Japanese#1 The origin of Contradiction (矛盾)

Hello! This is the first article (hopefully of a series) about a language I really love: Japanese. I started learning it years ago (but only for 6 months) during my Erasmus in Cardiff, but then I had to stop for the lack of time (and possibility, Japanese is not taught everywhere in Italy, well maybe not at that time). In April I found a course at the Language Institute of Leipzig University and I decided to start learning it again and here I am, writing about what fascinates me about this language.

What I would like to share today is the origin of the word contradiction (矛盾, mujun). It comes from an old Chinese legend about a weapon merchant, selling his spears and shields across the streets of several villages. He kept saying to his customers “This spear (矛, hoku) can pierce everything existing in this world” (天上天下, tenjoutenge, lit. everything over and under the sky) and “This shield (盾, tate) can block every blow coming from everywhere” (東西南北, douzainanboku, lit. from all directions). One day a soldier, interested in his goods, asked: “If your spear can pierce everything in this world and your shield can block every blow… What happens if one of your spears tries to pierce one of your shields?” The merchant, ashamed, left the village never to return, because he came in contradiction: the word contradiction is indeed composed by the kanji for spear and shield, together read as 矛盾 (mujun), contradiction.



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