Friends picked this restaurant for a meal a while back. They had funny edited posters everywhere, mostly Mao Era propaganda stuff. Here’s a couple:
“Weird Al” Yankovic is promoting his latest album Mandatory Fun with two Chinese propaganda poster spoofs. One poster has Chinese. To find out what it says, mouseover the Chinese characters here or scroll down:
And here’s the other one:
Click the images for the original source.
Passed this on the way out this morning:
Our goal: look to money, look to thick profits
Chairman Mao, as some stories have it, refused to even touch money. After his death, Deng Xiaoping launched China’s ‘Reform and Opening’ and ‘Modernization’ Era under the slogans: “Liberate thinking, seek truth from facts, join together and unanimously look forward” (解放思想、实事求是、团结一致向前看). He probably meant “look forward” to mean something like, “let’s not dwell on all that nonsense of the past few decades, but instead get on with making a better future.” The bumper sticker simply switches out “front” (前 qián) for “money” (钱 qián), turning “look forward” into “look to money” — both phrases are pronounced exactly the same: xiàng qián kàn.
There are a million anecdotes to illustrate the way Mainland Chinese unapologetically prioritize money. The most recent one is from some study reported in a magazine (I forget which), indicating that Chinese tie material wealth to happiness at more than twice the global average.
P.S. – I suspect there’s more to the bumper sticker, but that’s all I’ve got for now.
P.P.S. – Here’s a Chinese forum thread admiring the same slogan on a custom license plate: 我的目标-向钱看-向厚赚-牛B720
P.P.P.S – What would the equivalent bumper sticker say in your home country, if it were equally honest?
P.P.P.P.S. – Like Propaganda?
Our 4-year-old goes to an all-Chinese preschool, where I also teach. We’re the only foreigners. The 5 and 6-year-olds do this as a regular exercise routine:
It’s a song about complete devotion and loyalty to China, which in English could be “Dedication and Loyalty to the Country” or “Serve the Country with Utmost Loyalty”. The title is a reference to famous historical-mythical General Yue Fei’s tattoo. He was traitorously executed and posthumously has come to epitomize loyalty to China. The Wikipedia article is worth a read, as this song has all kinds of historical/cultural associations.
精忠报国 by 屠洪纲
The fire beacon rises, look toward the rivers and mountains of the north
Dragons’ puffs and horses’ neighs are like blows of a frosted sword
Hearts as boundless as the water of the Yellow River
Who defies the length and breadth of the past twenty years?
Wild hatred where my sword points
Countless brothers, loyal souls, bones buried in unfamiliar lands
What regret is it to die a hundred times protecting family and country?
Enduring sighs of regret, speechless, tears of blood fill the eyes
Horses’ hooves go south, the people look toward the north
Toward the north the grass yellows, dust flying up
I’m willing to guard this territory and re-claim the land
Grand China will make all sides bring tribute
Some interesting notes on this song here:
Many people in the west believe that Chinese are in general motivated by an irrational nationalism cultivated by the communist party to secure its political hold on the country. This is why some of the protests by Chinese nationals overseas have been labeled as “rebirth of the red guards”. Personally, I think this misunderstanding reflects a lack of knowledge about Chinese history, which in the thousand years past have been filled with foreign invasions and civil wars. We Chinese are peace lovers, but our own history has taught us that unification as a country, especially in the face of foreign threats has always been the prerequisite for a peaceful life.
This music video is by the singer Tu HongGang, who was trained as a Beijing opera singer, but turned into a pop singer in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The song is entitled 精忠报国, which translates to ‘dedication and loyalty to the country,’ or ‘serve the country with the utmost loyalty.’ The phrase by itself originates from the story of Yue Fei, “a famous Chinese patriot and military general who fought for the Southern Song Dynasty against the Jurchen armies of the Jin Dynasty. Since his political execution by the traitor Qin Hui, Yue Fei has evolved into the standard model of loyalty in Chinese culture.” According to legends, his mother tattooed these four characters across his back before he left home to join the army in 1122. More on his story can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yue_Fei
Note the first picture on the right, which shows the statue of Yue Fei, from the Yue Fei Mausoleum in Hangzhou. The four characters on his banner say, Huan Wo He Shan , or “Give back my rivers and mountains”.
I love the song (and the singer!) very much, I feel it echoes much of the patriotism which Chinese holds as part of our cultural identity.
More Chinese music (many with lyrics & guitar chords!):
Chinese New Year:
- 《恭喜恭喜恭喜你》 – a translated song for Chinese New Year!
- 《恭喜发财》 by 刘德华 – a translated Chinese New Year song to get you in the Spring Festival mood!
- 《恭喜恭喜》 Get in the Spring Festival mood with another Chinese New Year song!
From Access China founder and Legastories creator-performer Tim Nash:
All human beings are shaped by stories out of their culture. I invite you to journey with the Chinese people, through the legacy of stories which make them what they are today.
This looks awesome, like one of the more creative and effective ways of bridging cultural distance between China and the English-speaking world. It’s called Legastories (as in, Legacy of Stories), a one-man stage show introducing English-speakers to the Chinese people through the legacy of stories that makes them what they are today. It’s the 5000-year-long story of China in one continuous artistic narrative over 24 chapters performed live.
We heard Tim Nash speak on China on several occasions while living in Tianjin. This is bound to be fantastic. Here’s the trailer:
When I first started studying Chinese 25 years ago I very quickly came to despise it; it was very dry, it was very foreign, it was very dead. And then I went and lived with a Chinese family and suddenly China became alive. China was about people. And suddenly it was human experience that could be shared.
Language is not the issue. The key is to be able to translate a concept from one cultural context to another – whether that’s from Britain to China, from Sales to Customer Support, or husband to wife.
That’s key if we’re going to build successful relationships at any level, whether it’s within a family, within a company, between a company and its customers, or between nations. For me, the challenge of the Western world trying to build relationships with China, when the two places are so clearly different is the best place to explore some of the principles that we need to get our heads around.
For more visit legastori.es and Access China.
More about China-West cultural differences: