Knotty Notions

Translating Lydia Chen's Chinese Knotting Book One Knot List

The easiest way for me to enter Chinese text is by typing English text and getting something to translate it for me. Generally speaking this does 60% of the job. Then there are the characters that are more difficult to translate, so I need to enter them directly. For this task I like to write the characters into a system that does Chinese handwriting recognition. For this job I used the free iTranslate iPhone app and the nciku dictionary. I used the iTranslate app, mostly because I was out, but it had the added advantage of quickly swapping the Chinese and English back and forth from the translate/translated windows for refinement of the desired characters. Also, unlike the other translation apps on my phone, iTranslate allowed me to get the data out (via email in this case). Apparently iTranslate is “powered by Google” and indeed once I got home I also used Google Translate with largely the same results although there is no handwriting recognition involved there.

nciku is far and away the better word and phrase translator, plus it has more data entry methods (handwriting, pinyin). In Google’s favour is it’s ability to deal with greater volume (sentences, paragraphs, whole web pages).

So, sometimes after I’ve input the characters, I’ll retranslate the Chinese back to English to see what comes out. Sometimes it’s something that makes sense (auspicious vs good luck), sometimes it’s the word you expect except that you don’t get that when translating in the other direction (button vs Buttons), and sometimes it’s just wacky (pan chang vs plate length).

The extra added difficulty to this project is that I was translating the Chinese from the handwritten (fast script with a paintbrush) Chinese in the English version of the book. The Chinese editions of Chinese Knotting 2 and Chinese Knotting 3 have the text nicely typeset on the top of the page in addition to the pretty, but difficult to read, script and that’s most likely the case with the first volume as well.

English Name Written Chinese Pinyin Translation Notes
double coin knot 雙錢 shuāng qián double money vs double coin (雙幣)
double connection knot 雙聯 shuāng lián retranslates as Double
sauvastika knot 卍字 wàn zì swastika word
cross knot 十字 shí zì ten word
cloverleaf knot 酢漿草 zuòjiāngcǎo oxalis corniculata retranslates as shamrock vs clover (三葉草)
good luck knot 吉祥 jí xiáng auspicious
button knot 鈕扣 niǔ kòu retranslates as Buttons vs button(按鈕)
pan chang knot 盤長 pán cháng retranslates as plate length
round brocade knot 團錦 tuán jǐn retranslates (iTranslate) as mission jin
plafond knot 藻井 zǎo jǐng surprising straightforward bilateral translation
flat knot 平結 píng jié
ju i knot 如意 rúyì retranslates as "be satisfied"
brocade ball knot 繡球 xiù qiú embroidery ball (remove the flower (花) in the middle)
longevity knot shòu longevity (長壽)
double happiness knot 雙喜 shuāng xǐ
dragon knot dragon lóng
dragonfly knot 蜻蜓 qīng tíng dragonfly (蝴蝶昆蟲)
butterfly knot 蝴蝶 hú dié google gives the oddest translation to “butterfly”: 輕便鐵路蝴蝶站
long pan chang 長盤長 cháng pán cháng
stone chime knot qìng stone chime (石磬), even by itself (磬) is stone chime
double diamond knot 方勝 fāng shèng 方=square retranslates (iTranslate) as Fang sheng 勝=win, defeat, be better than, superb 形 = shape
crane knot 仙鶴 xiān hè crane (鶴) retranslated by nciku as a mythological immortal bird
phoenix knot fèng phoenix (鳳凰)
fish knot 鯉魚 lǐyú fish = 魚 the written Chinese is “carp”
ten accord knot 十全 shí quán nciku retranslates as perfect


Chinese Knotting

it is very fun, especially Written Chinese "十字" is in the name of " ten word" in Translation Notes. Like your post.

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