Thursday, June 17, 2010

From the front…

Sometimes Chinese is like a bottomless pit into which I wish I had never fallen.

You may have followed FCA long enough to recall my Chinese nightmare. Well, sometimes there are waking nightmares in Chinese, too.

Today, for instance, I was helping people in the Church translate the text of a video about Fr. Peter Wu's legacy and his "last wishes" to help poor children in Africa. What I thought would be a fairly simple task became a real "cross" for the Lord. The problem was twofold. First, the text was rife with classical Chinese, and, second, the font used was (as far as I know) the calligraphic style known as 隸書 (li4shu). As I have discussed before, classical Chinese is famously recondite and semantically dense. It turns out I can only thank God for Lin Yutang's Chinese-English dictionary of modern usage (which is available online!) to navigate some of the finer points of fine Chinese.

As for the font, while li4shu is not as difficult to read as, say, 篆書 (zhuan4shu) or, Heaven help us all, 草書 (cao3shu), it still has pitfalls of its own. [The image in this post shows various script styles in Chinese, ranging from ancient 甲古文 (jia3gu3wen2) on the left to 'artistic' 草書 on the right.] The word that truly bedeviled me was 奠 (dian4), as it was used in the phrase 奠立良好的基礎 ("to establish a good foundation"). I had no idea where to begin. It looks like 尊, as in 尊重 (zunzhong4, respect), but a phonetic search was a blind search. So then I tried to find it under the 八 (ba), 酉 (you3), and 大 (da4) radicals, respectively, all to no avail. I finally found it with the help of a friend but the hunt had really sapped my spirit. (It turns out 奠 is listed under the 大 radical, but hindsight is 20-20.)

Anyway, since I know all of you (?) are dying for more obscure Chinese at FCA (as opposed to obscure personal reflections and obscure metaphysics?), the following are some of what I've learned lately in Chinese:

晉鐸 jin4duo2. Ordained, ordination (priestly)

鉅細靡遺 ju4xi4 mi3yi2. It basically means to be vigilant and “on top of” small and big matters alike. Always on the ball. Vigilant, fastidious, etc.

縝密經營 zhen3mi4 jingying2. Deliberate/Fastidious operations

秉持 bing3chi2. adhere to, uphold, grasp onto

素不相識 su4bu4xiangshi. not known to someone before, unacquainted

淒涼 qiliang2. sad, lonely, forlorn; possibly a play on words for bitter

寒冬 han2dong. summer winter; Cf.

堅毅 jianyi4. tireless, dogged, determined; determination

渗透的评论 shen4tou4 de ping2lun4. penetrating remarks

药局 zao4 ju2. pharmacy [interesting to me only because the standard form of phamrmacy which I have learned it 藥局. Yet another rabbit hole in which I can get my mind caught: what's the difference between 葯 and 藥? And why should I really care?]

白浊 [白濁] bai2zhuo2. milky, foggy, murky

浊流 [濁流] zhuo2liu2. turbid current/stream

耸肩 [聳肩] song3jian. shrug

渗出 shen4chu. leak out, emit

渗入 shen4ru. leak into, suffuse

渗漏 shen4lou4. seep out of, emit

渗透 shen4tou4. permeate, penetrate

浊世 [濁世] zhuo2shi4. immoral world [Not sure about this usage. Is it like the Buddhist "dust world" 塵世 of maya?]

缘故 yuan2gu4. reason

缘由 yuan2you2. reason [?]

缘起 yuan2qi3. origin, cause

缘于 [緣於] yuan2yu2. because of

编审 [編審] bianshen3. copy edit

威脅 weixie2. threat, risk

消耗 xiaohao4. consume; consumption

耗损 hao4sun3. damages, [?]

耗尽 [耗盡] hao4jin4. exhaustion

耗钱 hao4qian2. waste money, costly

把--栽在﹣﹣的頭上 ba3__zaizai4__de tou2shang4. lay ___ on/at someone's head/doorstep

被解僱 bei4jie3gu4. get laid off

景氣 jing3qi4. prosperous

不景氣 bu4jing3qi4. not prosperous

變得不景氣 bian4de2 bu4jing3qi4. an economic downturn, a financial slump

披心腹,見情素。(獄中上梁王書 鄒陽 著)pi xinfu4, jian4 qing2su4. (yu4zhong shang4liang2 wang2shu Zou Yang2 zhu4 [cf.]). I found this in a dictionary of Ancient Chinese edited in part by 王力 Wang Li while researching the 素 in 素不相識. Apparently, 素 means a simple, undyed fabric, white, true or genuine feelings, usually or in the past, and vegetarian. (Don't you just love Chinese?) I was so taken by the heretofore unknown depth of 素, and, in particular, by the vividness of Zou Yang's epigram, that it now graces the header of FCA. After all, this blog is primarily about "cutting open the heart and guts [of both me and the world, as we meet] and seeing the real insides."

Stay tuned.


Tap said...

Are there any efforts in China of transliterating their Characters into Latin Characters, any such projects?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...


There is a long history of romanizing Chinese, I'm not sure how old, but I suspect as early as the 17th century with the impetus of various Christian missionaries. The most prominent methods for romanizing Chinese are the Wade-Giles, Yale, Gwuoyeu Romatzyh (sp?), and Hanyu Pinyin methods. I wrote a long essay about this topic, among other things sinophilic:

And some related comments:


Tap said...

Interesting articles, thanks.