This couplet (with simplified characters; this one has the more traditional characters) was found by Jeremiah Owyang in a book called "Dai Lian" published by Local Village. Michael Ho, grandson of an Owyang, copied the characters and Steve Owyang translated it as follows:
Ouyang Xiu undertook the compilation of his own collected writings just before his death in 1072; the collection was published as the Jushi ji (Collected Works of the Retired Scholar) in 1091. A century later, in 1191, Zhou Bida (1126-1204), and other scholars from Ouyang Xiu's ancestral hometown of Luling, Jiangxi, began compiling the Ouyang Wenzhong gong ji (Collected Works of Ouyang Xiu), which was printed in 1196. There are no longer any complete sets of the 1196 Zhou Bida edition of the Ouyang Wenzhong gong ji. The National Library of China has several fragmentary sets . . .
Michael Ho then had some more comments:
A family couplet, or "dui lian"
in Mandarin, is often written on hanging scrolls or carved into wall hangings
or pillars along doorways. A couplet is a form of writing somewhat similar to
Japanese haiku, in that there is a set format for writing them. Rhyme is not
required. The format involves one vertical line of words, usually four or
more, matched with another vertical line of the same word count. In this case,
it's a pair of four words. Each line of words means something. The trick of a
couplet is that the individual words of one vertical line correspond with the
word across in the other line. This is what Steve talks about in terms of
parallel construction. Steve must be a true scholar.
I have a book of surname histories that
includes a blurb about the Ouyang name. I'll scan and e-mail it to you later.
Here is an Ouyang site with history about
the name, although there is a dead link there:
[Information from this site follows in the next two paragraphs]
The surname of 'Ouyang' has a illustrious
history. The beginnings can be traced to Gou Jian, King of Yue in the Spring
and Autumn Period of ancient China. (For a history on this man, click here.)
Several generations later, the Yue kingdom was divided among his direct
descendants. One of them occupied the Ou Yu Mountain in Wu Cheng (Wu Xing in
Zhejiang province). The southern part of the mountain was known as Yang, so
his descendants acquired the surname of 'Ou' or 'Ouyang'.
Since then there have been several great
persons with the surname of 'Ouyang' over the course of China's history:
Ouyang Xun, the great calligrapher of the Tang Dynasty, and Ouyang Xiu, a
famous poet of the Song Dynasty; to name but a few. Those who have read Jin
Yong's martial arts novels would also know of an Ouyang Feng, a highly skilled
but ultimately mad martial arts expert. Recently there has also been a
moderately successful pop artist going by the name of Ouyang Fei Fei. ---
Steve doesn't mention him, but Ouyang Xun
is considered one of the greatest Chinese calligraphers. There are four
"schools" of calligraphy, and his is one of them. Here are some
samples of his work:
For Hong Kong movie buffs, the Ouyang Feng
character was played by the late Leslie Cheung in Wong Kar-fei's 1994
"Ashes of Time" and by Tony Leung (Leung Chiu-wai) in the 1993
comedy "The Eagle-Shooting Heroes."
Ouyang Fei-Fei is a Chinese pop singer
from Taiwan, who has continued to perform and record since debut in 1971.
Perhaps I should see about getting Norman
Owyang into one of those Chinese books about famous kinfolk.