Taboos and Euphemism in Chinese Ⅱ

The ancient Chinese people also believed that language had a mystical inherent power that could influence certain things to happen, for example, unlucky words could encourage unlucky things to happen. To avoid mishaps, certain words were avoided. Some of these were obvious-“death”, “bad luck”, “loss”, “defeat”, “damage”, or “being broken”. It was especially important to avoid these kinds of words on celebratory occasions such as holidays, wedding, or the building of a new house. At these times it was better to say words like “happy” “auspicious” “smooth” and “prosperous”. At wedding or when a house was completed, happy songs were sung to satisfy the cultural craving for auspiciousness. Historically, People believed that not only did some words show disrespect to the sacred, but also went so far as to bring about disaster. Fascinatingly, they also avoided speaking or writing the given names of highly respected people. In particular, the great sage Confucius and feudal emperors were often not mentioned by name. To demonstrate their reverence for the sage, when scholars wrote the characters for Confucius they deliberately omitted the second vertical stroke of his given name, 丘. When reading his name out aloud, they would change the pronunciation of his given name to “mou” from the original “qiu”. Emperors had absolute authority and due to this their names were not written or spoken. The first emperor in the Qin Dynasty (221 BC-206 BC)had the given name 政(zheng). During this period, the character 政 could not be used by anybody else, and even characters with the same pronunciation were avoided.正月,the first lunar month was altered to a difference tone, zhengyue, and the new pronunciation has persisted to the current day.

Words translated by CCJK


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