Manchu-Korean Language Textbook

Hi Folks,

Today I thought I would share something cool I found on Twitter recently (click here to see photo more closely):

This Twitter account is owned by a researcher of Manchu language. The Manchu People (manshūjin 満州人 in Japanese) conquered China in 1644 and started a new dynasty: the Qing Dynasty (清朝). During this time, both Chinese and Manchu were the official languages of China.

But what is this book? This is a Korean-language textbook called the Nogeoldae (老乞大, 노걸대). The government of Korea would publish a foreign-language textbook from time to time, so Korean officials could study and learn foreign languages (usually Chinese, of course). This edition of the Nogeoldae is not for Chinese though, it’s for Manchu language.

You can see the Manchu writing (vertical) and the Korean letters next to it. This probably helped Korean students learn how to pronounce Manchu words. The Manchu language in this textbook is called 清語 (Language of the Qing Dynasty).

The Chinese characters used here are actually Korean hanja. I’ve posted about them before.

Anyhow, interesting stuff. :)

Posted in Chinese, Korean, Language | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Origin of Violence is Violence

Something I found interesting on Twitter recently. I think the words “Şiddetin kökeni şiddettir” are Turkish, but I am not sure. Anyhow, Google Translate said that the meaning is “the origin of violence is violence”.

Anyhow, I think the picture explains enough.

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The Universe is just So Big

Apollo 15 Tsiolkovsky crater

(Far-side of the Moon, as photographed by astronaut Al Worden)

Recently the BBC interviewed astronaut Al Worden who flew on the Apollo 15 mission to the Moon. He stayed in the ship while the other astronauts landed. Instead, he took photos of the dark-side of the Moon.

He described the far side of the Moon like so:

What I found was that the number of stars was just so immense. In fact I couldn’t pick up individual stars, it was like a sheet of light. I found that fascinating because it changed my ideas about how we think about the Universe.

There are billions of stars out there – the Milky Way galaxy that we’re in contains billions of stars, not just a few. And there are billions of galaxies out there. So what does that tell you about the Universe? That tells you we just don’t think big enough. To my mind that’s the whole purpose of the space programme, to figure out what that’s all about.

I wish I could have seen it myself. :-)

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JLPT N1: To Take or Not To Take?

Although I’ve complained about the JLPT exam (日本語能力試験) in the past, I have been thinking about taking the final level: the N1 (一級). The N1 exam is the most difficult, and usually takes a few years to prepare. I completed the N2 exam in 2011, and have been studying Japanese on my own ever since. I realized that the N2 wasn’t helping me with Japanese conversation, and I wasn’t able to read simple books, especially for kids. So, I spent 3 years getting more familiar with regular every-day Japanese and had no interest in the N1 exam.1

However, lately, I feel that I should finish the series. I finished the N4, N3 and finally the N2. This leaves only the N1. So, it would be nice to try and pass the exam. Then I have the satisfaction of completing the entire series.

On the other hand, I don’t want to spend a lot of time studying it either. What I mean is that I don’t want to spend a lot of money on textbooks, mock-exams, etc. I’m already studying Japanese, so I don’t want to purchase more materials. Instead, I want to see if studying natural Japanese (not to pass an exam) is enough to pass. I believe it might work.

For example, I often read the Asahi Shinbun. I used to post English-language articles on this blog, but these days, I read in Japanese:


It’s more fun because you’re reading it in natural Japanese, plus I find enough interesting articles each day. They are somewhat short, so I can read in 10 minutes or so. It’s not easy though. There are many words I still don’t know. So, I often use Safari browser because I can look up the words as I read, as shown above.

What about listening? I don’t watch too much Japanese TV besides Eagle Talon and Massan, so to be honest, my listening skills still aren’t very good. I do have Japanese conversations with native speakers regularly (wife’s friends, people at work), but I don’t know if it’s enough.

Will all this work? We’ll find out in December. The point is that I want this to be low-effort. Either I will pass, or I won’t. If I fail, then I will have to use more dedicated methods. We’ll see. :)

1 I was also annoyed because the overseas JLPT service in the US was hacked years ago, and my credit-card information was stolen. SInce then, I’ve had my information stolen two more times, so I can’t really get mad at them anymore. :-p

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Eventually, Everyone Can Become A Buddha

Recently one evening, my daughter and I were shopping at our favorite grocery store. While there, we noticed someone acting very suspicious. He was a rough-looking young man, wearing dirty clothes. He was looking around a lot, and moving from aisle to aisle quickly. Later, I saw that guy run out of the store. Store clerks were running after him. Obviously, the man was a shoplifter.

My daughter, now 8 years old, was kind of upset. As we drove home, she asked me a lot of questions: why did he steal things? will the police catch him? why are there bad people in the world, etc?

I told her that there are people in the world who are very selfish, or very confused. They don’t care about other people, and do things like that. But then I told her that Shakyamuni Buddha teaches that eventually all people can become Buddhas too.

I didn’t just make this up either. In the 12th chapter of the Lotus Sutra (hokkekyō 法華経), is a story about Devadatta and the Buddha. Devadatta (デーヴァダッタ debadatta) was a cousin of the Buddha.1 He was infamous for trying to usurp the Buddha and run the community himself. He contrived to have the Buddha killed 3 times, according to tradition. Finally, he split the community for a short period, but eventually he regretted his actions. According to tradition, when he was coming back to apologize, the ground split open and he fell into the earth and suffers in the lowest-realm of hell to this day.

In other words, Devadatta is similar to Judas Iscariot in the Christian tradition: a betrayer who regrets his actions, but suffers torment anyway.

However, the 12th chapter says more about Devadatta:

“Devadatta, after immeasurable kalpas have past, will attain Buddhahood.”

What this means is that Devadatta will suffer the karmic consequences of his actions, but that is not the end of the story. After a long, long time, when the karma is exhausted, he will eventually return to the Buddhist path and ultimately become a Buddha too. In the same way, everyone suffers from the gravity of their actions: more serious actions create more serious karmic repurcussions, but eventually everyone can become an enlightened Buddha.

The point of Chapter 12 is that if someone as terrible as Devadatta can (and will) become a Buddha, anyone can.

Of course, I didn’t explain all this to my daughter, but when I told her that all people eventually become Buddhas, she seemed relieved.

This world is not always terrible, and with wisdom and compassion, change is always possible. But it does take time. Sometimes a lot of it.

1 Several family members of the Gautama family became monastic disciples: his son Rahula, Devadatta his cousin, Ananda was another cousin, Maha-Pajapati his mother-in-law, etc.

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2014 in review

Dear Readers,

Each year sends me an email report containing interesting stats about my blogs.

According to the report:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 120,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

I couldn’t do it without your support and readership. Thank you!

Posted in General

Lego Adventures with my Daughter


Earlier this year, I posted about my daugther’s legos and the stories she makes. My daughter and I play with Legos almost daily, and the stories and characters have changed over time. I own some Star Wars legos, and Pirates of the Carribean legos, plus a few others. She likes to mix my legos with her Lego Friends series and make a big Lego “village”.

For example, one of the girl legos is the “Queen” and “President”:

Lego President

She doesn’t really understand the difference between “queen” and “president”, so she thinks they are the same. Also, she changes presidents often. My Lego Star Wars storm-troopers are the helpers (they’re good, not evil). Here, the current president is enjoying a salad. Her two babies are in the front of the photo.

Also, here’s the former president eating dinner with her husband:

Legos Dining

The husband is my Lego figure, but she likes to make my Lego characters (usually male) marry her legos. She made the house and everything herself. They have a baby too. You can see it in the blue box on the left.

In another story, there is a Lego garbage collector (something I bought from the Lego Movie), who has a crush on one of the lego girls, but is too shy to say anything. These are the kinds of stories she likes to make. :)

Further, she will have large community events too. Here, the Queen/President organized a concert for the town:


For some reason, the Lego Friends series has been controversial among some people, but at least in my daughter’s case she has been able to make it work. For her, she enjoys being a girl, but also enjoys being a leader too and having “girl” Legos be friends with “boy” Legos.

I think adults can learn a lot from children, instead of arguing with one another.

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