Energize Complete Works

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Jì Xiànlín 季羨林 (1911-2009), an old friend of mine, was China's greatest Indologist and Tocharian specialist (see this Wikipedia article, also in Mandarin, Cantonese, and Classical Chinese).  His complete works in 18 volumes, Jì Xiànlín quánjí 季羨林全集, are available through Amazon and other online book services.  What is strange is that the English translation of the title is given in a number of places as Energize Complete Works.

For Jì Xiànlín quánjí 季羨林全集 (Complete Works of Ji Xianlin), Google Translate gives "Energize Complete", so this is most likely where many websites are getting their English title.  One website refers both to "Energize Complete Works" and "Energize Lost Article", and it is clear from the corresponding Chinese text that "Energize" = Ji Xianlin.

But how could this outstanding scholar's name, Ji Xianlin, become "energized" in English?  It's not because of the superficial meanings of the individual characters of which it is composed:

jì 季 ("season; period; quarter of year")

xiàn 羨 ("envy; admire; praise; covet; [be]grudge")

lín 林 ("forest; woods; grove; jungle")

It's possible that Jì Xiànlín 季羨林 became "energize" through a shortcut entry or omission of strokes / letters of the input.  For example, when I type "jili" into my IME, it yields jīlì 激励 which is translated into English as "energize; stimulate; excite; urge; incite".

Another conceivable, though less likely, way that Jì Xiànlín 季羨林 might have gotten mixed up with "energize" is through the English title of an article that discusses his ideas:  Dōngfāng wénhuà de fùxīng — shì lùn Jì Xiànlín xiānshēng de dōngfāng wénhuà guān 东方文化的复兴–试论季羡林先生的东方文化观 ("The Revival of Eastern Culture — On Ji Xianlin's View of Eastern Culture"), the first part of which is commonly rendered as "Re-Energize the Oriental Cultures".

No matter how the translation of Jì Xiànlín quánjí 季羨林全集 as Energize Complete Works came about, once it arose it seems to have stuck.

[Hat tip Hiroshi Kumamoto]



  1. Stephan Stiller said,

    April 3, 2014 @ 4:15 am

    Where Amazon.com's subhead "academic history of the ten sugar" (second link; here) comes from is even more mysterious.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    April 3, 2014 @ 6:48 am

    @Stephan Stiller

    I noticed that too, but didn't pay too much attention to it, since I remembered right away that Ji Xianlin had written a History of Chinese Cane Sugar.

    See bottom of p. 348 here.

    It is Ji Xianlin 季羨林, Táng shǐ 糖史 (A History of Sugar).


    A different edition goes by the name Zhōnghuá zhètáng shǐ 中华蔗糖史 (A History of Chinese Cane Sugar):


    See also:


    If we want to understand how "academic history of the ten sugar" came about, it is a poor translation of Dì shíbā juǎn, xuéshù lùnzhù, shí (táng shǐ, yī) 第十八卷, 学术论著, 十 (糖史, 一), which should be rendered something like this: Volume 18, Academic Works, No. Ten (The History of Sugar, Part One).

    See in WorldCat:



  3. Victor Mair said,

    April 3, 2014 @ 7:25 am

    [N.B.: If you want to experience the full effect of this comment, you have to read through to the end. The first parts are merely mildly curious, but the last couple of links made me laugh uproariously.]

    Hiroshi Kumamoto called my attention to a supplement pill called "Energize".


    One of its customer reviews:


    when translated into Chinese, offers a hilarious reading:

    ISatori“ Jì Xiànlín xiānshēng” quán tiān néngliàng wán // iSatori“季羡林先生”全天能量丸 ("iSatori 'Ji Xianlin' All-day Energy Pill")

    But if you run the Chinese translation (iSatori“季羡林先生”全天能量丸) through Google Translate back into English, you get: iSatori "Energize" All Day Energy Pill!

  4. Stephan Stiller said,

    April 3, 2014 @ 7:52 am

    @ Victor Mair
    As for how "Volume 18, Academic Works, No. Ten (The History of Sugar, Part One)" (= "第十八卷, 学术论著, 十 (糖史, 一)") got garbled into "academic history of the ten sugar", I conclude: "Yet another victim of statistical reordering!" Statistical reordering is part of most machine translation (MT) algorithms; maybe we should rename it to "stochastic reordering" ☺

  5. JS said,

    April 3, 2014 @ 2:06 pm


    (this being one of the few translated sentences that more or less makes [grammatical] sense…)

  6. julie lee said,

    April 3, 2014 @ 4:30 pm

    Thanks, Prof. Mair, for the post and comments. This is hilarious !!

  7. Stephan Stiller said,

    April 4, 2014 @ 7:05 am

    Actually, the mistranslated title in the specific Amazon.com link I was referring to is given as "Energize Complete Works (18 volumes): academic history of the ten sugar (1) (hardcover)". That's even stronger evidence for stochastic :-) reordering of the original title; I'm wondering what their workflow regarding the use of MT and human intervention is.

  8. Mark Mandel said,

    April 6, 2014 @ 12:35 pm

    For a moment I misread "statistical reordering" and "stochastic reordering" both as "…rendering". And that might be the best term of all:

    to treat so as to convert into industrial fats and oils or fertilizer
    (Merriam-Webster, render, transitive verb, 1 b)

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