Return of the Phoenix Picture


  • LaTeX distribution: TeXLive or ko.TeXLive
  • extension: collection-kotex (for TL <2013)
  • external program: GIMP 2.6+
  • documentclass: article
  • packages: kotex, graphicx, wasysysm, scrpage2, titlesec
  • fonts and font families: Latin: Computer Modern Roman/cmr, Hangul: Myoungjo/utbt, Hanja: Un Yetgul/utyt, Hanzi, Kanji: Mincho/dmj, Mongolian Cyrillic: TeX-kmbx10, Mongol bicig: TeX-bcghsb, Manju bithe: TeX-bthhsm, Uighur Arabic: xnsh14 (all Type1)
  • charset encoding: UTF-8
  • compilation scheme: latex && dvips && ps2pdf

What’s this all about …

According to the Macro-Altaic languages theory, Korean (along with Japanese) would be part of a big language family including Mongolian, Turkish, Manchu, etc. It is named after their once assumed origin in the Altai mountain range, and would unite up to 600 Mio. speakers.

The different hypothesises about Altaic gained much popularity among linguists in the 19th and 20th centuries, which nonetheless still have been highly controversial. – How to prove certain (present-day) language similarities weren’t borrowed by contact, but would rather testify their genetic relationship? And as a consequence of the deduction, all languages concerned would be descents from a former one ages ago, how to collect evidence for this (or any kind of) proto-language?

Anyway, I took up this theory to create a multi-language document, that also includes drawings and graphics. – Its topic is a leaflet in the way of a “call for papers” (CFP) for a hypothetical forthcoming summit (maybe in preparation of a literature festival for the public) to be held on Seoul, addressed at all Altaicists, Altaic authors, literary critics, and translators in the world. – Next to the short phrases arranged in a circle, the main languages used are Korean, English, Mongolian, Turkish, and Japanese, “highlighted” by different shapes in serif, sans, italic, or bold for better distinction.

Some gimmicks have been included. First, the happening would take place around August 15, which is the Korean Liberation Day, so all participants would enjoy festivities for sure. Second, the layout depicts an underlying map of the Altaic languages regions. Third, the eye-catching stylized Sino-Korean motto “鳳凰의 歸還”, or “Return of the Phœnix – Trends and Traditions in the Literature of the Altaic Languages,” refers to the mystic birds Garuda or Huma. (I alternatively considered a wind horse, or a willow/world tree, 버드나무.) Fourth, the fictional “Society of Literature and Music,” SALM, would be 삶 in Hangul transcription, i. e. “life”; the mentioned URL and e-mail address are also made up.

TeXnical concerns

One of the many advantages of TeX is the ability of generating foreign scripts and even exotic writing systems just by the use of ASCII (the so-called “LICR objects”), if necessary. Whole documents or passages can be localized, just the mandatory packages must be loaded. Actually this one is an agglomeration of alternating language environments, hence it must be encoded in UTF-8, and especially non-Latin text strings need the initiation by defined or new commands.

Hence for Korean, I used kotex, and the [encapsulated]{CJK}-package for (Ryūkyū-)Japanese and Monguor-Chinese. – Mongolian and Buryat Cyrillic as well as Classic Mongolic and Manju scripts were on call by loading [utf8]{mls}. Each need specific commands for activation, like ⧵xalx or ⧵bithe for switching to Khalkha Mongol or Manchu script (using ASCII transcription), respectively. – The most challenging topic in this regard was the insertion of Uighur Arabic, since this a right-to-left (RTL) writing system: This is very well supported by arabtex in combination with the ⧵setuighur font selection, and easily done with ASCII strings (for comparison to all not used to it: just try to copy and paste Arabic text somewhere and then continue working with it!). – Last but not least, the Turkish phrases don’t need any package or preparation, because these are Latin letters.

The whole document is set in a pspicture environment, and the combination of the packages pstricks-add and pst-text provide special drawing abilities. As a consequence, all text lines must be explicitly positioned, and multiple lines stacked. For that reason I created a scaled and colored helping grid, which is deactivated by commenting out in the final version. The coordinates correlate to each textbox’s center point, so all text lines are centered by default.

The most thrilling was the circle typesetting itself. Each phrase was put in the right direction and at a position, where they are still easy to read. Vertical script like Manju bithe (on the left) and Mongol bicig (on the right) were placed at outer positions to remain almost vertical. However, to get the Kanji (at ten o’clock) turned right relative to the tangent line, it took some additional effort.

The imported background image was processed by an individually configured GIMP’s Xach filter, and then a “super nova” added in the east to pretend a sun, that also illuminates the “Phœnix” from its back. – The red bullet marking Seoul is again set by PSTricks. For the use of color names and gradients additional packages were required.

Links and References

  • TeX related
    • my resources on github: [link]
    • original background image by Oguzhan620 (Wikimedia stock): [link]
      • information about GIMP’s Xach filter: [link]
    • CTAN entry for kotex-utf: [link] (part of ko.TeX)
    • CTAN entry for CJK: [link]
      • chitex CTAN entry, for extended Chinese typesetting support: [link]; see also this list: [link]
      • CTAN for Japanese typesetting support: [link]
    • CTAN entry for MonTeX (includes mls.sty): [link]
      • manual: [link]; alternatively look for mlsquick.pdf
      • homepage of the MLS (Mongolian Language Support) project: [link]
      • Please note, the former manjutex package is deprecated.
      • MonTeX also supports basic Tibetan, e. g. for embedding into Manchu text.
    • CTAN entry for ArabTeX: [link]
      • information about Uighuric in the latest manual [link] (2004), p50 ff
      • CTAN entry for the alternative arabi macros: [link], includes a Type1-font collection and Babel-support
    • CTAN list for Turkish and Orkhon script typesetting support: [link]
    • CTAN list related to virtual fonts (MetaFont): [link]
    • CTAN list for PSTricks packages, including those being used here: [link]
    • list of the svgnames colors: [link], p38 f

  • Further reading
    Bear in mind most of the following link selection are popular scientific or hobbyist and should be treated with caution!
    • a “Calls for Papers” Wiki: [link]
      • see also “Conference Alerts”: [link]
    • homepage of the “Altaic Society of Korea 한국알타이학회”: [link] (KO, EN)
      • The ASK regularly holds the “Seoul International Altaistic Conferences” (SAIC).
      • NB: While the ASK is clearly linguistic oriented, the fictional “SALM” focuses on aesthetics. – So if there would be any similarities, rather compare with the …
      • homepage of the “Asia Culture Network 아시아문화네트워크”: [link] (KO/EN)
    • the popular “Altaic Wiki”: [link]
      • subsite “Altaic links to Koreans”: [link]
    • Wikipedia list of Asian mythologies: [link]
    • Wikipedia article about Garuda: [link]
    • Wikipedia category about mythological horses: [link]
    • essay by Choi Haeyoung: A Study on the Myths of Willow Tree of the Eurasian Country, in: 동복아역사논총/Journal of Northeast Asian History, 22:187­217 (Dec. 2008), 동복아역사재단/Northeast History Foundation (ed.): [link] (KO, EN summary)
    • language index of the “Omniglot” portal: [link], containing introductions, samples and further links
    • homepage of the “Korean Writers Association 한국작가회”: [link]
    • homepage of the “Union of Mongolian Writers  Монголын Зохиолчдын Эвлэл”: [link]
    • “Orientaal's links to Turkic languages”: [link]
    • material provided by the London Uyghur Ensemble: [link]
    • “Vision of a Phoenix: The Poems of Ho Nansorhon”: [link] (University of Hawai`i Press, 2010)
    • “Chinese phoenix – auspicious bird rising from ashes”: [link] (EN/China Daily, 2011)

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