Saturday, January 12, 2013

Lessons From Chinese Characters

THIS IS A meme that was circulated on Chinese social media websites some time ago. It contrasts the traditional form of certain Chinese characters with their simplified form. (The simplification of the Chinese characters was a controversial policy instituted by Mao in the 1950s, as part of the broader communist campaign to trash traditional Chinese culture.) The pictures speak for themselves. On the first line is the traditional form of the character (the first, say, for “fish”), and on the second line is the simplified form. 
The text accompanies the series said: “When Chinese characters were simplified, the complicated stroke forms were eliminated – but what else have we lost? With but a glance the characters tell us the truth.” 
FISH. Text: 60 years ago, most fish were in the water; 60 years later, they’re mostly on plates. 
MORALITY AND JUSTICE. Text: 60 years ago, morality and justice still had meaning. The upper part is “yang” (sheep 羊), meaning sacrifice, and below was the character “wo” (I, me 我)… meaning morality and justice. But 60 years later what does “yi” (义) mean? A little cross and a dot. 
FOOD. 60 years ago, our major contradiction was about developing more advanced food production techniques, so back then “liangshi” (food) was mainly about “chanliang” (quantity). 60 years later, it’s awesome, we have melamine in milk powder, ractopamine in our meat, dyed buns, and chemical hot-pot. We find that the most important part of “liangshi” (food 粮食) is paying attention to “liangzhi” (conscience 良心).
COUNTRY: In the past, the “axe” (戈) represented the country’s defensive capability, the “mouth” (口) represented population, and the “one” (一) represented the earth – that’s why it was called a “country” (國). Now “country” is full of things simply representing wealth and power: “jade” (玉).

PRISON: 60 years ago, two dogs barked at either side of “speech” to make a “prison.” 60 years later we have web browsers but still no freedom of speech. Now we have the two dogs surrounding “i”. 

POVERTY: 60 years ago people thought that if you have to stoop over (i.e. 弓) to enter your house, then you’re poor. 60 years later, the simplified character tells us that as long as we are capable and work hard, we’ll have a house – but once you’re in, you’re poor. 
BEAST: 60 years ago people thought that only mammals like dogs (note the 犬 on the right, which means dog) were called “beast.” 60 years later, they don’t necessarily have to look like dogs. Now the beasts are numerous.
DISMANTLE: 60 years ago, pulling down a house and moving (chaiqian) was a lot of trouble, and you had to move many things. 60 years later it only needs one administrative decree, about 1,000 yuan, and you just clear out. You don’t want to leave? We’ll evict you. (This is a play on words and meanings, in reference to forced demolitions and evictions, where people who resist the demolishing of their houses may be killed.)

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大家都来看”九评共产党” ( VCD, 书)!
Let’s find “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party”(VCD, books)!
Quit the Evil Chinese Communist Party or its affiliated organizations today!