Sunday, October 17, 2010

Much Ado About Hokkien and Tang Imperial Language

Eldest brother called me from Canada, and asked me excitedly where I obtained the article on Tang Imperial Language.

He told me that it was no wonder our parents often referred themselves to "Wa lang si tng lang - in Hokkien meaning we are Tang people. In Mandarin it is, "Wo men shi tang ren". They never said, "Wa lang si Hokkien lang" - in Hokkien meaning "We are Hokkien people."

Having studied Chinese in school, Eldest brother is well versed with Chinese language and culture. He shared with me a bit of Chinese history. The first glorious period in China was from 627 to 649 when the Tang Dynasty was just set up and its national strength was recovering from the previous weak condition. Under Emperor Taizong Li Shimin's wise governing, the national strength and social and cultural development of the Tang Dynasty reached an unparalleled prosperity - economy and commerce flourished, the social order was stable, corruption never existed in the court and the national boundaries were even open to foreign countries.

Of course, now our Hokkien in Penang also includes many words in Malay. eg. tahan (persevere), balu (just), and amak (mother) just to name a few. Korean lanaguage also has much influence from Hokkien - those that I had mentioned in my previous blog as well as eg. Kam sa ham ni da - (thank you in Korean) or Kam sia in Hokkien.

When we were children, we used to recite rhymes and poems in Hokkien. Though some of the rhymes did not make much sense, nevertheless, we enjoyed the rhythm and musical quality of the rhymes.

Now I specially enjoy watching television serials from Taiwan in Hokkien. I am glad that I am able to communicate with the Taiwanese and people from Medan and Singapore in Hokkien as well as in Mandarin.

It is true indeed that now I feel less of a yellow banana, having discovered that Hokkien was the Imperial Language of the Tang Dynasty! Wan sui! Wan sui! Wan Wan sui! Long live the Imperial Language!

Gan Cao

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