Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Signs of Goat Meat in Jieyang

As was evident with the previous lunar year's zodiac symbol, the Chinese character 羊 (yáng) can refer to sheep, goats, rams, and other related animals. Professor of Chinese Language and Literature Victor Mair uses the term "ovicaprid" when translating instances of 羊 (yáng) which are ambiguous. "Caprinae" may work as well. My earlier idea to go with "Year of the Yang" never took off.

Although adding a preceding Chinese character provides more clarity, it is still common in China to see 羊 (yáng) without one. For example, a man I recently saw selling goat milk in Chaozhou evidently felt that no additional character was needed. But at a market in Jieyang I passed through the other day, I saw several instances of 山羊 (shānyáng), which typically refers to goats.

sign for goat meat (山羊肉) in Jieyang, China

sign for goat meat (山羊肉) in Jieyang, China

They weren't selling milk like the vendors with goats on tricycle carts I saw nearby. The third character in these signs means "meat".

Elsewhere in Jieyang, I saw a restaurant sign which used 羊 (yáng) alone, once again with the meat character following. During my earlier days in China I would have assumed this meant sheep meat was on the menu. Given how I have seen the character used elsewhere in this region, though, I wasn't shocked to see a picture of a goat below.

restaurant sign with goat meat (羊肉) mentioned in Jieyang, China

So what do they write in Jieyang when referring to sheep? I haven't explored this fascinating issue, but I did see one man selling sheep meat who didn't write anything at all. The head and skin did seem to communicate enough on their own though.

meat for sale hanging above a sheep head and a sheep skin nearby

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