A Chicken Dish By Any Other Name

In Updates on September 2, 2011 by triotriotrio

“Ah, General Tsao, you were a bloodthirsty foe, but your chicken is delectable!” – Mr. Burns

I will be restarting my Cantonese instructions soon and in the meantime I have been studying up and making sure everything that I learned in my first semester has not been forgotten.

One element I was encouraged to incorporate into my studies was the adoption of a Chinese name. When I took Spanish in High School, I was Diego. So the concept was not completely foreign.

I don’t what to get all Shakespeare on everyone but a name is an important thing. So I knew I had to pick a good one. Sure I could find the Chinese translation of “three people playing music” but that just wouldn’t make sense to anyone.

I ended up with choosing the name Cao which is sometimes written as Tsao. I liked it because it begins with a T and ends with an O just like my name. Also the Chinese character (曹) looks kind of like a T and an O.

I shared this information with several colleagues. I wasn’t sure how they would take me adopting a Chinese name. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the onslaught of discussion. Overall there was general enthusiasm for my choice. I was told it was a strong name. The square box at the bottom on its own means sun. And one of my colleagues found an ancient poem about the virtues of the most famous Tsao.

Come to find out it was about General Tsao. He is a much revered historical character and someone that many policemen associated with in the same way Catholic policeman sometimes adopt Saint Jude as their patron.

Cao Cao - General Tsao

I was disappointed to find out that General Tsao is not associated with any spicy-sweet chicken dish. In fact that is a dish that is unknown in China, only in American can one find a tender chicken mixed with peppers and a sweet sauce name after the General.

Now I need a first name. This is going to be more difficult. Unfortunately someone has already taken my first choice, which was Yung-fat.

Cao Cao’s most well known poems, written right before the Battle of Red Cliffs in the winter of 208 AD, is Short Song Style. (短歌行)

《短歌行》 Short Song Style
對酒當歌,人生幾何? I lift my drink and sing a song,
for who knows if life is short or long?
譬如朝露,去日苦多。 Man’s life is but the morning dew,
past days many, future ones few.
慨當以慷,憂思難忘。 The melancholy my heart begets,
comes from cares I cannot forget.
何以解憂 唯有杜康。 What can unravel these woes of mine?
I know but one drink – Du Kang Wine.
青青子衿,悠悠我心。 Disciples dress in blue,
my heart worries for you.
但為君故,沈吟至今。 You are the cause,
of this song without pause.
呦呦鹿鳴,食野之蘋。 Across the bank a deer bleats,
in the wild where it eats.
我有嘉賓,鼓瑟吹笙。 Honored my guests I salute,
strike the harp! Play the flute!
明明如月,何時可掇? Bright is the moon’s spark,
when can I pick it apart?
憂從中來,不可斷絕。 Thoughts of you from deep inside,
cannot settle, cannot subside.
越陌度阡,枉用相存。 Friends drop by via a country road,
the respect they pay really show.
契闊談宴,心念舊恩。 A long due reunion we fest,
sharing past stories we possessed.
月明星稀,烏鵲南飛, Stars around the moons are few,
southward the crows flew.
繞樹三匝,何枝可依? Flying with no rest,
where shall they nest?
山不厭高,海不厭深。 No mountain too steep,
no ocean too deep.
周公吐哺,天下歸心。 Sage pauses [from meals] when guests call,
so at his feet the empire does fall!

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