Archive for Language and art

Mistranscribed character

Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫 (1254-1322) is one of the most famous painters in the history of Chinese art.  Many of his priceless works still exist, and he was even honored by having a 167 kilometer-diameter feature on Mercury (132.4° west, 87.3° south), the "Chao Meng-Fu crater", named after him.

When Zhao Mengfu's name came up in a discussion on connoisseurship in one of my classes a few days ago, I almost fell off my chair upon hearing a graduate student from mainland China pronounce it as "Zhao Mengtiao".  Where did she learn that strange pronunciation for this ultrafamous artist's name?  Did she hear it from her teachers?  Her classmates?  Or was she just making a wild guess based on what she thought the ostensible phonophore, zhào 兆, would yield?  However she came up with "Zhao Mengtiao", the effect upon hearing it would be akin to hearing someone say "Michelanjump" or "Leonardo da Jump".

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

What does your tattoo mean?

Comments (20)

Lin Tianmiao's "Protruding Patterns": sexism in Chinese characters

Article by Sarah Cascone in Artnet (October 16, 2017):

This Artist Gathered 2,000 Words for Women—and Now, She Wants You to Walk All Over Them:  Lin Tianmiao's installation at Galerie Lelong puts contemporary language on top of antique carpets."

Here's an example of Lin's work:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2)

Bad Chinese handwriting or just another style?

Lisa Chang took this photo of two paintings at an antique store in 2015 (the store was either in Maryland or Pennsylvania):

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

"National backbone"

I. J. Khanewala writes:

While visiting the tomb of the first emperor, I saw a sign in Mandarin which read minzu jiliang and translated as "National backbone". It left me quite mystified.  Here's a photo of the sign:

Source ("Utterly lost in translation").  Any idea what it could mean?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

GAN4 ("Do it!")

From a long blog post on contemporary Chinese religious art and architecture:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (20)

Plum > apricot and wine > brew: the language of poetry and painting

[This is a follow up to "Preserved wife plum" (7/12/17), after which there ensued a vigorous and enlightening discussion on the terminology for plums, apricots, pastries, and so forth.]

My wife was born in Shandong in 1936, but fled from the Japanese with her family to Sichuan before she was one year old, and she spent the next eleven years of her life in Sichuan, before fleeing once again with her family, this time from the Chinese Communists, to Taiwan.

One of the last things Li-ching did before passing away in 2010 was write her childhood memoirs in Hanyu Pinyin (see here, here [three items], and here).  At this moment, I do not recall if she mentioned it in her memoirs, but one of her fondest recollections of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan where she and her family lived (it was also the wartime capital of the Republic of China — now on Taiwan) was the làméi 臘梅 / 腊梅 (Chimonanthus fragrans / praecox).  In English, the làméi 臘梅 is referred to as wintersweet, Japanese allspice (despite the attractive name, it is not edible), calyx canthus, and mistakenly — but still quite commonly — as "wax plum" (look it up on Google Images under this name for pretty pictures of the blossoms).   In Japanese this plant is called rōbai 蝋梅, although it used to be written 臘梅 and 蠟梅 (nowadays it is normally written in kana alone:  ろうばい · ロウバイ).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (19)

Wetware lives in meatspace

I missed Heather McHugh's poem "Hackers can sidejack cookies" — a collage of fragments from the Jargon File — when the New Yorker published the text in 2009. Here's the author reading it at B.U. on 4/17/2010:


Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

The sphere of the sphere is the sphere of the sphere

In a comment on "Electric Sheep", Tim wrote:

Just want to share a little Google Translate poetry resulting from drumming my fingers on the keyboard while set to Thai:

There are six sparks in the sky, each with six spheres. The sphere of the sphere is the sphere of the sphere.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)

'Tis the Season: blooming in translation and in art

Jocelyn Ireson-Paine came across the Language Log posts which mention blooming: the increase in size of translated texts. She draws, and this made her think that if line drawing is regarded as translation from an original scene to lines, blooming can occur there too. She has written a brief note on this in "Drawing as Translation".

The essay was inspired partly by Jocelyn's thinking about what she does when she draws, and partly by English lecturer Matthew Reynolds talking about his book Translation: A Very Short Introduction.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)

Après Babel in Marseilles

At Le Musée des Civilizations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée in Marseilles, there's an exposition called "Après Babel, Traduire", which includes a translated version of "The directed graph of stereotypical incomprehensibility", 1/15/2009:

From LLOG: From MuCEM:

Comments (8)

Birth Happy Day!

I found this piece of framed calligraphy in a small arts and crafts shop named Noa Omanuyot in the Dan Panorama Hotel on Mt. Carmel in Haifa:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)

Multiscript sign in the Hong Kong subway

Many's the time that we have encountered biscriptalism in the Sinosphere and elsewhere (see here, here, here, and here).

Now Jenny Chu has sent in this photograph of an interesting ad, currently in Hong Kong's MTR, which fuses Japanese- and Korean-appearing lettering with English, presumably in order to seem in touch with the latest trends.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (18)