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Subject:Translations of ukiyo-e
Posted By: Ivor Howell Mon, Sep 30, 2019 IP: 2a00:23c4:5f85:4100:

As someone new to the world of traditional Japanese Art, I am puzzled by the standard translation of the terrm 'ukiyo-e' as meaning 'images of the floating world'. Standard direct-translation tools such as RomajiDesu render this in a number of ways, none referring to 'floating'. and most giving 'images of the fleeting world' or similar, which seems to me to be much more appropriate. Can anyone tell me who originated the translation 'floating world' and what 'floating' has to do with the style of the art? It seems to me that to take 'floating' to mean in some poetic way 'fleeting' is silly, when 'fleeting' itself is much better.

Subject:Re: Translations of ukiyo-e
Posted By: manuD Wed, Oct 02, 2019

Interesting point. I know that the term ukiyo-e comes from the Buddhist tradition which teaches that the early pleasures are evanescent, changing, ephemeral, yes fleeting.

But floating does not only mean that floats, it can also mean that is not fixed. For example in math, a floating point can be placed anywhere relative to the significant digits of the number.

In French, my mother tongue, the term is flottant, which indeed means floating, and can be used in the sense of uncertain, changing, or even free to move (in the wind for example), and the floating point is virgule flottante in French.

Here is the translation in other languages that I know

Spanish : floating (flotante)
German : flowing (fließend)
Swedish : flowing by (förbiflytande)
Russian : changing (изменчивый)

So not all languages adopted a term that can be literally translated as floating.

Subject:Re: Translations of ukiyo-e
Posted By: Ivor Howell Sat, Oct 05, 2019

I just want to say thanks to all who have replied to my inquiry. Of course, there is a vast amount to absorb on the subject of ukiyo-e, and I am in the process of assembling a collection of A3 prints of various artists of the school. But it is sometimes informative (and fun!) to ask questions about the 'obvious' or established 'facts' and assumptions.
Ivor Howell

Subject:Re: Translations of ukiyo-e
Posted By: manuD Thu, Oct 03, 2019

I cannot remember how I translated förbiflytande, maybe mistakenly. The very literal translation is "moving/passing by while floating"

Subject:Re: Translations of ukiyo-e
Posted By: Stan Fri, Oct 04, 2019

The term is part of the Japanese vernacular and has nonstandard/colloquial meanings. For example, another translation of "ukiyo-e" is "erotica", which I am sure none of your literal translation tools presented. See the Wiktionary translation at the link below.


URL Title :ukiyo-e

Subject:Re: Translations of ukiyo-e
Posted By: Ivor Howell Fri, Oct 04, 2019

I need to check this, but in fiddling around with translation software, I found that, while entering 'uki' as romaji gave me 'fleeting' as a meaning, on the other hand, if I converted 'ukiyo-e' to Kanji, then looked up the meaning of the first of the three symbols, it came back as 'floating'!! I'm pretty sure that the original useage of ukiyo-e would have been to write it in Kanji, and putting it in romaji modifies the original possibilities of meaning. So we're trying to translate something that never 'existed'! Maybe there is just a lot of licence in what can be meant. Well, we all know what it means, so what it says is 'academic' (sic!). | Associations | Articles | Exhibitions | Galleries |