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,    An 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.”

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