>Mr. Shi Eating Lions

>Edit: 2005-09-20, 11:53 am

seems I’ve been misinformed by my friend. Please read section (3) Hanyu Pinyin is not a system for spelling Classical Chinese. It is a system for spelling modern vernacular Chinese from The Three “NOTs” of Hanyu Pinyin which has a short discussion about the Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den piece written by the linguist Yuen Ren Chao (pinyin: Zhào Yuánrèn).

Zhào Yuánrèn was the leader group that created the romanization system known as Gwoyeu Romatzyh (“National Romanization”; pinyin: Guóyǔ Luómǎzì). He wrote the poem Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den to demonstrate that Classical Chinese should not be romanized with Gwoyeu Romatzyh.

Thanks to Mark for the corrections.

A friend of mine who’s teaching English and academic writing at Shantou University in the Guangdong Province (about 150 miles north of Hong Kong) brought the story of “Mr. Shi Eating Lions” to my attention.

It was written just to demonstrate some of the absurditities implicit in the pinyinization project as in some cases there may be up to 60 homophones for any particular “word” in Chinese.

The numbers after the pinyin words indicate tones. “1” is high tone; “2” is rising tone; “3” is falling-rising tone; “4” is falling tone; and “5” is neutral (sometimes marked with “0”, “*”, or preceded by a dot before the syllable e.g. ·ma). Tone marks and diacritics are usually only used in textbooks as the current main use for pinyin is as a pedagogical tool to teach pronunciation.

Mr. Shi Eating Lions

(in pinyin)

Shi2 shi4 shi1shi4 Shi1 shi4 shi4 shi1, shi4 shi2 shi2 shi1. Shi4 shi2shi2 shi4 shi4 shi4 shi1. Shi2 shi2, shi4 shi4 shi4, shi4 shi2 shi* shi1 shi4 shi4. Shi4 shi2, shi4 shi4 shi4 shi2 shi1, shi3 shi2 shi2 shi3 shi4, shi3 shi4 shi2 shi1 shi4shi4. Shi4 shi2 shi4 shi2 shi1 shi1 shi4 shi2 shi4. Shi2 shi4 shi1, shi3 shi4 shi4 shi3 shi2 shi4. Shi2 shi4 shi4. Shi4 shi3 shi4 shi2 shi4 shi2 shi1 shi1. Shi2 shi2, shi3 shi4 shi4 shi2 shi* shi1 shi1 shi2 shi2 shi* shi2 shi1 shi1. Shi4 shi2, shi4 shi3 shi4 shi4 shi4 shi2. Shi4 shi4 shi4 shi4.

(in English)

Mr. Shi, a poet who lived in a stone house, liked to eat lions. He vowed to eat ten lions. He often went to the market to look at lions. At ten o’clock, he went to the market. Just then ten large lions came to the market. At that time, he saw these ten lions. Relying on the power of ten arrows with stone tips, he caused the ten lions to pass away. He picked up the bodies of the ten lions and went back to his stone house. The stone house was damp, so he told his servant to try and wipe it (dry). After the house had been wiped (dry), he began to try to eat the bodies of the ten lions. As he was eating, he realized that the bodies of the ten large lions were actually bodies of ten large stone lions. Only then did he understand the real situation. Can (you) explain what happened? (Translated by Victor H. Mair)

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