Yellow Flower Hill Uprising could be the most significant event in our time. The following is written by Bai Ding, my high school classmate. I have his permission to publish it here. Bai is the descendant of one of the patriots. I bet this history event is written differently in China, Taiwan and even Hong Kong, so feel free to express your point of view. The two poems in Chinese are written by Bai.
A Brief Memoriam for the March 29 Yellow Flower Hill Uprising in 1910
It was almost a century ago, Dr. Sun Yat Sen led the Revolution that overthrew the Manchu Dynasty. In the course of Revolution, many heroes died. On March 29, 1910 (Lunar Calendar), the “Canton Uprising” ( 廣州起義) or more popularly known as the “Yellow Flower Hill” Uprising (黃花崗) in Canton was the most famous and gallant one. It was led by Wong Hing or Huang Xing (In Chinese, 黃興). My grandma, who was the sister of Hu Han Min (胡漢民), and her sister-in-law 陳淑子 disguised as brides and smuggled weapons from Hong Kong for this uprising. The revolutionaries made the ultimate sacrifice for their people. The uprising turned into a catastrophic loss. Most revolutionaries were killed, only few managed to escape. Only 86 bodies were found (only 72 could be identified), and the bodies of others could never be found.
The ones that were found became known as the 72 Martyrs (七十二烈士). They were buried by a brave businessman in the Yellow Flower Hill (originally called the Red Flower Hill). The dead were mostly youths with all kinds of social backgrounds, students, teachers, journalists, rich merchants, and oversea Chinese. Before the battle, most of the revolutionaries knew that the battle would probably be lost, since they were heavily outnumbered, but they went into battle anyway. Their letters to their loved ones were later found. One named Lin Jue Min 林覺民 wrote a farewell letter to his young wife, which became the poignant, heartrending 別妻書. A must read in the old days.
But the defeat roused up everyone in China and on October 10th the next year, the revolution became an all out event. Soon after the gun fired its first shot in Wu Han’s Yellow Crane Tower 黃鶴樓, the Republic of China 中華民國 was born. The day October10th was the original National Day for China, known as the Double Ten Day (雙十節). The Yellow Flower 72 Martyrs’ tomb is in Canton. Although the Communist could not erase this part of the Chinese history, they tried. They have erased all the writings bearing the original name “Republic of China” or “Kuomintang” that were etched in the stone. Have they put them back by now? And their tour guides never mention the most famous day of the Yellow Crane Tower.
We should never forget history but time has changed and so much of our history was distorted by the Communist. But I for one will not forget the truth. Even if I am standing all by myself.
— end —-
Admin, 11 pictures are being uploaded. Please free to use which ones you want to use.
These pictures have been taken on Yellow Crane Tower and some in memorial garden in Canton by TonyP4 during my trip to China.[Gallery not found]
I see many mini-series from the Mainland with stories from the late Qing and Republican periods. I never got a sense that the ROC (or for that fact, the Qing) was denigrated.
Am I just being naive or is Sun-Yat Sen and other early revolutionaries still being denigrated in the schools on the Mainland?
Bai sent me a lot of info. that I will twist his arm so he can share them with us. I cannot tell you his real name, or I have to kill you. 🙂
They must be the real facts from his father, grand pa/ma, uncles.. some participated in the revolution. They are facts. What we learned from schools could be different.
We’ve been to Yellow Crane Tower. We did not know the significance in our history until now. Does CCP omit the fact due to the glorious act of a different political party? If so, they should change as you cannot fool folks all the time.
Admin, how come I cannot see three of the last four pictures.
Manchu is one of the 55 or so minorities. So, I treat them as civil war.
China overthrew the empire (ruled by a king) after a long history and formed a people’s republic (ruled by a president). It has precise meaning in Chinese (king country and people’s country). Should learn how to input in Chinese.
China almost returned to an empire by Yuen.
That’s our significant history.
On a separate thread on religion. Do Chinese in the main land learn about how Dr. Sun broke the arm of a Buddha stature and said ‘if you cannot protect yourself, how can you protect those who worship you?’
Any one has the letter to the patriot’s wife?
There is a problem with the plugin we use to generate thumbnails for large jpg files. You may still see the picture if you click on them.
Hi folks, this topic may not be a good one for debate, as there is not much to debate.
However, I would like to know whether CCP does not want us to learn this part of history due to the glory of the previous government.
This is the famous letter from the patriot to his young wife. Any one read this one before?
It is many, many times sadder than the Letters from Imo Jimo where the Japanese soldiers were portrayed as ‘human beings’. Watch Nanjing, the documentary, and you will see what I mean.
Hope some one would translate it into English.
This is sent to me from Bai. I’m stealing his thunder. 🙂
Admin, why he needs to be activated to be able to comment?
吾 至愛汝，即此愛汝一念，使吾勇於就死也。吾自遇汝以來，常願天下有情人都成眷屬；然遍地腥羶，滿街狼犬，稱心快意，幾家能夠？語云：「仁者老吾老以及人之 老，幼吾幼以及人之幼。」吾充吾愛汝之心，助天下人愛其所愛，所以敢先汝而死，不顧汝也。汝體吾此心，於啼泣之餘，亦以天下人為念，當亦樂犧牲吾身與汝身 之福利，為天下人謀永福也。汝其勿悲！
吾 真真不能忘汝也。回憶後街之屋，入門穿廊，過前後廳，又三、四折，有小廳，廳旁一室，為吾與汝雙棲之所。初婚三、四月，適冬之望日前後，窗外疏梅篩月影， 依稀掩映。吾與汝並肩攜手，低低切切，何事不語？何情不訴？及今思之，空餘淚痕。又回憶六、七年前，吾之逃家復歸也，汝泣告我：「望今後有遠行，必以具 告，我願隨君行。」吾亦既許汝矣。前十餘日回家，即欲乘便以此行之事語汝；及與汝對，又不能啟口。且以汝之有身也，更恐不勝悲，故惟日日呼酒買醉。嗟夫！ 當時余心之悲，蓋不能以寸管形容之。
吾誠願與汝相守以死。第以今日時勢觀之，天災可以死，盜賊可以死，瓜分之日可以死， 奸官污吏虐民可以死，吾輩處今日之中國，無時無地不可以死，到那時使吾眼睜睜看汝死，或使汝眼睜睜看我死，吾能之乎？抑汝能之乎？即可不死，而離散不相 見，徒使兩地眼成穿而骨化石；試問古來幾曾見破鏡重圓？則較死尤苦也。將奈之何！今日吾與汝幸雙健，天下之人，不當死而死，與不願離而離者，不可數計；鍾 情如我輩者，能忍之乎？此吾所以敢率性就死，不顧汝也。
Correction. Should be Iwo Jima.
Everyone is free to comment on this site. I think your friend confused the account registration process to comment requirement.
As to Mr. Lin’s letter, it was in the official Chinese textbook when I was in high school, so I don’t think CCP does not want people to learn this part of history.
Am I just being naive or is Sun-Yat Sen and other early revolutionaries still being denigrated in the schools on the Mainland?
Sun Yat-Sen was never denigrated to begin with. Teaching of history of that period is also becoming more objective in general with the passage of time. The stuff against KMT had been mostly ideological anyway, not personal.
Lin Juemin’s letter to his wife is taught in mainland China’s high schools as a part of the standard 语文教材。 If you go to Beijing around the National Holiday (October 1st), you will see a large portrait of Sun Yat-sen erected in the Tiananmen Square. According to Beijingers, it’s been a tradition since the early 80s, which was roughly the time the effect to erase the trace of ROC and KMT stopped.
Thanks for the correction. I do not know about this letter and the Yellow Crane Tower uprising in Hong Kong. When I was in Yellow Crane Tower, nothing was mentioned about this historical event.
Bai Ding says
Friends, we can debate about things only when we know the facts. If we were never told what happened, our judgment will be biased and our arguments will be nothing more than endless and pointless quarrels. I only want to tell what I know in China’s last 100 years. In the best of my knowledge and in the most truthful way. Correct me if I have any omissions or oversights. I hope when we know more about history, we can assess and debate what’s right or wrong in a more objective manner. Then the time we spend in debating each other is more productive. Even if it doesn’t really matter much to the Chinese government.
I always want to be wrong about my view of the Chinese Communist. I love China so much that I wish I was wrong. After all, no one should equate anti-communist to anti-China. Unless you are one of those Angry Youths (憤青).
I am happy to learn that they are teaching Lin Jue Ming’s farewell letter in schools. I hope they will teach KMT history in full. Especially the 1911 revolution and the role and sacrifice of the KMT army during the resistant war against the Japanese.
My comment of “erasing history” is based on personal observation. I was in Canton in 1993 and then in 1997. I saw the missing of the replica of the Statue of Liberty that was supposed to be on top of the 72 Martyr Tomb. It was donated by the overseas Chinese in the US. And I found all the “Dedicated by KMT” that were originally etched on every stone was washed. Then when I visited the tomb of my grand uncle 胡漢民 and my grandma, the original grand entrance was completely blocked by a big school. We had to go inside the school, walk across the playground in the back and then climb over a short wall. It was totally hidden. No one would find it. Clearly, the government did not want anyone to see it but did not want to bulldoze it outright.
Hi Bai, thanks and I wish you to continue to contribute here. This site has less Angry youths, Chinese apologists and Chinese bashers than most other similar sites. We encourage debate and find out the truth. This site is well run and reflects different POVs: mainlanders, overseas, foreigners, and even Tibetans.
This topic may not be debatable and controversial compared to Chinese human right, Tibet… However, it is more interesting for Chinese and what we learned from school about our recent history (we did not learn much in Hong Kong).
In Western calendar, the date is 4-27-1910. It should be the 99th anniversary this 27th day.
I think, if things progress well in China, those things might get put back or out in the open. I get upset by FQ too, especially when they are FQ and Chinese apologists. During school we were taught the story of 72 martyrs I have never had the pleasure to visit their tomb. Hopefully, when I graduate (in a year… 3 years long over due) I want to see all of these historical sites in China. I am thinking backpacking, but I can’t handle more than 2 days without a shower… so many just traveling…lol
Hi Mia, you need those cheap Chinese perfume and you do not have to take a shower even in hot & humid summer days in South China. 🙂
I’ve friends and friends’ daughters backpicking to Europe. They never regretted. At first I was thinking she was missing the best job market for the decade. China is quite affordable esp. for the local or pretend to be – quite easy for you as you can speak Mandarine.
Take some pictures and try to sell them. So, you may be able to deduct all your expenses. Better yet, convince your parents to give you the money as it is educational experience. Taking local tours could be an alternative.
Send us a postcard when you go.
My parents are “小氣鬼” they will not give me money to go to china…
I went to europe. We rented a car and drove all over southern france, barcelona and italy. I prefer no sweat traveling… lol
I love traveling, so when I go to China, it will get well planned out by me… where I can get a shower at least once every two days.. and hot meals 🙂
Partial translation of the letter.
与妻书（清 林觉民） The Last Letter to My Wife –-by Lin Juemin
My beloved Yiying:
I hereby say goodbye to you, never to return. While writing this letter, I still belong to this world, but by the time you read it, I will have been transferred to the hell.
When composing this message, I get so sad that tears mix with ink on the piece of paper. Unable to finish it, I feel tempted to put the pen aside. Then on second thought, I am afraid that you may fail to grasp my intention. That is, you are likely to misunderstand that I am not only ruthless enough to leave you behind but also oblivious to your insistence that I must not end my life. Therefore, repressing my sadness, I go on explaining the reason to you.
I love you with all my heart. It is thanks to my deep affection for you that I pluck up my courage to face death. Since our first contact, I have always hoped that all the sincere couples in this world will be tied by marriage. Nevertheless, as the present world is full of disgusting smell and fierce beasts, how many of them can be said to be blissful? Like Bai Juyi, who was depressed by the unfair treatment he had suffered, I am not so cool-headed as Heaven that I can overlook compassion. As mentioned in one of the classics, the kind person respects all the seniors and also cherishes all the children, whether they are related to him by blood. Encouraged by my passion for you, I am determined to help human beings love their beloved ones. For this reason, I dare to embrace death sooner than you, deserting you heartlessly. Supposing you get into my heart and soul, you are bound to take all our fellow countrymen into consideration even though you may be full of sorrow. In this way, you may be happy that we stand up for the everlasting welfare of all mankind at the cost of our own. With this in mind, you have good reason not to be saddened.
Do you remember I had a significant conversation with you one night about four years ago? On that occasion, I said, ＂If I have to make a choice, I would rather die later than you.＂ On hearing this, you flew into a temper. After listening to my patient clarifications, you still disagreed with me but found no suitable words to refute me.
My main point is that you are too feeble to bear the loss of me. How dare I die earlier than you and leave the unbearable sorrow to you? Thus, I would rather mourn your death than let you mourn mine. Oh, how heartbreaking! Who can foretell that I am to die sooner than you? Needless to say, I cherish you more than anything else.
Now my memory goes back to our house, which is situated on the hind lane and forms a part of a huge housing complex. After entering the gate and walking on the hallways, one may pass by the antechamber and hind chamber. Taking three or four turns, one will see a small living room. Next to the living room is our nest of love. Some four months after our marriage, roughly on December 22nd, the moonlight peered through the sparsely-planted plum trees near the window, painting the ground with bright and dark spots. I strolled with you hand in hand in the garden, exchanging all sorts of views and revealing all the secrets in our hearts to each other. Thinking of the warm incidents is now making me tearful.
Another thing which happened six or seven years ago comes back into my mind. Then I returned home after getting away. As soon as you saw me, you wailed, saying, “If you ever have to leave home again, be sure to take me with you.＂ And I agreed. Last time when I was home, more than ten days ago, I intended to have told you about this mission, but when you were in my presence, my tongue failed me. Moreover, as you were with child again, I held my tongue lest you should be overwhelmed with grief. What I could do then was drink myself to unconsciousness day after day. Oh! My sorrow was beyond description in that period of time.
I really desire to to keep you company until we both die a natural death. However, in terms of the current situation, everyone is liable to die of natural disaster, robbery, foreign occupation, or corrupted officials＇ persecution. As miserable Chinese of the present, we are compelled to die anywhere and anytime. With our final days imposed upon us, can I bear to see you perish before my eyes, or can you take a similar act?
To continue the translation via google’s automatic service. It is better than nothing.
Ru Zhenzhen I also should not forget. Backstreet Memory House, wearing a gallery entry, have been around the hall, and three, the already discounted list, there is a small hall, one room next to the Office for the habitat of the two-吾与汝. Three first marriage, in April, right before and after winter望日, Shu-Mei screen on the window film, one backdrop.吾与汝join hands in small voice low, not what language? He did not appeal the situation? And this thought, spare tears. Memory and six or seven years ago, I have of running away from home reversion, Yu泣告me: “there is hope for future travel, must have been to, I愿随line-jun.” XU Ru-吾亦say both.十余日go home before, this trip即欲things乘便language Ru; and Ru-right, then I should not Kai. And Ru in the有身also, may be more sad, but it is wine day call day买醉. Cardiff is cheap! At that time, more than sad heart, cover-inch pipe can not describe it.
Prudential is willing to work with Ru-I to die相守. The first view today’s times, natural disasters can die, can die Rogue, can divide up the day of death, rape officials abuse the public official can die, the Chinese吾辈today, no place can not die without, to look at that time so I watched Die Ru, or Ru helplessly watch me die, I can be of even? Suppression of even汝能? Can not die, but do not meet discrete, only two places to wear eye and bone into a fossil;破镜重圆seen how a few years old? Especially die than suffer also. He will be the Chennai! Fortunately, today’s dual-吾与汝health, people all over the world, improper die die, and from and from those who do not want to, of uncountable; love my generation such as those between the能忍? So I am here on率性die, do not also顾汝.
无余die today I regret, not into the affairs of state, in their own comrades. According to a new five-year-old has gone adult, Yu ask of their good to me Xiao. Ru-ventral thing, I suspect the female is also; female must like Ru, even comfort my heart; or another man, it also makes it to the father as the Chi, then I’m dead, there are two holes in it is intended. Very lucky! Very lucky!
Our home when the very poor; poor suffer nothing, just a quiet day off. And Ru吾今say a word. Heaven my home, tele-Wen Yu cry, cry with, and also when. I normally do not believe in ghosts, this is also true there is hope; modern telepathy also made money, look to his words吾亦are real; is my death, my soul is still next to it Yiyi Yu, Yu Lu no tragedy need not be !
To Sir Ru to. Fortunately, even thou me, how unfortunate and Health of China today! Fortunately, I have to Ru, how unfortunate and Health of China today! Can not bear to stay single.嗟乎! Short-long love of paper, not by those who are still a few million, Yu can get the Analog. Can not see吾今Yeouido. Ru I should not care, its always in my dream was even! One grief!
March 26 Hsinhai intended to drum hole four nights handwritten
Thank for doing this. I am surprised that there isn’t a decent English translation of this beautiful letter. I just set up a wiki at http://foolsmountain.wikispaces.com/. Anyone who is interested in translating this letter, please go there and improve the current version Tony provided.
“when I go to China, … where I can get a shower at least once every two days.. and hot meals ”
Traveling in most cities, towns and villages in China, showers and hot meals are the least of your worries.
Culture shock, however, might be.
Here’s a good example. Even a big star like Chow Yun Fat & his wife spent a secret get-away week in a small village up in the hills, off the tourist beaten tracks. And because the tiny village is not a tourist spot, the price of tasty organic meals (i.e. vegies & chicken & fish straight from their own family small farm) and accommodation are super cheap and very good. A night in a nice single to 3 beds air conditioned bedroom with all the modern amenities- hot water shower and western toilets, costs only 60RMB (under 10US dollars) regardless of bed numbers. One price. So if you travel with a friend, that’s just 5 bucks a night each, or less with a third traveler.
If you can get “Travelogue” program on CCTV9 (International) on the internet, watch as many episodes as you can, and don’t forget to take notes.
I don’t get cultural shock….. so I guess I have nothing to worry about.
Shower and food is all I care about actually.. I know.. it sounds sad.. but I aspire to be Andrew Zimmerman, be able to travel the world and eat as much as different food as possible….
A great posting. I very much enjoyed the story and I do hope the PRC and the ROC can reconcile.
And compliments to you friend Bai Ding (Hundred Nails?) on the evocative poems.
One of my greatgrandfather is actually Manchurian who resigned from his office as Imperial Inspector because he got fed up with all the infighting, corruption and general ineptitude of the Court and literally retreated into the hills with his hundred plus family members. Of course, there was also the small matter of him having executed a corrupt minor local official, whose extended family was not that minor after all, but that’s another story, so you can just imagine the kind of chaos China was in back then.
There’s a typo which I believe should read “disguised as brides” rather than “disguised as bribes”, unless I’m wrong of course, by which I mean I did not knowingly intend to disparage Tony P4’s parental lineage…..or unless it was some deliberate ruse dreamt up by his grandmother and grandaunt. 😉
(or maybe I’ve put my foot in it and have just dug myself a grave…..)
Thanks, corrected. 😉
Yes, Oli, you’re correct. It sounds amusing too with the error. The author is Bai Ding. I just steal his thunder.
This is what Bai Ding wrote to me and is quite interesting:
On translation in #18. It is what I found from the web, but it is not a full translation. From the translation, the Chinese in literate style is very frugal in words but hard to understand.
Bai: The fact the translator can understand this style of Chinese writing tells me that his/her Chinese proficiency is very high. This is a literate style (文言)，not exactly classical, 古文, but it can be a challenge for people who have never been exposed to.
On Chinese poem. Contrary to my belief, Mandarin is a newer language and is not good for poems.
Cantonese has more tones than Mandarin. It has inflected tones. Also, it is a much ancient dialect. When we recite classical poems in Cantonese, they rhyme nicely. But if we recite them in Mandarin, they are sometimes off. When the poets designed the rhyming schemes （韻部）thousand years ago, they didn’t speak Mandarin. Although they did not speak Cantonese either, Cantonese retains a lot of ancient auditory characteristics. I think some other old dialects (like Ha Ka) will have the same effect on poems. Mandarin is definitely not. China was desperate and it decided that all of us must speak Mandarin. And they also abbreviated the Chinese characters. That is not right.
On Cantonese. Agree with Bai especially some foul language in Cantonese is very expressive. I’ve a lot of Cantonese slang/jokes in my blog last month (click on TonyP4) if you understand Cantonese.
Bai: Cantonese is earthy (not really 俗)，but that’s the beauty of a vernacular dialect. And it is very vivid, accurate and pointed.
Bai Ding means ordinary person. Do you remember the poem 談笑有鴻儒，往來無白丁.
Ms Chief says
I don’t think you need to worry too much about hot meals – as long as there are people, you’ll find food! I once found myself in the middle of some mountains, hungry and unsure how far the next village was. I saw some locals and asked them how long it would take, and they ended up inviting me back to their house for dinner for a small contribution. Chinese are particularly resourceful when it comes to seeing an opportunity to make a little extra money, and I saw it as money well spent because I got to see how the locals lived by following them out to the mountains and fields to get the food, then see how they cooked it.
As for showers, I was on the road for months and can say that almost all places on backpacker trails have some kind of tourist infrastructure set up. The only exception I came across was in the Miao village of Biasha in Guizhou, where the only place to stay was the village chief’s house. There was no shower, just a shared outdoor toilet. As it was cold and raining, I ended up staying in the nearest town instead. My advice would be that unless you’re certain you’ll have somewhere satisfactory to stay, arrive in each place fairly early so that if the facilities don’t suit you, you still have time to check out the sights before making arrangements to stay somewhere else.
Good to see a different kind of post here.
I agree, swearing in Mandarin just doesn’t do it for me!
Bai Ding says
The e-mails I sent to Tony p4 were typed as what e-mails are, and never edited. I found another typo in the brief paragraph on poetry. It should be a “deflected” tone instead of a “reflected” tone. Tony please correct it for me. Thanks.
In Chinese poems, each word is single syllabic. And it is either one of the two tones: the Level （平）and Deflected （仄）. The Deflected tone actually consists of the Rising（上）, Falling （去）and the Entering （入） tones. Each has a different auditory effect.
All poems in the world has some rules. This rule produces the effect that gives poems its musical effect. Western poems has a rule of Da Dum. Where the Da is the light sound and the Dum is the accentuated. For example: in the two-syllabic word “To-day”, the “To” is the Da and the “Day” is the Dum. They also have a set of forms.
But the Chinese, due to its mono syllabic nature, are more sophisticated and more fun to write. Not that it is easier.
Admin, would you please correct my comment #26 as Bai Ding pointed out in #29. Thanks! Tony
Tony P4 & Ms Chief,
I don’t know if you guys ever get this from your foregn friends. Just as I don’t hear the romance in French simply because I don’t speak it, Cantonese to the foreign ears seems to sound crude while Mandarin less so.
Thanks for 陋室銘之 談笑有鴻儒，往來無白丁.
Here are some fun stuff for your happy blog,
愚公銘 … for Fool’s Mountain
For the rest:
男友銘, 求學銘: 師徒銘: 考試銘,..金錢銘, 權勢銘,
別墅銘,大款銘, 明星銘, 學術銘, 親情銘, 鋼琴銘
HKer, it is so funny. Thanks! Will include them in my blog.
This is the poem we are required to recite in HK. Do you have the same requirement? I hated to recite poems as it used up my limited brain cells. However, the benefits in later life outweigh the suffering then. haha.
I remember at least one naughty one in Cantonese on the same poem in my time in HK. It may not be polite to share it here, but just have a good laugh just thinking of it – a kind of HK male bonding. Thanks again.
Ms Chief says
HongKonger & TonyP4,
I guess people like the sound of Mandarin as it has lots of sounds like sh, x, ch, zh, which are quite soft. I’ve found that Cantonese and Mandarin are spoken at different volumes, with Cantonese being slightly louder. What’s your experience of this? Cantonese is very singsongy and to foreign ears can sound like arguing, even if you’re just having a normal conversation. I think it’s due to a combination of the inflection and animated gestures, like the head bobbing forward when giving emphasis. Maybe it seems a bit aggressive to some, but perhaps this is why swearing works better!
I definitely hear the romance in French accents, but some people only hear it when French people speak English, not French. Does German sound harsh to you?
Here’s a joke which works in Taishanese but I think you can figure it out with Cantonese. It doesn’t work in Mandarin:
Ah Ming was known as the class rebel. he was proud of his reputation as the bad boy because he knew very well that the girls love a bad boy. One day in class, his teacher joked about him in front of everyone, which he really didn’t take kindly to, so was angry. It was time to go over some English, so the teacher started testing the students on vocabulary. ‘Now, Ah Ming, how do you say “猫” in English?’ He didn’t know the answer and decided to be defiant, so after ignoring the teacher for a few seconds and avoiding his gaze, with almighty effort and noise, he first gathered the saliva from the back of his throat ‘Kaaargh!’ then spat it out on to the floor ‘Tu!’. For a split second, he was pleased with this show of contempt, until the teacher’s eyes lit up, shocked ‘Yes, that’s right! Well done, Ah Ming!’ Ah Ming was a little confused before assuming the teacher was being sarcastic and was now seething at having been made fun of. After a few more questions around the class, it was Ah Ming’s turn again to answer another question. ‘How do you say the English word for “绿色”?’ To restore his reputation he decided to be rude and really get into trouble this time, so he barked ‘Ghee leen ah!’, only to be perplexed at becoming the star pupil, his reputation destroyed!
Changed #26 as requested.
flags of the republic says
Ms Chief #34
That joke was freaking hilarious. Got me rolling around for a good part of 5 mins.
@ HKer, Ms Chief & TonyP4
HKer, Tony P4, LOL! I think you guys too have a wicked streak. I guess we are all 同道中人, 脑不由己!
Yes I do speak Cantonese as one of my grandmother is Hakka from HK, but I also find that HK Cantonese is often full of colloqiualism that changes almost monthly, much more so than any other dialect or other overseas Chinese communities. It seesm to me as though everybody in HK and particularly in the media are always trying to come up with clever sayings all the time to outdo each other.
Should I not visit HK for a year or so, I end up not being able to understand half the things people there are talking about! Consequently, for the first week or so I keep my mouth shut and just absorb the local mood until I get a handle on things, just so that I don’t come across as a total non-local.
I suppose this is a reflection of the competitive and vibrant nature of HK society, however the funny thing is that I see a similar phenomenon accelerating in mainland China as well, particularly on the internet and among the young. Overall I tend to regard this as quite positive.
On a side note I also find that Cantonese and Putonghua/Mandarin as it is spoke in SE Asia are also slowly diverging and drifting from the norm in HK and China. To the extent that it can at times sound quite distinctive with very pronounced local characteristics, especially the tendency to attached a “la!” at the end of the sentence for emphasis.
I enjoy watching foreign movies, French, German, Italian, Mexican, Korean, Japanese etc. I do think French ladies speaking English is very sexy. Southern Belles and Japanese girls too.
LOL. To non-Taishanese, it is indeed a funny sounding dialect. We have a lot of jokes in Cantonese by faking their accent. In the 80s, one the more well know HK comedians, Mak Ka used Taishanese in many of Sam Hui’s comical action hits.
My Mom used to think people from Chao Zhou were arguing when they were simply talking.
I personally enjoy listening to Dong Bei Mandarin, even the Taiwanese accent, especially coming
from their 槟榔 girls. (Not their ex-President, though.)
Yes, observing Hong Kong pop culture is an interesting undertaking. There’s the local eatery, wet market, dried goods and traditional grocery stores’ set of simplified phononymns. Numbers for prices and characters on food menu posters for example. Then there’s the Triad’s code words for all sorts of nouns and adjectives, particularly numbers, but those seem to become part of the mainstream usage very quickly.
When Steven Chow popularized 無厘頭文化, we all had a lot of fun. Think National Lampoons, Scary Movies etc. Although his typical movie roles are kind of similar to those that Peter Sellers, Steve Martin and Leslie Neilsen are known for, being a big fan of Bruce Lee, who can also be very funny, Steven Chow’s characters, are mostly very witty and like his idol, always plays a hero and a winner.
Ms. Chief, may I include your joke in my blog which is a collection of jokes. Very funny!
Cantonese is ‘enhanced’ almost weekly due to the wealth of the city. When folks are rich, they’ve more time to ‘enhance’ their life: language, music, art…Same in many historical periods in China. My theory anyway. That’s why a rich man has a mistress. 🙂
English in HK has been ‘enhanced’ too: ‘likeky’, ‘feel’, ‘hurt’, ‘friend’… HKer can give us a lengthy list. I come across them by watching HK mini series – some of them are quite good. HK folks like to include some English words in the Cantonese phrase to boost their social standing, true or not?
Ms Chief says
Be my guest, spread the laughter!
I’m sure there’s a lot of truth in your theory as you’re supposed to be able to tell the prosperity of a society by the state of its arts scene.
Yes, whenever I see Cantonese celebrities on TV these days, they always add a generous sprinkling of English words. I’m not sure if it’s all just showing off though, sometimes I get the feeling they think the English more succinctly expresses their sentiments.
To my ears, the pronunciation of Cantonese has evolved quite a bit. People seem to be dropping the ‘ng’ sound at the start of words like 牛. Also, ‘n’ sounds at the start of words are sounding more like ‘l’s and I have difficulty telling the difference between 男 and 蓝 these days. I also think the the tones have changed though I can’t quite put my finger on how exactly.
Judging from the movies I love y’all know I am not a young man. In the old days, just as Tainanese words were added in Cantonese as condiments for humor, English mispronounced served the same purpose in conversation, lyrics and movie scripts. However, these days, this Chinglish in Chinese is getting out of hand . Some folks do it because they went to English medium schools with no Chinese taught, hence are not fluent in Chinese reading comprehension, which of course affect their spoken fluency. My father who was fluent in Cantonese, hakka, mandarin and English also had a hard time writing Chinese. I too went to English only schools, but I was fortunate to have a mother who taught me to read basic Mandarin at home.
Normally, I do consciously try to use Cantonese in conversation without butchering it.
When I watch or listen to a Cantonese or Mandarin movie or song, I would prefer not to hear them overly adultered with English. It’s kinda like too much French or whatever in spoken or written English. An occassional word and phrase in a paragraph to enhance the sentiment is certainly fine.
“Yes, whenever I see Cantonese celebrities on TV these days, they always add a generous sprinkling of English words.”
Many of the younger celebrities are overseas Chinese who grew up speaking English most of their lives.
“‘ng’ sound at the start of words like 牛. Also, ‘n’ sounds at the start of words are sounding more like ‘l’s and I have difficulty telling the difference between 男 and 蓝 these days.”
This slacker’s pronunciation phenomena 懒音 is universal it seems.
HRT (high-rise terminals), HRT or uptalk, causes a statement to sound more like a question because the speaker’s voice gets higher at the end of the sentence, a speech habit that is taking over the way we talk.
More and more people do these days. All over the world, in fact – in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand – and it’s on the increase. Naturally, it’s mainly young people that use HRT: teenagers, of course, but more and more pre-teens are doing it as well. There are even some adults who have either grown up using it or who are getting HRT off their kids. Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. “Linguistic trends always begin decades before they are noticed by the media,” he says, citing a 48-year-old college professor friend from southern California who, he says, has always been an “uptalker”. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if it went global,” says Pinker. “The coolest kids decide to talk that way and it spreads like wildfire.” The Guardian, Friday 21 September 2001
Bai Ding says
I only want to add the following to our discussion on Cantonese. We are really far away from the Yellow Flower Hill.
We usually refer to the languages spoken in China around the隋, 唐,宋 periods (between 6th and 10th AD) as Middle Chinese (中古漢語). Some modern Chinese dialects still have certain characteristics that are closer to the older pronunciations of Middle Chinese than others. Reading rhyme-based classical literature (文言), especially poetry, in these dialects seems more coherent to the original reading must have been. Such dialects include Cantonese, Southern Min 閩南, and the Wen Zhou 溫州dialect. These southern dialects retain more of the original tones. Not all, but more.
Cantonese has nine tones, Mandarin has four, and the old Middle Chinese (中古漢語) has eight. Cantonese preserves many Middle Chinese’s syllable sounds that Mandarin has lost or merged. For example, the characters 裔, 屹, 藝, 憶, 譯, 懿, 誼, 肄, 翳, 邑, and 佚 are all pronounced “yi” in Mandarin, but they are all different in Cantonese. And the character 學 is another example of what was lost in Mandarin. In Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese, it is “hohk”, “hók”, “hak”, “học “,”hak”, and “gaku” respectively. The pronunciation in Mandarin is “xue”. Big difference.
I find the best way to decide is through Chinese poetry. Read the poem by the famous Du Fu of Tang Dynasty and you’ll find that Cantonese makes them sound better. In Cantonese, we got chum, sum, yum, sum and kum. In Mandarin, we got get xun, sen, yin, xin and qin.
(This was rhymed within the Rhyming Group of 侵韻)
Bai Ding, just curious, do you happen to know any published audio materials (like tapes, CDs) that teach people how to recite traditional Chinese poems in Cantonese?
The short pronunciation ended with a short p, k, t is called 入聲. It’s all but disappeared in Mandarin but still existed in some Chinese dialects, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese. Researchers often cross-reference to Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese to try to figure out how people in Sui/Tang/Song pronounce certain words. Kind of interesting if you think about it in today’s context, especially given how Chinese are viewed overall negatively in those countries… For that I think Chinese ought to be more introspective.
Is the disappearance of the 入聲 good for entering Chinese into the computer?
I’ve never thought of Cantonese as a decent spoken language until now.
Bai Ding says
I really don’t know of any but will search. I think it might be similar to the 木魚. The Taiwanese uses Southern Min to “sing” poems. It is very musical and provincial.
The one rule I was told to recite a poem (詩) is to read the last word of the first complete phrase in each line that ends in level tone 平聲 a little longer while keeping an even pitch. It is like phrasing in playing music.
For example, the first complete phrase that ends with a level tone is 祠堂. I would read the 堂 a bit longer and maintain the same pitch, take a very short breath and then drop short for the rest. Etc.
丞相祠堂 — 何處尋，錦官 — 城外柏森森。
映階 — 碧草自春色，隔葉黃鸝 — 空好音。
三顧頻煩 — 天下計，兩朝 — 開濟老臣心。
出師 — 未捷身先死，長使英雄 — 淚滿襟。
I see, Thanks!
Speaking of musicality of the Chinese dialects, someone in my family is from Suzhou. Every time I visit Suzhou, I am hooked to the TV. Many of the TV programs in the city are broadcasted in the local dialect. Although I don’t understand much, the sound of it is just mesmerizing. One particular program discusses a lot of social issues in the city. The funny thing is even when the male host is making some criticisms, when spoken in Suzhou dialect, it sounds like music to my ear 🙂
I hails from 武昌，Wuhan. So your story of 黃花崗 and 黃鶴樓 has a special meaning for me.
@ May #48: Your comment reminded me of a friend of mine in Shanghai who once told me the girls from Suzhou had the sweetest voices in China. 😛
Bai Ding says
To May #48. Yes, it is the handsome 江南. 吳濃軟語，very sweet and sensual. The men and women are known for their corporeal appeal and the beauty of their literature and music. They are scholars.
If I would visit Mainland China one day, it will be Suzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan and Shanghai. There are so many remnants from the Republic. Although the Yellow Crane Tower and the bell of the Cold Mountain Monastery （寒山寺的鐘聲）are no longer the original, I still want to be there. And to visit the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Tomb （中山陵）, and the tomb of the famous hero Xie Jin Yuan （謝晉元）, who guarded the Four Banks’ Warehouse （四行倉庫）during the Anti Japanese War with only 400 men. And I think about Du Mu’s 『煙籠寒水月籠沙，夜泊秦淮近酒家』. I hope the Qin Huai River （秦淮河）is still flowing as it has been for a thousand years.
Let me end this article with the following:
Hey, Bai, thanks for your interesting post. That’s an area of Chinese history I haven’t read into much.
I’m guessing most of the defacing of tombs etc happened in the earlier Communist years. But although I doubt (and would be horrified if) it still happens, I do wonder whether the CCP is willing to admit what it did or was done in its name. After all it is still reluctant to come clean on so many issues.
I think China would really benefit from an independent, open Truth and Reconciliation Commission like they had in South Africa. Then Chinese could really learn about their past and heal the wounds that have festered for decades. But that would probably require a change of political leadership so, unless a new faction of the CCP takes power that wants to clean out the old guard by dropping them in the mess they made, I guess it will have to wait until multi-party politics. I’d like to think it would happen sooner, but your view on that would probably more accurate than mine.
Bai Ding, thank you. You write so beautifully, esp. the last poem. Almost bring tears to my eyes.
Bai Ding says
May, thank you. I am flattered. I hope I am only one of many others who will write with the same passion about the chivalry of our heroes in history. I certainly hope that one day Mainland China will let its people know the truth of this part of our history and the KMT’s contribution in those days.
Raj, the Yellow Flower Uprising was actually a later event. We have read the Farewell letter by one of the revolutionaries to his wife. Let me mention three earlier martyrs whose contributions and influence were indisputable. They were immortalized in our consciousness.
1 – Wu Yue 吳樾 – Born in Anhui. He believed that the only way to overthrow the Manchu was by assassinations. He actually wrote a book about assassinations. He wanted to kill them, one city at a time. In his earlier years, he had abandoned all the old Chinese classics and decided to follow the reform route. When the Qing Dynasty sent five top officials (including the famous 徐世昌) to go abroad, he decided to try to kill them. His friend recommended a special bomb for him. He wrote a letter to his fiancé to say goodbye and disguised himself as one of the official’s entourage. He succeeded in sneaking into the train where the five officials were on but was in a different car. As he was approaching them, the train suddenly jolted and his bomb went off too soon. He was blown up. His whole body was in pieces.
2 – Lu Hao-tung (陸皓東) was the first revolutionary martyr of the Republic of China 中華民國. He was Sun Yat Sen’s childhood friend. In the same year he died, he designed the “Blue Sky with a White Sun 青天白日旗” emblem that came to be used as the Kuomintang (KMT) party flag and the national flag of China until the Communist took over Mainland. He was executed by the Manchu when plans of the 1895 Canton Uprising were leaked out. (I always question about China’s ban on this flag. No one is asking it to return using this flag as the national flag. But they should allow this flag to be hung all over China because it represented more than a political party. It was the icon of the birth of a nation. The revolutionaries died with this flag. It is our history. That’s bigger than the two political parties. Even during last year’s celebration of the 1911 victory in the Yellow Crane Tower, the very first one in Mainland, this flag was absent. That’s absurd. )
Qiu Jin 秋瑾- Born in Fujian. Not satisfied with her being a housewife and found herself in contact with new ideas, she decided to travel overseas and study in Japan in 1904. She was known for her swordsmanship and wearing Western male dress. She joined the Triads, who at the time advocated the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and return of Chinese government to the Chinese people. She also joined the Tokyo-based 同盟會 led by Sun Yat-sen. In 1907 she became head of a school intended for the military training of revolutionaries. After an uprising led by her cousin Xu Xilin 徐錫麟 failed in July 1907, Qiu was arrested in her school. Xu himself got his heart pulled out by the Qing officials. Qiu was tortured by Qing officials and was publicly executed in her home village later, at the age of 31. Her confession to the Qing officials was her famous quote, “The Wind and rain in Autumn are too distressing to people! 秋風秋雨愁煞人”。She was buried beside West Lake 西湖, in Hangzhou. It should still be there. Next time you are there, please try to find her tomb.