Sanzang Examples

We present here some typical examples of translated text generated automatically with the Sanzang translation system, using sanzang-utils and the sanzang-tables package. By reading example translation listings, you can familiarize yourself with the Sanzang methodology, and how translation tables can be used with texts to generate readable rough translations.

Chinese Buddhist canon

Initially, the main goal of the Sanzang system was to build a very simple and direct translation system for the Chinese Buddhist canon. The name of the system, Sanzang, even refers to the Buddhist Tripitaka, and to the monastics who specialized in learning, memorizing, and reciting it. Learning one major set of texts took years of training, and regular practice through recitation.

Like these monastics, the Sanzang translation system deals a lot with memory. The whole system acts like a translation memory, and it provides a simple file format for encapsulating knowledge about terms and their translation rules. With a translation table, the translation knowledge about these terms and expressions becomes cumulative. One person can build a table, and it can be shared with any number of other people, who can build up their own rules on top.

At its worst, Sanzang can generate a translation that is incomplete, confusing, or ambiguous. However, with suitable and well-crafted translation rules, the meaning may become clear even without reading the original source text, as you can see:

7.1| 一時,
7.2|  yī-shí ,
7.3|  one-time ,

8.1|薄伽梵遊化諸國,
8.2| báojiāfàn yóu-huà-zhū-guó ,
8.3| bhagavān walk-through-various-lands ,

9.1|至廣嚴城,
9.2| zhì guǎngyán-chéng ,
9.3| arrive vaiśālī-city ,

10.1|住樂音樹下。
10.2| zhù yuèyīnshù xià ¶
10.3| abide/in music-tree below/last ¶

11.1|與大苾芻眾八千人俱,
11.2| yǔ dà bìchú-zhòng bā qiān rén jù ,
11.3| with/and great bhikṣu-saṃgha eight thousand person total/entire ,

This example is so simple that it reads naturally almost like a finished translation. Just rewriting this passage and adapting it to proper English grammar, we can easily have a finished translation.

17.1|爾時,
17.2| ěr-shí ,
17.3| that-time ,

18.1|曼殊室利法王子,
18.2| mànshūshìlì fǎwángzǐ ,
18.3| mañjuśrī dharma-prince ,

19.1|承佛威神,
19.2| chéng fó wēi-shén ,
19.3| receive/transmit buddha spiritual-power ,

20.1|從座而起,
20.2| cóng-zuò ér qǐ ,
20.3| from-seat ==> arise ,

21.1|偏袒一肩,
21.2| piān-tǎn yī jiān ,
21.3| to-side one shoulder ,

22.1|右膝著地,
22.2| yòu-xī-zhuódì ,
22.3| touch-knee-to-ground ,

23.1|向薄伽梵,
23.2| xiàng báojiāfàn ,
23.3| facing bhagavān ,

24.1|曲躬合掌,
24.2| qūgōng hé-zhǎng ,
24.3| bow-down join-palms ,

Notice that some terms are translated with two possibilities, separated by the slash (A/B). This is done because it is not always possible to reduce the meaning of a term or expression to one single representative idea. Instead, we sometimes need to acknowledge ambiguity and include one or more other meanings.

As can also be seen above, we may translate a term as a symbol, like a right-facing arrow (==>). Whoever is developing the translation table can decide exactly how to represent each term in the translation, even if the resulting characters do not even form words.

43.1|善男子、善女人,
43.2| shàn-nánzǐ & shàn-nǚrén ,
43.3| good-man & good-woman ,

44.1|發阿耨多羅三藐三菩提心,
44.2| fā-ānòuduōluó-sānmiǎo-sānpútí-xīn ,
44.3| develop-the-mind-of-anuttarā-samyaksaṃbodhi ,

45.1|應如是住,
45.2| yìng rúshì zhù ,
45.3| should/worthy thusly abide/in ,

46.1|如是降伏其心。」
46.2| rúshì xiáng-fú qí xīn ¶ ”
46.3| thusly subdue (preceding) mind/heart ¶ ”

47.1| 「唯然。
47.2|  “ wéi-rán ¶
47.3|  “ just-so ¶

48.1|世尊!
48.2| shìzūn !
48.3| bhagavān !

49.1|願樂欲聞。」
49.2| yuànlè-yù-wén ¶ ”
49.3| joyfully-wish-to-hear ¶ ”

As you can see above, Chinese has its own special punctuation marks. They are quite different from those used in English. Just in our ordinary translation table, and in the exact same way we make other rules, we can also define rules for translating punctuation.

You can see that we translated Chinese quotation marks into English double quotes. Additionally, the full stop—an empty circle in Chinese—is translated as a pilcrow character: ¶ (chosen for its extra visibility, and because it looks cool).

135.1|是故不應取法,
135.2| shìgù bù-yìng qǔ fǎ ,
135.3| therefore should-not grasp dharma ,

136.1|不應取非法。
136.2| bù-yìng qǔ fēi fǎ ¶
136.3| should-not grasp not dharma ¶

137.1|以是義故,
137.2| yǐ-shì-yì-gù ,
137.3| for-this-reason ,

138.1|如來常說:
138.2| rúlái cháng shuō :
138.3| tathāgata constant/cháng[f] speak :

139.1|『汝等比丘,
139.2| ‘ rǔděng bǐqiū ,
139.3| ‘ you-(plural) bhikṣu ,

140.1|知我說法,
140.2| zhī wǒ shuō-fǎ ,
140.3| know/aware i/self speak-the-dharma ,

141.1|如筏喻者,
141.2| rú fá yù zhě ,
141.3| thus/as raft metaphor/yù (that-one) ,

142.1|法尚應捨,
142.2| fǎ shàng yìng shě ,
142.3| dharma still/yet should/worthy abandon ,

143.1|何況非法。』
143.2| hé-kuàng fēi fǎ ¶ ’
143.3| much-less not dharma ¶ ’

Notice that some of these words are translated to two possible meanings. When we read through the resulting translation, though, our minds tend to pick out the correct meaning, and ignore the irrelevant one. While we can try to leave out unnecessary ambiguity from our rules, the human mind basically knows how to deal with it.

If you made it this far and had some background in the Buddhist canon, then you likely had no problem reading through the translation examples shown here. With further tweaks, additions, and modifications, the results could be even clearer and easier to read. Hopefully they will be, with time.

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