Sunday, February 19, 2017

Why does 춘하추동 (春夏秋冬) start with 춘?

When listing the seasons of the year, Koreans often say "춘하추동 (春夏秋冬)," which literally means "spring (春) summer (夏) fall (秋) winter (冬)." The reason they start with "spring" (春) is that "spring" is the first three months in the lunar calendar. Since there are twelve months in a lunar year, the four seasons are three months each. Using a solar calendar, 일월 (一月) would translate as "January," 이월 (二月) as "February," and 삼월 (삼월) as "March," but using a lunar calendar, 일월 (一月) would translate as "the first month of spring," 이월 (二月 as "the second month of spring," and 삼월 (三月) as "the third month of spring." That means that 사월 (四月) would translate as "April" using the solar calendar, but could translate as "the first month of summer" using the lunar calendar, or simply "the fourth month of the lunar calendar." Confusing? Here is another way that can be used to refer to the months of a lunar calendar.

If you want to list a progressive series of three in Chinese, you can use the characters 孟 (맹), 仲 (중), and 季 (계).  The character 孟 (맹) means "first"; 仲 (중), "next" or "second"; and 季 (계), "last," so the lunar months can also be written as follows:
  1. 孟春 (맹춘) -- "the first month of spring."
  2. 仲春 (중춘) -- "the second month of spring"
  3. 季春 (계춘) -- "the last month of spring"
  4. 孟夏 (맹하) -- "the first month of summer"
  5. 仲夏 (중하) -- "the second month of summer"
  6. 季夏 (계하) -- "the last month of summer"
  7. 孟秋 (맹추) -- "the first month of fall"
  8. 仲秋 (중추) -- "the second month of fall"
  9. 季秋 (계추) -- "the third month of fall"
  10. 孟冬 (맹동) -- "the first month of winter"
  11. 仲冬 (중동) -- "the second month of winter"
  12. 季冬 (계동) -- "the last month of winter.

What does "손돌바람" mean?

Originally, "Sondol's Wind" (손돌바람) referred to a cold, hard wind that begins blowing about the 20th day of the 10th month of the lunar calendar. Though the 9th, 10th, and 11th months of the solar calendar would be considered the months of autumn, the 10th month of the lunar calendar is considered the first month of winter, so it would not be unusual for a cold, hard wind to blow during the first month of winter. The question some people may ask, however, is why would it begin blowing on the 20th day of the first month of winter?

According to one story, during the time of Korea's Goryeo Dynasty (918 - 1392 A.D.), a sailor named "Sondol" (손돌 - 孫乭) was rowing a boat carrying the king when somewhere between "Tongjin (통진 - 通津) and Ganghwa (강화 - 江華) heavy wind and waves began to put the boat in danger. The king, for some reason, blamed Sondol (손돌) for the danger they were in and had him killed. The blame and punishment was considered unfair, so, afterwards, when there was a cold, hard wind blowing at about the same time each year, people began calling it "Sondol's wind," which translates in Korean as either 손돌바람 or 손돌풍 (孫乭風). Sondol (손돌) was apparently killed sometime around the 20th day of the 10th month of the lunar calendar. Now, however, 손돌바람 can be used to refer to any "cold, hard wind" anytime of the year. There is also the expression 손돌이추위, which translates as "Sondol's (손돌이) cold (추위)."

Even without knowing that Sondol (손돌 - 孫乭) was a simple oarsman on a boat, one could have guessed his low social status by his name because the word "돌" was commonly used in the names of male servants. The female equivalent would be "순." For example, some people may have heard stories, songs, or jokes using the names 갑돌이 and 갑순이, names that people seem to associate with simple people from the countryside.

What does the word 돌 (乭) mean? Besides being used for the name of a person, it is also the sound for the pure Korean word for "rock." The Korean alphabet was not invented until the Joseon Dynasty, so since the story of "Sondol" (손돌) happened during the Koryeo Dynasty, the dynasty before Joseon, Sondol's name would have had to be written in Chinese characters. The Chinese character for "rock" is 石 (석), so sometimes "Sondol's wind" has been written as 손석풍 (孫石風) instead of 손돌풍 (孫乭風). The problem with the word 손석풍 is that the sailor's name was 손돌, not 손석. To solve this problem, Koreans invented a new Chinese character, one to represent the Korean sound /돌/.

Notice the Chinese character 乭 (돌) is made up of the Chinese character for "rock" (石) and 乙 (을). The Chinese character 乙 (을) was often used to represent the Korean letter "ㄹ" before "Hangeul"  was invented. The combination of 石 and 乙 was a way of saying that 乭 should be pronounced using the pronunciation for the pure Korean word for "rock" (도+ㄹ= 돌). In other words, 乭 (돌) was created to represent the sound /돌/, not the meaning "rock." Why would Koreans create a new character for "rock" when there was already one?

Here are other examples of characters Koreans have created to represent the sounds of Korean syllables ending in "ㄹ":
  • 㐓 (갈) -- 可(가) + 乙(을) = the sound /갈/
  • 乫 (갈) -- 加(가) + 乙(을) = the sound /갈/
  • 乬 (걸) -- 巨(거) + 乙(을) = the sound /걸/
  • 㐦 (걸) -- 擧(거) + 乙(을) = the sound /걸/
  • 㐣 (골) -- 庫(고) + 乙(을) = the sound /골/
  • 㐇 (굴) -- 九(구) + 乙(을) = the sound /굴/
  • 㐝 (굴) -- 拘(구) + 乙(을) = the sound /굴/
  • 㐎 (글) -- 文(문) + 乙(을) = the sound /글/; 文(문) = "writing" or "글" in pure Korean
  • 㐞 (길) -- 其(기) + 乙(을) = the sound /길/
  • 㐟 (길) -- 非(비) + 乙(을) = the sound /길/; seems it should be "빌," not "길"
  • 㐐 (놀) -- 奴(노) + 乙(을) = the sound /놀/
  • 㐗 (놀) -- 老(노) + 乙(을) = the sound /놀/
  • 㐑 (돌) -- 冬(동) + 乙(을) = the sound /돌/; exchange the "ㅇ" for "ㄹ"
  • 乧 (둘) -- 斗(두) + 乙(을) = the sound /둘/
  • 㐙 (둘) -- 豆(두) + 乙(을) = the sound /둘/
  • 㐢 (뜰) -- 浮(부) + 乙(을) = the sound /뜰/; 浮(부) = "to float" or "뜨다" in pure Korean
  • 朰 (몰) -- 木(목) + 乙(을) = the sound /몰/
  • 乶 (볼) -- 甫(보) + 乙(을) = the sound /볼/
  • 㐊 (사) -- 士(사) + 乙(을) = the sound /살/
  • 乷 (살) -- 沙(사) + 乙(을) = the sound /살/
  • 㐥 (설) -- 鋤(서) + 乙(을) = the sound /설/
  • 㐒 (솔) -- 召(소) + 乙(을) = the sound /솔/
  • 乺 (솔) -- 所(소) + 乙(을) = the sound /솔/
  • 㐘 (쌀) -- 米(미) + 乙(을) = the sound /쌀/; 米(미) = "rice" or "쌀" in pure Korean
  • 乻 (얼) -- 於(어) + 乙(을) = the sound /얼/
  • 㐏 (올) -- 五(오) + 乙(을) = the sound /올/
  • 㐚 (올) -- 吾(오) + 乙(을) = the sound /올/
  • 乯 (올) -- 乎(호) + 乙(을) = the sound /올/; seems it should be "홀," not "올"
  • 㐛 (울) -- 佑(우) + 乙(을) = the sound /울/
  • 㐕 (율) -- 由(유) + 乙(을) = the sound /율/
  • 㐠 (율) -- 乳(유) + 乙(을) = the sound /율/
  • 乽 (잘) -- 者(자) + 乙(을) = the sound /잘/
  • 㐉 (절) -- 丁(정) + 乙(을) = the sound /절/ ; exchange the "ㅇ" for "ㄹ"
  • 乼 (줄) -- 注(주) + 乙(을) = the sound /줄/
  • 乲 (찰) -- 次(차) + 乙(을) = the sound /찰/
  • 㐋 (톨) -- 土(토) + 乙(을) = the sound /톨/
  • 乤 (할) -- 下(하) + 乙(을) = the sound /할/
  • 乥 (홀) -- 乊(호) + 乙(을) = the sound /홀/

Sunday, February 12, 2017

What is "tofu" (豆腐)?

"Tofu" is the Japanese pronunciation of 두부(豆腐), which is also called "bean curd" in English. It is a food product made from coagulated soy bean milk. What is coagulated soy bean milk? Here is a hint: The Chinese characters for 두부 (豆腐) literally mean "bean (豆) rot (腐)."

Thursday, February 02, 2017

How many years did Koreans wish their kings to live?

The answer: 1,000 years

Koreans would wish their kings a long life by raising their hands to the sky and shouting, "천세" (千歲) three times. 천세 means "a thousand (천) years (세)." At ceremonies a high ranking Korean official would lead the cheer by saying the following:
()()()(), ()()()(), ()()()()()().
[To] the mountain () shout () a thousand () years ();
[To] the mountain (
) shout () a thousand () years ();
Again (
), [to] the mountain () shout () a thousand () thousand () years ().
山 (산) means "mountain," but here it seems to be used as a metaphor for the king or emperor. Notice the third cheer was "a thousand (千) thousand (千) years (歲)" instead of just "a thousand (千) years (歲)." A "thousand thousand years" means "a million years." The response to each prompt was simply "천세," except for the third one, to which the response was "천천세" (千千歲).

Why did Koreans say "a thousand years" instead of "ten thousand years"? [The Korean word for "ten thousand years" is 만세 (萬歲).] The reason was that Korea was a vassal state of China, and the "ten thousand year" cheer was reserved for the emperor of China.

On the 12th day of the 10th month in 1897, King Kojong of Korea was officially crowned "Emperor Kojong." At the ceremony, immediately after crowning the emperor, State Council (의정부) Minister (대신) Sim Sun-taek (심순택 - 沈舜澤) led the following cheer:
()()()(), ()()()(), ()()()()()().
[To] the mountain () shout () ten thousand () years ();
[To] the mountain (
) shout () ten thousand () years ();
Again (
), [to] the mountain () shout () ten thousand () ten thousand () years (). 
The response: "만세, 만세, 만만세."

Notice that after King Kojong became Emperor Kojong, the chant changed from "one thousand years" to "ten thousand years." Also, notice the 만만세 (萬萬歲), which means "ten thousand (만) ten thousand (만) years (세)." That adds up to "a hundred million years."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What does 下學而上達 mean?

In his book "Confucius Analects," Edward Slingerland translates Passage 14.35 as follows:
()()()()()(). ()()()()(). ()()()()()().
“I am not bitter toward Heaven, nor do I blame others. I study what is below to comprehend what is above. If there is anyone who could understand me, perhaps it is Heaven?”
The only problem I have with Mr. Slingerland's translation is his translation of 下學而上達 (하학이상달), which he translated as follows: "I study what is below to comprehend what is above." As mentioned in my post HERE, 上達 (상달) means "to report to a superior," not "to comprehend what is above." Therefore, I would like to suggest the following translation:
“[I] do not () resent () Heaven () [and] do not () blame () others (). To inferiors () [I] teach (), and (而) to superiors () [I] advise (). [As for] someone who understands me (知我者), perhaps () it is Heaven (天乎)?”
Notice that I translated 下學而上達 (하학이상달) as follows: "To inferiors (下) [I] teach (學), and (而) to superiors (上) [I] advise (達)."

As I explained in my previous post, when you "report to a superior" (上達- 상달), you convey information or give them advice, both in a respectful manner. The opposite of 上達 is 下達 (하달), which means "to convey information to or to command an inferior," probably without showing much respect. Therefore, both 上達 and 下達 essentially mean "to convey information" or "to teach," but one is done in a polite way and the other is done in a less polite way. The same thing can be said of 下學 (하학) and 上達 (상달).

下學 (하학) means "to teach inferiors," and 上達 (상달) means "to advise or to inform superiors," so both phrases are similar in that they mean "to convey information," but the difference is a matter of etiquette. In other words, you teach inferiors, but you advise superiors. One would not presume "to teach a superior," especially a king, so the more proper expression for teaching a king is "to advise a king." A king has advisers, not teachers. Therefore, 下學而上達 (하학이상달) could be translated more simply as "I teach (下學) and (而) I advise (上達)."

Confucius may have been somewhat frustrated by the fact that people had a hard time understanding his "teachings" and "advice," but he seemed to have been comforted by the thought that, at least, "Heaven" probably understood.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

What does 君子上達, 小人下達 mean?

In his book "Confucius Analects," Edward Slingerland translates Passage 23 in Book 14 (14.23) as follows:
()()()(), ()()()().
“The gentleman understands higher things, whereas the petty person understands only the low.”
My Korean dictionary defines 上達 (상달) as "to report (to a superior)," and defines 下達 (하달) as "to command" or "to order." 達 (달) means "to communicate" or "to convey," so 上達 literally means "to a superior (上) communicate (達)," and 下達 (하달) literally means "to an inferior (下) communicate (達)." When you communicate with a superior, you are either reporting to him or giving him advice or opinion, but in both cases you are being very polite. When you communicate with an inferior, you are usually giving an order, without worrying about being polite. Therefore, trying to be a gentlemen, I would like to suggest the following translation:
()()()(), ()()()().
“The gentleman (君子) gives advice (上達); the petty man (小人) gives orders (下達).
The suggestion is that a gentleman should speak to people with respect, as if giving advice or opinion to a superior. The petty man speaks rudely, as if giving orders to an inferior.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

What does 勿恃富而欺窮 (물시부이기궁) mean?

I am rewriting an old textbook on Literary Chinese so that it can be used by English-speaking Koreans or by English-speaking Korean language learners. The project is taking longer than I expected because I am having to retranslate a lot of the original translations. Today, for example, I came across the following Chinese sentence and translation:
()()()()()().
“Do not rely on wealth and ill-treat the poor.”
The translation makes sense, but one should suspect it is missing something because the ancient Chinese philosophers and scholars were some of the most clever men in history. A lot of thought went into their sentences. They could squeeze a whole paragraph into a cleverly constructed, 4-character sentence, therefore, when I see a translation that does not have, at least, a double meaning, I get suspicious and start looking for the hidden meanings or clever wording.
Therefore, I would also like to suggest the following translation:
"Do not (勿) trust (恃) the rich (富) if (而) [you] cheat (欺) the poor (窮)."
In other words, if you are willing to cheat the poor, you should assume the rich are willing to cheat you since they may see you as poor. The character 而 (이) can also mean "and," "but," or "while," so here are a couple more possible translations.
"Do not (勿) trust (恃) the rich (富) and (而) cheat (欺) the poor (窮)."
"Do not (勿) trust (恃) the rich (富) while (而) cheating (欺) the poor (窮)." 
The character 恃 (시) can mean "to rely on" or "to depend on," but it can also mean "to believe" or "to trust."

Monday, January 02, 2017

Who was Edwin George "Ted" Pulleyblank?

Edward G. Pulleyblank (Aug. 7, 1922 - Apr. 13, 2013) was the author of a rather famous book entitled "Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar," which is the only book of his that I have read. I bought his book in 2009 and have read through it and have continued to reference it ever since. Soon after buying the book, I became curious to know more about Mr. Pulleyblank's history and how he came to study Chinese, but did not find much information. Today, you can read a Wikipedia article on Mr. Pulleyblank HERE, but back in 2009/2010 there was no such article, which did not seem right. Sometime after Mr. Pulleyblank's death in 2013, someone did remember Mr. Pulleyblank with a Wikipedia article. Also, today, I came across the following videos, in which Mr. Pulleyblank is remembered by family, friends, former students, and colleagues. I am glad people remember him.





What does 夫子之謂也 mean?

In Edwin G. Pulleyblank's book "Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar," the following Chinese sentence and translation appears:
()()()()()
“It (the poem) refers to you, sir.”
Mr. Pulleyblank explains the Chinese sentence was derived from 謂夫子 (위부자) "by moving the object fū zĭ 夫子 in front and repeating with zhī 之 more literally: 'Your honour, him it refers to.'"

I am surprised by Mr. Pulleyblank's explanation because he not only misinterprets the 之 (지), but also ignores the noun predicate marker 也 (야). The 之 (지) in the sentence is the possessive marker, not the pronoun "him." Also, the 謂 (위) should be translated as a noun, not as a verb. Here is my translation of the sentence.
()()()()()
“It is a reference to you, sir.”
The sentence literally translates as "It is your (夫子之) reference (謂也)." 夫子 (부자) was used by disciples to address their master, but it can also be used as a polite "you," which is how it was used here. 謂 (위) can mean "to indicate" or "to denote," which translates in Korean as 가리키다. That means the sentence could translate in Korean as "선생님의 (夫子之) 가리킴이다 (謂也)."

Here is another example from Mr. Pulleyblank's book that uses the same faulty explanation:
()()()()().
“I do not mean this.”
Mr. Pulleyblank believed the sentence came from 不謂此 (불위차) and explained its construction as follows:
The use of fēi 非 as a negative particle in the above example is a carry-over from the earlier construction, in which the exposed element was often introduced by wéi 唯 (惟, 維), its negative fēi 非, or adnominal particles such as jiāng 將 or  必.
 Again, Mr. Pulleyblank seems to be way overthinking the sentence. The 之 (지) in the above sentence is simply the possessive marker, not a pronoun representing an exposed element. Also, the 非 (비) is simply the special negative particle used with noun predicates, not a "carry-over" or anything. Here is my translation:
()()()()().
“It is not () an indication of this (此之謂也).”
The special negative marker 非 (비) and the noun predicate ending 也 (야) are indications that 謂 (위) should be translated as a noun, not as a verb. 此之謂 (차지위) literally translates as "this' (此之) indication (謂)," which would translate in Korea as "이것의 (此之) 가리킴이다 (謂也)." That means the full sentence would translate in Korean as follows: "이것의 가리킴이 아니다."

The above two sentences seem to be rare examples of Mr. Pulleyblank's analysis of Classical Chinese grammar slipping into the Twilight Zone.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

What does "所以" mean?

My Korean dictionary says that 所以 (소이) means "the reason" or "(the reason) why," which can be translated as "because" when needed. Wow! That was simple. So then why does the book "Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar" translate it as "that by which"?

Maybe because the author of the book was trying to translate the individual characters "所 (소)" and "以 (이)," but if that were the case, where is the "by which" part? In "Du's Handbook of Classical Grammar," it also says 所以 (소이) can be translated as "that by which," adding that the 以 means "by." It also says that "that by which" can translate as "the reason why." In "A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese," 所以 (소이) is translated as "the means by which" and "the reason why." It seems all three books want to translate the "以" in 所以 (소이) as "by," but I have a different opinion.

My Korean dictionary says 所 (소) can mean "a place," "a thing," or "what." The character that follows 所 seems to usually be a verb in the passive voice, so 所得 (소득) translates as "what (所) was earned (得)," which can translate simply as "income"; 所望 (소망) translates as "what (所) was desired (望)," which can translate simply as "desire"; and 所聞 (소문) translates as "what (所) was heard (聞)," which can translate simply as "a rumor" or "hearsay." These examples suggest that the 以 in 所以 (소이) should also be translated as a verb in the passive voice.

As a verb, 以 (이) can mean "to use," "to take," or "to consider," but I think it can also mean "to reason," which is very close in meaning to the verb "to consider." My Korean dictionary says 以 (이), as a noun, can mean "reason," which translates in Korean as "이유 (理由)" or "까닭." Based on the way Chinese characters often work, if there is a noun meaning, then there is also a similar verb meaning, and vice versa. For example, 問 (문) can mean "a question," but it can also mean "to question" or "to ask." Therefore, since 以 (이) can mean "a reason," we can assume it can also mean "to reason." That would mean that 所以 (소이) has, at least, four possible translations:
  1. "what (所) is used (以)"
  2. "what (所) is taken (以),"
  3. "what (所) is considered (以)"
  4. "what (所) is reasoned (以)," which can translate as the noun "reason."
One of the example sentences in "Du's Handbook" is as follows:
()()()()()()
“This is why I am sad.”
The above sentence can literally translate as "This is (此) my (吾) reason (所以) [for] being sad (悲也)."