Reading Chinese: a caveat

Not unlike the order of spoken binomes, temple placards can be confusing to read. Written horizontally, they usually read from right to left; but sometimes, as when an emperor bestows a placard on a temple, they may read from left to right. This can even be an issue in reading secular slogans, which now almost always read from left to right.

Among the numerous stories of Tian Qing, eminent pundit of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, this is one of few that I dare publish…

A distinguished elderly Buddhist monk from mainland China was visiting Taiwan. Above a little restaurant opposite the temple that was hosting him, he was alarmed to see a sign:



It took him a while to work out that hopefully it might read in the other direction:



For another fine instance, see here. For more Chinese character-play, see under the Chinese jokes tag—this one is particularly charming. OK then, here’s another story from Tian Qing—again on a Buddhist theme.

4 thoughts on “Reading Chinese: a caveat

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