Archive for Language and art

Calligraphic tie: "Letter on the Controversy over Seating Protocol"

On April 29, 2022, Bryan Van Norden (Vassar) gave students from the Penn Chinese Language Program a talk on the subject “What is happiness? Chinese and Western Conceptions,” in which he discussed several leading Chinese and Western views of what sort of life we should aim at.  During the talk, Bryan was sporting a striking red tie (the slide on the screen shows Socrates taking the cup of hemlock, with which the lecture began):

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Spring is sprung

The start of today's newsletter from Amy Stoller:

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Miniature Votive Stupa

One enigmatic artifact combines so many of my favorite things:  Dunhuang, Yi jing, Buddhism, cosmic symbols (e.g., Kunlun)….

clevelandart.org

[For an enlargement, click on the photograph to go to the thread, then click on the photograph again. It will be large enough to make the inscription legible.]

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Sobriquets, milk names, and monikers

Responding to the English translation of the Chinese epitaph on "Matteo Ricci's tombstone" (11/24/21), rit malors remarks:

It's the first time I encounter the word "sobriquet" for hào 號. Later I browse the Wikipedia and find that there is an entry for hào 號 as "Art Name" (in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam).

In it, "sobriquet" is not mentioned at all. I think "art name, pseudonym, or pen name" cannot really grasp the nature of hào 號. Do you think that you have to make a post about it as what you did in "Unmatched by no other philosopher" (11/6/21)?

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Data, information, knowledge, insight, wisdom, and Conspiracy Theory

The relationships among these different types of knowing has always been something that intrigued me.  Now it's all spelled out diagrammatically:

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Artistic Sinograph: Buddha

On the wall of an apartment complex in Dali, Yunnan, southwestern China:

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Womanless

Photograph of a work of art in a Berlin gallery, taken by Johan Elverskog:

Jia. One Hundred Women, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 78 3/4 x 78 3/4 inches

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Arigatō

There's probably no other Japanese word that is better known to the world than "arigatō".  In this little essay, Kaki Okumura attempts to explain why "there is difficulty" means "thank you".  This is something that I have often pondered myself, but is that all there is to it?  And what about the alleged Buddhist aspects of the expression?

Even the rather full etymology I've quoted below doesn't do full justice to the word.

"The Strange Thing About Writing ‘Thank You’ in Japanese:  When life is full of good miracles"

Kaki Okumura, Medium (8/27/21)

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The African origins of the name of a black samurai

[The first part of this post, giving the historical background of the central figure, is by S. Robert Ramsey.]


Two joined panels of a Japanese folding screen painted in 1605

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Ashkenazi and Scythians

It is not my intention to stir up a firestorm, but I have for decades suspected that the names "Ashkenazi" and "Scythian" are related.  Now, after having sat on this for years and letting it gnaw away at my inwyt for far too long, I've decided to seek the collected expertise of the Language Log readership to see if there really is something to my suspicion.

Ashkenazi Jews (/ˌæʃ-, ɑːʃkəˈnɑːzi/ ASH-, AHSH-kə-NAH-zee), also known as Ashkenazic Jews or, by using the Hebrew plural suffix -im, Ashkenazim[a] are a Jewish diaspora population who coalesced in the Holy Roman Empire around the end of the first millennium.

The traditional diaspora language of Ashkenazi Jews is Yiddish (a Germanic language with elements of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Slavic languages), developed after they had moved into northern Europe: beginning with Germany and France in the Middle Ages. For centuries they used Hebrew only as a sacred language, until the revival of Hebrew as a common language in 20th century's Israel. Throughout their time in Europe, Ashkenazim have made many important contributions to its philosophy, scholarship, literature, art, music and science.

The term "Ashkenazi" refers to Jewish settlers who established communities along the Rhine river in Western Germany and in Northern France dating to the Middle Ages. Once there, they adapted traditions carried from Babylon, the Holy Land, and the Western Mediterranean to their new environment.  The Ashkenazi religious rite developed in cities such as Mainz, Worms, and Troyes. The eminent French Rishon Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki (Rashi) would have a significant influence on the Jewish religion.

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Mother's tongue

[This is a guest post by Chips Mackinolty.]

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Faux Manchu: Ornamental Manchu II

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu]

In “Ornamental Manchu: the lengths to which a forger will go” (LL, April 24), Professor Mair discussed a handscroll with faux-Manchu inscriptions. Although the writing clearly imitated Manchu, the imitation was so liberal and the forger so unfamiliar with the Manchu script that hardly any word was intelligible even to eminent Manjurists consulted for the post.

As a non-Manjurist, I found the text only more puzzling, but was able to identify its model by comparing a a conjectural reading of a non-recurring word in it to a published text of a Manchu translation of the Heart Sutra (Fuchs, Die mandjurischen Druckausgaben des Hsin-ching (Hṛdayasūtra) (non legi), transcribed in Hurvitz, “Two polyglot recensions of the Heart Scripture”, J Indian Philos 3:1/2 (1975)). That guess I shared in a comment embedded in the post, elaborated under it with the likely source text. That presumably settled the question, but, with the source given in transliteration only, didn’t make it any easier to appreciate the hilarious cavalierness of the copy without an ability to mentally untransliterate it back into the Manchu script.

Professor Kicengge has now compared the text to a Manchu-script rendition of the sutra and composed an image that juxtaposes the copy to its model. The juxtaposition verifies the identification of the source text: not only does the text (very roughly) match, so does its division into columns.


The handscroll’s faux Manchu and its model, juxtaposed. Supplied by Kicengge.

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The vocabulary of traditional Chinese thought and culture

I recently got hold of an electronic copy of this book:

Zhōngguó chuántǒng wénhuà guānjiàn cí (Hàn Yīng duìzhào) 中国传统文化关键词(汉英对照) (Key Terms of Traditional Chinese Culture / Key Concepts in Chinese Culture [original English title] [Chinese-English])

Beijing:  Wàiyǔ jiàoxué yǔ yánjiū chūbǎn shè 2019 外语教学与研究出版社 2019 (Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 2019)

Here is a one-drive link to the whole book.

It has been scanned by OCR, so the entire contents can be searched by simplified Chinese characters, but accuracy is not guaranteed.

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