POTD: Illiteracy is Bliss

POTD: Illiteracy is BlissIlliteracy is Bliss
Shanghai, China
2015

Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it. I have no idea what this says. They are characters from a bus stop advertisement so I’m sure it’s something mundane or uninteresting. But the eloquent script characters caused me to stop and admire their graceful flowing strokes. This is one instance where there is a true advantage to being illiterate.

8 thoughts on “POTD: Illiteracy is Bliss”

  1. Nice the way the characters float above the white surface that appears to have non-uniform shading from perhaps dust or paper wear. Just finished a biography of Kit Carson. He was illiterate but had a reputation for truthfulness. During the Mexican War in ’47 he was used separately by Gen. Kearney and John Fremont as a dispatch rider to deliver secret reports about the war in the SW- particularly California. I suppose one might consider it an advantage to have a rider that couldn’t read in case he was captured by hostile Indians. It may also be an advantage to President Polk to question a man who had been in California for his truthful observations since both Kearney and Fremont were rivals and their dispatches often slanted both their achievements and the true situation found there….

    1. Interesting story. Somehow in my mind it makes me mix up the idea of illiteracy with the “truth to power” platitude and I get speaking truth to ignorance, although equating ignorance and illiteracy isn’t necessarily fair.

  2. Randy Blackwood

    I checked with one of the parents of my students. The literal translation is “mutually beneficial according to law” Apparently it may have something to do with a conflict with communist China on a little “island” a piece of land that is unnoticable at high-tide, but can be seen at low-tide. The land is in international waters and they are trying to build on it. Other Asian countries aren’t too happy and I guess we sent a destroyer over there to patrol the international waters. I guess the issue is getting kind of heated. She also said you can take a photo and have google translate it. Using either Chinese Simplified or Chinese Traditional. She said on the mainland try Chinese Simplified first. Looks like you stumbled on something a little more significant than an ad like “Lose 10 pound in 4 weeks”

    1. Randy, it’s interesting they got that much out of those four characters. They were part of two lines of about 20 characters each. And you are right about that issue with the islands. I had read about it before coming over here. But a Chinese guy who was chatting me up in a store the other day was telling me how friendly and peaceful the Chinese president is, so I’m sure there is nothing to worry about. 🙂

  3. I love the graphics of pictographic? languages….other oriental languages, Egyptian hieroglyphics, even Arabic. A very cool image just because we cannot read it. I wonder if Chinese/Japanese/Korean tourists to American view our signs in a similar way? Although they are much more likely to be able to read them.

    1. Kathy, sorry for the late approval on this one, it seems to have slipped by me. I think they wouldn’t be impressed with the visual beauty of our signs unless they were written by some of those folks who practice fancy calligraphy, which can be quite beautiful (and is sometimes so fancy that even those literate in English have a hard time deciphering it).

  4. I just looked up ignorance and illiteracy in my pocket dictionary. The most widely used definition of both words has to do with general lack of education. Illiteracy’s second most used definition is lack of familiarity of a specific language or field of study. Ignorance’s second most widely used definition could imply lack of intelligence or knowledge. Ignorance’s third most widely used definition is unaware or uninformed. I suspect
    Carson probably had a learning disability that kept him from learning to read and write. He spoke Spanish, Pueblo, Navajo, Cheyenne, Shoshone, Kiowa and Ute. He could communicate with Arapaho, Blackfoot, Comanche and Apache using phrases, sign language and similar languages used by tribes (eg Kiowa and Comanche are close). Polk and Carson, both very literate men but ignorant of each other’s world.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top