(Translation) 2019 不禽不獸

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Original Script

鳳凰壽,百鳥朝賀,惟蝙蝠不至。鳳責之曰:“汝居吾下,何踞傲乎?”蝠曰:“吾有足,屬於獸,賀汝何用?”一日,麒麟生誕,蝠亦不至。麟亦責之。蝠曰:“吾有翼,屬於禽,何以賀與?”麟鳳相會,語及蝙蝠之事,互相慨嘆曰:“如今世上惡薄,偏生此等不禽不獸之徙,真個無奈他何! 《笑林廣記》


Translation

Student Translation : Nadia Arzberger

Mythical bird (fenghuang)'s long life celebration, [where] hundreds of birds came to congratulate him, only the bat did not come. The mythical bird reproaches the bat saying: "You dwell below me, how can you be arrogant and proud?" The bat says: "I have feet, I belong to the beasts. Of what use is it [to me] to congratulate you?" One day, the mythical beast (qilin) has a birthday, the bat did not come again. The mythical beast reproaches the bat. The bat says: "I have wings, I belong to the birds. For what [reason] do I congratulate you?" The mythical beast and mythical bird meet up together, their talk comes to the matter of the bat. They sigh collectively and say: "In a world like now, there is evil and depravity, appearing everywhere there is this kind of not being a bird nor a beast crowd, there really is no means in which there is to cope with such beings!"

Corrected Version Mythical bird (fenghuang)'s long life celebration, [where] hundreds of birds came to congratulate him, only the bat did not come. The mythical bird reproaches the bat saying: "You dwell below me, how can you be arrogant and proud?" The bat says: "I have feet, I belong to the beasts. Of what use is it [to me] to congratulate you?" One day, the mythical beast (qilin) has a birthday, the bat did not come again. The mythical beast reproaches the bat. The bat says: "I have wings, I belong to the birds. For what [reason] do I congratulate you?" The mythical beast and mythical bird meet up together, their talk comes to the matter of the bat. They sigh collectively with lamentation and say: "The world like now is evil and depravity, appearing everywhere there is this kind of not being a bird nor a beast crowd, there really is no means in which there is to cope with such beings!"


  • Discussion Questions:

The mythical beast and mythical bird meet up to discuss how there is a developing 'neither bird nor beast' crowd. If we parallel this with the modern world, what could the bird and the beast represent in our world? Could it be nationalities, such as someone with duel citizenship? Or could it be applied more abstractly?

(YO) Interesting. I guess this can be applied to a more fundamental sense, as well. It is not only about the case of uncertain identity, which threatens us and the existing order of things, but also a deliberate action of deferral of identification. This can be said of any form of political activism and resistance (dissension)--a Foucauldian moment? I find it significant, as I said in class, that the text chose to write 不禽不獸, not 非禽非獸, where 不 turns any word it negates into a verb. Therefore, 'bird' 禽 and 'beast' 獸 are used as verbs, i.e., to be a bird and to be a beast.

(YO) A couple of translation points:
慨嘆 would be more than just a sigh, sigh with lamentation or indignation.
如今世上惡薄: 如今 can be taken idiomatically as “now”; and 惡薄 a stative verb (=adjective). Hence: The world now is evil and depraved.

(OB) I do think your hypothesis about the "new crowd" with the parallels in the modern world still works. However, my impression is still that the characters in the story are just critiquing the con artists who are talented in their ways of avoiding responsibilities.