[KS] Choson, The land of the morning calm... really?

will pore willpore at gmail.com
Mon Jun 18 10:48:01 EDT 2007

For China, there's also "Celestial Empire" (i.e. Tian Guo).

Will Pore
History Department
Temple University

On 6/18/07, Ruediger Frank <ruediger.frank at univie.ac.at> wrote:
> Dear list,
> I think Gari is touching upon a truly important issue in what might have been meant to be only the introductory paragraph for the more scholarly part of his posting. I quote:
> > Why is it that Korea got stuck
> > with these "poetic sobriquets" (as they've been described)?
> > I can't think of any phrases this bad that have been pinned on China
> > or Japan.
> Indeed. My guess is that relatively many visitors deemed it appropriate to describe Korea with one sentence or less, while fewer have dared so in the case of China or Japan, countries they probably regarded as more complex. If correct, this would be a truly disturbing observation. In other words: Land of The Morning Calm and especially the prominence this phrase has reached might not primarily be an expression of insufficient linguistic knowledge, but more a sad proof of ignorance towards Korea.
> What would be comparably established stereotypical descriptions of China and Japan? Middle Kingdom? Land of the Rising Sun? Any other?
> Best wishes,
> Ruediger
> >    Mark is probably right that it was originally a Chinese phonetic
> > transcription of some native name used among the eastern peoples in
> > the Korean neighborhood. It appeared in Chinese books long before
> > Korean books existed, probably the 4th century BCE (depending on
> > when one dates the first appearance in Chinese literature of the
> > Kija/Choson story). The problem is that no one has any idea what
> > kind of a name it was intended to represent.
> >    Kirk is right to observe that the reading given to the phrase in
> > Chinese, i.e. Chao2-xian1 (numerals indicating Mandarin tones), does
> > not have any direct connection with "morning," because in the
> > Chinese reading that sense is represented by the pronunciation
> > zhao1. But while it's true that chao2 is the reading in the sense
> > of "court," that was not the primary meaning of the graph according
> > to Chinese classical etymologists and lexicographers. They rather
> > considered it to be the original written form of the word for
> > "tide," specifically "morning tide," now written using the same
> > character but with the "water" classifier affixed on the left side.
> >    In the sense of "tide" or "court" the graph is believed to have
> > been pronounced in pre-Han times (pre-2nd century BCE) something
> like *dhyog (>>chao2), with a voiced, aspirated, dental occlusive
> > initial (it's not possible in email formats to use the proper
> > diacritics, which is why I say "approximately"). In the sense of
> > "morning" it was pronounced approximately *tyog (>zhao1,a
> > voiceless, unaspirated, dental occlusive initial.
> >    As for graph -xian1, the second syllable of Chaoxian, it does not
> > mean "calm" at all. Its pre-Han pronunciation has been reconstructed
> > as approximately *syan, having no connection whatever to anything
> > involving calm or calmness. As the graph itself (a combination of
> > graphs for "fish" and "sheep") suggests, it is originally defined
> > as fresh (or new) fish or meat for eating. That is the primary
> > definition given in good, classically based dictionaries.
> >    Considering the compound form Chaoxian (Dhyogsyan), if it had
> > been intended to mean anything, the closest we could get would be
> > "tidal freshness," but given the food-based, savory etymology, that
> > would have probably been seen as a hopelessly mixed metaphor. In
> > fact it is risky to try to translate it at all, and if it was
> > indeed intended to be a phonetic transcription of some native name
> > heard in the vicinity of the Korean peninsula, as most scholars
> > believe, than it would be self-defeating to attempt to translate it
> > at all.
> >    Many late 19th-century Westerners, in particular British and
> > American ones, often manifested a tendency to exoticize the east.
> > They would go to a dictionary like Mathews' Chinese-English one,
> > look up his definitions, and create some quaint, exotic phrase. Few
> > if any of them had any idea how to look up and confirm etymologies
> > of ancient Chinese graphs, much less recognize a tone or a
> > voiced/voiceless distinction. "Morning Calm" and "Hermit Kingdom"
> > are cases in point. It was just orientalist mischief, and rather
> > than trying to translate their inventions, we should really be
> > trying to weed them out of our discourse. But as I already said,
> > that project is probably hopeless.
> > Gari Ledyard
> > Quoting "Ernie ." <recanto at hotmail.com>:
> >> Dear list members, I just hope this subject has not appear
> >> before, but would
> >> you agree with the translation of Cho-son as "The land of the
> >> morning
> >> calm?", which have been fully accepted since Lowell wrote his
> >> famous book in
> >> late 1880's? I lack the knowledge on Chinese language to explain
> >> these two
> >> characters which form the world Cho-son, but what about changing
> >> 'CALM' for
> >> 'RADIANCE' or 'FRESHNESS', or even 'PURITY' as I've some times
> >> read?
> >> Thanks and regards.
> >> Ernesto, from Madrid
> >> _________________________________________________________________
> >> Dale rienda suelta a tu tiempo libre. Mil ideas para exprimir tu
> >> ocio con
> >> MSN Entretenimiento. http://entretenimiento.msn.es/

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