Knotty Notions

Knots vs Fancy Knots

Knots vs Fancy Knots

I had just finished going through a big stack of videos that I had found on youku, a youTube-like site in China (search for Chinese knotting:中国结 and knotting art:结艺) when my knot (매듭 in Korean) search brought me a practical knot result. That’s ok. I’ve got nothing against practical things and it’s not like that automated search turns up many results in general, but it got me to thinking, how to refine this search to produce a more focused decorative result? Taking another look at Kim Hee-Jin’s maedup site and Korean Traditional Knots and started parsing down this string “한국의 전통매듭” which as a string translates to “Korea’s traditional knot”. Previously, I had determined that “매듭” means “knot” so that left the “전통” part. Traditional, eh?

“한국의” translates as “South Korea” and “국의” translates as “country”. I should not have been surprised that none of the individual parts translated as “south” which is apparently “남쪽”. 8)

In any case, “전통매듭” as a search term turned up much in the way of decorative knot results. So much so, that even down to the 10th page of results, I was still finding good stuff. Normally this would make me happy, but last night it started feeling like a Sisyphean ordeal. So, I stopped and had some chocolate and felt much better. 8) 8)

I still have a massive backlog of Chinese and Korean links to blog about (and new ones turn up every day!). Surprisingly, not so much Japanese, but maybe I’ll find some insight or inspiration will strike and that will change. In any case, I wanted finish up my notes as regards refining translation and search terms for Asian decorative knots.

Traditional Chinese, as found in Taiwan, Singapore and elsewhere.
China: 中國
Chinese knots: 中國結
knot art: 結藝

Simplified Chinese, as found in Mainland China.
China: 中国
Chinese knots: 中国结
knot art: 结艺

Pinyin romanized Chinese (vs. Wade-Giles).
China: Zhōngguó
knot: jié
art: yì

My favourite Chinese dictionary site converts back and forth and includes recordings of pronunciations if you would like to hear it spoken. Best of all, it has character recognition capability allowing you to write/draw the character you see and get look it up that way instead of counting strokes and parsing radicals or knowing the pinyin a priori.

In Japanese, there are several independent-ish arts that relate to decorative knotting. Interestingly, many decorative knotting sites in Japan simply call it “Chinese knotting”. Here we have the kanji, hirigana, and romanji.
knot: 結び, むすび, musubi
flower knot: 花結び, はな むすび, hanamusubi
tea bag knots: 仕覆結, しふく むす, shifuku
Chinese knotting: 中国結び, ちゅうごく むすび, chuugoku musubi
mizuhiki: 水引, みずひき, mizuhiki

Back in the shifuku post I got all pedantic about Japanese. Since I keep all my memories online, I thought here would be a good place to do the same with Korean. 8)

The Korean writing system is called (한글) Hangeul/Han’gŭl in South Korea, (조선글) Chosŏn’gŭl/Joseongeul in North Korea, or (전금) jeongeum if you are ethnically Korean in China. Whatever you may call it, it is the same writing system. Clearly there is a lot of messy politics involved here. As in Japan, Korea also had a Chinese phase, and Chinese characters are called hanja (漢字, 한자).

As you can tell with all the slashes in the previous paragraph, there are a number of Korean romanization schemes. The current officially selected scheme is the MCT (Ministry of Culture and Tourism) scheme. Wikipedia, calls it RR (Revised Romanization of Korean). The other big one is MR (McCune-Reischauer). It doesn’t end there, but that’s the broad strokes.

I had long ago bookmarked Chinese/English/pinyin and Japanese/English/kanji/hirigana dictionaries. Now, seemed a good time to look for a Korean/English/Hangul/MCT dictionary. While I haven’t found a favourite dictionary, I did find a Hangul/MCT conversion tool. Now all I need to find is some romanization => Japanese/Korean conversion tools so that I can go from shibori or pogaji to the characters and script, completing the cycle. I didn’t mention pinyin => Chinese because nciku will actually do that.

Back to knots…
knot: 매듭 mae-deup
traditional knot: 전통매듭 jeon-tong-mae-deup

For those joining us from elsewhere, let’s not neglect good ole English. Beyond the romanized terms mentioned above there’s: Asian/Chinese/Japanese/Korean knotting/macrame
decorative knotting

I’m probably missing more, but it’s 2am now and time for sleeping…

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