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Classical Chinese is a written language and is very different from spoken Chinese. Different words that have the same sound when spoken aloud will have different written forms, comparable to deer and dear in English.
Also, many characters in the passage had distinct sounds in Middle Chinese. All the various Chinese spoken variants have over time merged and split different sounds. For example, when the same passage is read in Cantonese, there are seven distinct syllables - ci, sai, sap, sat, sek, si, sik - in six distinct tone contours, leaving 22 distinct character pronunciations. In Min Nan or Taiwanese, there are six distinct syllables - se, si, su, sek, sip, sit – in seven distinct tone contours, leaving 15 character pronunciations. Even with Dioziu (Chaozhou/Teochew), there are eleven distinct syllables - ci, cik, sai, se, sek, si, sip, sik, chap, chiah, chioh - in six distinct tone contours, leaving 22 distinct character pronunciations. The passage is barely comprehensible when read aloud in any modern dialect including Mandarin.
While the sound changes merged sounds that had been distinct, new ways of speaking those concepts emerged. Typically disyllabic words replaced monosyllabic ones. If the same passage is translated into modern Mandarin, it will not be that confusing. The following is an example written in Vernacular Chinese, along with its pronunciations in Pinyin; Chinese characters (simp.) with pinyin transcription added using ruby annotations.
Yǒu yí wèi zhù zài shíshì lǐ de shīrén jiào Shī Shì, ài chī shīzi, juéxīn yào chī shí zhī shīzi.
Tā chángcháng qù shìchǎng kàn shīzi.
Shí diǎnzhōng, gānghǎo yǒu shí zhī shīzi dào le shìchǎng.
Nà shíhòu, gānghǎo Shī Shì yě dào le shìchǎng.
Tā kànjiàn nà shí zhī shīzi, biàn fàng jiàn, bǎ nà shí zhī shīzi shā sǐ le.
Tā shí qǐ nà shí zhī shīzi de shītǐ, dài dào shíshì.
Shíshì shī le shuǐ, Shī Shì jiào shìcóng bǎ shíshì cā gān.
Shíshì cā gān le, tā cái shìshi chī nà shí zhī shīzi.
Chī de shíhòu, cái fāxiàn nà shí zhī shīzi, yuánlái shì shí zhī shítou de shīzi shītǐ.
Shìshi jiěshì zhè jiàn shì ba.
Classical Chinese pronunciation in antiquity
This tongue-twister translates to "Four is four, ten is ten, fourteen is fourteen, forty is forty." In Standard Mandarin, it is pronounced as follows:
sì shì sì, shí shì shí, shísì shì shísì, sìshí shì sìshí.
In some southern dialects of Mandarin, however, where speakers do not pronounce the [ʂ] (sh) but replace it with [s], the tongue-twister is pronounced as follows, with all the syllables homophonous except for their tones: