“Communist” China summed up in one bumper sticker

Passed this on the way out this morning:

xiangqiankan Communist China summed up in one bumper sticker
我们的目标
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). 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.

20140113 275 Communist China summed up in one bumper stickerThere 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?

Patriotic Chinese Kindergarten Kungfu — lyrics & video for 精忠报国 by 屠洪纲

kindergartenkungfu01crop.PNG Patriotic Chinese Kindergarten Kungfu    lyrics & video for 精忠报国 by 屠洪纲

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).

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报国 by 洪纲

狼烟江山
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
黄河茫茫
Hearts as boundless as the water of the Yellow River
二十纵横
Who defies the length and breadth of the past twenty years?

Wild hatred where my sword points
多少手足
Countless brothers, loyal souls, bones buried in unfamiliar lands

What regret is it to die a hundred times protecting family and country?
叹惜无语血泪
Enduring sighs of regret, speechless, tears of blood fill the eyes
马蹄
Horses’ hooves go south, the people look toward the north
青黄飞扬
Toward the north the grass yellows, dust flying up
守土开疆
I’m willing to guard this territory and re-claim the land
堂堂中国四方
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.

kindergartenkungfu02crop Patriotic Chinese Kindergarten Kungfu    lyrics & video for 精忠报国 by 屠洪纲

More Chinese music (many with lyrics & guitar chords!):

Chinese New Year:

Christmas:

KTV!

“Legastories” creatively bridges the China-West cultural divide

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:

Would you rather… Chinese Communists or Princess Barbies?

I’m co-hosting the preschool’s variety show/graduation ceremony this week. My job is to translate and say their host script in English. I can live with, “Children all have this beautiful desire in their hearts, to grow up and wear camouflage uniforms just like Uncle in the People’s Liberation Army, loving the Party, loving the country, and being a brave person!” But I think a small part of me will die inside when I have to say, “Look, everyone! Here comes Princess Barbie!”

benigngirl20110520 QingdaoHuangdao 240 Would you rather... Chinese Communists or Princess Barbies?

Our neighbourhood’s anti-Japanese restaurant

I ducked my head in this restaurant to see if they served dog. Turns out they don’t serve Japanese. And they totally weren’t seeing the slogan possibility with serving dog but not Japanese. Anyway:

IMG 3150banner Our neighbourhoods anti Japanese restaurant
“Diaoyu Islands are inherently China’s territory,
this restaurant will not receive Japanese people!”
钓鱼中国固有领土恕不接待日本
IMG 3148flag Our neighbourhoods anti Japanese restaurant

Interestingly enough, the restaurant right next door is also very patriotic, with “Comrade Mao Zedong” posters on the wall.

For more about popular Chinese hatred for Japan:

So you want to make a difference in China?

Good luck. ;)

scalping2 So you want to make a difference in China?honking2 So you want to make a difference in China?

Here are four quotes from three different centuries. The first three come from Jonathan Spence‘s To Change China: Western Advisers in China 1620-1960 (1969).

spencechangechina So you want to make a difference in China?Jonathan Spence on education in 19th century China:

It was particularly hard for a foreigner to enter the educational sector. To the Chinese, education was the key to social harmony and political stability: from the Confucian Classics, hallowed by a tradition reaching back over two thousand years, the young learned obedience, morality, and the norms of acceptable behaviour. On the basis of their study of the Classics, they participated in ascending levels of examinations for the civil service. Success in these examinations opened up prospects for a career in government, the major source of wealth and power. To introduce new subjects — such as Western philosophy, languages, or natural science — was to threaten the basis of the Chinese state. Innovation, accordingly, was vigorously resisted. [Spence, 129]

FryerJohn So you want to make a difference in China?John Fryer, missionary/educator/translator employed by the Qing dynasty, on learning Chinese:

It was all a question of time and tenacity: “Most foreigners who come to China have the notion that in a year they will master the language. They get a teacher, and pound away vigorously for a week or perhaps a month and then give up in disgust.” Accordingly, they made ludicrous mistakes which negated all their endeavors. He told his cousin of hearing a missionary in Shanghai trying to tell his Chinese audience that “Jesus is here also”; the missionary, muddling his tones and aspirates, succeeded only in assuring the puzzled listeners that “Jesus is inside shaving his head.” “If I could have my way, not a single missionary should say one word in public till he had lived with the people and studied the local dialect of his mission station at least five years, and passed an examination. Just imagine the ridicule which such people bring to Christianity.” [Spence, 145]

Mikhail Borodin, “Stalin’s man in China,” on his failure:

I came to China to fight for an idea. The dream of accomplishing world revolution by freeing the people of the East brought me here. But China itself, with its age-old history, its countless millions, its vast social problems, its infinite capacities, astounded and overwhelmed me, and my thoughts of world revolution and the fight for freedom, in China became an end in itself, and no longer a means to an end. My task was to grasp the situation, to start the great wheel moving, and as time has passed it has carried me along with it. I myself have become only a cog in the great machine. [Spence, 202]

borodin3 So you want to make a difference in China?

BBC commentator Martin Jacques on understanding China (quoted by Dr. Brent Fulton of ChinaSource.org):

Last year Martin Jacques, a BBC commentator, put it well when he said, “The great task facing the West over the next century will be to make sense of China – not in our terms but in theirs. We have to understand China as it is and as it has been, not project our own history, culture, institutions and values onto it. It will always fail that test. In truth such a mentality tells us more about our own arrogance and lack of curiosity than anything about China.”

jailbird So you want to make a difference in China?

(And of course we have lots more quotes and reviews of China Books and DVDs.)

Anti-Japan protests channel uncomfortable amounts of Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution

We were more than a little stunned when we first came to China a few years ago and discovered that people, even young, educated people, had strong, positive feelings for Chairman Mao and his legacy. I thought we’d gotten used to it, but seeing these photos and slogans from the anti-Japan protests made me realize I’m still amazed at how, despite everything that was done in his name and on his orders — in living memory! — the Party has altered his legacy in the minds of the people. Click the link or the photos to see more pictures of Mao at the protests:
Mao comes back to life amid wide spread anti-Japan protests in China

japsbully Anti Japan protests channel uncomfortable amounts of Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution
“Chairman Mao, the Japs are bullying us again.”

japsfthem Anti Japan protests channel uncomfortable amounts of Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution
“Grandpa Mao says: ‘Get the dog-f—ing Japs!’”

On the influence of the Cultural Revolution in current Chinese politics: Total Denial and the Will to Forget

A collection of riot photos: In Photos: China’s anti-Japan fury

More about Mao’s legacy, real and imagined:

More about the Anti-Japan protests: