Herbert Giles

British sinologist and diplomat
It must always be borne in mind that translators are but traitors at the best, and that translations may be moonlight and water while the originals are sunlight and wine.
A Chinese poem is at best a hard nut to crack.

Herbert Allen Giles (8 December 184513 February 1935) was a British diplomat and sinologist who was the professor of Chinese at Cambridge University for 35 years. Giles was educated at Charterhouse School before becoming a British diplomat in China. He modified a Mandarin Chinese romanisation system established by Thomas Wade, resulting in the widely known Wade–Giles Chinese romanisation system. Among his many works were translations of the Analects of Confucius, the Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching), the Chuang Tzu, and, in 1892, the widely published A Chinese-English Dictionary.

QuotesEdit

 
"Flowers fade and fly, and flying fill the sky;
Their bloom departs, their perfume gone, yet who stands pitying by?"
  • It must however always be borne in mind that translators are but traitors at the best, and that translations may be moonlight and water while the originals are sunlight and wine.
  • Dear Land of Flowers, forgive me!—that I took
    These snatches from thy glittering wealth of song,
    And twisted to the uses of a book
    Strains that to alien harps can ne'er belong.

    Thy gems shine purer in their native bed
    Concealed, beyond the pry of vulgar eyes;
    And there, through labyrinths of language led,
    The patient student grasps the glowing prize.

    Yet many, in their race toward other goals,
    May joy to feel, albeit at second-hand,
    Some far faint heart-throb of poetic souls
    Whose breath makes incense in the Flowery Land.
  • During the four hundred years of Han supremacy the march of civilization went steadily forward. Paper and ink were invented, and also the camel's-hair brush, both of which gave a great impetus to the arts of writing and painting.

A History of Chinese Literature (1901)Edit

  • [The Tao-Tê-Ching] is interesting as a collection of many genuine utterances of Lao Tzŭ, sandwiched however between thick wads of padding from which little meaning can be extracted except by enthusiasts who curiously enough disagree absolutely among themselves.
    • 'Lao Tzŭ', p. 58
  • A Chinese poem is at best a hard nut to crack.
    • 'Poetry', p. 144
 
"Farewell, dear flowers, for ever now, thus buried as 'twas best,
I have not yet divined when I with you shall sink to rest.
I who can bury flowers like this a laughing-stock shall be;
I cannot say in days to come what hands shall bury me.
See how when spring begins to fail each opening floweret fades;
So too there is a time of age and death for beauteous maids;
And when the fleeting spring is gone, and days of beauty o'er,
Flowers fall, and lovely maidens die, and both are known no more."
  • Flowers fade and fly, and flying fill the sky;
    Their bloom departs, their perfume gone, yet who stands pitying by? ...
    Oh, let me sadly bury them beside these steps to-night! ...
    Farewell, dear flowers, for ever now, thus buried as 'twas best,
    I have not yet divined when I with you shall sink to rest.
    I who can bury flowers like this a laughing-stock shall be;
    I cannot say in days to come what hands shall bury me.
    See how when spring begins to fail each opening floweret fades;
    So too there is a time of age and death for beauteous maids;
    And when the fleeting spring is gone, and days of beauty o'er,
    Flowers fall, and lovely maidens die, and both are known no more.
  • It was on his return journey that Pao-yü's father heard of the success and disappearance of his son. Torn by conflicting emotions he hurried on, in his haste to reach home and aid in unravelling the secret of Pao-yü's hiding-place. One moonlight night, his boat lay anchored alongside the shore, which a storm of the previous day had wrapped in a mantle of snow. He was sitting writing at a table, when suddenly, through the half-open door, advancing towards him over the bow of the boat, his silhouette sharply defined against the surrounding snow, he saw the figure of a shaven-headed Buddhist priest. The priest knelt down, and struck his head four times upon the ground, and then, without a word, turned back to join two other priests who were awaiting him. The three vanished as imperceptibly as they had come; before, indeed, the astonished father was able to realise that he had been, for the last time, face to face with Pao-yü!
    • 'The Hung Lou Mêng', p. 383
  • It would be obviously unfair to describe the Chinese people as wanting in humour simply because they are tickled by jests which leave us comparatively unmoved. Few of our own most amusing stories will stand conversion into Chinese terms.
    • 'Wit and Humour', p. 430

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