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"J. Mark Smith" <[log in to unmask]>
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- Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 4 Dec 2004 16:15:31 -0500
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  here's an interesting comment on that same word 'qing':

"In what in English we still call Mandarin, but which since 1949, in China,
has been called 'putonghua' ('the common language,' though in fact it is a
dialect of the north), the color turquoise is known as qing lu, or 'natural-
color green," qing meaning 'natural (color)'; lu, green. Qing hai: the blue
sea; qing shan: the green mountains; qing ye: the black night. It is as if all
things have their own 'natural' color: the green of the mountains (that might,
to us, be grey, or blue), the blue of the sea (that might, also, be green),
the gloom of a car accident that is black (but might instead be that deep
almost sweet blue of certain paintings) when one is lying in the hospital,
having just come close to death. So natural green would be as good a color as
any to describe those poems [of the Tang Dynasty], most them now more than
1200 years old, but still strangely fresh, as if waiting for us to come upon
them again."

(from <Introduction to the Introduction to Wang Wei>, a book of verse homages
and imitations by Canadian poets Roo Borson, Kim Maltman, Andy Patton (Pain
Not Bread), 2000.)

  But is the word 'qing' in the original Li Po poem?

  J. Mark Smith

Quoting James McDougall <[log in to unmask]>:

> >The confusion arises because the character qing [or
> >ch'ing according to the Wade Giles phonetic system],
> >(?) especially as it is used in classical
> >Chinese does not have a ready equivalent in English. A
> >direct translations of blue into Chinese would be lan
> >? , a direct translation of green would be lu
> >? , and a direct translation of black would be
> >hei ?. Qing can be any of these colors, so all
> >the translations are correct.
> >
> >For example qingtian ?? means blue sky,
> >but qingcai ?? means green vegetables,
> >and qingwa ?? means frog (all the same
> >qing). A cliche in the language of landscapes,
> >qingshan lushui ????,
> >means "blue mountains green water," but the qing here
> >suggests instead of a topaz blue that
> >blackish-verdant color of rocks and trees. Qingnian
> >??(green years) means youth, and
> >qingchun ??(green spring) means
> >puberty/"youthful vigour,"--in Li Bo's version the
> >overtone of youthful vigor is probably implied,
> >especially because plum blossoms flower in the
> >winter/early spring, and are symbolic of beauty that
> >blossoms out of difficult conditions, likewise, alas,
> >the beauty of the Merchant wife's address.
> >
> >I'm not sure whether Pound knew all this or not, but I
> >think there is an intentionality to the "blue" which
> >is disjuntive of his audience's expectations. More
> >importantly, the connotation of qing to youth in
> >Chinese is used optimistically as a potentiality
> >through which the more mundane seasons of life can be
> >realized. In English "green" in the same context
> >negatively suggests an inexperienced hack; and I think
> >the "blue plums" are emblematic of the way that Pound
> >tightly reins in connotation to control tone and
> >subjectivity.
> >
> >JMcD
> >Graduate Assistant
> >University of Florida
> >Department of English
> >[log in to unmask]