Mythogenic Historic Personalities

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Mythogenic Historic Personalities

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Redigerat: jan 3, 2007, 5:01 pm

belleyang mentions a well-known story:
孟嘗君﹐脫穎而去 Meng Changjun as minister of Qi during 戰國, collected a raggedy bunch of 食客, including those who could crawl like a dog (狗盗) and one who could crow like a chicken. He managed to escape capture because the one who crowed like a chicken (雞鳴) was able to mimic cock's crow at dawn. The gate guards heard the cry and opened up, allowing Meng Changjun to escape. Meng Changjun believed that each person had his own special talent, which was revealed in time, and could be useful to him.

This story of Tian Wen, known to history by his title of nobility Lord of Mengchang, is a popular one, although Wang Anshi of the Song dynasty was entirely unimpressed by it (his brief scornful essay is to be found in Guwen Guanzhi 古文觀止). We incline to believe it’s just one of those legends that accrete around the life story of a certain kind of person. Another example of this specific type of story is found in Huainanzi 淮南子 about the logician and sophist Gongsun Lung 公孫龍, who is said to have accepted a retainer whose sole ability was to shout loudly, and very soon found him useful.

jan 3, 2007, 4:59 pm

Just to be clear about what we mean by the title of this topic, we refer not to mythical figures like Shen Nong and Hou Ji but to real people whose lives were such as to inspire later people to make up stories about them. Notable examples are the leading figures of the Three Kingdoms period, such as Cao Cao and Zhuge Liang, but there are many more.

jan 8, 2007, 4:33 am

Is Wong Fei-Hung such a character?

jan 8, 2007, 12:30 pm

>3 Airycat: Is Wong Fei-Hung such a character?

Seems to be, although we should add that the Qing dynasty is so far in the future from where our minds are that it looks like science fiction to us. :)

okt 18, 2007, 5:36 pm

I have a binational mythogenic historic personality riddle.

In Japanese 19c senryu, there are several mentions of the Chinese King who would later unite all 400 or so states to unify China fellating the King who defeated him in battle and captured him. He was said to have cured the King of his vd (the clap) in the process and was freed as an award. It would seem possible that someone in Japan misread the standard gall-bladder-sucking phrase, but I have seen the sleep-on-firewood+lick-gall-bladder mentioned within articles about the fellatio . . . The Japanese who wrote this did not mean it as an insult. Rather they probably admired the King all the more for having the fortitude to do what was necessary to eventually win the country.

Fogies, if you are back out there -- or is it in here? -- i would be grateful to know if you have come across anything on this in Chinese material or know anyone particularly well versed in what might be called ancient urban myth for me to write.

okt 19, 2007, 7:56 am

>5 keigu: Sorry, total blank on that one. Try looking in Sexual Life in Ancient China. Frankly, that sort of story strikes us as uncharacteristic of Chinese sex gossip, which tends to scandals about overindulgence of appetites. The little that is not hetero runs to tales of powerful men being ruined by their indulgence in little boys.

That business of uniting 400 states makes the whole thing seem to us to have been made up by someone only vaguely familiar with Chinese history. There never were anything like 400 states in China even at its most fragmented, and already by 30 years or so before the unification half a dozen big powers had gobbled up the smaller ones, including even the rump state of the former Zhou empire. Sounds more like idle talk from the ukiyo.

Redigerat: okt 19, 2007, 11:29 am

>5 keigu: Can you quote one? Are any in your new book?

I think you mentioned elsewhere that there was reference to 越王, from which the inference that it was 越王 勾踐, defeated by 吳王 夫差, and his 臥薪嘗胆 regimen, seemed to fit the non-sexual parts of the story. Were any of those references you mention in the Japanese original, or reputable commentators, or was that just our amateur sleuthing?

I might follow the Fogies' lead when next at the public library with some free time and it'd be good to know what to look for.

>6 Fogies: That's one of those works with translations that does the naughtier bits into Latin, isn't it? Never stopped us as schoolboys.

Redigerat: okt 19, 2007, 10:48 pm

All the senryu i know of so far are late 18c-19c from some of the best known anthologies/series. The explanations i have seen fail to give citations -- they treat it as a matter of fact. In 蕣露庵主人's 解説for the last senryu below he explains the battle between the two kings as MMcM names them and says the latter was suffering from 石淋cured by said bj or bjs and later 四百余国 were unified by ko . . . 中国の故事 is it for the source. If you do not come up with it quickly chances are it was a japanese invention -- it must have been fairly well known in japan to have inspired at least three senryu and all indirect like this. gotta take an old dog out to do its business so i will now submit yoroshiku hope teh jpse shows below 敬愚 ps back again:let me try to find japanese to ask before you do library time MMcM for there is no rush for this

kô-ô wa fusafusashiku mo haimi suru 49-39 (yanagidaru 18c)
king koh / overwhelmed still / takes a taste
越王は喰い切ろうかと度々思ひ 113-38 (yanagidaru 19c)
kô-ô wa kui-kirô ka to tabitabi omoi
king koh / now and then considered / biting it off
稀な事まらをしゃぶって四百取 葉12 (yanaginohazue 1835)
mare na koto mara o shabutte shihyaku tori
a rare thing / sucking a cock he gets / four hundred

Redigerat: okt 28, 2007, 3:47 pm

Okay. I had a check in Sexual Life in Ancient China. I cannot find any mention of Kou Chien or Fu Ch'ai, or the secondary characters in the conventional narrative like Fan Li. The closest I got was this quotation where a recluse-tempting beauty is compared to Hsi Shih. There doesn't seem to be any mention of the act's restorative powers, either.

It will be interesting to see what your Japanese sources return for antecedents. Not surprisingly, adding 石淋 'stranguary caused by urinary stone' to the cast of characters only turns up pages like this (S0513N085), which I'll readily confess to only vaguely getting. In particular, what なめて means there.

Update: Here is a JSTOR article which relates that when Fu-ch'ai was ill, the doctor said that someone needed to taste his urine to determine whether he would live or die. Kou-chien volunteered and discovered that he would live. This story comes from Chao Yeh 趙曄 's Wu-yüeh ch'un-ch'iu 吳越春秋, a fanciful account of those two kingdoms. So that's a good lead and not unbelievably far from the senryu version. Here, I think: 請嘗大王之溲,以決吉凶。.

nov 5, 2007, 12:40 am

MMcM, I see that the best Japanese sources (the one you gave above 曾我物語dated 1338 and 三国伝記 about 200 yrs later, cited under石淋in the 日本国語大辞典) mention the 石淋 or 石痳and not clap 淋病or 痳病 - the similar character and the sex-loving nature of the king must have fooled some quick readers, including, i am embarrrassed to say, me, for i see one source i used clearly says the former disease). They also mention the doctor, but do not clearly say it is urine that is being licked/sucked/tasted. The reason for doing it is not to see if he will live and die but by giving a precise description of the taste (describe the 五味) enable the doctors to know how to cure it. The verb which you give in Japanese is indeed the crux of the matter, for it ostensibly means "taste" here but used together with the penis means lick or suck, and was commonly used as an insult (henoko o namero is in a senryu). Because none of the King's other ministers volunteered to taste it and great embarassment is involved, i would guess it was felt that King's member was . . . Also, in the 1338 tale, there is something usually translated as a handle (石淋の取りてtorite/totte なめ) which i cannot be sure of. Handles on teapots being cylindrical, it seems like a euphemism for the phallus, but such a meaning is not in my biggest dictionary. Then again, it could be a verb. That's a problem i'll have to work out.

I have yet to see urine specifically mentioned. (if control f search works with a pdf maybe i can find it in the jstor pdf). Japanese doctors did not even look at urine (see Frois' Tratado 9-7 in my Topsy-turvy 1585) much less taste it like many european doctors did (more than once in Aubrey's Brief Lives), so the senryu writers may have assumed the stones were sucked out or something. One would think the Chinese doctors if they knew tasting urine was necessary for diagnosis would tast it themselves . . .