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樊增祥《爽翁惠咖啡余誤為鼻煙》“Old Shuang gave me some coffee as a gift; I mistook it for snuff”


“Old Shuang [1] gave me some coffee as a gift; I mistook it for snuff”

苦說茄菲是淡 Bitter is the coffee which [I] took for tabac, [2]

荳香誤盡勇盧 The bean aroma ending sadly in Yonglu’s place.[3]

也如白雪樓中叟, Just like the old man in the White-Snow Hall,

不識人間有岕[4] Unaware of such a thing as Jie-tea in the world.[5]

*From Fan Zengxiang 樊增祥 (1846-1931), Fanshan xuji 樊山續集, 10.5b:

[1] Shuangwen refers to the poet’s friend Yuan Chang 袁昶 (1846-1900).

[2] Fan Zengxiang uses different written forms of the same word, 咖啡 (with the radical meaning “mouth”) in the title and 茄菲 (with the radical meaning “grass”) in the first line, although both can be easily recognised as transliterations of some form of the word “coffee”. Danba 淡巴 is short for danbagu 淡巴菇, an obsolete transliteration that can be traced back to the Spanish word “tabaco” and reportedly migrated in the sixteenth century from Luzon to China via Taiwan and Fujian. Fan Zengxiang clearly had other indigenous words for “tobacco” at his disposal (e.g. yan 菸 or 煙 as in the title, which is no less convenient than ba 巴 for rhyming), but his choice underlines the alienness of the exotics in question and somewhat justifies, in a light-hearted manner, his misunderstanding.

[3] Yonglu is the name of the god of the nose.

[4] Red characters rhyme.

[5] The last two lines allude to the Ming writer Li Panlong 李攀龍 (1514-1570), who did not recognise Jie-tea (a renowned variety that no longer exists) as a precious gift and gave it to a servant.

Some snuff bottles from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

Image credit: National Palace Museum, Taipei


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