HKU rallies behind suspended students

Source: Sup China (1/25/18)
Hong Kong University Groups Rally Behind Students Suspended For Protesting Mandarin Test
“We urge the president of other universities to stand out to safeguard free speech and academic freedom at Hong Kong universities”: joint statement from more than 10 Hong Kong university student unions.

Andrew Chan Lok-hang 陈乐行 (left) and Lau Tsz-kei 刘子颀, Hong Kong Baptist University students

Lau Tsz-kei 刘子颀, the university’s student union president, and Andrew Chan Lok-hang 陈乐行, a fifth-year student at the HKBU School of Chinese Medicine, were barred from classes for violating the HKBU students’ code of conduct. They were involved in an eight-hour standoff at the school’s language center last week, in which they used foul language and appeared to aggressively confront the staff.

According to Chin, the decision had nothing to do with politics and was made because teachers at the scene felt threatened and insulted by the students’ behavior. He said that both he and the school were facing immense pressure due to the incident — from whom or what, he did not specify — adding that the ongoing disciplinary proceedings would take a few weeks to complete. At one moment during the announcement, Chin appeared to hold back tears. Continue reading

Buddy talk internet slang

Source: The World of Chinese (1/24/18)
Buddy Talk: A guide to internet slang for friendships, real and fake
By Tan Yunfei (谭云飞)

Friendship is a lasting theme in human life and literature. However, the proper way to address one’s friends has evolved over time. Poetic co-dependencies like ancient China’s “eight-bow friends” probably still exist, but these terms are seldom used now.

Fortunately, the internet is always evolving new buzzwords to supplement our Chinese friendship vocabulary.

“Old iron”(老铁)

老铁(lǎotiě) is a term usually associated with northeastern China, meaning a trustworthy buddy or alternative to “brother.” It has gained popularity online due to the predominance of northeastern anchors in live streaming, and can be applied to friends of any gender. Continue reading

Hakka made an official language in Taiwan

Source: Taipei Times (12/30/17)
Hakka made an official language
Townships in which half the people are Hakka are to make Hakka the primary language, while some civil servants are to take a language test
By Cheng Hung-ta and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Hakka has been made an official national language after the Legislative Yuan yesterday passed amendments to the Hakka Basic Act (客家基本法).

According to the amendment, townships in which Hakka people make up at least one-third of the population are to be designated key developmental areas for Hakka culture by the Hakka Affairs Council, and Hakka is to be used as one of the main languages for communication.

Such areas should strive to bolster the teaching and speaking of Hakka, as well as the preservation of Hakka culture and related industries, the amendment said. Continue reading

Hottest internet slang of 2017

Source: People’s Daily Online (12/21/17)
China reveals hottest internet slangs of 2017
By Kou Jie

Chinese authorities on Thursday revealed the 10 most commonly used internet slangs of 2017, noting that the popular words and phrases are the best linguistic representations of China’s current cyber culture.

The selection, which was organized by China’s National Language Resource Monitoring and Research Center, combed through linguistic data from the country’s most popular forums, social media platforms, and online news portals, analyzing the collected information via its massive corpus of over 6 billion Chinese characters. Continue reading

Word of the year shortlist

Source: Sup China (12/11/17)
The Chinese Word Of The Year Shortlist

On December 9, a group led by the People’s Daily including a panel of “experts” from the National Language Resources Monitoring and Research Center, the Commercial Press, and Tencent’s published a shortlist of contenders for the country’s 2017 “Character of the Year and Word of the Year.”

  • The nominating process officially began on November 20, with millions of Chinese internet users submitting their picks.
  • The contenders that made the final list were selected and announced by the judging panel.
  • A recently popular word — “low-end population” — was perhaps in the news too recently to make the list. Most of the words on the list are highly positive, and several government buzzwords are included.

Here is the shortlist (in Chinese). Continue reading

“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. (open access) is of interest to members of the MCLC list.


Rudolf G. Wagner <>

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:


Matt Turner <>

Literate Modernism

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


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.

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 <>

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: (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


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