Yellow Crane Pavilion of Wuhan, Hubei

In May this year I went to Wuhan, Hubei to visit a client. I took the opportunity to visit the famous Yellow Crane Pavilion (黄鹤楼 pinyin: Huáng Hè Lóu), which is a structure of about 7 storeys built on a slightly elevated land at the bank of the famous Yangtze River. The history of the pavilion dated back to the Three Kingdoms period (220-280). When I stepped onto the terrace on the top floor of the pavilion, I had a fine view of the Yangtze River and the entire city of Wuhan. I was overwhelmed with emotion and proud of the greatness of the history of China.

The building is said to be named after a fairy tale that a fairy once passed here riding on a yellow crane. The building is regarded as one of the three most famous ancient terraces in China. There were many poems using this pavilion as the subject and below are the two most famous ones (sources of the two poems: Wikipedia)

Poem by Cui Hao
Yellow Crane Tower was made famous by an 8th century poem written by Cui Hao called “Yellow Crane Tower” (黄鹤楼). The original text of the poem is shown below:

昔人已乘黄鹤去,此地空余黄鹤楼。
黄鹤一去不复返,白云千载空悠悠。
晴川历历汉阳树,芳草萋萋鹦鹉洲。
日暮乡关何处是? 烟波江上使人愁。

A modern English translation of the poem may follow as such:

Long ago a man rode off on a yellow crane, all that remains here is Yellow Crane Tower.
Once the yellow crane left it never returned, for one thousand years the clouds wandered without care.
The clear river reflects each Hangyang tree, fragrant grasses lushly grow on Parrot Island.
At sunset, which direction lies my home town? The mist covered river causes one to feel distressed.

Poem by Li Bai

There is another famous poem about it by Li Bai called “Seeing off of Meng Haoran for Guangling at Yellow Crane Tower” (黄鹤楼送孟浩然之广陵). The original poem is shown below:

故人西辞黄鹤楼,
烟花三月下扬州。
孤帆远影碧空尽,
唯见长江天际流

A modern English translation of the poem may follow as such:

My old friend’s said goodbye to the west, here at Yellow Crane Tower,
In the third month’s cloud of willow blossoms, he’s going down to Yangzhou.
The lonely sail is a distant shadow, on the edge of a blue emptiness,
All I see is the Yangtze River flow to the far horizon.

My dear friends, please make a translation of the two poems. You may post it at “the comments” or send to me at bzin88@gmail.com
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The speaking of plums quenches one’s thirst 望梅止渴

By popular demands “The Chinese Metaphors” returns. The subject of this post is shown in the title. However, one should note that the literal translation of 望梅止渴 (wàngméizhǐkě) should be “The sight of plums quenches thirst”. It is a direct Chinese metaphor which the author borrowed an object to convey a meaning as opposed to an insinuating metaphor whereby the author borrowed an indirect object to convey a message to the hearer without offending him.

Background

During  the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), a general, Cao Cao 曹操,  was leading his troop of soldiers across a desert under the scorching sun.  The soldiers. were moving very slowly. even though they were close to the destination, due to the running out of body water and strength. Cao Cao tried all means to 0rder the soldiers to expedite, but to avail.  As a last resort Cao Cao claimed that there was a plum forest ahead of them and the sweet and sour plums would relieve their thirst.  When the soldiers heard that, saliva came up to their mouths and their thirsts were said to have cured.

Meaning

The are some scientific bases in this metaphor. It is likely that the presence of a pickled plum will bring saliva to one’s month. As to whether it would quench a thirst that is besides the issue. However, this metaphor, if effectively used, is a good icebreaker line, and will help you make a lot of sales and friends.

Examples

  1. If you can’t buy your son a Ferrari, buy him a model.
  2. In a sales competition, when your team members run out of steam, as a humor, you showed them a picture of a bonus check and say this metaphor. This would on the one hand relax them and on the other hand get them back on track.
  3. When your wife  goes on  a trip for a long period of time, you tell her that you are looking at her picture to quench your thirst. She will love you more.

Rebuttal to the Chinese Mayans connection

I refer to the article of my good friend, Jose Antonio, on the possible Chinese Mexicans (Mayans) connection (see the preceding post).  However, I came across an article written in English appearing in a China magazine, which said there is another group of Chinese scholars who does not subscribe to such connection. It said as follows:

Professor Xu Shicheng is one of that group. An expert in Latin American studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, he is also the vice president of the Chinese Association for Latin American Studies. He says the two groups of scholars not only exist in China, but worldwide. One group cannot convince the other of its arguments.


Xu Shicheng has been to several central American countries to visit Maya ruins. He says that the evidence of the Chinese connection is far from convincing.


“Take the language for example. Deciphered Maya hieroglyphs are just a tiny proportion of the whole. Much of its highly complex systems of writing were recorded in books made from bark paper. Because of their perishable nature and book-burning by Spanish invaders, only four books remain today. The Maya hieroglyphs still remain as a great mystery. Therefore, study based on the deciphered ones is not convincing enough.”

Xu Shicheng admits there are similarities between the cultural relics of the two civilizations. But he prefers to explain it as coincidence, saying that such similarities could also be found between Chinese civilization and other ancient civilizations. He points out that differences between the two civilizations far outnumber the similarities. For instance, Maya’s main form of architecture was stone pyramid temples, while in China, it was wooden palaces; Maya’s primary crop was corn which resulted in their worship of the God of Corn, but the major crop in ancient China was rice. What’s more, the Mayans didn’t know how to make metal tools, how to raise livestock, and how to make wheels, which were mastered by ancient Chinese.

Xu Shicheng points out that Maya and Chinese are two independent civilizations, which don’t share the same origins. “I believe that Maya civilization was built on the inherited inventions and ideas of earlier civilizations in central America such as the Olmec. And Maya people are not gone, since there are still some two million descendants of Maya living in Mexico.

Professor Xu Shicheng points out that some people even say the Mayans were extraterrestrial beings, which is sheer fabrication. But he says there are still many mysteries of Maya, which are beyond people’s imagination. For example, why did it disappear all of a sudden while there were no signs of famine, plague or war? Without metal tools and animal-drawn vehicles, how was it possible to quarry huge slabs in distant mountains and transport them for the construction of magnificent temples? How to reconcile such astonishing cultural achievements as a calendar that could work for 6000 years without error, complex computations in terms of billions, and an exquisite system of hieroglyphs with productivity represented by slash-and-burn farming? What secrets are the statues with their stern expressions and the esoteric language inscribed on the tablets supposed to tell?

Professor Xu Shicheng hopes more people will begin to research the answers to these mysteries.

I would appreciate it if any of my friends could translate the above passage into Spanish for the benefit of my Spanish-only readers, of whom my friend Jose Antonio is one of them.