Category Archives: Language

Ancient Greek for Classical Christian Schools in Hong Kong

In the Abendland, or Western Christendom (including Germany), knowledge of Latin as a classical language used to be de rigueur for top students, and remains important today; in Hong Kong and the rest of China, the question remains of what classical language should be used as a vehicle of education in ancient cultural traditions.

Local students in Hong Kong should, by graduation, have decent command of 3.5 languages:

  1. Cantonese, spoken by the vast majority of Hong Kong’s population;
  2. Mandarin, written in formal communications since the early 20th century, including all standardized tests in Chinese, and important for spoken communication with the rest of the Sinosphere since the 20th century;
  3. Classical (or Literary) Chinese, a continuum of Sinitic that ranges from the writings of Confucius and Mencius to the most literary and formal registers of modern written Chinese;
  4. English, which remains one of the official languages in Hong Kong, necessary for day-to-day life and part of the basis of any particular œconomic advantage Hong Kong has in Asia.

Because of a vast increase in Hong Kong’s number of K–12 students in the postwar period, even having enough schools to support basic literacy was a huge logistical challenge. At that time, there was more than enough work teaching children to speak good Cantonese, write good Mandarin, and read some classical Chinese, as well as to read, write, and speak English.

On top of that, today, the political situation calls for decent spoken Mandarin as well, even as the South China Morning Post’s chief news editor Yonden Lhatoo has expressed his consternation at today’s ‘appalling English standards’: ‘There’s something terribly wrong with our education system when it’s churning out graduates who need serious help with their English.’ The need for good Mandarin and good English has never been greater, and few of my friends from Hong Kong have both. The situation for language proficiency in Hong Kong today is, to say the least, difficult.

Though the education system in Hong Kong as a whole is a problem too great for me to address briefly, I do want to suggest that, on the smaller scale, it would be useful to teach ancient Greek in classical Christian schools, and to require it for graduation with honours or an advanced diploma.

My suggestion is counterintuitive, I know. On top of 3.5 languages, you want local Hong Kong students to learn one more language? But the benefits of Greek would be, I believe, incalculable; it would have only to be done in earnest.

Until 1997, the uses of English in Hong Kong were utilitarian: the British empire needed a local élite whose proficiency in English would allow it to serve the British administration in civil service and in trade. In other words, British imperialism needed servants, not free men. To this end the education system was oriented, that Hong Kong might reliably provide compradors for Britain’s imperialist operations.

Today, however, such an orientation is manifestly unsuitable. Even civil servants who passed through English-medium education under the British empire often chafe at having to answer questions in English at press conferences. While Hong Kong’s place as a hub of international trade and a ‘free city’ in the Chinese empire requires that enough people be both able and willing to speak good English, it is not entirely surprising that the end of the colonial æra has changed people’s feelings about English. Rather than being about serving as a comprador in colonial society and moving up the social ladder, mastering English has to be about understanding of non-Chinese, not on the level of pidgin trade talk but on the level of civilization. Unless Hong Kong’s students go through these growing-pains, especially the city’s best students, Hong Kong cannot succeed.

For any school, an advantage of ancient Greek learnt on its own terms is a much better ability to deal with the grammar and literary style of English, as well as a deeper understanding of the ancient literary and philosophical roots of Western society. If the peoples of the world are to speak in rich cultural languages, expressing rich cultural heritages, they need more than a generic neoliberal pidgin English: they need deep culture, both in identifying with their own peoples and in speaking to other peoples. A Hongkonger able not only to parse a Greek verb but to write in the manner of Thucydides, and to read Plato in the original, could with much greater confidence find his voice in speaking to the West.

For a Christian school, the advantages are even greater. Even one cohort of secondary-school graduates who can read Greek is a number of students who can read the New Testament, the Septuagint, and many of the Church fathers, of whom the young men can already be further trained to serve as deacons in the Church, and some of those as elders able to teach people the word of God. The use of Greek rather than Latin also gives them access to a broader range of theological resources, by which the Chinese church can find its identity within the one Holy Catholic Church with reference not only to the theology of the Reformation but also to non-Western concepts that can speak to the Chinese. In this way, the Chinese churches will be independent from the West, but also catholic. One cohort may be but a few students; but cohort upon cohort, year after year, brings to the Sinosphere a growing number of students who already have the language skills that seminaries want their graduates to have, and others who with training will be able to teach ancient Greek themselves, and others who can begin to deal philosophically with both Plotinus and Zhu Xi.

This can happen. We need books in Greek that use the method that Hans Ørberg’s groundbreaking textbook Lingua latina per se illustrata (a.k.a. LLPSI) uses for Latin, with context and illustrations, and by using only the target language go farther than the ‘Italian Athenaze’ has gone; in Greek, Seumas Macdonald’s project in progress (Lingua Græca Per Se Illustrata; Patreon here) looks promising, though it does not yet have the kinds of pictures on which LLPSI relies. From experience using LLPSI with visiting students from mainland China, I know that even students with relatively weak English can learn some Latin inductively using that book in the space of a few days, because it relies on no other language than Latin. If we have something like that in Greek, we can achieve the same results with Chinese students learning Greek. We also need teachers who are able to teach Greek immersively, ideally with a good command of the pitch accent – a phonological feature to which native speakers of Cantonese, also familiar with Hong Kong English, can relate. If parents and students and teachers are commit to achieving the results, both for better command of English and better understanding of Hellenistic Christian civilization, it can be done.

To Recover Cantonese Literature in Hong Kong

I’m not a fan of purportedly Cantonese poetry littered with the particles 了 and 的. That’s Mandarin, not Cantonese. Pronouncing Mandarin as Cantonese no more makes it Cantonese than pronouncing classical Chinese in the Sinoxenic pronunciation of Japan makes it the Japanese language. So something like Dorothy Tse’s 布鳥 (‘Cloth Birds’) doesn’t feel like Cantonese to me: even though every word is read the Cantonese way, it’s not grammatically Cantonese.

The problem is not unknown. As Jennifer Feeley wrote two years ago in her essay ‘Reimagined Cities: Fabulist Tales from Hong Kong’,

There are writers, especially graphic novelists, who have incorporated Cantonese into their work, and perhaps the future will see the rise of a Cantophone literature. At present, however, Chinese-language literature in the territory is primarily composed in standard written Chinese, including the three stories in this feature. Standard written Chinese has a different grammar, and often a different vocabulary, than Cantonese, creating a gap between the written and spoken word. As Andrea Lingenfelter observes, most outsiders, and many in the mainland, regard Cantonese ‘as a dialect, a language that sinks beneath the surface of the written word (standard written Chinese) and is thereby rendered inaudible, unless a Cantonese-speaking author is reading his or her work aloud.’

But the fact is, the problem Feeley describes is virtually artificial. There is actually a rich tradition of literary writing in Cantonese, from the Cantonese operas of Tong Dik-sang 唐滌生 and Nam Hoi 13 Long 南海十三郎 to the Cantopop lyrics of James Wong Jim 黃霑. To speak of Cantonese literature as underdeveloped, or low in status, is belied by the fame and quality of these literary luminaries in Hong Kong.

That these kinds of writing fell by the wayside, and the linguistically Cantonese voice was muted, is due to Hongkongers’ own abandonment of Cantonese literary writing. In the 1980s, Hong Kong had a vital voice in the Sinosphere. The theme song of the television series The Bund 上海灘 (1980), sung by the inimitable Frances Yip, is known all over the Sinosphere. The popularity of Mandarin-speaking singer Teresa Teng in the Sinosphere existed alongside a literary space that Hong Kong writers had carved out for Cantonese in a Mandarin-dominated world, to the extent that Teresa Teng herself recorded songs in Cantonese and spoke Cantonese. Those of us who care about the literary future of Cantonese cannot afford to blame a spectre of Communist erasure of Cantonese and expect such a petty accusation to be vindicated. The plain fact is that almost everyone in Hong Kong speaks Cantonese, but Hong Kong has silenced its own Cantonese literary voice.

What we need is to rebuild whatever was lost in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s, and to support the writing and singing of literature that can speak to people’s hearts as Cantonese literature from Hong Kong has done before. This is done neither by mere nostalgia nor by bitterness against Mandarin. A Cantonese muted by its own speakers must find its own voice again.

Crowns of Honour and Books of Wisdom in Job

In Job, certain themes emerge in particular images related to the head which connect the prose frame (Job 1–2; 42) and the poetic centre, and two parts of the poetic centre.

In Job 2.7, Job is stricken with boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (עד קָדְקֳדֹֽו, LXX ἕως κεφαλῆς). As we see later in Job, what has happened to Job has ruined his reputation and dishonoured the crown of his head, even though he retains his integrity (2.9; 27.5; 31.6). He says in 19.7–9,

Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard:
I cry aloud, but there is no judgment.
He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass,
and he hath set darkness in my paths.
He hath stripped me of my glory,
and taken the crown (עֲטֶרֶת, LXX στέφανον) from my head.

In fact, Job has literally shaved his head (1.20), so he has indeed been stripped of his glory, and had his crown taken from his head (cf. 2 Samuel 14.25–26; 1 Corinthians 11.1–16). Socially, too, he has been made an alien to everyone who was close to him, because of the dishonour God has allowed to befall him, and he supposes that his friends wish to ‘magnify’ themselves against him (19.5); ‘yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me’ (19.18). If there was a crown for wisdom, or if wisdom were itself a crown, it seems that God has stripped Job of this crown; for Job cries aloud like Lady Wisdom in Proverbs (19.7; cf. Proverbs 8.1–4), but ‘there is no judgement’ (19.7; cf. Proverbs 8.16, 20). Yet Job wishes that his words were written, inscribed in a book (בַּסֵּפֶר, LXX ἐν βιβλίῳ, 19.23), that he might meet God. For his wisdom is this: ‘I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me’ (19.25–27).

In his final speech before the entrance of Elihu (31.35–37), Job picks up the images of a book and a crown once more, and here in his thought and his words they have become one:

Oh that one would hear me!
behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me,
and that mine adversary had written a book (סֵפֶר; LXX συγγραφὴν).
Surely I would take it upon my shoulder,
and bind it as a crown (עֲטָרֹות, LXX στέφανον) to me.
I would declare unto him the number of my steps;
as a prince would I go near unto him.

Here, the book of the Almighty, whom Job here imagines as an adversary in argument, is something that Job would bind to himself as a crown. Though God has stripped him of his head’s glory, Job would take God’s answer as his glory, indeed as his crown, so certain is he that God will answer and justify him.

So Job belongs very much in the ministry of the Church, especially as a type of Christ and the faith that he exercised in suffering blamelessly and coming out the other end justified by God. In Byzantine lectionaries, indeed, Job is read during Holy Week. Even for those who do not have Job in their Holy Week lectionaries, I think it useful to reflect on Christ’s suffering for us through the figure of righteous Job, who suffered not for a sin of his own but for the higher reasons of God, and by maintaining his integrity clung to God’s wisdom. Only through this understanding of Christ’s suffering in love can we apply the truths of Job to the deaths of other people, whether for those who are dying or for the survivors who mourn them when they have died. Preaching Job to those who are suffering is not a matter of comparison, of belittling anyone’s suffering, but of encouraging others to cling to the justice and wisdom of God in the face of suffering we cannot understand, in the hope that his book will be our crown.

The Soul’s Fellowship with God in Psalm 5.1–3

Abide in me, and I in you. The formal elements of Psalm 5.1–3 create a strong sense of correspondence and intimacy between the psalmist and God.

Give ear to my words, O LORD,
consider my meditation.
Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God:
for unto thee will I pray.
My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD;
in the morning will I direct [my prayer] unto thee, and will look up.

The parallelisms here – ABC // AB; ABC // BA; ABC // BA – create lines that hold together and whose second hemistichs develop the thought of the first hemistichs, but they also help create larger units. The parallel addresses to God at the end of each line’s first hemistich create a sense of unity among the three lines, drawing attention also to the development from ‘give ear to my words’ to ‘hearken unto the voice of my cry’ to ‘my voice shalt thou hear’, a development from a plea for the LORD to hear the psalmist’s rhetorical articulation (‘words’) to an assurance that the LORD will hear, or listen to, the psalmist’s very voice, whether articulate or not. In these three first hemistichs, the psalmist relies on metonymy, using various nouns associated with prayer to refer to prayer itself, but the progression of his terms shows a real development. At the same time, in these three lines’ second hemistichs is a subtler development: the psalmist himself moves from asking the LORD to consider his meditation (or murmuring), his inward act, to committing himself to look up expectantly, an outward confidence. Indeed, one can discern a chiasm of sorts in the developments of the first hemistichs and the second hemistichs: God moves closer in to the man’s soul itself, and the man moves outward from his soul’s murmuring to a lifting of his gaze up to heaven. Rather than being explicit, this relation of the two trends is implicit in the poetic structure, and it forms a virtual merism of God’s drawing near to man’s soul and man’s soul drawing near to God, which together form a whole of fellowship in prayer.

Other elements contribute as well. In the third line, ‘in the morning’ is repeated near the end of the first hemistich (before ‘O LORD’) and at the beginning of the second. This repetition connect the threads of the first hemistichs considered together and the second hemistichs considered together, joining formally in one whole what the LORD does in the morning and what the psalmist does in the morning. Indeed, the ellipsis of ‘my voice’ in the third line’s second hemistich has the same effect: it joins together as one the actions of two agents, namely God and the praying psalmist.

For the Christian, these three psalm verses show us a picture of our being in God and God’s being in us, by Christ. Even though Psalm 5 was written long before the Holy Ghost was sent to dwell within men – for even as he wrote the Scriptures through men he was with them rather than in them, working on them rather than in them – yet in a way its sense is fulfilled, perfected, in our fellowship with God by the work of his Holy Spirit in us, by which Spirit we are in Christ in heaven and Christ is in us on earth.

Against Speaking of ‘Balance’ in God

If ‘balance’ were a useful resolution to the antinomies of the unchangeable character of God, then we could balance the oneness (unity) of God and the threeness (trinity) of God by holding dogmatically that God is two.

Latin, a Dead Language? Sed Contra, Says a 1989 Abstract

This 1989 Czech article, ‘Stitny’s Translation of the Athanasian Creed’, has its abstract in Latin.

latin-abstract-1989

If the image is too small to read, here is the abstract:

Symbolum Athanasianum, quod in divino officio ecclesiae catholicae occurrit, verisimiliter ultimis decenniis XIII. saeculi una cum Psalterio et undecim canticis solitis bohemice primo versum est, ut Psalterium Wittenbergense (W) dimidio XIV. saeculi exaratum testatur. Quae versio paulisper revisa etiam in primigenia biblia bohemica Dresdensi (D) seu Lescoveciana dicta circa annum 1370 exarata (a. 1914 deleta) legebatur necnon magis retractata in Psalterio Podiebradensi (P) ex anno 1396 conservata est. Altera versio omnino diversa dimidio XIV. saeculi translata in Psalterio sic dicto Clementino (K), tertia denique ultimis decenniis eiusdem saeculi confecta optime in biblia Boscovicensi (B) circa annum 1415 scripta ad nos pervenit. Cum Thomas de Štítný libellum De fide, spe et caritate ad liberos suos erudiendos scriberet, qui in collectaneo dicto Clementino ex anno 1376 inest (Š), Symbolum Athanasianum denuo ipse vertit nec versionibus pridem translatis usus est; verisimiliter enim Psalterium, Evangeliarium (de quo in LF 94, 1971, 263–270 tractatur), bibliam bohemice versam non possidebat, quae omnia ad usum monacharum translata erant.

Who says Latin is a dead language?

Limitations of Suzhounese

Suzhounese 蘇州話, spoken in Suzhou 蘇州 (anciently known as Gusu 姑蘇) in Jiangsu 江蘇 province, sounds nice for saying nice things to your wife, and it sounds very attractive when spoken by women, but I couldn’t take seriously any military orders given in that language.

Tfw Cannot Speak Taishanese

Central Guangdong

My ancestral home is in Taishan (Toisan) 台山 County, Guangdong 廣東. Even though I don’t speak or even really understand the Taishanese language – my mother tongue, and that of my parents, is Cantonese – and even though my grandfather was the last person among my closer relations who ever lived in Taishan County, I do identify as Taishanese. (The phænotypes of broadly Cantonese folk differ enough that I can sometimes tell which county people are from, and certainly there are people from Panyu who do not look like anyone from Taishan.) That I cannot understand much Taishanese, let alone speak it fluently, is something I find regrettable. A great majority of my ancestry is from Taishan County or from Xinhui County next to it, whose language is very similar.

 The Seiyap languages are in light purple, and the Guangfu dialects (Cantonese and similar languages) are in pink.

Edit: The Seiyap language group, to which belong the languages of Taishan 台山, Xinhui 新會, Kaiping 開平, and Enping 恩平, is arguably not Cantonese (or Yue) at all, being closer to Cantonese only through convergent evolution. According to Sau-Lim Tsang (no close relation of mine) in ‘Bilingual Education in a Chinese Community’ (pdf, 1982), however, ‘Research on Siyi phonology has also found that Cantonese and Siyi show regular and systematic correspondence.’

Taishanese is often thought to be a variety of Cantonese, but the two are about as different as Portuguese and Italian: the average Hongkonger who speaks Cantonese can understand about 30% of Taishanese accurately, and my guess is that a native speaker of Taishanese can understand about 50% of Cantonese without prior exposure. For those who know or can recognize Cantonese, this is a Tang dynasty (618–907) poem by Li Bai 李白 read aloud in Taishanese:

Here’s something more colloquial, about certain reduplicative constructions in Taishanese (warning: there’s one curse phrase in there):

Probably the most Taishanese thing about me is my boneheaded hillbilly stubbornness. Who knows? Maybe that could help me learn a bit more of the language.

A New Generation Poem for the Tsangs?

中華曾氏祖根地 (vignette)

中華曾氏祖根地: the Chinese lineage’s ancestral rootland.

In many Chinese and Korean families, you see that the names of the sons of the same generation share a character, a generation name 班次. My ancestor of the Sòng dynasty, for example, Emperor Taìzōng, was named Zhào Kuāngyì 趙匡義; his older brother, Emperor Taìzŭ, was named Zhào Kuāngyìn 趙匡胤. Besides sharing the surname Zhào , they had in common the generation name Kuāng . Now, as Wikipedia explains,

The sequence of generation is typically prescribed and kept in record by a generation poem (bāncì lián 班次聯 or pàizì gē 派字歌 in Chinese) specific to each lineage. While it may have a mnemonic function, these poems can vary in length from around a dozen characters to hundreds of characters. Each successive character becomes the generation name for successive generations.

For the Sòng dynasty House of Zhào, the poem goes, 若夫,元德允克、令德宜崇、師古希孟、時順光宗、良友彥士、登汝必公、不惟世子、與善之從、伯仲叔季、承嗣由同。 The poem’s 42 characters were split into three groups of 14 for the offspring of Sòng Taìzŭ and his two brothers. As Emperor Taìzŭ set forth for the family (with older romanizations from the book quoted),

Together with the Prince of Chin, Kuang-i, and the Prince of Ch’in, Kuang-mei, we will constitute three branches. Each will establish fourteen characters [for generation names] in the Jade Register so as to distinguish the streams and give order to the [spirit] tablets. Although our posterity may be distant in time and in relationship, they will not lose their order.

According to this præscription, my grandfather had the character in his name, as did all of his brothers. So it has been, for my mother’s family, since the 10th century of our Lord Jesus Christ; but my own clan, despite its descent from the Xià king Shàokāng 少康, has not had such a long and constant usage.

zhao-genealogy-kuangyin-kuangyi

This record shows the ancestry of Zhào Kuāngyì 趙匡義.

zhao-genealogy-dun

The ancestry traces back through Zhào Dùn 趙盾.

Of the generation poems used by those of the ancient House of , there are so many (beware: Tripod page with popup adverts!), and of such diversity, that there clearly is nothing like a standard. What was once used by my branch of the family has been interrupted by the convulsions of the 20th century. Though we clearly maintain commonalities between brothers – my father’s generation having the character and mine having , even for my cousin – these generation names have not at all been drawn from the poem formerly used. Instead, my father’s generation received an accent on the nation, and mine on righteousness. In each, of course, is an ethical orientation. Herein I see the makings of a new generation poem that has yet to be written. Since my grandfather was the seniormost Christian in the family (though his conversion was not the first), his name should be the one that heads the poem, and the poem can mark a new beginning by expressly giving glory to Christ the Saviour of the nations.

炳國義, and the rest is unwritten. But even here, with just three characters, we can see some order. My grandfather’s character ‘bright, luminous’ has the radical for fire, ; my father’s character ‘territory, nation’ clearly suggests earth; my character ‘righteousness, justice’ is associated with metal. Thus we have gone from summer to the ripe season to autumn, and the next in the cycle of the five phases of matter and energy (wŭxíng) is winter and water. A cycle of five itself suggests lines of five characters each, whether four lines for 20 syllables or eight lines for 40. Numerologically, 40 can correspond to the days of rain and flooding in the time of Noah, or the years of Israel’s wandering until the faithless generation had died, or the days of Jesus’s fast in the wasteland to suffer the temptations of man; 20, however, is of no significance. But when the cycle of five has gone eight times, which makes an octave of a feast to the Lord, signifying the spiritual Eighth Day of the week, then shall we have the number of trigrams and the number of persons on Noah’s Ark and the number of the Beatitudes. Let the poem, the jìntĭshī 近體詩, be written thus.

炳國△△ 義某 某△○ ●
某某○○ 某某 某△△ ●

某某○○ 某某 某○△ △  parallelism
某某△△ 某某 某△○ ●

某某△△ 某某 某○○ △  parallelism
某某○○ 某某 某△△ ●

某某○○ 某某 某○△ △
某某△△ 某某 某△○ ●

The Beauty of Suzhounese

Is it just me, or is Suzhounese the most beautiful language ever sung by women? I think I have a serious weakness for that dialect.

Read Aristotle’s Poetics

My high school’s instruction in English, when it came to Greek tragœdy such as Sophocles’s Antigone, gestured at Aristotle’s unities of place and time; but these seemed arbitrary things to commit to memory. Not until I had graduated from university, and was taking a class about the history of rhetorical theory, did I actually read Aristotle’s Poetics and understand what he was on about. I wish we had been set to read Aristotle in high school to understand literature and rhetoric. Richard Carroll gives a review of the Poetics at Thermidor Magazine. Unlike Mr Carroll, who recommends the Loeb version, I might instead recommend the translation of Rhys Roberts and Ingram Bywater, which is bound together with Aristotle’s Rhetoric; which to choose depends on what you need.

If you haven’t read Mr Carroll’s review, do go and allow him to persuade you to read Aristotle’s Poetics. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Bless, O Lord, This Ring?

kate-middleton-royal-wedding-ring-1

In PECUSA’s 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the order of solemnization of holy matrimony specifies that the priest may say, before delivering the ring to the man, ‘Bless, O Lord, this Ring, that he who gives it and she who wears it may abide in thy peace, and continue in thy favour, unto their life’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’ The North American Anglican has published my short piece on whether to bless a ring or its wearer. Check it out. What do you think?

‘Doubtful Novelties’ in Church Names

Walker Rumble, in a printing history series, tells us about great Episcopalian printer Daniel Berkeley Updike. About names of churches he says,

Berkeley Updike and Harold Brown thought Episcopalians named and dedicated their churches inappropriately and in a slipshod manner. Nomenclature became thoughtless and frivolous, and things got worse with spreading evangelical congregations. According to Updike and Brown, ‘the names of our Lord, and of the Apostles and Saints of the New Testament’ – traditional sources – were ‘quite sufficient’. Names such as ‘Heavenly Rest’ or ‘House of Prayer’ were as ‘meaningless’ as ‘Precious Blood’ or ‘Bread of Life’. These were ‘fanciful names’. If we demand variety, ‘let us have at least no doubtful novelties.’

Looking at you, c4so diocese. With a diocese name like that, how can you avoid frivolous names for parish churches?

c4so-header-logo

But Chinese churches should also take note. Such names as Mr Updike cited are not out of the ordinary for a Chinese church, and their frivolous novelty is no less than it was in 1892, the year that he and Harold Brown published On the Dedications of American Churches. Many evangelical Chinese churches, trying to signal their orthodox evangelical credentials, have chosen novelties to shout their decency, and in so doing have negated their own orthodoxy.

It is far better, as Mr Updike says, to take ‘the names of our Lord, and of the Apostles and Saints of the New Testament’ – among whom, I take it, he includes saints who are not mentioned in the pages of New Testament, but who lived and died in the New Testament. It is no novelty, after all, to name a church after a local martyr or a saint from another place whose influence is felt as far as the church to be named. Thus might a church in Edinburgh be named after St Cuthbert, who lies buried in Durham, or a church in Vancouver’s Chinatown after St Robert Morrison, translator of the Scriptures into Chinese. These are names that concretely draw the Christian’s heart to the life of Christ, or to his life in a particular saint.

st-johns-cathedral-hong-kong

The Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist, Hong Kong.

The more our churches seek to differentiate ourselves from the whole work of the Holy Ghost on earth, by taking vain names, the more we separate ourselves from the Church. May the Lord’s blessing rest upon the churches devoted to the glory of his Name.

Russian and Uyghur for the Children

When I was in high school, I had autistic dreams of having my children natively speak an analytic language, an agglutinative language, and a fusional language. As a Chinese American, I thought Chinese would work well for analytic and Latin for fusional; for agglutinative, Finnish. Even at that time, of course, I knew that it would not be practical, as Romantic as it might be, for the son of a Chinaman to speak Mohawk.

I take for granted that, if I marry and God give me children, they should speak Cantonese, Mandarin, English, and (if possible) my grandfather’s mother tongue, Taishanese; Latin also remains eminently good and useful. In addition to these languages of Chinese and Christian heritage, though, I hope they can speak Russian and Uyghur.

modern-uyghur-grammar-by-haimit-tdmiir-16-638

For that hope, I have my reasons: (1) Eurasian bloc integration and (2) the Back to Jerusalem movement. The two are related, and of this I shall say more later.

Image

The Iceberg of Latin Literature

My friend has made a great Latin meme. Go bump it if you have Facebook, and #MakeLatinGreatAgain. Syke! Latin’s already great.