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人樹ニ華アリ。人華ニ華アリ。

I see two versions of English translations:

  • Flowers are present in human trees, flowers are present in human flowers.
  • Human trees have blossoms. Human flowers have blossoms.

I read Chinese and my interpretation is "Blossoming are in people and trees; Blossoming are in people and flowers.

This is from a Zen literature as such there is no logic on the phenomena that is described. I am more interested in understanding the sentences based on grammatical rules.

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    It says 諸樹ミナ華果アリ. So I suppose everything is likened to trees and all those trees bear flowers and fruit.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 8:13

1 Answer 1

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Looks like this is from Shōbōgenzō (13th century). It is too difficult for me to explain the Zen philosophy behind this sentence, but if it is simply to be interpreted literally as a Japanese sentence, as you requested, the most faithful English translation would be "In a human tree, a flower is present. In a human flower, a flower is present" or "There are flowers in human trees. There are flowers in human flowers". (Plurality is not indicated, so it can be either "a tree" or "trees".)

There is no explicit "and" in 人樹 and 人華, so the straightforward interpretations of these compounds would be "human tree" and "human flower" (don't ask me what they are). But if the context clearly tells otherwise, "human and tree" and "human and flower" are possible interpretations.


EDIT:

So this is the original text:

コノユヱニ百草ミナ華果アリ。諸樹ミナ華果アリ。金銀銅鐵珊瑚頗瓈樹等。ミナ華果アリ。地水火風空樹。ミナ華果アリ。人樹ニ華アリ。人華ニ華アリ。枯木ニ華アリ。

This is why various grasses all bear flowers and fruit. All kinds of tree bear flowers and fruit. Goldtrees, silvertrees, coppertrees, irontrees, coraltrees and crystaltrees, et cetera, they all bear flowers and fruit. Earthtrees, watertrees, firetrees, windtrees and skytrees, they all bear flowers and fruit. Humantrees bear flowers. (In turn, such) humanflowers bear (yet another) flower. (Even) dead trees bear flowers.

The text is basically saying all elements in the world are actually like trees, and thus bear fruit and flowers. Here the kanji 樹 is clearly used as a kind of suffix meaning "-tree", as shown above. I know "humantree" and "humanflower" are not common words, but this 人樹 is indeed "humantree" or "tree of human" rather than "human and tree".

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  • Thank you! Yes this is from Shobogenzo and it is in the Kuge fascicle. Given that it was written some 870 years ago and Japanese Buddhists during that time mostly wrote in Classical Chinese, I interpreted that it means 人、樹 。人、華 as it sounds more plausible. If you look at one of the previous sentence, 地水火風空樹 and you can see that the sentence is the same structure, and it can clearly interpret that it is Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Fire, Wind and Space. Could you also comment on this sentence? I guess, like you said, both interpretations could be possible. Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 2:56
  • @user1258365 See the edit. Looks like the two English translators are correct.
    – naruto
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 9:11
  • To clarify, 地水火風空樹 is not a list of 6 nouns but a list of 5 nouns (地樹, 水樹, 火樹, 風樹 and 空樹). This is an example of right-node raising, and you can find similar examples here.
    – naruto
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 9:52
  • Thank you! I was not aware of right-node raising. Reading it, I doubt this applies to classical Chinese and Dogen's writing was deeply influenced by the classical Chinese. Anyhow, it is one aspect to look at if we are to be able to make sense of Dogen's work. Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 21:00

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