“Dividing up the [Chinese] Melon”

Dear colleagues,

Perhaps the (exceedingly long) article “Dividing up the [Chinese] Melon, guafen 瓜分”: The Fate of a Transcultural Metaphor in the Formation of National Myth,” Transcultural Studies 1 (2017), 9-122. http://heiup.uni-heidelberg.de/journals/index.php/transcultural/article/viewFile/23700/17435 (open access) is of interest to members of the MCLC list.

Best,

Rudolf G. Wagner <wagner@asia-europe.uni-heidelberg.de>

Literate Modernism (1)

Thanks for posting my article. It’s come to my attention that I very unfortunately wrote two inaccuracies in my review: that Shu Zhendong’s typewriter was a commercial failure, and that Mullaney’s article in Foreign Policy was a direct attack on Moser and his book.

The article has now been corrected, including an editor’s note regarding the corrections. See:

http://asianreviewofbooks.com/content/literate-modernism-how-and-why-china-has-shaped-chinese/

Sincerely,

Matt Turner <mateo.tornero@gmail.com>

Literate Modernism

Source: Asian Review of Books (10/12/17)
Literate Modernism: How and Why China Has Shaped Chinese
By Matt Turner

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In mid-19th century China, after suffering multiple humbling defeats by imperial powers, a movement to modernize China’s military developed. The idea was that the national essence or culture of China could be better defended with superior Western methods and technology than outdated Chinese methods—seen as the extension of a static political culture. That the methods and technology were Western did not matter—they were not tied to the imperial aims which produced them; they could be adapted by anyone, and were essentially culture-less.

Modernity in this instance was technical, an application used to preserve something unchanging—Chinese culture. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century and again in the early 20th century that questions of modernity were recast as residing in the cultural sphere, yoking the military to political representation to women’s emancipation to literature. Part of this new modernization of China was the question of language: was it explicitly or implicitly political, but also whether or not it would aptly serve as an instrument of modernization, a technique by which modernity is formed. Continue reading

Style guide for Party media (2)

Source: Sup China (8/1/17)
Here are all the words Chinese state media has banned
A full translation of the style guide update from Xinhua, and why it matters.
By 

Xinhua News Agency was established by the Chinese Communist Party in 1931 in little house in Ruijin, Jiangxi Province. Until 1938, it was called the Red China News Agency 红色中华通讯社, but it has always had the same goal: to collect information for the Party and act as its voice. Despite its propagandist mission, Xinhua has produced some excellent journalists, such as Yang Jisheng 杨继绳, author of Tombstone, an excruciatingly detailed record of the Great Famine of 1959–1961.

Xinhua operates in a similar way to Western newswires such as Reuters: Thousands of journalists and editors across China and in 170 foreign bureaus churn out news articles, video, opinion pieces, and breaking news briefs, which are fed out to newspapers and websites across the country. But there are some key differences: Chinese newspapers and websites cannot only use Xinhua content for free; sometimes instructions from the authorities compel them to run Xinhua copy. So when Xinhua updates its style guide, it affects the way the news is written in numerous newspapers and websites across China. Continue reading

Style guide for Party media (1)

The article states that the name “Xinhuashe” (新华社) was adopted “after the 1949 revolution.” Two problems with this. First, the name Xinhuashe was used from 1937 when the CCP moved to Yan’an (after the Xi’an Incident). Second, officially there was no “revolution” in 1949, only the “establishment of the PRC” (建国).

Thomas Kampen <tk1893@yahoo.com>

Style guide for Party media

Source: Sup China (7/20/17)
A style guide for Party media: no bosses or green tea bitches

Founded in 1931 as Red China News Agency 红色中华通讯社, and named after the 1949 revolution, Xinhua News Agency is China’s most important state-owned newswire. Every day, Xinhua feeds thousands of articles to newspapers, websites, and TV stations across China. Xinhua copy is available for free to any news organization; in addition, during some political events, news organizations are required to use Xinhua copy.

So when Xinhua updates its style guide, it affects the way the news is written in every media organization in mainland China. On July 20, Xinhua added 57 new rules (in Chinese) to its existing style guide (which was released in May 2015). Here are some of them:

  • Boss
    Never use boss (老板 lǎobǎn) to describe leading cadres of the Party or people in charge of state-owned enterprises. Continue reading

Cantonese isn’t dead yet

Source: Quartz (6/26/17)
Cantonese isn’t dead yet, so stop writing its eulogy
By Cameron L. White

Secondary school students use chalk to write slogans, reading "Hong Kong keep going", along a main road, part of an area blocked off by protesters in Hong Kong

“Add oil, Hong Kong.” (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

When I decided to start studying Mandarin as a teenager, friends and family approved. China was enjoying explosive economic growth, so speaking the country’s lingua franca was sure to open doors. But when I moved to China after college, I ended up in one place where Mandarin doesn’t get you very far: Hong Kong.

The majority of the city’s 7.3 million people speak Cantonese, a Chinese dialect mutually unintelligible from Mandarin. And while I’ve thrown myself into learning Cantonese with just as much passion, I do not get the same reaction that I did with Mandarin. Instead, I’m told Cantonese is on its way out the door.

Hong Kong’s English and Chinese media pin the blame on Mandarin. Local officials began stressing Mandarin-based education following the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, and now 70% of Hong Kong primary schools use Mandarin to teach Chinese classes. There are also plenty of Mandarin speakers coming from across the border; since 1997, 150 mainlanders have been able to obtain residency each day. Continue reading

Cantonese is not dead

Source: Language Log (6/9/17)
Cantonese is not dead yet
Filed by

Not by a long shot, judging from several recent articles in the South China Morning Post:

American professor speaks up for Cantonese to preserve Hong Kong’s heritage: Robert Bauer from HKU is writing a Cantonese-English dictionary that will include colloquial terms, believing language represents cultures” (Heyling Chan, 5/21/17)

Hong Kong vloggers keeping Cantonese alive with money-spinning YouTube channels:  While many fear Cantonese may be in decline, for Hong Kong’s online stars it has opened a gateway to thousands of followers and lucrative careers” (Rachel Blundy, 6/10/17)

Use Cantonese as a tool to extend Hong Kong’s influence, academic urges:  Chinese University linguist says better teaching of the native language is the vital first step in raising the city’s profile in Beijing’s trade initiative” (Naomi Ng, 5/4/17)

In Vancouver’s ‘Cantosphere’, a sense of responsibility and an identity under siege:  Artists and academics in Vancouver are carving out a space to examine both the fate of Hong Kong and the diaspora identity” (Ian Young, 5/19/17)

All four articles evince a keen sense of the centrality of Cantonese language in maintaining the cultural identity of its speakers.  I urge anyone who is interested in Cantonese to read each of these articles to gain a better idea of the vital issues of language education and preservation that members of the Cantosphere are facing, wherever they are. Continue reading

The politics of passing on in China

Source: Medium.com (6/2/17)
The Politics of Passing On: In China, the death of a esteemed comrade is never strictly a private matter.
By David Bandursky

Mourners gather in Beijing on May 18 for the memorial service of former foreign minister Qian Qichen.

When Lux Nayaran, the co-founder of content analytics company Unmetric Inc, fed 2,000 New York Times obituaries into a natural language processing program, he found that most all the people featured, famous or not, had used their talents for good. They had, he said, “made a positive dent in the fabric of life.” Had Nayaran instead run 2,000 obituaries from Chinese Communist Party leaders through his program, he might have found something astonishing — that they had all made more or less identical dents in the stiff fabric of Chinese politics. Continue reading

Lesbian app Rela shut down

Source: Shanghaiist (5/29/17)
Rela, China’s leading lesbian app with over 5 million registered users, gets shut down
By Alex Linder

rela_appfront.jpeg

China’s leading lesbian app Rela (热拉) was shut down last week following a viral incident at Shanghai’s marriage market in People’s Park in which a group of mothers of LGBT children were kicked out by police while trying to raise awareness for gay rights.

Last week, the Shanghai-based app’s users were shocked to find that Rela’s official Weibo account had been deleted, along with its website. The app is no longer available on the Apple or Android app stores where it counted over 5 million registered users. Existing users are no longer able to log into their accounts. Continue reading

Curious rise of the “white left” as an insult (1)

Here’s the Global Times‘ take on the “white left” phenomenon. See also http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1047989.shtml –Kirk

Source: Global Times (5/22/17)
Chinese baizuo gibe a rebuttal to West’s moral superiority
By Zhang Yi

A Chinese-created term is catching attention on American social networks. Baizuo, or literally the “white left,” has triggered heated discussions about how it should be interpreted.

The term can now be found on Urban Dictionary, a crowdsourced online dictionary of slang words and phrases. The dictionary describes the buzzword as “meaning a naive Western-educated person who advocates for peace and equality only to satisfy their own feelings of moral superiority.”

A baizuo only cares about topics such as immigration, minorities, LGBT and the environment. The term first became a hit amid the European refugee crisis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the first Western politician tagged with the baizuo label because of her open-door refugee policy. Reporters said that Chinese students and job hunters complained that they had to try hard to stay in Europe, while unskilled refugees could just claim asylum and get welfare. Continue reading

Curious rise of the “white left” as an insult

Source: Open Democracy (5/11/17)
The curious rise of the ‘white left’ as a Chinese internet insult
By CHENCHEN ZHANG

Meet the Chinese netizens who combine a hatred for the ‘white left’ with a love of US president Donald Trump.

lead

Internet cafe, Beijing, Flickr/Kai Hendry. Some rights reserved.

If you look at any thread about Trump, Islam or immigration on a Chinese social media platform these days, it’s impossible to avoid encountering the term baizuo (白左), or literally, the ‘white left’. It first emerged about two years ago, and yet has quickly become one of the most popular derogatory descriptions for Chinese netizens to discredit their opponents in online debates. Continue reading

China calls for whole population to speak Mandarin

Source: SupChina (4/4/17)
China calls for whole population to speak Mandarin

China’s Ministry of Education and its National Language Committee have issued an announcement (in Chinese) calling for intensive work to spread the use of spoken Mandarin and standardized Chinese characters. Currently, about 70 percent of the population can speak Mandarin. In big cities, the figure is around 90 percent, but according to the announcement in some rural areas and among ethnic groups, the number is 40 percent or even lower. The BBC has a short report on the announcement that says the target is to have 80 percent of the population speaking Mandarin by 2020, but the original announcement does not actually mention that number.

The Ministry of Education says that ensuring that the use of Mandarin is thoroughly popularized is an important goal of the 13th five-year plan, and necessary to meet China’s development goals and to preserve social harmony and unity of the nation. The announcement also calls for the “scientific preservation” (科学保护 kēxué bǎohù) of the languages of ethnic minorities.

Zhou Youguang dies at 111

Source: BBC News (1/14/17)
China’s Zhou Youguang, father of Pinyin writing system, dies aged 111

Zhou Youguang

GETTY IMAGES: Zhou Youguang was born is 1906 during the Qing Dynasty

Chinese linguist Zhou Youguang, who created the writing system that turns Chinese characters into words using letters from the Roman alphabet, has died aged 111.

Mr Zhou and a Communist party committee spent three years developing the Pinyin system in the 1950s.

It changed the way the language was taught and helped raise literacy rates.

Mr Zhou, who was born in 1906 during the Qing Dynasty, later became a fierce critic of China’s communist rulers. Continue reading

Disappearing dialect in the capital

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (11/24/16)
The Disappearing Dialect at the Heart of China’s Capital
点击查看本文中文版
By EMILY FENG

BEIJING — To the untutored ear, the Beijing dialect can sound like someone talking with a mouthful of marbles, inspiring numerous parodies and viral videos. Its colorful vocabulary and distinctive pronunciation have inspired traditional performance arts such as cross-talk, a form of comic dialogue, and “kuaibanr,’’ storytelling accompanied by bamboo clappers.

Continue reading