Strange Happenings in Japan

A story about fox spirits and fraudsters translated from Taiwanese / Minnan.

Will Buckingham

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Yoshitoshi: The cry of the fox (Konkai) c. 1892. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Fox spirits and fraudsters

I’ve been having fun learning a little Taiwanese lately. And because there are not that many materials around, I’ve been rummaging around online to find some older texts that I can translate. This is language-learning by diving in at the deep end. And it’s all largely for my own entertainment.

The text here comes form the Digital Archive Database for Written Taiwanese. It is a story about fox spirits and fraudsters in Japan, first published in January 1886 in the Tainan Prefectural Church Newspaper (台南府城教會報第7張, 1886年1月). It’s kind of fun.

I’ve posted the story in parts. Each part has the Taiwanese version in POJ Romanisation, then in characters (which, as I read Mandarin fairly well, is helpful for me with picking my way through), then a rough translation with notes in brackets. There are a few passages where I was more guessing than translating. I relied heavily on ChhoeTaigi for translating the text.

Finally, at the end, I’ve put a full, clean translation. So if you want to skip the Taiwanese, you can just scroll down to the end!

I’m only about four months into studying Taiwanese, so this is rough and ready. But it’s been fun and interesting to play with. Let me know if there are any tricky sections that I’ve got wrong, or that I could improve.

Ji̍t-pún ê Kòai-sū (日本ê 怪事)

From Tâi-lâm-hú-siâⁿ Kàu-hōe-pò tē-7-tiuⁿ, 1886 nî 1 go̍eh (台南府城教會報第7張, 1886年 1月)

Chha-put-to cha̍p-nî-chêng , tī Ji̍t-pún ê chng-siā ū chi̍t-lâng khì hioh tī hit kheh-tiàm, tī hia chia̍h hó-mi̍h , iā tòa hó só͘-chāi , chhiáⁿ lâng lâi chhoe-siau chhiùⁿ-khek, lim-chiú khòai-lo̍k chi̍t-tiûⁿ.

差不多十年前,tī 日本ê 庄社有一人去歇tī hit客店,tī hia食好物,也tòa好所在,請人來吹簫唱曲,lim 酒快樂一場。

About 10 years ago, in a village in Japan, there was a man who went to stay (hioh) in a guesthouse, and there he ate well and stayed in comfort, asking somebody to come and play the flute, so he could drink wine and have a good time.

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Will Buckingham

Writer & philosopher. PhD. Stories & ideas to make the world a better place. HELLO, STRANGER (Granta 2021): BBC R4 Book of the Week. Twitter @willbuckingham