Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Research Project (Taiwanese Tuesday)

Or, what I've been worried about for the last six months.

I came to Taiwan with the intention of researching about seventeenth-century Chinese eunuchs in hopes of using that research for a creative thesis.

It didn't work out, mainly because I couldn't find a professor to work with me.

The resident director of my program is Buddhist, and knows pretty much Every Living Buddhist in The World.  I'm sure she's met the Dalai Lama at one point.  In December I accompanied her on a translation retreat run by an international Buddhist women's association.  It was a very cold but enlightening weekend.  The ladies I met were of all ages and walks of life, and had taken refuge in Buddhism for different reasons.  I participated in workshops where mostly Chinese was spoken, and got to know them over the course of

Because of her connections and my limited options, I decided refocus my project.  I love languages (not linguistics--yuck).  I was intrigued by something my resident director had said: when the Buddhist sutras were translated from Sanskrit to Chinese, the translators had to come up with about 100,000 new idioms to convey the ideas the sutras were proposing.  The concepts did not exist in Chinese, and so the language itself had to change in order to allow a new religion to take place in a different culture.

My project is seeing if Taiwanese students under 25 still use these centuries-old idioms today.

I'm in the last stages of drafting a questionnaire that I will be using to ask Taiwanese students around my campus.  I already did some interviews and ran into some preliminary glitches, so it's back to the drawing board.

And no.  This questionnaire does not include all 100,000 of the idioms.  That would be overdoing it just a hair.

See you Thursday.


  1. Idioms always complicate things. So not surprised this happened during a translation. They tell us to hit them hard with the students I tutor because many of them do not speak English as a first language. You never know how hard idioms are until you have to figure out what the heck they mean! Good luck, girl!

  2. I'm reading a book right now with a conniving eunuch in it. His name is Varys (the book is Game of Thrones and its subsequent sequels). Just for the record...the eunuch in the book is a real slimy guy...cold blooded reptile that needs to be squashed.