Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Detective novels of Qiu Xiaolong

Saturday, August 29th, 2009 by Lara

I’m pleased to find the local library in Singapore has some of Qiu Xiaolong’s detective novels, which feature a Chief Inspector of Police, Chen, who also happens to be a poet and English major. The novels are in translation (naturally, for me to read them); they take place in Shanghai in the 1990s, and have been appearing over the last 5-8 years in English.

I was remarking to my spouse yesterday that I no longer read detective novels for the plot; I read them for style, local information, attractive characters, and other stuff. (So I’ve turned into one of those people who reads the first few chapters and then read the ending, to see if it’s worth reading the bits in the middle – shame on me.) And the English-language style of Qiu’s novels is not all that great, but his books have lots of stuff that make them fun for me to read. I don’t know how much is interesting to Chinese people, but here’s my list of compelling categories: (more…)

Evolution of a word: Does “general” mean common or superior?

Thursday, July 30th, 2009 by xgz

The word “general” originally is derived from Latin “generalis” which in turn is derived from “genus”. Genus means birth, descent, or origin. It also means kind or sort. It is this second meaning that generalis is derived from. Generalis means applicable to all, as opposed to specialis (which is derived from “species” and means “particular”). So in English “general” has the meaning of common, overall, and not specialized. For example, “general psychology” would be an overview of the basic concepts in psychology, and would not teach specialized topics. It could might as well be called “common psychology”. In Chinese translations, the underlying meaning of “common” is also often retained. “General psychology” is 普通心理学, which is indeed “common psychology”. “General Motors” is translated as 通用汽车, which really means “commonly-used cars”. (more…)

Where Angels Fear to Tread: Falun Gong!

Friday, May 1st, 2009 by Lara

So what on earth is Falun Gong and why is the PRC so dead against them? F.G. have a fairly sizeable presence in Singapore; some months ago I found a book in our mailbox telling me that the Chinese Communist Party’s days were numbered and that the Party was about to implode, which was apparently pretty standard Falun Gong stuff. And now and then they set up posters near train stations and pass out pamphlets telling everyone that the CCP is engaging in all kinds of horrors, most specifically and spectacularly organ harvesting from unwilling donors.

They seem like a bunch of crazies – very well-funded crazies. Do they have links with organized Buddhism? Are they just meditators gone a little gaga? What’s their real agenda, and why does the Chinese government take them seriously?

Tibet: Panchen Lama book summary

Monday, April 27th, 2009 by Lara

Hello. I’m currently editing a scholarly book that will soon be published on the history of Tibet and China in the 1920s and 30s. I have lots to say about it from a translation point of view, since it was based on Chinese and Tibetan sources, written in French, translated into a Gallic English, and then passed on to me. But I think it might be handy if I just give you a summary of the action in the book. It’s written by F. Jagou, and will be published by Silkworm Press later this year as a project of the Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient. Please read the book once it’s available; it’s great to actually have some facts to work with:

A Grateful Nod to Asiapac

Friday, March 6th, 2009 by Lara

I’ve found it difficult to get a handle on Chinese culture unless I bug my Chinese friends with more questions than they probably feel like answering, gracious though they invariably are. If you’re not brought up knowing about the Brotherhood of the Peach Orchard or the Monkey King, the Hungry Ghost Festival or the number of different names a Chinese person can have, it’s hard to find someone with the English and the patience to explain this stuff to a beginner.

So I’m extremely happy to have found a Singaporean publisher, called Asiapac, which makes it its business to explain Chinese culture to non-natives!!!!! They do lots of stuff in short graphic novel form, from summarizing 5000 years of literature to explaining why Chinese culture is so fixated on calligraphy or boys (as opposed to girls). Here are some sample titles I bought:

Kung-Fu Panda – the Mulan of 2008

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 by Lara

It seems that every ten years or so animators realize that there’s a market for Chinese-themed feature-length cartoons. Mulan took the U.S. by storm in 1997 (Mulan II less so later), and now we’ve got Kung-Fu Panda. Which I like – it’s visually and stylistically very interesting, has lots of jokes about Hong Kong kung-fu movies in it, and of course Jack Black is the voice of the Fat Panda. And anything Mr. Black does is worth a look.

I’m wondering what the next Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks Chinese theme will be – any guesses? The Monkey King (although Forbidden Kingdom treated that, it was not an animated feature)? Stories about hungry ghosts or kitchen gods? Water Margins/ Outlaws of the Marsh might work; Story of the Stone (Red Chamber) – I doubt it. A Zhuge Liang bio-pic!

Cheesy Chinese-y movie – The Mummy III: The Golden Emperor

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 by Lara

I saw this recently on a plane, and although its release was carefully timed to coincide with the run-up to the Beijing Olympics (and thus exploit international interest and audience for Things Chinese), I liked it. Partly because I like Brendan Fraser, who doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously – at least not in these sorts of roles – and partly because it was a pretty nice mishmash of what the average westerner thinks of when they think of China: Terra cotta warriors, Great Wall, Jet Li, determined Communists in the late 1940s, kung fu. Of course, they don’t usually associate these things with mummies coming to life to destroy western values, but maybe that’s a good thing.

Anyway, this was an amazingly ridiculous movie, so a good thing to watch when you’re stuck in a flying can for ten hours – not so compelling that you wish the picture and dialogue were clearer, but sufficiently fun and with enough fights and explosions to divert you from thinking about the sneezing woman right behind you and the germs she’s sending your way.

Red Cliff – the movie vs. the book

Sunday, January 18th, 2009 by Lara

The big-budget movie of the Battle of Red Cliff was so cumbersome that it was split into two thrilling installments. One was released last July just before the Beijing Olympics, and the other is now out in theaters, at least here in Singapore. Part I starts with the rescue of Liu Bei’s son, Ah Dou, defeats the forces of Cao Cao in the Eight Trigrams formation, and stops with Sun Quan’s paltry navy lined up across the river from Cao Cao’s enormous array of ships. I haven’t seen Part II yet, but we all know how it ends.

Although I am a newcomer to Three Kingdoms, even I could see the main lines of change from text to movie. Some of it is welcome, from a modern point of view – more girls, preferably swinging swords, are needed in any action film, and Sun Quan’s sister gets a bigger role. His mom, none, nor any old people save perhaps for Liu Bei and Cao Cao, who looks remarkably well preserved. Maybe I would, too if I were running China with a lot of resources behind me.

Story of Three Kingdoms Podcast!

Saturday, January 19th, 2008 by Mei and Lara

We’re just about ready to start creating a podcast of Three Kingdoms material that we’re going to post here. We were thinking of starting with the buildup to the Battle of the Red Cliffs, since there’s a big movie coming out on that subject this summer. What would you like to listen to?

We’re going to do a fairly free translation of Luo’s work, rather than just reading the Moss Roberts or Brewitt-Taylor translations. We may veer a bit into the work’s original teahouse-storytelling style, just because it’ll be easier for listeners to keep track of what’s going on in the plot. But we’ll stay very faithful to Luo’s content.

Check this site in the near future to see what we come up with, and let us know your preferences!

: The podcast is up. Hope you enjoy it!

Testing a poll

Monday, May 7th, 2007 by Mei Lara

Our first poll, just for fun:

Will people come to read great translations of fascinating Chinese literature?
View Results