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Chinese Pronunciation Guide

From Chuang Tzu's Genius of the Absurd

Glossary of special Chinese terms

"The following approximations of the Wade-Giles systems were prepared for general readers. They exchange fine points for usability. By using Chinese words freely we shorten the time when romanizations from the Chinese become both standardized and simple. Early travelers who struggled with the alien sounds of K'ung Fu Tzu gave us the name Confucius, and no one today scorns it as a corruption." (From Chuang Tzu: Genius of the Absurd, arranged from the work of James Legge by Clae Waltham.)

A a as in arm
  ai i
  ao ow (ah-o slurred to ow)
C ch j or jer
  ch' as in church
E e as in yet
  eh uh, or a short e as in end
  ei a
  eng eng; sometimes ong or ung
F   f
H hs sh
  hu hoo
  hua  hwa
  huai hwi
  hui hwee
I i e
  ia ah or ee-uh
  iao ow, sometimes yow
  ie e, sometimes ye
  ien e-en
  ih r
  in in
  iu oo as in ooze
J   r, sometimes jer
K k g
  k'o ko
  ku koo
L   l
M   m
N   n
O o wo
  ou o
P p b
  p' p
Q* quan chwen
S s s
  sh sh
  ss sz, or a quick sizz
T t d
  t' t
  teh duh
  t'eh tuh
  ts ds as in bends
  ts' ts as in tents
  tso dswo
  ts'o tswo
  tu doo
  t'u too
  tsu dz or dsuh, with u as in up (never stressed, almost dze)
U u generally: with lips rounded, as in ooze; before consonants: oo as in soot; before vowels: oo as in hoot
  ua wah
  uan on or yon
  uang wong
  ueh uh
  ui wee
  un oon or un
W   w
Y y y
  ye ye as in yet
  yi yee
  yu yoo, but sometimes with the lips rounded
Z* zh j

Ai T'ai To: i tie doe Lao Tzu: lou dzuh
Chi: je, as in jeer Li: lee
Ch'i: chee Lieh Tzu: le-eh dzuh
Chih: jer Liu: le-oo
Ch'ih: chr Mo Tzu: mor dzuh (mo dzuh will do)
Chiu: joo Pi Kan: be gon
Chi'iu: ch-oo, ch-y-oo (almost three syllables) Po: bo
Chou: jo Shih: shr
Chu: joo (almost shu) Shou: sho
Ch'u: choo Shun: short u, the sound of oo in shook
Ch'u Hsieh: choo she-eh Ssu-ma Ch'ien: suzz-me che-en
Chuang Tzu: jwong dzuh (almost ze; dz sound never stressed) Sui: swee
Chuang Chou: jwong jo Tai: die
Chui: jew T'ai: tie
Ch'ui: chew Tao: dow
Fu Hsi: foo she Tsai: dsi
Hsu Yu: shoo yoo Ts'ai: tsi
Huang Ti: ywong dee Tzu Lu: dsuh loo
Hu Tzu: huu dzuh T'zu: tzoo
Hui Tzu: hwee dzuh Wu wei: woo way
Hui Shih: hwee shr Yao: yow
Jih: rir Yu wei: yoo way
Kung: gung Yuan: yu-on
K'ung: kung Yueh: yu-eh or yuh
*Additions not in Chuang Tzu:
Caoshan: Tsow-shan Danxia: Dan-syah
Deshan: Duh-shan Dongshan: Doong-shan
Fayan: Fah-yen Guizong: Gway-dzoong
Nanquan: Nan-chwen Xiangyan: Shyang-yen
Xuansha: Shwen-shah Zhaozhou: Jow-joe

Three-name personages take practice, repeating the sounds until they sing: KUANG CH'ENG TZU: kwong cheng with equal emphasis; the tzu as dzuh slightly higher and lighter: KWONG CHENG dzuh.

John Blofeld's appendix to The Zen Teaching of Hui Hai: On Sudden Illumination

HSIN, mind, heart. This terms occurs constantly in the text, sometimes with the meaning of "his mind," "your mind," etc., and sometimes with the meaning of MIND, which is in fact synonymous with Reality, the Absolute and so on. It is also employed to denote the uses to which mind is put, approximately in the sense of "to think," "to be cognizant of," "to be aware" and so on. It can therefore mean Mind, someone's mind, mental processes, thought, thoughts, etc.; or it may have its basic Chinese meaning, which is "heart"; moreover, even when it means mind, it includes much of what Westerners mean by heart. It has overtones and undertones close in meaning to such words as the subconscious, the subliminal mind and (in a manner of speaking) the soul. The character hsin may sometimes suggest several of these meanings simultaneously; the frequent omission of any personal pronoun in the Chinese text is often intended to bring home the identity of "our minds" with MIND.

FA, Dharma or dharma. Dharma may be used as a synonym for the Absolute, for the Law of the Universe, for Buddhist Doctrine, for Right Belief and Right Action and so on. Without a capital D, dharma(s) means any or every kind of phenomena – things, ideas, forces, the constituent parts of things, the infinitesimal "moments" which combine to form a single flash of thought, the atom-like units of which the Theravadin Buddhists believe phenomena to be composed and so on ad infinitum. The Great Pearl [nickname for Hui Hai given by his teacher Ma Tsu] employs fa in some of the above senses, but also in its purely Chinese sense to mean a method or as a sort of suffix which can sometimes be omitted. In general, throughout this book, I have used a capital D wherever the word means something like Universal Law of the Buddha's Doctrine and a small d whenever it means something like "things." Wherever necessary, I have included an English translation in brackets.

TAO, way or path. In this book, it is not used precisely in its Taoistic sense as the Force or Spirit governing and pervading the universe, except in the Dialogues where a Taoist is speaking; but it is often employed abstractedly to mean the Way of the Buddha, the Way of Enlightenment, the Way of Zen and so on. It is also used more concretely to mean a method, way or path.

WU, illumination, awakening. The Great Pearl employs this word to mean Illumination, Enlightenment, etc., so it is equivalent to the Japanese Satori; but the fact that he also uses other terms for Enlightenment, such as Bodhi and Annuttara-samyak-sambodhi, as well as some Chinese translations of those terms, suggests to me that the initial Illumination which is the real purpose of this book, though identical in kind with Supreme Enlightenment, may differ from it in degree or permanence. The common Japanese use of Satori also seems to suggest something less in degree than Supreme Enlightenment. In some places the Great Pearl also employs wu in a less exalted sense, meaning "to awaken to," "to become instantly aware of," etc. I have used Awakening, Illumination or Enlightenment wherever wu is employed in its major sense, and Indian words with the same meaning, such as Bodhi, wherever they occur in the text.

CHIEH T'O, deliverance. The Great Pearl uses this as a synonym for Illumination or, rather, to denote the natural consequence of Illumination; it takes place abruptly, rather in the way that water, after gradually getting hotter, suddenly boils.

CH'AN or CH'AN-NA, dhyana or meditation, meaning abstention from wrong thinking, i.e. from pluralistic or dualistic thought and so on.

TING or SANWEI or SAMOTI, samadhi, contemplation of our original nature which is uncreate Mind. However, where ting connotes the second component of the three methods of training – discipline, concentration and wisdom – I have translated ting as dhyana.

CH'AN TING, dhyana and samadhi.

K'UNG, shunya, shunyata, void, voidness, the void, immaterial, immateriality, etc. This is a conception fundamental to the whole of Mahayana Buddhism, though precise definitions of it vary according to school or sect. According to the Ch'an School, only mind is real. It is void, not at all in the sense of being a vacuum, but in the sense that it has no own-characteristics and is, therefore, not discoverable to the senses by shape, size or colour, etc. Phenomena are void in that they are all transient creations of Mind, which possesses the marvellous capability of producing within itself all possible types of phenomena. As mental creations, they are naturally void or immaterial.

T'I and YUNG, substance and function. T'I is the universal mind "substance," formless, immaterial, imperceptible. YUNG is its function, whereby every kind of phenomenon is or can be produced in response to the needs of sentient beings. When a person acquires this yung, he obtains unobstructed use of mind; he becomes fully aware of everything while remaining unstained by anything at all.

HSING, PÊN HSING, TZÜ HSING, original nature, own nature, self-nature. We are taught that all of us possess an identical nature, that of voidness (undifferentiated immateriality). When we are Illumined, we perceive our own nature to be thus; we perceive that we have not and cannot possibly have any other nature, and yet that it is not our own in the sense of mine or yours, in that it belongs to all. Thereupon, the last lingering traces of egotism give place to unlimited compassion for those who still suppose there are things to be gained or lost and who therefore struggle against "you" or "him" for a "me" which is no other than the opposing "you" or "him."

CHIH and HUI, Jñana and Prajña, pure consciousness and discerning wisdom. Hui is used sometimes just to mean knowing and understanding things in the ordinary sense of those words, sometimes to mean Prajña, the Highest Wisdom which reveals to us our own nature, the voidness (immateriality) of what is real and, simultaneously, empowers us to perceive the minutest distinctions of form. The Great Pearl sometimes employs the Indian word Prajña in the Chinese text where, in some cases, it becomes one of the many synonyms used to distinguish the various aspects of the Absolute, of Reality.

SHÊNG and FAN FU, holy and ordinary (common) people. These turns are used respectively to mean those who are Illumined and those who are not, that is, Buddha, and sentient beings, but it is made clear that there is no real difference between them, since all of them share the same nature; it is only that the shêng or holy ones have realized their own-nature, while the fan fu or ordinary beings have still to realize it.

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