Hebrew & Chinese translations?
January 17, 2011 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Translations please, please! Hebrew and Chinese (?)

I have a ceramic tile with a Hebrew inscription and a silk print with Chinese characters (I think--it could be Japanese; I'm not sure). Hebrew is here; Chinese is here. (I hope the quality is good enough on this one.)

Thanks so much to anyone who can tell me what these say!
posted by torticat to Writing & Language (14 answers total)
Best answer: The Hebrew is verse 5 of Psalm 137, which roughly translates to "If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand wither".
posted by likedoomsday at 1:48 PM on January 17, 2011

Best answer: Sorry I'm not so good at reading calligraphy and can only confirm the first 4 Chinese characters right now. 柳眼花鬚 literally translates to "willow eye flower beard," but it's used to describe willows budding and flowers blooming (the "beard" part refers to the pistils) in spring time.
posted by bread-eater at 1:49 PM on January 17, 2011

Response by poster: Ah, thank you, likedoomsday. Do you know what significance that would have? Is it just an expression of love for the homeland?
posted by torticat at 1:54 PM on January 17, 2011

It's a psalm written about the exile in Babylon following the destruction of the First Temple, usually attributed to Jeremiah. So yes, but written from the point of view of someone who has been exiled from it.
posted by likedoomsday at 1:58 PM on January 17, 2011

Best answer: The hebrew verse is very well known: it appears often in both religious and zionist songs, poetry, as well as traditional liturgy & prayers.
posted by milestogo at 1:58 PM on January 17, 2011

The wikipedia article on the psalm provides some context and well-known references.
posted by milestogo at 2:00 PM on January 17, 2011

The wikipedia article mentions it, but Psalm 37 was famously set to music in the song "Rivers of Babylon". The most well-known version is probably by Boney M, but the Melodians, the Skatalites and Sublime have all recorded or performed the song.
posted by lemonwheel at 3:09 PM on January 17, 2011

Er, 137, not 37.
posted by lemonwheel at 3:11 PM on January 17, 2011

Best answer: It's chinese - the first four characters are 柳眼花鬢 (literally 'willow eyes, flower locks') which is a poetic metaphor comparing flowers/willow to a woman's beauty.
The second part is the name of the artist and place where this was drawn - couldn't really make out the second character of the name but it should be something like 紫宵(??)寫於東亭 ([by] Zi Xiao written in Eastern pagoda)
Characters are slightly older-feeling versions of Traditional Chinese.
posted by monocot at 3:41 PM on January 17, 2011

(Ah, bread-eater above should be correct about the meaning. I was just going on ignorant native speaker instinct...)
posted by monocot at 3:43 PM on January 17, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks much, all, for the interesting & helpful info!

About the Hebrew: is it particularly Zionist in connotation, or more generally used (I get the latter impression from milestogo's comment). Just curious.

monocot, your metaphor makes sense as the drawing is of two women sitting under a willow.
posted by torticat at 5:35 PM on January 17, 2011

It could be interpreted as being particularly Zionist but it was written way before there was Zionism. It is a mourning passage. A people has been exiled from their home. It is essentially an early version of "Never Forget" (referring to the Shoah).
posted by Sophie1 at 7:10 AM on January 18, 2011

Best answer: The Hebrew inscription is for fulfilling the requirement of leaving an area of your home "zekher la-hurban", which means: a reminder of the destruction [of the Temple]. Legally, in Jewish law, there is a requirement to leave an area of one-handbreadth by one-handbreadth un-plastered when finishing a new home. It's part of a set of similar observances, all having to do with not letting the happiest times of life completely overshadow the consciousness of being in-exile and being incomplete. One of the other practices is breaking a glass (supposed to be sad) when getting married. The destruction of the Temple in 70 AD left Jews without the ability to fulfill the requirements of the Torah having to do with pilgrimage to the Temple and the offering of sacrifices there; it marked the withdrawal of God's presence from there and from the world (in some sense); and it was the beginning of a long period of suffering. In the consciousness/mythology of traditional Judaism, this state still obtains and will be rectified only with the coming of the Messianic Era.
posted by Paquda at 7:43 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I was trying to understand why that particular verse would have been pulled out and put on a decorative tile; you explained that perfectly, Paquda.

Again, thanks all.
posted by torticat at 9:43 AM on January 18, 2011

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