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:

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:


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


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:

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.

8. Oktober 2009


Posted in English, Wortfeld, 日本語 um 10:48 pm von krisnawan

Im folgenden ein paar Begriffe aus dem Bereich Vergnügungspark im Japanischen und Chinesischen.

  • Vergnügungspark, amusement park: 遊園地 yūenchi (J), 遊樂園 yóulèyuán (C)
  • Theme park テーマーパーク tēmāpāku (J) 主題樂園 zhǔtí lèyuán (C)
  • Fahrgeschäfte: 遊具 yūgu (J), 遊樂設施 yoúlè shèshī (TW) oder 機動遊戲 jīdòng yóuxì (BJ)
  • Karrusell:  English merry-go-round/carousel (AmE)/round-about (BrE): Japanisch メリーゴーラウンド meriigōraundo (früher auch 回転木馬 kaitenbokuma), Chinesisch 旋轉木馬 xuánzhuǎn mùmǎ (TW)oder 迴轉木馬 huízhuǎn mùmǎ (BJ)
  • Achterbahn, Roller coaster, auf japanisch ローラーコースター rōrākōsutā or ジェットコースター jettokōsutā (J), 雲霄飛車 yúnxiāo fēichē (TW)、過山車 guòshānchē (BJ) (C)
  • Riesenrad: Ferris wheel 観覧車 kanransha (J), 摩天輪 mótiānlún (C)
  • Geisterbahn/Geisterhaus: haunted house お化け屋敷 obakeyashiki (J), 鬼屋 guǐwū (C)

6. Mai 2009

24 chengyu from the Classics

Posted in English, Liste, 成語 um 3:40 am von krisnawan

This is about a list of chengyu posted by the user Noir on the Chinese forum of unilang. I like to comment on other people’s chengyu lists, so here goes. Please read his 24 postings under this thread first, it will make understanding my comments easier.

I liked Noir’s list a lot, but I’m also interested in modern usage. That’s why I have tried to check whether and how the chengyu chosen by him are used in Modern Mandarin and Modern Japanese.

Some remarks


As far as the pinyin goes, I have tried following the rules set out in the book Chinese Romanization – Pronunciation & Orthography. The bit about chengyu is accessible online here.

As far as whether the chengyu in question is commonly used or not, I consulted two sources:

  1. The Far-Eastern Chinese-English Dictionary (4,000 characters with 40,000 entries) had 6 out of 24: 同舟共濟 (1), 靑出於藍 (4), 四面楚歌 (9), 刮目相看 (13), 溫故知新 (15), 他山之石 (20)
  2. Each form was assigned a number signifying in how many sources the form appears. A high number doesn’t necessarily mean that it is all that frequently used in daily speech, and some commonly used forms may fall by the wayside if they’re not considered by all sources to be chengyu. The numbers appear throughout the text under the rubric of “MOE Index”.  However, I think it is fair to say that any form that does not appear in this list can safely be regarded as obscure from the Chinese point of view.


In Japanese, most Chinese idioms are part of the highly literary language, the number of Chinese idioms that appear in colloquial speech are exceedingly low. However, there are two possibilities for the Chinese idioms  to be rendered into Japanese: either as four-character-combinations (in Japanese the term yojijukugo 四字熟語 ‘four-character compounds’ is preferred  over seigo成語) or in a peculiar type of Sinicised Japanese, which is also known as 和漢混交文 wakan-konkōbun, which I will point out throughout the text.

As far as frequency goes, since they’re much less frequently used to begin with, I have checked a drill book used by Japanese high school students to prepare for their university entrance exams, which happened to have a list of 139 key yojijukugo, classified into four levels of difficulty: 39 ‘basic’, 50 ‘very important’, 29 ‘important’ and 22 ‘difficult’ ones. From the 24 presented by Noir so far, four were on the list: 吳越同舟 (1) ‘important’, 曲學阿世 (2) ‘difficult’,  巧言令色 (5) ‘very important’ and溫故知新 (15) ‘very important’.

  Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »