Chinese/Japanese: Connotations of Right and Left

CrazyIvan

Senior Member
Taiwan-Taiwanese
Flaminius said:
Latvian
Left: kreiss
There is a connotation of being the wrong side.

Japanese
Left: hidari (左、ひだり)

Right and left have more complicated signification in Japanese. While in some phrase left is treated as an auspicious side, other expressions suggest the opposite:
左大臣 (sadaijin): minister on the left side. Superior to udaijin or minister on the right side.
左前になる (hidari-mae-ni naru): (for business) to get in bad circumstances
左遷 (sasen): demotion, or literally to move leftwards.
Interesting. I always thought the minister on the right side is suprior to the minister onthe left side while 左遷 means demotion.

左遷 has the same meaning in old chinese context. I'm afraind people no longer use it nowadays but we still learn it from school.

[Flaminius: This thread is a spin-off from another discussion in Other Language Forum.]
 
  • Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    CrazyIvan said:
    Interesting. I always thought the minister on the right side is suprior to the minister onthe left side while 左遷 means demotion.
    As Lunyu says, "天子南面" or the Emperor sits facing the south. From him, the left side is the east where the sun rises and the right side is the west where the sun sets. Left is regarded suprerior because sunrise is suprerior to sunset.
     

    CrazyIvan

    Senior Member
    Taiwan-Taiwanese
    Flaminius said:
    A discussion about Sino-Japanese 左右 (sayū) or "left and right" has been allocated a new thread here.
    There are several common usages popping into my mind while I see 左右:

    1. to indicate surronding, a notification for position: such as

    stay with somebody:隨侍左右(suei shih zou you)
    neighborhood:左鄰右舍(zou lin you she)

    2. Important person:

    左右手(zou you shou )

    3. to influence something or somebody

    --

    Right after I post the article I just realized that was a japanese forum but my context have more to do with Mandarine. So, I still post this article here since it doesn't have much to do with Japanese.
     

    Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    While we are still at it, I think it is worth a while to note that Chinese too seems uncertain whether left is superior or inferior to right.

    左衽(袵) (Mandarin zuŏrèn; Japanese sajin)
    Wearing a shirt with the left half over the right half (direnctions when seen from the front, therefore right-over-left from the wearer's view point). This is how the deceased is closed for the funeral, as opposed to those who are alive. Considered inauspicious.

    左袒 (Mandarin zuŏtăn; Japanese satan)
    To support or take sides with. Literally bearing one's left shoulder. Historical expression dating back to Han dynasty. Chines natives, could I prevail upon you to ask if this expression related to 佐?
     

    CrazyIvan

    Senior Member
    Taiwan-Taiwanese
    左衽(袵) (Mandarin zuŏrèn; Japanese sajin)
    Wearing a shirt with the left half over the right half (direnctions when seen from the front, therefore right-over-left from the wearer's view point). This is how the deceased is closed for the funeral, as opposed to those who are alive. Considered inauspicious

    左袒 (Mandarin zuŏtăn; Japanese satan)
    To support or take sides with. Literally bearing one's left shoulder. Historical expression dating back to Han dynasty. Chines natives, could I prevail upon you to ask if this expression related to 佐?
    Interesting. These two are very two old expression in Chinese and you can find the origin from, two century before Jesus born. Anyway, I would try to explain a little bit.

    The first one,左袵. It is not only how the decease is closed in the funeral. (though I found that explanation as well.) But I believe it is more commonly talking about the way how people distinguished barbarian and civilised society. There is a very famous sentence saying that "微管仲, 吾披髮左袵矣."= Without 管仲, who is thought to be one of the most brilliant prime minister at the time, we would be defeated by the barbarian and we have to dress the way they do.

    So, yes, in this case, left seems to be the inferior side.
     

    CrazyIvan

    Senior Member
    Taiwan-Taiwanese
    左袒 (Mandarin zuŏtăn; Japanese satan)
    To support or take sides with. Literally bearing one's left shoulder. Historical expression dating back to Han dynasty. Chines natives, could I prevail upon you to ask if this expression related to 佐?
    左袒 has another story in behind. In Han dynasty, the family from the queen was so strong that gradually taking over the power of king's family. However, those who loyal to the king and his descendent secretly plot a warfare to sweep the Queen and her family's power. Taking off part of your clothes and showing the left shoulder is the sign to show your royality to the King's family. So, original meaning of 左袒 is to show the left part of your shoulder.

    However, this term gradually evolved. Now now more people say 偏袒(pien tan) which means that people have bias/preference to some parties/something over another.

    佐 is more like assistance. I doubt there is a link between 佐 and 佐袒. I think 佐 is from, say 左右手, which means the most poweful person around the King.

    I notice that in Japan Army ( well, the old army you had in WWII) you also have this ranking 佐 in the army. Doesn't it mean assistant officer ?
     
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