Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Temple of Womb

Recently a translation job took me from the banal world of college diplomas, deep into the uncharted and lawless hills of northeastern China.

The document was hand-scrawled on official government stationary from an area of Yi County (义县 yi4 xian4) in Liaoning Province (辽宁省 liao2 ning2 sheng3). Since it was written by hand, this thing was a little hard to decipher. There was a clue on the paper, though, where it said the name of the town, printed at the top of the page: Dizang Temple Manchu Village (地藏寺满族乡di4 zang4 si4 man3 zu2 xiang1). First I looked up Dizang Temple.

Turns out it is a Buddhist temple, and Dizang can also be translated as Ksitigarbha, a Sanskrit name. He is a bodhisattva (an enlightened person who tries to help others), and 地藏 (Dizang) is actually a translation of Ksitigarbha, which means Earth Store or Earth Treasure or Earth Womb (hence the witty titular pun of this post. Actually there is an even subtler connection there, to be described below!).

According to the Internet, the Dizang Temple in this village was founded by Manchurian chieftain Nurhachi (努尔哈赤 nu4 er3 ha1 chi4) in the 16th-17th century. He was famous for creating the written form of the Manchu script, and as the father of the Qing Dynasty.

Also, he is the same Nurhachi whose ashes appear in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, when Indy trades them for a large diamond in Shanghai!

As Hannibal used to say on the A-Team, I love it when a blog comes together.


Susan Moger said...

Great post but how about a Chinese New year post too! AND what was the mysterious hand written missive or are you bound to silence?

Ben Moger Williams said...

Bound to secrecy I'm afraid. (It was not that exciting though). Finally updated with a Chinese new year's post! Tiger, Metal Tiger.