The One Sound Chinese Poem

February 23rd, 2017 Posted by Advertising, Blog, Content, Foreign Languages, Language, Translation No Comment yet

Chinese stone lion or Fu Dog


We sincerely apologize for our months long silence. We hope that 2017 is also keeping you very busy. Here is a Chinese linguistic singularity we wrote about a few years ago:

Did you know that there is a Mandarin Chinese poem whose five-word title and the rest of its body are formed entirely by the same syllable?  The title of the early 20th century poem “Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den” (施氏食狮史) by Yuen Ren Chao (赵元任) is formed by tonal variations of the syllable “shi.”  When read aloud, as well as when spelled in Pinyin (the official phonetic system to transliterate Chinese languages) the title and the rest of the poem is rendered as “Shī Shì shí shī shǐ…” Please note the tonal symbols used here. They indicate that in each case, the tone is different, and therefore, each syllable is a separate word with a different meaning.

Here is the poem in Simplified (Modern) Mandarin:

石室诗士施氏,嗜狮,誓食十狮。

氏时时适市视狮。

十时,适十狮适市。

是时,适施氏适市。

氏视是十狮,恃矢势,使是十狮逝世。

氏拾是十狮尸,适石室。

石室湿,氏使侍拭石室。

石室拭,氏始试食是十狮。

食时,始识是十狮尸,实十石狮尸。

试释是事。

And here it is in Traditional Mandarin (the title remains the same):

石室詩士施氏,嗜獅,誓食十獅。

氏時時適市視獅。

十時,適十獅適市。

是時,適施氏適市。

氏視是十獅,恃矢勢,使是十獅逝世。

氏拾是十獅屍,適石室。

石室濕,氏使侍拭石室。

石室拭,氏始試食是十獅。

食時,始識是十獅屍,實十石獅屍。

試釋是事。

And, finally, the poem in English:

In a stone den was a poet called Shi, who was a lion addict, and had resolved to eat ten lions.

He often went to the market to look for lions.

At ten o’clock, ten lions had just arrived at the market.

At that time, Shi had just arrived at the market.

He saw those ten lions, and using his trusty arrows, caused the ten lions to die.

He brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone den.

The stone den was damp.

He asked his servants to wipe it.

After the stone den was wiped, he tried to eat those ten lions.

When he ate, he realized that these ten lions were in fact ten stone lion corpses.

****************UPDATE**************************************************

Here is a YouTube video in which the poem is read aloud:

 

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