At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017


You may have seen them on ancient Chinese bronzes, or book covers in the Sinological section of your university library. And you knew without knowing how, in general what they were. The information was absorbed without the conscious mind paying much attention.

Taotie decorative elements, on bronzes, or in a later and even more stylized form, on jade. A spirit beast, a mythological ancestor thing.

Then they showed up in a movie that came out several months ago, with Matt Damon as great grand white saviour of China. No, there was nothing particularly racist about that, the Chinese filmmakers were aiming at a much wider market than just their own nation, and needed an excuse to have everybody speaking English so that Americans could dig it.
Americans are rather slow when it comes to subtitles.
And Matt Damon is a big draw.

[Mandarin: tāo tiè]
饕 ('tou'): greedy and gluttonous.
餮 ('tit'): a greedy creature; a glutton; a legendary being.

Both words that shape the name are later appendations. We have no idea what Shang called them, as their lexical history postdates their creation.
Like Indonesian shadow puppets the exaggeration and stylization of certain features probably serves to 'otherworldize' the image, showing that it is powerful, numinous, auratic, ghostly.

First character: 號 ('hou') on top. The roar or howling of a wild animal, like a tiger (虎 'fu'). To numerate. Used as the phonetic element.
Second character: 歹 ('daai') at top left; evil, wicked, and not infrequently implying death or deceased. It forms the phonetic 殄 ('tin'; to exterminate) with a person (人) placed spreadlegged over hairs (彡), which signify striation, variegation. A corpse ripped to shreds.

The signific for both character is 食 ('sik'); to feed, to eat, to enjoy a meal.
Food, nutriment.

Both of these compound characters are almost completely useless, as they are only used in tandem to signify a 'taotie'.

For some reason I enjoy the fact that I know how to write them.
I cannot explain why. It's just a thing.

NOTE: For all characters I have given the Cantonese pronunciation, as that is surely more useful, being the native tongue of a whole bunch of stubborn types; Mandarin, as spoken by non-Cantonese, is the national language, much like English for the outside world.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


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