Oryo's Corner

The Western-Eastern Couch

Poetry Tuesday ...
At the beginning of my lifejournal, I had tried to post a daily poem, but I stopped the habit pretty soon. However, maybe, I can still make it once a week.

Today, I was in the mood for Christian Morgenstern's friendly and thoughtfull silliness. Of course, parts of the subtlety gets lost in translation, but well ...

Ein Hase sitzt auf einer Wiese,
des Glaubens, niemand sähe diese.

Doch, im besitze eines Zeißes*,
betrachtet voll gehalt´nen Fleißes
vom vis-a-vis geleg´nen Berg
ein Mensch den kleinen Löffelzwerg.

Ihn aber blickt hinwiederum
ein Gott von fern an, mild und stumm.
A rabbit in his meadow lair
Imagines none to see him there.

But aided by a looking lens
A man with eager diligence
Inspects the tiny long-eared gnome
From a convenient near-by dome.

Yet him surveys, or so we learn
A god from far off, mild and stern.

* a looking glass, made by Carl Zeiß in Jena

Music Monday ... isn't it?
I guess Music Monday is a good way to re-enter the realm of my livejournal, after the long hiatus. A few days before, I stumbled over this video in some other journal, and I was immediately reminded how much I love that song. (For some reasons, it touches me even more when I'm in a hormonal down. Don't ask me why!) It's been years since I've last heard it, because I lost the tape on which I had copied it. So, there it is, not very hip, or indy ... Johnny Clegg, Asimbonanga:


Last Travelogue of the Semester: Johannes de Montecorvino
So,  my semester of medieval travelogues is done, since last Thursday. Since I tortured the students with the original latin text, the discussion was much less animated than I would have liked to. However, the reading of the latin text went much better than I would have thought. 

The source of this last class were the letters John of Montecorvino wrote from Kanbaliq (today's Beijing) in 1305 and 1306. Even though, the informations about the daily life of a Franciscan friar in China were rather limited, there are still interesting details to be found, like his traduction of the holy texts into Uighuric, one of the written languages, existing in  medieval  Mongolia. It's a language from the turk family, which was used by Turkish Christians in Middle Asia. (Turkish means from one of the Turkish ethnic groups.)

John of Monte Corvino is also a pretty interesting person. He was born in 1247, if he remembers his birthyear correctly in the letter, and already since 1276, he travelled around in the Middle East, Persia, Armenia, before he was sent to Kublai Khan in 1287. He probaby wrote other letters, when he reached Tauris in Persia. He arrived in China, according to the letter, in 1294, probably after the death of Kublai Khan, and remained there until his death, in 1328. In 1307, he was appointed as the first and only real archbishop of Kanbaliq.

The official english translation of the letters was made by Henry Yule: From: Henry Yule, ed. and trans., Cathay and the Way Thither, 2nd ed., (rev. by H. Cordier), 4 vols. (London; Hakluyt Society, 1913-1916), pp. 45-51 (I found an (almost) complete translation on this side: http://www.thenagain.info/Classes/Sources/MonteCorvino.html)

Last weeks Travelogue: Benjamin of Tudela
Last week, we changed for once from Franciscan friars travelling to Asia to a Jewish Traveller (a real or a fictive person) who describes the world from Spain to China from the Jewish perspective. The travelogue is a sort of list of towns, how long you need from one to the other, how many Jews live there and who are the heads of the communities. Sometimes he adds a few descriptions of the town's situation. The only exceptions from this rule are Rom, Constantinople, Jerusalem and Bagdad.

The English translation was made by Marcus N. Adler, who also published the critical edition of the Hebrew original in the Jewish Quarterly Review (between 1904 and 1906), so he is a specialist of the matter.

First, I'll give you Benjamin's view on Rome. It's interesting that even though he mentions the Pope, his focus is the memory of the Jewish wars during the times of Vespasian and Titus.

And as a proof that Jews and Muslims can live peacefully together, I also present you Benjamin's description of Baghdad:

Khan Mönke has a Sliver Tree: William of Rubruck, part 2
So, class was really fine.  They made a partly average, partly really good presentation.  One of the students did a great analysis of a religious disputation at the court of Great Khan Mönke, described by William of Rubruck. The discussion was lively.

In preparation for the class, I also read the description of Great khan Mönke's court in Karakorum, where you could find a silver tree. Of course, the first thing that crossed my geeky mind was the Tree of Gondor. lol However, this tree was not a real tree, but a sort of machinery made for the khan by a French artisan who got captured by the Mongols in Hungary, like a few other French or Lothringian people William of Rubruck met on his way. The son of this artisan then served as an interpreter for the Franciscans.

The machinery is pretty interesting, if you consider that we are talking about the Middle Ages:

ETA: I found a picture, someone made after the tree description. Now, this does not look like Gondor anymore. :p

And now: yurts, described by William of Rubruck (medieval anthropology)
Several times, I have proclaimed my love for William of Rubruck's Travelogue. I learned about this Travelogue, when I wrote a paper about the Dwellings of Eurasian Nomads. The reason why I love this part about the yurt so much is the perspective and the way how the monk describes what he sees, step by step, without judging yet.

W. W. Rockhill: The journey of William of Rubruck to the eastern parts of the world, 1253-55, as narrated by himself, with two accounts of the earlier journey of John of Pian de Carpine. tr. from the Latin and ed., with an introductory notice, by William Woodville Rockhill (London: Hakluyt Society, 1900) (http://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/texts/rubruck.html)

Let's sing ... as Renaissance (wo)men
I wanted to post this since quite a while. It's William Byrd's Ave Verum. It's very introspective, but this kind of music is the reason why I can not find it in myself to think religion as something that limits people's minds. The beauty of the music inspired by the religious feelings of the composer can at times take my breath away.

 My favorite aspect about the video however is that you can sing along with it. ^_^

John of Plano Carpini: Travelogue
So, I'm done with the first read-through. Tomorrow, I can look up the footnotes in the library. The Travelogue alone is even available in an English translation: (Excerpt from: The Journey of William of Rubruck to the Eastern Parts of the World, 1235-55, as narrated by himself, with two accounts of the earlier journey of John of Pian de Carpine (London: Hakluyt Society, 1900), translated and annotated by W.W. Rockhill. )


Christmas or whatever else

Well, I just recycled the picture I used in 2003, because it is a very nice picture that makes me smile every time I see it. And I need making myself smile, because this year feels pretty much like wasted time for a lots of reasons. Anyway ...

Whatever these days mean to you, I wish you a peaceful and joyful time.

The day
This morning, I was invited for breakfast with the student council of the Historical Seminary. It was rather nice, but of course, as usual, I'm in doubt if I didn't appear: too boring,  too out-spoken about my personal experiences, too shy, too socially repressed - It sucks having so many self-esteem issues. ;) But all in all, I really like them, and I like getting a bit insight in their view on things, and I speak normally with them, even though I have problems with saying "du" to people who will still be in my classes. I guess the impression has not been too bad.

A small miracle happened today, as well. A book we thought missing, lost, stolen whatever from one of our offices for almost one and a half year re-appeared today. It never had left the library for some reasons.^_^ And there was much rejoicing.

Update on the BBB, from yesterday:
page count: 78 (unfortunately)
word count: 20.390 (+ 18.141 in the footnotes ^_^)
topic: Nikolaus Stock - who wrote his letter of recommendation? His writer or a normal notary of the Royal Chancellery? (Preliminary notes) 


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