Rural amorous feelings

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Someone posted this picture of a package of mushrooms (?) on Reddit:


If this is Chinese, I'd read it as shānyě xiǎo shi 山野小拾 ("gleanings from hill and dale / mountain wilds").

It's questionable whether this can or should be read as Japanese. From a Japanese correspondent:

山野小拾 looks like Chinese to me. I googled it, and the sites are all in Chinese. If it was Japanese, it could be 山野 = sanya (on doku) or Yamano (kun doku) 小拾 kojuu (kun + on doku) or shoojuu (ondoku). But, I think this naming is rather unlikely in Japanese. judging from the items they are selling on those Chinese sites (dried mushrooms, etc.), it might be a brand name which means 'small gathering from the wilderness'.

音読(on doku [Chinese style reading])・訓読 (kun doku [Japanese style reading])

I agree with all of these observations.

Another Japanese correspondent states that it is hard to figure out how to read:

Yamano shōshū やまのしょうしゅう

Yamano shōjū やまのしょうじゅう

Yamano Kobiroi やまのこびろい (as a proper name)

(among other possibilities)

Since the company is in China, I believe that we need to treat the name as Chinese.

Whether it's Chinese or Japanese, "Rural Amorous Feelings" is an odd translation of 山野小拾.

Fair enough, shānyě 山野 ("hill and dale; mountain wilds; mountains and plains") may be said to account for "rural".

The character shi 拾 has another usage than "glean; collect"), as in the phrase tóngnián ǒu shi 童年偶拾 ("idle memories of youth"), where it is not referring to physical objects that people pick up, but rather to trifles that they gather, hence "memories" or even "feelings". This may account for the "feelings" in the wording on the package. Still, "Rural Amorous Feelings" is hard to account for in toto.

Stretching credulity as far as possible, I wonder whether the yě 野, which can have unsavory implications such as ambition and uncouth or inappropriate behavior, might have been the root of the "amorous" translation. In ancient China, there was definitely a connection between yě 野 ("wild[ernes]s") and "licentiousness; sexual intercourse".

See Paul R. Goldin, "The Motif of the Woman in the Doorway and Related Imagery in Traditional Chinese Funerary Art," Journal of the American Oriental Society, 121.4 (2001), 539-548, especially about copulating in the wild, with old and highly graphic illustrations.

Confucius himself was said to have been conceived when his parents yěhé 野合 (lit., "copulated / came together in the wilderness"; i.e., "illicit copulation; illicit sexual relations"). See "6 Famous Bastards Who Made Their Mark" (Confucius is #1 on the list).

For the textual basis of this tradition, see the first citation here, from the biography of Confucius in Sima Qian (China's Thucydides), The Grand Scribe's Records.

The full form of the expression describing Confucius' parents' union is yěhé ér shēng 野合而生 ("born from copulation in the wild[ernes]s"), the short form of which would be yěshēng 野生 ("wilderness born", i.e., "born out of wedlock; illegitimate; a bastard").

Of course, later Confucian apologists went into contortions falling over each other in their efforts to deny that ("joining in the wild[ernes]s") meant what it seemed to.

One correspondent suggested that the mushrooms may have aphrodisiac properties, but I suspect that the "amorous" part of the translation comes from yě 野, as analyzed in the previous paragraphs. Hence, yě 野 is doing double duty, signifying "wilds" and at the same time implying "dissoluteness", i.e., "indulging in sensual pleasures". This may not be what the person who thought up shānyě xiǎoshi 山野小拾 ("gleanings from hill and dale / mountain wilds") had intended for this product, but at least we have now traced the origins of all three components of the English translation to their source in the Chinese name.

Anyway, springtime is in the air….

[Hat tip Kendall Willets; thanks to Cecilia Segawa Seigle, Hiroko Sherry, Nathan Hopson, Jing Wen, and Rebecca Fu]

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17 Comments »

  1. cd said,

    May 11, 2014 @ 6:31 pm

    The link shows 3 products. These look like dried enoki mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes), a culinary mushroom often used in soup. The second product is dried veiled stinkhorn mushrooms (Phallus indusiatus), which are indeed marketed as an aphrodisiac. The third product is dried shiitake mushrooms.

  2. Wynn said,

    May 11, 2014 @ 6:41 pm

    To entirely avoid the language discussion at the start, one could simply read the rest of the packaging and it is quite obviously Chinese.

    To me, a native Chinese speaker, the phrase "amorous feeling" seems to be a terrible translation for "情趣". It could either mean something erotic, or simply "interest" or "delight", so the machine translation must have got confused. In support of my hypothesis, a quick Google search for the phrase reveals links advertising for sexy lingeries and underwears.

    Additionally, the trademark "山野小拾" seems to be the name for a line of products including ordinary flower tea and mushroom. Therefore I don't think that the connection between the trademark and "aphrodisiac properties" stands at all.

  3. Sal said,

    May 11, 2014 @ 7:45 pm

    "Did you think I meant country matters?"

  4. Matt said,

    May 11, 2014 @ 9:01 pm

    At http://www.dashanhe.net, the text description of the product has 山野小格 in text. I think this is an error, because the calligraphy looks much more like 小拾 and 小拾 makes a lot more sense as a description of things gathered like mushrooms, but could "小格" somehow be related to the otherwise mysterious "amorous feelings"?

  5. Brendan said,

    May 11, 2014 @ 9:38 pm

    I wonder if "rural amorous feelings" isn't translating something that isn't on the label. It seems like it'd be a pretty good match for something like 田园风情 (tiányuán fēngqíng, literally "countryside + amorous feelings" but really more like "country-style"), which I can imagine occurring in this context without too much difficulty — and from there it's not hard to picture a machine translator rendering it as "rural amorous feelings."

    A quick Google search for "rural amorous feelings" plus 情 turns up a few pages; the string "rural amorous feelings" on its own turns up in a few contexts, including a listing on Alibaba for gen-u-ine country-style cane planters and a courtyard hotel in Lijiang.

  6. Dave H said,

    May 12, 2014 @ 1:31 am

    My local restaurant has 风情牛蛙 as 'Amorous Bullfrog'.
    I've started reillustrating their menu:
    http://www.spittingdog.net/2014/04/12/chinglish-menus-reillustrated/

  7. Victor Mair said,

    May 12, 2014 @ 7:55 am

    From Cecilia Segawa Seigle:

    山野小拾 Is this a person's name? I can't find this combination in Japanese Google.

    山野 is a family name read Yamano.

    When a combination of kanji is used for a personal name, it can be read anything.

    Japanese parents sometimes want to be so different and original, they give the city registration office a hard time.

    小拾 can be read Kohiro, Koshuu, Kojuu, Kohiroi(not likely).

    Anyway, if this is a person, he is not a famous person because I can't find it in Japanese Google.

  8. Victor Mair said,

    May 12, 2014 @ 8:41 am

    I just realized that, in the original post, the second tone mark was inadvertently left off the romanization for 拾; it should be shí.

    @Dave H

    I just went to your site, and I must say that it is absolutely fantastic. Can't recommend it highly enough to other LLog readers.

    @Brendan

    Yeah, it's possible that they just picked up (!!) "Rural Amorous Feelings" from somewhere else (i.e., not a translation of the Chinese wording on this packaging) because it sounds sweet and conveys a nice sentiment about where one goes to pick wild mushrooms (though I doubt that any of the products from Dashan Foodstuff / D S & H / Zhōngguó gū wáng 中国菇王 ["mushroom king of China"] / "the Chinese leader in mushrooms" actually come from the wilds).

    @Matt

    I also noticed that the company website miswrites shí 拾 as gé 格.

    xiǎogé 小格 ("cell; compartment")

    gé 格 by itself can mean "case; metre; pattern; standard; form; style", so, yes, it might conceivably (at a stretch) have something to do with "amorous feelings".

    For more meanings of gé 格, see:

    Mair, Victor H. (2010), "What is Geyi, After All?", in Philosophy and Religion in Early Medieval China, edited by Alan K. L. Chan and Yuet-Keung Lo, State University of New York Press, 227-264.

    Also:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geyi

  9. julie lee said,

    May 12, 2014 @ 1:18 pm

    I tend to agree with Victor Mair's post that the word "amorous" on a pack of noodles is somehow related to the character 野 (ye) "wilderness, wild, illicit" . One euphemism for an illicit sexual relationship is 野味 (ye wei), literally "taste of the wild, wild/outdoors delicacy" , suggesting that the licit relationship is humdrum and boring, and one likes an out-in-the-wild excursion once in a while. Of course, It's an expression from a man's point of view. From a woman's point of view, such expressions–and there are many because most writers were men–are unpleasant and vulgar.

  10. Paul R. Goldin said,

    May 12, 2014 @ 4:23 pm

    I'd be curious to know the Chinese for the "Rural Amorous Feelings Suite" at the Zhaogongguan Hotel in Lijiang, because that might solve some of the problem for us. I can't immediately find it online. I believe I've located the right hotel, but I don't see anything plausibly corresponding to "Rural Amorous Feelings Suite" in their list of available rooms:

    http://www.9ddf.com/hotel/order-17411.html

    If I had more time I might be able to find it somewhere on that site.

    We can rule out Google Translate, I think, because "Rural Amorous Feelings" yields 農村風情.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    May 13, 2014 @ 11:22 am

    From Lionel Jensen, author of Manufacturing Confucianism:

    =====

    The Shiji is the standard, but not very elaborate reference to Kongzi's being the product of 野合. I believe the best source for the more elaborate and coherent story comes from the Weishu, but in these texts or in later fragments collected in the 藝文類聚 or 太平御覽, the story is built out of a presumption of hierogamy. There is no appearance of 野合 in these instances, only 夢交 or 冡交. The intercourse occurs in a dream after Zheng Zai has wandered onto the nether space of a marsh, mound, or tumulus.

    I remain partial to Shirakawa's 孔子伝 as an interpretative source for the possible readings of 野合. IN the past couple of years I have taken interest in the magical birth of Kongzi in light of the bamboo slip manuscript Zi Gao 子羔 (上海博物馆藏战国楚竹书, vol. 2, 184) where the divine conception of founding kings is discussed.

    All in all the source text is the Shiji.

    I should also let you know that in the third chapter of my book ms, Enchanting Texts: Kongzi, Zhu Xi and the Mythistories of Confucianism, I deal with these Weishu accounts, as well as the 子羔 material on divine births.

    =====

  12. Victor Mair said,

    May 14, 2014 @ 12:30 pm

    From Brendan O'Kane:

    At least for the bakery chain Wedomé (味多美 / Wèiduōměi), "rural amorous feelings" is a match for 田园风情. (They also offer an the Australia amorous feelings (澳洲风情) cake, for those who are into that sort of thing. No judgment here.)

    Elsewhere, a clearly machine-translated blog post informs us that "rural amorous feelings, furniture is a magic weapon" ("田园风情,家具法宝”). I’m still not sure what the culprit was in these cases — I tend to assume that some version of Kingsoft PowerWord (the program responsible for consistently rendering 干 in the most colorful way possible) is usually to blame, but haven't got a copy in front of me to test it on. The online version of Kingsoft's translation database, iCiba.com, gives "amorous feelings" as the first translation for 风情, but has "fields and gardens; countryside; garden city" for 田园, and a search for 田园风情 turns up parallel translations that render the term more or less correctly ("pastoral," "countryside").

  13. julie lee said,

    May 14, 2014 @ 1:41 pm

    Re. Brendan O'Kane's comment:

    I would agree with Brendan O'Kane that "rural amorous feelings" on the noodle packet was a translation 田園風情 tianyuan fengqing ( literally "fields-and-gardens breeze feelings") which means "country style". So what the packet wanted to say was "country-style noodles", or "field-and-garden style noodles".

    The phrase 風情 fengqing (literally "wind/breeze feelings") requires some explicating for the person who doesn't read Chinese. It is well known that the Chinese language tends to express the abstract with the concrete. So an abstract concept like " style", "fashion", "flavor", "trend" is often expressed with the word 風 feng ”wind", "breeze", "gust", etc. , as in the compound 風氣 fengqi (literally "wind air") which means "trend".

    But 風 feng "wind/breeze" is also used in compounds for "romance" or "romantic" as in 風流 fengliu "romantic" , "licentious", and 風花雪月 fenghua xueyu (literally "breeze-flowers-snow-moon") "romantic", "romance".

    The second word 情 qing "feelings", "emotions" is also used to express other more abstract concepts such as "situation", "circumstances", "style", "tenor" as in
    the compounds 情勢 qingshi "situation", 情調 qingdiao "style", "tenor".

    The compound 風情 ( literally "wind/breeze feelings" or "amorous feelings") means "style"

  14. julie lee said,

    May 14, 2014 @ 1:48 pm

    Correction of typo:

    "on the noodle packet was a translation of 田園風情…"

  15. Bob said,

    May 14, 2014 @ 7:47 pm

    @Julie Lee
    the "feng" is "fengqing" is not wind or gust, but "charateristic"

  16. Paul R. Goldin said,

    May 14, 2014 @ 8:11 pm

    Well, "characteristic" is derived from the basic meaning of "wind." I think we've nailed down that "amorous feelings" must be a mistranslation of 風情, which in context should mean "style." So the whole phrase is probably supposed to mean something like "country-style." My only question is where on the package anything like that appears in Chinese.

  17. julie lee said,

    May 14, 2014 @ 11:23 pm

    Paul R. Goldin,

    You're right, the Chinese phrase 田園風情 tianyuan fengqing “country-style" doesn't appear on the noodle package, though it's (poor) English translation "rural amorous feeling" does.

    I think the Chinese name of the noodles, "山野小拾" (literally, "mountain-wild little- pickings") suggest something rural , which suggested the Chinese phrase “田園風情”,
    “country-style", which, because of the various meaning of “風” and “情”, got mistranslated into "amorous feelngs".

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