U.S. for “America,” “Russia” for “Russia,” and “erection” for…? The “too interesting origin” of the Chinese character notation of foreign place names! | FRIDAY DIGITAL

U.S. for “America,” “Russia” for “Russia,” and “erection” for…? The “too interesting origin” of the Chinese character notation of foreign place names!

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Professor Chen Lik-ei of Seijo University, who was interviewed for this report.

Will next month’s summit between the U.S. and China be realized? This is news that we often see these days. It is needless to explain that “U.S.” refers to the U.S. and “China” refers to China. I would like you to think about this calmly.

We know that China is “China. On the other hand, not many people can answer why the U.S. is written as “America. In this issue, we will take a deeper look at the Chinese characters used in foreign place names, which are taken for granted but are actually not well understood.

The kanji abbreviation for Russia is now written “露” (Russia), but it used to be written “魯” (Russia). In Japan, the U.S. is written as “U.S.A.,” but in China, “Bi Guo” is commonly used. As you can see, what Chinese characters are used depends on the period, the country, and the book.

Professor Chen Liye of Seijo University Photo by Shinji Hamazaki

Professor Chen Rikiei of Seijo University, who specializes in the history of the Japanese language, introduced a surprising episode from the outset. Why did the use of Chinese characters instead of katakana spread in the first place? Professor Chen continues.

The roots are in China. Chinese characters are the only writing system in China, so foreign place names are also written in Chinese characters. How did this come to Japan? The story goes back to the Edo period.

At that time, Japan lacked Western knowledge due to its isolation from the rest of the world, while China was in contact with Western countries. Therefore, as Japan was modernizing, intellectuals of the time absorbed Western knowledge through Western books translated into Chinese.

In 1872 (Meiji 5) In the year 1872 ( In 1872 (Meiji 5) In 1872, “Yōgoi sonzaku sen” (“Western language transliteration”), a collection of kanji transliterations of foreign names of countries, places, and people, was published. This book was useful as a dictionary by collecting examples from Western books translated into Chinese, and had a great influence on subsequent Chinese character notation.”

If the Chinese writing of kanji was introduced from China, it is not surprising that Japan also wrote “Bikoku” for the United States. Why was there a difference between the Japanese and Chinese writing systems?

China, too, was not unified in writing “Bikoku” from the beginning, and there were various ways to write it, such as “America,” “America,” “Meriken,” and “Meriken. They also entered Japan, so the situation was a mixture of “U.S.A.” and “Bikoku,” both Japanese and Chinese.

The situation on the Chinese side was changed when Americans in China 1838 It was later reprinted as “Damei Fusion Shikaku” (大美連邦志略). It is a book that introduced the country of the United States in Chinese, and it is thought that “Damei” was added to the title in order to make the country look better.

The “Dai” stands for greatness, like the Empire of Japan or the Republic of Korea. Although “Bi” is a Chinese character indicating the United States, “Bi” was adopted to give a better impression than “U.S.”. Since then, “Bi Guo” has been established in China.

This book later entered Japan, and during the Meiji period, it became a cool place for intellectuals to study the American political system, etc. teaching material But somehow, the book was not published, For some reason, the book was published under the title of “Bundeskogoku Shikaku” (連邦志略) without “Daibi” (大美). Perhaps because of this, “Bikoku” did not take root in Japan, and “U.S.A.” became more common. Even “Yōgo Ryōgo Tone Translation Sen” lists “Yoneriken” as a headword,” (Professor Chen).

Kanji characters represent sounds as well as readable meanings. For this reason, there have been cases where people have complained, “I don’t like this kind of Chinese characters. A typical example is Russia,” says Chen.

The Chinese character “……… In 1855, a treaty was signed between Japan and Russia. As seen in the “Japan-Russia Treaty of 1855,” the Chinese character for Russia was generally “魯”. It was written ‘Lu’ because it was read as ‘Ro’ shea. It was neither more nor less than that, but one day, the Russian Embassy in Japan sent me a letter saying The character “魯” has a bad meaning of violent and furtive, so change it! The Japanese government received a complaint from the Russian embassy in Japan that the character “Lu” had a bad meaning, such as “violent” or “furtive.

The Japanese government complained to the Russian embassy in Japan, saying that the character “ro” had a bad meaning, and that it should be changed to “ro” because it had the meaning of “violent and impetuous. In fact, the kanji for “Russia” was also secretly a wish of the Japanese side. This is why “Russo-Japanese” came to be interpreted as “the sun rises and the dew disappears” around the time of the Russo-Japanese War.

Until recently, the Korean city of Seoul was written in Chinese as “Hanseong. “6 00 This was a traditional writing system that had been in use for more than 6 00 years, but it has been changed in Korea to “Hanseong. I don’t like the Chinese way of applying Hanseong. and criticism grew, In 2005 We notified the Chinese government to change the name to ‘Shuji’ in ’05.”

From here, Professor Chen will explain individual cases. Can you guess which foreign place names are “Erection,” “Ai,” “Bai,” “Ice Island,” and “Jianqiao”?

The following are just a few examples of the many Chinese characters used in the names.

The Chinese character for “erection” is Bulgaria (勃牙利), which is a transliteration of the Chinese character for “erection. This is derived from the Chinese transliteration of the Chinese characters and is introduced in the “Yōgo Gengo Oto Translation Sen” mentioned earlier as “Hu” (勃). Since it is just a sound guess, it has no deep meaning.

Ai” is Irish (愛蘭土). This is also derived from the transliteration kanji.

Bai” is from Belgium (白耳義). This is also a transliteration of a Chinese character. The Japanese phonetic reading of “white” is “haku,” but this is also a transliteration of the Chinese character “haku. In Chinese, “bai” is pronounced “bai”, which is similar to the pronunciation of “Belgium” in Chinese. However, in China, where it originated, the Chinese character for Belgium is now “Hui” instead of “Bai”.

In Japan, “比” represents the Philippines (比律賓). In China, it is “菲律賓. There are many different Chinese characters for foreign place names, and which one is established differs between Japan and China, so this is how it is written. The same kanji can represent totally different countries. This is the case in Japan and China.

Ice Island” is Iceland. This is an intentional translation. In some cases, the kanji for a foreign place name is basically applied by sound, but later an easier-to-imagine translation appears, and that one takes root.

The name of “Kenkyo Bridge” is Cambridge. This is a rare type of translation, in which the sword is read phonetically and the bridge is read in English. There are many exceptions. For example, the names of foreign countries and capitals are often derived from Chinese transliterations of Chinese characters, while Japanese transliterations tend to increase for other cities and minor landmarks. The more you know, the more profound it becomes.

The more one learns, the deeper one’s understanding of the Chinese transliteration of foreign place names becomes. The more you know, the deeper you learn about the Chinese transliteration of foreign place names, and you may find a surprising story to tell.

Professor Chen Liye of Seijo University Photo by Shinji Hamazaki
  • Interview and text by Keitaro Haga PHOTO Shinji Hamasaki

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