Earlier drafts of these notes have circulated for the past decade among longtime associates of mine who knew what I had been doing, how and why. When a former student put the previous edition of them on his website they became available to the general public, for whom background information might be helpful.
I call this the Comprehensive Classical Chinese Lexicon Project. It began in 1961 when I started keeping notes of Classical Chinese words. It moved closer to its present form of a database in 1967, when I substituted indexed 3 X 5 cards for looseleaf notebooks. That card catalog expanded through the 1970’s, partly with the help of some of my students at the University of California, Berkeley, until it became unwieldy.
The advent of the personal computer facilitated the collection of vocabulary into a relational database. It began on an Apple II in 1979, into which I entered data from those cards. But at 1 MHz clock speed, 48K memory and 50K floppy disk capacity, that machine could neither hold much data nor search it very effectively. The software was my own, written partly in BASIC and partly in 6502 assembly language. That was version 1.
Porting version 1 to a CP/M machine with two 8-inch floppies with 1 MB capacity gave version 2, which also used homemade software. Version 3 used commercial software running under DOS 2.2 on a PC XT clone with 20 MB hard drive. Version 3 ran faster on a 33 MHz 486 machine under DOS 3.3. Porting to Windows 3.1 on the same machine made version 4, the first in which, thanks to a program called Fontmonger, I could display and print Chinese graphs, as well as the GSR romanization in its own typeface. Installing the Japanese-language versions of Windows and Paradox made version 5, the first one that allowed me to display and print thousands of Chinese graphs (using their Japanese readings as keyboard input). Porting to Access from Paradox made version 6. Version 7 returned to English-language Windows using TwinBridge Chinese Partner, a program that despite its many shortcomings tripled the number of Chinese graphs I could display and print.
In 1998 I first circulated a printed collection of my notes (I had been printing drafts for my own use since 1994). By then I had enough words to begin the second stage of the project, in which I looked for plausible sets of comparands. I found several hundred sets, enough to convince me that the classical historical-comparative method of philology could be applied to old Chinese despite the phonetic opacity of its script. Conversion to Unicode and addition of Konjaku Mojikyo led to more new versions, and the word-collection of the first stage continued through that in parallel with the word-collation of the second stage.
The third stage of the project is now under way; it requires that the texts themselves be entered in a database, divided into utterances within which each word is identified both by lexical identity and by local function. I have begun by providing a translation for each text, done to a uniform standard. But I avoid the usual approach of translating one text at a time. Instead I move around from text to text, concentrating on a particular word or idiom or turn of phrase as I find it in any text. The result will be that I will not have a finished translation of …
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