Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Shakespeare in Chinese

I highly recommend the current exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library entitled "Imagining China: The View from Europe, 1550-1700" (it explores relationships between Early Modern Europe and China - including a fascinating collection of maps, letters, documents, and other artifacts).

Today I noticed some new "family guides" for the exhibition. The "Learn Chinese!" flyer (left, above) invites readers to pronounce Chinese characters, including the standard phonetic transcription of the name "Shakespeare" (莎士比亞 shā shì bǐ yà).

I'm glad to see the Chinese text has been carefully prepared, but I must admit some indication of the proper tones in the phonetic transcriptions would have been welcome (especially if this flyer is inviting readers to "sound out" the words).

Curiously, the red box with caption "One China, Many Names" (right, above) resonates with contemporary geopolitics. Both mainland China and the Republic of China (aka Taiwan) officially claim that there is only "one China" (中国 Zhōng guó, in Mandarin; 中國 Tiong-kok in Taiwanese) - but arriving at a shared definition of "one China" is a difficult matter.

P.S. It just occurred to me that the final syllable of the transliteration for the name "Shakespeare" (亞 yà) also happens to appear in 亞 洲 yà zhōu ("Asia").

P.P.S. For a related post, see this later entry.

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