weiji 危机(危機) Crisis = Opportunity?

ThomasK

Senior Member
Belgium, Dutch
I love etymology and semantics, but I shrink back from "easy" or folk etymology. May I therefore ask whether it is correct that your kanji/ideogram for "crisis" can also mean "chance"?
 
  • ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Did I have a hunch that it was all too nice to be true??? Thanks a lot! (What I did like about the word "crisis" in Greek (and ...) that it has to do with sieving, which is probably undeniable...))
     

    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    All is not lost. The Chinese forum is a hotbed of pseudo-linguistics and fake knowledge, and some members are apparently on a mission to spread them. Their posts always contain abundant quotations (googled-copied-and-pasted, from books they've never read or even heard in their life), and always look impressive. They make the most basic mistakes, but who cares. If you hang around here long enough, they will become your "teachers". They always try to teach, and won't fail to feed you their "knowledge". You won't be disappointed. I promise.
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    Victor H. Mair (Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Pennsylvania) wrote in the article "danger + opportunity ≠ crisis":
    Aside from the notion of “incipient moment” or “crucial point” discussed above, the graph for jī by itself indicates “quick-witted(ness); resourceful(ness)” and “machine; device.” In combination with other graphs, however, jī can acquire hundreds of secondary meanings. It is absolutely crucial to observe that jī possesses these secondary meanings only in the multisyllabic terms into which it enters. To be specific in the matter under investigation, jī added to huì (“occasion”) creates the Mandarin word for “opportunity” (jīhuì), but by itself jī does not mean “opportunity.”

    Mair's statement seems rather misleading in my opinion. To me (a native speaker of Chinese), 機 by itself certainly could mean "opportunity". For example,
    此機不可多得 = This opportunity does not come by often.

    Also,
    機不可失 = 機會難得,不可錯失
    機不旋踵 = 機會難得,一瞬即逝
    乘機坐大 = 利用機會壯大勢力
    商機 = business opportunities
    良機 = good opportunity
    機緣 = 機會和因緣 (e.g.,《三國演義》孤窮劉備,久欲投於門下,奈機緣未遇。)
    趁機 = 利用機會 (e.g.,《紅樓夢》跟前不過幾個心腹常侍小婢,老尼便趁機說。)


    That 機 by itself could mean 機會 seems to be basic knowledge of Chinese to me. I don't expect Dr. Mair would have made "the most basic mistakes". So, is there something I fail to see?
     

    yuechu

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    Hello, Skatinginbc!

    It can in Cantonese: 不管有沒有機
    (like in the lyrics of 岁月如歌 by 陈奕迅, according to that thread), but I'm not sure about single-character usage of 機 in Mandarin.
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    Thank you, yuechu. That's good to know.
    I think 機 meaning "opportunity" is a bound morpheme in (modern) Mandarin, but it is a free morpheme in Classical Chinese.

    Note:
    Although 物 "thing" is more or less a bound morpheme in modern Mandarin, it does not take away the fact that 寶物 ("treasure") is composed of elements that signify "precious" and "thing". By the same token, 機 "opportunity" being a bound morpheme in Mandarin has nothing to do with why 機 does not mean "opportunity" in 危機 (“crisis”).
     
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    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    晉.葛洪《抱朴子·交際》:有則獨專而不相分, 有則苟免而不相恤; 或事便則先取而不讓, 值機會則賣彼以安此。

    請問: 句中的「機會」是什麼意思? 百度百科說是「時機」(opportunity, occasion; e.g., 適逢其會), 我認為是「危險的厄運」。

    對比: 利 (good) vs. 害 (bad), 事便 (good) vs. 機會 (bad)

    或 = 有
    事 = 工作、職務
    便 = 機會 (opportunity; e.g., 因利乘便)
    值 = 遇到、面對
    機 = 危險 (dangerous; e.g.,《淮南子》處高而不機)
    會 = 厄運 (adversity; e.g., 百六有會)

    你們怎麼看呢?
     

    Lamb67

    Senior Member
    China/Mandarin
    Yours is implausible because it sounds redundant clunky awkard. In yours of dangerous+adversity, they overlap so much in meaning that it sounds like
    palpable nonsense.😁
     
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    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    palpable nonsense.😁
    :D
    Let me try again:
    則賣彼以安此 = 遇到就出賣別人來保自己安穩
    機 = 險 (dangerous; hazardous)
    會 = 厄 (通「阨」, 關口、關劫、困境 "adversity; a difficult situation, especially one that is caused by bad luck")

    The notion of "dangerous adversity" can be found in:
    (1) The I Ching Workbook: If you continue on your chosen course of action this time, you will place yourself in the path of dangerous adversity.
    (2) Brevity of Human Life: A dangerous adversity, as well as a dangerous success, may be the portion of many a family.

    我認為這句的「機會」不可能指 "opportunity",因為:
    (1) 前句已有個 "opportunity" 了: 「或便則先取而不讓」= 有工作機會 (opportunity) 就先奪取而不謙讓。
    好的時機是 opportunity; 壞的運氣是「厄運」,走霉運 。==> 對比: 便 (in 事便) vs. 會 (in 機會).
    (2) 老想往上爬 (或事便則先取而不讓) 的人, 遇到"時機" (適當的時刻或機會) ,想的應該不是「求安穩」(賣彼以安此) 而是如何升遷。
    一有時機就貶低別人來抬高自己:tick:
    一有時機就出賣別人來保自己安穩:thumbsdown:
    遇到險厄就貶低別人來抬高自己:thumbsdown:
    遇到險厄就出賣別人來保自己安穩:tick:
     
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    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    再加一個理由:
    (3) 機會 = 險厄 (A: 危險的困境關劫、危險的情勢; B: 險要的關口、要害) 與當時 (i.e., 西晉)「機會」的其他用法較扯得上邊:
    西晉.陳壽《三國志》「漢中則益州咽喉,存亡之機會,若無漢中則無蜀矣。」==> 存亡的險要關口, 存亡的要害。

    欲罷不能, 再添一項:
    (4) 這個爭議中的句子不算, 宋朝之前有「機會」指 opportunity 的例子嗎?
     
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    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    It can in Cantonese: 不管有沒有機
    (like in the lyrics of 岁月如歌 by 陈奕迅, according to that thread), but I'm not sure about single-character usage of 機 in Mandarin.
    The lyrics makes a pun where 機 means both 機會 (chance) and 飛機 (airplane).
    The song was written for a Hong Kong TV drama "衝上雲霄 (Triumph in the Skies)" whose theme is about civil aviation. The line was written deliberately like that.
    The line doesn't make that sense in Mandarin.
     

    Lamb67

    Senior Member
    China/Mandarin
    气机, a term in Traditional Chinese Medicine would be a corroboration for the argument in the article.
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    I coined a word "胃機" and then googled it and found somebody already had it:
    陈道隆_医案_中医世家: 肝阳犯胃,胃机不调。
    藿朴夏苓汤- 医学百科: 神疲不振,胃机不协。

    And I coined another word "肝機" and found "肝機不暢" in Google. Finally, I coined a word that could not be found in Google, namely, "性機". And I think if I say "長年腎虧, 性機失調", people would automatically understand what I mean by "性機".

    My point: It is a type of word-formation apparently open for innovation. "機" meaning "opportunity" behaves likewise: If I say "在私人公司上班, 進修機會較少, 相對而言, 在國營企業任職, 學機較多", I think people would understand "學機" means "學習機會" in this context.

    機 ("opportunity") predates 機會 ("opportunity"). For example,
    唐.房玄齡等《晉書》待可乘之,然後一舉蕩滅。
    唐.李延壽《南史》潛構崎嶇,過於履虎,奮發,義不圖全。
    元末明初.羅貫中《三國演義》今操糧草已盡,正可乘此機會,兩路擊之。

    Unlike "plane" being a shortened form of "airplane", 機 ("opportunity") is NOT a shortened form of 機會 ("opportunity"). Just as 大象 ("elephant") is a disyllabificated form of 象 ("elephant"), so is 機會 ("opportunity") a disyllabificated form of 機 ("opportunity"). Dr. Mair's arguments seem to have failed to take into account the process of disyllabification in Chinese morphology.
    Victor H. Mair:
    There is no traditional use of jī that means “opportunity” per se. Jīhuì is a neologism coined to translate the English word “opportunity.”
    I don't know what Dr. Mair is talking about. Does he mean 機會 in 《三國演義》今操糧草已盡,正可乘此機會,兩路擊之 does not mean "opportunity"? Does he mean 羅貫中 was able to read English and coined the word 機會 as a translation? What does 機會 in 乘此機會 mean anyway?
    Victor H. Mair:
    I first encountered this curious specimen of alleged oriental wisdom about ten years ago...the damage from this kind of pseudo-profundity has reached such gross proportions that I feel obliged, as a responsible Sinologist, to take counteraction...Finally, to those who would persist in disseminating the potentially perilous, fundamentally fallacious theory that “crisis” = “danger” + “opportunity,” please don't blame it on Chinese!
    I wish Dr. Mair, a responsible Sinologist, could have told us where John F. Kennedy got the idea that "in the Chinese language, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity." Evidently, it was from a Chinese person, not any Chinese person, but a well-versed scholar whose name was none other than Dr. Tsiang Tingfu (蔣廷黻博士, 中華民國駐聯合國代表, 台灣中央研究院院士).
     
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    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    Hello,

    How to convey the Chinese (e.g., 蔣廷黻's) concept of 「危機就是危險加機會」in English so that it would not lose the intended rhetorical effect nor lead to misunderstanding about Chinese characters (cf. Victor H. Mair's "danger + opportunity ≠ crisis")?

    Context Example:
    危機就是危險加機會。「危」這個漢字有危險的意思;「機」這個漢字有機會的意思。遇到「危機」, 有人只看到前頭的「危險」, 有人卻能發現後面的「機會」。

    Rhetorical Effect: To challenge the audience to think outside of the box
    It is a Chinese rhetoric device called「巧釋妙解」--a play on a fixed lexical item; reanalyzing, reinterpreting, and giving new light to a preexisting lexical item.
    Victor H. Mair on the notion that the Chinese word for “crisis” 危機 is composed of 危 "danger" and 機 "opportunity":
    It appears, often complete with Chinese characters, on the covers of books, on advertisements for seminars, on expensive courses for “thinking outside of the box,”...This catchy expression (Crisis = Danger + Opportunity) has rapidly become nearly as ubiquitous as The Tao of Pooh...
    "危機就是危險加機會" challenges the audience to think outside of the box--outside of the usual meaning of 危機, outside of the conventional morphological analysis of the preexisting word. Unfortunately, Dr. Mair's article confined itself to the inside of the box (i.e., its conventional morphology) and failed to touch on or remind readers of the rhetorical-pragmatic analysis of that statement. It is regrettable because it is like treating a rhetorical question as a true question or deeming a metaphor untrue from a literal point of view--totally missing the point.
     
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    september_fish

    Member
    Chinese
    In fact, the concept of “危机就是危险加机会” is not correct.
    It is true that “危” means “dangerous” in Chinese, but "机" here actually means "moment" or "occasion". So "危机" means dangerous moment. And in this case it is correct to translate it into "crisis".
    When we use "危机", we only refer to danger, and it has nothing to do with opportunity.
    I've checked the term on Baidu Baike and other online Chinese dictionaries, "机会" never show up in the definition of "危机".
    Besides, I found an article that might help you understand it better.
    科学网—我试图向美国人解释“危机” - 武夷山的博文

    发现我好像可以用中文解释……
    “危机就是危险加机会” 这个说法本身就是不对的。这里的“机”并不表示“机会”,而是“时候”。最多解读成“时机”,但其实“时机”也是有机会的含义在里面的,所以也不太合适。
    实际上我们在用这个词的时候,语境里并没有“机会”的意思。

    他破产了→他遭遇了人生最大的危机
    这里跟“机会”完全没有关系。
    包括“危机四伏”这样的成语,实际上也都跟“机会”没关系。

    可能理解成“危险加机会”感觉很有哲理,但其实中文里并没有这层含义,最多是主观添加的引申义。
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    A: 我害怕單獨和他在一起。他的特色我早有耳聞。
    B: 什麼特色?
    A: 特色就是特別好色
    B: 不對。特色的正確意思是獨特的色彩風格。"特" 指 "獨特", "色" 指 "風格"。
    A: :( (心想: 你真懂中文嗎? 竟然沒聽出是一種「別解」的修辭格。太不識趣了!)

    特色 reinterpreted as "特別好色" is an act of "別解", a rhetorical device (修辭格) involving reanalysis of the morphology to give new meanings to a preexisting lexical item. "就是險加會" involves 「別解」(reanalysis and reinterpretation) and「雙關」(wordplay: 有人只看到前頭的「危險」, 有人卻能發現後面的「機會」==> 機 comes after 危 in the word 危機; "Opportunity" comes after "danger" in a crisis.)

    I am glad this thread is finally re-open for discussion. It is by no means genuine scholarship in my view to google-copy-and-paste the link to an article, treat it as the final say, and then close the thread down so that contradicting evidence cannot be presented and claims about facts cannot be challenged. It is in essence promoting a biblical truth. Not to mention it is a non-peer reviewed essay without adequate in-text citations and bibliography, more of an opinion piece than a research article.
    I love etymology and semantics, but I shrink back from "easy" or folk etymology. May I therefore ask whether it is correct that your kanji/ideogram for "crisis" can also mean "chance"?
    The Chinese word for "crisis" 危機 consists of two characters, that is 危 and 機. The usual meaning of 危機 is 危險、困難的關頭, in which 危 means either 危險 ("danger") or 艱困 ("difficult, in hardship"), and 機 means 關頭 ("pivotal or crucial moment"). However, because the character 機 can also mean "opportunity" (as in 可乘之機), the word 危機 can be reanalyzed as 危險 + 機會 in a context that calls for a rhetorical-pragmantic effect of challenging the audience to think outside of "the box" (i.e., its usual meaning, its usual morphology).
     
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    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    the word 危機 can be reanalyzed as 危險 + 機會 in a context that calls for a rhetorical-pragmantic effect of challenging the audience to think outside of "the box" (i.e., its usual meaning, its usual morphology).
    You're the only one who keeps talking about "re-analysis". But we're not talking about word play here. We're not talking about punning here. We're talking about the misunderstanding about the morphology of the Mandarin word wēijī. We're talking about genuine misunderstanding here. We're not talking about "not getting the joke" here.
    It is true that “危” means “dangerous” in Chinese, but "机" here actually means "moment" or "occasion". So "危机" means dangerous moment. And in this case it is correct to translate it into "crisis".
    Thank you for providing some much-needed common sense. This is refreshing.
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    Example 1
    A: 人活著就該要有使命感, 否則就與行屍走肉無二。「生命」就是「生存」加上「使命」--生下來為某使命而活著。病毒之所以被認為有生命跡象,就是因它帶有為其物種繁衍的使命。
    B: 不對。字典說「生命」是「生存壽命」或「生存機能」的意思。「命」指「壽命」或「機能」。稍有常識的人都知道「生命」的「命」不是指「使命」。
    A: :( (心想: 真不識趣! 竟沒聽出「生命就是生存加使命」是一種想要達到某種語用效果的說法。正因它與一般理解有出入, 才更能刺激大腦、撼動思維、銘刻於心。)

    Example 2
    A: 美國在阿富汗的戰爭是沒有勝利可言的戰爭。「勝利」是「勝於利」的意思。「勝」指「獲勝」;「利」指「利益」。贏了卻得不償失、兩敗俱傷、對己或關心的人事沒有助益, 這樣的結局不叫勝利。
    B: 不對。字典說「勝利」就是「打敗對方」。一般人對這個詞的理解並不強調一定要有「利益」。
    A: :( (心想: 真不識趣! 竟沒聽出「勝利就是勝於利」是一種想要達到某種語用效果的說法。正因它不是一般的理解, 才有開闢新思路、引進新角度、創造新哲理的語用效果。)

    Example 3
    A: 危機就是危險加機會。「危」有危險的意思;「機」有機會的意思。遇到「危機」, 有人只看到前頭的「危險」, 有人卻能發現後面的「機會」。
    B: 不對。稍有常識的人都知道「危機」的「機」不是指「機會」。
    A: :( (心想: 真不識趣! 正因稍有常識的人都知道「危機」的「機」不是指「機會」, 所以「危機就是危險加機會」顯然只是一種想要達到某種語用效果的說法。)
    理解成“危险加机会”感觉很有哲理
    "感覺很有哲理" is a pragmatic effect (語用效果) of the statement "危機就是危險加機會". The speaker obviously intends to wax philosophical about the term "危機". In the speaker's mind, the pragmatic effects outweigh its correct morphology. The latter is typically NOT the main point in a natural discourse where one may encounter the statement "危機就是危險加機會".
    Victor H. Mair:
    this kind of pseudo-profundity...“thinking outside of the box”...If one wishes to wax philosophical about the jī of wēijī...
    It would be an utter misunderstanding of the Chinese language if one thinks that due to the morphology of the term "危機" in its usual sense (i.e., "crisis"), the language bars philosophical waxing (to enhance profundity or out-of-the-box thinking) about the "機" of "危機" (i.e., reinterpreting 機 as "opportunity" instead of "pivotal moment"). When a Chinese speaker says "危機就是危險加機會" (a thought-provoking, profound statement in that the character 危 indeed can signify "danger" and the character 機 indeed can carry the sense of "opportunity"), it is usually meant to be taken "philosophically" (or figuratively) rather than literally in a natural discourse.
    You're the only one who keeps talking about "re-analysis"...We're talking about the misunderstanding about the morphology of the Mandarin word wēijī. We're talking about genuine misunderstanding here.
    I keep talking about pragmatic usage because I think misunderstanding about the morphology of 危機 stems from literal interpretation of the statement "危機就是危險加機會". Don't forget you arbitrarily closed the thread and then arbitrarily conflated posts from multiple threads into one. Each thread had its own "here", and now you are arbitrarily forcing me to accept your "here".
    Victor H. Mair:
    Jīhuì is a neologism coined to translate the English word “opportunity.”
    機會 meaning "opportunity" is not a neologism:
    (宋) 文天祥《與曾架閣》in《文信國公集》 歲月雖多, 機會甚少 ==> few opportunities.
    (明) 戴東旻《請先勦後撫疏》in《嚴州府志》 此實蕩平大寇之一大機會乎 ==> a big opportunity.
     
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