What does this shirt say, and is it in Japanese, Chinese or Korean?
May 13, 2004 2:24 PM   Subscribe

Japanese/Chinese/Korean T-shirt question.

I was given this shirt about a year ago and told it meant "In the snow, the fragrence of winter palm blossoms reaches my nose." But I have a couple other questions:

1. What's a more precise translation -- as in, what do each of the symbols, specifically, mean (no coddling necessary; I'm a linguistics minor)?

2. What kind of poem is it -- what meter, etc.?

3. Who's it by?

and last, but not least

4. What language is it in (Chinese, right?)
posted by Tlogmer to Writing & Language (19 answers total)
I read Japanese but I can't read any of the characters. The whole thing looks like a lot of meaningless scribbles.
posted by dydecker at 3:35 PM on May 13, 2004

looks korean...
posted by lotsofno at 3:50 PM on May 13, 2004

looks korean...

No it doesn't.

I can tell you that the stamped characters on the left are in a form typical of Japanese hanko (the blockiness does make them look a bit like Korean script, which might be what lotsofno is thinking). I don't know what an artist's signature would look like in Chinese calligraphy, though, so this fact may not be too helpful...
posted by mr_roboto at 5:22 PM on May 13, 2004

Looks cursive Chinese to me (not that I can read it).
posted by Utilitaritron at 5:24 PM on May 13, 2004

I second the cursive Chinese. Can't read it, but I think the first character is ? (yuki in Japanese; I'm not sure what the Chinese reading is; means snow).
posted by Jeanne at 5:44 PM on May 13, 2004

Looks like the encoding didn't come through. I meant this kanji.
posted by Jeanne at 5:45 PM on May 13, 2004

I was thinking the characters on the second line could be kentou (winter). And I think I can maybe make out some hiragana (maybe a so and a ro) in the last line. I can't really read Japanese, though, especially not calligraphy. The translation that Tlogmer has certainly could indicate a haiku, given the length and the seasonal subject matter.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:04 PM on May 13, 2004

One of the characters in the guy's name is this; still can't make anything else out.
posted by Jeanne at 7:19 PM on May 13, 2004

Third the Chinese - the first two characters would be xue (snow) and li (inside; preposition). The third line looks like pu (to rush) and bi (nose). The rest looks like a drunk ant doing the electric slide.
posted by casarkos at 8:07 PM on May 13, 2004

Not Korean.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:27 PM on May 13, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, all. I'm a bit surprised no chinese script experts have stopped by, but I suppose they're kind of rare. (I do remember one in elemenary school Multicultural Day who wrote my name 3 completely different ways, all of which looked amazingly cool. Maybe I should track her down.)
posted by Tlogmer at 1:26 AM on May 14, 2004

A plausible candidate (for the first three lines, at least...)

The first line of #22, from here.

(someone who can actually read Chinese might be able to say more about that. Unless I'm completely wrong, which I may be.)

Now I'm thinking that the last line sort of looks like Japanese. I took some classes on Japanese script, but it still just looks like drunken monkey writing to me. The last bit is possibly "...keri," which is a classical Japanese verb ending.
posted by Jeanne at 5:25 AM on May 14, 2004

I think Jeanne's pick is at least partly correct--the first three characters of that line do look right, but the rest don't quite match up. I can't exactly read the T-shirt, but I can kind of match like with like. So I think the text is Chinese (searching Google on the first three brings up only Chinese-language sites), but I also think the calligraphy might be Japanese (this would not be uncommon). The style is sosho, meaning very cursive and abbreviated, and hard for someone (like me) who doesn't quite know the rules for collapsing many strokes into one.

The red parts are, as Mr Roboto says, hanko; these fill the role of signatures, and could represent the author, artist (more likely) or owner of the print. These are in stylized, ancient kanji forms, and I can only make out a few individual characters there--not enough to be helpful.
posted by adamrice at 8:00 AM on May 14, 2004

The third line (counting from the right) has two characters, which could be "baika," plum blossom ( exactly "ume" which is sort of plum-apricot deal plus "hana" for flower), which makes sense because it blooms in winter, so you may have had some miscommunication on palm vs. plum (winter palm blossoms?). The translation you have may otherwise be right, considering those seem to be hiragana in the last line.
posted by planetkyoto at 8:40 AM on May 14, 2004

Ms. Mari Kano has some lovely pictures of ume blossoms, and if you set your browser character encoding to Shift-J you will see the characters for baika in several of the photo cutlines, starting with the first two characters on the top right picture.
posted by planetkyoto at 8:57 AM on May 14, 2004

Sorry, that's hana as in nose. My wishful thinking was solving it. Too late here.
posted by planetkyoto at 9:04 AM on May 14, 2004

I copied the text from Jeanne's link and ran it through Babelfish (Chinese-trad->English) and it began: "In the snow the plum blossom greets the nostrils the fragrance."
posted by hashashin at 10:20 PM on May 14, 2004

Response by poster: Awesome. Thanks
posted by Tlogmer at 1:18 AM on May 16, 2004

Response by poster: I have just been informed that the poem in question is in grass script. (I also just realized the lines are read right-to-left, which makes everything make more sense. I'll be messaging a chinese script semi-expert a friend of mine knows tomorrow.)
posted by Tlogmer at 1:59 AM on May 16, 2004

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