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.

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