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I am looking to get a translation of this calligraphy piece into English. (It was done as a demonstration by a Chinese artist at college ~1976.) Thank you!

[calligraphy piece][1] signature

3 Answers 3

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the seal is “董陽孜”, the name of the calligrapher.

the text is “海內存知己・天涯若比鄰”

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  • Thank you - I am looking for a translation into English.
    – Rick Gould
    Jun 3, 2022 at 16:55
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Perhaps a poetic reply in contrast to Pedroski's vast-ranging culturo-historical reply since it is a somewhat poetic Chinese phrase?

Within the deep blue sea,

My friends are found to be;

Far off to Earth's frontier,

They are but actually near.

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    Thank you for the poetic interpretation! It sparked a memory of when it was done (45 years ago!), that the artist said (through a translator) it was something like "All within the four seas are as one" - Is that a possible interpretation? Or something along those lines?
    – Rick Gould
    Jun 6, 2022 at 1:00
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    Quote:- "All within the four seas are as one" Yes, exactly. This is akin to the idea of the illusion of Time & Space as barriers. This Chinese saying is more about Space. A famous Cantonese song refers to this, that mountains & rivers, great & strong as they are, are never barriers -- youtu.be/NFkSWibxn0k Jun 6, 2022 at 3:07
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四海:
4 seas
古人认为中国四面全都有海环绕,
ancient people believed China was surrounded by four seas,
故以“四海”指全国各地。
thus (they) referred to "four seas" as all the territories of China.
原指帝王占有天下,统治全国。现泛指人漂泊无定所或志在四方,到处都可以当作自己的家。
Originally (it) referred to (the) monarch who controlled everything under heaven (天下),
统治全国。
(who) ruled the whole country.
现泛指人漂泊无定所或志在四方,
Nowadays it is a general reference to people who drift around without a fixed location or just want to travel.
到处都可以当作自己的家。
(for whom) everywhere, anywhere can be their home.

【解释】海內存知己・天涯若比鄰
Explanation of this saying: 海內存知己・天涯若比鄰

四海之内有知己朋友,
Within the four seas (you) have intimate friends,
即使远在天边,
even at the far ends of the earth,
也感觉象邻居一样近。
(they) still feel as close as neighbours.

My attempt at translation:

海內存知己・天涯若比鄰
(All) In China (are) intimate friends, (those) on the far horizon (are) just like neighbours.

[There are about 200 million workers who leave their villages to seek work in other towns and cities. Come Spring Festival, they all go home. This must be the biggest migration of people in the world, in peace time or war. It's called 春运 chūnyùn]

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  • Wow, thanks for all that! It sparked a memory of when it was done (45 years ago!), that the artist said (through a translator) it was something like "All within the four seas are as one" - Is that a possible interpretation? Or something along those lines?
    – Rick Gould
    Jun 6, 2022 at 0:57
  • Yes, counter-intuitively, the sea refers to the land: 海內 within the (four) seas (which were thought to surround China), not to something, like your friends, being actually immersed!
    – Pedroski
    Jun 6, 2022 at 6:31

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