August 31, 2010

Let's Yoji: Scholars and Wars

They say the pen is mightier than the sword, but I say them's fighting words! In this post, I'll cover 3 slightly related four character Japanese compounds that I found interesting which all came from war and philosophy-torn ancient China.

The first is 諸子百家. Let's break it down!
諸子百家 Breakdown:
諸 sho: many, various, all
子 shi: founder of a branch of philosophical thought (as seen in Koushi, Confucius)
諸子: Chinese sages and philosophers
百 hyak: 100
家 ka: ~er person
百家: many scholars
shoshihyakka gloss: The Hundred Schools of Thought

A list I've semi-translated below from yahoo dic says schools that participated in the great philosophy explosion that was this event included Confucianists(ConfuciousMencius), Taoists(Lao-tzu荘子), Mohismists(Mozi), Legalists(管仲商鞅(しょうおう)), Logicians(公孫竜)War Philosophers,(Sun Tzu呉子Diplomatists蘇秦(そしん)張儀), Ying-yangists, Complicatedists, farmwithinyourmeansists, and gossip/tale gatherers (there was actual office in ancient China for gossip gathering).

Okay, that doesn't work very well as a traditional idiomatic yojijukugo, but it helps one to understand 百家争鳴
百家争鳴 breakdown:
争 sou: dispute
鳴 mei: sound off
hyakkasoumei gloss: Many opinions freely being exchanged
Now, it's not so common but I did find it in an article post:
iPhone 4のRetinaをめぐり百家争鳴!誇大広告なの?
=Is the iPhone 4's Retina [display] being falsely advertised? The pundits are sounding off!

Anyways, this yoji comes out of the Hundred Schools of thought period and the wealth of different opinions that were floating around back then. Interestingly, the Chinese government used it in 1956 along with the phrase "Let a hundred flowers bloom" (Chinese:百花運動 Japanese:百花斉放) to encourage debate in the political arena. Some people think it was just to find political dissidents. Mao started it and then shut the sumbich down when people actually used their freedom of speech that he had so graciously given them. We'll talk a little more about a tyrannical ruler with the next yoji, 酒池肉林, below!
酒池肉林 breakdown:
酒 shu: libations
池 chi: pond
肉 niku: meat
林 rin: woods
shuchinikurin gloss: A banquet with rivers of beer and mountains of food, a decadent feast

This one is also from China, and had a debaucherous context. See ol' king Zhou of Shag (posthumously named King Crupper) liked to line his pool (池) with alcohol and canoe around in it while plucking meat from shish kebab trees (林) . Sometimes he watched his enemies fried alive to work up an appetite for a good orgy. He's known as the worst king that China ever had. I encountered him in a game I play called Dynasty Warriors and he utters his famous yoji every time you successfully and satisfyingly kill him.

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