28 February 2008

A pork steak for a classical Chinese text

Pork
(image from My Food My Love)

Fanne's younger sister Cindy will soon relocate to Singapore and be reunited with her husband there. Blissful as she is, there is certainly a pile of paperwork awaiting her, part of which is an English translated and notarised copy of their marriage certificate.

Before she can proceed to the Department of Notarisation at Taiwan Taipei District Court, I have to decipher a passage of literary Chinese on the original certificate and translated it into intelligible English.

In Britain, a couple usually have their wedding solemnised by a minister of religion or civil registrar and then, with all legal requirements fulfilled, a marriage certificate will be issued by a local registrar's office accordingly.

However, in Taiwan, a couple produced at the ceremony their own certificate, which usually bears the personal seals of the newlyweds, officiators and witnesses, together with those of the 'presenters' who present to the guests biographical accounts of the bride and the groom. Bringing this self-issued certificate, the couple register their marriage with their district household registration office (for example, click here).

Although a couple may design their own certificate, using fancy calligraphic fonts, adding traditional auspicious symbols, or even decorating it with gilding, most of the time people just buy a mass-produced template at a bookshop or somewhere which sells office stationary and fill it out with adequate details, such as names, birth details, the marriage date and so on.

Obviously Cindy's mother-in-law never anticipated that an English translated copy would be required in the future, so she bought one extravagantly embellished with a passage of literary Chinese. It's so interesting to see this text (there isn't any on mine!) that I feel it's worthwhile to quote all the lines.

For readers who don't read Chinese, please skip to the English translation to see how 'fancy' Cindy's marriage certificate is. For those who by any chance read it, please don't be impressed by the absence of punctuation, as it is always the case in classical Chinese writings.
兩姓聯婚一堂締約良緣永結匹配同稱
看此約桃花灼灼宜室宜家卜他年瓜瓞綿綿爾昌爾熾
謹以白頭之約書向鴻牋好將紅葉之盟載明鴛譜

Be joined the two clans at this hall by marriage troth.
Be bound the love match evermore thro’ charmed kismet.
The knot tied begets in the bloom of youth a harmonious home.
The comin’ years promise with timeless lineage thriving prosperity.
Truly the lifelong commitment inscribes this blessed folio.
Fairly the terms of endearment records the wedding chart.
I was awarded with a succulent fried pork steak for dinner at Junyue Pork Steak (Junyue paigu 君悅排骨) at the end of the day.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

The witness could not pronounce the Chinese at the present on wedding ceremony. It shows how intricate the Chinese is. Also, the awkward moment is the most vivid and hilarious memory of my wedding ceremony.

Cindy

Inez Templeton said...

i want that pork steak...sorry, after i saw the picture of the steak, my brain wouldn't really let me focus on what you wrote...

Anonymous said...

Wonderful translation!

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