Friday, August 22, 2008

Beijing, Hong Kong and Brisbane Days

I did leave my camera in my hotel room in Hong Kong, but thanks to the awesome staff of The Cosmopolitan (now officially the best hotel ever, as far as I'm concerned), I'm now back in possession of my camera. Thanks guys!

Finally I can put up the quick photo journey I've been wanting to do for a while.

The first view is that from my Beijing apartment. This was the morning of my last day in Beijing. It wasn't raining.

This, by contrast, is the view out of the hotel window, on my first morning in Hong Kong.

And this is the view out of the flat I'm staying at in Brisbane. It rained this afternoon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Such Hospitality

I've just read a rather extreme example of 'hospitality' in the Three Kingdoms, and thought I'd give a quick, rough translation. There's actually an odd sort of moral ambiguity here (even, or especially, in the Chinese, I think), and I wonder about the significance of this little part of the story. The plight of women in the Han dynasty was certainly pretty horrid. As always any corrections are welcome.


One day, Liu Bei went to stay overnight at a house and was met by the young man living there, a hunter named Liu An. Upon learning that Liu Bei was governor of Yu, Liu An wanted to provide a meaty meal for all; unable to find any meat, he killed his wife and cooked her.

“What kind of meat is this?” asked Liu Bei.

“It’s wolf,” replied Liu An. Thus satisfied, Liu Bei went on to eat until he was full, and then stayed the night. At dawn, Liu Bei went behind the house to get his horse, when suddenly he saw the corpse of a woman inside the kitchen, with the flesh on her arms scraped away. Liu Bei, shocked, asked Liu An, and only then found out that last night’s meat had been that of his wife. Liu Bei was so moved he couldn’t help crying as he mounted his horse.

“I’d love to come along, but while Mum’s alive I don’t dare venture out far,” said Liu An.

Liu Bei thanked him and left…

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I must be building up a tolerance. 250 grams used to last days. Now I'm doing 500 grams in an evening yet still thirst for more.

My name's Cooper, and I'm a strawb addict. Perhaps it was not eating a single strawb for a whole year, or perhaps this winter has produced a particularly fine, juicy, succulent bunch of strawbs. Either way, I'm hooked. It's probably the best thing about being in Brisbane right now.

So the word for strawberry in Chinese, 草莓 caomei, is literally straw berry. This is a bit much to be sheer coincidence, so I figured that strawberries probably aren't native to China. Seeking a China-centric answer, I looked up Chinese Wikipedia. I found out in Cantonese it is 士多啤梨, which I found out is pronounced sih do be leih, a transliteration from the English without meaning, as such, but does finish with the character for pear.

It was a good way to learn a bunch of words I'd never learn otherwise (which I'll probably forget in a few hours, but if I look up enough entries on fruit after a while...I'll be fluent in er, fruity Apparently the part we eat is not actually strawberry fruit, but a part of the outer floral envelope created after the pollen has disseminated. The real strawberries are the little yellow things covering the surface of the strawberry. Or something like that.

I need another hit, but my supply is running low...

Monday, August 04, 2008

BBC Chinese Unblocked - Translated Comments

The BBC's Chinese website is, apparently, now unblocked in mainland China. I was browsing through the interactive section of the website and found a comments section with the title: BBC Chinese Unblocked - Your Experiences.

Anyway, I'm just taking a break from the reading I'm doing for university, and thought I'd give my shot at translating some of the comments- original post first, followed by translation. I might return and do some more later:

BBC 又在搞他那臭名昭著的小把戏了:花钱雇佣中国的小贱民(或称被雇佣的网上反华分子)来此污染中国人的大脑 了!西方搞数十年的对国民的洗脑很成功啊,倒是中国共产党半途而废啦,不过我们是中国人,不会听你继续骗人 和攻击中国,因为你BBC只有一个目的,就是让中国变得衰弱,你英国白人殖民者可心理平衡也可继续瓜分中国 !做梦吧你。


The BBC is up to it's notorious filthy tricks yet again: Hiring the underclass of China (or you might say 'the hired online Sinophobes') to come and pollute the brains of the Chinese! The West's decades long brainwashing of the citizens has really succeeded, whereas the Communist Party gave up half way through, but we're Chinese, we won't listen as you continue to deceive and attack China, because the BBC only has one goal, which is to weaken China, it doesn't bother you white British colonizers to keep carving up China! You're dreaming, you are.


中国什么时候才能文明? 才能理性?

80后 北京

When will China finally be civilized? Finally be rational? The ignorant boycotting of others will only lead to being isolated by the world.

Post-80's Beijing


PLA China

Freedom of speech and thought are the foundations of civilization. China doesn't just need economic development, it also needs political progress. I hope this kind of unblocking is long term, not temporary.

PLA China

开通BBC,实在太高兴了,不过这肯定是中共的应景之举,奥运一过,就不会如此。中共独裁专制政党什么丧心 病狂的事都能做得出来!不过“解封”一天也好啊!

求实  江苏

The BBC is opened up, I'm over the moon, but this tactic is definitely a temporary one from the CCP, after the Olympics, it won't be like this. No tactic is too depraved for that CCP dictatorship! But one day of 'unblockage' is still good!
Truth Seeker Jiangsu

能从中国国内浏览BBC网,网速很快!感觉很好。这种开放很有意义!看到你们让人马上想起你们的祖先来我国 贩卖鸦片烟,火烧圆明园的事了!但愿你们不要象你们父辈那样在网上放毒,来毒害我们!

林则徐 北京

Browing the BBC from inside China, the connection is really fast! Feels good. This type of easing of control is really significant! Seeing you lot reminds me of the fact that your ancestors came to our country peddling opium, and burned down the old Summer Palace! But I hope you lot aren't so like your forefathers that you'd spread poisonous ideas on the internet to harm us!

Lin Ze Xu Beijing (note: Wenlin has a listing for Lin Ze Xu 1785-1850, 'a Canton viceroy who tried to halt the opium trade')

PS: I couldn't figure out a good way of translating: 解封 unblock in the context as it was used here, thus we have 'unblockage'.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Cantonese and the Three Kingdoms

So I finally have a concrete example of a way in which Cantonese is more 'old school' than Mandarin. On my couple of trips to Hong Kong, I'd sort of figured out that shi (to be) in Cantonese was hai. I'd assumed it was their way of pronouncing the word written 是.

But it's not! They actually use the really old word 系 xi, which you can still find in old texts (like the Three Kingdoms). Can mean the same as shi in certain contexts. Like the phrase I just read:

融曰:“我系李相通家。” Rong said "I'm a relative of Minister Li"

This piece of the puzzle just clicked now when I found the Cantonese word in the Wenlin definition. So that's why it popped up all the time in those HK gangsters films I've been watching.

I've just started dipping my toe into Cantonese properly by the amazingly awesome website designed for mainland Mandarin speakers learning Cantonese, 520hai. Something tells me it may not be entirely legitimate, as there are expensively produced videos up there entirely for free...but hey, their lessons are really useful. I'm still at the stage where I'm gaping at the fact that there's 9 tones, and trying to get my ears and eyes linking up to the new pinyin system.

Well, you know that saying, I think it's something like 千里之行, 始于一步 (the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step- let me know if I have that wrong). Or maybe something like 九声之语, 始于阴平 in this case. (a language of nine tones begins with the first tone- my classical Chinese sucks do please point out if that's wrong, anyone- Jeremiah? Sunny? Laurie?)

Anyway, I hope someone finds the 520hai link useful- I'm amazed such a site exists.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Shanghai Gloaming

There was a really good documentary on SBS just now, called Shanghai Gloaming. It was made by FLY Films, and follows the photographer Greg Girad around the more interesting areas of Shanghai. My favourite thing to do in Shanghai is to stroll through the northern Bund area, and I was lucky enough on one of my trips to visit a friend's old home in the area. It was built in the shikumen style (石库门), and it was fascinating taking a look inside.

The documentary was made in 2005, and gives quite a gloomy outlook as to the future of these unique architectural styles, suggesting that they're going to be torn down in the near future. That's probably true, though there's still plenty standing today, so it's still worth exploring. I didn't have my camera then, but in any event there's better examples of it at Greg Girad's website. In particular, in the places section, see photo #3 "North Bund Rooftops".

I also saw that Girad has done some good work capturing the Walled City which used to exist in Kowloon.