Bo Yang Passed Away

He died on April 29, 2008 at the age of eighty nine (1920-2008).

His books I once read:

  • The Ugly Chinaman
    A relentless incision of the national character of the Chinese people.
  • The Schematic History of Chinese People (or An Outline of Chinese History)
    The title is my translation. It is the best Chinese history book I ever read. This book is not just a history of China, but a panoramic presentation of the fate and the destiny of Chinese people. Your understanding of Chinese people will be greatly deepened after reading it.
  • Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government or Zi Zhi Tong Jian in Chinese Pinyin.
    Bo Yang translated this classic Chinese history chronicle by Sima Guang into modern Chinese. In the preface, Bo Yang said it was impossible to understand China without reading this book on Chinese history.

Read more of his works

If you read Chinese and are interested to read his book, here is an ed2k link to a complete collection of his books from Emule.

A selective biographical chronicle

I translated a chronicle of Bo Yang, which you can find on this blog.

The Kang Bed in Northern Chinese Villages

1. What is it?

The Kang bed is a sleeping platform widely seen in the villages of Northern China. It is a rectangular construction built on the ground of the room, and is usually located by a window. As its other name—Fire Kang—suggests, it is mainly a heated bed, which is indispensable in the rural areas of China during winter.

2. What is it like?

Bricks or cheap fired clay are used to build the Kang. While the size varies, it provides enough sleeping space for a few people. The Kang generally consists of three parts: a stove for fuel, the bed itself, and a chimney. The heat from the stove is directed through flues under the bed and the smoke is released through the chimney. To capture as much heat as possible, the formation of the flues is very important. The flues can resemble a maze which allows for the maximum exposure of heat to the surface of the bed. Still, the area close to the stove is usually warmer, and becomes a reserved spot for elders.

3. Fuel sources

Wood, grass, coal, straw and corn cobs are common fuel sources for the Kang. Since bricks and fired clay take longer to heat up and cool down, fuel is burned in the stove a couple of hours before going to bed. When the Kang gets warm enough, it can take a whole night to cool down, providing enough warmth in the freezing winter.

4. Coverings

The surface of the Kang bed is fired clay and big straw matting is placed over it to lessen the heat and avoid the dirt. A thick quilt is the second layer of covering, followed by a cotton-padded blanket and a bed sheet.

The Kang table, a short-legged small table, is sometimes placed on the Kang bed. The table comes in handy for placing cups or food on it. Sometimes people eat their meals on the Kang table.

5. Other functions

The Kang bed is multifunctional. It can serve as a bed, floor, table and chair. Its stove can be used for cooking and boiling water for drinking tea. In many rural families, the Kang bed is the only source of heat and this makes it a great place for families to come together and talk, tell stories, or sing during the cold winter nights. It is quite common for parents to sleep on the same Kang bed with their children.

In some places, mourning services and marriage ceremonies are carried out on the Kang bed as well.

The Most Unnecessary Government News Release

My Translation of a press release on Xinhua website:

A Press Release by the News Office of the District Government of Jiangjin, Chongqing Municipality

In the past few days, a hearsay that “a woman cadre in the government was raped by vagrants” has been widely circulated in Jiangjin area and on some web sites. After investigation, it is confirmed that this story is completely of gossipy and rumor-mongering nature.

The News Office of the District Government of Jiangjin, Chongqing Municipality

April 11, 2008

Below is the original text

The Screenshot of the Government Website

NYT: Reading and Comments about the Olympic Torch Relay in Paris

I read and commented on an article by the New York Times, for the language learning purposes.

And in China, a different sort of backlash has been taking shape — against the companies from countries that seem to be putting pressure on China. French companies like Carrefour are a particular target because of the mayhem during the Paris leg of the torch relay and because the French president has said he may skip the opening ceremony in Beijing over China’s human rights record.

Backlash: a strong and adverse reaction by a large number of people. Mayhem: disorder, chaos

“I think boycotting Carrefour is a peaceful and polite way to express our anger, our Chinese feelings got deeply hurt by France,” said Li Meng, a 25-year-old mechanic who is selling T-shirts in support of the boycott movement in the city of Yantai, in eastern China. “France humiliated China during the torch relay and keeps making trouble for the Olympics.”

Nay. Don’t mix the country with the people. It is better put in this way: “Some French” humiliated China. CCTV reported that Chinese journalists hadn’t received the treatment they expected in Paris. A journalist in a television interview said that the French Authority didn’t give the the Chinese journalists sufficient leeway and good camera positions to cover the torch relay. I am not sure what happened. Maybe those journalists were used to the preferential treatments at home, and they didn’t adjust their mentality well in abroad?

Some photos available on the Internet showed that the French police force had no mercy towards the trouble-makers on the scene and arrested lots of them.

American brands like McDonald’s and KFC have also been named as targets of a boycott because some American politicians seem to be supporting the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing blames for instigating violence in Tibet to disrupt plans for the Olympics.

It is a false alarm. I haven’t heard anything about boycotting these two fast food companies at the moment. What happened in Tibet was violent riots. There is no doubt about it. Many western media, while reports the number of deaths in the violence, failed to admit the rioters were guilty of killing innocent people. This made me realize how prejudiced the western media was in the matter.

No one knows whether there is widespread support for the boycotts, but the opposition comes at a time when many of the world’s biggest brands — including Coke — are expanding aggressively in China and planning huge sales and marketing campaigns to coincide with the Olympics.

No boycott at all for American companies as far as I know of this time. When the Chinese embassy was bombed in Yugoslavia, many Chinese boycotted these two companies, but I don’t think those people never went to McDonald’s afterwards.

Coca-Cola’s most recent quarterly results suggest the extent of its reliance on the Chinese market. During the first quarter, Coke’s unit case volume sales in China were up 20 percent in the quarter, one of the highest figures from any country. Over all, the company’s net income rose 19 percent in the quarter, to $1.5 billion, from $1.26 billion a year ago.

This sentence and the one above really explains it all. Coke is profiting handsomely in the Chinese market and will continue to do so, and only a fool will ruin this good business. Unit case volume sales: what is it? Anyone knows?

Neither Coca-Cola nor any of the other Olympic sponsors has flinched in its public support for the games, but the groups that are protesting China’s policies in Tibet and Darfur are vowing to step up their pressure. This could lead to showdowns, or even to a possible whipsaw for the companies if Chinese youths start protesting en masse in the other direction.

Flinch (its support): make a quick, nervous movement as an instinctive reaction to fear or pain. Whipsaw: a saw with a narrow blade and a handle at both ends, used typically by two people.

Ms. Tethong added, “You have influence, and you know you have influence. Please don’t hide behind a spin.”

Spin: when an idea or situation is expressed or described in a clever way that makes it seem better than it really is, especially in politics, e.g “They have tried to put a positive spin on the situation.” Source URL

The First Chinatown in Germany is on the Horizon

The city council in the town of Oranienburg has approved the plan for the construction the first Chinatown in Germany at a decommissioned airport, according to Spiegel Online.

The 198 acre “Little China” will cost half a billion U.S. dollars to build. Its designer envisions a main gate in the front, Chinese style gardens with a pagoda, and a cultural center which replicates the Forbidden City in Beijing. A 16-foot high wall, resembling the Great Wall in China, will run on the periphery of this new Chinatown.

The First Chinese Typewriter

The English alphabet only has 26 letters while Chinese has roughly over 80 thousand characters. It was very difficult to come up with a solution to be able to type in Chinese.

In 1916, The New York Times reported that a Chinese graduate from MIT invented a Chinese typewriter that used 4,000 characters. This was probably the earliest mechanical Chinese typewriter.

Although 3,500 characters is generally enough to handle daily communication, a larger pool of characters is more desirable for typing. In 1946, Lin Yutang designed a more efficient system of radicals and produced Mingkuai (clear and quick) typewriter which is capable of inputting 7,000 characters. When using various combination of the 7,000 characters, one could create up to 90,000 characters. The design is brilliant but it was expensive to make, and it is never widely used due to the on-going civil war at the time. Here is a report of Dr. Lin’s typewriter and a picture of it.

mingkuaitypewriter

The Top Five Culture Shocks You are Likely to Encounter in China

The five culture shocks listed here are not meant to a slur on my fellow countryman, although regrettably, China does need to improve in some of the areas listed below.
Please keep two things in mind when reading this article: China is fast modernizing and many things will eventually get better; do not let these shocks prevent you from enjoying China.

1. Spitting

First-time visitors to China are too often shocked and disgusted by the widespread spitting. It is very common for you to hear loud throat-clearing or coughs, followed by spitting on the ground. Sometimes, a pedestrian will spit as you pass by, leaving you the impression that you are targeted.
Sad but true, spitting is a habitual practice among many Chinese. Culturally speaking, Chinese think that phlegm is dirty and full of germs, so it must be spit out. The polluted air in China is also to blame for the spitting, as it often leads to an uncomfortable feeling in the throat.

Don’t take spitting personally as if it were directed toward you. Fortunately, many Chinese now realize this and are gradually getting rid of this habit.

2. Public Restrooms

You have to be prepared for many shocks when you go to some public restrooms in China: lack of privacy, no toilet paper, no water soap, unflushed toilets, and the horrific smell. Despite all this, some public restrooms collect a small fee (less than a dime) for entering.
Unlike the toilet you normally know, a typical toilet in Chinese public restrooms is a “squat toilet“. You literally squat on an oval shaped porcelain pot built into the ground. Squatting can be physically demanding for people who are not used to this kind of toilet. Expect strained muscles on both legs after using this kind of toilet.
The safe bet is to use the restrooms at McDonald’s or KFC when you have to go. The good news is: the sanitary conditions of public restrooms are improving in China, especially in major tourist places.

3. Traffic

Unless you are a very experienced driver and prepared to be on constant and heightened alert, you don’t want to drive a car on the busy roads in China. In big cities, the traffic is very heavy, and numerous minor breaches of traffic regulations occur every moment. These breaches are either uncaught or simply taken for granted, and there are many rude drivers on the road.
The concept of Right-of-Way seems to be non-existent in China. The most followed rule, instead, is Right-of-Way belongs to whoever can get it. Pedestrians, who are the weakest in the jungle of vehicles, have the lowest Right-of-Way even at the crossing of the street. Unless there are traffic lights, cars often do not slow down, not to mention stop, to let pedestrians pass the crossing. As a result, jaywalking is also a common sight in China.

4. Air Pollution

The pollution soars with the economy of China. China’s economy is fueled to a great proportion by coal, and diesel oil is also widely used. In northern Chinese cities, coal is burnt for heating purposes in winter, and the fumes are emitted almost unchecked into the air. In those cities, it is quite common to see the surface of the cars coated with coal dust during winter.
Black carbon from exhaust pipes is another source of pollution. In major Chinese cities, people are so used to the hazy sky and smoggy air that a blue sky becomes a rarity. Beijing is endeavoring to turn its sky blue before Summer Olympics despite great difficulties.
After a couple of weeks in China, you will acclimate yourself to the air and the hazy sky. This is perhaps the easiest culture shock to get over.

5. Noisy eaters

Chinese do make a lot of noises when eating. But before we rush to the conclusion that making noises when eating is bad manners, let’s read what Dr. Lin Yutang has to say:

The Chinese have no prudery about food, or about eating it with gusto. When a Chinese drinks a mouthful of good soup he gives a hearty smack.

While admitting that the first four culture shocks mentioned above are areas where China needs to improve, I regard this one purely customary. Chinese prepare food differently and eat using chopsticks. Most Chinese do not take any notice to the noises of eating at table. When eating delicious noodles, you actually have the license to slurp.

Here are some tips about the Chinese table manners.

Confucianism Summed up in Three Hundred Words

This is a very concise summary of Confucius and his thoughts. This is not meant to be comprehensive, but the core ideas of Confucianism are presented here.

1. Who is Confucius?

A spiritual leader and teacher born 2500 years ago, Confucius is recognized as a culturally symbolic figure of Chinese thinking. He was the founder of the School of the Literati, but there is no record of his own writing. His teachings were preserved and compiled into Analects by his disciples. Confucius, which is the latinized form of his name, is known in China as Kong Zi.

2. The Core Tenets of Confucianism

Confucianism has two pillars in its teachings:

  • Family ethics Since parents give life to their children and raise them, the children are indebted to their parents and should treat the parents with submission and gratitude. The primary virtue of the children is to be obedient and to respect the absolute parental authority.
  • Political philosophy On the basis of its family ethnics, Confucius developed his political philosophy — the subjects owe absolute loyalty to the emperor; each one in the society should fulfill his or her duties associated with their social roles. In this way, an orderly society is created.

Confucius expected the ruler to “rule by moral force”, but he didn’t say what to do if the ruler chose to be immoral.

3. Its Influence on Chinese Society

His political philosophy was an important factor in maintaining an ultra-stable agricultural society in China. An ideal society is established, if everyone carries out the responsibilities designated by his social roles. This idea has been echoed by the Chinese government in its recent initiative to build a “harmonious society”.

His teachings on ethics shaped the Chinese national character. Members in both the family and the society are expected to treat each other with benevolence and civility. The idea of a gentleman, who should continuously pursue self-cultivation and self-elevation in order to serve his family and country, explains the emphasis on education in Chinese culture.

4. A Summary in Confucius’ Own Words

  • On government There is government, when the emperor is emperor, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son.
  • On social harmony What you do not desire for yourself, do not do to others.

The U.S. Dollar Inspired Spirit Money

US Dollar Inspired Spirit Money

Qing Ming or the Tomb Sweeping Day is the time for Chinese people to visit tombs, present offerings and burn the spirit money for the deceased. It typically falls on April 4, 5 or 6 every year. Last Friday, I was surprised to see that street stalls were selling the spirit money that looked like the U.S. dollars.

The traditional Chinese belief holds that when people die, they go to the underworld and continue to live on. The underworld does have a currency in circulation, but it is not designed or printed by the residents of the underworld. It is people who are alive that make the spirit money and burn it on memorial occasions. The idea is that the spirit money, after being burnt, will be received by the people in the underworld for them to spend. Sometimes, paper-made miniature cars, houses or electronics are also burnt for the people who are six feet under.

Interestingly, to avoid the remittance being robbed or stolen, a small amount of spirit money is burnt first for the roaming spirits of the strangers. After taking care of the homeless ghosts, the living people then burn the larger sums for the deceased in their family.

Generally, the spirit money is designed to resemble the real banknotes. However, the head on the spirit money is changed into the Jade Emperor, the god who governs the heaven, the earth and the underworld. Also, the face value of the spirit money is exponentially higher than that of the real banknotes, ranging from millions to billions per note. For example, this one has a face value of one billion!

Why is the spirit money copying the design of the U.S. dollars? Perhaps citizens from the Chinese underworld are now making trips to the American underworld, I guess?

caption

The Most Popular Instant Messenger in China


Although I don’t like QQ and use it only on rare occasions, I have to admit it is the most popular instant messenger program in China. Especially for teens and twenty somethings, this program is a must-have.

QQ was known earlier as OICQ. It changed the name into QQ in 2001 because of its copyright infringement on AOL’s ICQ.

The discussion group and the resumable file transfer are the two distinctive features of QQ. The users can create and join discussion groups if they have a high user rank or pay some fee. QQ is also capable of transferring large files at a very high speed. If the file transfer is interrupted, it can be resumed upon reconnection.

Many critics of QQ, including myself, think it has grown cumbersome and resource hogging over the years. Even the most loyal QQ users are annoyed by its incessant flashy advertisements.

Some people began to modify QQ and released many so-called “optimized QQ”. Among the hacked versions of QQ, CoralQQ is the best known and the most popular. It is ad free, less resource hungry, and capable of showing the IP address and the location of the chat buddy.

In August 2007, the author of CorealQQ by the name of “Soff” was arrested on charge of violating the copyright of Tencent, the owner of QQ. A poll held by a Chinese portal site, however, shows that the predominant netizens are supportive of Soff rather than Tencent (96.3% vs 3.7%).