Fact-checking the Independent


The philosopher K'ung Fu-tzu, known in the West as Confucius, distilled his vision in six written works: The Book of Poetry, The Book of Rituals, The Book of History, The Book of Changes, The Spring and Autumn Annals, and The Book of Music. This last is lost.

Shorter correction: it is, but he didn't.

Longer correction: What you have there is the Five Classics, plus the "Sixth Classic", which left the Classics to marry its high school sweetheart back when they were still playing dives in Hamburg. But modern scholars agree that Confucius didn't write those classics. (For one thing, most of them predate him in some form or another considerably.) He certainly referred to and commented on them, and his ideas influenced the way they were transmitted and understood afterwards, and last I heard the theory that he did the final edit on the Book of Songs hasn't been completely discredited... but this is a far cry from "distill[ing] his vision in ... written works".

The ironic thing is that the article completely ignores the one written work that is, in a sense, a distillation of Confucius's vision: the Analects. Of course, these were compiled by followers and disciples rather than written down by the C-note himself, but they happen to include this relevant sentence:

The Master said, "A transmitter and not a maker, believing in and loving the ancients, I venture to compare myself with our old P'ang."

(Apparently "old P'ang" is P'eng Tsu, who allegedly lived for 2000 years and also got a shout-out from Chuang-tzu. It makes sense that P'*ng would have loved and believed in the ancients, since, you know, he was one.)

Popularity factor: 7


Maybe something similar is going on the labyrinth between the ears of The Chompster (as senility encroaches), explaining his harking back to the linguistics of Aristotle and company. With the passage of the sandstorms of Time, nostalgia is such a beach.

Wade-Giles really brings on the itchy twitchies for me. Component ordering issues aside ahem!, I much prefer the simplicity of the pinyin system. (Which is odd, since for Japanese I like the Hepburn...?!?) Of course, in the mouths of the ignorant this results in travesties like "Kong Foozy" and "Zuh-hwang zee", not to mention geographical impossibilities such as "Zee-an" or "Ksee-an".



I was actually talking about this with another friend earlier today. I like Wade-Giles if only because I come from a musty literary background full of the stuff. But I also come from a pomo relativist background which means it causes me liberal guilt to ignore the wishes of a people (or, more dubiously, their government) in re representation of their language.

On the other hand as a LH post (or comment?) pointed out a while ago, hardly any other languages in the world feel the need, as English does, to align their spelling of foreign proper nouns with the current preferred version in Foreign.


the wishes of a people (or, more dubiously, their government)

Where do the people come into it? I can't think of a single case of enforced renaming that involves actual popular demand. Does a farmer in Hopei give a rat's ass what transcription a bunch of foreigners use for Chinese? I don't think so. And I give less than zero weight to the wishes of governments, particularly repressive ones like those of China and Burma (two countries that have been particularly assiduous about pushing their preferred romanizations). It's a source of wonderment and despair to me that so many otherwise sensible people are happy to bow to the wishes of governments that they don't even live under.

I like Wade-Giles too, but that's because I'm an unreconstructed fossil.


Oh, and you forgot to mention that no Chinese calls the old guy "K'ung Fu-tzu," even aside from issues of romanization.


Speak of the devil! I suppose now I'd better link to the post I was thinking of.

For the sake of argument -- I'm not sure if this is an myth or not, but is there still that allegedly popular movement among young Koreans to spell the English name of the country with a "C", for (spurious) political reasons?

Even that's not a general transcription issue, I guess... maybe a China-based reader can clear things up once and for all: does anyone not in government care?


I can't believe I'm still in the office...egh! Time to shut down and go home to bed: The combination of your fonts in my browser and my blurring vision (or maybe it's just the way my mind works?) resulted in my reading "But I also come from a PORNO relativist background...."

Which gave me pause.


Excellent catch on the "foo", language! (I wonder where that came from, anyway?) Post in haste, repent at leisure, eh. Laozi, Zhuangzi, Mengzi, Kongzi. (And in The Annalects he doesn't even get the Kong!) Sheesh. No right to complain about the senility of others, what?

To learn and repeatedly put that knowledge into practice, what could be more pleasurable?


i like pinyin, because as an english speaker, i find it more intuitive and simple. wade-giles takes entirely too much time for me to think about, and when non-speakers unfamiliar with chinese pronunciation read the names, they sound much more ridiculous.

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