Know Your Picture Characters Entry #101

May 29th, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 百人一首 B. 百科事典 C. 八百屋 D. 百花繚乱

E. 三百代言 F. 百姓読み G. 百尺竿頭 H. 百日咳

Alright, I suppose it’s time to get cracking on this again.

Theoman recognized a lot of kanji here.  But was it enough to help him out?  Let’s see.  He starts off strong, at least: A is the Hyakunin Isshu, the collection of “One Hundred People, One Poem (apiece),” believed to be put together by perhaps the greatest medieval authority on Japanese poetry some time in the 13th century.  And B is, well, sort of right.  It does represent the highest achievement . . . if you’re Denis Diderot, that is.  This “dictionary of a hundred subjects” is in fact an encyclopedia.  Unfortunately, the identification of C as “something with 800 pages” is clearly wrong, because, as everyone knows, when they were first making encyclopedias, there were no pages.  Pages had not been invented yet.  Books were written on scrolls.  Also, encyclopedias were very short, because there was nothing to put in them.  I mean, come on, they didn’t even have TV.  Also, there is the minor matter of the last character in C meaning “shop.”  This is the greengrocer, because there are precisely 800 kinds of fruits and vegetables.  Go ahead.  Count them.  And the second character in D is a flower, giving D the meaning “a hundred flowers twisted into chaos.”  Without further comment, we will note that this means a gathering of beautiful women and move on.

But Theoman wasn’t done with just the top row.  The final character in E is in fact a “word” (I should know, right?), and as we all know, words are the favorite tool of the unscrupulous lawyer.  They use three hundred of them, and then they throw in that third character, which has a lot of different possible interpretations and I’m not sure what it means here.  Again, clearly a lawyer’s work.  Theoman’s kanji knowledge betrayed him again in F, because that second character doesn’t really have much to do with women despite having that radical in there: this is a “family name,” one of the “hundred names,” which in Chinese is a way to refer to the peasants.  And, because what works for China works for Japan (and even when it doesn’t, they do it anyway), they borrowed it over.  F is a “peasant’s reading,” because, as we all know, peasants have strange ways of reading kanji (though not nearly as strange as those of KYPC participants).  I hope Theoman didn’t really think that G, the ultimate achievement, is being an unscrupulous lawyer.  No, the greatest achievement is “the top of a hundred-foot bamboo pole.”  Yes.  The pinnacle of civilization, that.  But seriously, the greatest achievement is bookending a list of KYPC items with correct answers, which is what Theoman did this week.  H, the “hundred days’ cough,” is whooping cough.  That’s an awful lot of whooping.

And then A Fan came in and threw everything into chaos.  First he tried to use a poetry collection as an encyclopedia; turns out, the true nature of pretty much everything in the world is either “melancholy” or “longing.”  Sometimes it’s both.  Then he went to the actual encyclopedia looking for beautiful women, which is . . . a non-traditional approach, I suppose.  Then he caught whooping cough at the greengrocer’s, tried to use a group of beautiful women as an encyclopedia, and asked an unscrupulous lawyer to give him a reading on something.  Quite the remarkable day, all in all.

But it’s time for new challenges.  Remember that poetry collection?  Well, there’s a popular game in Japan where one person reads the first half of one of the poems from it, and then people try to grab a card that has the second half written on it (all one hundred cards are scattered on a table or on the floor).  I thought we could take a stab at it.  First I’ll list the first halves of the first five poems from the collection, and then their ends.  You just have to match them.  Also, you have to tell me what the poem is about.  Remember, there is no wrong way to interpret a poem, so be creative!

A. 秋の田の 仮庵の庵の 苫をあらみ

B. あしびきの 山鳥の尾の しだり尾の

C. 奥山に 紅葉踏みわけ 鳴く鹿の

D. 田子の浦に うち出でてみれば 白妙の

E. 春すぎて 夏来にけらし 白妙の

1. 声きく時ぞ 秋は悲しき

2. 富士の高嶺に 雪は降りつつ

3. ながながし夜を ひとりかも寝む

4. 衣ほすてふ 天の香具山

5. わが衣手は 露にぬれつつ

Posted in Know Your Picture Characters | 7 Comments »

7 Responses

  1. TheomanZero Says:

    Aw man. Just by looking I can tell these don’t rhyme, and that’s my least favorite kind of poetry. Oh well:
    A-2: Work hard with your head down.
    B-1: There is honor in suffering.
    C-4: Familial loyalty is most important.
    D-5: Always be humble.
    E-3: Something about love.

  2. Flamingo's heart Says:

    Matching poems from Hyakunin Isshu? This is really tough! Good luck to all! By the way, I have a message from your lovely assistant. She said she’s always willing to help you with more characters if you would like 🙂

  3. A(nother) Fan Says:

    Do they have “There once was a man from Nantucket . . ” poems in Japan?

    I am once again stuck at the office, with no ability to see the actual characters.

    Therefore, in lieu of a specific answer, I strongly recommend to the Wordsman (and his lovely assistant) and his readers some of the “Barrack Room Ballads” by Rudyard Kipling. They are often misunderstood as pro-Imperialist and racist. I don’t think that’s correct.

    In any event, “Danny Deever,” “Gunga Din,” “Fuzzy Wuzzy,” and the others are well worth your time. “Arithmetic on the Frontier” has particular relevance for any country stuck in Afghanistan (“the odds are on the cheaper man”), and “The Grave of the Hundred Head” is just plain creepy, but brilliantly creepy.

    As for the quiz, I will rekly, as so often, upon the whims of random chance:


    And they are all about a man who bites into a madeleine cookie and immediately starts remembering his early life.

  4. Shirley Says:

    It’s a trick question. None of them go together. 2 and 5 might, but they are both last lines, so that doesn’t work. Or is that even more evidence of W.W.’s Machiavellian mind? But I must say, I’m surprised that the classy L.A. would stoop to aiding and abetting him, if she in fact did. Anyway, I’ll throw out a few guesses in case it’s a double reverse trick.
    A.- 2
    B,- 3
    C.- 5
    D.- 1
    E.- 4

  5. Shirley Says:

    On checking my answer, I see I only answered half the question. Here’s what the poems are about:

    A. Ah Love, let us be true to one another, for this world which seems……….

    B. Loveliest of trees, the cherry now is hung with bloom along the bough…………..

    C. My life closed twice before it’s close. It yet remains to see…………..

    D. I taste a liquor never brewed In tankards scooped in pearl,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    E. Terrance, this is stupid stuff!!!

  6. A(nother) Fan Says:

    In honor of Shirley’s second email, let’s celebrate the best poem by that great Japanese poet, A.E. Housman:

    The time you won your town the race
    We chaired you through the market-place;
    Man and boy stood cheering by,
    And home we brought you shoulder-high.

    To-day, the road all runners come,
    Shoulder-high we bring you home,
    And set you at your threshold down,
    Townsman of a stiller town.

    Smart lad, to slip betimes away
    From fields were glory does not stay
    And early though the laurel grows
    It withers quicker than the rose.

    Eyes the shady night has shut
    Cannot see the record cut,
    And silence sounds no worse than cheers
    After earth has stopped the ears:

    Now you will not swell the rout
    Of lads that wore their honours out,
    Runners whom renown outran
    And the name died before the man.

    So set, before its echoes fade,
    The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
    And hold to the low lintel up
    The still-defended challenge-cup.

    And round that early-laurelled head
    Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
    And find unwithered on its curls
    The garland briefer than a girl’s.

  7. Shirley Says:

    I quite agree with A(nother) Fan about Houseman’s greatest poem, but the characters in the puzzle look much more like cherry trees than dead athletes, heart stopping tho that wonderful poem may be. I actually tried to convince myself that that it WAS To an Athlete Dying Young, but I just couldn’t do it.

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