Saturday, September 17, 2005

death poetry

Over at the Oranckay's blog there's a fascinating post about the death poem of the Venerable Beopjang, who (if you'll pardon the Christian phrase) gave up the ghost this past Sunday.

Peter does a great job of translating the Chinese, and the exchange between him and Charles of Liminality is also quite enlightening (pun intended). Sperwer's comment, currently at the bottom of the thread, provides a useful guide as to whether the translation approaches the spirit of what Beopjang was saying.

My own death poem is, of course, known to readers of this blog:

bul-un-shi


[reading in columns, from right to left:]


bul un shi
dae nam geun
mu so yong


Translation:

in a time of misfortune
a large penis
is useless


Your homework is to dig into the archives and find out the history of this proverb, which isn't originally Chinese.

It took a bit of brain work to reduce the original proverb to a nine-character saying, but I've been bothered ever since a commenter wrote in to say that many Chinese proverbs are four-character sayings (think: "jae beop gong sang" from the Heart Sutra, or the folk proverb "sae ong ji ma," or "mu han bul seong," or any number of others).

Can anyone figure out how to get nine characters down to four?


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1 comment:

Joel said...

I don't know. Chinese has never really been my thing. Though I am considering studying more, but perhaps:

等腎無用 - (어려울 - 난, 콩팥 - 신, 없을 - 무, 쓸 - 용). Or maybe it would be better to replace 난 with the 不 (아닐 불). But I could be wrong but I think both 불 and 난 will try to modify the character they are in front of so it might come out sounding like "a difficult (or something that is not a) penis has no use." Interesting and probably true, because honestly what can women do with their vaginas? They just sit there for the most part. But not what you're going for I think.

However, I don't think you should really feel the need to confine yourself to a four character pattern because there are those that don't fit the pattern like: 百聞不如一見 (though 5 or 6 appears to be the limit)

Maybe make it like "不時大腎無用" (불시대신무용). I don't know just some food for thought.

Hopefully someone who knows more will say something.