Monday, December 20, 2010

Requested to translate a poem

> Hi there, a friend of mine gave me your email as a way to
> translate Chinese to English.  I have attached a picture.
> Can you help?

This is a poem. So my translation may be crude by the literary standard. It goes like this:

The eagle flies, the tiger roars, resonating in the river and mountains
Deep valley, sound of tide, a whole night's wind
High flying eagle, ferocious tiger, have great ambitions

by Zhang Baiyun
in early winter of year XX (maybe 1963?)

I'm not quite sure of the first of the two letters representing the year. If it's 癸, the year may be 1963 or any year matching the formula: 1963-60*n (i.e. 1963 minus 60 times n), where n is an integer. (Ref)

The three seals all bear the name of the calligrapher (possibly author too)

Normally, a poem should have four lines. I don't know why this Mr/Ms Zhang only had three.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Off-topic: Travel to Chongqing

"an amateur historian's cultural trip"

Some interesting comments extracted below:

(About an altercation provoked by a stranger trying to cut in line) While Confucianism brings family members extremely close to each other, and also friends to some extent, this religion or philosophy alienates strangers, i.e. people of no family or friend relationship, beyond indifference and sometimes to the extent of hostility.

(About scenery of the Three Gorges for landscape painting) What puzzles me and the people I ask everywhere is that these stunningly beautiful mountains and thousand-feet high cliffs never went into ancient painters' vision, even though famous poets in the Tang dynasty wrote about them. This can't be explained in the same way that Jiuzhaigou or Guilin of natural beauty no less than that of the three gorges was also not in ancient paintings, because the latter were either physically inaccessible in ancient times, or rarely stepped on due to occupation of a non-Han civilization.

(On viewing the exhibition of the Sino-Japanese War) Not all feuds are created equal. Forty years after the Korean war, Chinese and American then pilots could meet and chat about their air fights as if they were playing a game. During the 1979 China-Vietnam war, soldiers reportedly exchanged canned food during the intermission of a battle or perhaps lunch time. But the two belligerents of the Sino-Japanese war would never come to terms in this life or the next, as if a threshold of human indignation was surpassed.

(On visiting Dazu Rock Carvings) unlike Christianity or Islam, Buddhism does not exclude other religions, and the Chinese religions or doctrines care even less whether you worship another god or God privately or publicly.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Learning Foreign Languages 学外语


" 我学外语没有目的,但不妨碍我想一个目的。...... 或者用学外语来防老年痴呆,据说比玩拼字游戏有效。想象我老了躺在床上,嘴里一会儿蹦出几个西语词,一会儿几句法语,旁边的人一定会又惊讶又佩服。或者只 是以学外语来保持良好的心态。我想一个人要在生活中保持好的心态需要做两件事,一是完全出于自愿的、没有一点peer pressure(同伴压力)的慈善或义工,二是在毫无压力的情况下学某种没有任何功利目的的屠龙之技,比如工作和生活都不需要的外语。"

Friday, April 16, 2010

"user group" or "users group"?

I'm organizing a database user group (formerly Oracle user group) at my work place. One trivial question comes up. Should it be "Database User Group" or "Database Users Group" with plural "Users"? While people are making comments with respect to English grammar, I thought it would be helpful to check how most people say on the Internet. So here it is my email to them:

"users group" or "user group"? Here's Google exact word search hit count (when you search, enclose the words in double quotes):

user group: 7,950,000
users group: 3,580,000
oracle user group: 80,400
oracle users group: 70,100
unix user group: 32,100
unix users group: 50,600
linux user group: 566,000
linux users group: 2,800,000
mac user group: 53,400
mac users group: 43,300
java user group: 82,700
java users group: 36,800

Although how people say on the Internet doesn't mean it's grammatical, it's at least statistically more popular. So we can use that as a reference. It looks like more people prefer the singular "user group". When it's broken down to a specific type of user group, all that I checked except Linux and UNIX people prefer singular. (No wonder UNIX and especially Linux people are the most likely associated with geeks in this society.) My conclusion of this search: the geekier and less coherent the members are, the more likely they prefer plural, "users group".

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chinese translation of "Insight"

According to, "insight" primarily means "A sight or view of the interior of anything", as in "He had an insight into almost all the secrets of state." According to|zh-CN|insight, however, the Chinese translation is "洞察", or "慧眼", "内省力", "眼光". But it does not sound natural when you substitute 洞察" for "insight" in the Chinese translation of the above sentence ("他对国家的几乎所有秘密都有洞察"). In fact, a far better choice for this word is "真知灼见", i.e., valuable views about something ordinary people cannot have thought of. The words "慧眼", "内省力" and, "眼光" are even more remote from the true meaning, because they mean the capability to gain the insight, not insight itself.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What is 聪明?

> 中學時候常常聽到的一句話“xx學生不是不聰明,就是不好好學”。
> 後來我就有想到,什麽是聰明?什麽是不聰明?不知道時間的寶貴、
> 學生時代學習機會的難得而只是貪玩,這是最大的不聰明

The Chinese sentence is playing with the multiple meanings of the word "聪明". In “xx學生不是不聰明,就是不好好學” (It's not that the student XX is not 聪明, only that he didn't take time to study.), "聪明" means having high IQ (intelligence quotient), as that could be determined by the rigorous psychological test. In the sentence "不知道時間的寶貴、學生時代學習機會的難得而只是貪玩,這是最大的不聰明" (It's the biggest non-聪明 to not know the value of time and the opportunity of study as a student, and to play all the time.), "聪明" means wise or 明智. In both cases, you could use the English word "smart" just like "聪明" in Chinese. But if you think about it, the exact meaning of the word in either English or Chinese is different.

Playing tricks with words sometimes can impress people and give others thought-provoking ideas that sound clever, smart or 聪明. But those words should be taken as nothing more than clever talk.