Yūsei 優性 → Kensei 顕性

A couple of weeks ago the Genetics Society of Japan announced some changes in their new official glossary of genetics terminology. The most striking are the changes to the words for “dominant” and “recessive,” which are changing from yūsei 優性 to kensei 顕性 and ressei 劣性 to sensei 潜性 respectively.

The reason for these changes in particular is simple: to stop people misunderstanding what they mean. Etymologically speaking, yūsei and ressei imply something closer to “superior” and “inferior” than “dominant” and “recessive.” This is obviously not great for a field that is prone to lay misinterpretation about inherent superiority and the like at the best of times. The etymological implications of the new words are more like “apparent” and “hidden,” which does seem far safer.

There are also other adjustments. Some are housekeeping, like changing the word for “mutation” from totsuzen hen’i to just hen’i because totsuzen means “sudden” and isn’t necessarily part of the concept. Some are more expansive, like a shift in terminology relating to color blindness: the Society now recommends shikikaku tayōsei 色覚多様性 (“color vision diversity”) over terms like shikikaku ijō 色覚異常 (“color vision abnormality”), itself apparently a euphemism for the blunter shikimō 色盲 (“color blindness”).

One thing that isn’t mentioned in the news stories about this I’ve seen so far (example, example) is that these terms aren’t necessarily neologisms. A simple Google Books search reveals kensei and sensei in use as far back as the 1960s, for example. The newsy part is that the Genetics Society of Japan, based on consultation with its members, has decided to throw its weight behind the “new” terminology and deprecate the old. This will reportedly include trying to persuade the Ministry of Education and Everything Else For Some Reason (MEXT) to get on board, so keep watching your kids’ textbooks, I suppose.

“… Perform gagaku and kick ass. And gagaku has a very limited repertoire by this point in history.”

X. Jie YANG 楊暁捷 has uploaded a YouTube playlist of himself (I assume?) reading selected parts of the story “Karaito” (named after its heroine) over images of the illustrated manuscript that contains it. Purists may be disappointed to learn that the text is pronounced as if it were contemporary Japanese—e.g. no attempt to reconstruct an Edo-period palatalized /e/—but you can’t always get what you want.

“But Matt, I’ve never heard of ‘Karaito’ before!” I hear you say. “I can’t watch a YouTube video without a solid grounding in the scholarly background it assumes.” Fortunately, Lora Slobodian’s Karaito sōshi: A Tale of Optimism and Good Fortune is available online, and includes a serviceable translation of the complete story.

Karaito, one of the female servants of the palace, was also present before the commander of Kamakura, Yoritomo, at the decisive moment [when the plan to kill Lord Kiso was revealed]. This woman was of Shinano province, and a subordinate of Lord Kiso. She was excessively skilled at playing the biwa and the koto, and so, in her eighteenth year, was summoned to Kamakura and placed in charge of the gagaku, but felt great pity as she was performing for the ones who would ultimately be responsible for the deaths of both Lord Kiso and her father. She felt that she must, by all means, inform Lord Kiso of this plot, and so secretly sent a highly detailed letter to the capital […]

In the letter she not only informs Lord Kiso of the plot, she also offers to assassinate the conspirators, and requests the use of a specific, named dagger to do so.

(Via Kasama Shoin.)

JAH-Q 2 debut

Volume 2 of the Journal of Asian Humanities at Kyushu University (JAH-Q) (love the acronym) is now online in its entirety for your reading pleasure. (Also available as one big PDF at editor Cynthia Bogel’s faculty member page.) Bogel sez:

JAH-Q is an annual double-blind, peer-reviewed publication in English. We consider research articles, state-of-the-field essays, and short reports (conferences and other events) on Asian humanities subjects (broadly defined) for publication.

Issue 2 includes an article by Pawel Pachciarek on Kusama Yayoi (“[I also] explore potential Zen Buddhist influences in her unpublished play script ‘The Gorilla Lady’”); Elizabeth Tinsley’s consideration of Matsui Fuyuko and Itō Seiu in the context of kusōzu, a genre of painting depicting the female body in progressive stages of decay (don’t worry, it’s a Buddhist thing); and a review of Heather Blair’s Real and Imagined: The Peak of Gold in Heian Japan:

It achieves what all books should but few do: it is historically and philologically rigorous, determinedly interdisciplinary, theoretically sophisticated, and lucidly written. This brilliant book should go down as a classic, serving as a model for how place and pilgrimage should be studied both in Japanese religions and beyond.

Publisher Harvard University Press claims that the book draws on “archival sources, archaeological materials, noblemen’s journals, sutras, official histories, and vernacular narratives,” so philological rigor wouldn’t have been a trivial matter.

Omitted

The coldest line in the Man’yōshū isn’t actually in a poem. It’s in the note about the author that comes afterwards. Here it is with the poem for context; this is MYS 8/1428, in a “Spring: Miscellaneous” section. Original orthography taken from Man’yōshū kensaku, the latest iteration of the venerable MYS search system from Yamaguchi University.

草香山歌一首

忍照 難波乎過而 打靡 草香乃山乎 暮晩尓 吾越来者 山毛世尓 咲有馬酔木乃 不悪 君乎何時 徃而早将見

(ositeru / nanipa wo sugwite / uti-nabiku / kusaka no yama wo / yupugure ni / wa ga kwoye-kureba / yama mo se ni / sakyeru asibi no / asikaranu / kimi wo itu si ka / yukite paya mimu)

右一首依作者微不顕名字

The content is fairly unremarkable:

One poem about Mount Kusaka [part of Mount Ikoma]

Passing Oshiteru [Cranston suggests “[of the] Shining Waves”] Naniwa, Mount Kusaka I cross as evening falls; crowding the mountain in bloom, the ashibi (Japanese andromeda) are not bad; when shall I arrive and see not-bad you next?

The first two thirds of the poem are all leading up to asikaranu (not bad), which puns on asibi (modern ashibi or asebi, and functions as a pivot to get us from the vivid but objective description of the journey to the inner thoughts of the journeyer. Who indeed has not longed for their not-bad beloved after extended separation?

(Since the actual text of the source is just 不悪, i.e. not represented phonemically, some people use another reading of 悪 to render the relevant word nikukaranu [“not loathsome”], but this doesn’t really do it for me.)

Moving on, here’s the note about the author:

The author of the preceding poem being of low status, their name is omitted

Not “unknown,” but “omitted.” Intentionally. I guess this is what happens when your commitments to literary meritocracy and aristocracy conflict. I’m sure the poet was promised a lot of exposure, though.

(According to Satake Akihiro et al, who edited the Shin Nihon koten bungaku taikei 新日本古典文学大系 edition of the MYS, this is the only such note in the collection.

See you in 2019, everyone!

The University of Tokyo’s East Asian Classical Studies department has posted some reading lists prepared by its faculty members. The level appears to be “serious introductory,” although of course for us non-native speakers there can be a bit of a disconnect between our level of interest and our ability to read books at that level. Still, if you’re sure you’re interested in how the Heian nobility read Chinese texts aloud, how better to familiarize yourself with the field and its terminology than by reading Heian jidai no kanbun kundokugo ni tsukite no kenkyū?

(Via Kasama Shoin)

Umi no sachi, Yama no sachi

Kyushu University have made two ehaisho 絵俳書 “illustrated haiku books” from the 1760s available online: Umi no sachi 海の幸 (“Bounty of the mountains”) and its sequel Yama no sachi 山の幸 (“Bounty of the sea”), edited by Sekijukan Shūkoku 石寿観秀国, illustrated by Katsuma Ryūsui 勝間竜水. Pictures of marine and montane (respectively) flora and fauna, plus haiku to go with.

These two books join the rest of KU’s Rare Books Collection (check the “With fulltext” option to limit your search to items that you can view online). They’re also at Waseda University’s Japanese and Chinese Classics, but the versions there appear to be different and KU’s scans are much crisper.

(Via Kasama Shoin.)

New Aozora Bunko search engine

Hoyt Long and the ARTFL project have released a decent search interface for Aozora Bunko. There’s even a video tutorial on YouTube, so masochists needn’t feel left out. (To be fair, I wouldn’t want to spend hours taking screenshots and assembling them into a written guide either.)

The announcement blog post promises “additional tutorials and information about the history and make-up of this unique collection”—sounds good!

Zonamoshi hunting”

Added to Aozora Bunko on January 2: a short story called Zonamoshi-gari ぞなもし狩り (“Zonamoshi hunting”) by Toh EnJoe 円城塔. Note the pink background to the page, indicating that the copyright holder has elected to add the work to Aozora Bunko without actually relinquishing the copyright.

What is a zonamoshi? A sentence ending in the Iyo dialect of Japanese (spoken in Ehime prefecture; Iyo was the name of the province that Ehime replaced), made famous by Natsume Sōseki in his early novel Botchan.

As EnJoe Toh stories go, this is more “doing donuts in the parking lot” than “heading off for uncharted territory,” but since the donuts are in classic EnJoe style and the parking lot is shared by Japanese dialectology and Modern Japanese literature as well as Beppu itself (I mean metaphorical Beppu, not like a physical parking lot outside Beppu), I enjoyed it.

Apparently this was written for an event at Beppu University, and the works by the other participants have also been added to AB: Gurōbaru Tawā ni te グローバルタワーにて (“At Global Tower”) by Hukunaga Thin 福永信, and Yukemuri 湯けむり (“Steam clouds”) by Sawanishi Yūten 澤西祐典.

One Hundred Forms of Seal Script Calligraphy

Here’s an interesting book I found in Waseda’s Database of Japanese and Chinese Classics: A Thousand Characters and One Hundred Forms of Seal Script Calligraphy by Sages from Successive Dynasties 歴朝聖賢篆書百体千文, apparently by Sun Zhixiu 孫枝秀 and Zhou Hong 周霟. (English translation of title courtesy of Rebekah Clements’ A Cultural History of Translation in Early Modern Japan.)

I’m skeptical that any sage found much use for “crane script” 寉書 (p 39, far left) or “turtle script” 亀書 (p 23, second from left), let alone “great pole seal script” 太極篆 (p 40, second from left), but I’m pretty sure I independently invented “wooden tablet writing” 木簡文 (p 49, far right) on my binder in middle school.