Passing as an Intellectual

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Jun 10, 2017 01:59
I received my books from Amazon China last week. One is an ancient Chinese dictionary, a collection of over 20,000 ancient Chinese words, the other an ancient Chinese grammar book. The reason I ordered these two books is that I want to expand my Chinese vocabulary and brush up on ancient Chinese grammar.

In actuality, modern Chinese and ancient Chinese are very different in terms of grammar and vocabulary. Therefore, it’s difficult for most Chinese people to understand ancient texts. Chinese students only study excerpts of ancient magnum opus but don’t exclusively study the grammar and vocabulary. Since most people are unfamiliar with ancient Chinese words, the writing fraught with them may make readers feel alienated. So, it’s advisable not to pepper our essays with archaic words.

However, in my opinion, it was a pity that most of us Chinese have discarded these words, many of which can make writing more succinct, descriptive, and, on many occasions, sound literary. When I correct some entries here on Lang-8, I sometimes feel all the corrections incompatible with the authors’ English version because there are many words that derived from Latin. Our Chinese corrections are completely modern-Chinese-based. It isn’t our fault, though. I’ve just now explained the reason: we simply don’t have that habit.

That being said, we haven’t abandoned ancient Chinese vocabulary for good. Nearly all the formal words, say, four-character idioms, have an ancient Chinese origin. But I still think it’s far from enough. Hence, I bought the two books in hope of expanding my ancient Chinese knowledge. I think it won’t be a burden as I can cut down on reading modern Chinese and practice ancient Chinese.


Only flipping through the dictionary within a few days, was I thrilled to find tons of super compact, descriptive words and expressions. :-)





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