Friday, October 21, 2011

只许当官的放火, 不许百姓点灯The Officials are allowed to Set Fires, while the People are forbidden to Light up Lights

Chinese Lanterns
This joke was recorded in one of the Chinese history books, so it's supposed to be real.  "dian3deng1" means "to light up lights".
"fang4huo3" means "to set ... on fire, to commit arson".  According to Chinese tradition, it is not respectful to call the parents or other older relatives by their names.

It's one of the customs to make and light up lanterns during the Spring Festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year. On the fifteenth day of the New Year (also called the Lantern Festival (yuan2xiao1jie2)), the celebration reaches the climax. There is a lantern show in every neighborhood. Families come out to admire the lanterns of all shapes and to get prizes for guessing the riddles pasted to lanterns.

很久以前有一个地方官,他的名字叫田登, 可是他不许别人叫他的名字。他觉得别人叫他的名字就是对他不尊敬。 因为他的名字“登”和“灯”念起来一样,所以大家都不能说“灯”, 只能说“火”, 也不能说“点灯”,因为“点灯”听起来好像他的名字“田登”, 只能说“放火”。
元宵节的时候,家家户户都要点灯,田登就通知大家“要放火三日庆祝”。因为他是那个地方最大的官, 所以老百姓都没有办法。 大家生气地说: “只许当官的放火,不许百姓点灯!”

hen3jiu3  yi3qian2  you3  yi2ge4   di4fang1guan1,  ta1de   ming2zi4  jiao4  tian2deng1,   ke3shi4  ta1  bu4xu3   bie2ren2   jiao4  ta1de   ming2zi4.  ta1  jue2de    bie2ren2   jiao4  ta1de   ming2zi4   jiu4shi4   dui4  ta1de   bu4  zun1jing4.   yin1wei4   ta1de  ming2zi4   "deng1" he2   "deng1"  nian4  qi3lai2  yi2yang4,  suo3yi3   da4jia1   dou1  bu4neng2  shuo1  "deng1",  zhi3neng2  shuo1  "huo3",   ye3  bu4neng2   shuo1  "dian3deng1",  yin1wei4   "dian3deng1 "   ting1qi3lai2   hao3xiang4   ta1de  ming2zi4   "tian2deng1",   zhi3neng2   shuo1  "fang4huo3".

yuan2xiao1jie2   deshi2hou4,   jia1jia1hu4hu4  dou1  yao4   dian3deng1,   tian2deng1   jiu4  tong1zhi1   da4jia1 "yao4   fang4huo3   san1ri4   qing4zhu4".   yin1wei4   ta1  shi4  na4ge4  di4fang1  zui4da4de  guan1,   suo3yi3   lao3bai3xing4   dou1  mei2you3  ban4fa3.  da4jia1   sheng1qi4de   shuo1: "zhi3xu3   dang1guan1de   fang4huo3,   bu4xu3   bai3xing4  dian3deng1!"

Translation:

Long long time ago there was a local government official called Tian Deng. However, he didn't allow the others to call him by his names because he thought it was not respectful to him if his named was called. Since his first name "deng" sounds the same as "deng"( lights), so people were not allowed to say "lights", and could only say "fire" instead. Neither were they allowed to say "to light up lights", because "dian deng( to light up lights)" sounds similar to his full name "tian deng". Instead they could only say "set fire".
When it was time of  the Lantern Festival,  all the families would light up the lanterns.  So Tian Deng  made an announcement that " everybody should celebrate by setting fires for three days." Because he was the highest local official,  the people could do anything about that.  They commented angrily: "The officials are allowed to set fires, while the people are forbidden to light up lights!"

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