Friday, March 10, 2017

千字文 / The Thousand Character classic, part 11

Today's characters bring good news for fortune-seekers.

jīn shēng lì shuĭ

"The river Li bears gold."

麗 means "beautiful" or, as Kroll puts it, "beauty that is outwardly or sensually striking." In this case, paired with 水, the character for water, it refers to the Li River in 雲南 Yunnan province.

I'm much obliged to Francis Paar for pointing this out, because like seemingly every other thing I come across reading classical Chinese, it's not something I'd have guessed on my own (though this use of 水 is fairly common). Another good example is 玉箸, which appeared in my last post. It translates literally to "jade chopsticks" - it's not the usual character for chopsticks, either! - but it's used as a stand-in for tears, as well as being the name of a form of small seal script. As a literary language, Classical Chinese has no monopoly on layered meanings, but damn if it doesn't get a prize for being especially obtuse. It's enough to make a dude want to weep jade chopsticks sometimes.

And there you have it. Paar says you can pan for gold in the Li River, so go west*, young wo/man!


*Or east. Your choice. From the USA, it usually makes more sense to go west these days.

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