The Sanchon Hunjang
(usually clicking on the photos yields an enlarged version)



Deliberate impossiblity and ambiguous wills?

At Pinyin.info, there is an article, "Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard" written by David Moser in which his frustration at the difficulties is almost palpable. He is especially disparaging of classical Chinese:

Whereas modern Mandarin is merely perversely hard, classical Chinese is deliberately impossible. Here's a secret that sinologists won't tell you: A passage in classical Chinese can be understood only if you already know what the passage says in the first place. This is because classical Chinese really consists fo several centuries of esoteric anecdotes and in-jokes written in a kind of terse, miserly code for dissemination among a small, elite group of intellectually inbred bookworms who already knew the whole literature backwards and forwards, anyway.

He surely exaggerates a bit, but consider the following will left by an old gentleman on how to divide up his earthly possessions among between his son and daughter.


The reading all depends on how you parce it.

Is that 七十生子,非吾子.家産傳之婿.他人勿取! "The son 子 born 生 when [I was] seventy 七十 is not 非 my 吾 son 子. For [my] home 家 and property 産 transmit 傳 them 之 to my son-in-law 婿. An outsider 他人 shall not 勿 take 取 [it]," or is it 七十,生子,非吾子!家産傳之.婿他人勿取. "At seventy 七十, [I] had 生 a son 子. How could he not be 非 my 吾 son 子? For [my] house 家 and property 産, transmit 傳 [them] to him 之. A son-in-law 婿 is an outsider 他人 and shall not 勿 take 取 [it]"?

Or how about the case of the man who had some plots of rice paddy around a well. The paddies below the well were of good quality but the ones above the well were very difficult to water an of significantly inferior quality. He also had a son and a daughter but was unable to afford a decent lawyer for whatever reason and left the a final will and testament that was sure to cause family problems.


Is that "the [crappy ones] above 上 the well 井 are my son's 子 paddies 畓 and the [fine ones] below 下 the well 井 are my daughter's 女 paddies 畓"? Or is that supposed to be "Those [wonderful ones] with the well 井 above 上 are my son's 子 paddies 畓, while [those poor ones] with the well 井 below 下 are my daughter's 女 paddies 畓"? Time for this loving 남매 to spare no expense on good lawyers and rack up more than the total land value in legal fees.

It all brings to mind that old favorite, 아버지가방에들어갔습니다. So what are you trying to say? Is it that dad went into his room or [something] went into his briefcase? Just leaves one question: is modern Korean merely perversely hard, or is it deliberately impossible?



Buddha's Birthday

Happy birthday, Buddha!

Now for those like the Sanchon Hunjang who aren't really Buddhist devotees and have been to just enough temples in the name of sightseeing that they all look the same now, let me recommend one that looks different:

수국사 (守國寺)

  1. Its got a funky gold-leaf facade...


  2. It's got the Tricky Dick Buddha Statue...

  3. It's got a really friendly Abbot,
    though no Costello...

  4. And it's easily accessable by subway...
    Just get off the ocher colored line (6호선) at 구산역 and walk it...

So go! 수국사 ho~



Musings on a "brilliant" riddle

The Sanchon Hunjang remembers being in elementary school. Ah what a carefree time. The home room teacher apparently thought it would be wise to give us a taste of what the 근심 and 걱정 of the dog-eat-dog real world would really be like. She decided to read us The Hobbit. And of course she proceeded to do just that. No show of hands here. Elementary school does not believe in 민주주의.

In the book, there was a scene where Bilbo and Gollum decide to have a riddle contest to see whether one of them becomes a guide or the other becomes dinner.

There were such charming examples as:

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds stones to meal;
Slays kings, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.


A box without hinges, key or lid,
Yet golden treasure inside is hid.

(Look here if you can't remember and really must know)

I ran across a Chinese riddle in a rhymed couplet, of course, that follows the same vein. If you can't guess the answer, you won't become dinner. But if someone would like to buy dinner for the Sanchon Hunjang, I wouldn't turn that down^^

So without further adieu....to which object does this refer:

畵 圓 書 方; 龍 短 虎 長

This all tranlates(?), of course, as "Painting 畵 is round 圓, Writing 書 is square 方; dragon 龍 is short 短, 虎 tiger 長 is long." I guess it just comes down to interpretation, now. What is all this describing? Here's a small hint:

you're looking for an object in nature (Very small hint. Select to view.)

And here's the answer, just to double check that you've gotten it right ^^:

The sun

I don't think the first half bears much explanation. If you draw a picture of it, it will be round and look like a circle. Possibly with some rays eminating from it. If you were to write it (and by "write", of course I mean in 眞文 진문, none of that girlie 諺文 언문 schlock) then it would look very squarish in shape: 日. Unless you were to write 太陽, in which case it would be a pretty complicated outline...

I can't help but think that the last half of the riddle was added to throw people off who were otherwise on the right track. "The dragon is short, the tiger is long," what is that supposed to mean?

Well, of course in the old days, time was kept differently than it is now. A week was 1O days, not seven, and called a 순 旬.

You can still see the remnants of this in how people talk about the first 1O day week of the month 초순 初旬 = "early in the month," the middle 1O day week of the month 중순 中旬 and the last 1O day week of the month 하순 下旬. And a day wasn't divided into 24 hours, but 12--each two modern hours in length and named after one of the Chinese zodiac animals: 자 子 rat, 축 丑 bovine, 인 寅 tiger, 묘 卯 hare, 진 辰 dragon, 사 巳 snake, 오 午 horse, 미 未 sheep, 신 申 monkey, 유 酉 chicken, 술 戌 dog, 해 亥 pig. These hours used sinfied names (like 진시 "hour of the dragon" or 인시 "hour of the tiger"). You can also find pure Korean translations in older sources, but these are translations. It is interesting to see how they point to the complex consonant clusters that Korean used to have: 닭때 . Tell ol' Sanchon Hunjang that doesn't look like a mouthful to say. But Korean has already lost lots of consonant clusters and is steadily loosing more. Ask your educated Seoul friends to say "닭이 운다" and listen closely for the ㄺ. Of course I don't hear anyone decrying the way nobody puts the "k" in "knife" any more, so maybe I'd better get back on topic...

The hour of the tiger was at dawn (3:00~5:00 a.m.) and the hour of the dragon was later in the morning (7:00~9:00 a.m.), so shadows at the hour of the tiger are much longer than those at the hour of the dragon. And shadows point back to the sun that casts them. So, sure the degree of difficulty ratchets up immensely in the second line, as the degree of ambiguity really takes off. But it does point to a single motif. Sort of...

And there you have it!


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