The best lover is one who breaks your spine

A book lover breaking your book’s spine, I mean.

葦編三絶
i.hen.san.zetsu

Literally: reed – braid – three – sever

Alternately: Reading the same book over and over again. Close, careful, and frequent reading of a text.

Notes: Think of a text written not on paper (which would become the dominant writing medium by the 5th century CE), but on long strips of bamboo. In Japanese, these are 竹簡 (chikukan). These might be bound with reed fibers (葦, also read as ashi, albeit not in this compound) or leather straps into a document, the 葦編. The image is of one of these documents being read so much that its binding has broken three times, apparently based on a story about Confucius reading and re-reading the I Ching.

This is yet another selection from our friend the Records of the Grand Historian (Japanese 『史記』 = Shiki), and may occasionally be read as ihen mitabi tatsu without any change in meaning. The story

Even a seemingly-specialized compound like this one has synonyms; in this case, the more explicit but less evocative 読書百遍 (doku sho hyappen), “read text hundred times.”

 
The scroll IS the tube, see. Sturdy!

This sort of thing

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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