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LEXICON

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xian (仙, ¹)

Chinese-Thai for an Immortal. The character for xian is composed of the side-radical ren (亻) which derives from the radical ren (人) and means man, and the phonetic part shan (山) which means mountain. The name initially referred to men who retired from the world to live as a hermit in the mountains. By means of bodily exercises, dieting, use of herbal medicines, regulation of the breath, meditation and mental cultivation, they often succeeded in prolonging their life far beyond the ordinary lifespan, thus contributing to the conviction that they were immortal. The term xian is comparable to luohan, a Chinese word for arahat and used for those who are free from the cycle of rebirth known as samsara, and as such also in a way immortal. A recluse is in Thai called reusi, a word derived from the Indian word rishi. Also transcribed hsien.

xiang cao rou (香草肉)

Chinese. Fragrant straw meat. Name of a true street snack, one that can be found in almost every stall in China. It uses a meat, such as chicken or beef, which is formed into a ball and wrapped in a thin layer of bean curd, then a layer of a fragrant local grass is added, in order to give the meatballs a fine fragrance and aroma, after which the whole is steamed. The snack is sometimes translated as vanilla meat, though xiang cao is probably better translated as aromatic herb, as not vanilla, but a fragrant local grass is used.

xiang qi (象棋)

Chinese. Image chess or elephant chess. Name of a Chinese board game for two players (fig.), which in English is known as Chinese chess. The first character of the Chinese name means appearance, form or image, but also elephant and refers to the fact that the chess pieces all have images of Chinese characters on them. The board has nine vertical and ten horizontal lines and the pieces are played on the intersections of those lines. On each side of the board, centreed at the first through third ranks, is a square zone demarcated by two diagonal lines that connect the opposite corners and cross at the centre, like a large X. This area is known as the palace. Dividing the two opposing sides is an area called the river. Soldiers that cross the river are promoted, but it cannot be crossed by elephants or ministers. The game is played with draught-like pieces that have Chinese characters representing their rank on them, usually printed or painted in red for one side and in black for the other. The pieces and their movements are, beginning at the centre of the first horizontal line and then going outward (red is mentioned first/second is black): one marshal/general (may move one point either vertically or horizontally, but not diagonally and cannot leave the palace), two advisors/guards (may move one point diagonally and cannot leave the palace), two ministers/elephants (may move two points diagonally and cannot jump over intervening pieces or cross the river), two horses/horses (may move one point vertically or horizontally and then one point diagonally away from its former position) and two chariots/chariots in both corners (may move vertically and horizontally over any distance); two canons/catapults start from the intersections of the third horizontal with the second and eight vertical line (may move horizontally and vertically, but capture by jumping exactly one piece over to its target); five privates/soldiers placed on alternating points, one row back from the edge of the river, before the canons/catapults (may move and capture by advancing one point - once they have crossed the river, they may also move and capture one point horizontally, but they cannot move backward, though may move sideways at the enemy's edge). The game ends when one player successfully takes the marshal/general or checkmates the other player. Also transcribed hsiang chi.

Xian Tao (仙桃)

Chinese. Immortal Peach. See Peach of Immortality.

Xia Yuan Jie (下元节)

Chinese. Name of the Spirit Festival, a festival that falls on the 15th lunar day of the 10th lunar month and refers to the last period of the year. This day is the birthday of the Water Officer, who has the power to rescue people in trouble. People also give food offerings to deceased, whose wandering spirits may return at night to visit, a tradition normally associated with Gui Yue, but it seems that traditions of many a festivals are often mixed. At sundown of this day, people set lotus-shaped lanterns adrift on the water, reminiscent to the Thai festival of Loi Krathong (fig.), and the festival is hence also known as Water Lantern Festival (fig.). Often shortened to simply Xia Yuan (下元).

Xiengkhouang (ງຂວາງ)

An ancient kingdom in present-day Laos, formerly called Phuan and situated near the field of jars. Its population is considered to be the ancestors of the Siamese from Central Thailand. In 1830 it was briefly occupied by the Vietnamese but recaptured in 1834 by Luang Phrabang in collaboration with Siam. Also Siang Khwang.

Xi Ling Shi (西陵氏)

Chinese. West Mountain clan. Name of a family branch of the Shu Shan clan, which was related to the tribe of Huang Di (fig.), the Yellow Emperor (fig.), by marriage. It is the tribe to whom Leizu, the Chinese goddess of silk, belonged. Also transcribed Si Ling-chi or Hsi Ling Shih.

Xin Nian (新年)

Chinese for New Year. The name derives from a Chinese mythical monster, called Nian, which once a year, at the beginning of spring, terrorized the people of a certain Chinese village.  Also Guo Nian, literally pass the year and Chun Jie, Spring Festival. In Thai Trut Jihn.

Xi Shu (喜树)

Chinese. Literally, Love Tree. Common name for a deciduous tree, with the botanical name Camptotheca acuminata. READ ON.

Xishuangbanna (ສິບສວງພັນນາ)

Lao. Another spelling for Sipsongpannah.

Xi Wangmu (西王母)

Chinese. Queen Mother of the West. Name of an ancient Chinese goddess whose origin actually predates organized Taoism. She is the mother of the Jade Emperor and lives in a palace on Mount Kunlun, believed to be a perfect paradise and used as a meeting place for the gods. Her palace garden has a special orchard with a magical tree, that bears Peaches of Immortality. Whoever eats from them will attain everlasting life. As the guardian of this tree and serving its fruits to her guests to make them immortal, Xi Wangmu is seen as the dispenser of longevity (fig.). She is usually portrayed with a dragon staff and holding a peach, and sometimes wearing a flat-topped imperial headdress, with beads hanging from the front and back. Also Wangmu Niangniang (王母娘娘), i.e. Queen Mother (fig.). She is the consort of Yu Huang (fig.), the Jade Emperor.

Xiyouji (西游记)

Chinese. Record of travel to the West, usually referred to as Journey to the West, a classical Chinese story based on real events. READ ON.

xoi chien phong (xôi chiên phồng)

Vietnamese. Fried sticky rice puff. Name of a dish from southern Vietnam, that consists of ground glutinous rice, that has been deep-fried and has inflated to form a large, balloon-like patty in the form of a hollow, fried, sticky rice ball. It is savory in taste, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and is eaten with small chunks of meat or poultry, and vegetables, as well as with some dipping sauces.

xoi gac (xôi gấc)

Vietnamese. Name of a dish that consists of sticky rice, which in Vietnamese is called xoi (xôi), prepared with the dark red aril that surrounds the seeds of the Spiny Bitter Gourd (fig.), which in Vietnamese is known as gac (gấc), and literally means fruit. Once mixed, the glutinous rice becomes orange in colour.

Xuanwu (玄武)

1. Chinese. Mysterious Warrior or Black Warrior. Nickname of Zhenwu, the Taoist protector god of the North (fig.), who had two generals serving under him, i.e. a Tortoise General (fig.) and a Snake General (fig.), names of spiritual creatures symbolizing longevity. However, the name is also sometimes translated as Black Tortoise, and as such refers to one of the four symbols of the Chinese constellations. Despite the translation black tortoise, it actually refers to the entire entity of both the tortoise and the snake, and not just the tortoise itself. See also Bac De Tran Vo and tortoise-snake.

2. Chinese. Mysterious Warrior or Black Warrior. Name of a king of the North in the classic story Xiyouji, Journey to the West (fig.), who had two generals serving under him, i.e. Gui Jiang (龟将), a Tortoise General (fig.), and She Jiang (蛇将), a Snake General (fig.), names of spiritual creatures symbolizing longevity. Another legend tells the story that to redeem his sins, Xuanwu dug out his own intestines, and washed them in a river. Moved by this gesture the Jade Emperor made him an Immortal. However, afterwards his intestines were transformed into a demonic turtle and snake which harmed the people, until they were subdued by Xuanwu. Hence, he is usually portrayed stepping with his one foot on a snake and with the other on a turtle. In addition, he is also depicted holding a magical sword, which he borrowed from Lu Tong-pin (fig.), one of the Eight Immortals (fig.), in order to ward off a powerful devil. After he was successful, he refused to return the sword back to Lu Tong-Pin, yet if he opens the palm of his hand, it is said that the sword will automatically fly back to Lu Tong-Pin. Therefore he always hold this sword tightly. His left hand is in a mudra, known as the Three Mountains, making a circle with the middle finger and thumb, the index finger pointing upward, and the ring finger pointing downward, whilst the little finger touches the middle finger with the tip. In Thai, he is known as Chao Pho Seua and in Thai-Chinese temples he is usually referred to by the Tae Chew name Tua Lao Hia. Also transcribed Xuan Wu. See also Bac De Tran Vo and tortoise-snake.

Xuanzang (玄奘)

Chinese. Name a Buddhist monk, who was born as Chen I (陈祎) in 602 AD in present-day Henan Province, and who traveled to India on a pilgrimage in order to obtain a copy of the sutras, which he translated into Chinese (fig.). READ ON.

xun (埙)

Chinese. A Chinese egg-shaped flute, i.e. a globular wind instrument consisting of a chamber with holes. It is made of clay or ceramic (fig.) and somewhat similar to an ocarina, but without a fipple mouthpiece. It has a blowing hole on top and eight smaller finger holes, i.e. six at the front and two on the backside, for the thumbs. It is reportedly one of the oldest Chinese musical instruments.

Xyleutes persona

Latin. Scientific name for a species of wood moth, found throughout Southeast Asia and northern Australia, and also known by the synonyms Strigoides leucolophus and Xyleutes leuconotus. Adult moths of this species have brown wings with black spots and speckles, as well as irregular white patches along the margins. It belongs to the family Cossidae, which members are commonly known as carpenter moths or goat moths. The first designation refers to the fact that the caterpillars or larvae of most species are tree borers that infest wood, in some species taking up to three years to mature, whereas the latter name refers to the fact that they often have an unpleasant smell. Apart from these generic common names and the above mentioned specific Latin names, it has no explicit common name. In Thai it is known only by the generic name phi seua non jo mai. See also Leopard Moth.