19. November 2009

Daily chengyu tweet

Posted in English um 12:01 pm von krisnawan

I’ve started a daily chengyu tweet at www.twitter.com/chinesischblog, it will provide a chengyu a day, with an explanation in English. The data is from a chengyu database I’ve been compiling, and phyrex was so kind as to help me with setting up a script. The script will go live in 3 days,  and if everything works out, it should run for almost four years.

Comments are most welcome!

17. November 2009

Obama uses chengyu in Shanghai

Posted in English, Fehler, News, 成語 um 2:34 pm von krisnawan

Even though President Barack Obama is not known to be an aficionado of chengyu unlike Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, last night when he gave a speech to students in Shanghai, he made his obligatory mention of a Chinese idiom:

There’s a Chinese proverb: „Consider the past and you shall know the future.“ (about 15:45 into the video)

As I’ve commented several times on this blog, whenever a (Taiwanese) politician uses chengyu, there’s always a potential for  them to make a fool out of themselves for committing a mistake or two or another. (Though the American media were also debating whether Hillary Clinton did use the appropriate chengyu with respect to the US-China relationship).

Barack Obama did not misuse a chengyu yesterday, but it still caused controversy in the Taiwanese media, because some media outlets had reported he had used one of the Confucian classics, 溫故知新 wēn gù zhī xīn, which is from the following part of Confucius‘ Analects:

子曰:“溫故而知新,可以為師矣。”
The Master said, „If a man keeps cherishing his old knowledge, so as continually to be acquiring new, he may be a teacher of others.“

Obama was stressing the good record of mutual ties between the US and China, so it is a bit odd to use this chengyu, which mainly relates to expanding knowledge, even though some media outlets didn’t miss a beat:

美國總統歐巴馬今天在上海演講時,引用「溫故而知新」的「論語」語句談中美關係,強調兩國過去藉合作讓彼此更繁榮、安全,未來基於相互的利益、尊重就更能有成就。

So it didn’t take long until some journalists noticed the discrepancy and so the next chengyu controversy was born:

這句話對照歐巴馬講話的前後文來看,應該是「鑑往知來」的意思。歐巴馬說這一段話,主要指的是,美國過去跟大陸打交道,有過挫折,也碰到過一些問題,但是雙方敵對的關係是會改變的。所以應該是「鑑往知來」,而不是某些媒體翻譯的「溫故知新」。

The origin of the alternative put forward, 鑑往知來 jiàn wăng zhī lái, is less clear, some point to a poem in the Shijing of rather negative tone , but I think the more probable source is Liezi, a Daoist text:

是故聖人見出以知入,觀往以知來,此其所以先知之理也。
Therefore, the Sage observes the origin in order to know the issue, scrutinizes the past in order to know the future. Such is the principle whereby he attains foreknowledge.

So Confucius talks about developing new knowledge from old, but Liezi talks about observing the past as to know the future, so between these two, it’s clearly the latter that fits better.