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Three foxes in the field

surnevs

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The beginning of counting seems to be "one, two, many", and there are still peoples who count like this.
In old texts 3 is often used for "many".
I cannot give sources, I never think of making a note where I find something. Sorry.
I have been thinking about this possibility for a long time. It's interesting thou that the expression 'three foxes' is used instead of just 'many foxes'
% I've attached a PDF with links showing that the word 'many' existed in bronze age China. In case this word didn't existed then 'three....' in the same meaning should be expected...

PS: I've not replied here to get a response but solely to inform that the word Many existed back then.
 

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charly

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I have been thinking about this possibility for a long time. It's interesting thou that the expression 'three foxes' is used instead of just 'many foxes'
% I've attached a PDF with links showing that the word 'many' existed in bronze age China. In case this word didn't existed then 'three....' in the same meaning should be expected...
...
Hi Sven:

Thanks for pointing out that there were other ways to express "many" besides the rhetorical use of the number "three".

I believe that in 40.2 the use of "three" is not rhetoric in which case it should also have been translated literally "three" and not "many" as happens with the following quote:

孟子曰:.
Merng4_zi3 yue1:
MENCIUS SAYS:

不孝有三,無後為大。
bu4_xiao4 you3 san1, wu2 hou4 wei2 da4
UNFILIAL THERE ARE THREE, NO POSTERITY IS MOST (1)
Unfilial things are many, lack of posterity is the worst.​

The meaning is understood by the context. There cannot be only three unfilial conducts. if there were not many, they would have been exhaustively enumerated.
It is legitimate to put «MANY» instead of «THREE» or to interpolate some implied words. Adding many interpolations is suspicious, as in the following translation:

«There are three things than can challenge Filial Piety. Being without children, in particular without sons to continue the patrilineal line, challenges the Filial Piety the most.»

Guanglun Michael Mu: «Learning Chinese as a Heritag Language», psag. 62
(Available in Google Books).

That's why I prefer to start with a literal word-for-word translation of the original Chinese to avoid intentional bias. (2)

All the best,

Charly

_______________________
(1) 後 hou4 means behind / after / descendents / posterity / progenie, it is not gendered, it doesn't mean «sons». In simplified chinese is replaced by the character meaning «Queen»

(2) In the case of the three foxes of 40.2 獲 huo4 means to catch / to obtain / to capture it doesn't necessarily imply «killing», even less in the context of «liberation» The character has at the left the radical dog-animal + at the right a compound thal looks like a bird with its hood perched on a forearm. Maybe a connection with the falcon of 40.6 also not necessarily killed.
Ch.
 

surnevs

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Hi Charly, my level in the understanding of Chinese are not what I might have expressed in the discovery of the word 'many' above. I can't immediately follow You here, so I'll let it rest until I will be able to give a proper response.
Thank You for the information anyway!
 

surnevs

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- could it be due to rhyming? That the expression Three foxes are used instead of Many foxes ? I wish I were more skilled in pinyin to know which words are rhyming and which not. Richard Rutt mentions rhyming as a way to remember - (before writing was invented... ?) *
Last year I counted the Chinese characters in the I Ching** to see if there were repeating patterns, another technic that could have been used for memorising. Profess. Hans Brix *** discovered a pattern in the old Norse Edda, in the Islandic language, that the verses were of repeating size concerning amounts of words, but this is just to mention from where I got the initiative to count the Chinese characters in the I Ching.

*) Zhouyi, a bronze age document, Ch. 5, pg. 138 in the 2002 ed. Routledge, N.Y.
**) See attached pdf
__________________________
Concerning rhyming, David Pankenier has a chapter in his book Astrology and Cosmology in Early China, chapter 5 which I can recommend. You can read it for free HERE (or get the book HERE)
Page 162:
"....Rhyme may have provided a crucial connection between orality and functional
notation, linking the practical use of the two sets of signs and the idea
of writing spoken words. That is, rhyming may have served as the notional
stimulus prompting the realization that the sounds of individual spoken words
could be attached to specific conventional graphic signs and thus serve as
analogs of speech, in effect inventing a new medium – true writing. So far this
is conjectural, of course, so it remains for us to establish if possible a direct
connection between the early calendar, astronomy, and the inspiration leading
to the invention of the cyclical signs.
....." (pg 190 in the pdf)
 

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