Iteration marks and repeaters in ancient Chinese texts

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Let us begin this post with a brief introduction to the 16th-century Hokkien (Minnan) drama, Tale of the Lychee Mirror:

The Tale of the Lychee Mirror (traditional Chinese: 荔鏡記; simplified Chinese: 荔镜记; pinyin: Lì jìng jì; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Nāi-kèng-kì, Lē-kèng-kì) is a play written by an unknown author in the Ming dynasty. Tân Saⁿ and Gō͘-niû (traditional Chinese: 陳三五娘; simplified Chinese: 陈三五娘; pinyin: Chén Sān Wǔniáng; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Tân-saⁿ-Gō͘-niû) is a popular Taiwanese opera based on the script.


Kirinputra asks:

This question has stumped me for some time. Do you know anything about the iteration mark that looks like 匕 or ヒ? Is there a convention for how it should be represented in Unicode? (And is there some reason why this iteration mark — unlike several others — doesn't have its own Unicode representation?)
The mark I'm talking about is the one that's used a few times around the middle of this page in 荔鏡記.
It seems to have been the go-to repeater in early-modern (non-Formosan) Hokkien texts as well.
The mark is clearly meant to be smaller than a full-sized sinograph. I've seen other Hoklologists digitize it as 匕. I wonder if that's appropriate, although I don't see a better option. Same goes for ヒ.

One thing I can add at this stage is that I have seen 二 used as a mark of repetition in early Chinese texts (e.g., Dunhuang manuscripts from the medieval period).

For coverage of iteration marks in Chinese, Malayo-Polynesian languages, Japanese, Nuosu, Egyptian, Khmer, Thai, and Lao, as well as ditto marks in European languages, see this Wikipedia article.


Selected readings

1 Comment

  1. Chris Button said,

    February 28, 2023 @ 1:37 pm

    Could it just be 匕 for 比 to give a sense of pairing/repetition? The same way 々 is used in Japanese (supposedly from 仝/同 "same"), or 二 "two" even further back in Chinese.

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