Unattested character variant

Last May, Sam and I went on a trip to Gansu and Qinghai provinces to visit the sites along a medieval pilgrimage route. (On this trip, see Sam’s entry on his blog: Amdo Notes II.) I got to Lanzhou first and I had a day to wander around the city and in a small shop I noticed a sign that said 谢绝还价 (No bargaining!). What caught my attention is that the character 謝 was written in a variant form, with a 又 on the right side, instead of the usual 寸 (see Image 2). I have not seen this form before and was interested whether this was a local way of writing it or one of the common vulgar forms. So I asked the shop keeper about the character but he had no doubts that this was the normal way of writing the character 謝. I also insisted that the standard form was different and finally he went over to the shop next to his to ask how it was written. There he had a small realization and after thinking for a few more seconds, said, “Then I wrote it wrong.”

I tried to stick to my initial aim to determine where this form comes from. Yet the man was now adamant that this was not a variant form but that he simply made a mistake writing the character. So I did not get anywhere with my inquiries and had to leave it at that. But I remained convinced that this was not simply a mistake but a vulgar form that might have some local tradition. So when I got home, I tried to track down this particular variant and to my surprise could not find it. The closest I came to it was a form in the Longkan shoujing 龍龕手鏡 which was written with a 夊 on the right side (see Image 3). This was close but not identical.

Now I am still convinced that this is not a solitary mistake but that a form that is occasionally used and possibly goes back centuries. After all, this is the Hexi corridor where the Dunhuang manuscripts come from. So I am most interested if anyone else has come across this variant. Or other examples of seemingly unattested variants.

Shop sign in Lanzhou

Image 1. Shop sign in Lanzhou


Variant form of xie
Image 2. Variant form of the character 謝 (cropped from above shop sign)
A variant form of xie in the Longkan shoujing
Image 3. Variant form of 謝 in the

Longkan shoujing

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3 Responses to Unattested character variant

  1. Chris Atwood says:

    In Inner Mongolia, 蒙 as in Nei Menggu is often written with the 豕 element eliminated. In Xinjiang, there is a variant of 疆 as well. Maybe they are unique to those regions; I haven’t seen them elsewhere. I guess where complex characters are regionally in heavy use, local simplifications might arise.

  2. imre says:

    I have not seen these two variants. 蒙 without the 豕 element makes me wonder if this could possibly be tied to some taboo. The omission of the “pig” in a term of self-reference may be coming from Muslim residents of the region. Actually, I don’t know.

    I agree that complex characters in heavy use generate lots of variants. This might be true in general, regardless of the regionality issue. But then when a complex character is in a toponym, that character is used in that region with high frequency, which may result in more local variants.

  3. Van says:

    I once came across something that might be similar.
    It is a sign in a park in Japan with a variant? form of 厳.
    Click to see in bigger sizes.
    As you see, 又 is in place of 攵, as it is in your case.
    Unfortunately, there is no-one to ask in the park, but my guess is that this is also a simple mistake. ノ line was forgotten? I could not find such a form in variant forms dictionaries.

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