My visitors today

Tuesday 4 January 2011

What Confucius says and what the China Daily writes

Align Centre Breakfast with the papers

What a shop window in Wan Chai says in Chinglish!

The Hot Incense Pot, Ngong Ping, Hong Kong, December 2010


Written in Hong Kong, 11-14th December 2010
The Wan Chai Empire has the best porridge ever, after my Dad’s!

That is not what Confucius said, that is what I said. What Confucius said comes later.

The porridge really is good, especially with the added SM touch. I put a spoonful of salted Chinese peanuts into it instead of the usual sprinkling of salt. The peanuts were in a bowl beside a different hot pot, with a forgettable Chinese name, amongst an array of spicy pickles.

The coffee is good too as there is warm milk to add, just like I wish I always had time to do at home!

Breakfast time

Since I was nineteen-years-old, when I left home for art school with the promise to Mum not to jump on my bike in the mornings without eating, I have loved breakfast.

I love breakfast with a newspaper and tea and toast, with a notebook, or a paintbrush and a bowl of muesli in my own kitchen. I love it sharing a crossword with my Dad at home or after a night on the sofa at my sister’s house. I love breakfast in the café beside the duck-pond near work, and I loved the early morning eggs-sunny-side-up or easy-over breakfasts that I experienced in America.

I also love the breakfasts here in Hong Kong. On the Congress days they were spent with a variety of friends old and new, getting up to refresh coffee or to collect pancakes with maple syrup and a selection of exotic fruits, while at the same time hugging a long lost Hungarian, Scottish, Australian or English friend. Even a few book-signings took place over breakfast!

Now in the quieter days, when Congress-goers have left for faraway places, I can spend some time with my newspaper on one side and my notebook on the other.

A word from my paper

Each morning I wake to discover a copy of the China Daily delivered to my bedroom door. What a treat to have a newspaper all of my own. My Mum used to treat me to the same when I was home. In Norwich it was The Times that she ordered for me, here it is a different story.

I had managed to scan the front page of the paper most mornings during the busy days and picked out a few articles that I may comment on later, but now I actually have time to read it.

Three days ago I read an interesting article on how English words are being introduced in the Chinese language and how new English words are creeping into the Hong Kong English. This reminded me of the campaign to keep the German language German by the people who oppose Neu Deutsch, but with a difference. Here in the China Daily there were no protests. No, on the contrary, the journalist Raymond Zhou describes it as something positive, telling us that the words that are creeping into the Chinese people’s languages “indicate how vibrant the mother tongue of Confucius has become.”

The article was a bit confusing. I was not sure whether I was reading about English words in Chinese or Chinese translated into funny English, but as the China Daily stated, I was reading about “language at is most vibrant, breaking out of fractured rocks like the legendary Monkey King, spurning conventions and hopping from treetop to treetop”.

It is what is described in the China Daily as “the hottest word of the year” that first caught my eye and made me read the rest of this article.

This word that initially attracted me was one that sounded very German and one that causes problems for the older generation in Germany.

This word is “ Geili” which means to give power or force. It is reported to come from a dialect but nobody could trace which one. As I said it sounds very German to me!

For a second time in the article I read about the Monkey King, as it was after being used in a dubbed Japanese film about the Monkey King that this word became the in word for cool or awesome.


The hip word for cool or awesome in German is Geil! How it derived this meaning forat least the past ten years, having meant homosexual for many more years previously, I have no idea. Older generations in German still have difficulty keeping “cool” when confronted with a grandchild for whom everything is geil!
Geili in China has been turned into a verb and has also taken on English forms “gelivable” and “ungelivable”.

More Chiglish

The China Daily article mentions a host of other words and phrases that are coming into use. One of my favourites is a word that describes smiling and saying nothing: “Smilence”. Apparently this word was created to describe Chinese stoicism or prudishness.

Other words in daily use on the Internet are “Chinternet”, “goveruption”, “livelihard” and “shitizen”!

Apparently although there is no Chinese equivalent of Urban Dictionary, there are scholars like Huang Jiwei, who collect witty sayings, but he feeling is that most of the grassroots wisdom will be soon lost when the next round of “geili” sayings hit the streets.

In a paper that I read while I waited at Hong Kong airport a week later, The Sunday Morning Post from 5th December, I noticed that the pre-Christmas best sellers list for non-fiction books listed at numbers one and five respectively Chinglish and More Chinglish; speaking in tongues, both by Oliver Lutz Radtke, who sounds like he could be German to me.

I saw enough Chinglish to fill one of these books while I was in Hong Kong, but unfortunately photographed very little of it, but one odd sign heads this posting.


The Monkey King, more stories about transformations-

I later discovered that Oliver Lutz Radtke is German:
Oliver Lutz RadtkeChinglish: Found in Translation is a fine little book from Oliver Lutz Radtke, a German sinologist who was partially trained in China. ...

More of what the China Daily says:
13th December 2011, Hong Kong

What else was there to read in the China Daily had landed at my door each morning?

There was also the 11th December- opening of the Asian Para-Games to read about on several days, in what appear to be very positive reports. Describing it as a stage for athletes to display self-esteem, self-confidence, self-striving and self-reliance, in an atmosphere filled with joy, friendship and dreams. The Games are following on after the Para-Olympics in Beijing with the same slogan “Spirit in Motion”, with the goal of fostering a more inclusive society and to inject vitality in a bid to constructing a harmonious Asia.

On the neighbouring page is a huge full-page article with the heading “ Stick to the path of peaceful development”.

What is that one all about? The first paragraph states:

“The CPC Central Committee’s Proposal for Formulating the 12th Five-Year-Plan for China’s Economic and Social Development adopted by the Fifth Plenary Session of the 17th CPC Central Committee has drawn the grand blueprint for China’s development in the next five years.”

On the following page the article is headed with the word harmony and the next with humanity. Another says that China needs adaptability and then there is the Monkey King with all his transformations and the vitalisingof Confucius’ language with the addition of a bit of Chinglish.

On another page there is a dramatic picture of students jumping off burning park benches in London underneath which readers are told that despite a “rebellion by members of the coalition government, student fees were raised.

There are articles telling readers not to be too complacent about the standards of education in Hong Kong despite the high grades that students are getting.
There are stories about finding foster care for hundreds and thousands of orphans and others about caring for the elderly population.

The paper is produced for English-speaking visitors to China. Sometimes while reading I felt like I was back in Hungary reading an English language newspaper in the late eighties.
One morning in Hong Kong I found that I was alone at breakfast for the first time in many days, days that I had spent meeting friends, old and new, over the coffee pot, scotch pancakes, porridge, scrambled eggs and hash browns.

Now alone I even quite enjoyed the piped music, that played quiet, classical versions of familiar Christmas songs, while I read the daily report on the Nobel Prize and its winner.

Nobel’s empty chair

There had been something written in the China Daily every day since I arrived about Lui Xiaobo, the imprisoned Chinese man who received the Nobel Peace Prize. I have been following this news story since the winner of the Prize was announced. I have been reading about it in Time Magazine, the Guardian Weekly and in German newspapers.

Here in the Chinese newspapers I read a different story. I will not go into the politics of that here, although it is really interesting to have been able to read about it in both the East and the West. I am glad to have had the chance to read about world news in the country in which it is actually taking place, even though it is news sorted out for the tourist.

Today (Monday 13th December) the China Daily put Liu Xiaobo and the Dali Lama, who was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in the same category. They were both prisoners who had committed crimes against their homelands.

What Confucius said

It was today’s headline for the Nobel story that caught my eye:

“Peace Prize mockery of its ideals”

“Confucius once said that when something was called by the wrong name it was the result of failure of understanding and an inability to perceive reality.”

This is the tone of most of the articles that I have read on this subject while in Hong Kong, dramatically different to what I had been reading at home. The general feeling that I get from the reports is the belief that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee have little understanding of what the people of China really wish for, and that they should take a trip to find out.

January 4th 2011

I have just spent a very pleasurable two hours after writing up my notes for this posting re-reading several days’ worth of China Daily, Hong Kong Editions. Actually for a paper that is for visitors there is a huge cross-section of news with the balance tipping towards social matters and the next Five-Year Development Plan. I am really glad that I took the time to read the newspapers while in China and make the effort to bring so many snippets back with me.


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