道道道: The way of the path of the dao

I’ve now spent about 6 months in Japan as an Englsh teacher so I’ve been
using the time to attack yet another Asian language -this will be my
third. I’m intermediate in Mandarin Chinese, basic in Korean and barely
rudimentary in Japanese. But what I find interesting is that both Korean
and Japanese use Chinese characters – ‘Hanja’ in Korean and ‘Kanji’ in
Japanese.

So, on this blog, between silly cartoons and whatnot, I thought I’d
intersperse the posts with a look at certain characters, especially in
relation to the martial arts. We often learn about these words through
studying the martial arts and I thought, since I’ve spent so many years
being a language nerd, I might be able to give insights or background to
words like ‘kungfu’, ‘qi’, ‘quan’ etc… And for this post, I’m looking
at ‘道’.

Simply, 道, or ‘dao’ in Mandarin, is the way or path. ‘Daolu’ (道路) means road
and in Japanese it has similar meanings but with varying pronunciations,
like ‘michi’. However, you might be familiar with the Japanese ‘do’ as
in karatedo, ‘the way of empty fist’ (I might talk about the character
for ‘fist’ later on). Likewise, for Korean, the ‘do’ in taekwondo is the
same character: 跆拳道.

From what I’ve seen in Chinese martial arts, they tend to use other
characters as a ‘suffix’ character (for want of a better term) such as
‘quan’, ‘koon’ or ‘zhang’. But that doesn’t mean 道 isn’t used in a
phisophical context -the mother of Asian philosophy, what is often
referred to in English as the ‘Tao Te Ching’ is in Chinese: 道德經 which
can be roughly translated as ‘the way of virture classic text’.

Put to more pedestrian purposes, there is also the useful term for
knowing where to walk in the big city: ‘renxingdao’ or 人行道 (footpath),
but knowing the ‘way of the walking person’ might not be enough to get
you out of a jam if you’re cornered by ruthless muggers in a dark alley.

MH MA renxingdao

Advertisements