Reviews of books about China, languages, Buddhism, etc.

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased the fourth volume in its series of book reviews: Reviews IV (2.7 MB PDF).

This volume was first published in November 1992.

Here are the books reviewed in this volume:

  • YU Taishan. Saizhong shi yanjiu (A Study of Saka History)
  • QI Rushan. Beijing tuhua [Peking Colloquialisms].
  • Parkin, Robert. A Guide to Austroasiatic Speakers and Their Languages.
  • Rosemont, Henry, Jr., ed. Chinese Texts and Philosophical Contexts: Essays Dedicated to Angus C. Graham.
  • Faure, Bernard. Le Bouddhisme Ch’an en mal d’histoire: genèse d’une tradition religieuse dans la Chine des Tang.
  • Bernard Goldman. The Ancient Arts of Western and Central Asia: A Guide to the Literature.
  • Steven F. Sage. Ancient Sichuan and the Unification of China.
  • Joan Grant. Worm-eaten Hinges: Tensions and Turmoil in Shanghai, 1988-9.
  • Michel Soymie, et al., ed. Catalogue des manuscrits chinois de Touen-houang: Fonds Pelliot chinois de la Bibliothèque Nationale.
  • XIANG Chu, ed. and annot. Wang Fanzhi shi jiao zhu [The Poems of Brahmacârin Wang, Collated and Annotated].
  • François Jullien. La propension des choses: Pour une histoire de l’efficacité en Chine.
  • MORIYASU Takao. Uiguru=Manikyô Shi no Kenkyû (A Study on the History of Uighur Manichaeism. — Research on Some Manichaean Materials and Their Historical Background).
  • ZHOU Yiliang. Zhong-Ri wenhua guanxi shi lun [Essays on Sino-Japanese Cultural Relations].
  • Denis Sinor, ed. The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia.
  • WU Jiacang and JIANG Yuxiang, ed. Gudai xinan sichou zhi tu yanjiu [Studies on the Ancient Southwest Silk Roads].
  • Derk Bodde. Chinese Thought, Society, and Science: The Intellectual and Social Background of Science and Technology in Pre-modern China.
  • YOSHIKAWA Kojiro. Five Hundred Years of Chinese Poetry, 1150-1650: The Chin, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties. Translated with a Preface by John Timothy Wixted. Including an Afterword by William S. Atwell.
  • Mabel Lee and ZHANG Wu-ai. Putonghua: A Practical Course in Spoken Chinese.
  • A. D. Syrokomla-Stefanowska and Mabel Lee. Basic Chinese Grammar and Sentence Patterns.
  • LIU Wei-ping, Mabel Lee, A. J. Prince, Lily Shaw Lee, and R. S. W. Hsu, comp. Readings in Modern Chinese.

This issue also includes a note to the editor from Edwin G. Pulleyblank.

See also

Three Brief Essays Concering Chinese Tocharistan: SPP

The latest rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is Three Brief Essays Concerning Chinese Tocharistan (1.7 MB PDF), by Victor H. Mair.

Here are the beginnings of each of the three essays.

The Significance of Dunhuang and Turfan Studies:

There are well over a thousand scholars around the world who are working on some aspect of Dunhuang and Turfan studies. Do these two remote places in Chinese Central Asia merit such intense interest on the part of so many? In the first instance, this paper attemps to show that Dunhuang and Turfan studies, though focussing on texts and artifacts associated with these two particular sties, actually have broad ramifications for the history of East-West cultural and commercial relations in general. Another major factor is the unique quality of many materials discovered at Dunhuang and Turfan. Archaeological finds from these locations have enabled us, for the first time, to obtain an essentially first-hand look at China and some of its neighbors during the medieval period. That is to say, we can now learn, for example, about popular culture during Tang times without being forced to view it through a Confucian historiographical filter. In other words, the availability of primary materials for correcting the biases of traditional historians and materials which document the existence of phenomena (languages, religions, popular literary genres, social customs, etc.) that were completely overlooked — or even suppressed — by them. As examples of the vivid immediacy afforded by such materials, two texts from Dunhuang manuscripts S4400 — a prayer by Cao Yanlu — and S3877 — a contract for the sale of a woman’s son — are edited and translated. The paper concludes by stressing that, because of the complexity and vast scope of Dunhuang and Turfan studies, international cooperation is essential.

Early Iranian Influences on Buddhism in Central Asia:

It is usual to imagine that the transmission of Buddhism from India to China was accomplished largely by Indian missionaries and Chinese pilgrims. Until recently, the role of Iranian-speaking peoples in this great process of intellectual and religious transformation has been little known and seldom recognized. Primarily as a result of archeological discoveries during the last century, however, the vital importance of Central Asian Buddhism has become increasingly clear. It is now possible to point to specific doctrinal, iconographic, and textual instances of Iranian influence upon Buddhism in Central Asia and, consequently, in China and elsewhere in East Asia. Here we shall touch upon only a few examples of the Iranian contributions to Buddhism. The items listed in the bibliography should enable the reader to locate many more without much difficulty.

The deep involvement with Buddhism of individuals from the very heartland of Iranian civilization is evidenced by the fact that the fist known translator of Buddhist texts into Chinese was a Parthian of royal descent….

The History of Chinese Turkistan in the Pre-Islamic Period:

The first thing which needs to be pointed out about Chinese Turkistan (also spelled Turkestan) is that, for the period in question, the habitual designation is a complete misnomer. As will become obvious in the course of this article, the place was neither politically Chinese nor ethnically Turkish until after the establishment of Islam in the region. It is probably safest to refer to the area by more neutral geographic names such as the Tarim Basin and the Dzungar (also spelled Zungar and Jung[g]ar) Basin which, together with their associated mountain ranges, constitute the two main divisions of the area, or Central Asia in contrast to Middle Asia (Russian / Soviet Turkistan).

No matter how we refer to it, there is no doubt that this remote, largely desert part of the world is of extreme importance because it lies at the crossroads of Eurasia. From the dawn of civilization, trade and cultural exchange have been carried out by peoples living in and around this “heart of Asia….”

The was first published in March 1990 as issue no. 16 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

The Tao of semiotics. Zen and etymology.

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased for free Tracks of the Tao, Semantics of Zen (950 KB PDF), by Victor H. Mair.

After a brief introduction, Mair, who has translated more than one classic Taoist text, asks, “How did Tao and Zen enter our vocabulary? And what do these two extraordinarily powerful words really mean?”

He then enters into a “somewhat lengthy excursion into the neglected realm of philology” but keeps to his word to “try to make it as painless and entertaining as possible.”

It’s a fascinating and wide-ranging essay, especially for those interested in historical linguistics.

This is issue no. 17 of Sino-Platonic Papers. It was originally released in April 1990.

Indian influence on Chinese popular literature: a bibliography

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased for free another book-length back issue: A Partial Bibliography for the Study of Indian Influence on Chinese Popular Literature (10.8 MB PDF), by Victor H. Mair.

Here are the contents:

  • Journals and Works Referred to in Abbreviated Fashion
  • Catalogs of Tun-huang Manuscripts and Bibliographies of Studies on Them
  • Chinese Studies, Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries
  • Japanese and Korean Studies, Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries; Southeast Asian Sinitic Dictionaries
  • South and Southeast Asian and Buddhicized Central Asian Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries (Includes Indic, Tibetan, Uighur, Indonesian, etc.)
  • Near and Middle Eastern Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries
  • Studies and Texts in European Languages (Other than Translations from the Above Groups)
  • Films, Performances, Lectures, Unpublished Manuscripts, and Personal Communications
  • Articles and Books Not Seen

The introduction is also online in quick-loading HTML format.

This was first published in March 1987 as issue no. 3 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

Reviews of books on oracle bones, language and script, violence in China, etc.: SPP

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased the third volume in its series of book reviews: Reviews III (8.3 MB PDF).

This volume was first published in October 1991.

The main topics of the books in this volume are

  • Violence in China
  • Scientific Stagnation in Traditional China.
  • Oracle Shell and Bone Inscriptions (OSBIs)
  • Proto-Language And Culture
  • Language and Script
  • Reference Tools for Sinitic Languages
  • Literature and the Life of Peking
  • Religion and Philosophy
  • Words
  • The New World
  • “Barbarian” Business
  • South Asia
  • Miscellaneous

For those who hesitate to download such a large file without knowing which books were reviewed, you may consult the table of contents (small HTML file).

Critique of ordering of dictionaries for Mandarin Chinese

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased for free its very first issue, from February 1986: The Need for an Alphabetically Arranged General Usage Dictionary of Mandarin Chinese: A Review Article of Some Recent Dictionaries and Current Lexicographical Projects (1.5 MB PDF), by Professor Victor H. Mair of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

This is an important essay that helped lead to the production of the ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary, which is my favorite Mandarin-English dictionary.

Here is how it begins:

As a working Sinologist, each time I look up a word in my Webster’s or Kenkyusha‘s I experience a sharp pang of deprivation Having slaved over Chinese dictionaries arranged in every imaginable order (by K’ang-hsi radical, left-top radical, bottom-right radical, left-right split, total stroke count, shape of successive strokes, four-corner, three-corner, two-corner, kuei-hsieh, ts’ang-chieh, telegraphic code, rhyme tables, “phonetic” keys, and so on ad nauseam), I have become deeply envious of specialists in those languages, such as Japanese, Indonesian, Hindi, Persian, Russian, Turkish, Korean, Vietnamese, and so forth, which possess alphabetically arranged dictionaries. Even Zulu, Swahili, Akkadian (Assyrian), and now Sumerian have alphabetically ordered dictionaries for the convenience of scholars in these areas of research.

It is a source of continual regret and embarrassment that, in general, my colleagues in Chinese studies consult their dictionaries far less frequently than do those in other fields of area studies. But this is really not due to any glaring fault of their own and, in fact, they deserve more sympathy than censure. The difficulties are so enormous that very few students of Chinese are willing to undertake integral translations of texts, preferring instead to summarize, paraphrase, excerpt and render into their own language those passages which are relatively transparent Only individuals with exceptional determination, fortitude, and stamina are capable of returning again and again to the search for highly elusive characters in a welter of unfriendly lexicons. This may be one reason why Western Sinology lags so far behind Indology (where is our Böthlingk and Roth or Monier-Williams?), Greek studies (where is our Liddell and Scott?), Latin studies (Oxford Latin Dictionary), Arabic studies (Lane’s, disappointing in its arrangement by “roots” and its incompleteness but grand in its conception and scope), and other classical disciplines. Incredibly, many Chinese scholars with advanced degrees do not even know how to locate items in supposedly standard reference works or do so only with the greatest reluctance and deliberation. For those who do make the effort, the number of hours wasted in looking up words in Chinese dictionaries and other reference tools is absolutely staggering. What is most depressing about this profligacy, however, is that it is completely unnecessary. I propose, in this article, to show why.

First, a few definitions are required, What do I mean by an “alphabetically arranged dictionary”? I refer to a dictionary in which all words (tz’u) are interfiled strictly according to pronunciation. This may be referred to as a “single sort/tier/layer alphabetical” order or series. I most emphatically do not mean a dictionary arranged according to the sounds of initial single graphs (tzu), i.e. only the beginning syllables of whole words. With the latter type of arrangement, more than one sort is required to locate a given term. The head character must first be found and then a separate sort is required for the next character, and so on. Modern Chinese languages and dialects are as polysyllabic as the vast majority of other languages spoken in the world today (De Francis, 1984). In my estimation, there is no reason to go on treating them as variants of classical Chinese, which is an entirely different type of language. Having dabbled in all of them, I believe that the difference between classical Chinese and modern Chinese languages is at least as great as that between Latin and Italian, between classical Greek and modern Greek or between Sanskrit and Hindi. Yet no one confuses Italian with Latin, modern Greek with classical Greek, or Sanskrit with Hindi. As a matter of fact there are even several varieties of pre-modern Chinese just as with Greek (Homeric, Horatian, Demotic, Koine), Sanskrit (Vedic, Prakritic, Buddhist Hybrid), and Latin (Ciceronian, Low, Ecclesiastical, Medieval, New, etc.). If we can agree that there are fundamental structural differences between modern Chinese languages and classical Chinese, perhaps we can see the need for devising appropriately dissimilar dictionaries for their study.

One of the most salient distinctions between classical Chinese and Mandarin is the high degree of polysyllabicity of the latter vis-a-vis the former. There was indeed a certain percentage of truly polysyllabic words in classical Chinese, but these were largely loan- words from foreign languages, onomatopoeic borrowings from the spoken language, and dialectical expressions of restricted currency. Conversely, if one were to compile a list of the 60,000 most commonly used words and expressions in Mandarin, one would discover that more than 92% of these are polysyllabic. Given this configuration, it seems odd, if not perverse, that Chinese lexicographers should continue to insist on ordering their general purpose dictionaries according to the sounds or shapes of the first syllables of words alone.

Even in classical Chinese, the vast majority of lexical items that need to be looked up consist of more than one character. The number of entries in multiple character phrase books (e.g., P’ien-tzu lei-pien [approximately 110,000 entries in 240 chüan], P’ei-wen yün-fu [roughly 560,000 items in 212 chüan]) far exceeds those in the largest single character dictionaries (e.g., Chung-hua ta tzu-tien [48,000 graphs in four volumes], K’ang-hsi tzu-tien [49,030 graphs]). While syntactically and grammatically many of these multisyllabic entries may not be considered as discrete (i.e. bound) units, they still readily lend themselves to the principle of single-sort alphabetical searches. Furthermore, a large proportion of graphs in the exhaustive single character dictionaries were only used once in history or are variants and miswritten forms. Many of them are unpronounceable and the meanings of others are impossible to determine. In short, most of the graphs in such dictionaries are obscure and arcane. Well over two-thirds of the graphs in these comprehensive single character dictionaries would never be encountered in the entire lifetime of even the most assiduous Sinologist (unless, of course, he himself were a lexicographer). This is not to say that large single character dictionaries are unnecessary as a matter of record. It is, rather, only to point out that what bulk they do have is tremendously deceptive in terms of frequency of usage.

Strongly recommended.

reviews of books related to China and linguistics (2)

Sino-Platonic Papers has just released online its second compilation of book reviews. Here are the books discussed. (Note: The links below do not lead to the reviews but to other material. Use the link above.)

Invited Reviews

  • William A. Boltz, “The Typological Analysis of the Chinese Script.” A review article of John DeFrancis, Visible Speech, the Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems.
  • Paul Varley and Kumakura Isao, eds., Tea in Japan: Essays on the History of Chanoyu. Reviewed by William R. LaFleur .
  • Vladimir N. Basilov, ed., Nomads of Eurasia. Reviewed by David A. Utz.

Reviews by the Editor

  • “Philosophy and Language.” A review article of Françcois Jullien, Procès ou Création: Une introduction a la pensée des lettrés chinois.

Language and Linguistics

  • W. South Coblin, A Handbook of Eastern Han Sound Glosses.
  • Weldon South Coblin. A Sinologist’s Handlist of Sino-Tibetan Lexical Comparisons.
  • ZHOU Zhenhe and YOU Rujie. Fangyan yu Zhongguo Wenhua [Topolects and Chinese Culture].
  • CHOU Fa-kao. Papers in Chinese Linguistics and Epigraphy.
  • ZENG Zifan. Guangzhouhua Putonghua Duibi Qutan [Interesting Parallels between Cantonese and Mandarin].
  • Luciana Bressan. La Determinazione delle Norme Ortografiche del Pinyin.
  • JIANG Shaoyu and XU Changhua, tr. Zhongguoyu Lishi Wenfa [A Historical Grammar of Modern Chinese] by OTA Tatsuo.
  • McMahon, et al. Expository Writing in Chinese.
  • P. C. T’ung and D. E. Pollard. Colloquial Chinese.
  • Li Sijing, Hanyu “er” Yin Shih Yanjiu [Studies on the History of the “er” Sound in Sinitic].
  • Maurice Coyaud, Les langues dans le monde chinois.
  • Patricia Herbert and Anthony Milner, eds., South-East Asia: Languages and Literatures; A Select Guide.
  • Andrew Large, The Artificial Language Movement.
  • Wilhelm von Humboldt, On Language: The Diversity of Hunan Language-Structure and Its Influence on the Mental Development of Mankind.
  • Vitaly Shevoroshkin, ed., Reconstructing Languages and Cultures.
  • Jan Wind, et al., eds., Studies in Language Origins.

Short Notices

  • A. Kondratov, Sounds and Signs.
  • Jeremy Campbell, Grammatical Man: Information, Entropy, Language, and Life.
  • Pitfalls of the Tetragraphic Script.

Lexicography and Lexicology

  • MIN Jiaji, et al., comp., Hanyu Xinci Cidian [A Dictionary of New Sinitic Terms]
  • LYU Caizhen, et al., comp., Xiandai Hanyu Nanci Cidian [A Dictionary of Difficult Terms in Modern Sinitic].
  • Tom McArthur, Worlds of Reference: Lexicography, learning and language from the clay tablet to the computer.

A Bouquet of Pekingese Lexicons

  • JIN Shoushen, comp., Beijinghua Yuhui [Pekingese Vocabulary].
  • SONG Xiaocai and MA Xinhua, comp., Beijinghua Ciyu Lishi [Pekingese Expressions with Examples and Explanations] .
  • SONG Xiaocai and MA Xinhua, comp., Beijinghua Yuci Huishi [Pekingese Words and Phrases with Explanations] .
  • FU Min and GAO Aijun, comp., Beijinghua Ciyu (Dialectical Words and Phrases in Beijing).

A Bibliographical Trilogy

  • Paul Fu-mien Yang, comp., Chinese Linguistics: A Selected and Classified Bibliography.
  • Paul Fu-mien Yang, comp., Chinese Dialectology: A Selected and Classified Bibliography.
  • Paul Fu-mien Yang, comp., Chinese Lexicology and Lexicography: A Selected and Classified Bibliography.

Orality and Literacy

  • Jack Goody. The interface between the written and the oral.
  • Jack Goody. The logic of writing and the organization of society.
  • Deborah Tannen, ed., Spoken and Written Language: Exploring Orality and Literacy.

Society and Culture

  • Scott Simmie and Bob Nixon, Tiananmen Square.
  • Thomas H. C. Lee, Government Education and Examinations in Sung China.
  • ZHANG Zhishan, tr. and ed., Zhongguo zhi Xing [Record of a Journey to China].
  • LIN Wushu, Monijiao ji Qi Dongjian [Manichaeism and Its Eastward Expansion].
  • E. N. Anderson, The Food of China.
  • K. C. Chang, ed., Food in Chinese Culture: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives.
  • Jacques Gemet, China and the Christian Impact: A Conflict of Cultures.
  • D. E. Mungello, Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodation and the Origins of Sinology.

Short Notice

  • Roben Jastrow, The Enchanted Loom: Mind in the Universe.

In Memoriam
Chang-chen HSU
August 6, 1957 – June 27, 1989

  • Hsu Chang-chen, ed., and tr., Yin-tu hsien-tai hsiao-shuo hsüan [A Selection of Contemporary Indian Fiction].
  • Hsu Chang-chen, T’o-fu tzu-huiyen-chiu (Mastering TOEFL Vocabulary).
  • Hsu Chang-chen, Tsui-chung-yao-te i pai ke Ying-wen tzu-shou tzu-ken (100 English Prefixes and Word Roots).
  • Hsu Chang-chen, Fa-wen tzu-hui chieh-koufen-hsi — tzu-shou yü tzu-ken (Les préfixes et les racines de la langue française).
  • Hsu Chang-chen, comp. and tr., Hsi-yü yü Fo-chiao wen-shih lun-chi (Collection of Articles on Studies of Central Asia, India, and Buddhism).

This is SPP no. 14, from December 1989. The entire text is now online as a 7.3 MB PDF.

See my earlier post for the contents of the first SPP volume of reviews and a link to the full volume.

reviews of books related to China and linguistics

Sino-Platonic Papers has just released online its first compilation of book reviews. Here is a list of the books discussed. (Note: The links below do not lead to the reviews but to other material.)

Invited Reviews

  • J. Marshall Unger, The Fifth Generation Fallacy. Reviewed by Wm. C. Hannas
  • Rejoinder by J. Marshall Unger
  • Hashimoto Mantaro, Suzuki Takao, and Yamada Hisao. A Decision for the Chinese NationsToward the Future of Kanji (Kanji minzoku no ketsudanKanji no mirai ni mukete). Reviewed by Wm. C. Hannas
  • S. Robert Ramsey. The Languages of China. Reviewed by Wm. C. Hannas
  • James H. Cole, Shaohsing. Reviewed by Mark A. Allee
  • Henry Hung-Yeh Tiee, A Reference Grammar of Chinese Sentences. Reviewed by Jerome L. Packard

Reviews by the Editor

  • David Pollack, The Fracture of Meaning
  • Jerry Norman, Chinese
  • N. H. Leon, Character Indexes of Modern Chinese
  • Shiu-ying Hu, comp., An Enumeration of Chinese Materia Medico
  • Donald M. Ayers, English Words from Latin and Greek Elements
  • Chen Gang, comp., A Dictionary of Peking Colloquialisms (Beijing Fangyan Cidian)
  • Dominic Cheung, ed. and tr., The Isle Full of Noises
  • Jonathan Chaves, ed. and tr., The Columbia Book of Later Chinese Poetry
  • Philip R. Bilancia, Dictionary of Chinese Law and Government
  • Charles O. Hucker, A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China
  • Robert K. Logan, The Alphabet Effect
  • Liu Zhengtan, Gao Mingkai, et al., comp., A Dictionary of Loan Words and Hybrid Words in Chinese (Hanyu Wailai Cidian)
  • The Mandarin Daily Dictionary of Loan Words (Guoyu Ribao Wailaiyu Cidian)
  • Shao Xiantu, Zhou Dingguo, et al., comp., A Dictionary of the Origins of Foreign Place Names (Waiguo Diming Yuyuan Cidian)
  • Tsung-tung Chang, Metaphysik, Erkenntnis und Praktische Philosophie um Chuang-Tzu
  • Irene Bloom, trans, ed., and intro., Knowledge Painfully Acquired: The K’un-chih chi of Lo Ch’in-shun
  • Research Institute for Language Pedagogy of the Peking College of Languages, comp., Frequency Dictionary of Words in Modern Chinese (Xiandai Hanyu Pinlyu Cidian)
  • Liu Yuan, chief compiler, Word List of Modern Mandarin (Xianhi Hanyu Cibiao)
  • The Editing Group of A New English-Chinese Dictionary, comp., A New English-Chinese Dictionary
  • BBC External Business and Development Group, Everyday Mandarin

This is SPP no. 8, from February 1988. The entire text is now online as a 4.2 MB PDF.