Peter Hessler: A Chinese in His Previous Life?

Peter Hessler

Peter Hessler

I’ve been planning to write something about Peter Hessler (何伟) for a long time, but always don’t know what to write. Actually I wrote a Chinese post on him this January, but just a casual note.

I read his Country Driving and River Town last year, which shocked me, for reasons hard to clearly describe. Chinese critics always say Peter Hessler is good at writing “small aspects” neglected by other writers, that’s true. However, his books mean much more for me.

Maybe the most impressive thing is Peter Hessler’s attitude towards ordinary Chinese.

First, he was always like an onlooker, staying out of all things happening on those Chinese people he met, although he was deeply engaged in their daily affairs. He helped a young peasant with curing his son, he won the heart of a technician in a factory, who asked him to be a business partner. Still, he looks detached as if he is leaving at any moment. Such attitude is sort of fascinating to me, maybe because as a Chinese, I cannot be detached and easy in face of all those things.

More importantly, he was so nice to all the Chinese people he met, maybe nicer than most Chinese writers.

China’s great writer Lu Xun said he was “always not afraid to speculate about Chinese with the greatest malice”. Nearly a century later, the Chinese society is now facing much more serious trust crisis, people wouldn’t help elders falling down in the street, in fear of blackmails. But Peter Hessler seems to be totally ignoring these. On the contrary, he always treated Chinese with good faith. Most Chinese people in his books are respectable and lovely, even when they did stupid and unfaithful things.

In China, Chinese peasants are often described as being numbed and their so-called “deep-rooted bad habits” are always a big topic for intellectuals, but it seems that Peter Hessler just take them as being very normal, also respectable and lovely.

It’s very possible that Peter Hessler’s good attitude derived from his identity as a foreigner, for Chinese are often nicer to foreigners than to compatriots. Even so, Peter could still choose to despise the Chinese people, especially those unmannered, but he could not be more modest in his writings.

As I’m recalling Peter’s books on China and looking at his photos, I even doubt he has been a Chinese in one of his previous lives, for his acting like an ancient Chinese gentleman and delicate emotions for China.

I do hope that more and more restless and arrogant young Chinese will read Peter Hessler’s books, they will see a new sight of Chinese society, just like me.

Posted in Off the Internet

Apple Has Great Products But Terrible Translations

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Apple’s iPhones, iPads and Macs have conquered the world, and its official website is stunning with delicate design and creative wording.

However, its Chinese website is far from satisfactory. Actually, Chinese translations on the official website of Apple have been jokes again and again.

Take the example of the latest translation of iPhone 6, the original text “Bigger than bigger” was literally translated into “比更大还更大”, which is awkward and ungrammatical. After receiving a lot of laughter and criticism on the Internet, the translation was later improved to be “岂止于大”, which means “there is much more than just bigger”.

Maybe literal translation is regarded as being authentic by someone in Apple, but unfortunately, like the differences between many languages in the world, generally the distinction between English and Chinese is distinct (isn’t this sentence very Apple?). Anyhow, Apple’s literal translations have made some people doubt whether Apple tries to “re-invent” the Chinese language.

A worse guess about this phenomenon is that Apple doesn’t have enough good translators, which is very possible, because it’s hard to imagine that such bad translations would appear time and time again while a translation master is involved.

Here are some examples of translations once published on the Chinese official website of Apple, the English sentences behind them are translated by me on the basis of the Chinese version:

  1. 信息。真的笑,笑出声。Messages really laugh, and laugh out loud.
  2. 开发者的大事,大快所有人心的大好事。Big thing for developers, big good thing that cheers all the people greatly.
  3. 全新iPhone现已问世。全新iPhone也已问世。Brand-new iPhone has come out now. Brand-new iPhone has also come out. (Referring to iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C respectively.)
  4. 父亲节好礼,让他每天越开越开心。Nice gift for Father’s Day, which makes him happier when he is more open every day. (This translation simply doesn’t make sense, I’ve tried my best to understand and translate it.)
  5. 让妈妈开心的礼物,开了又开。A gift that makes mother happy, letting her open and open again. (Also doesn’t make sense.)

Now see the original English texts to know the real meanings:

  1.  Actually LOL. OL.
  2. Huge for developers. Massive for everyone else.
  3. Introducing the new iPhone. And the new iPhone.
  4. A Father’s Day Gift , He’ll open every day.
  5. A gift mom will love opening. Again and Again.

Moreover, just improving translation is not enough for Apple’s Chinese website, as its original copywriting does not fit Chinese market well, compared to those of local smartphones like Xiaomi and Meizu. I’ve written about this in a Chinese post more than 2 months ago.

Posted in On the Internet Tagged with: ,

Never Criticize Someone or Some Group Publicly in China

To criticize someone in China publicly can be very risky, and you always cannot imagine the way in which you would be retorted.

Last week, philosophy professor from Tsinghua University Xiao Ying released an article on Han Han, defining him as the biggest scandal of contemporary literary circle in China, and according to a poll at ifeng.com, most readers of the article agreed with Xiao Ying.

However, retorts also followed soon, for example, a professor from Renmin University of China taunted Xiao Ying for being too particular over such a young man.

This is hardly anything, when I anonymously criticized some after 90 youth for being surprisingly ungracious based on latest touch with some university students, someone said I must be a loser so that I “fear” after 90 people. What a deep psychological analysis! It even reminds me of the excellent labels put on innocent people during the Cultural Revolution.

wg

Such context affects not only critics, but the whole habit of talking on the internet in China. Experienced netizens have learnt to be very cautious in their words on the internet, to avoid any kind of misunderstanding, denouncement, offensive language or even abuses.

To both express real opinions and avoid attacks, some “masters” of Chinese language skillfully use a lot of paronomasias, metaphors and allusions on social networks, which filter some “numb brains” and make the like-minded smile knowingly, but also weaken the criticism.

In a word, you have to be sophisticated on the internet in China or you just shut up, but there are always someone never learn to flatter everybody, like me.

Posted in On the Internet

The Big Mess of Translation Market in China

Today’s Chinese translation market is more chaotic than ever, the biggest problem is that it’s really hard to distinguish qualified translators or translation companies from bad ones, and to find the right person could be much harder, especially for customers who don’t know the target language well.

Universal education of English in China has created countless people who know some English but are not really good at it. Many primary and intermediate English learners, including university students, English lovers and unemployed non-English major graduates who know little about translation, manage to get translation work for very low prices (20 to 30 yuan per 1,000 Chinese characters or even lower),. As a result, even qualified translators find it hard to get any work at a reasonable price.

At popular Chinese social network douban.com, even some English M.A students and graduates accept translation jobs for prices around 50 yuan per 1,000 Chinese characters, too low to urge a professional translator to do his jobs really carefully, thus creating a wrong impression that English or translation majors are no better than those amateurs.

Translation on Posters of Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games

Translation on Posters of upcoming Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games

This situation harms development of qualified translators, because if English specialists could not get translation work for an acceptable price, they may have few opportunities to practice what they’ve learnt, but practices are essential on the way to a good translator. You can see, the process of “Bad Money Drives out Good Money” is causing a vicious cycle.

Translation companies are also largely to blame in the process. Many of the companies, perhaps most, are far from being responsible; they hire inexperienced part-time translators to do most of their work, in order to make as much profits as possible from big price differences.

This largely explains why many translation companies failed in recent years. Today some translation companies even ask freelancers for businesses as they cannot get enough documents to translate. Their only advantage compared to freelancers is the ability of invoicing.

Failure of unqualified translation companies won’t change the bad situation much, for clients can still turn to amateur translators easily through social networks, they either don’t care about quality of translation or don’t understand how poor the quality could be.

To discuss crisis faced by translation industry, more and more related forums are held in the past two years, attracting some experts and entrepreneurs, but the organizers often charge fancy ticket prices (500-1000 yuan for attending), making their incentive seem doubtful. Such ticket prices certainly daunt most real practitioners – translators.

These problems have no easy solution, showing a dim prospect of the translation industry in China.

Posted in Off the Internet Tagged with:

Nanjing Aims To Be A New Polar Of Mobile Games In China, Can It Succeed?

In the past two years, at least two parks for game industry have been founded in Nanjing – China (Nanjing) Games Valley and China Games & Digital Harbor; besides, an organization called “China Mobile Games Federation” was also established in Nanjing this year.

Despite all these, Nanjing is not a prosperous place of mobile games, game developers here are very few and not one of them is really famous. When I tried to interview some local developers last year, I only found about five companies, compared to hundreds in Chengdu and thousands in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Encouraged by booming mobile gaming in China during the past two years, Nanjing Government plays a significant role in founding the games bases in Nanjing. For example, about 200 mu of land was provided for the core promoter region of the China Games & Digital Harbor and 1000 mu of surrounding areas are reserved for future use; and China (Nanjing) Games Valley is also considered a key project by the local government, who vowed to “promote innovative capability of making games” and make the base “a state-level innovative games base with the most powerful demonstration effect, radiation force and driving force in China” in 3 to 5 years.

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A security guard waters plants beside the statue of China (Nanjing) Games Valley, Photo Taken by Yansong

Apart from government support, Nanjing does have some advantages for developing games. Nanjing has a number of good universities, a guarantee for development talents, and game bases of the Three Operators – China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom are all located in Nanjing, convenient for publishing games through them.

But there are still some questions have yet to be answered. First, can “innovative capability” really be “promoted” given the fact that lack of innovation has bothered both animation industry and games industry in China for years? Second, a consensus in the industry is that a majority of mobile game developers do not make any profit in China today, the fickle industry is calming down, along with failure of a large number of developers, can the government-backed bases help? Third, even the Three Operators are facing great challenges. In the era of feature phones, the operators, especially China Mobile, controlled lifeblood of Chinese mobile game developers, but now, they’ve been largely replaced by App Store and many Android app stores in China.

The way to a new polar of Chinese mobile games for Nanjing is hard and rough.

Posted in On the Internet Tagged with:

ChinaJoy: So Superficial, So Deep

ChinaJoy 2014 has just ended. The largest annual games exhibition in Asia again attracted game personnel and stay-at-home young men from all over China and related reports are still filling first pages of all media sites.

I was deeply impressed by popularity of ChinaJoy when I passed by the super long queues outside the exhibition halls this time last year. I was going for a conference on mobile gaming – the so-called “World Mobile Game Conference”, which was held next door to the exhibition halls.

When I entered the conference venue, I was a bit surprised that the venue was smaller than those of many other conferences of the internet Industry. The sponsor managed to invite several successful practitioners of games industry and I sat there listening to their speeches all that day.

I was disappointed that when the day was over, I found I remember little of what they had said. That’s not my fault, for most of the speeches were empty and meaningless. One of the speakers, who earned tens of millions of yuan through a popular mobile game, admitted that great people wouldn’t share their secrets publicly, and the market changes so fast that they might not be qualified to make a speech at the same venue the next year.

The same thing happens this year, I’ve read several speeches of the conference, but found few highlights. For example, one famous mobile game entrepreneur said the most important thing for game companies is to develop good products. This opinion is right yet useless.

Maybe for the whole games industry, it is useless to talk much, because it’s true that ultimately products determine everything. Many insiders write about shortcuts of being successful, but often one new game denies everything they said via explosive downloads.

However, there are real words on more private occasions, such as many evening gatherings of practitioners during the ChinaJoy session. Some people may share their insights if they deem you as a potential partner, or those not qualified to speak on the stage may told you what the real world of games industry is like. That’s the deep part of the event.

As for the amorous young men who pay 100 yuan or more to see show girls of ChinaJoy, they may be disappointed when they get to know that the fairylike girls on the stage are very likely kept or to be kept by the rich, as cards seeking for relationships from show girls have been found at the exhibition site, and a price list of dozens of models have also been unveiled.

The Card

The Card

The List

The List

Posted in Off the Internet

Ejaculation Occurs Finally and Flood Comes Along

Various rumored crimes (not only corruption and promiscuity, but murders) of Kangshifu (康师傅 a common alias of Zhou Yongkang on the Internet) have been discussed at Weibo.com and forums in China for more than a year, encouraged by successive reports on crimes of officials and entrepreneurs related to Zhou Yongkang. Even before this, Zhou has been known as an uncontrolled tsar of Chinese political and law system, commanding millions of armed police and security forces.

Readers of these rumors finally surged during the past two days, as the Central Government has disclosed “serious discipline violations” of Zhou Yongkang. And Zhou’s exact name now eventually dominates front pages of all news sites.

周永康

Zhou Yongkang

Zhou’s case was just like the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes – almost everyone knew it, but as it was not announced by the government, netizens had to use aliases and domestic news agencies could only slightly imply it, creating a unique phenomenon on the earth.

Delay of the announcement might largely due to incomplete investigations around Zhou Yongkang, but some people speculated that Zhou’s case might end up with nothing definite finally. A vivid metaphor was that orgasm could be too long to cause ejaculation.

Anyhow, the ejaculation occurred eventually as a brief of only 12 Chinese characters was released on 18:00 of July 29th, and Zhou Yongkang is no longer a sensitive word in search engines and social networks. Although I have been waiting it for a long time, I let out a cry of surprise when I knew the news.

Thereafter, all Chinese news sites are free (at least to a much larger extent) to comment on Zhou’s issues, interview all kinds of related people and dig more information, verifying more and more rumors on the Internet.

For the ill-informed population, which is large, they finally get an unprecedented chance to know much more about this super big figure.

A catastrophic flood has come after the delayed ejaculation.

Posted in On the Internet

The Paper: Fighting Back of Chinese Traditional Media

Recently, a new Chinese media platform – The Paper (澎湃新闻 thepaper.cn) with more than 300 million yuan initial investment was launched, provoking much discussion in China.

The Paper’s prospectus My Heart Goes on As It Did, also a nostalgic essay embodying thick idealism, has been a hot topic, while more discussions are about its future, and most critics seem to be pessimistic.

Front Page of The Paper

Front Page of The Paper

Chinese traditional media has been going through tough times in recent years. In face of Internet media, they are kind of giving up without a real fight.

Internet media sites in China are restricted in composing news by the government, but they succeeded in attracting visitors by various measures, typically writing inflammatory headlines for republished news, making good use of search engine optimization (SEO) and social media, and releasing erotic information everywhere, which is a big distraction from real news.

Some personnel from the Internet media sites thus despise originality and quality of content, especially as more distribution channels emerge when the mobile internet rises.

Therefore, it’s no wonder that many people criticized The Paper of being outdated, having awkward product design and focusing on deep content.

Nevertheless, The Paper is apparently determined to create quality original content and take Internet as a major release channel, if not the only one.

This strategy is a bit idealistic, but not necessarily impractical, especially as it has huge investments.

The past week of its debut suggests that The Paper is doing a good job. Its professional journalists and editors are creating rich and deep news and editorials, involving all aspects of Chinese society and they are using online tactics such as abundantly embedding their media name and website address into articles and highlighting valuable comments from readers.

Unlike many other Internet media sites inured to superficial, gossipy and even amorous content, The Paper mainly focuses on current politics and social events, being active and more or less critical on hot topics like CCTV’s not clarifying safety of GM food in its program.

Besides, though The Paper is backed by the government, its content is not more conservative than its domestic fellow sites so far. Anyhow, all domestic media sites are controlled by the government, and the government should understand that mediocre or didactic content would not move people nowadays, not to mention to bring success to such a public-oriented media project.

Since Chinese people are becoming more and more thoughtful and knowledgeable, The Paper should be attractive as long as it keeps high quality and makes good use of the Internet.

And as a blogger and editor, I would be glad to see success of The Paper.

Posted in On the Internet Tagged with:

Great Mysteries of the Most Talked-about Chinese Writer – Han Han

Today (July 24th) is the premiere day of a closely watched Chinese film – 后会无期 (literally means Never Meet Again but officially The Continent), which will inevitably cause a lot of controversy, just like the great disputes on its 32-year old director – Han Han (韩寒), who published his maiden novel Triple Door (三重门) at 17 and caused enormous social repercussions.

The disputes on Han Han occurred at the beginning of 2012, when Internet celebrities Mai Tian (麦田) and Fang Zhouzi (方舟子) accused Han Han publicly of ghostwriting. They insisted that all Han Han’s novels and blogs were written by one or several ghostwriters, and Han Han’s father is the biggest suspect, who is a writer himself.

Han Han

Han Han

At first, almost no one believed what Mai Tian and Fang Zhouzi said, but as more and more evidences emerged, many supporters of Han changed sides, angry at being fooled for so many years, while others stubbornly believed Han is innocent.

In the lyric of his new movie’s theme song Ordinary Path, Han Han writes: “I owned everything, but they disappeared like smoke suddenly. I was depressed and disappointed, losing all my directions, till I find the only answer of being ordinary.”

Despite of what he wrote, Han Han still has countless die-hard fans and supporters in China, that’s why his virgin film attracted 50 million yuan RMB investment and immense attention.

As for the disputes on him, it seems undoubtedly that Han Han used ghostwriters, proofs include prior release of Han Han’s articles (deleted soon but unfortunately crawled by a search engine) on his father’s blog, unusually tidy manuscript of his first novel on which some Chinese characters seems to be transcribed into irrelevant ones with similar form, abundant allusions in his works occurred before Han Han was born and during his father’s youth, as well as few signs of literary talent or rich knowledge shown in video interviews, in sharp contrast to his brilliant works.

However, to what extent did he resort to ghostwriters? In other words, how many of his works are written by others? Is he really a literature idiot only good at picking up girls, as Fang Zhouzi said?

These questions have become great mysteries, and a bigger question is, why the current mainstream of public opinions doesn’t mention a word about the “Ghostwriting Gate” anymore, as if nothing ever happened? Instead, people in China, especially young people are filled with anticipation at Han Han’s new film.

The reasons are surely complicated. I remember a middle-aged Chinese writer once introspected himself and concluded: if someone were brainwashed by an authority since he is young, when he grows up, he will instinctively show sympathy and preference to the authority even if he rationally knows that the authority is wrong. This may explain a bit the weird situation of opinions towards Han Han in China.

Posted in On the Internet

Why Chinese Youth Become Unprecedentedly Lazy?

Although Chinese have a reputation for being hard-working, the youth generation of Chinese today is unprecedentedly lazy.

Such laziness is reflected in all aspects of daily lives.

For example, most young people would never climb stairs as long as there is an elevator, even if their target floor is only the second floor. The same thing happens when they go downstairs, no matter how low they are and how long they need to wait.

And another example, when there is no bike in a public bike station, most young people prefer to call the dispatching center and wait for old staff to send bikes than go to another station with plenty bikes just 500m away.

The reason might be various. The typical one is that most youth people are not used to exercises, they have been busy with studies such childhood; besides, as most young people work in office today, they might be accustomed to sitting all day.

As a result, humpback, beer belly and weakness are very common for Chinese youth.

Otaku is often used to refer to young men (Zhai Nan 宅男) and women (Zhai Nv 宅女) in China, who naturally accept the label. They like to stay at home all day long in weekends and holidays, surfing on the internet.

znan

Such phenomenon also exists in other countries, but it seems to be much more serious in China. One thing impressed me was that when I was in university, there are often more overseas students from South Korea than Chinese students swimming in the sea, especially in severe weathers, despite the fact that the number of Korean students was far less than Chinese students.

Statistics have shown that average height of young Chinese today is lower than their contemporaries in Japan and South Korea, which say a lot.

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Posted in Off the Internet

About


I’m a blogger, editor and translator from China, now chief editor of a mobile gaming media site in Nanjing city.
This is my English blog.
"Internet in China" refers to the special internet environment in China blocking foreign services and creating unique phenomena.
Contact: v#sunyansong.com (#→@)
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