Long time no see.
In his translation of SN 3.11, Sujato translates Lohaḍḍhamāsova suvaṇṇachanno as “like a copper penny coated with gold”.
There is some analysis accompanying the page, which I could follow but didn’t find wholly convincing. Looking at the Chinese, I wondered if this has influenced the translation of the Pāli? I.e.
“Like brass being used to paint the color of true gold.”
(trans by Dr Jeffrey Kotyk)
As I understand it, Lohaḍḍhamāsova can be parsed as loha-(a)ḍḍha-māso (i)va. Is this correct?
loha (red/yellow) is used to refer to copper and copper-based alloys like bronze and brass. But brass requires zinc in the mix, and it’s not clear whether Indians made brass in that time period (the Iron Age).
Buddhaghosa glosses Lohaḍḍhamāsova as lohaḍḍhamāsako (SNA I 150), Where aḍḍha-māsako means, according to PED, “half a bean” (as a measure of weight). Also a small coin when coins were used. I’m not sure this helps since dating the introduction of coinage in Indian is tricky. The coins that Sujato references were, I gather, typically punch-marked silver. A weight measure or even “nugget” seems more likely for a sutta set “in the Buddha’s day”. (I need to read more on this and have a library trip planned for today to get the latest Joe Cribb article on this topic). Even now, gold paint or gold leaf are easily distinguishable from metallic gold.
Also aḍḍhamāso is “a fortnight, a half-month”. (e.g. icchāmahaṃ, bhikkhave, aḍḍhamāsaṃ paṭisalliyituṃ “Monks, I wish to go on retreat for a fortnight”).
I’m not sure when the technology existed to coat anything with gold and this is something I will look into. It’s not a simple process, they didn’t have electroplating, eh? Is there evidence of paint in use at this time? Or are there gold-coated artefacts in the archaeological record that I’ve overlooked?
But I’m not convinced that suvaṇṇachanno means that anyway. I can see how, if one saw the 5th century Chinese translation, that one might come to this conclusion. But it doesn’t ring true to me as Pāḷi (FWIW). For example, it could just as easily (I think) be read as a locative tatpuruṣa: suvaṇṇe channo , i.e. “concealed amidst gold”.
Sujato’s translation is certainly possible, especially given the topic of the sutta. I’m not saying he’s wrong. I’m asking for clarification. I wonder if Sujato would mind spelling out the rationale for translating this unique and tricky expression as he did?