Translation of asian writing
February 17, 2010 2:54 PM   Subscribe

I have an oriental screen someone gave to me and would like to know the meaning of the inscriptions. Is there anyone who could translate the writing for me, there is a picture of the inscriptions on the following link.
posted by jonesyj to Writing & Language (3 answers total)
It reads 平湖漫舟 (ping2 hu2 man4 zhou1). A word for word translation would be: flat lake relaxed boat. It's not an idiom or phrase that I recognise, and a quick google doesn't turn up anything useful either. Interestingly, the third word also has the meaning of "flooded", but I doubt that's the appropriate interpretation in this context.
posted by hellopanda at 4:51 PM on February 17, 2010

The other three characters under the seal are a date in the traditional sexagenary cycle: 年; the most recent jiǎxū year was 1994-95 (i.e. after Chinese New Year 1994 until same year following) and before that 1934-5. I presume it's the more recent date.
My first guess at the meaning of main four-character phrase that hellopanda has correctly identified was 'A leisurely boat trip on Ping Lake', making the assumption that the characters 平湖 referred to the place in Zhejiang in the Yangtse delta. Looking that up though seems that while it's a beauty spot the best known lake there is called Donghu as in East Lake, so maybe it's a more generic 'A leisurely boat trip on a still lake' - 漫 can be lazy, easy, at ease etc (漫步 'leisurely pacing' means 'to stroll') and the sense could even be of lazy drifting like some poet of old, and if you Google the combination 漫舟 you get various contexts of similar or pleasure trips by boat etc.
So, just to dredge the salient details out of the above ramble, my version:

'A leisurely boat trip on a still lake,' calligraphy dated 1994, though possibly referring to a specific body of water called Ping Lake.
posted by Abiezer at 8:54 PM on February 17, 2010

I should add that obviously it might be the case that the whole phrase is intended to express metaphorically some larger abstract idea like wishing the recipient easy and pleasant sailing through life with no stormy waters or adverse currents - though things being what they are, might be a souvenir of an actual boat trip too.
posted by Abiezer at 9:01 PM on February 17, 2010

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