I’m in the process of typing out a book from the 1930s. Actually I’m in the process of typing from mostly legible copies of a book from the 1930s. I’ve had a few snags in being able to figure out the characters in part due to the bad quality of the copies and in part because I’ve only recently really begun to cram traditional characters into my head.

This isn’t quite the way to do it, I’d imagine.

Continue reading

Learning Mandarin to remedy your English

I have a Beijing business associate whose interests seem to lie squarely within the two dimensions of Chinese history and Mandarin wordplay, e.g. he gets excited about retelling 鸿门宴, he’s a cross-talk (相声) aficionado, and he writes Mandarin lyrics for his rock band friends. But he majored in English in college. Also, he teaches Mandarin to foreigners, part-time. Since the English thing didn’t jibe, I asked him why he does so much with a foreign language.

To improve my Chinese! Sometimes I think I didn’t really know Chinese until I tried learning English. Continue reading

Brothel bust: Comrades “go deeply into the areas … to understand the situation”

There’s got to be a new internet meme in here somewhere. From Donald Clarke’s Chinese Law Professor blog:

“Before closing the brothels, the Beijing municipal [Party] committee and municipal government did a great deal of investigation and research. Peng Zhen, who at the time was secretary of the municipal Party committee, personally led responsible comrades from the municipal Party committee and the municipal government to go deeply into the areas of south Beijing and the “Eight Major Hutongs” outside of Qian Men in order to understand the situation.” (在封闭妓院之前,北京市委市政府也做了大量的调查研究工作。时任中共北京市委书记彭真曾亲自率领市委市政府负责同志深入前门外“八大胡同”、南城一带了解情况。)

Emphasis is mine. The writers of the news article he quotes from apparently got to do their own archival research and came up with this photo.


I’d have to imagine that searching for a more modern snap would incur the wrath of Nanny.

Growing Up With Shanghai

I don’t plan on making a habit out of duplicating content here that’s also at the Annals of Wu. In fact I have a rule forbidding the practice. But this time I have to break that rule.

Growing Up With Shanghai is an audio project by recorded by Terence LLoren of Shanghai-based Bivouac Recording. As summed up on the title page, it’s “10 Shanghai soundwalks from young Shanghainese who were born and raised during the rapid growth of their city in the 80s and 90s.”

Here’s a little more from the About page:

“Growing Up With Shanghai” is a series of soundwalks with young Shanghainese who were born and raised during the rapid modernization of their city in the 1980s and 1990s. These recordings capture not only their most intimate memories of the locations where they grew up, but also the progress and growth Shanghai has undergone in the past 30 years. The current sounds of Shanghai can be heard behind the dialog and also serve as an audio document for future generations of Shanghainese. All dialogue is in Shanghainese or in their local dialect.

I’ve not yet gotten through all ten of the recordings but what I have heard are solid Shanghainese gold. Photographs by Weina Li accompany the recordings.

Head on over to growingupwithshanghai.com and check it out.

Phelps on Grammatical Gender in Mandarin

Wait — you haven’t heard of his ground-breaking research? With credit to Street-Smart Language Learning for the Fox News link and some fun analysis, along with a generous hat tip to MandarinMnemonics for linking to it with the best headline on this meme: “Michael Phelps, Rosetta Stoned?“, I’m pleased to introduce you to a side of Michael Phelps you probably have not been exposed to. Fast forward to 0:50 for the crux of the analysis. Continue reading

Wut if ur kid’s skool thot this wuz fine spelling?

Then you might respond the same way folks did to the 1977 proposed-but-never-accepted “second round” character simplifications. I mentioned these a couple of posts ago in response to a hand-painted sign that used one of the rejected simplifications (仃 for 停).

Apparently the nu speling wasn’t well received.

Thanks to Zev Handel, who volunteered his scans in the comments, we now have a fuller picture of what was proposed. In the pics below, the simplifications are on the left and the original(s) on the right in brackets. Continue reading

Buzzphrase tracking — the “China Model”

The latest post on the (highly recommended) China Media Project site has some fascinating history and analysis on phrases from China’s “discourse on greatness.”

A whole new set of terms is emerging in China to describe the country’s growing national power. Taken together, these form what might be called a “discourse of greatness,” or shengshi huayu (盛世话语). China’s discourse of greatness includes such terms as “China in ascendance” (盛世中国), “the China path” (中国道路), “the China experience” (中国经验), “the China pace” (中国速度), “the China miracle” (中国奇迹), “the rise of China” (中国崛起) and, last but not least, the “China Model” (中国模式). Continue reading

Books on Wenyan

I’ve been approached by a few people in the last week asking about the books I’m using. I said I’d do a quick post to list the ones I’ve got once I was back from the spring festival break. Well I’m back, so here are the books. Note a number of them may be philosophical in focus.

 ISBN: 978-7-540-31066-0

古文语法 - 史存直
 ISBN: 978-7-101-04585-7

古代汉语 - 王力
 ISBN: 978-7-101-00082-5

文言文启蒙读书 - 杨振中
 ISBN: 978-7-532-62950-3

Classical Chinese Reader, Book I
 No ISBN. Too old.

A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese
 ISBN: 978-0-673-02270-6

Those are the main ones, though I end up buying another about once a week. I also have a couple copies of the 古文观止, plenty of copies of 老子,孔子,孟子 et cetera.

There are also a few dictionaries around that aren’t mine but that I use. So no information on them in this post.

Suggestions? I’m open to other texts.

Park that simplification

One of my grittier walks in Beijing meanders through crooked streets where the most common sign advertises, in glorious neon, “成人用品24h” [chéngrén yòngpǐn / Adult Products]. So when I stumbled across this No Parking sign*…


… 禁止仃车 (jìnzhǐ tíng chē), in which the third character is 仃 instead of the proper 停, I immediately assumed it was an uneducated mistake propagated by one of society’s fringe characters.

But it turns out to be a fringe character of a different sort. Continue reading