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.

Aside

Average heights of Japanese students in Tokyo, ages 5–17, for both sexes.

average-height-of-japanese-students-by-age

Tfw not even taller than 倭寇 guys. Being bested by 小日本 in height is frankly embarrassing.

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.

Be Honest Now

Natalie Portman is not a 10. Some of these other women are also rather too high. So no, I don’t agree.

In a godly society, people would look better than they do. That they don’t is a sign of sickness.

Robert P. George’s Hypocrisy on Punishing Women Obtaining Abortions

Robert-George

Robert P. George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton, is a leading figure in the American ‘pro-life’ movement. I feel indebted to him for his being a professor at an élite university who publicly opposes abortion; that alone is, in these evil times, supposed to be a great feat. But he also signifies, to me, the moral failures of America’s neoconservative establishment. Continue reading

North African and Horn of Africa Anglicans Refuse the Money of Sodom

Mouneer Anis in talks with the late Coptic patriarch Shenouda III.
Photograph by Patrick Comerford.

The Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North of Africa and the Horn of Africa, one of the four dioceses of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, refuses money from The Episcopal Church™:

The decision not to receive these funds came after the 2003 decision by TEC to consecrate as bishop a divorced man living in a homosexual relationship. The decision not to receive money from TEC is one expression of the reality that the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa was (and still is) in an impaired relationship with The Episcopal Church. One of our clergy in Ethiopia states our situation in graphic terms: ‘We rather starve and not receive money from churches whose actions contradict the scriptures.’

God bless these grave and brave Christians who suffer so much at the hands of their Muslim neighbours but still refuse to bow to Mammon. Their testimony will not be forgotten, and our feeble prayers for them will be heard by our mighty Lord. Strengthen their hearts and their hands, O Lord, that neither the violence of Islamists nor the extortions of false brethren may keep them from bearing witness to the righteousness of thy kingdom; through the merits of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Talks About Double Standards; Does Nothing

The good professor Anthony M. Esolen says, in Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture,

We now know, from the confessions of one of the fabricators (Dr. Bernard Nathanson) and the boasts of another (Dr. Alan Guttmacher) that the statistics upon which the Supreme Court based its infamous decision on abortion were just made up – for example, that a million American women had died from illegal abortions. How far wrong was that statistic? It is like saying that three decades ago the earth’s temperature was five hundred degrees, or that a human skeleton had been discovered at another Piltdown, measuring a hundred feet in length. The lies have been amply documented. Has anyone other than the repentant Dr. Nathanson of blessed memory hung his head in shame and recanted? Or do any legal experts say, ‘It disgusts us to have to endure this decision, based as it was on sheer mendacity’? No, never. The lies are our lies. Harvey Milk was an openly homosexual politician in San Francisco, assassinated along with the mayor [in 1978]. His assassination had nothing to do with his sexual predilections. Mr. Milk was also a serial predator of teenage boys. That will get you a Hollywood movie and actual ‘religious’ icons, featuring the man with a halo. They will name a street after you. They will produce daft picture books of Mr. Milk, dressed and not tumescent, for the consumption of little children in school. The lies are our lies.

First, a bit of an autistic note, perhaps, but one I cannot help making: To say the earth’s temperature was 500 °F is only about twice the actual figure, because the zero we must use for temperatures is absolute zero (−273.15 °C; −459.67 °F), not the zeroes of either Celsius or Fahrenheit. To measure how many times a given temperature is another temperature, we must use figures in kelvin (K).

Second, disgust is necessary but not sufficient. Morally, of course, repentance is essential, and no Christian can dispense with a call to repentance. When all is said, there are reprobates so hardened that they will never turn no matter how much you upbraid their arrogance; neither does it any political good for the conservative to feel good about his own moral superiority. When all is said, then, virtually nothing is done. By all means, the Church must call the wicked to account before God, with the word of God. That is what the Lord did to the Pharisees: he called them what they were, sons of the devil. Ye are of your father the devil, he said, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Likewise, we must pray for God to ‘abate their pride, assuage their malice, and confound their devices’. But Christians may not do these things only and consider their duty done. We must actually stop the wicked, by force when necessary.

duterte-punch

The pieties that tell us we must ever do only what is legally regular are the pieties of the eunuch’s schoolyard, not the pieties of the Christian. Western Christian condemnation of Rodrigo Duterte and those like him is often no more than that. ‘So much for the tolerant left,’ and all the chatter like it, has to go. Conservatives talk; to defeat the enemies of all moral law, we need action.

Graham Greene Reads Bourgeois Christianity

one-does-not-simply-modernize-God

We warrin’ on bourgeois Anglicanism like it’s 1689.

In The North American Anglican, Brian Miller has some brief thoughts, ‘Praying to Themselves’, about Graham Greene and a passage in his Orient Express.

In this short piece’s second part he says, ‘Graham wants us to think about what happens when religious bodies undertake the effort to update and modernize religious texts.’ Greene, he says, shows us how an attempt at relevance in fact makes the Church accessible only to a select group, weakening or destroying the ‘common prayer’ that the English world and the Latin world once enjoyed. Replacing the language of Zion, therefore, is a fool’s errand. That second part is well done.

The first part, however, is strange. It may make full sense only to a bourgeois audience, for it is perhaps only to a bourgeois audience that it seems necessary. To those with a bourgeois sense of Christianity, Mr Miller notes that Graham Greene ‘had notorious communist sympathies’ but was nevertheless a devout Romanist. ‘Catholic and Communist’, he says, ‘seem oxymoronic.’ He then quotes the ‘conservative’ William F. Buckley interviewed in The Paris Review:

Graham Greene always struck me as being at war with himself. He had impulses that he sometimes examined with a compulsive sense to dissect them, as though only an autopsy would do to dissect their nature. He was a Christian more or less malgré soi. He was a Christian because he couldn’t quite prevent it.

But Mr Miller can see in the Greene passage in view that, ‘far from being a contradiction, the communist and the conservative Christian impulses are perfectly aligned in that they both speak a universal moral language that seeks to transcend the matters of every-day life.’ Maybe, just maybe, William F. Buckley was wrong about Graham Greene, and Buckley was the one at war with himself. Buckley attempts to read Greene, but through that Orient Express passage he instead is read by Greene.

Buckley, eat your heart out. The contradiction is between Christianity and Whig conservatism.

Decrees of the Church to Be Kept as Wisdom

common-prayer

A high churchman’s conviction that holds the old decrees and customs of the Church in high regard is not unreformed, nor among the Reformed churches is such a conviction unique to Anglicans. Thus says Girolamo Zanchi in De Religione Christiana Fides:

For I beleeve that the thinges which were decreed and received of the fathers, by common consent of them all gathered together in the name of the Lord, without anie contradiction of holie scriptures, that they also (though they bee not of equall authoritie with the scriptures) come from the Holie ghost.

He speaks similarly in his Operum Theologicorum, intended to be a Protestant ‘summa’ modelled after that of St Thomas Aquinas, in the section on the traditions of the church:

Thesis 3. Moreover, just as political laws have their origin in natural law, so, too, the traditions of the church have their origin both from the Holy Spirit (as in the case of the apostles) and from the written Word of God (as in the case of the holy bishops and synods).

[…]

Thesis 4. Therefore, as long as these traditions are either consistent with Scripture or at least not contradictory to it, they are truly the traditions of the Church and must be accepted. And we ought to obey and honor them.

Thus did the fathers of the Council of Jerusalem speak, as St Luke records by the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles:

Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us [emphasis mine], to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.

Therefore, such decrees received from the Holy Ghost, consonant with what he breathes out in the holy Scriptures, are also reverently to be kept until altered under the law of Scripture, and of nature, by duly appointed authority.

Decrees and recognition of adiaphora

Yet reverence for what we have received is not always simple. St Paul tells the Corinthians,

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

If what St Paul teaches is as true as the words of the Apostolic Decree recorded by St Luke, then the matter seems less simple than that decrees of the Church should be obeyed religiously, as a matter of religion strictly. To acknowledge this complexity we are forced all the more if, as historians believe, 1 Corinthians was written a few years after the Apostolic Decree was sent out. Here, the Council of Jerusalem’s decree to abstain from meats (i.e., in today’s English, foods) offered to idols is not the basis of St Paul’s argument at all, though he should know of it. Instead, he treats an idol as nothing in itself: As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world. Thus, that some food has been sacrificed to idols is also nothing in itself: it is the weak conscience that is defiled by eating what has been offered to idols. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. The matter in itself St Paul as adiaphoron, a thing indifferent.

food-offering-incense-chinatown-bangkok

But it makes little sense that a decree recorded many years after in Acts should be nothing to St Paul writing to the Corinthians. After all, the Council of Jerusalem was summoned in the first place because of his disputation against Judaizers in the Church, and at this council he and Barnabas declared what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. The letter promulgating the Apostolic Decree was sent with them at least ‘unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia’, and there is no reason to suppose that the decree’s compass would have excluded the Gentiles of Corinth. There is no room for doubt that St Paul knew of the decree and followed it in his ministry to the Gentiles.

St Paul’s way of arguing for adhærence to the Apostolic Decree, then, is instructive. Nowhere is his persuasion of this sort:

 The Church has ruled against eating what is offered to idols.
 What the Church has ruled, the Corinthians should obey.
 The Corinthians should not eat what is offered to idols.

Instead, he recognizes a basic Christian freedom but urges the Corinthians of ‘stronger’ consciences to take heed lest by any means their liberty become a stumbling-block to those of ‘weaker’ consciences. Otherwise, when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. How St Paul argues for the Apostolic Decree is how Richard Hooker, writing fifteen centuries later, argues for the reformed Church of England’s episcopacy, liturgy, and canons. On the Apostolic Decree, he can easily be read in The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, particularly in book 4; on the settlement of the Church of England as it then stood, throughout the eight books. ‘The end which is aimed at in setting down the outward form of all religious actions’, Hooker says, ‘is the edification of the Church.’ It is not, then, a mere matter of obedience to divinely ordained authority, as if any arbitrary judgement can be taken for that of the Holy Ghost, but a matter of submitting to an intelligible wisdom.

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?

ChristBol Defended Ethically on Just War, Subsidiarity, and Wealth

OrthodoxPolitics has replied to my more recent defence of ChristBol, which addresses a comment of his, on three points:

  1. Just war and aggression;
  2. Subsidiarity and sovereignty;
  3. Redistribution and commonality of wealth.

Just war

Following the order we have used in the earlier parts of our exchange, I shall begin with just war. Continue reading

‘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.

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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.

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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.