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Korean to English: Mencius (The Confucian Classic Texts Commentary Series, volume 2) Book Introduction
Source text - Korean 우리 시대의 전통은 때로 구태의연하고 빛바랜 이미지로 다가선다. 이는 유학(儒學)의 정신을 교시로 표방하는 성균관대학교 내 유교문화연구소에서 다시 유교경전 번역을 진행하고 있다는 것이 그다지 특별한 기대감으로 다가서지 않는 이유이기도 하다. 서가의 한 귀퉁이에 꽂혀 있는 기존의 수많은 번역서들과 어떤 특별한 차이라도 있단 말인가? 이러한 물음은 유교문화연구소 집필진들이 에 이어 를 공동번역하면서 줄곧 가졌던 의문이고, 몇 해의 우여곡절을 겪었던 속내 사정이기도 하다.
작년 에서 ‘고전번역 비평-국내 최고 번역본을 찾아서’에서 유교문화연구소가 옮긴 를 동양고전연구회의 번역본과 더불어 전문가들이 가장 많이 추천받는 책으로 손꼽기도 하였다. 유교문화연구소의 ‘기본에 충실하자’는 자세로 옮긴 경전번역이 오히려 가장 현대적인 맥락으로 다가선 것이다. 올해 출간된 역시 같은 맥락에서 집필되었다.유학사상의 본질을 올바르게 이해하기 위해서는 무엇보다도 먼저 유교경전에 대한 충실한 이해가 선행되어야 할 것이다. 몇몇의 역저들을 제외하고 그동안 출간되었던 번역서들의 대부분은 기존 사유에 대하여 1:1로 맞대응하면서 자의적인 해석에 의존하는 경향이 있었다. 유교문화연구소 공동 집필진들은 이 점을 고려하여 근현대의 굴절 속에서 조선의 지식인들이 애독하고 이해하였던 주자의 주석을 바탕으로 본문의 내용을 풀이하고자 하였다.
이 책의 구성은 조선조 지식인의 경전해석을 이해하기 위해서 당시 국가 공인본이었던 ‘언해’를 필두로, 원문의 정확한 해석을 위해 ‘직역’과 ‘자해’를 달았다. 특히 독자들이 구절이나 전체적 내용을 보다 쉽게 이해할 수 있도록 ‘의해’ 부분과 각 장의 ‘요지’를 첨부하고 있다는 점이 돋보인다. 구구절절이 맥락을 놓치지 않으려는 이러한 시도는 기존의 번역서들이 지닌 장점을 종합하면서 새로운 이해를 위한 디딤돌이 될 것이다.
Translation - English [[Expanded to about 750 words]]
Today, in such a fast-paced time of innovation and new ideas, tradition is often dismissed as old-fashioned and fading away. Therefore, it is without much fanfare that the Institute of Confucian Philosophy and Culture at Sungkyunkwan University releases yet another commentary series on a basic text of Confucianism. So, what makes this commentary different from all the other commentaries that litter the book shelves of libraries and book stores? This is the question that the commentators of the Institute asked themselves while writing the first commentary in the series, The Analects of Confucius. Years into the project, with the second volume, the same question continues to haunt them.
Last year, in an article, “Kojŏn pŏnyŏk pip’ŏng: kungnae ch’oego pŏnyŏkpon ŭl ch’ajasŏ” [A Review of Translated Classics: Seeking the Best Translation in the Country], in the Kyosu Sinmun (the Professor Newspaper) picked this series’ first volume, the Analects, as the most recommended commentary by experts alongside a translation by the Tongyang Kojŏn Yŏn’guhoe (the Eastern Classics Research Society). This shows that the back-to-basics mentality that the Institute of Confucian Philosophy and Culture employed for the commentary has tapped into a fundamental aspect of the classic that stands the test of time. The second volume in the series, Mencius, has also been written in the same vein. In order to properly understand the essence of Confucian thought, the faithful study of the basic Confucian texts must precede. With a few exceptions, there has unfortunately been the tendency for many commentaries to make arbitrary decisions about ambiguities in the text rather than putting in the work to arrive at an interpretation with academic integrity. And surely, the difficulty of the text lends itself to this response from even the most arduous scholars. To combat this tendency, the commentators at the Institute of Confucian Philosophy and Culture has utilized as their source text an edition that includes Zhu Xi’s annotations. This edition is especially fitting for their project as it is the same edition that all those Chosŏn scholars cut their teeth with in their modern palaces of learning.
The book’s protagonist, Mencius was perhaps the one of the most influential interpreters of Confucius who is known to have developed as a thinker with the original teachings of the master. Of his many interpretative contributions, he is known to have first defined the central Confucian concept of in (benevolence) and given a systematic elaboration of what constituted ethical human nature. The rise of Mencius was the result of the political activities of the shi class (educated commoners) who were often employed as advisers and administrators during the Warring State Era (479-221 BC) to newly risen kings and dukes who aspired to conquer others and become emperor.
This book has been structured with a break-down of each individual line of the text into five headings: ŏnhae (the old Korean character annotations), chikyŏk (translation), chahae (character analysis), ŭihae (explanation), and yoji (exposition). Underneath the original Chinese, the first heading is ŏnhae, old Korean annotations that were the pathways into the text for Chosŏn scholars. The second is the translation of the text into contemporary Korean, chikyŏk. Then, third, chahae, is an analysis of the difficult Chinese characters. The translation and character analyses insure the accurate interpretation of the text. The hope for these two sections, chikyŏk and chahae, is to insure an accurate reading of the text. Next up is, ŭihae, an explanation of the background and context of the line in the larger work as a whole. Lastly, the fifth heading is yoji, an exposition of the main themes and meaning of the line. The great effort to provide these five sections for each and every line in the text is to assist the reader in digesting this difficult text as thoroughly as possible. This will open up the text in a new way that will surely be a stepping stone in the ongoing interpretive work of these classic texts.
I am a second-generation Korean-American who has grown up speaking Korean in the home and being educated in America. As mundane as this sound, I am quite the anomaly because unlike many of my fellow immigrant friends, I enjoyed engaging back and forth between the two languages from a very young age. This has stayed with me as I have sustained relationships with Korean student groups, Korean churches, and Korean personal circles in America.
After working on a Ph.D. at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Art & Religion, I started working as a Library Assistant at the C.V. Starr East Asian Library in the University of California, Berkeley (UCB). I am also currently a GTU Writing Coach for International Doctoral Students. I hold a B.A. in Music Education from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and I have tons of teaching experience as a public high school teacher, tutor, music teacher, and youth pastor.