Pinyin subtitles for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Er, someone has created Hanyu Pinyin subtitles for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wòhǔcánglóng / 臥虎藏龍 / 卧虎藏龙). They’re in UTF-8 (Unicode) and come in two varieties: one with tone marks (link above), the other without. The latter would be useful primarily for those who have trouble getting diacritics to appear properly, such as many of those watching the movie through a TV hooked up to a DivX DVD player.

The set of subtitles also includes English and Mandarin in Chinese characters (both traditional and simplified versions).

The subtitles might seem to go by a bit quickly. But that’s generally because people don’t have much experience reading Hanyu Pinyin. (Also, the English subtitles leave out a lot. But the Pinyin ones are comprehensive.) Practice reading and you’ll get much faster at it.

Remember to use these only for good (e.g., practice reading Pinyin, Mandarin learning, helping those with problems reading Chinese characters) and not bad (e.g., piracy).

still from the movie, showing the subtitled text of Li Mubai saying 'Jianghu li wohucanglong'

Taiwan Google searches: Hanyu Pinyin vs. Tongyong Pinyin

Taiwan’s still official but probably-not-long-for-this-world romanization system for Mandarin is Tongyong Pinyin. Tongyong Pinyin, however, is basically unknown outside Taiwan and, in truth, very little known even within Taiwan. (And many of those — like me — who do know it don’t like it.) But still, it’s what the Chen administration forced into use on highway signs, within train stations, and on some other signage throughout the country. So there’s certain to be some interest for it here. But in Taiwan how does interest in it compare against interest in Hanyu Pinyin, use of the latter system being regarded as something close to a sign of the apocalypse among some Tongyong supporters? The new Google Insights provides some clues.

Here’s a relative look at Google searches from Taiwan in 2008 for the terms “漢語拼音” (Hanyu Pinyin) and “通用拼音” (Tongyong Pinyin).

In Taiwan, searches for Hanyu Pinyin have clearly been more popular this year.

What about in the longer term? Below is a chart from 2004 to the present. (The lines are a little different because in the long-term chart averages are by month; but the monthly averages probably give a clearer picture anyway.)

Again, interest in Hanyu Pinyin comes out on top — consistently — even in Taiwan.

Not surprisingly, in searches worldwide, Tongyong Pinyin basically doesn’t even register against Hanyu Pinyin, so great is the disparity.

If you’d like to run some searches on your own, note that Google Insights distinguishes between traditional and “simplified” Chinese characters, i.e., a search for “漢語拼音” will yield substantially different results than one for “汉语拼音”.

Mandarin newspaper with Pinyin

Victor Mair’s latest post at Language Log introduces a new U.S.-based newspaper, the Huayu Xuebao (Mandarin Learning Newspaper, 華語學報), which is similar to Taiwan’s Guoyu Ribao (Mandarin Daily News), the main difference being the former uses Hanyu Pinyin while the latter uses zhuyin fuhao (bopo mofo).

Well, actually the Huayu Xuebao doesn’t use proper Pinyin (see recent remarks). But I’m so happy to see this long-needed paper that I’ll hold my tongue for now.

Unfortunately, the paper doesn’t have its Web site ready yet — not that the long-established Guoyu Ribao is much better at that, at least when it comes to texts as they appear in the newspaper. So, for more information about the Huayu Xuebao, write learningnewspaper [AT] or phone +1-201-288-9188 (New Jersey).

There’s also a sample issue.

source: How to learn to read Chinese, Language Log, May 25, 2008

Hongshan culture: SPP

Just out from the archives of Sino-Platonic Papers is The Development of Complexity in Prehistoric Northern China, by Sarah M. Nelson of the University of Denver.

This deals with Hongshan culture (Hóngshān wénhuà / 紅山文化 / 红山文化), a neolithic culture that flourished in what is now northeastern China more than 5,000 years ago.

From the introduction:

Far to the north of the Central Plain of China (the Zhongyuan), in Liaoning province and Inner Mongolia, nearly two millennia before the florescence of the Shang dynasty, a complex society known as the Hongshan culture arose, with a mixed economy of herding and agriculture. Some two dozen major sites are known, along with many smaller ones, spread over about 100,000 square km. Hongshan presents a puzzle for Chinese archaeologists because of its amalgam of non-Chinese traits (for example nude female figurines and the “Goddess Temple” featuring over-life-sized statues of women) with some early manifestations of such quintessentially Chinese characteristics as round and square outdoor platforms for altars, the use of jade for emblems of power, and possibly dragon iconography.

Sino-Platonic Papers no. 63 was originally published in December 1994.

neolithic female nude figures from Hongshan culture in northeastern China

image of stone carved in the shape of a pig dragon

The Art of War: a new translation

cover illustration for 'The Art of War', translated by Victor H. MairColumbia University Press recently published what I hope will become recognized as the standard English translation of the Art of War (Sūnzǐ Bīngfǎ / 孫子兵法). This is by my friend Victor H. Mair of the University of Pennsylvania’s department of Asian and Middle Eastern studies.

With the permission of the author and publisher, I offer below two excerpts from this work.

But first a bit of information from the publisher’s page for this title.

Victor Mair’s translation is the first to remain true to the original structure and essential style of the text.

Mair’s fidelity to the original, along with his insightful commentary and reliance on archaeologically recovered manuscripts, breaks new ground in solving The Art of War‘s difficult textual and contextual problems. He confronts complex questions concerning the authorship of the work, asserting that Sun Wu, a supposed strategist of the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 B.C.E.) to whom the text is traditionally attributed, never existed. Instead, Mair claims that The Art of War coalesced over a period of around seventy-five years, from the middle of the fourth century to the first quarter of the third century B.C.E.

Mair also reveals the way The Art of War reflects historical developments in technological and military strategy in civilizations throughout Eurasia, especially in regards to iron metallurgy. He demonstrates the close link between the philosophy in The Art of War and Taoism and discusses the reception of the text from the classical period to today. Finally, Mair highlights previously unaddressed stylistic and statistical aspects and includes philological annotations that present new ways of approaching the intellectual and social background of the work.

The book also features a foreword by Arthur Waldron that compares and contrasts Sun Zi and Clausewitz (1780-1831).

For those who would rather read the selections below in the original format, they are also available as PDFs:

Please note that at the time of this writing, Amazon’s “search inside” function for this book is screwed up. Instead it uses someone else’s translation. So don’t order what is listed on that site as the paperback edition; because it is the wrong book. (As of February 2008 there is no paperback of Mair’s translation.) But ordering what Amazon lists as the hardback should get you the correct book (ISBN: 978-0-231-13382-1). Or order directly from the publisher should your local bookstores not have this in stock.

OK, now here are the excerpts I promised.

Key Terms

Here are highlighted only several of the more important words and subtle concepts used in the book. Other technical terms and proper nouns are defined in the notes or in the introduction. For a superb handbook of basic Chinese philosophical terms, including many that are featured in the Sun Zi, see Zhang Dainian, Key Concepts in Chinese Philosophy, trans. Edmund Ryden.

From The Art of War: Sun Zi’s Military Methods, translated by Victor H. Mair, © 2007 by Columbia University Press. Used by permission of Columbia University Press.

[Webmaster’s note: As Mair notes elsewhere, giving the pronunciations in Pinyin for Modern Standard Mandarin is “purely a convention of modern scholarship and does not reflect at all the pronunciation of Sinitic during the late Warring States period when this text was compiled.”]

bian. Variation, variety, transformation.

bing. The earliest form of the character used to write this word depicts two arms holding up an adze. The basic idea conveyed by this graph subsequently developed from the concrete and limited to the more general and abstract: weapon ? soldier ? troops ? war.

fa. Law, method, model.

bing. The earliest form of the character used to write this word depicts two arms holding up an adze. The basic idea conveyed by this graph subsequently developed from the concrete and limited to the more general and abstract: weapon → soldier → troops → war.

fa. Law, method, model.

bingfa. The combination of the previous two terms, it is usually rendered as “art of war” in English but may more literally be rendered as “soldierly methods,” “military methods,” etc. For further discussion of bingfa, see the introduction, n. 2.

gui. Deceit, deception; something contrary to the norm.

. Pivot, moment of change (functions somewhat like a tipping point); the instant just before a new development or shift occurs; the nodal point of a situation in flux. also refers to the first, imperceptible beginning of movement in an unstable situation. In organic metaphors, it means “seed, germ.” The sage or superior man can recognize the immanence or incipience of these crucial moments before they become manifest to others. It cannot be stressed too heavily that by itself does not mean “opportunity” nor does it mean “crisis,” although it is closer to the latter than to the former because of the extreme instability of a given situation and the unforeseen consequences that may follow.

. Count, calculate; plan; intention. Another word in the Sun Zi sometimes rendered as “plan” is mou (as in the title of chap. 3), though it tends more in the direction of “scheme” or “counsel.” Depending upon the context, and mou may also convey the idea of “strategy” or “stratagem.”

. A traditional measure of length equivalent to 300 paces (hence “tricent” in English). It is easy to think of how long a tricent is (about a third of a mile) by recalling that the English word “mile” is derived from Latin milia, millia (“a thousand [paces]”). For those who are not familiar with miles, a tricent is equal to approximately half a kilometer.

. Advantage, benefit; profit, interest (the basic meaning is “sharp,” which is why the character used to write it has a “knife” radical).

mou. See .

. Unformed, energetic substrate of matter; material energy; the primal “stuff ” of the universe; configural energy. In the Sun Zi, it usually refers to the vital force, energy, or morale of the men in the army. For more information on and its metaphysical implications, see Mair (1990:137–38) and Zhang (2002:45–63).

. See zheng.

quan. Power, expedient (assessment)—exerted by the commander in the field. The literal meaning of the morpheme is “horizontal balance,” hence “weigh, judge, (exert) power / authority.” Quan is often associated with bian or (qq.v.).

shi. Configuration, circumstances, efficacy, inertia, power / force (of circumstances), authority, (strategic / positional) advantage. The subject of chap. 5, but also discussed elsewhere in the text, this is one of the key concepts of the Sun Zi. It is also one of the most ineffable.

tianxia. All under heaven, i.e., the empire (writ large).

wen. Civil, culture (contrasts with wu). The evolution of the primary meanings of the graph used to write this word, in simplest terms, is as follows: tattoo → pattern → culture / civilization / writing. The earliest meaning of wen as “tattoo” still survives in the expression wen shen (“tattoo the body”). By the time of the Warring States period, however, when the Sun Zi was written, tattooing had become a form of punishment, and different words were used to refer to it, wen itself having transmuted into one of the most exalted terms in the language. See chapter 9, n. 12 and the biography of Sun Bin in the introduction.

wu. Martial, military (contrasts with wen). The character used to write this word shows a shafted weapon and a foot, i.e., a man going off to fight in a war.

xing. Form, shape, disposition. One of the most important tactical concepts in the Sun Zi, it occurs with particularly high frequency in chapter 6, where it means mainly the arrangement of forces, and in chapter 10, where it signifies different types of terrain. There is another word, meaning “punishment,” that is pronounced exactly alike (xing) and is written with a very similar character that one might well expect to find in a work of strategy such as the Sun Zi, but it does not occur even once. The xing meaning “form, shape, disposition” occurs a total of thirty-one times in the Sun Zi. In stark contrast, the xing meaning “punishment” occurs a total of twenty-four times in the Wei Liao Zi, a work which has very little to say about the xing meaning “form, shape, disposition.” Thus the Sun Zi and the Wei Liao Zi, which probably coalesced at approximately the same time (the second half of the fourth century and the early third century, though with the Wei Liao Zi being slightly later) may be said to be in mutual complementarity with regard to the advocacy of these two key concepts of strategy. Clearly the Sun Zi is concerned with tactics but not punishment, and vice versa for the Wei Liao Zi. Similar analyses could be carried out for other principal concepts in all of the extant military treatises from the Warring States and Han periods.

zhan. Battle; specific military actions and engagements, in contrast to bing (q.v.), which is more general and abstract.

zheng. Used in combination with to signify contrasting types of warfare; variously translated as “direct / indirect,” “regular / irregular,” “conventional / unconventional,” “orthodox / unorthodox,” “ordinary / extraordinary,” and so forth. Of these two terms, the more difficult to grasp is , which may be thought of as signifying “odd, strange, singular, unique, craft(y)” or whatever is not zheng (“straight, upright, correct, right, orthodox, normative,” etc). In purely military applications, may be thought of as “special operations” or “unconventional warfare,” whereas zheng are main force deployments and maneuvers. The counterposing of and zheng was not restricted merely to military operations but was applied to politics and morality as well:

Rule the state with uprightness,
Deploy your troops with craft
Gain all under heaven with noninterference.
(Tao te Ching / Dao de jing, 57)

When there is no uprightness,
correct reverts to crafty,
good reverts to gruesome.
(Tao te Ching / Dao de jing, 58)

Nine1 Varieties2

This chapter addresses the question of responding deftly to contingencies and advises awareness of both the advantages and the disadvantages of any action that might be contemplated. The principle of preparedness is proposed as the surest way to avoid disaster.

Master Sun said,
The method of waging war is ordinarily that the general receives a mandate from the ruler, then assembles the army and brings together the masses. He does not encamp on unfavorable terrain; he joins with allies at terrain having a crossroads; he does not linger on forsaken terrain; he devises plans to extricate his forces from surrounded terrain; if he finds himself on desperate terrain he does battle.

There are paths that he does not take; there are armies that he does not strike; there are cities that he does not attack; there are terrains that he does not contest; there are ruler’s orders that he does not accept.3

the general who is versed in the advantages4 of the nine varieties of terrain5 knows how to wage war; the general who is not versed in the advantages of the nine varieties, although he may know the types of terrain, cannot gain the advantages of the terrain. If one prosecutes war without knowing the techniques of the nine varieties, although one may know the five advantages,6 one will not be able to gain the use of one’s men.

For this reason,
in his considerations, he who is wise must pay attention both to advantage and to disadvantage. By paying attention to advantage, his affairs will proceed with assurance; by paying attention to disadvantage, his troubles will be resolved.

For this reason,
that which causes the feudal lords to submit is disadvantage; that which causes the feudal lords to serve is encumbrance; that which causes the feudal lords to give allegiance is advantage.

the method of waging war is not to rely upon the enemy’s not coming, but to rely upon my waiting in readiness for him; it is not to rely upon the enemy’s not attacking, but to rely upon making myself invulnerable to attack.

there are five fatal flaws in a general: recklessness, for he may be killed by the enemy; timidity, for he may be captured by the enemy; irascibility, for he may be provoked by the enemy; incorruptibility, for he may be insulted by the enemy; solicitousness, for he may be made anxious by the enemy. In all of these respects, if a general overdoes them, it will be disastrous for waging war.

The overthrow of an enemy and the killing of a general are the inevitable consequences of these five fatal flaws. They cannot be left unexamined.7


  1. There is vast controversy among Chinese commentators over the significance of “nine” in the title. Some say that it only means “a large number of,” while others contend that it literally means “nine.” In either case, there have been many proposals put forward for which particular group of nine (or many) items is intended. After careful study, the reader is invited to suggest his or her own set of nine (or many) variations. A good place to begin might be to look at chapter 11, “Nine Types of Terrain,” with which the present chapter
    shares considerable overlap and resonance.
    Wang Xi: “I claim that ‘nine’ is simply a very large number. The method of waging war requires infinite variations.”
    Zhang Yu: “‘Variation’ is the method of not being constrained by constancy. This implies that, when one is confronting an evolving situation [i.e., something that is happening], one should follow what is appropriate and act accordingly. Whenever one is struggling with someone else for advantage, it is necessary to know the nine varieties of terrain. Therefore, this chapter comes after ‘The Struggle of Armies.'”
  2. The term bian may be more literally rendered as “transformations.” However, no single translation of bian is suitable for this chapter, since the term is applied to widely different phenomena, including “alternatives” and “contingencies,” aside from “varieties” and “transformations.”
  3. The Yinque Shan bamboo strip manuscripts (pp. 98-99) include a commentary on these five exclusionary (“that he does not”) clauses. The commentary emphasizes and explains the specific conditions under which a general may choose not to carry out certain (viz., the first four) courses of action that he would normally be expected to take. The fifth exclusionary clause subsumes the preceding four clauses: “When the ruler’s orders contravene these four contingencies, they are not to be carried out.”
  4. And disadvantages, of course.
  5. This word is missing in the Song-period Wu jing qi shu (Seven military classics) and Taiping yulan (Imperial survey of the Great Peace [reign period]) editions of the text.
  6. This probably refers to the advantages deriving from the exclusionary clauses iterated above and discussed in n. 3.
  7. Since it appears so frequently at the conclusion of a passage, the injunction “they cannot be left unexamined” would appear to be a formulaic expression in the rhetoric of the period.

Other works by Mair published by Columbia University Press include The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature, The Shorter Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature, and The Columbia History of Chinese Literature.

Folklore, society, and shamanism of China’s Dagur minority

Last week’s free rerelease of Sino-Platonic Papers detailed the language of the Dagur (Dawo’er, Dáwò’ěrzú, 達斡爾族, 达斡尔族). This week’s rerelease is a companion volume: China’s Dagur Minority: Society, Shamanism, and Folklore (11.4 MB PDF), by Kevin Stuart, Li Xuewei, and Shelear.

This is a book-length work, filled with folktales (in English only) and all sorts of information.

The table of contents is available as a quick-loading Web page for those who would like to check that before downloading the whole work.

This issue of Sino-Platonic Papers was first published in December 1994.

Dagur (Dawo’er) grammar and sample sentences

This week’s rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is Introduction, Grammar, and Sample Sentences for Dagur (1.6 MB PDF), by Üjiyediin Chuluu (Chaolu Wu).

Dagur, which is related to Mongolian, is spoken by the Dagur (a.k.a. Dawo’er, Dáwò’ěrzú, 達斡爾族, 达斡尔族), who live mainly in China in Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang.

The Dagur language belongs to the Mongolic branch of Altaic languages. Dagur is usually divided into Butkha, Tsitsikar, Hailar, and Xinjiang, four dialects….

Since there is a close historical and linguistic relationship between the Dagur and the Mongols, there has been a dispute about whether Dagur is a dialect of Mongolian or an independent language within the Mongolian languages. In the recent studies, Dagur has been mostly regarded as one of the Mongolian languages. Dagur has many similarities in phonetics, grammatical structure, and vocabulary with the other languages of the Mongolian languages, especially, with Mongolian itself.

Most of the vowels in Dagur have similar corresponding vowels in either classical or modern Mongolian. For example….

The sample sentences (268 in total) are given with IPA and English translation.

This issue of Sino-Platonic Papers was first published in November 1994.