To Move Freely, Again

I have a memory of doing this before, but apparently not for blogging. One of my current readings is Victor Mair’s 1994 translation of Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi, 莊子, 庄子), Wandering On The Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu. I have a memory also of not reading this ten years ago, and opting for David Hinton’s 1998 translation, Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chapters, possibly influenced by The Useless Tree in that decision. Hinton’s is far more poetic, and takes liberties with translation; Mair’s, regular contributor on Language Log and professor at University of Pennsylvania, is a deeply academic work, striving to make sense of multiple conflicting requirements, which results in some odd choices, like the neologism, tricent, for li, a third of a mile. Mair, though, is one of my long-term favourite writers on Chinese and East-Asian languages, so, obviously I was eventually going to read this.

There’s a passage in Hinton’s translation that I ended up using on my 404 page, which I originally wrote about after a crawl (for me) and enthusiastic spring (for Gala) up Waterfall Gully in Adelaide, ten years ago. This is the comparison I thought I’d blogged. Maybe it was in an email to someone, or notes for a work I was making at the time. Either way, I remember going on a journey down multiple translations of this passage, and comparing to the original (as in the received ‘original’), and doing my own translation. Which I repeated in an abbreviated manner writing this, because there’s nothing like staring at 2400 year old Classic Chinese on a grey Berlin Sunday.

David Hinton’s translation, Ch. II, §12, pp. 23–24:

Sufficient because sufficient. Insufficient because insufficient. Traveling the Way makes it Tao. Naming things makes them real. Why real? Real because real. Why nonreal? Nonreal because nonreal. So the real is originally there in things, and the sufficient is originally there in things. There’s nothing that is not real, and nothing that is not sufficient.

Hence, the blade of grass and the pillar, the leper and the ravishing [beauty] Hsi Shih, the noble, the snivelling, the disingenuous, the strange – in Tao they all move as one and the same. In difference is the whole, in wholeness is the broken. Once they are neither whole nor broken, all things move freely as one and the same again

Only one who has seen through things understands moving freely as one and the same. In this way, rather than relying on you own distinctions, you dwell in the ordinary. To be ordinary is to be self-reliant; to be self-reliant is to move freely; and to move freely is to arrive. That’s almost it, because to arrive is to be complete. But to be complete without understanding how – that is called Tao.

Victor Mair’s translation, Ch 2, §6, p. 16:

Affirmation lies in our affirming; denial lies in our denying. A way comes into being through our walking upon it; a thing is so because people say it is. Why are things so? They are so because we declare them to be so. Why are things not so? They are not so because we declare them to be not so. All things are possessed of that which we may say is so; all things are possessed by that which we may affirm. There is no thing that is not so; there is no thing that is not affirmable.

Thus, whether it be a tiny blade of grass, or a mighty pillar, a hideous leper or beauteous Hsi Shih, no matter how peculiar or fantastic, through the Way they all become one. To split something up is to create something else; to create something is to destroy something else; But for all things in general, there is neither creation nor destruction, for they all revert to join in Unity.

Only the perceptive understand that all things join in Unity. For this reason, they do not use things themselves but lodge in commonality. … It is all a result of their understanding the mutual dependance of “this” and “that.” To have achieved this understanding but not be conscious of why it is so is called “The Way.”

Mair deleted some passages (the ellipsis here), of which he said, “because they are spurious or because they are later commentaries and other types of interpolations that have been mistakenly incorporated into the text.”

In commonality there is use, a kind of use through joining. To join is to attain, and through suitable attainment, they are close to the Way.

And the Chinese text from James Legge translation in The Writings of Chuang Tzu, 1891:





Reading: Lydia H. Liu, Rebecca E. Karl, Dorothy Ko (Eds.) – The Birth of Chinese Feminism

This book turned up in my China feeds mid-June, though somehow I picked it up before I was in Vienna – or I’m confused in what I began reading but did not take with me there. There was an interview with Rebecca Karl on Shanghaiist, where the title was “China’s Qing Dynasty anarcho-feminists”, so obviously I was immediately interested, as well as mentions on China Rhyming and Frog in a Well – the former being a dependably good source of new reading for me and usually alone enough to make me put a book on my list. As well, Gail Hershatter, author of The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past one of the best books I’ve read in any field – has some high praise.

The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational History, edited by Lydia H. Liu, Rebecca E. Karl, and Dorothy Ko so far has made interesting reading having just finished Afsaneh Najmabadi’s Women with Mustaches and Men Without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity, the latter part of which covers approximately the same time period of early-20th century and thus a specific global period of colonialism and modernism, particularly in the parallels of feminism in both China and Iran wing formulated in no small way by male authors who locate women and their bodies within the discourse of nationalism. Without getting too involved here, being Sunday, it seems that feminism alone, without a theory or politics of intersectionality lends itself quite easily to fairly conservative ends, after all the concept of gender isn’t so far removed from that of nationalism, especially if it’s grounded in essentialism. Which perhaps is why – and what I’m rather eager to read about in this work – feminism needs some form of anarchist theory in order to expose the inherent biases that comes from working within a social and political situation built on colonialism and nationalism. Pretty much what bell hooks says, though I don’t remember her saying much about anarchism.


My third site for the month, with another finished this morning which I shall announce shortly, and another due end-of-month-ish, makes this the most keyboard-mashing few weeks I think I’ve ever had.

So, is not a place where parents hand over their young children (though there is a number of the ankle-dwellers downstairs), it’s the Kleine Internationale Theater Agentur, who translate theatre works and do sub- and surtitles for performances; vaguely the same people who are also TEATRIS and Alte-Kantine Wedding, who reside downstairs in the old Uferhallen BVG Kantine, and whom I’ve helped out for their other two websites, as well as rehearsed/performed/taught with Dasniya there.

This site we began earlier in the year, with the idea for a “very simple site” which also had a table of all the projects they’ve done and all this in several languages. Lucky I’d a) done multilingual before and b) had been messing around seriously in DataTables so I was like a child waving around a something sharp with no idea of its sliciness, but wanting to find out.

Another kind of sliciness is WordPress (“used by 17% of the interwebz!”) and its multilingual support. Lack thereof, that is. Yes, it is well-fine internationalised, and swapping between individual languages is more-or-less basic, and it does each language very well, but two at the same time? Let alone seven. For a long time there’s only been one good free plugin, qTranslate, which I used to use without fail, and despite its shortcomings is very nice, light, fits in with the simplicity of the WordPress ethos. Shortcomings though. Like breaking on every WP update, and finally earlier this year with WP3.5 rendered useable only through some long hours of patching, which ultimately threw me into the maw of WPML. Which I can now say I can make work with everything I regularly use.

KITA, then. Where to begin? I started on the bones of WordPress’ TwentyTwelve theme. Just a habit, really, because I don’t want to have to endlessly write those bones, and also because I know if something doesn’t work, it’s not one of the fundamentals where to “doesn’t work” lies. Anyway, by the time I’m finished, there isn’t much of the original left. I’ve started using CodeBox to manage all my snippets (gah! I even downloaded Git the other night) earlier in the year, and it makes getting all the basics up and running a splendidly quick process (better than hacking around in a half-remembered project looking for the bit that does that something … umm what was it? … ). Of that original theme, I kept some of the basic styling and layout, and very tasty “responsive menu”, the one that for small screens swaps into a dropdown list, which ended up being massively useful.

That was for the gallery page. Oh yes, once again, Supersized. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve used this plugin for full-screen galleries, and now that I combine it with ACF’s Gallery Add-On, (and Genericons) I’ve got this well sorted. Only problem was long menu creeping all over nice images. So I rewrote some of the code for the responsive menu, and set it to work for the gallery page no matter what size the screen, and rolled the languages menu into it also.

Anyway, all this is just a nice diversion for what KITA is really about. DataTables! I love this plugin. It’s one of those ones that reward you the more you learn it, it’s insanely powerful for pulling chunks of data and spitting it out in a table which you can then do all kinds of stuff with. And getting Advanced Custom Fields to be the base for this is such a good way to do it.

The idea is each performance KITA has translated can be seen in the table, which can be searched and sorted. They’ve done hundreds of works in the last decade, so that’s a large mass of data to deal with (and I probably should have AJAXed the table but Ajax is what you clean baths with), so I spend some time pondering how to make it easy to add new projects and from that easy to disgorge it into the table.

It ended up being that each project is a separate sub-page (basically a bucket to hold the data and not really a page you’d go and visit) of the original language project page, What we did, with all the info going into ACF custom fields, and the seasons for each project are separate repeating fields. A Date field for the final performance filters whether a project will appear under ‘Current Performances’ or only on the projects table – yes, same data, in one place formatted as a nice line of text, in the other as a row in a table – and another field to declare what the Artist column should be sorted by.

At the other side, what you see uses a couple of the DataTables plugins: Fixed Columns, and Column Visibility; and then 300 or so lines of jQuery to do the fancy stuff. Lots of little things like taking the hash from an URL and putting it in the search field, sorting the artists based on that hidden field (because obviously sorting by ‘last name’ doesn’t work when there’s three names or only one and it’s the name of the company and as many exceptions to the ‘last name’ as there are names), removing ‘the, der, die, das, la, le, les…’ from the works’ titles for reordering the columns; responsive hiding or showing of columns based on browser width’ highlighting search terms; translations of all the non-data parts of the table; and everything that appears when it loads for the first time. Yes, code-y excitement.

What else? The address info is formatted using microformats hCard and Schema, which means it can be snagged as an Address Book card right off the page, (as well as being all semantic, y’all. Getting it to validate though, hawhaw, most amusing!. Probably should not try and jam the two formats together, no?) Using webfontloader for the fonts, lettering.js to make the title look nice (released under the excellent WTFPL). And it’s responsive! (Well, it tries to be.)

So, KITA — Kleine Internationale Theater Agentur is alive.

it’s all about 冯三七 … i mean feng37 … i mean john

A couple of weeks ago, John Kennedy – also known as contemporary Chinese poetry translator Feng37 – thought that getting all the bloggers in the Chinese blogistan together for translating stuff from Chinese to English would be a good idea. Lots of other bloggers agreed, including Roland Soong of EastSouthNorthWest, who has been causing respectable news agencies much anxiety with his endless translations for a few years now.

The Open Source Translation Blogging Project/Great Hall of the Bloggers/Chinese Content is one of the coolest thing to come out of China blogging in quite a while, and many of the old bloggers who I’ve admired since before I started myself are involved, including Rebecca MacKinnon, all of whom individually constitute a profound and ongoing contribution to all things China.

As for John, he’s become my number #1! Canto-blogger since he started 在桥下流 after his old blog Feng37 expired. Still translating poetry, and now keeping a running commentary on the crime-ridden mean streets of G-town, he’s even been interviewed by 中国青年报 China Youth Daily. Waah! 牛b!

失业者 The Unemployed
周云蓬 Zhou Yunpeng

我们活在租来的房子里, We live in rented rooms,
我们活在公共汽车里, We live in public buses,
我们活在蒙着灰尘的书里, We live in dust-covered books,
我们活在电视的荧光屏里。 We live in fluorescent TV screens,
我们活在电话的号码里, We live in telephone numbers,
我们活在商店的橱窗里, We live in shop windows,
我们活在制造幸福的车间里, We live in fortune-making auto plants,
我们活在蜗牛的储蓄盒里。 We live in deposit boxes the size of snails.
一旦有一天看到了蓝天, One day soon we’ll see the blue sky,
我们就成了无助的失业者, And we’ll become helplessly unemployed,
一旦有一天嗅到了春天, One day soon we’ll smell spring,
我们就成了陌生的局外人。 And become strangers outside the system.

我们不属于工人阶级, We don’t belong to the working class,
我们也不是农民兄弟, And we’re not peasant buddies,
我们不是公务员老师知识分子, We’re not civil servants, teachers or intellectuals,
我们不是老板职员中产阶级。 We’re not bosses’ assistants or even middle class.
因为我们看到过蓝天, Because we’ve seen the blue sky,
我们就成了无助的失业者, We’ve become the hopelessly unemployed,
因为我们嗅到过春天, Because we’ve smelled spring,
我们就成了陌生的局外人。 We’ve become strangers outside the system.

— 在桥下流 – John Kennedy

translate this: 行愿

I was at the 广州美术学院 and spent the afternoon with 林若熹 a professor at the Academy who is preparing a large solo exhibition in Beijing shortly. He asked me what would be an appropriate translation of the exhibition imprint’s title, 行愿, xing being ‘to walk, travel, to go’, and yuan being ‘desire, wish’. Also within this he said is the Taoist idea of a journey.

Not being much of a translator, I’m loathe to misconstrue the meaning, and also the literal translation is very open to some rather hideous new-age English language torture. So if anyone would like to have offer some suggestions, please email me.

化境神似 from zhwj

I can’t remember what I was reading which had the link to this, but after being stunned by In the Footsteps of Joseph Rock, I wandered straight on into Chinese Science-Fiction zhwj’s blog, 化境神似. Which I’m not even going to attempt to translate. Which is fine because zhwj does a great job in explaining both the meaning and context of this in About this blog’s name.

Along with his stories of travelling to America to study in Journey to the West, zhwj has translations and commentary on the remarkable Q版语文 Q Reader by 林长治 Lin Changzhi,”An outstanding textbook for key national kindergartens, and recommended reading material for mental institutions around the globe.”

Continuing the textbook pretense, each chapter ends with a question section including:

multiple-choice comprehension questions for which the answers are all non-sequiturs. Like many web bios, that for Huffing Wolf in The Three Little Pigs lists his QQ number. The question is: “What does Huffing Wolf use his QQ number for? (A) to troll for chicks, (B) trick small animals into coming outside and then eating them, (C) contact the writer for convenient contracting of articles (D), spread rumors on the internet.”

thought questions “If you were a cute, delicate little pig and your mother kicked you out, how would go about getting a house?”

activities “Practical Exercise: With your parent’s assistance, construct a pigpen on your balcony and raise cats inside. Observe the cats’ reaction,” and “Doodle Question: In the body of the pig below, write the name of your enemy. Find some pins and stick them in.”


I thought that like when I was doing XML for Flash, I could just write the Chinese characters in a text-editor, copy-paste into a new entry and everything would be fine. Nope.

So I checked out a bunch of blogs with both Chinese and english, and saw all the stuff that looked like “19981;”, and then spent a whole day working out what it was (unicode) what that format – decimal unicode – was called: H4, and how it differed from hex unicode.

Anyway, after writing in Chinese, finding the unicode number, doing it all by hand, I found UnicodeChecker. It’s like finding you don’t have to spend 2 hours travelling to work every day because there’s a tunnel in your room that takes you all the way there in an instant. Just type it in in Chinese – or any other language, click a button and it’s all converted. Then just copy + paste.

UnicodeChecker, my hero.