In the field of media criticism, it pays to be picky about language. Around touchy issues of sovereignty and legitimacy, journalists frequently navigate intractable disputes where no term is truly “objective”. A wise man once said, if you want to create social change, then it is of paramount importance to identify “who are [your] enemies [and] who are [your] friends?” But there’s the risk of being so hypercritical and without humility as to impart devious significance to routine, apolitical phrases. In the English-language Tibetan studies circuit, which leans almost entirely pro-separatist, one phrase regularly trotted out for criticism is “China’s Tibet”. This blogpost at High Peaks Pure Earth is representative in its mocking tone, if not for the most academic exposition of the idea. “There must be a psychological condition that describes an anxiety so acute that there is an overwhelming need to constantly state and re-state that something belongs to you… China’s rather childish and possessive nature!”
The biggest hindrance of the West and the rest of the world in understanding China is the perceived lack of human rights tradition in China. China is an old civilization and a civilization cannot continue to prosper and grow if this most fundamental issue is never addressed. The Zhou dynasty is probably the most formative in that it is during that period that the modern Chinese language, culture and core belief are formed.
Today also happened to be the day before new year (除夕)in the lunar calendar. I would like to wish everybody a happy, healthy and prosperous dragon year. Instead of the usual heavy subject matter, I would like to talk about something more light hearted. I am in a holiday mood today so I will address some concern about the lack of creativity in TV broadcasting in China. Instead of using academic discussion I will simply provide a link to a hot TV series that has taken my sister by storm. She is the one that actually sent it to me. In fact she considered this love/history drama so good that it triumphed all works from Taiwan and HK (of course that’s her personal view).
The TV series is “步步惊心” or “步步驚心”loosely translated as “Startling by Each Step”, I know the translation is always so corny. It is about a modern girl who went back through time to the later reign of Qing Kangxi period. If you are familiar with this period, you will know the palace intrigue that took place. Although it is considered science fiction, the costume and cultural aspect is very accurate. The author of the original work is 桐华. She did an awesome work by inter-weaning love and politics into the story.
Does all Chinese dialect group have the same representation in politics historically? The question first appeared to me when I read Li Guangyao’s 李光耀(Lee Kuan Yew) autobiography, The Singapore Story and From Third World to First: The Singapore Story. He mentioned that Hakka is disproportionately represented in politics in Singapore and other Chinese communities. At the writing of the book, the political leader of mainland China is Deng Xiaoping 鄧小平, who is a Hakka, so is Li Denghui 李登辉 from Taiwan, Martin Lee 李柱銘 from Hong Kong and of course Lee Kuan Yew himself is a Hakka.
I would have to say the movement of the “Han people” is very complex. Most casual observers would think that the Mandarin version of Chinese language is the most “proper” version. In fact, it is the most modern version with the Beijing dialect heavily influenced by the Man language. Both the Minanese and Cantonese would claim their “version” as the most original Chinese. Scholars are still debating whether Minanese or Cantonese are the older form of Chinese or which is the Shang or Zhou version.
“月滿西樓” is a poem written by 李清照 (Li QingZhao, 1084AD ─ 1155AD), regarded as one of the most prominent female poets from the Song Dynasty. The poem is about Li’s longing for her husband’s return from travels. Here is a song of the same name with lyrics entirely based on the poem, performed by singer 童丽 (Tong Li).
Continue reading Li Qingzhao: “月滿西樓”
李白 (Li Bai, 701-762AD) is one of the most beloved Tang Dynasty (618-907AD) poets in Chinese history. This is a rendition of his poem, 静夜思 (“Thoughts on a Still Night”) where he reminisces his home. Below are couple of videos presenting this poem in various ways. Many Chinese children, some, perhaps shortly after they start talking, will be taught this poem (see second video below).
Continue reading 李白 (Li Bai, 701-762AD): 静夜思 (Thoughts on a Still Night)
Wolfgang Kubin, Bonn University Professor of Chinese Studies, is a well-known critic of Chinese literature, a critic in every sense of the word. Every time he speaks about Chinese literature, he makes waves among observers of Chinese literature. He was famous for “trashing” Chinese literature, which has at various times being interpreted as trashing of Chinese literature in general, Chinese novels in particular, or novels by the sentimental “beauty writers” to be more exact. Chinese writers probably can also claim that Kubin is trash, but they have not done so. That shows a humility that contrasts sharply with Kubin’s elitist and dismissive criticism. Continue reading Fear of Kubin is the end of wisdom
The NYT just posted a report on how Cantonese is being “swept aside” by Mandarin in Chinatowns of North America. This post has nothing to do with that story.
Now that many non-Chinese have moved to China and many native Chinese live throughout the world, cross cultural dating has become far more common. For someone leaving mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong or Singapore and moving to a western country, what are some of the cultural pitfalls and traps you need to avoid and adjustments you need to make? For someone moving to any of those four areas, the same questions apply. Are the “rules” different for Chinese women dating outside their culture as compared to Chinese men doing the same?
My direct experience isn’t too pertinent since I met my wife in Phoenix and she had already been living in the States for nine years, but there were still many adjustments we (mostly I) had to make. She was the first Asian woman I had ever dated so I didn’t fall into the “yellow fever” category. However, when I was living in mainland China and Taiwan, I had a chance to observe, ask questions and learn more from others involved in cross cultural relationships.
Recently, my daughter had this poem in her class project.
Where Are You From?
Where am I from?
I’m on an extended visit back to my hometown, Vancouver, a Canadian city full of Chinese. Chinese is the second-most commonly used language after English. My wife and I were running around a Chinese mall for fun to practice Mandarin and buy some Chinese DVDs when we overheard Chinese people talking about us in Mandarin saying, “Those foreigners are speaking Chinese!” I thought it was funny that even in Canada, Chinese people would call white people “foreigner” (in this case: “外国人”).
Continue reading (Letter from Joel) How should foreigners feel about being called “鬼子,” “鬼佬,” “老外,” etc.?
There’s a new phenomenon sweeping China. Back in January on a Chinese web page, a new video made its way from there into the hearts of internet users all across the country, spawning a wave of related items such as cartoons, documentaries and grass-mud horse dolls.
Reading TonyP4’s comment this morning on the Numbers as Language thread, I noticed he used the acronym FOB meaning “Fresh Off Boat”. That reminded me of my Taiwan days and especially Catherine, one of the gals at my office in Hsinchu who was one of the funniest people with one of the driest wits I’ve ever encountered. She seemed to have an acronym for everything! So I thought it’d be fun for everyone to share the ones they know. I’ll start it off: “That stupid MBA made a pass at an MIT while married to an ABC. He’s just an IBM anyway.”
NPR once broadcasted an interview talking about why Asian students are better at math (if I can be excused) . The speaker explained that in these mostly agricultural societies, the mindset is you reap how much you plant, hence their greater commitment. In America, there is more emphasis on “working smart” than “working hard”. Translated into educational jargon, he is saying that time on task still makes a difference. Continue reading Numbers as Language
It’s common knowledge that when it comes to racial remarks, Chinese people (and perhaps Asians in general) are not the most politically correct people in the world. We’ve had extended discussions about “racism” in China (see, e.g., Chocolate City post by Buxi). Recently, I came across an interesting article in Times Magazine (in relation to the U.S. Presidential politics) regarding racism in Asia. Unfortunately, I believe the author falls into many pitfalls that many Westerners make when it comes to Asian racism. Continue reading Are Chinese racist or simply politically incorrect?
I had meant to post this sooner, but a quick Mid-Autumn Festival vacation trip got in the way. Admin previously provided me with several passages written by ksjqjy, the host of the Minkaohan forum, and I thought I would post some of them which dealt with religion, given the the timely relevance to Ramadan. Continue reading (Letter from Damai) Oppose Belief Opportunists: My Thoughts On Modern-Day Uighur Christians
“C’mon baby, go ahead ‘n’ liiiie to me!”
Continue reading (Letter) Chinese people like it when you "lie" to them
In a recent comment, one of our bloggers wrote, Continue reading Does a free marketplace of ideas really work?
There is a heated debate going on regarding the lack of Chinese characters on China’s official Olympics uniforms in contrast with those on German’s sportswear.
Personally, I see no point in not printing Chinese text on China’s official uniforms. But for this post, I will purposely play the role of a “CCP apologist” and try to put these things in positive terms. 😉 Besides, I will explain two frequently used Chinese phrases and hopefully cast some light on a particular aspect of the Chinese culture.