一分錢, 一分貨 jat1 fan1 cin4, jat1 fan1 fo3
You get what you pay for.
Category Archives: China
一分錢, 一分貨 jat1 fan1 cin4, jat1 fan1 fo3
I own a couple of mobile phones. Two of which have a local Hong Kong SIM card in them — others are just for testing, I just use WiFi on them, but I digress. That’s not the point. I don’t have a house phone, however. Or an office phone. Which seems to annoy, for some reason, people who think they have to have a landline number for me. Like banks, the government, and others, intent on emptying my bank account. Sorry folks, I can only be reached, if at all, through one of my mobile phones.
It just so happens that one of the phones I own, with a SIM card in it, is not really a phone. At least, I don’t see it as a phone. Hello Magritte. Ceci n’est pas un téléphone. This is a 3G-enabled micro tablet. No mi amor, sorry ah, gomen ne, not a phone. I know, it has a phone number, and technically, this number could be called. And is, by plenty of people I never heard of. Except. This old Nexus S has a nifty application called Firewall, and it is set on “Block All Calls”. Yup, all. Plus, the dial icon is hidden. As I said, not a phone. A micro tablet. Yupskies.
Now, on the subject of calling, and expecting me to answer. MWAHAHAHA! Really. Apparently my phone numbers (including the one that I never pick up because Firewall just hangs up on them) have been sold multiple times by everybody and Mrs Chan, their mother. And they’ve been sold to everybody and Mrs Lee, their Auntie. Apparently. And they think they have a right to peddle their crap to me, through calls and SMS.
The problem is compounded by the fact that I have a phone with THREE phone numbers in the SIM card: HK, China, Macau. The Macau number has not been sold to anyone apparently, for I never get any phones calls from Macau — just the usual avalanche of Casino-related SMS every time I arrive in this cesspool of gambling and prostitution. But I digress, again. On the other hand, I get a bazillion of phone calls on the HK number, and calls + SMS on the Chinese number.
Some of the Chinese SMS are hilarious: love letters from “my wife” (they call me 老公, so that’s my wives, right?); people giving me their (updated) bank account so that I don’t forget to send them the money I apparently owe them (I always feel like sending them a goatsee pic entitled “receipt.pdf” but so far I managed not to…); announcements for various exhibitions and events.
I picked up a couple of calls from China, just for kicks, but they weren’t much fun. No spweekee Engriss. And most of the time 唔識講白話 either. So now phone calls from Big6 are treated like other calls:
- Unknown Number: nofanks.
- Number not in my (very large) address book: nofanks.
- Number in my address book: depends. Maybe, maybe not. Probably not, though.
Also, my phone doesn’t ring. Yeah, the one that actually accepts calls. It doesn’t vibrate either. It’s set on silent. Permanently. When I get a phone call — assuming I haven’t turned the network off and just kept WiFi on of course… — the screen display the call and info, and that’s it. No ringee. No vibree. Terima kasih.
Of course, since I spend a large fraction of my time on the phone — mostly emails and chat applications though — I miss (involuntarily) very few calls. And the ones I do miss, so what? They can call again — they’ll have to, as I don’t have voicemail, despite the fact that some people think I do: they heard some Chinese and a beep. Well, learn yerself some Chinese, buddy, for that message was not a voicemail announcement: it was telling you that I am not unavailable, and to try again later. Woopsies.
駟 Cantonese: si3. “Team of four horses”.
(Yeah, the dude next to me is reading 賽馬 rags…)
宮室築成以後, 董桌強選民間少女八百多人, 充作宮娥彩女. 至於從民間搜刮來的財物更是不其數, 僅囤積的糧食, 便足夠食用二十年.
成 sing4, seng4, cing4. finished.
When the palace was finished,
選 syun2. to choose, select.
民 man4. People, citizen.
間 gaaan1. space, interval.
少 siu3/2. Few, less.
女 neoi5. girl
–> young girl
八 baat3. 8
人 jan4. Man. Person
–> 800+ girls
Dong Zhuo selected (forcibly) eight hundred young girls or more
充 cung1. to fill, full, supply
作 zok3. to make, work, perform.
–> supplied to work as
娥 ngo4. beautiful. good
彩 coi2. colour(ful).
–> 彩女 (lower-rank) maids in the palace.
And sent them to work as maids in the palace.
至 zi3. to reach, arrive
於 wu1, jyu1. in at oon.
從 zung6/cung4/sung1. from, by, since, whence, through
–> as for
搜 sau2/1. search, seek; investigate
刮 gwaat3. shave, pare off, scrape
–> plundered, seized
來 loi4/6, lai4. to come, return.
財 coi3. valuables, riches, possessions.
物 mat6 thing, substance, creature.
更 ga(a)ng1. ang1. further, more.
是 si6. this. yes.
其 kei4. that, his/her/its.
數 sou3/2, sok3. number, several.
As for the property/resources seized from the public/civilians, they were innumerable.
僅 gan2/6. Only, merely, just.
囤 tyun4, deon6. grain basket.
積 zik1. accumulate, store up.
糧 loeng4. food, grain, provisions
食 sik6. eat, food
–> the accumulated/stored up provisions (food)
便 bin6, pin4. convenient, expedient.
足 zuk1, zeoi3. foot; enough.
夠 gau3. enough.
用 jung6. to use.
年 nin4. year
Just the accumulated food was enough to last 20 years.
董卓強迫獻帝遷都長安以後, 強征了二十五萬民夫, 在離長安二百多里的地方, 另築郿塢城, 建造宮室, 規模和京城不相上下.
董 dung2. Supervise. Surname.
卓 coek3/zoek3. Brilliant.
–> Dong Zhuo, died 192. Dictator.
強 koeng4/5, goeng6. Strong.
迫 baak1/3, bik1. Coerce. Busy.
–> Forcefully installed.
獻 hin3. Offer, present. Display.
帝 dai3. Emperor
–> Emperor Xian. Puppet of Dong Zhuo.
遷 cin1. To move, transfer.
都 dou1. Capital
–> Changed the capital to:
長 coeng4. Long.
安 on1. Peace.
後 hau6. After.
After Dong Zhuo installed Emperor Xian on the throne, and moved the Capital to Chang’An,
征 zing1. Invade. Conquered.
了 liu5. Past particle.
二 ji6. 2
十 sap6. 10
五 ng5. 5
萬 maan1. 10K
民 man4. People.
夫 fu1/4. Man, adult man. Those.
He captured 250,000 men,
在 zoi6. At.
離 lei4/6. Depart. Separate.
百 baak3. 100
多 do1. Numerous. Several.
里 lei5. Distance unit. Village.
–> At 100+ li away.
的 dik1. Genitive.
地 dei6. Place.
方 fong1. Region.
另 ling6. Another. Separate.
築 zuk1. Build(ing).
郿 mei4. County in Shaanxi.
塢 wu2. Enbankment. Low wall.
城 sing4, seng4. Castle, town.
–> Meiwu (name of the new city)
建 gin1. Build.
造 zou6, cou3/5. Build. Begin. Prepare.
宮 gung1. Palace. Temple.
室 sat1. Room. Place.
規 kwai1. Rules. Law.
模 mou4. Model, pattern. Copy.
–> Size, format.
和 wo6/4. Peace. Harmony. And.
京 ging1. Capital city.
不 bat1. Not.
相 soeng1. Mutual. Each other.
上 soeng6/5. Up/top, superior. Go/send up.
下 haa6/5. Bottom, below, inferior. Send down.
–> comparable, equivalent
sent them to a place 100 li or more from there, and had a new city built, Meiwu, and a palace comparable to the one in the capital.
The quality of the Unihan database, while overall good, degrades along with the popularity of the languages covered. Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) are doing okay, Japanese isn’t too bad, where Korean and Viêtnamese have a lot to be desired. So I decided to give a helping hand and see if I could plug a few holes.
Step 1: What holes are there to fill?
The first step was to identify what’s missing. It’s all good and well to say that Korean isn’t well covered by the Unihan database, but actual facts would be better. Over the last few years (10?), I have done terrible things to the Unihan in my own little backyard. I have it today indexed more or less to my liking as an sqlite database. The tables are (as of last week, who knows what I’ll add):
Don’t mind the initial k- in the table names, it’s how I prefix Constants in my favorite languages, and the habit carried over to sqlite tables. Which is convenient, since Unicode does the same to the field names in Unihan… It could even be that this k- prefix habit was acquired from too much time reading Unihan docs… People familiar with the Unihan file will sneeze at the kHakka table. Si señor, I know that Unihan doesn’t cover Hakka, dammit! I had to fetch data from Dr Lau, and had to first build a Hakka input method (劉拼法) based on Dr Lau’s work, for my Macs. From that, indexing Hakka readings into my Unihan sqlite database wasn’t exactly a hardship.
Likewise, building a jyutping 粵拼 input system for Mac OS X from the Unihan wouldn’t be so hard, but I only reinvent the wheel when it’s really necessary. And a dude called Dominic Yu produced an input plugin back in the days. There you go, complete with instructions. For the curious here’s what my input plugins panel looks like:
So, from this Unihan sqlite database, how to determine what’s missing for Korean? Easy. The gist of it is a simple SQL query:
select distinct codepoint from '+tbl+' where '+tbl+'.codepoint not in (select codepoint from kKorean);
where tbl is each of the tables (except kKorean) of course. So I wrote a Python script that iterates over these tables, taking care of the duplicates of course. This yielded close to 18,000 characters without a Korean reading. That’s quite a lot…
Step 2: Let’s Grab Some Data
Next I had to find a reliable online source to fill in the gaps. I know exactly where to find info on all these missing sinograms, and more, in the dead-tree world (I used to own a copy of the 大漢韓辭典 which has 56,000 chars, give or take). But that wouldn’t be exactly practical… The best source I have found so far is Zonmal, which despite its third-world 20th century, webmaster-as-an-anally-retentive-dictator interface and ugly name, has quite a bit of information. After a little poking around, the local Adolf having tried hard to hide things from people like me – he who should be happy that some people are actually interested – I found out where to POST my queries, and how to find the results if any.
Since I didn’t want to hammer this site – the idea being to retrieve the data, not take it down, this affair being an .aspx thingy hosted on IIS – I had to be gentle. Also, the whole thing being encoded in EUC_KR, grrr, I needed to do on the fly conversions. For these reasons, I went back to my favorite language, REAL Basic, which is much better equipped than Python for the task. I set a timer at 8 seconds, and for the next 38 hours or so, my trusty MBP pinged that web site one request at a time, gently extracting the information I needed. Tonight I finally saw the result: 8,346 characters with a match, and readings filled out. That’s about one third of the missing characters. Not so bad.
In my list of tables, the one for Korean is called kKorean, and not kHangul – which is the name used in Unihan. The reason is that I store the Korean syllables in romanization, using the Yale system. Yale is definitely not the most common, but it is very well suited for automated conversion to and from hangul. I have two small functions in every language I use that provide this conversion. And they will be used in the next step: indexing.
Step 3: Cleanup and Indexing
For indexing I went back to Python, since I had code already for indexing from previous experiments. All I needed to do was read each line of the output from step 2, check whether there was a valid reading (or more), convert them to Yale (as the output from Zonmal was in hangul), and update the sqlite database. Barely forty lines of code. My Unihan database is now 35.6MB, including the indexes, and is used on a small web app I use daily to look up sinograms I either don’t know, don’t know the Cantonese reading, or the meaning. Very handy.
You will find below the source code for steps 1 and 3. You’d need my Unihan sqlite database to run them but it’s too heavy to upload – instead I’ll write another post on how to build it from the Unihan.txt file.
- Dylan’s Hakka Page – hideous but lots of good stuff in there
- Unihan database lookup – the original!
- Dominic Yu’s page on Chinese and computers – jyutping plugin
- Dr Lau’s PinFa input – Big5 encoding
- My own web app, based on Unihan
- Zonmal – the input form only
- Wiktionary zh – useful source but encoding of pinyin borked
- Wiktionary en – same, in English though, and encodings not borked. I’m planning to do a similar operation to fill in the gaps for kMandarin.
- ZDic – built on the Unihan too. And another eye-sore.
- Chinese Text Project – yet another Unihan-based 1996 eye-sore.
- 康熙字典網上版 – Want more eye-soreness, “made in China”?
- vi-nom-vni.mim – Lisp crapola, part of m17n library. Useful chu nom data. This will be used as some stage to fill in the gaps for Viêt.
- Narrow Python – what happens if you wanna go beyond the basic plane in Python? Boom. Read this.
張丞相知潤州,有婦人夫出不歸,忽聞菜園井中有死人,即往哭曰:吾夫也。以聞於官。升 命吏集鄰裏驗,是其夫否,皆言井深不可辯。升曰:眾不可辯,而婦人獨知為夫,何耶?送 獄訊問,乃奸夫殺之,婦與共謀。
From 棠陰比事 作者: 桂萬榮 宋
Rough translation. Need to work on it. But you get the gist of this 7th Century CSI:
Zhang Sheng Inspects a Well
When Zhang Sheng was governing Runzhou, a husband had gone and not come back. Suddenly the wife reported there was a dead body in their garden’s well. She started crying, saying “This is my husband!” She informed the officials. Zhang Sheng sent an envoy to gather information in the neighbourhood. Everybody agreed that the well was deep, so they had no idea who it was. Zhang Sheng said: How come you are the only one to know for sure it’s your husband? He sent the crafty wife for interrogation and she confessed her crime.
For future reference.
- Riesling 雷司令
- Sauvignon Blanc 長相思
- Chardonnay 莎當妮
- Muscat 麝香葡萄
- Gewürztraminer 琼瑶將
- Pinot Gris 灰品諾
- Colombard 哥倫白
- Viognier 維歐尼耶
- Chenin Blanc 白翠檸
- Semillon 賽美容
- Verdelho 維黛好
- Pinot Noir 黑品諾
- Cabernet Sauvignon 赤霞珠
- Merlot 梅樂
- Tempranillo 添帕尼優
- Shiraz 切拉子
- Gamay 佳美
- Grenache 歌海娜
- Sangiovese 聖祖維斯
- Zinfandel 仙芬黛
- Cabernet Franc 品麗珠
- Nebbiolo 納比奥羅
I went last Monday to a job interview that I didn’t really want to go to — I had clicked mindlessly, last week, “Quick Apply” to a few job ads on JobsDB, and bingo, I got two answers. Real desperate people I bet! I am in a waiting pattern, a bit like an airplane waiting to land on a busy airport, as I have a job lined up, but it’s taking longer than I (and the boss) thought it’d take. So in between I sell wine on my own, and click on job ads. One of the reasons I apply to jobs I don’t really want is that I get to meet potential customers. It wouldn’t be the first time that I walk into an interview room, and come out not with an employment contract but a trade…
So. Last Saturday I get a phone call a little after 2pm. That alone should have been a warning sign. The funny thing is that I had the phone number in my address book — a wine company I met a few years ago but never did any real business with. English a bit weird, but we manage to understand each other. Or let’s just say that I manage to understand the woman — if not her name or her company’s name (it’s alright, I have it in the address book!), at least the fact that she has received my job application. Right. Which job, which company, no idea… It’s alright, I’ll play along for the moment.
It’s Saturday and she wants to meet me on Monday at 3pm. Oh well, sure, why not? You’re in a hurry apparently, that’ll be 10,000 HK$ more per month then. Me? Venal? Surely you jest! An hour later I get an email, very detailed, on where and when to come, and what to bring. Seriously? A photo? Like you would recognize a whitey? Silly fucken wabit. So let’s look at the address. Woooooah! Wait a minute. Is that even in Hong Kong? Nooooo! Really? There’s even an MTR going there? But. But. But. I can see Shenzhen’s harbor from there, when weather and lack of pollution permit, that’s 3 days a year but still! Hmph. Google Maps at the rescue. Input address. Click click. Street view. I see… There’s exactly fuck-all over there. Factory buildings. Crappy government-funded housing estates. And. That’s. It. Not even a coffee shop in that street. Which dead-ends against a freeway. And the building I’m supposed to go to is…. at the end of course. I have nothing against visiting remote areas of Hong Kong, but this… this… this is not HK Tourism Board approved!
Quite a few wine companies in HK are in the boonies. They came up with the oh-so-brilliant idea that since they had to store lots of wines, they might as well buy/rent a warehouse and put their offices in it. Some are actually slightly more visitor-friendly, and separate the warehouse from the office, which is usually in a more accessible area (TST, Sheung Wan, Wanchai, even Central). I have been in way too many of those “factory buildings”, taking truck-sized elevators to dusty corridors and rooms full of clanking noises from actual factories nearby. The largest stock of fine wines I’ve seen is in such a crappy, old building, far from everything, and there’s something like 700,000 bottles in there. The offices are Chinese tasteless posh, and they even have a dining room and karaoke. Go figure.
So. I arrive exactly, despite not knowing the area at all, at exactly 2.59pm. Very proud of myself, and way overdressed for the place (I had to wait until I got back to Central until I saw someone else wearing cuff links and a necktie). I ring the bell. The place inside looks much better than the crappy dirty building. A little sofa at the entrance. A wine cellar that houses fine wines. Typical. A woman arrives, a harried look on her face. She opens the door but stands there, preventing me to enter. She asks me whether I’m me. Yes I am. Then she says something about time overrun and that I have to go back down, get a drink and wait for her to call me. In the heat (30° C last Monday), the dust, and the utter lack of amenities. She mentions half an hour or so. I smile blandly, turn around and go back toward the elevator, already texting friends about that fuck-up. The woman was so out of her mind that she didn’t notice I didn’t say anything.
Back to the ground floor, I check around that indeed there’s not even a bench in the lobby where I could park my ass in the relative comfort of the air-conditioning, then head back to the MTR — a good 15 minutes walk. While walking, I send her an email, noting that obviously she’s too busy and I have other things to do. Maybe next time. I head back to Central. Around 40 minutes later, I get a series of phone calls from that woman. Apparently she is looking for me. By then I’m so mad that I vote against picking up the phone and say things I might regret, even if they’re justified. Since I’ve sent her an email, she’ll get around at some point to reading it. Finally she sends me an email, complaining that she’s been looking for me for half an hour, and I have to “revert ASAP” — whatever that means.
I don’t know what was the problem, maybe they had a good reason, but a company that doesn’t even offer me a seat and a glass of water when their company is in a remote place without any amenities — well, as a candidate I wasn’t impressed, and I bet as an employee I’d have been even less impressed. Let’s just say I made it as painless and quick for everybody involved…
So, back to square one.
A long long time ago, when I was studying linguistics and Asian languages in Paris, I was introduced to a researcher who had written his PhD about the dialect spoken in a Hakka village called Sung Him Tong. He gave me a copy of his PhD dissertation, which I probably have somewhere up in storage in Kwaichung or wherever it is that my stuff is stored.
Back then I wasn’t interested in Cantonese, and other non-mainstream Chinese languages. I was immersed in Middle Chinese and other dead languages, and had little time for the languages spoken by live people. I was twenty-something and allowed to be foolish. Anyway, I chucked the dissertation in my library, where it accumulated dust. The only impression I kept was that this man must’ve been very determined to live in a Hakka village for 6 months or more, just to study their dialect. The image I had of Hakka villages was that of round, multy-storey wooden houses shared by several families in the boondocks of Mainland China.
Except it’s not in the boondocks… Well, at least not in the middle of nowhere in Mailand China, but a canon-shot away from Fanling KCR/MTR station. It looks like nowhere as shiny and modern as say Central see some nice pics here, but even 20 years ago, it must’ve been less of a hardship than living in Shenzhen today…
Anyway for some strange reason I got a blast from the past — I was looking up some references about the Hakka language, and a bibliographical reference to that PhD dissertation came up — and I thought that I should look up that place, 20 years after receiving the dissertation… Better late than never, right? I felt some kind of disappointment — here I was, as a kid, imagining that dude slumming it in the mountains with the indigenous population, whereas he was probably commuting every day on a 小巴… My hero’s a commuter. Sigh…
So I poked around a bit — since this place is near 沙頭閣, a place I really want to visit — and hk-place is always a good start when you’re looking for info and piccies about forgotten places in HK. There’s lots of not so ancient buildings, but there seems to be a bunch of 圍村, home to the 鄧 family, and cousins to the people who live in 錦田 (and thus 吉慶圍 I suppose). The two pictures here (click to see the originals), show the contrast that you can find in such HK villages. Concrete and stone walls. This is something that I enjoy quite a bit. This village is definitely on my list of things to visit in 2011!