Monday, July 15, 2019

Translation of Wan Chai's "South Carmain Qr." and Other Quarters | Shenmue 2

Shenmue II's South Carmain Quarter: home to Lotus Park and the district in which the Yan Tin apartments are located. The district name has a nice ring to it in English - but it does not quite match the meaning of its original name.

This post will look at how closely each of the English translations for the district names in Wan Chai reflect the meaning of the characters in Chinese (in fact the characters also exist in Japanese, although the meanings are not necessarily identical between the languages). Special thanks to yuc02 for consultation on some of these meanings.

I took Ryo on a stroll around Wan Chai, snapping photos of the names of the various Quarters for further study.

Green Market Qr.

Green Market Quarter (菜珍街) is the first area of Wan Chai that Ryo visits after crossing the footbridge over King's Road from Aberdeen, and of course is also home to his accommodation at the dingy Come Over Guest House...

The name "Green Market" conjures up an image of a Farmers Market, and there are indeed a few greengrocer's shops to be found in the area. Examining the Chinese characters that make up the name:

菜 = greens (vegetables)
珍 = precious; rare
街 = a road; section of town. This character has been translated as "quarter" in the game, and is found in almost all the district names

The name in English fits in with these meanings closely, except that the Chinese name has an additional element meaning "rare" - perhaps it is a Quarter where rare vegetables and herbs are available.

Suggested Alternative: "Rare Produce Qr."?

White Dynasty Qr.

The White Dynasty Quarter (白奏街) has a couple of bars and a pawn shop, but as can be seen in Ryo's snapshot, most of the businesses are shuttered up, and the streets are filled with open-air stands.

白 = white
奏 = this character is the name of the first dynasty of China: the Qin Dynasty, around 220 BC.

The English name for the quarter is a close match.

Wise Men's Qr.

The Wise Men's Quarter (太老街) is a district filled with a number of antique and Buddhist altar shops.

太 = extremely
老 = old (of people); venerable

The combination 太老 is not a word by itself in Chinese: 老太 in reverse order means an old lady or mother-like figure from another household. However meanings that can be attributed to each of the individual characters have been carried across appropriately into English as "Wise Men".

Lucky Charm Qr.

The Lucky Charm Quarter (福仙街) is a bustling area packed with electronic shops, barber shops, tea shops and more.

福 = good fortune
仙 = wizard; fairy; sage

The name contains a character meaning blessing or good fortune, and from this the name in English of "Lucky Charm" has been attributed. The second character's meaning is not included, but it makes a good choice of name.

Suggested Alternative: "Lucky Sage Qr."?

Scarlet Hills

Scarlet Hills (紅華台) is the small area that leads to Man Mo Temple, notable for a set of steep stairs that give all temple visitors a good workout. "Scarlet" presumably refers to the crimson-leaved trees that can be seen surrounding the temple as well as featuring in the courtyard

紅 = red or scarlet
華 = flower (among other meanings)
台 = stage; platform

Regarding the last character, in Japanese it can also be used to refer to land that sits higher than its surroundings, hence the English translation of "Scarlet Hills". (Can any Chinese speakers confirm if this is the case in Chinese also?)

South Carmain Qr.

The South Carmain Quarter (紅南街) is located in the southern part of Wan Chai and is home to the Yan Tin Apartments, a place that Ryo seeks out during his travels. Also to be found in this quarter is the peaceful Lotus Park, which is filled with trees that have a bright red foliage.

The Chinese characters are a direct reflection of its attributes:

紅 = red or scarlet
南 = south

It can be seen that the first Chinese character in this name is the same as found in the name for Scarlet Hills.

For the English name, the "South" part is clearly accurate, but what about "Carmain", a name for both girls and boys that derives from Hebrew and means "song"?

The intended translation was most likely to have been carmine, meaning crimson. This would have matched the meaning of the original name, although the name the game uses, South Carmain Quarter, does have a nice ring about it.

Another possibility, for consistency with Scarlet Hills, might have been "South Scarlet Quarter."

Suggested Alternative: "South Carmine Qr."?

Golden Qr.

Golden Quarter (詠黄街) has a different feel from the rest of Wan Chai, with its fancy-looking hotels and shopping mall. It is also notable for being the only district that has a Tomato Convenience Store.

詠 = to sing, chant
黄 = yellow

The English name has kept things simple, picking up just the meaning of the second character, and discarding the singing / chanting aspect.

Suggested Alternative: "Golden Chant Qr."?

Final Comment

As Shenmue was developed by a Japanese company, I suspect some liberties may have been taken in terms of selecting characters for the place names that would be familiar to a Japanese audience (as mentioned in the introduction, they are all characters to be found in everyday kanji).

Regardless of this, the English translations of the names appear to have captured the meaning and intent well, with just a few differences to be noted. 

I hope you enjoyed this light-hearted look at the meaning behind the names of the districts in Wan Chai.

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  1. Switch, are kanji characters/words constructed of phonetic elements like in the English language? Like you could sound them out prior to understanding their meaning? If not, does each character/word have to be learned and memorized? How can you infer the meaning without already knowing the word?

    1. I'm most familiar with how they are used in Japanese, but the situations is similar for Chinese. Each kanji character is associated with a phonetic sound, with a proportion of them having multiple possible sounds. Sometimes there are clues within the character that may allow you to guess their pronunciation (for example, there are cases where kanji containing a shared element share a common sound) as well as a very broad clue about their meaning (other elements may indicate the kanji is a type of fish, or is related to water in some way). But generally speaking each character needs to be learned individually to be sure of its pronunciation(s) in various words, and to understand its meaning. School kids have to go through a lot of kanji practice!