Notes on Literary Chinese
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Embedded sentences are another way in classical Chinese to build complex sentences out of smaller building blocks. For example, consider the sentences in English
The sword fell in the water.
I saw it.
I saw the sword fall in the water.
The first sentence is embedded in the second sentence forming the third sentence. In classical Chinese a common pattern is
topic 之 comment
Here the modifier becomes the head new phrase and the topic is a modifier. For example, from 刘向 说苑 Garden of Stories by Liu Xiang,
As an analogy, to quench one's thirst by drinking the water in all the rivers and seas
The verb 譬 (to use as a metaphor) takes the remainder of the text as the embedded sentence. In some cases the topic is well understood and topic 之 is replaced with 其.
Pulling up Seedlings (Mencius)
曰难言也。 其爲气也，至大至刚。 以直养而无害，则塞于天地之间。 其爲气也，配义与道。 无是，馁矣。 是集义所生者，非义袭而取之也。 行有不慊于心，则馁矣。 我故曰：告子未尝知义，以其外之也。 必有事焉而勿正，心勿忘，勿助长也。 无若宋人然。
宋人有闵其苗之不长而揠之者。 芒芒然归，谓其人曰：今日病矣。 予助苗长矣。 其子趋而往视之。 苗则槁矣。 天下之不助苗长者寡矣。 以爲无益而舍之者，不耘苗者也。 助之长者，揠苗者也。 非徒无益，而又害之。
What do you mean by vast qi?
He said, 'It is difficult to explain.
Qi can be developed to great levels of quantity and stability.
It can be used to norish without harm and block the space between heaven and earth.
In developing qi, you will be connected with rightness and the way.
If there was none you would be hungry for it.
It is something that is produced by accumulating Rightness, and is not something that you can grab from superficial attempts at rightness.
If you act without mental composure, you will become starved for it.
Therefore, I would say that Gao Zi has not yet understood rightness, since he regards it as something external.
You must be willing to work at it, understanding that you cannot have precise control over it. You can't forget about it, but you can't force it to grow, either.
You do not want to be like the man from the state of Song.'
'There was a man from Song who was worried about the slow growth of his crops and so he went and yanked on them to accelerate their growth. Very tired, he returned home and announced, 'I am sick. I have been out helping the crops grow.' His son ran out to look at them. However, the seedlings had withered. Those in the world who do not help their crops by pulling them up are few indeed. There are also those who regard all effort as wasteful and don't even weed their crops. There are those who think they can hurry their growth along by pulling them up. They are not bring themselves benefit, but actually harm instead.'
A partitive structure has the form NOUN + 之 + VERBAL_PHRASE + 者. It has the effect of emphasizing the noun (Rouzer 2007, p. 31).
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