I’m on my third Chinese gym in three years. The first one got kicked out by the landlord (and didn’t refund the remainder of our membership fees). The second one operated with no electricity for over a month before the management suddenly locked the doors and disappeared (and didn’t refund the remainder of our membership fees).
But my third and current Chinese gym has Chairman Mao speaking English:
I was sold.
It was also the cheapest by far of my remaining options.
But it turns out this quote from some calligraphy by Chairman Mao in 1952 is famous, and was used in propaganda posters:
“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:
我没有穿内裤 “I’m not wearing underwear” 我没有穿内裤
wǒ méiyǒu chuān nèikù
我们的目标：向钱看，向厚赚 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?
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.
Here’s the mp3 and Chinese lyrics (mouseover for pronunciation!) with English translation (mostly someone else’s). Music videos here (youtube) and here (youku).
精忠报国 by 屠洪纲
The fire beacon rises, look toward the rivers and mountains of the north 龙起卷马长嘶剑气如霜
Dragons’ puffs and horses’ neighs are like blows of a frosted sword 心似黄河水茫茫
Hearts as boundless as the water of the Yellow River 二十年纵横间谁能相抗
Who defies the length and breadth of the past twenty years? 恨欲狂长刀所向
Wild hatred where my sword points 多少手足忠魂埋骨它乡
Countless brothers, loyal souls, bones buried in unfamiliar lands 何惜百死报家国
What regret is it to die a hundred times protecting family and country? 忍叹惜更无语血泪满眶
Enduring sighs of regret, speechless, tears of blood fill the eyes 马蹄南去人北望
Horses’ hooves go south, the people look toward the north 人北望草青黄尘飞扬
Toward the north the grass yellows, dust flying up 我愿守土复开疆
I’m willing to guard this territory and re-claim the land 堂堂中国要让四方来贺
Grand China will make all sides bring tribute
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!):