復自道. 何其咎. 吉.
I have struggled for many months with the segmentation of the first sentence, 復自道. I was not sure if I should read it as (1) 復自 – 道, (2) 復 – 自道 or (3) 復 – 自- 道.
(1) Fuzi 復自 can mean ‘to return of one’s own accord’, like in the Lun Heng:
When a plant comes forth, its fluid is green, which is, as it were, given it. When the same plant dies, the green colour disappears, or is taken away. Endowed with the fluid, the plant is green, deprived of it, it loses the green color. After the latter is gone, it cannot be added again, nor can the plant grow green again of its own accord. Sound and colour correspond to one another, and are both derived from Heaven. The brilliant green colour is like a lugubrious cry. The color of a faded plant cannot become green again, it would, therefore, be a mistake to assume that a dead man’s cry could still be produced of itself.
– Lun Heng, 論死 (tr. A. Forke, p. 197-198)
(2) Zidao 自道 can mean ‘one’s own way/method’, like in the Liji:
Sincerity is the completion of oneself. Its way is your own way.
It is therefore possible to translate 復自道 in three different ways:
(1) Returning to the way on his own accord.
(2) Return to one’s own way.
(3) Returning from the way.
The character fu 復, ‘to return’ also occurs in the 2nd line (see below) but in a different context and that made me decide to go for option (1). Fu carries a sense of ‘to regain, to recover’.
Heqi 何其: ‘how, why’.
Returning to the way on one’s own accord.
How could there be blame?
Qian 牽: to lead, or to be led (like a cow or horse on a rope). The Mawangdui text uses qian 堅, a character related to qian 掔 and qian 摼, both known variants of 牽 (Ma Rusen, 殷墟甲骨学, p. 461; 古文字通假字典, p. 861; 漢語大字典 (2nd ed.), p. 2058). I have wondered if the MWD form might be a reference to ci/qian 㹂, a character which means almost the opposite of qian 牽 – ‘untamed cattle that refuses to be guided by a rope’ (漢語大字典, p. 2126). This idea crossed my mind because ‘untamed cattle returning (by itself)’ reads like a reinstatement of the 1st line. But there is no factual data to back this up.
At the 1st line the return is on its own accord. At the 2nd line the return is a return by being led. Maybe these lines talk about cattle used for the rain sacrifice at the Western altar (see Judgment). At the 1st line the cattle does not need guidance, at the 2nd line it does. Both lines are auspicious because either way the cattle will reach its destination.
Return by being led.