Archive for Writing systems

Sanskrit and Pseudo-Sanskrit Daoist incantations

Joshua Capitanio has written a fascinating, pathbreaking article on a highly esoteric, but also tremendously significant, topic:

"Sanskrit and Pseudo-Sanskrit Incantations in Daoist Ritual Texts", History of Religions, 57.4 (May, 2018), 348-405.

When Buddhism came to China in the early centuries of the Common Era, its Indic texts were brought by speakers of Indo-Iranian languages.  The massive encounter between highly inflected, alphabetic Sanskrit and isolating, morphosyllabic Sinitic naturally posed enormous challenges for translators and interpreters.  Working individually, in small groups, and even in larger teams, those who transferred Buddhist concepts and texts into Sinitic resorted to a variety of devices and techniques, including transcription, translation, paraphrasis, géyì 格義 ("categorized concepts"), and so forth.

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Really weird sinographs, part 3

We've been looking at strange Chinese characters:

"Really weird sinographs" (5/10/18)

"Really weird sinographs, part 2" (5/11/18)

For a sinograph to be weird, it doesn't need to have 30, 40, 50, or more strokes.  In fact, characters with such large numbers of strokes might be quite normal and regular in terms of their construction.  What makes a character bizarre is when its parts are thrown together in unexpected ways.  On the other hand, characters with only a very small number of strokes might be quite odd.  Two of my favorites are the pair 孑孓, which are pronounced jiéjué in Modern Standard Mandarin and together mean "w(r)iggler; mosquito larva".

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Cool slave / guy / tofu / whatever

Nathan Hopson spotted this "Cool Guy" t-shirt on Facebook:

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Really weird sinographs, part 2

Some of the commenters to the first part of this series seem to be making the case that many of the characters chosen by Scott Wilson for his SoraNews24 article are not so weird after all.  I beg to differ.  I think that all of the characters he chose are truly strange, awesomely odd.  Even those who are skeptics admit that the loopy and curvy ones are unusual.  But I think that Wilson has done a good job of picking out weird characters from Morohashi, and as noted in the o.p., there are thousands more that might be thought of as weird.

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Really weird sinographs

Scott Wilson has written an entertaining, and I dare say edifying, article on "W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 strangest kanji ever 【Weird Top Five】", SoraNews24 (10/6/16) — sorry I missed it when it first came out.  Wilson refers to the "Top 5 strangest kanji", but he actually treats nearly three times that many.  The reason he emphasizes "5" is so that he can stick with his theme of W.T.F., cf.:

Scott Wilson, "W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 most difficult kanji ever【Weird Top Five】", SoraNews24 (8/4/16)

Scott Wilson, "W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 kanji with the longest readings【Weird Top Five】", SoraNews24 (4/20/17)

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Peking University president misreads an unobscure character: monumental implications

In an address celebrating the 120th anniversary of Peking University, the president of said institution, Lin Jianhua, misread hóng zhì 鸿鹄志 ("grand, lofty aspiration") as hónghào zhì 鸿皓志 (doesn't really mean anything).  The blunder swiftly spread on the internet, leading Lin to issue an apology.  See this article in Chinese.

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Multiscriptal, multilingual Hong Kong headline

Bob Bauer sent in this photograph of a recent headline from a Hong Kong newspaper:

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Mystical Taoist Sinographs

Jason Cox, who sent the following photograph to me, says that his "uncle-in-law has this all over the place":

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Kanji as commodity

On Friday, April 27, I participated in "Seeking a Future for East Asia’s Past:  A Workshop on Sinographic Sphere Studies" at Boston University.  Among the participants was Terry Kawashima who talked about the commodification and fetishization of kanji.  The following paragraphs are a revised version of a portion of her remarks:

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Graphic antipairs

Currently on the internet in China, there is a flurry of discussion on characters that are mirror, flipped, reversed, or inverted images of each other.  Here are some of the examples that have been cited (except for the last two sets, which were added by me to illustrate other types of minimal differences):

chǎng 厂 ("factory") || yí, 乁, ancient form of yí 移 ("move; shift") or 及 ("and; reach to")

piàn 片 ("sheet; piece; slice") || pán 爿 ("half of a tree trunk")

yù 玉 ("jade") || sù 玊 ("jade with a blemish; a jade worker; a surname")

chì 翅 ("wing; fin") || chì 翄 ("wing; fin"), a variant of chì 翅 ("wing; fin")!!

chǎng 昶 ("bright; long day; expansive; surname") ||  ǎi 昹 ("name of a star")

zè 仄 ("narrow; oblique tones in prosody; a feeling of unease") || wáng 亾 ("death; destroyed; lost perished"), an early variant of wáng 亡; another early variant is 兦

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German with pseudo-Vietnamese diacritics

Klaus Nuber spotted this poster of an ad in Germany with German text spruced up with Vietnamese diacritics:

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Mighty Maithili, monstrous Mandarin

In case you're in need of some intensely elegiac and panegyric reading material, this lovely volume just might fit the bill:

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Pinyin for daily use

Self-explanatory screen shot:

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