Tuesday, January 10, 2012

章甫を資して越に適く。(proverb: selling Yin caps in Vietnam?)

One more little bit of interest about fumizome: when I tried to google the word in kana, Google suggested replacing ふみはじめ with 章甫を資して越に適く, a string that I admit I don't understand at all. This Japanese proverb site gives it in kana: しょうほをししてえつにゆく (shouho o shishite, etsu ni yuku)—so, presumably it's a proverb. The site explains thusly:
douri ni hazurete, koui ya kentou-chigai na koto o suru.
to act in a way that's mistaken or untrue / not sensible.

tatoeba, aru tokoro de ha hitsuyou na mono de mo,
tokoro ni yotte ha fuhitsuyou to sareru tatoe de.
e.g., a thing that's useful in one place may not be thought so in another.

teido no hikui mono ni ha koujou na koto ha
rikai dekinai koto no tatoe ni mo iu.
Also said of not understanding the difference between refined and worthless things. (Or, depending on "mono"—because it's followed by "koto"—that people who are low in degree don't understand refined things.)

Shouho no kanmuri (kanburi, kan?) o urou to shite,
kan (etc.) nado kaburanai etsu no kuni ni iku (yuku) imi kara.
From the sense of going to Vietnam (the country across), where they don't wear caps and such, to try to sell shouho caps.

"shouho", indai no kanburi no mei (na?).
"Shouho" was a kind of cap/hat in the Yin (Shang) Dynasty.
This kind of thing makes me despair of ever really understanding Japanese! I still don't understand 資す (taking part in?—maybe "offering") in this context, but I think I kinda-sorta get the sense of it. Like our idea of "selling ice to an Eskimo"—don't even bother!

That ”kan/kanmuri/kanburi" can also be a crown or coronet, as in the kanmuri kanji radicals, and seems also to carry a sense of rank; makes me wonder about the nature of this "cap": if "etsu" really is Vietnam—or whatever "other" nation—was there a sense among the people who originated the proverb that shouho were beautiful/refined/noble things that would be wasted on those other people? Like our "casting pearls before swine"? This image from a Chinese site purports to be shouho; it doesn't look so very impressive, especially when compared to other styles (such a those on this page, which mentions shouho in category 8, which is nothing like the image above, and seems not to include it in any of the images).

It really is amazing to think that if this really is a Yin/Shang-era proverb, the it dates to the second millennium BCE. Maybe I can ask about it on a forum on ancient Chinese headdresses. When I have less work to do.

Or, maybe nothing I've said above is anywhere near the true interpretation of "shouho o shishite, etsu ni yuku". 道理に外れたかもしれませんが、しょうが無いでしょうね。

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