(Translation) 階伯

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Original Script

階伯, 百濟人, 仕爲達率, 唐顯慶五年庚申, 高宗以蘇定方爲神丘道大摠管, 率師濟海, 與新羅伐百濟, 階百爲將軍, 簡死士五千人拒之, 曰, 以一國之人, 當唐羅之大兵, 國之存亡, 未可知也, 恐吾妻孥沒爲奴婢, 與其生辱, 不如死快, 遂盡殺之, 至黃山之野, 設三營, 遇新羅兵將戰, 誓衆曰, 昔, 句踐以五千人破吳七十萬衆, 今之日, 宜各奮勵決勝, 以報國恩, 遂鏖戰, 無不以一當千, 羅兵乃却, 如是進退至四合, 力屈以死. 《三國史記.卷47》


Student Translation : Julian Butterfield

Kyaebek, a person of Baekje, served as dalsol.[1] In Kyongsin, the fifth year of the Hyeonggyeong era of Dang,[2] Emperor Gojong made So Jeongbang the Great General of Singudo.[3]. He led troops across the sea and with Silla attacked Baekje. Kyaebek became [Baekje's] general, and chose—of those daring to die—five thousand people to resist the attack. He said [to them], "Using the people of one state against the great army of Dang and Silla, the state's survival or downfall as yet cannot be known. I fear my wife and children will be sunken into slavery: it is better that they die quickly than in life suffer disgrace."
Thereafter, he killed them all, and arriving on the fields of Hwangsan, he established three camps. Met with Silla's army and about to do battle, Kyaebek made an oath with his multitude, saying, "In the past, Gucheon with five thousand men ruined Wu's horde of seven hundred thousand. This day, we must each exert ourselves and encourage each other to gain victory, in order to repay the grace of the state."
Thereupon, they battled ardently: there was not one—alone—who did not well-match a thousand [others], and with Silla's troops thus retreating—in this way advancing and retreating—they reached four battles before their strength was bent and they died.

  • Discussion Questions:
  1. Although I agree with Jelena's suggestion that if we parse the final few phrases differently (i.e. removing the comma between 千 and 羅) we can get a clearer sense of who is being well-matched, I had a hard time figuring out how to then proceed with 乃却, 如是進退至四合: specifically, I felt that it must be the Silla troops who first retreat, given the initial strength of Kyaebek's army, and that then there's a progression of advancing and retreating (for both sides) across the coming four battles. Does anyone have alternate translations they prefer to what I've done here?

(YO) I have to admit that the sentence is ambiguous with its subject. The subject does change if we take 羅兵乃却 together. If we parse 無不一當千羅兵, then 乃却 is like an odd man out, which is awkward in classical Chinese. We may have to compromise to assume that the semantic subject of the sentence is understandably Kyebaek (or Kyebaek's troop). Is this a sign of an inept classical Chinese writing? Perhaps. But it is not something that never happens.


  1. The second rank in Baekje's 16-rank system. See Courant, 265.
  2. 660CE
  3. Still working on this one, bear with me.