This might well be a tag as Mark Twain saw it then, "pinned to the clothes," used as a shorthand note or reminder.
--The middle three characters means "Mr. L--", apparently the customer.
--The first character in a smaller size has to be rotate by 90% to the left and it is "Guang" which can mean: light; ray; honor; smooth, or shining, etc. So, it may be possible: "The item is to be ironed."
--The last character is an old-styled character "Sheng" which means:litre [volume]; arise;raise; advance; hoist, etc. So, it may be possible: "Hang it up."
I am just guessing, but one thing is certain: all characters are genuinely Chinese words.
From: Mark Twain Forum on behalf of Harold Bush
Sent: Mon 6/27/2011 11:49 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Translation of Chinese characters in Roughing It illustration
I'm looking at p. 392, with 5 characters: mostly nonsense, evidently; it
would be interesting to figure out where the heck they came from. Or why MT
would not take 5 minutes to find a Chinese person to put something real and
significant ... but I was just reading this morning about the horrible
treatment of the Chinese at that time, so I guess it amounts to a sort of
contempt/disinclination to take them seriously enough to use actual Chinese
characters, and to make up complete drivel.
As a group they make zero sense. from top to bottom they are:
a phony -- made up?? this one is the most suspect and clearly just scrawled
row: as in a row of houses or of crops, or people, seats, or anything
3rd & 4th together = mister, Mr.
5th = more nonsense: illegible
ps: in case anyone has grand delusions about my Longfellow-like language
skills, these were analyzed by my dear wife; no I am not quite capable of
doing this alone, just got me curious so I called her over.
here's a link in google books, FYI:
On Sun, Jun 26, 2011 at 12:25 PM, Scott Holmes <[log in to unmask]>wrote:
> Just as a matter of curiosity, is there a translation of the
> illustration in chapter 54 of Roughing It? I had assumed that it
> represented a laundry tag. Mark notes that many Chinese, in Virginia
> City, were employed in the laundry business and always attached a tag or
> bill to cleaned clothing.
> I asked a friend, from mainland China, but she was unable to provide a
> clear translation. She did think that it probably represented or was
> possibly found as part of a shrine. Mark also spend some time in this
> chapter discussing how the Chinese deal with their dead.
Harold K. Bush, Ph.D
Professor of English
Saint Louis University
St. Louis, MO 63108
314-977-3616 (w); 314-771-6795 (h)