”. Included in Cursus litteraturae sini-cae (Shanghai, Catholic Mission, 1915).
Abel-Rémusat, Jean-Pierre (1788-1832). L’Invariable Milieu. (Latin: Medium Immutabile). Bilingual translation (Paris, 1817).
Cibot, Pierre-Martial (1727-80). “Juste milieu”. French translation from Intorcetta included in Mémoires concernant l’histoire, les sciences, les arts, les mœurs, les usages, etc. des chinois (Paris, 1776-91), vol. I, pp. 459-81.
Couvreur, E. Seraphin. “L’Invariable Milieu” (French and Latin), in Les Quatre Livres (Ho-chien Fu, Catholic Mission, 1895); rpt. 1910.
Ku Hung-ming. Le Catéchisme de Confucius. (Paris, M. Rivière, 1927).
Pauthier, Guillaume. “L’Invariabilité dans le milieu”. Included in Confucius et Mencius (Paris, 1844); rpt. 1874.
Pluquet, abbé. “Le Juste Milieu, ou le milieu immuable (sic)”. Translation of Noël’s Latin in Les Livres classiques de l’empire de la Chine (Paris, 1784).
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Graham, Angus C. Excerpts in Disputers of the Tao (La Salle, IL, 1989), Part II. Chapter 1: 132-37.
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Legge, James. “The Doctrine of the Mean”. In The Chinese Classics, The Four Books (London, 1861-1872); altemate title in Sacred Books of the East: “The State of Equilibrium and Harmony”, vol. 28, Li Ki: 300-329.
Pound, Ezra. Chung-yung: the Unwobbling Pivot. In Pharos, No. 4 (1947), publ. New Directions; rpt. New York, New Directions, 1969: 93-188.
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Translated from French version of Intorcetta (London, 1691); abridged text in The Phenix: A Collection of Old and Rare Fragments (New York, 1835).
Tu Wei-ming. Centrality and Commonality. Translated passages included in interpretive monograph (University of Hawaii, 1976).
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Vitelli, Clemente. “Notizie varie dell’imperio della China”. Reprint of Intorcetta (Florence, 1697).
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Chan, Wing-Tsit. 1953. Sources of Chinese Philosophy. Princeton.
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Jullien, François. 1992. La Propension des choses. Paris, Éd. du Seuil.
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Kraft, Eva. 1976. “Frühe chinesische Studien in Berlin”, Medizinhistorisches Journal, 11: 92-128.
Lau, D.C. 1970. Mencius. London/New York, Penguin Books.
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. 1977. Discourse on the Natural Theology of the Chinese, translated and edited by Daniel J. Cook and Henry Rosemont, Jr. Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press.
Lovejoy, Arthur O. 1936. The Great Chain of Being. Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press. (Reprinted 1976.)
Lucks, H.A. 1935. “Natura Naturans and Natura Naturata”, New Scolasticism, 9: 1-24.
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Malebranche, Nicolas. 1980. Dialogue between a Christian Philosopher and a Chinese Philosopher on the Existence and Nature of God, trans. by Dominick A. Iorio. Washington DC, University Press of America.
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1 . On the “Rites Controversy” and the place of the Zhongyong in various disputations, see Dehergne 1973; Pfister 1932-1934; Mungello 1985: especially 283-286, and 1978; Gernet 1976 and 1982.
2 . See Tang Junyi 1966, ch. 21: 616-3; and Tu Wei-ming 1976 and 1985, especially ch. 3.
3 . For an introduction to the issues regarding the textual history of the Zhongyong, see Feng Youlan , “Zhongyong di niandai wenti” , in Gushibian , Gu Jiegang et al. (eds.) (Beijing, 1927-1963) IV: 198, pp. 183-84; Hu Zhikui , 1984: 53-98; Erkes 1917; Riegel 1978. Riegel’s argument on the multiple strata of the text follows the unpublished work of Gustav Haloun (see Riegel 1978: 84).
4 . A bibliographical listing of all the European translations consulted in this study can be found in the Appendix attached to this paper. For the textual background of specific translations, see Henri Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica (rpt. Taipei: Ch’eng-wen, 1966), pp. 1388-1403, and the following sources. On the earliest Latin translations, apparently from the hands of Matteo Ricci and Michele Ruggieri, see notices in D’Elia 1942-1949: #424 (I: 330, n. 4), #494 (I: 380, n .4), and #527 (II: 33, n. 5). The indication in the last entry that Ricci’s reported translation of the Zhongyong had been lost was possibly contra-dicted by an earlier note (#61,1: 42, n. 2) announcing the existence of a set of Ruggieri’s translations of the Four Books in the Vittorio Emmanuele library in Rome, whose relation to the putative work of Ricci remains unclear. This may now be confirmed by the recent discovery by Dr. Francesco D’Arelli of a mansucript copy of what appears to be the lost Zhongyong translation. I am deeply grateful to Dr. D’Arelli for providing me with a photocopy of the text from his microfilm. This secondary copy is of poor quality and is very hard to read, but it is sufficient to give a sense of what Ricci’s translation may have been like. See Lundbaek 1979: 1-11.
The highly influential Latin translation usually attributed to Prospero Intorcetta, first made in the late 1660’s and then reissued in 1687 under the title Confucius Sinarum Philosophus, is discussed in Mungello 1988, Rule 1986: 116-123, and Lundbaek 1983. See also Mungello 1983 on the later Latin translation of François Noël. For general background on early European translations in other languages, see also Duyvendak 1936, Kraft 1976, etc.
5 . The commentary that was most influential on the work of the early translators seems to have been the vernacular explications attributed to the 16th-century statesman, Zhang Juzheng , reprinted in the early Qing (1672, 1677, 1683) under the title Sishu jizhu chanwei zhijie (Copy available in Harvard-Yenching Library). See Mungello 1981. On the implications of the selection of this commentary and the rejection of the orthodox exegesis of the “Neoterici Interpretes” represented by the Zhu Xi School, see Lundbaek 1979: 9, n. 29 and Mungello 1985: 261, 268 ff, 280 ff.
6 . See Legge, Doctrine of the Mean: 347-351; Tu Wei-ming, Centrality and Commonality: 9, 20-25, 27; A.C. Graham, Disputers ofthe Tao (La Salle, III., 1989): 134-136. For sources of the term “mean” in Aristotle, see below, note 17.
7 . In the preface to Leont’ev’s early Russian translation, a similar case is made based on the shape of the character zhong. This is more or less the same definition expressed in negative terms in Zhu Xi’s initial gloss on the word zhong (see note 20).
8 . See, for example, Zhuangzi, “Qiwulun” : 46. In the Shuowen, the character is defined unequivocally as . For a review of philological issues and theories regazeding the terms zhong and yong, see Shide 1993: 104.
9 . This reading becomes explicit in a later passage in the text (ch. 6, Sishu jizhu: 4), that speaks of “putting the principle of centeredness into practice” (). See also Zheng Xuan’s gloss: “practice of equilibrium and harmony” (), cited by Riegel 1978: 86.
10 . In the preface to his commentary, Zhu Xi uses the expression “fixed principle” (dingli ) in this context. See Wang Fuzhi 1975: 62, where he refutes Zhu Xi’s gloss on philological grounds.
11 . Legge’s alternative explanation of the title, in his preface: “The State of Equilibrium and Harmony”, also fails to give more than a very slight nod to the notion of concrete manifestation. Karlgren reviews the differing treatments of this binomial in Karlgren 1981: 50 f, and concludes with the compromise rendering: “the middle way and the constant norms”.
12 . Abbé Pluquet’s use of the locution juste milieu in place of Noël’s “immutabile medium” (apparently following the subtitle of Cibot’s earlier translation based on Intorcetta) seems to ignore any literal meaning of the second word in the Chinese title. The French expression juste milieu is probably most current since the 19th century as a political term for the parliamentary center. Pound’s “unwobbling pivot” seems to betray here, as elsewhere (especially in his parallel translation of the Daxue), a reliance on the classic French translation of these texts.
13 . See Rémusat, Couvreur, and the subtitle of Pluquet’s French version of Noël, with the rather unfamiliar substitution of immuable for immutable.
14 . Hughes’ “mean-in-action” soraewhat camouflages this semantic value, but, as in Riegel’s “application of the inner”, the emphasis here is clearly on the act of putting the ideal of zhong into practice.
15 . See Nicomachean Ethics II: 6-9 (1106b:7-l 109b:26), Eudemian Ethics II: 3 (1220b:22-1221b:26). The alternate term mesotis is used occasionally (e.g., Nicomachean Ethics 1106b:27) in the sense of an arithmetic or geometric mean.
16 . Ch. 4 (Sishu jizhu: 4). In this passage, the terms xianzhe and buxiaozhe seem to substitute for junzi and xiaoren i.e., the highest and lowest on the scale of moral cultivation. The text provocatively reverses our semantic expectations to state that, while it is the errors of “the wise and the stupid” that prevent the Dao from being practiced, it is, conversely, the failures of the morally worthy and unworthy that keep it from being fully understood ().
17 . See Sishu jizhu: 2. Here, of course, Zhu Xi echoes his own predecessor Cheng Yi’s glosses on zhong and yong ( … ) cited in his preface.
18 . The notion of a balanced, unbiased ground of moral judgement runs through the elucidation of each of the levels of self-cultivation outlined in the Daxue text. See, in particular, ch. 7 and 8, on “rectifying the mind” and “regulating the family” (Sishu jizhu: 7-8).
19 . In this formulation, the ideal state of fully realized equilibrium applies only in the ontological dimension of unactualized potentiality (weifa zhi zhong).
20 . See, especially, ch. 2 (Sishu jizhu: 3) and 11 (p. 7). Cf. discussion by Wang Fuzhi (1975: 61).
21 . See Aristotle’s Ethics, passages cited in note 15. In ch. 1, 22, 23, and 26, the text speaks of the “maximum fulfillment” of zhong. The metaphysical implications of ultimate fulfillment are expressed in ch. 1, 12, 22, 26, 27, 30, 31, and 32.
22 . The literary image of nature as a primeval stamping of forms in clay appears in a variety of Medieval and Renaissance texts, for example, the Roman de la Rose, and Spenser’s Faerie Queene. For a review of this topos, see Curtius 1953: 106-127.
23 . See ch. 20 (Sishu jizhu: 15), and 25 (p. 22). See also Li Ji, chapters “Biaoji” and “Jiyi” (Shisanjing zhushu buzheng 1963).
24 . For early use of the character in the sense of life or livehood in Shangshu, Zuozhuan, Shiji, etc., see Fu Sinian 1952: 28-56 and Graham 1967: 215-220.
25 . The term ziran () used to express these latter senses carries no implications regarding the ultimate origins of things. In fact, its literal meaning: “uncaused suchness” amounts to a rather pointed denial of prior origination.
26 . See note 29.
27 . On the classic Greek conception of nature, see Aristotle, Metaphysics V: 4 (1014b: 16—1015b: 19). The locus classicus for shengsheng zhi de is usually given as Yijing, Xicizhuan I:5:6.
28 . See Du Cange 1954: 576a. The term natura naturans occurs in the Summa Theologica (I.II, q.85.a.6) and elsewhere. For a good review of the origins and later use of this expression, see Lucks 1935: 1-24. The same idea is apparently at issue in Dante’s use of the term “natura generata” in Paradiso VIII: 133.
29 . See, for example, Spinoza 1949, part I, Proposition 29-30: 65 f. This concept is discussed in Lovejoy 1936: 289-295.
30 . On the concept of ming , see Tang Junyi 1962: 195 ff.
31 . Thus, Jewish theologians such as Saadya, Maimonides, Gersonides, etc. sharply qualify the literal interpretation of the idea of creation ex nihilo.
32 . In Buddhist writings, the use of the term “Buddha-nature” (foxing ) may also be understood in this light, as an undifferentiated ground of being out of which the more determinate reality of the dharmas is seen to materialize.
33 . See Mencius 6 A:3 (Sishu jizhu: 157 ff), where the disputation turns on the academic question of whether or not the “nature” of one category of phenomena is logically commensurate with that of another.
34 . The expression jinxing comes to the fore in the Zhongyong text in ch. 22 (Sishu jizhu: 20).
35 . See, for example, Zheng Xuan’s gloss cited by Zhu Xi (Zhu Xi 1983: 17). I believe this character should also carry the semantic association of setting things in order, based on the metaphor of tying knots in a net (see Shuowen entry) and later applied to the context of lining up troops in muster.
36 . Wang Fuzhi expands on in this idea in 1975: 61, 68.
37 . See Aristotle, Metaphysics V: 17 (1022a:18-24), VII: 3.4(1028b:33-1029a:33), VIII: 2-3 (1043a:26-32), XII: 3 (1070a:l-8); and Physics I: 5.6 (189a:35-189b:29), II: 1 (192b:33-193b:21).
38 . François Jullien gives a penetrating discussion of this comparative issue (1992: 221-228).
39 . See Timaeus 27c-32c. Cf. the personified figure of the Genius of creation in various European literary examples, including the Roman de la Rose, Spenser’s Faerie Queene, etc. See Curtius 1953: 118-125.
40 . On the notion of the “active intellect” in medieval Jewish and Islamic philosophy, see Wolfson 1967: 355 ff and 1929: 604 f, 668. Thomas Aquinas uses the term in a different sense in Summa Theologica I: 44:3. See also Dante, Inferno XI: 99.
41 . The primary documents on the controversy over nature and reason in China include Leibniz’ Natural Theology of the Chinese, and Malebranche’s Dialogue Between a Christian Philosopher and a Chinese Philosopher (see bibliography). David Mungello reviews the issue in 1977: 15 ff, 75-86. See also Lundbaek 1983b: 136f, 145 ff.
42 . On the importance of the Xingli daquan in Jesuit interpretations of Confucianism, see Lundbaek 1983a: 21-25 and Mungello 1985: 265 ff, 306, 348.
43 . 43. For the background on this issue, see Needham 1954, II, 18: 518-583, esp. 549 ff and Bodde 1957: 706-727.
44 . In addition to Malebranche’s “Dialogue” and other European polemical works, see also disputations composed in Chinese by Matteo Ricci (1985) and Adam Schall (1966).
45 . To be fair, I should point out the common gloss of the word cheng as “true”, for example, in the Zhang Juzheng vernacular commentary (see above note 5) that explicates cheng as: .
46 . Benjamin Schwartz paraphrases the idea nicely (1985: 404 ff) as “undivided self-identity”.
47 . The passage in ch. 16 reads: (Sishu jizhu: 11).
48 . These renderings are found, respectively, in Legge, Four Books: 394; Pauthier, Confucius et Mencius: 87; Hughes, Great Learning and Mean-in-action: 127; and Zottoli, Cursus litteraturae sinicae: 230. Cf. Collie, Four Books: 19: ”... to aim at it is the way of man”.
49 . The passage in Mencius reads: ’ For translation, see Lau 1970: 123.
50 This grammatical construction can perhaps be described, in both senses, as a “transitivizing” of the basic stative verb.
51 . Some commentators attempt to retain the alternate meaning of the word zi: “self-generated,” or “non-contingent”. See Wang Fuzhi’s critique of Zhu Xi’s reading (1975: 163) and Tang Junyi (1966: 625).
52 . The word “enlightenment”, used here for convenience, should not suggest mysti-cal contemplation of the Buddhist sort. Here, it indicates conscious, rational understanding.
53 . The text implies the notion of a superior level of attainment in ch. 1, 22, 24, 32 among others, and in ch. 23 it explicitly allows for a secondary degree () of cultivation.
54 . See above, note 21. The use of the word shen at the end of ch. 24 () does not seem to admit an interpretation other than “god-like” in this context. Cf. the attribution of foreknowledge promised at the start of the chapter. (Sishu jizhu: 21).
55 . 55. See above, note 23.
56 . This is my reading of this ambiguous line (Sishu jizhu: 23), literally, “to have no doubleness with respect to things”.
57 . For example, Pauthier, Confucius et Mencius: 87-92; Couvreur, Les Quatre Livres: 50-57; Zottoli, Cursus litteraturae: 205-215; etc.
Table des illustrations
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