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余光中:《九十論百里》
撰文者: Wayne 發表日期: June 10, 2009 – 7:58 am

余光中:九十論百里 (節錄)
【聯合報╱余光中】
2009/05/03

五四迄今,忽已九十周年,思之堪驚。當日的讀書人,為挽救中國之積弱不振,有心引進西方文化,呼聲最高的兩大理念,是德先生與賽先生。賽先生最受歡迎,求知求真的科學精神未必深入人心,但科技帶來的方便舒適,卻無人拒絕。另一方面,科技後遺症的環保危機,也賦「杞人憂天」以新的意義。

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白話含文言 文字有力量

五四另一變革,便是棄文言,行白話,乃有新文學、白話文學。如果有人認為,文言已成冥鈔,白話才是現款,就錯了。文言其實是以成語的身分傳了下來:受過教育的人,每天口頭無可避免地要說許多成語,而一篇白話文更需要一些簡潔、鏗鏘,甚至對仗的成語來滋潤、變化,或加強。無論口頭或書面,如果禁用成語,勢必鬆散而累贅,費力又耗時。何況許多成語都含有生動的比喻,例如「釜底抽薪」、「破釜沈舟」、「心血來潮」、「目光如豆」、「孤掌難鳴」、「眾志成城」。

有些場合,簡鍊的文言才有力量,所以「毋忘在莒」之後有「莊敬自強」,「莊敬自強」之後有「戒急用忍」。就連五四的愛國運動,也不免動用岳飛的壯語「還我河山」。經典之作若不保留原文,也會失去權威,破壞氣氛。論語莊孟,能用白話代替嗎?金剛經、心經,不用鳩摩羅什、玄奘的文言體而改成白話,佛教徒肯念嗎?牧師講道,不還是在用十七世紀的《欽定本》嗎?

慈母手中線 動人又白話

文言與白話並非截然可分。六百年前的《水滸傳》已經用白話寫了,至於宋人話本,就更早了。在文言與白話之間,舊小說的章回體極兼善的過渡。今日的青年未曾經歷此一邊疆,只迷於當前暢銷的翻譯小說,對中文的認識乃停留於平面,而不知有文白對照甚至文白相濟的立體感。

其實古詩之深入淺出者,多非文言。「床前明月光,疑是地上霜」不能再白了。「慈母手中線,遊子身上衣」;「生年不滿百,長懷千歲憂」;也和文言無關。如果把唐詩宋詞都算在文言的比例裡,是不合理的。老實說,今日報刊上發表的現代詩,有許多比古人深入淺出的詩詞難懂多了。

讀古典文學 涵養好作家

至於古文本身,也大有艱深與平易之分。國文課本選文,艱深古僻的可以避免,平易動人的不妨容納,其間的取捨天地仍大。我的專業是英國文學,應該不算學究中遺老。讀了六十多年英詩,教了五十年英詩,也做了半世紀的翻譯,我的結論是:古典文學與古文,對於現代作家的修養與氣度,教益至鉅。我自己及身而驗,相信對於王鼎鈞、張曉風等,也是如此。

(版主英文評論)

A language frames a different world, for different peoples tend to look at the world from a totally different viewpoint. Although every person has the same physical drives regardless of race, culture, and age, people from different cultures generally have varied perspectives on the same issue. For instance, Western society is heavily influenced by Christianity while the Chinese establish relations with world based on Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. In Western liberal tradition, individuals are highly valued in society, where a person is entitled to much freedom in what he or she wants to do. On the contrary, proper relations between husband-and-wife, supervisor-and-subordinate, and teacher-and-student relations, manifest themselves in the hierarchy of society in China and Taiwan. Attached to these relations are expectations of good behavior, rituals, and face-giving. The cultural differences between Chinese and Western societies create the possibility of using an idiomatical expression with a totally different metaphor to refer to the same thing.

As we have known, Chengyu, often referred to as Chinese idioms, are mostly derived from ancient Chinese literature. The meaning of a chengyu usually surpasses the sum of the meanings carried by its constituents as Chengyu are often closely associated with the myth, fable, or historical fact from which they were derived. As such, Chengyu do not follow the usual grammatical structure and syntax of the modern Chinese spoken language, and are instead highly compact and culturally charged.

Chengyu are traditional Chinese idiomatic expressions. Most of Chengyu consist of four characters, which is why they are sometimes called Chinese four-character idioms. Chengyu were widely used in Classical Chinese and are still common in both vernacular Chinese writing and spoken Chinese today. Here, spoken Chinese includes all kinds of dialects used by people through Mainland China and Taiwan, as well as other areas around the globe where Chinese immigrants reside. My grandfather, who died almost twenty years ago, spoke excellent Hakka and had a propensity to  throw four-character idioms while talking to his friends. My granfather’s habit of using Chengyu made his Hakka decent and succinct.

Off the top of my head, I can come up with several chengyus, such as:

瓜田李下 (gua1 tian2 li3 xia4) –  literally means “the melon field and under the plums”. It is an idiom that  implies a suspicious situation and has it origin in a poem from the Han Dynasty. The poem contains two phrases “瓜田不納履,李下不整冠”, which describes a code of conduct that says “Don’t adjust your shoes in a melon field and don’t tidy your hat under the plum trees” in order to avoid suspicion of stealing. The literal meaning of the idiom is impossible to understand without the background knowledge of the origin of the phrase. (an explanation from Wikipedia)

入境隨俗 (ru4 xiang4 sui2 su2) – literally means “When entering a village, follow the villagers’ customs.” This idiom happens to have a perfect English equivalent “When in Rome, do as the Romans.”

見色忘友 (zhong4 se4 qing4 you3) – literally means “Forget one’s friends upon seeing a beauty.” This idiom is often used between male friends when one of them has become a pussy asshole over a girl who in most cases is a tease. I suppose this is the exact opposite of the English idiom, “Bros before hoes”, which can be modified as “Hoes before bros” to convey the meaning of  見色忘友 to Westerners.

人山人海 (ren2 shan1 ren2 hai3) – literally reads “People mountain, people sea.” We could say something else to the same effect in English like “A large crowd / way to crowded / packed with people.” Since China has the largest population in the world, one could say “中國到處都是人山人海 (China is way too crowded).”  I learnt an intersting English expression from my language partner that goes like, “If hate were people, I would be China.” LOL!

To be honest, a person’s lack of proficiency in Chinese shows when it comes to the use of Chengyu, which are basically an important building rock for the Chinese langauage. Words grouped together in a chengyu become fossilized (fixed) over time, thus developing a specialized meaning as a whole that means something different from what the words imply if interpreted literally. The ability to use Chengyu is vital to being a true Chinese speaker. Chengyu are considered to be  a treasure for Chinese people and have been used for a long, long time, for Chengyu reflect both the wisdom of the Chinese and the profund meanings of the Chinese language. Succinctness, sysmmetry, and vividness contribute to Chengyu’s characteristics. That is why we can say Chengyu reflect the beauty of the Chinese language.

In my view, it’s imperative that students in Taiwan study idiomatic expressions (Chengyu) or Chinese classics. Nowadays, with the wide adoption of the Internet, Taiwanese students are creating and using their own unintelligible writing system (火星文) to put postings in chat rooms, use instant messaging, and write e-mails . This trend could be reversed only by stressing the importance of teaching Chinese classics in school. That’s why I’m posting professor Yu’s article here. The importance of studying Chinese classics couldn’t be over-emphasized. And the issue that needs to be solved is simply to strike a balance among different subjects in school.

Moreover, here is an advice to Westerners who are studying Chinese: never, ever try to out-proverb Chinese people. You could end up embarrasing yourselves because culturally-charged Chengyu are extremely difficult to master. Only well-educated Chinese people are capable of using them in daily conversations or in writings. Most Western learners will never get to the point where they will be able to throw around Chengyu with any sort of regularity or skill.





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