Archive for March, 2009

NZ Chinese Journals 先驅者之聲

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Delighted to discover NZ Chinese Journals 先驅者之聲 project containing over 16,000 pages from three publications: 民聲旬報 Man Sing Times (1921-22), 僑農月刊 New Zealand Chinese Growers Monthly Journal (1949-72) and 中國大事週報 New Zealand Chinese Weekly News (1937-46) that span 50 years of Chinese New Zealand history.

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Wonderful interface makes it a joy to view and search these fascinating historical sources in English and Chinese. Kezia Singleton (project manager) and David Adams addressed some of the challenges creating this complex project in this presentation at the New Zealand Digital Forum conference 2008.

More info on Chinese print culture in Aotearoa from New Zealand Electronic Text Centre.

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觉 Jue Music and Art Festival

(覺) [Jué] to feel, wake up, come to one’s senses.
音乐 [yīnyuè] music
艺术 [yìshù] art

Lots of good links to current bands, artists, cafes, clubs, galleries and other groovy locales in both 北京 and 上海 from the 觉 Jue Festival celebration of “alternative, creative and progressive arts in Shanghai and Beijing. With no branding, no restrictions and no agenda, Jue is an excuse to leave your hidey-hole and experience a punk show, an art installation, and everything in between.” (Thanks PSFK.)

The Fun of a Naughty Pun: 草泥马 Cao Ni Ma

UPDATE 16 March 2009: The original 草泥马 “Grass Mud Horse” children’s chorus video below was removed from YouTube, but reposted here by Rebecca Mackinnon. Also of interest: 12 March NYT article “A Dirty Pun Tweaks China’s Online Censors.”

This adorable video features Chinese children singing on top of an English Oxfam/Mastercard ad. The word for alpacas, cǎonímǎ, 草泥马, literally “grass mud horse” when sung, sounds just like  càonǐmā, 操你媽, “f*ck your mother.”

From a Singapore Angle points out how respect for elders and ancestor worship colors Chinese swearings:

The Chinese believe that to directly insult a person’s character (the Anglo-American way) or belittle his abilities (the Japanese way) are not the best methods; rather only by abusing the person’s elders and ancestors can the biggest insults be achieved. For this reason the “national swears” of the Chinese: ta ma de (他媽的; lit. “his mother’s…”), cao ni ma (操你媽; lit. “—- your mother”), etc., all do not directly abuse the person being swore at, but abuse the person’s mother; cao ni nainai (操你奶奶; lit. “—- your grandmother”), cao ni zuzong (操你祖宗; lit. “—- your ancestor”), etc., on the other hand, are intensified versions of cao ni ma.

But we’re not just talking about curses here. The video, which is becoming increasingly popular, is basically a commentary on the frustration of political censorship. (via Ethan Zuckerman writing up a talk by Rebecca MacKinnon onWorldchanging.) China Digital Times has an in-depth write up of the lyrics, which offer a coded song of struggle with internet censors, represented by “river crabs” 河蟹 héxiè, a homophone for 和谐   héxié “harmonious.”

If you want more, Ten Legendary Beasts of Baidu offers up other species whose names map to juvenile puns for curse words or genitalia.

It’s all Greek to Me

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When an English speaker doesn’t understand a word, one says “it’s all Greek to me.” Hebrew speakers say it “sounds like Chinese.” Apparently Korean speakers say it “sounds like Hebrew,” according to Language Log. Strange Maps illustrates the relationships between languages that seem alien. Chinese definitely wins, being the reference language for Greek, Polish, Rusian, Portuguese, Spanish, Hebrew, Dutch, Hungarian, Latvian, and Lithuanian Speakers.


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