Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Manchu Song on Winter Rain in Seven-Syllable Couplets

The rain has set in in Portland, and according to the traditional Chinese agricultural calendar we have entered winter, so it seems appropriate to post a song about winter rain.

Rain is an uncommon theme for Manchu poetry, and winter rain seems all the more dreary and unlikely as a topic of verse. But as the last lines make clear, this song is really about being happy regardless of your circumstances. It may be cold, but the rain at night is fragrant, and instead of flimsy flowers the world is decorated by yellow chrysanthemums and red maple leaves.

tuweri aga be irgebuhe manju uculen    A Manchu Song on Winter Rain
Staatsbibliothek 4.10 (View Online)
emu dobori beikuwen,    One night it was cold,
dule agai šahūrun,    it was actually the chill of rain.
erin ba be burakū,    I could not tell you where or when,
ara tuwahai gecuhun,    but oh, in the blink of an eye, there was frost,
5

wangga wa wen wasika,

    and an aromatic scent descended.

fiyangga fiyen fiyan filtahūn,    Bare of colorful makeup,
eiten ilha sigapi,    every flower had fallen,
boco ice juwe hacin,    but there were two new kinds of color,
bojiri hon sohokon,    the chrysanthemum being very yellow,
10 molo ele fulahūn,    and the maple all the more red,
elemangga kalcunggi,    but nonetheless vibrant,
utulihekū gecen,

    despite the frost.

sasa tuweri bolori,    Winter together with Autumn,
uhei kulun dahasun,    the Celestial and Earthly together,
15ainu cingkai encu ni,    aren’t they vastly different?
ere yala ai turgun,    So what is the reason for this?
teisu teisu banjitai,    They each have their nature,
meni meni sukdun wen,

    their various vital forces.

ilakangge hahiba,    That which blooms is quick,
20baharangge nekeliyen,    that which can do it is flimsy.
sigahangge amala,    After the falling of leaves,
alihangge jiramin,

    what remains is thick.

fulibuha giyan fiyan-i,    There is an order to the forms things take,
neigen akū de neigen,    an equality in their inequality.
25 tere tenteke giru,    That one has an appearance like that,
ere enteke banin,    this one has a shape like this,
ere tuttu jilakan,    this one is pitiful in that way,
ere uttu elehun,    this one is composed in this way.
daci adali akū,    Fundamentally different,
30

aide gese teheren,

    how are they equally balanced?

sence seci se seri,    A mushroom’s years are scanty,
jakdan jaci jalafun,    the pine has a very long life,
goiha goidaha,    stricken, and long-lived,
baji banjiha banjin,

    appearing only scarcely alive.

35manda bime hon manda,    When something is slow, it is really slow,
hūdun dade ten hūdun,    when quick it is fundamentally quick,
ehe dade ten ehe,    when bad it is fundamentally bad,
sain bime hon sain,    when good it is really good.
erei haran ai seci,    What do you say is the reason for this?
40

gemu meimeni sukdun,

    They are all vital forces.

hafu tuwaha sehede,    When you have seen through it,
teksin akū-i teksin,    it is a neatly arranged disorder.
arbun bisirelengge,    All forms that exist,
dubentele efujen,    in the end are subject to destruction,
45taka bisire beye,    the temporary body,
yaha tuwai fon erin,

    the seasons and hours of embers and fire.

sebjen bici sebjele,    When there is happiness, rejoice.
ainu urui jobocun,    Why be constantly miserable?
kuwai fai seme gūnici,    If one thinks about it lightly,
50

ne je yooni selabun,

    immediately one is entirely content.

jalan doroi mengde fa,    This is a window on the way of the world,
agu hūtukan neilen,    sir, a quick revelation:
encu emu abka na,    Different yet the same are heaven and earth;
nimaha še urgun ten,    fish and black kite are both extremely happy.
55 elhe baire dasargan,    A formula for seeking peace,
ere emu uculen.    is this single song.

Translation Difficulties


erin ba be burakū. Literally “not giving the time or the place.” The “giving” here is presumably metaphorical, but what type of giving is this? Who is the giver and who is the receipient? The default subject would be the topic of the previous line, “the chill of rain,” but I can’t make sense of that. Instead, I am reading this as the poet being unable to give the reader the time and place that the event occurred.

utulihekū gecen. From the verb utulimbi, “to be aware,” I take utulihekū to be a converb literally meaning “having been unaware,” but by extension “regardless of.”

encu emu abka na / nimaha še urgun ten. I wrestled with this for a very long time, and while I am not entirely happy with the reading I landed on, it is the best I could come up with. The poet has repeatedly touched on the idea of sameness within difference, in lines like neigen akū de neigen and teksin akū-i teksin. In these lines I think he means to say that heaven and earth are both different and the same, like the fish and black kite, which inhabit different realms yet both experience happiness.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Weiqi, a third poem, to an (as yet) unknown tune

The 11th fascicle of Staatsbibliothek 34981 has turned up a third poem on weiqi, this one is apparently set to a -style tune, but I’m not sure what the tune is. The metrical scheme seems to consist of two stanzas of the form 7,6,7,5,5 with rhyme x,A,A,x,A.

This poem uses an EO-rhyme, which consists of certain words ending in EO and IO. I think these words probably ended in a rising diphthong, such as [əw], and therefore do not rhyme with other words ending in -o, which fall into the E rhyme.

It seems likely that the poet chose the EO-rhyme because it rhymed with the theme, but interestingly the author of the first weiqi poem I looked at chose an E rhyme, suggesting that tonio could have been pronounced in two different ways, perhaps as [tɔɲɔ] at some times, and [tɔɲəw] at others.


tonio [碁],    Weiqi
Staatsbibliothek 11.22 (View Online)
yacin šanyan juwe siden,    Black and white, the two sides,
maka kimun binio,    I wonder, is there some enmity?
arga bodon unenggio,    Are the plans and calculations genuine?
etehe seme,    Suppose you win,
5aibe bahambio,    what do you get?
galai afambi seci,    When you say you’re making an attacking move,
yala bucunuheo,    aren’t you actually fighting?
wara deribun sureo,    Is it wise to begin killing?
efin dabala,    It is only a game.
10batai adalio.    Are you like enemies?

Translation Difficulties


bucunuheo. I don’t find this in my dictionaries. I initially read it as *bucenuheo, from *bucenumbi, “to die together,” but I agree with the feedback in the comments below that it is probably becunumbi, and I have updated my reading to reflect that.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Wind, to the tune of Wind in the Pines

This poem seems like a response to the the previous version of Wind, which was set to the Black-Naped Oriole tune. The two poems use the same rhyme, but while the previous poem described the wind in sublime and lofty terms, ending with a reference to the primordial eldest sister, this poem takes the eldest sister and imbues her with might and power.

The Manchu poems set to Wind in the Pines in Staatsbibliothek 11 and 14 consist of two stanzas with the metrical pattern 7,5,7,7,6,6 and rhyme pattern A,A,x,A,xA. This is essentially the same as the  tune 風入松 as used by Song poet Wú Wényīng in a work titled 鄰舟妙香 (“Wonderful fragrance of the neighboring boat.”)

In addition to fitting the Chinese  pattern, this poem also makes every line alliterative.

edun [風]    Wind
feng žu sung [風入松] sere mudan    To the tune of Wind in the Pines
Staatsbibliothek 11.17 (View Online)
ere eyungge eyun,    This eldest sister,
dosire dosin,    her entry, when she enters,
ara arbun amba ni,    doesn’t she take a mighty form?
asuki, ai ajigen,    A faint noise, but nothing small,
5 fafuri fafungga,    stern when fierce,
nemeyen nesuken.

    tender when gentle.

lasihire lalahūn,    The soft one that shakes
wenere weren,    is the ripple that melts.
10were wara encu ba,    She will nurture and kill in different places,
enteke encu erin,    she does so in different seasons.
mutubure muten,    The force that raises to maturity
šahūrara šajin.    is the holy power that makes cold.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Wind, another Black-Naped Oriole poem

I’ve been busy the last week looking at poems in fascicle 11 of Staatsbibliothek 34981. I had not originally thought that these were autochthonous Manchu poems, but on re-reviewing it I now think they are. (If you want to know more about how I decide what is an original Manchu poem and what is a translation, see my page on the Staatsbibliothek poems.)

Here is one of the poems from that fascicle. It is another Black-Naped Oriole poem, concise and somewhat obscure. The theme is “the wind” and the rhyme is EN, comprising words ending in -en, -in, -un and -ūn, including the theme word edun.

At the end of the poem the author says that the wind is an eldest sister. Apparently each of the trigrams can be understood as a member of a family, and in this model the trigram of the wind corresponds to the eldest daughter (長女).


edun [風]    The Wind
Staatsbibliothek 11.5 (View Online)
jijuhan dosin,    The entry of the trigram,
asuki,    is a faint noise,
untuhun,    an emptiness,
halhūn beikuwen ai kemun,    heat and cold without order.
5hūwašarai tucin,    It is the reason for growth,
sigarai yarun,    the origin of leaf-fall,
were wara kūbulin,    the cycle of nurturing and killing.
da fukjin,    At the very beginning,
sargan jusei —    among the daughters it was —
10eyungge eyun.    eldest sister.

Translation Difficulties


were wara kūbulin. The phrase were wara doesn’t appear in my dictionaries, but the phrase banjire were is given in Norman for “livelihood”, and wara could be the imperfect participle of wambi, “to kill.” I have long thought that the verb wambi is somehow connected with words related to the sense of downward motion, like wasimbi, wasihūn, wala and wargi. Perhaps the verb wembi, now meaning “to melt; to warm; to civilize,” is connected with words with an upward sense like wesimbi, wesihun. If so, perhaps it originally had a meaning in opposition to wambi, with a sense of “to give life to something.” For the purpose of this translation, that is how I have read it.

ai kemun. This would technically be a rhetorical question (“what order is there...?”) but based on Jakdan’s translation of the Ever-Turning Horse Lantern I feel free to decode the rhetorical question as a statement that “there is no order....”

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Ever-Turning Horse Lantern, a translation by Jakdan

The 17th translated poem in Jakdan's second fascicle is titled Torhoho moringga dengjan be irgebuhengge 咏走馬燈詩, by the Monk Wu Ji.

I was initially interested in this poem because of the word “lantern” in the title, which I thought could shed some light on the Manchu lantern poems.

團團游了又來游, šurdeme šurdeme sarašame wajinggala geli ebsi sarašahai,
無箇明人指路頭。 jugūn on be jorire getuken niyalma ai.
除卻心中三昧火, dulimba ba-i ilan unenggi tuwa akū ohode,
槍刀人馬一齊休。 gida loho niyalma morin gemu aššarakū bai.

My somewhat free translation from the Manchu (which is subtly different from the Chinese):

Around and around it goes, it stops, and then it goes again,
There is no lucid person there to point it on its way,
But when the fire of Triple Truth is extinguished from the center,
Neither spear nor sword nor man nor horse will move.

When I read this poem, I imagine some kind of clever shadow paper lantern where the hot air rising from a candle causes a lightweight frame to turn, casting moving shadows onto the outside of the lantern. In this case, the shadows would show a man with sword and spear riding a horse.

The word 三昧 (samādhi) is the clue that tells us that the lantern is a metaphor for the mind, and that the extinction of the candle in the middle, which causes the restless movement of the mind to stop, is a metaphor for enlightenment.

There are a number of interesting little features in Jakdan’s translation from the Chinese:

無 X -> X ai. Autochthonous Manchu poetry frequently uses the formula X ai or X ya, which is not very commonly seen in non-poetic Manchu texts. I have been interpreting it as a rhetorical question, as in In Praise of Fire where I translated cing cing serengge gidabure ai as “When it is blazing, what can stamp it out?” Given that that Jakdan uses this formula as a translation for “there is not” (無), perhaps we could read the line from Fire above as “Nothing can stamp it out when it is blazing.”

三昧 -> ilan unenggi. The Chinese term 三昧 originates as a phonetic representation of the Sanskrit term samādhi, referring to a set of meditative states of mind. Jakdan could have used a literal translation like samadi, but instead he chose a play on words and gave us ilan unenggi, “the Three Truths.”

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Weiqi of Political Advancement, in Seven-Syllable Couplets

The anonymous Manchu poet(s) behind fascicle 14 of Staatsbibliothek 34981 liked weiqi enough to write two poems about it.

This second poem opens with a pair of officials, superior and subordinate, and a sheet of paper listing names and positions. Through a double entendre, the power dynamic between the two officials is compared to the power differential between two players in the end-game of weiqi, where one has attained a position of advantage over the other.

The sheet of paper between them is the board. Like weiqi, the correct move may not be obvious, and to win at the game you must be ruthless in your calculations. Your wealth and connections count for more than your aspirations.

The previous short poem, Weiqi, used a technical term that I could not translate, afari tongko. This longer poem, in seven-syllable couplets with an AN-rhyme, gives us more weiqi vocabulary to throw around the next time we’re looking across the board at a Manchu opponent.

Here are some of those terms, some of which are calques of Chinese terms, and others of which are borrowed from other sports and games popular with the Manchus.

buya ambakan hafan. The Chinese terms 大官 and 小官 refer to the apparent numerical advantage or disadvantage of each player going into the end-game.

gala. This apparently means “a move,” a calque of Chinese 手, which has this meaning in the context of weiqi.

lala. According to Norman one of the meanings of lala is “the last throw in gacuha.” In this context it could mean the last play of the game (收後) or perhaps it refers to playing white, which moves after black at the opening of the game.

mayan. Norman has mayan baha, “obtained a kill, won at dice, won at gambling,” as well as mayan, “blood from a wounded animal; good fortune.” Presumably in weiqi this refers to the capture of pieces or territory with a move.

teisulen. Norman has “correspondence, encounter.” From the sense of “encounter” I think this could have a meaning in weiqi of “connections” (Chinese 接).

ton, tolombi. The ordinary meaning of ton is “number” and tolombi is “to count.” In this context, these probably mean “score” and “keep score.” Perhaps this same ton morpheme lies behind the name tonio for weiqi itself, and perhaps also behind tongki, below.

tongki. The ordinary meaning is a “dot,” and in this case I think it refers to a point in the game.


hafan wesire nirugan-i amcara
tonio be irgebuhengge,
    Verses on Pursuing Political Advancement
as a game of Weiqi
Staatsbibliothek 14.18 (View Online)
buya ambakan hafan,    A lowly official and a superior,
emu afaha hoošan,    and a sheet of paper,
oron ubu-i gebu,    the names of posts and responsibilities,
bithe cooha-i tušan,

    official and civilian posts.

5 emke emken-i teku,    Seat after seat,
jergi ilhi-i tangkan,    a succession of ranks,
arahangge ne en jen,    what was been written is now finished,
faidahangge hon giyan fiyan,    what was lined up is very orderly,
toloho de kemun bi,    there was a system to the counting,
10

siberefi yaka an,

    it was massaged in some orderly way.

erdemungge jingkini,    The virtuous are upright,
doosidara miosihon,    the covetous are corrupt.
baita faššan ilgabun,    To judge affairs and effort,
muten gunggei faksalan,    to discern ability and merit,
15

yasa tuwahai hūi kimcin,

    is to examine with eyes wide open.

gala daci ai boljon,    What inherent certainty is there in a move?
wasimbime wesike,    In rising, you fell,
jabšacibe ufaran,    though you succeeded, it was a mistake.
wala seci dele ten,    The lower position may better than the high one,
20

lala bime bonggo ton,

    the last to play may have the foremost score.

forgošoro kūbulin,    A turn of fortune,
bekterere mongniohon,    a gasp of terror,
tongki erin ai kemun,    what sense is there to points and time?
gūnin seolen bai bodon,

    The only thought and consideration is calculation.

25 sain arga baitakū,    A good plan is useless,
butui nashūn toktohon,    certainty lies in hidden opportunities.
hojo: ulin teisulen,    Beautiful are wealth and connections,
baliyan: niyalmai cihalan,    pitiful are people’s aspirations.
ici tamin yenden jing,    With all the hairs aligned, ascent is continuous
30

ini cisui erin giyan,

    time and reason operate of their own accord.

ere acun de cacun,    This one gets mixed up,
tere huwekiyen ci mayan,    that one gets a lucky kill.
tere eici ai turgun,    Now this one wonders why,
ere geli ya haran,    then that one again wonders why.
35 icanggangge we eden,    Who lacks something interesting?
icakūngge ya kiyangkiyan,    How is there excellence in being boring?
gaibuhangge munahūn,    The loser is morose,
eterengge gicihiyan,    the winner gloats.

hafu tuwaha sehede,
   
When one has seen through it,
40jakai forgon niyalmai fon,    the season of things, the age of man,
dubentele efin kai,    in the end it is just a game.
nambuha de ai amtan,    What delight is there in happenstance?
jalan baita jing uttu,    The affairs of the world are ever thus,
baibi efire mudan.    a simple playing tune.

Translation Difficulties

gicihiyan, this word is not in my dictionaries, but from context this is how the winner of a game feels, in contrast with the user’s feeling of moroseness. My choice of the translation “gloat” is influenced by the similarity of this word to gicuhe, “disgraceful,” as well as gincihiyan, “shining.”

Monday, November 6, 2017

A Chrysanthemum at the End, to the tune of the Black-Naped Oriole

I had originally intended to post another weiqi poem, but I got bogged down in the details, so it will have to wait till later. In the meantime, keeping with the autumnal theme, here is another Black-Naped Oriole poem about a chrysanthemum at the end of the season.

The last line is a reference to the one of the Chinese names for chrysanthemum, 陶菊 táo jú, whose first character is the same as the surname Táo. In my translation I have taken the subject to be singular, though it could have been plural, and I have read the last line to mean that the chrysanthemum is a member of the Táo family, because I think this reading works well as an homage to an elderly person of the surname Táo.


dubesilehe bojiri [殘菊] ilha    A Chrysanthemum at the End
Staatsbibliothek 14.9 (View Online)
geren ududu,    Although numerous are
cak sehei,    the sudden
edun su,    gusts and whirlwinds,
ilha tuhenjirakū,    the flower will not fall.
5 banin wen gulu,    Simple in appearance,
dubei se guigu,    it is mighty in its old age,
salgabuha bekitu,    ordained by fate to be strong.
da uju,    Root and head
tuwakiyan fili —    it is resolute in watchfulness —
10too [] halai gucu.    our friend from the Táo family.


Translation Difficulties

geren ududu, the word ududu, “several, many” is a reduplication of udu, “several.” In this case I feel it is intended to simultaneously evoke the other meaning of udu, “although.”

too halai gucu, this is ambiguous, and we could read it as meaning that the chrysanthemum is a friend of the Táo family, or that the chrysanthemum is a friend of ours who is a member of the Táo family. Furthermore, nothing in the poem says we are talking about a single chrysanthemum instead of many of them. My reading reflects my specific interpretation of this poem as an homage to an elderly person.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Weiqi, to the tune of The Black-Naped Oriole

Here is another poem from Staatsbibliothek 34981 set to the tune of the Black-Naped Oriole. The theme is the game of weiqi, often better-known in English by its Japanese name, go. The Manchu name is tonio, and according to common practice the poem rhymes with the theme, so this poem has an E-rhyme, meaning that all rhyming words end in either -e or -o.

I have not been able to translate one line, afari tongko, which I suspect is a special term (or pair of terms) from the game of weiqi. You might think that Manchu terminology for weiqi would be borrowed from Chinese, but like the word tonio itself, the origin of these terms is difficult to place. Who taught the Manchus to play weiqi, anyway?

tonio [碁]    Weiqi
tonio aniya fe,    Weiqi is ancient of years,
yoo han ci,    passed down
werihe,    from Emperor Yao.
yacin šanyan e a juwe,    The pairs, black and white, yin and yang,
5afari tongko,    afari and tongko,
bodogon noho,    are saturated with calculation.
tuwakiyarangge oyonggo,    Observation is critical,
ya dele,    and what more than that?
gūnin narhūn —    A mind that is fine —
10funiyehei gese.    like a hair.

Translation Difficulties

afari tongko, I could not find either of these words in my dictionaries. Given the preceding line they might be a contrasting pair, but there is no guarantee of that. One possibility is that afari might come from afa-, “to fight,” and so this might mean “attacker and defender” or “offense and defense.” On the other hand, tongko could be a form of tonikū, “weiqi board,” in which case the pair might mean “stones and board.” But the traditions of weiqi are also rich in specialized terms, making it difficult to guess what might be meant here.