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Grow Wild the Laver!

Michael Babcock, April 15th, 2012

On our last trip to Thailand, while browsing through the street market in Bangkok’s Chinatown, I came across a package of seaweed and bought it because of the writing on the package. Translation is fraught with perils and there are even websites devoted to “Engrish” – translations that are often too literal and inadvertently just do not work when translated into English.

Chinatown Market

Package is to the left

I found this translation oddly poetic, almost Zen. At times it seems to be asking questions. I’m going to first give my poetic rendering of it and then below that, give the words exactly as they appeared on the package. I’ve taken poetic license by changing some of the punctuation and some of the capitalization of letters

(Click images to see larger version.)

Two words require explanation.

  • Laver, according to the Dictionary on my Macintosh computer is “an edible seaweed with thin sheetlike fronds of a reddish-purple and green color that becomes black when dry. Laver typically grows on exposed shores, but in Japan it is cultivated in estuaries. • Porphyra umbilicaulis, division Rhodophyta.”
  • Kaifeng is “a city in eastern China, in Henan province, on the Yellow River; pop. 693,100. Established in the 4th century bc, it is one of the oldest cities in China.”

Grow Wild the Laver!

Grow wild the laver!
And choose the best laver
through done
with meticulous care
but
have no the sand.
Need not wash.

Can the oil or sauce namely eat?
If place in every kind
of
work well in the broth.
Its.

The taste is more
beau
tiful,
and the nourishment is
more
abundant.
Welcome taste!

For the keeping taste,
please
avoid the inso
lation,
lation,
to project light upon,
or
the heat affect
by damp and cold.
And Kaifeng
is not edible

Over,
please seal.
Completely.
Or
place in the refrigertor.
The best.


The Text

The actual text, click to make larger


When I first looked up the two words I didn’t know (laver & Kaifeng), I found that both, coincidentally, had a Jewish connection. Kaifeng is associated with the Kaifeng Jews, a small Jewish community that existed in Kaifeng for at least thousand years and dates back to either the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) or even to the Tang Dynasty (618-907) or earlier. (See the Wikipedia article on Kaifeng Jews.) And laver has a second meaning: “a basin or similar container used for washing oneself. • (in biblical use) a large brass bowl for the ritual ablutions of Jewish priests.” I just find it an interesting coincidence.

Here is the actual text as it appears on the package:

Grow wild the laver, and choose the best laver through done with meticulous care but,have no the sand need not wash.Can the oil or sauce namely eat, if place in every kind of work well in the broth, its The taste is more beau tiful, and the nourishment is more abundant, welcome taste. For the keeping taste, please avoid the inso lation lation to project light upon or the heat affect by damp and cold,and Kaifeng is not edible.
Over, please seal completely or place in the refrigertor the best.

Package Front

Front of laver package

Package Back

Back of the laver package


Written by Michael Babcock, 2012

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