I previously posted two blog posts looking at how 「不恥」 and 「不齒」 are used as homonyms to mean “shame” in Ruan Ching-yue’s short story ‘The Conman’ (translation available here) and in A Dictionary of Maqiao by Han Shaogong (review available here), despite the former actually meaning “unashamed”. This suggested that most Taiwanese now use 「不恥」 rather than 「不齒」 , while reading 《斷代》 by writer Kuo Chiang-sheng however, I discovered a counterexample:
In this sentence, 「不齒」 is used as follows:
… showing still the ignorance and helplessness that is such a source of shame for those gay people who are open…
The book is really good so far and I’d definitely recommend it.
A Dictionary of Maqiao is a really considered and philosophical book, whilst managing to retain an earthiness and wit throughout. I liked the way the narrator poses the book as an effort to deconstruct traditional story-telling. He sees the traditional novel as directing its gaze selectively – focusing in on those things that relate to the central narrative, while ignoring the things that are on the periphery of this:
Things that can’t be put in the traditional novel are normally “insignificant.” However, when your focus is theocracy, science is insignificant; when it is humanity, nature is insignificant; when it is politics, then love is insignificant; when it is money, then aesthetics are insignificant. I suspect that everything in the world has the same level of significance, however, and that the reason that some things appear insignificant at times, is because they are filtered out by the author’s framework of meaning and are resisted by the reader’s framework of meaning, as they are not exciting enough. Clearly, these frameworks are not innate and unchanging, but rather the contrary, they are reformed by fads, habit and cultural tendencies – this mould is then set in the form of the novel. [My translation]
I found this variant of 強 in a traditional character version of a mainland Chinese novel (《馬橋詞典》 Dictionary of Maqiao by 韓少功 Han Shaogong). This character is not listed in the Taiwanese Ministry of Education dictionary although it is listed in the variant dictionary. I was surprised to see the character in a traditional character book, because it incorporates the simplified version (or variant) of 強: 强 above 牛 (ox). Lots of simplified characters were adapted from variants or commonly used shorthand however, so it’s not overly unusual. At first I thought it might be an amusing glitch thrown up in the process of transcribing the simplified characters into traditional characters, but after checking the original on Google Books, it seems to have been a choice by the author:
In the Taiwan variants dictionary it is weirdly listed as a variant of standard character although this character cannot be typed – as it automatically switches back to 犟 when typing in zhuyin 注音 and Cangjie 倉頡.
Neither are listed as variants of 強 either. So I can only assume that Taiwan chose to replace this character with 強 in daily usage, although it still exists in its simplified form.
Ever seen buddhist monks on the street collecting money with an alms bowl? Did you notice what it was made of? It’s interesting when you come across variants in Chinese based on the difference between the materials used to make it.
The Taiwanese Ministry of Education dictionary lists 缽 Bō as an alms bowl. I also found 缽 in 《馬橋詞典》：
I came across the character 盋 online and when I presented it to two Taiwanese colleagues, neither of them were able to identify it, however when I said it was pronounced Bō, one wrote 鉢 and the other wrote 缽.
盋 is a rare variant of Bō, made up of 犮 quǎn – itself a variant of 犬 （hound/dog) – and 皿 mǐn (dish/shallow container).
The other three characters all combine 本 běn, which seems to be a phonetic component, with three different materials 缶 fǒu (pottery), 石 shí (stone) and 金 jīn (metal): 缽 砵 鉢
If you know of any other variants that follow this pattern, hit the comments section and I’ll feature them in a future post.
OK – just a quick post today! Am reading 《馬橋詞典》(Dictionary of Maqiao) by 韓少功 (Han Shaogong) at the minute and came across a word for a woman’s period or menstruation – 例假 – that I hadn’t seen before. For some reason I read this as 例期 however and looking it up I found the variant 朞 – a bottom top variant of 期 – combining 其 and 月. This reminded me of a few other variants that follow this pattern, like 峰 and 峯 feng1 “summit,” and 群 and 羣 for “qun1” crowd.
There’s also 鑒 and 鑑 jian4 which have their ingredients stirred around a little.
I have been jumping from book to book lately, so going to post what I’m reviewing next in the hope that this will put a little pressure on me to stick with one all the way through. I started I Am China by Xiaolu Guo, but not overly impressed by what I’ve read so far – a tired story about a Chinese dissident rocker who is seeking asylum in the UK that right now is seeming a little bit pretentious, somewhere between an Amy Tan novel and Ma Jian’s Red Dust, except not as edgy, equipped with dullish references to the Beat generation (((((Kerouac’s overrated))))) and China’s misty poets – but going to give it a chance, because I completely misjudged Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad and ended up loving it – so going to put it on the back-burner, and I am currently nose-deep in the long-awaited counterpart to Li Ang’s (李昂) 1997 work 《北港香爐人人插》 (Everyone sticks it in the Beigang incense burner) called 《路邊甘蔗眾人啃》 (Everybody nibbles on the sugar cane at the side of the road). The new book, published this year deals with men and power, whereas the previous book dealt with women and power. I haven’t read the previous book, but have heard interesting things about the author. I’m also interested to see if the “restricted to ages 18 and over” label stuck on the front is actually warranted, or is just a marketing technique.
The other books I’m lining up are 《馬橋詞典》 (A Dictionary of Maqiao in English) by Han Shaogong (韓少功), recommended to me by Chris Peacock, so looking forward to it.
I’m also going to give Yu Hua a second chance after the average but disappointing 《活著》 (To Live).
Got any recommendations? Reading any books that you are enjoying? Or read these books and want to have your say, comment below and I’ll get back to you.
I’ve also got a review of A Touch of Sin by Jia Zhangke in the pipeline, it’s a great film.