Posts Tagged ‘China’

Danwei translates from book planner Zhen Yufei’s Sina microblog:

Famous Chinese science fiction author Liu Cixin — remember, he’s a science fiction writer. A science fiction writer writes science fiction. When we sent this author’s work to the publisher for review and approval, they rejected it. The reason they gave for rejecting it was that China no longer existed in the world he depicted in the novel!

Danwei got the message through a blogger named Pan Haitian, who added his own remark under the title “Harmonious Society, Harmonious Society.” I’ll see if I can do it justice:


Big Liu is not mature enough.  Look at me.  Before the Olympic games I wrote about Beijing in 10,000 years.  The Olympic venues have been occupied by raccoons and baboons.  The Fourth Ring Road has become a paradise for the timberwolves and elk, but the great [me: not sure on this next part] Beijing People’s Communications and News Hologram continues live in the Bird’s Nest, singing, dancing, shouting that Asia will overcome the West [me: I assume there are people in the holograms doing this].  The first aliens who come here to study are deeply shocked, and no one dare make irresponsible remarks or actions. This was no problem, and has not been investigated.

So, one way people can get banned in China: write science fiction where China doesn’t exist.  (Granted, 2012 destroyed China along with most of the rest of the world and it made it in.)


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So apparently MIT scientists have made a special bike wheel that stores breaking energy in a battery, then uses that for an assist motor.  Interesting, but the fact is there are already electric bikes, and they never caught on in the US.  They’re all over China, though — you can’t cross the street in Hangzhou without almost getting hit by one.

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So, just as the Internet has had a major democratization globally, China steps in with another ham-handed attempt at restricting it.  Authorities in China have banned individuals from registering .cn domains. (via Shanghaiist):

According to the latest report published by CNNIC, users who want to apply for domain names should provide written application materials to domain name registration service providers while submitting applications online. The application materials include a domain name registration application form with official seal (original); an enterprise business license or organization code certificate (copy); and the identification of registration contact (copy).

Not sure how much it matters, there’s nothing that prevents you from going through a commercial registrar to get an international .com, .org, or .net domain.  I don’t know exactly what authorities attempt to accomplish with this ban, maybe someone who knows more about domain names can help me out.  I suppose individual countries have the right to put whatever restrictions they want on their country code domains, but letting businesses and organizations register but not individuals seems odd to me.  If I were to restrict a country code, I would restrict it to government sites.

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ChinaSMACK has a contest up to win a copy of the book In China, my name is… which focuses on the phenomenon of Chinese people choosing English names for various reasons.  All you have to do is post a comment to their contest post with a story or stories about Chinese people’s English names or foreigners’ Chinese names.  My (slightly obnoxious) posting can already be found in the comment thread (Sorry Burr, I stole your story before I thought about sharing the link, maybe you can post a more accurate version :S ).

Note: Mom I think you know this, but just to remind, ChinaSMACK is not safe for middle school (sorry, but you’ll see why pretty quick).

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If you followed President Obama’s recent trip to Asia, you may have picked up on a story about different names for Obama used in Chinese. Essentially there are two competing versions of his last name: 奥巴马 (aobama), which is the officially endorsed version used by Xinhua and other news agencies in China, and 欧巴马 (oubama), which is the version used by the US Embassy in China for press releases and other information. The embassy claims 欧巴马 should be used because it more accurately reflects the pronunciation of the name, while Xinhua and most Chinese news outlets prefer 奥巴马 because that is the form that organically occurred back when Obama was a candidate. As for which version I would use, I’m not sure yet. I’m a big believer in self-determination when it comes to names, but Obama didn’t really choose that transliteration himself, he had Chinese-speaking aides do it. And there’s something to be said for using consistent spelling forms, if for no other reason that it makes it easier on search engines if they don’t have to recognize the variant forms (or users so they don’t need to remember to search both forms at once).

But I didn’t tune in late to a discussion of Obama’s name just to opine on that. The fact is, learning Chinese, you have to learn new names for everyone and everything you might want to talk about to Chinese people. If you’ve ever studied another language you have some idea what I’m talking about. Even in European langauges, you’re likely to have to learn new country names, names of Biblical characters, and many historical figures (particularly those from the 1500’s or earlier), and maybe deal with a few mispronunciations of more recent names coming from monolinguals. In Chinese, every country, place, movie, book, or famous person has a “Chinese name”, whether that name is just a transliteration like 奥巴马 or 哈利・波特, some sort of translated name like 星际旅行, or in the case of many Chinese actors and celebrities, the actual characters of their name: such as 成龙 or 李安.

Historical figures have the same problems.  Of course, it won’t take long to learn that Mao’s full name is 毛泽东, but often figures in Chinese history are known by different pronunciation of their name from a different Chinese language (Chang Kai-shek for instance, is 蒋介石 Jiang3 Jie4shi2 in Standard Mandarin).  And of course, foreign historical names are prone to transliterations, which can be compounded by not necessarily knowing which language was the source for the Chinese phonetic pronunciation.

These things go the other way around, as well, particularly with older historical and literary figures.  You learn pretty quick that Confucious is usually called 孔子 (Kongzi) — the English name comes from an honorific title 孔夫子 (Master Kong), and you may later learn that his real name is thought to have been 孔丘 (Kong Qiu).

So what’s the best way to sort out these names.  Good dictionaries will have some of them listed, but I’ve found the best way to find the names is to use Wikipedia.  Most (if not all) people and literary works that originated in China will have their Chinese names listed in the introduction.  For those things that aren’t so closely related, look at the list of languages, hopefully you will see the a link saying 中文.  Thanks to some script magic, all Chinese Wikipedia articles are available in four versions:  Mainland, Hong Kong / Macau, Singapore, and Taiwan, so you can choose the character set that best suits your needs.  That won’t get you everywhere, but it’s a useful learning tool, or a resource you can use if you happen to be chatting online with Chinese friends and you want to know, “What do I call Obama him in Chinese?”

Anyway, hope I was helpful in some way.

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Originally uploaded by gacorley

This happened to me a while ago, but I was recently reminded of it:


A few weeks ago, I went to a little noodle restaurant near our school. I had already eaten those items I could read on the menu, so I ordered something I wasn’t quite sure of. What I ordered was 猪肝面 (zhu gan mian). I knew what 猪 meant (‘pig, pork’) and I like to eat noodles (面), but I didn’t know what 肝 was. Looking at the character, I noticed it had a “meat” radical so I knew it was an organ or a part of the body, and I knew how to pronounce it (gan) because of the phonetic element 干, but I didn’t know what part of the body it was.

我和朋友在谈这件事,希望不是那么奇怪的东西。旁边的桌子有两个中国姑娘,其中有一个会说英语。会说英语的姑娘听到我们的谈话,想了一会然后告诉我们”It’s the liver of the pig.” 不久以后服务员端来了一碗猪肝面,我一下子发现很好吃。现在我常常去那家饭馆吃猪肝面。

I talked about this with my friends, hoping it wasn’t something too strange. At the table beside us were to Chinese women, one of them could speak English. The one who could speak English heard us, thought for a moment and then told me “It’s the liver of the pig.” Not long after that, the waitress brought my 猪肝面, and unexpectedly I found it very good. Now I often go to that restaurant to have some pork-liver noodles.

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Via Danwei:

Obama’s "townhall" meeting with Shanghai youth will be streamed live on the Internet at the following URLs: whitehouse.gov/liveamerica.gov/mgck and apps.facebook.com/whitehouselive.

Check it out!

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