I have been asked a few times about how I have found the source material for my blog. With this post, I hope to demystify this blog, and at the same time attempt to systematize my technique and make it more consistent. The basic method is: (1) obtain the original text, (2) translate from the original, (3) check with the Korean translation, (4) add annotations, and lastly (5) find allusions.
1. Obtaining the Original Text
There are a few ways I obtain the original text for my posts. Although I have a number of books in Korean on Classical Chinese, I get all my original text for the blog online. It cannot be stressed enough that there are plenty of Korean blogs that do what I do. Most, but not all, of the blog posts here have Korean translations somewhere online. The quickest and simplest way to find these blogs is to run a search on Google or Naver either on their general search page or encyclopedia. For search terms, I usually enter a topic that I am looking for plus the words “한시” (Classical Chinese poetry) or “한문” (Classical Chinese prose). There are also other Korean websites I search to find original texts:
- Database of Korean Classics (한국고전종합 DB)
- The Compilation Center of Korean Confucian Classics (한국유경편찬센터)
- Institute for the Translation of Korean Classics (한국고전번역원)
- Naver Encyclopedia – Sijo and Classical Chinese Poetry (시조/한시 – 네이버 백과사전)
- Oh Seju’s Classical Chinese Poetry Appreciation Room (오세주의 한시감상실)
- One Laugh, One Frown (일소일빈)
I prefer Classical Chinese texts that have Korean translations for checking purposes. On occasions when I do feel ambitious, I use text that do not have Korean translations obtained from the Database of Korean Classics.
2. Translating from the Original
After having obtained the original text, I read the text and then proceed to translate. My philosophy in translating Classical Chinese into English is to translate as literally as is idiomatically possible. Even if the translation appears awkward or clunky, as long as it is comprehensible, I do not mind. If there is any information that is necessary to the full appreciation of the text, I add annotations. I believe that this method is the most suited for the purposes of learning another language. This closely approximates how most Korean translations present Classical Chinese texts.
3. Checking with Korean Translation
If there are any Korean translations available, I then check my English translation with that of the Korean. There are some instances where I think the Korean translation is a bit too loosely translated, and do not follow them. For the most time, however, I defer to the Korean translator, whom I assume — with good reason — that they are more knowledgeable at interpreting Classical Chinese texts than I am.
4. Adding Annotations
Next, I add annotations to assist the reader — including myself — in being able to appreciating the text. These are typically idioms and references to history or to other classics. Most Korean translations are annotated already; however, there are some idioms and references not explained in the annotations. This is because they might be considered common knowledge among Korean readers. I thus add more annotations to tailor them to a Western or non-Korean audience. Idioms can be typically found on Naver’s Hanja Dictionary. Finding allusions to history or other classics is a bit more difficult.
5. Finding Allusions
Some Korean poets are known for their esoteric allusions to Korean and Chinese history and classics. Fortunately, there are resources online for finding such references, especially on the Korean blogosphere. I typically search either on Google or Naver using the original text plus the Korean pronunciation as the search terms. Sometimes, I prefer to get the original text of what is being alluded to, and also check the following sources to obtain those texts:
- Naver Encyclopedia – Dictionary of Classical Chinese Poetry (한시어사전 – 네이버 백과사전)
- Encyclopedia on Confucianism (유교백과사전)
- Chinese Text Project
- Chinese Wikisource