To make sure my kids get a proper education in Chinese ideology here in China, we’ve been watching Kung Fu.  We’ve watched five episodes so far (plus the pilot), and my kids have noticed and become interested in the Chinese characters that occasionally flash by.  Usually they are too blurry to make out, or there are too few of them to get any meaning out of them.

In tonight’s episode, The Tide, Caine hooks up with a Chinese woman whose father is a famous poet who has been jailed by the emperor.  Caine finds a book of his poetry in the woman’s house, and impresses the woman with the fact that he is familiar with her father’s works, and can quote him readily.

At the end of the episode, when Caine sets off to a new town (as he usually does), the woman offers him the book of poetry as a gift.  He takes the book and starts walking away, then turns back for one last look, holding the book in his arm.  My younger kid shouted out “孙子兵法!”, to which I quickly replied “I don’t think so”.  We all looked carefully and then burst out laughing.

No, it’s much worse than that.

千字文!  Our minds suddenly filled with classrooms of 50-odd eight-year-olds, shouting it out emotionlessly in a horribly banal rhythm, on and on.  How ironic to find it in Kung Fu.

Here’s a screenshot:


5 responses to “Props”

  1. This most certainly brings back memories – and not a few drops of tears.

  2. jdmartinsen says:

    To my eye, it looks more like “于吾女” (yú wú nǚ), or an attempt to translate something like “To my daughter” into literary Chinese.

  3. Agree with joel here, that last character especially doesn’t look like 文 to me, the top stroke would be in the wrong direction, no? Of course it could just be bad calligraphy. But the vertical stroke in the first character also looks a little too curved to be 千, and the middle could be 字 but the bottom does look like 口 to me at this resolution….course, it’s all so small it’s hard to tell…

  4. Wow, Joel! I guess you’re right, and of course that makes much more sense. Somehow WordPress didn’t send me your comment and I didn’t see it until WoC’s got sent today.

    Well, that makes me respect the prop makers much more. I thought the bottom character looked like 女, and of course the top does look a little more like 于, but it’s not clear. The middle character is kind of a mess at that resolution, and I was fixed on the idea of it being a title and didn’t at all consider that it could be an inscription. I did a google image search for 千字文 to see if 字 could look anything like that and came to the conclusion that it could.

    Oh well. :)

  5. Either a 于 or a 予.

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