This space is set up for everybody who is doing some sort of research on classical Chinese texts. When I was doing my PhD in London, I was in a pre-modern Chinese text reading group and learned tremendously from the exchanges with my colleagues, teachers, and students. I really enjoyed having a space where people with the same interest and from different backgrounds can share their questions and opinions as equals. After I started to study and teach classical Chinese in London, I came to realise that there are more people who are interested in classical Chinese than I thought. But still, we were not really a big community. If someone has a question about classical Chinese, it is not as easy as to get help with Mandarin, so having a space to meet and support each other really makes a difference!
The format of online forum of classical Chinese text reading is certainly not a new thing. I registered, for example, in the forum “Guoxue shudian” 國學數典 (bbs.gxsd.com.cn, only in Chinese) many years ago, and have found tons of resources and learned many things there. I hope the forum at Rachelle’s Lab can serve classical Chinese enthusiasts in the English speaking world in the same way. Come here to share your questions, get help from people around the world, and help them back! Asking questions and explaining something to others are both great ways to learn :)
In my apparently very partial view, classical Chinese enthusiasts are all very nice and sensible people. However, as this is a public space (everybody can register to be a member for free), I think it is better to clarify some house rules and offer my advice for everyone to make the most of this space. Please read through the following very carefully before posting your question or starting any discussion.
1. If possible, provide full reference information of the text you are working on. If it is available online publicly, provide a link. If it is not available to the public, check the copyright information of your source, and if possible, provide a screenshot or type up the passages in question. This forum does not allow uploading big files. You may upload your files to external cloud storage such as google drive and provide the shareable link in your post.
2. The “Reading and Translation” area is not for asking people to translate your text for you, it is for testing your interpretation or draft translation and for asking for help with your specific questions. In other words, you must have already put some efforts into resolving the puzzle you have. There's no stupid questions, and you may ask questions even if you are a complete beginner, but you don't want to look as if you just want a freebee. To avoid that, consider formulating your question along the following lines:
1) I’m not sure how to interpret the phrase X in the original passage. I’ve checked [your reference] which suggests [some information], but it doesn’t seem to work here. Am I missing anything?
2) I’m not sure how to best render the phrase X in this passage into English. I understand this phrase as [your interpretation]. I have found a few word options: A, B, and C, but I have no idea which one best conveys my understanding of the original phrase in English. Any suggestions?
3) I’m not sure how to best render the phrase X in this passage into English. I found this English word from that seems to fit the image of the original wording nicely, but how does it really sound in English? Is it too obscure or clumsy?
4) I have this painting inscription written in semi-cursive scripts. It is a painting by [the name of the artist], and the inscription was written by [its author]. From the context, this passage seems to be a quote from Du Fu’s work but I can’t figure out which one. Any ideas?
You probably see what I mean now. The key is to be as precise as possible what do you want to be helped with. Also, it is important to make sure you have tried to solve it before asking for help and to keep your thinking and research process as transparent as possible. There is often a long way from identifying the characters within a text, interpreting the text, decide how to translate it, and explain what it means to your project. One might have questions at any step on any stage.
I hope you do not feel intimidated at this point! These are just my suggestions. The more clearly you formulate your question, the more likely people are able to help you. Even if you are not sure how to start, don't worry. Once you start asking, you'll soon figure out what more information people would want to know in order to help you!
3. Protect your work. Of course you are free to make your draft available to people you trust, but you might want to avoid providing the full draft translation of a text in your post that is open to all members. Please always bear in mind that it is your responsibility to protect your work in this forum. I am not responsible for any personal loss or damage caused by casual release of your original work. Consider making the original text available in ways laid out in point 1 above and giving your draft translation for the specific passage you want to be helped with.
4. In the “Finding What You Want” area, avoid uploading large files directly to the forum. If you know where to find something, describe the approach to find it. Large files uploaded without permission will be removed.
5. New visitors to the forum will be assigned the member’s badge “ke 客”(guest) within three days of the first forum activity. If you have more than 5 posts and/or comments, you are eligible for the badge “Shiyou 士友” (fellow scholar). If you have more than 10, you can request a personalised member’s badge and have any words inscribed on you badge. Contact me to claim your member’s badge once you’re qualified!
Curious about my badge Jiaoshu sanren 澆書散人? Click here.
Ok, I’ll stop here for now. Please let me know if you have any question about how this forum works. I hope to see your posts and design your unique member’s badge very soon!