China cliches and the power of propopanda

Benjamin Carlson recently made a list of five Communist Party catchphrases commonly used in writings on China. They are: Referring to China’s “century of humiliation” Crediting the government with “lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty” Needlessly referring to China’s “5,000 years of history” Calling China’s supreme leader “the president” Referring to free thinkers as […]

Beijing place names and history

As far as cities go, Beijing is very much a planned one, ever since Kublai Khan defeated the last Song dynasty emperor and established a new capital, Dadu (大都, Grand Capital), in 1271. Of course, Beijing’s history dates back further than that, but much of its modern-day layout has its origins here. Kublai Khan wanted […]

How laws work in China: An illustration

I have a love-hate relationship with Chinese laws. 国务院办公厅印发贯彻落实国务院关于进一步做好利用外资工作若干意见部门分工方案的通知 Notice of the General Office of the State Council on Issuing the Plan on the Division of Work among Departments to Implement the Several Opinions of the State Council on Further Doing a Good Job in the Utilization of Foreign Investment (Translated title here, here and […]

It’s not Friday, but…

I’m a big fan of Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” The lyrics are stupid, sure, but now they can become a learning experience! This guy Dawen has translated the song into Chinese. How’s this for the ultimate blend of East and West? I especially like how he translated Rebecca Black’s name into Li Bei Ka, the transliteration […]

Lost in translation

**Warning** This is a short post. James Fallows had a contest on his Atlantic blog yesterday, asking readers if they could figure out the meaning of this sign: It was taken in Ritan Park, the park I frequent. I had noticed it before, and as I found out from Fallows, was wrong about what it […]

Beijing translated

One of the ways I’ve tried to improve my Chinese is by learning place names through road signs. It’s convenient because I can’t go a day without commuting and easy because signs are usually written in Chinese (character study!) and pinyin (pronunciation guide!). There are also smaller signs, such as Beijing’s famous hutongs (the alley […]

On language

You’ve probably seen the article on how language might influence the way we approach the world in this past weekend’s New York Times Magazine. Basically, it said our mother tongue forces us to pay attention to certain details based on the way it is used. For example, as anyone who has ever learned a European […]