Sunday, July 10, 2005

Interesting "Frog in a Well" entry on a Chinese wartime dictionary

I love to hear about old dictionaries or encyclopedias that people come across, so was interested to read this entry by Konrad Lawson about a dictionary published during the War of Japanese Resistance. (The title of the dictionary, 《抗戰建國實用百科辭典》, translates as Practical Encyclopedic Dictionary of the War of Resistance and National Reconstruction--quite a mouthful...)

Lawson notes that the dictionary has a lot of censored entries, though many of the blacked-out entries are still readable "because of the slight indentation that the printed characters make on the poor quality paper." Though a lot of the censored entries are blacked out for obvious reasons (they sound pro-Communist or sympathetic to Communist ideas), some seem to be censored just because they appear to "reflect badly on the performance of the Nationalist government in some way." This reminds me of some of the odd things I saw blacked out of English-language encyclopedias from the late 70s that you can (still) find in Tunghai's library. It appeared to be unacceptable, for instance, to suggest that the Nationalists had ever tried to cooperate with the Communists during the war. (Kind of like it's unacceptable to some to suggest the U.S. cooperated with Saddam Hussein a few years ago...?)


Camicao said...

I discovered dictionaries when I did an edition of a classic work of literature that required alot of glosses of hard-to-find words and expressions. Until then, I did not find dictionaries that interesting. Have you read "The Professor and the Madman" by Simon Winchester, about the Oxford Dictionary?

Jonathan Benda said...

No, but I read (most of) Jonathon Green's Chasing the Sun: Dictionary Makers and the Dictionaries They Made. Green has an interesting section on James Murray.