Vancl (凡客) is a popular Chinese clothing brand that hires the likes of celebrity author/race car driver Han Han (韩寒) for its ads.
This ad featuring Li Yuchun (李宇春) is all over Shanghai right now:
On first glance, the Chinese in this ad is pretty simple, but doesn’t seem to make sense. 我爱你 means “I love you,” and 无所谓 means “don’t care.” Huh?
But look closer… It’s not 无所谓 in the ad, but 无所畏. The final character is different. So the meaning goes from “to not care” to “to have no fear.” The ad intentionally plays with you to draw you in; 无所畏 (“to have no fear”) is not a phrase you normally use in spoken language (although 无所畏 and 无畏 are not so hard to find online).
This ad featuring Han Han part of the same series:
Here you have the same 谓/畏 wordplay, this time introducing the phrase 正能量, a phrase popular among the kids which can’t be translated literally, and is used to mean something like “positive attitude.”
I think this is going to be one of Shanghai’s shortest springs ever; we’re practically going straight from winter to summer. And advertisers know it; I saw this ad for skin whitening cream on the Metro the other day:
What struck me about this ad was not the amount of English, but rather the diversity of its usage in the ad:
1. Olay: a famous brand name, untranslated. (This is kind of a ballsy move in China, but some companies do it.)
2. White Radiance: the product’s English name. This is probably mostly for aesthetic effect and symmetry of design.
3. 小S: a name. Yes, her Chinese name is 小S. It might not be her real name, but it’s her name.
4. VS: a term used pretty often in Chinese, appreciated for its simplicity and compact nature. (In Chinese, you spell it out: V-S.)
5. PK: a Chinese verb (derived from “player kill”) popular among the young internet-savvy folk, referring to some type of elimination competition.
The less interesting part is the actual content of the ad. It’s trying to get people to go to a website and vote for the star they think is whiter. Ugh.
You may have heard of Sa Dingding before. Shanghaiist wrote about her a long time ago, and fans of “world music” will have known about her for quite some time. As I understand it, she’s only recently been catching on in China in a big way, which is how I was introduced to her music by a Chinese friend.
> Sa Dingding is a singer and musician born in Inner Mongolia. She sings in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Lagu, and Mandarin, and also in a self-created language. She plays several instruments, including the zheng, the Chinese drum, Chinese gong, and horse-head fiddle. Inspirations include Buddhism and Dyana Yoga.
You can see why Sa Dingding is an artist that might appeal to linguists! Her unique style is a great example of Chinese creativity, as well.
Her most popular song is 《万物生》 (Alive in English). Here it is in Mandarin [Youku video]:
And here is 《万物生》 in Sanskrit:
If you’re in China, all of Sa Dingding’s music is available for free online from Google.cn music: 萨顶顶 (if only Google would properly ID3tag it!).
You’ll also note that most sources write Sa Dingding’s name as “Sa Ding Ding.” I find this interesting. You don’t write “Deng Xiao Ping” or “Zhang Zi Yi.” The surname is capitalized, and the given name is written as one word, also capitalized. Do people feel that a given name with a reduplicated character must be written so that each syllable is also exactly duplicated?
A friend of mine is supposed to interview Yao Ming next weekend here in Shanghai. The Yao Ming.
He’s a famous guy, so I can understand if she feels a little nervous about interviewing him. Since I have a lot of experience in China and being tall, I thought I’d help her out a bit. These are the questions tall people love to be asked that she can ask Yao Ming:
1. How tall are you?
2. Do you play basketball?
3. What size shoe do you wear?
4. How’s the weather up there?
(Well, 3 out of 4 is not bad.)
I know what you’re thinking: those are the exact same questions we’d ask a non-Chinese tall guy! Amazing, isn’t it? Some facets of human nature know no cultural bounds.
I visited Xitang in 2002. It was a little less famous then; it hadn’t even started charging admission for entrance through its gates. It was just one of many charming little water towns in Zhejiang Province, but it especially appealed to foreign and domestic tourists. The town was more than happy to accept the increasing tourism.
When Tom Cruise came to China to film Mission Impossible 3, part of the movie was filmed in Xitang. Xitang closed down for the filming. It had hit the big time.
One of my co-workers visited Xitang recently. He said its rustic charm is now “enhanced” by the posters of Tom Cruise everywhere. Curious, I had to do a search. This is what I found:
So now Xitang is “that little water town with pictures of Tom Cruise all over it.” This doesn’t bother me; it just amuses me somewhat. Things change, but everyone still just wants to make a buck.
Thank you, Andy Lau (刘德华), for one of the funniest Chinese music videos I have ever seen. Greg and I witnessed this amazing recording of a live concert while lunching at the “Kowloon Ice House” in Zhongshan Park’s “Cloud Nine” (龙之梦) mall. A search on YouTube turned up nothing, but thankfully the Tudou.com results had a clip of the exact video we watched:
For those of you too lazy or too foolish to watch that clip, let me recap the hilarity contained therein:
1. Andy Lau is wearing a white cowboy hat and a wifebeater-blouse.
2. The song is a Cantonese version of “I Hate Myself for Loving You” called 我恨我痴心 (literally, “I Hate My Infatuation”).
Well, that’s all, really. It’s funny.
Oh, and just in case you need it, there’s also a karaoke version of 我恨我痴心 set to random boy/girl scenes that have absolutely nothing to do with the song.
And now for something completely vapid: Chinese girl pop stars!
I was bored, surfing around on Baidu, as I sometimes do, and I stumbled across this Baidu ranking of female pop stars. The ranking is assigned by searches, and each star is linked to photos, discussions, and “星闻” (a pun on 星 and 新闻, meaning “star news”). It even keeps track of changes in the rankings.
I immediately noted two things about the list. First, I knew a whole lot fewer of the stars than I expected to. I mean, I don’t exactly immerse myself in Chinese pop culture, but I thought I would know most of the top ten. I found that I only knew four of them by name. Second, the list is quite different from the recent list of China’s 50 Most Beautiful People. This is to be expected; the lists had different standards, after all. Or, one actually had standards, I should say. But it’s interesting to compare anyway.
First, though, for purely educational purposes, I present you with Baidu’s top ten:
刘亦菲. I had seen this girl everywhere in advertising around Shanghai, and had no idea who she was. Apparently this 20-year-old is pretty popular these days (#1 on Baidu, anyway). She has a movie called 五月之恋 (“Love of May”) which you can watch in its entirety on YouTube (Chinese only).
蔡依林 is a Taiwanese pop star I’ve written about before. She’s managed to stay popular for quite a while. There are karaoke-style videos of hers on YouTube as well, such as the video for Love, Love, Love. (I hope you have a strong stomach if you’re thinking of clicking on that link.) She was so much cooler when she was dating Jay Chou (周杰伦).
李宇春. Anyone living in China should know this face. She won the “Supergirl” singing contest last year. I’m not going to say anything bad about her ever again because her fans are crazy. They will crush me. You can find her on YouTube as well.
汤加丽. I don’t know anything about this woman and I’m too lazy to search. She’s only #4, after all. Judging by her photos on Baidu, though, I’m guessing she’s popular because she does nudes. (Sorry, guys, she’s not on YouTube.)
S.H.E. #5 is a trick, because it’s actually three girls. (No one ever said Baidu was smart.) This is a girl band you’re likely to know if you’ve lived in China any length of time. They’re well known for that Superstar song, and currently annoying everyone on the Shanghai subway as their cutesy girl antics are played on the video screens ad nauseum. Surprise, surprise… there are tons of their videos on YouTube.
张娜拉. I have no idea who this girl is, but I did just enough research to discover that she’s Korean, her “real name” is Jang Nara, and she’s on YouTube.
林志玲, who goes by the crazy moniker of Lin Chih Ling in Taiwan, seems to be unable to wear a bikini and stand up, causing her to just roll around on the ground in a giddy delirium. Those so inclined can do more research on this intriguing woman on YouTube.
张含韵. I once posted a video of hers on ChinesePod without even knowing her name for sure. Now I know her name, but still find myself distinctly apathetic about the details of this young woman’s life. She is #8. Run along to YouTube, lads. If her video for “ai ya ya” is any indication, she wants to cute you to death.
林心如. This Taiwanese actress has been popular for a while, it seems. I know she’s been trying to steal my roommate’s heart back away from Zhang Ziyi for some time, anyway. You can find her on TubeYou, or whatever that site was called.
张韶涵 is our #10. Knowing absolutely nothing about this girl, I can still tell you two things: (1) she is annoying, and (2) she is on YouTube.
OK, that’s Baidu’s top 10. The full list has 50. Some major differences between it and the women of the “50 most beautiful people list”:
1. Zhang Ziyi, #4 on “Most Beautiful” is #36 on Baidu’s list. OK, so Chinese guys like her a lot less than American guys, but they don’t hate her (unless maybe their girlfriends are around).
2. Zhang Manyu (Maggie Cheung), #1 on the “Most Beautiful” list, is #46 on Baidu’s list. (I’m guessing that’s because she’s old.)
3. Neither Li Bingbing nor Zhou Xun, placing #17 and #23 on “Most Beautiful,” respectively, place on Baidu. I found that kind of strange, because I thought they’re both somewhat popular still. (Too last year?)
4. Liu Yifei, #1 on Baidu’s list, placed 13 on the “Most Beautiful” list.
5. Lin Zhiling, Baidu’s #7, is #26 on the “Most Beautiful” list.
6. Shu Qi is #15 on the “Most Beautiful” list and #21 on Baidu’s list.
7. Wang Fei (Faye Wong) is #18 on both lists.
8. Zhang Baizhi (Cecilia Cheung), always popular, placed #13 on Baidu and #25 on the other.
I could go on and find some more overlap, but there’s not much point. A handful of stars aside, the lists are significantly different. It’s almost as if the young male crowd thronging to China’s internet cafes and using Baidu prefers young, pretty girls, regardless of talent!
If you do search for Zhang Ziyi on Youtube, you’ll find quite a few commercials. As I see it, this is good for Ziyi fans as well as those interested in either learning Chinese or seeing Chinese commercials. (Unfortunately, some have no audio.)
Here are some of the commercials featuring Zhang Ziyi to be found on Youtube:
This is a picture of Kitano Takeshi (北野武), AKA “Beat Takeshi.” (I always find his Chinese name, Běiyě Wǔ, surreally different from his Japanese name.) My syntax teacher looks a lot like this guy, except for having smile lines around his eyes instead of Takeshi’s perpetual mask of indifference. They seem to share a love of the cigarette.
So sometimes when I’m listening to a lecture on Chinese syntax, my teacher’s visage sends my mind back to a scene in Hanabi, or images of a gangster hanging out with a little boy in Kikujiro. Except instead of spitting out tough guy talk, he’s outlining how the latest cognitive linguistics research affects our understanding of phrase structure. Then he cracks one of his bizarre jokes, and those smile lines seize his face once again, shattering the illusion completely.
I like my teacher, but I’m really not so into Chinese syntax theory. Somehow, though, Takeshi’s Chinese doppelganger helps get me through those classes.
A recent post by Micah reminded me about this guy Li Yong (李咏). Before I followed Micah’s link to the NY Times article on Li Yong, I didn’t even know who Li Yong was, but upon seeing the picture accompanying the story, I was all, “Oh, that guy!”
This guy is extremely familiar to those of us who have lived in China for long because he has hosted quite a few of CCTV’s Chinese New Year Craptaculars (春节联欢晚会) in recent years. If you watch a lot of Chinese TV (I sure don’t), I suppose you might know him from other programs as well. He’s immediately recognizable because of his long hair and often weird clothing. I don’t really have any feelings about the guy one way or another. Really, all I wanted to know was his name. When a face becomes that familiar, it’s good to have a name to go with it.
Finally, a question for those with more native-like Chinese than my own. Is 咏 a really weird character to use for a name or what? When I started searching for a pic of the guy based on just the pinyin (no tone), I needed to guess at the characters, and I figured “Yong” was probably either 勇 or 庸 (like 朱德庸). I had to change tactics because none of my guesses were right. 咏?? 咏 means to recite or chant or something. Is this not a bizarre choice of characters for a name?
So last night I saw Jackie Chan’s new movie The Myth at the theater. I wanted to see it despite not even really knowing anything about it, which only seems silly to me in retrospect. I’ll admit I was fooled by the movie posters. The movie wanted very much to be another “Chinese epic” in the tradition of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero. That much is obvious simply in the movie posters. Chump that I am, I was even fooled into thinking this was Jackie Chan playing a serious role in a movie. Actually, maybe I was just lured in by the inclusion of (hot) Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat.
The truth is the movie was a cross between a typical Jackie Chan movie and the “Chinese epic” (or at least an attempt at one). Both fell short, and the fusion kind of flopped. It still had its entertaining elements, though.
Some points I found interesting:
– The scene in the “rat glue” factory was awesome. I was of the opinion that Jackie Chan hasn’t been coming up with very innovative new action scenes for a while now, but this one was extremely well done.
– Malika Sherawat and the whole India sequence seemed totally unnecessary. The whole depiction of India seemed pretty stereotypical to me, but I can’t say I’m exactly sure what stereotypes the Chinese/Hong Kongnese apply to India or how an Indian would feel about the way India was portrayed in the movie. I guess the whole India bit was all just to show off Malika Sherawat and capitalize on Bollywood’s popularity? It was worth it in the “rat glue” scene.
– I watched the movie in Mandarin Chinese, and it was pretty easy to understand (except for a few parts in the “ancient China” scenes). What I found weird, though, was how they chose to use (Chinese) subtitles in some parts, but just had people speaking Chinese in other parts. For example, in the opening sequence, the princess speaks Korean and it’s subtitled. Later, foreigners working for a research company all speak Chinese (they were clearly dubbed). Jackie speaks in an Indian language with a guard in a temple in India (and it’s subtitled), but the rest of the time in India the Indians all speak (dubbed) Chinese.
– The violence in Jackie Chan’s movies has traditionally been pretty slapstick. It gets pretty bloody in this one, particularly in the ancient China flashbacks. Looks like Jackie is abandoning his principles for a piece of the “China epic” pie?
The last point deserves to be made in its own paragraph rather than just a bullet. It’s a rather weird point to make, and I’m not sure how many would agree with me here. But here goes. The bad guy in The Myth, played by actor Zhou Sun, looks like an older, Chinese version of Joey from Friends (actor Matt LeBlanc). No joke! You know, in the same way that Koizumi looks like a Japanese Richard Gere. I’m not just all talk, though. I have photos for comparison purposes! See if you can pick out who is who! (Warning: bad facial hair ahead!)
Quiz: Joey or Zhou?
If you can’t figure out who is who, you can e-mail me for the answers. I hope you guys agree that they look alike. Last time I suggested a Chinese model looked like Katie Holmes, I didn’t get a lot of support. I know this Caucasian-Asian lookalike phenomenon is real, though, thanks to the incontrovertible Koizumi-Gere case.
I hate celebrity gossip. I think it’s the stupidest thing. Why should we care about that stuff?? What bugs me the most is when I realize I am actually somewhat following it. I don’t want to, I don’t mean to… how does it happen?? I find it even more ludicrous that Chinese people sometimes also follow the celebrity gossip of Hollywood stars. Yeah, I shouldn’t be surprised, in this age of international media… but still. It’s ridiculous.
Last night I accidentally got involved in a celebrity gossip chat with my girlfriend. Argh! (Disclaimer:neither of us really knows what we’re talking about here, so if we’re wrong… ummm… so what??)
> Me: Oh yeah, you saw that already… You didn’t like it, right?
> Her: Right. I just can’t believe he would do that to his girlfriend. I feel so sorry for her…
> Me: Huh?
> Her: You know, how he left her for that other woman…
> Me: (realizing what she’s talking about) Oh! You mean…
> Her: Yeah! Peter!
> Me: Haha… Not “Peter”… It’s “Pitt!” Brad Pitt!
> Her: Right… he left that one girl for the woman in this movie.
> Me: Oh, right. He left his wife Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie.
> Her: Right. Because of this movie!
> Me: So you don’t like it because you don’t like him.
> Her: Right.
> Me: OK, I guess that decides that…
> Her: Which one would you choose if you were Brad Pitt?
> Me: (suddenly sensing very dangerous ground) Ummm…
> Her: I think I would choose Angelina Jolie. She’s younger and sexier.
> Me: (relieved) Yeah, me too.
> Her: Men always go for the younger woman. Like Tom Cruise.
> Me: Yeah.
> Her: I think they’re kind of a cute couple.
> Me: What?? Why don’t you hate Tom Cruise? He did the same thing that Brad Pitt did. He was married to Nicole Kidman, and then he did a movie with Penelope Cruz and divorced his wife. And he didn’t even stay with Penelope Cruz long!
> Her: Oh, really?
> Me: Yeah! And plus he’s crazy!
> Her: He is?
> Me: Yeah, you haven’t heard?
> Her: I heard that he and his girlfriend are having some troubles. One reason is that it’s Tom Cruise’s third wedding and he wants to keep it small and simple, but his girlfriend would like her wedding to be a big affair.
> Me: Hmmm.
> Her: The other is that her family is Catholic, and one time when Tom Cruise was talking to her father, he got in a big argument with him over religion. It almost came to blows! You know, because Tom Cruise is in that one religion… science something sect… [科学-什么-派]
> Me: Oh yeah… [“Scientology”]. (I had no idea what that was in Chinese)
> Her: So Tom Cruise is really crazy?
> Me: So it seems. There are all sorts of clips documenting it on the internet. Wanna see?
> Her: OK.
Celebrity Names in Chinese (absolutely worthless — don’t learn these!):
– Brad Pitt: 布莱德·彼特/皮特 (His last name in Chinese sounds like a transliteration of the English name “Peter,” so he gets called “Peter” a lot by the Chinese.)
– Tom Cruise: 汤姆·克鲁斯
– Angelina Jolie: 安吉利娜·茱丽 (Characters vary somewhat. Why didn’t they just use 周丽 for her last name??)
– Jennifer Aniston: 珍妮佛·安妮斯顿
– Katie Holmes: 凯蒂·霍尔姆斯 (This one was slightly harder to find.)
“Scientology” in Chinese (could potentially result in some interesting conversations and/or jokes!): 科学论派 (literally: “science theory sect”)
Micah is also a big fan of Murakami. He recently brought to my attention that the new novel Kafka on the Shore has been translated into Chinese and been for sale already for some time. Hardcore fan that he is, Micah read it in Chinese. The English translation is now out.
The difference in publication dates made me wonder why. Was it a quality issue? Does Murakami value his English-reading audience more than his Chinese-reading audience? Or maybe it’s because Murakami can actually read the English version? I’m not sure if authors approve translations in cases like that. I’m a little curious about all this.
This rash of Murakami links came about when I checked out what Murakami-tagged bookmarks people have in del.icio.us. In a weird coincidence, I also found a short story by Murakami called Tony Takitani involving Shanghai (briefly).
Finally, if all this has interested you in the least, you may be interested in my own contribution to the Murakami links: a Chinese wiki of Murakami’s works. Titles are given as published in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Japan, which yields some interesting differences if you dig that sort of thing.
In my last entry I wrote about Wednesday’s concert and I said that the band I liked the best was 花儿 (the Flowers). Since writing that post I have gone out and bought their latest CD and given it a good listen. What to say? Hmmm…
At the concert, Flowers was certainly the band with the most energy and enthusiasm. They have quite a few fast-paced songs. I haven’t heard their earlier stuff, but listening to this new CD, I think it would be a mistake to think of this band as “punk,” even if it’s only in the most poppy adolescent bubble gum way, like Sum-41 or MXPX. The music on the new CD, 我是你的罗密欧 (“I’m your Romeo”), could probably be best described as fast-paced pop, with some sappy ballads thrown in as well for that broader appeal (the Chinese are all about the ballad).
The article Brad linked to mentioned that the Flowers have toned their sound way down in order to make more money. I don’t suppose I can begrudge them that. This is a group of Chinese kids without much education who are making a living on their music (although it’s questionable how much of the music is really “theirs” now). That’s pretty impressive. In part, the music takes me back to high school, going to $4 punk shows put on by high school bands like Speed the Minnow. Speed the Minnow definitely rocked a little harder, though. (They also didn’t make any money or sell out, which is probably why the band no longer exists.)
Forgetting the whole ideal of “Chinese punk” for a second, I think that if the Flowers are simply a small part of a trend toward faster paced music, it’s progress of some kind. (No modern society’s music can stall in “ballad mode” forever, right? RIGHT?!?)
My favorite song on the CD is definitely “陪你去“. It’s probably the “hardest” of anything on the CD. The song is basically a fun little ghost story. The funny thing is, before looking at the lyrics I had thought the singer was saying “over and over again” but according to the lyric sheet he’s saying, “apparition apparition creep.” Nope, I can’t hear that at all.
So I think it’s safe to say I was a little disappointed by the CD, although in retrospect, this is probably exactly what I should have expected. What was most shocking was the photos decorating the CD. Allow me to give you a progression.
An older picture of the Flowers (during their “punker” days, I imagine):
The Flowers as we saw them at their latest show, more or less:
The Flowers as they appear on their latest CD (and these pictures aren’t the worst ones):
Do I even need to suggest where this frightening trend is going…??
(Note the pants on boy-o in the blue there. …shudder…)
Ever since he wrote to me, I’ve been in communication with Mark Rowswell (AKA Dashan) via e-mail. Well, this past weekend he came to Shanghai to shoot a few commercials, so we got together for a chat.
As a public figure, he really has to watch his image, and there’s a lot he doesn’t talk about publicly. It was really interesting, then, to meet Mark and hear some of his opinions. We talked about a range of topics, including English education in China, the meaning of the recent loss of the Stanley Cup to Canada (go Tampa Bay! — I guess), what it was like to be a student in Beijing in 1989, and running a website (he manages his site and all its content all on his own).
I spoke with him on the set of his commercial in between shots. I have to say that observing the shooting of a commercial is both interesting and very boring. Once is enough. I’d hate to have to do it to pay the bills.
After the commercial he treated my girlfriend and me to dinner. I never would have guessed where he wanted to eat — Malone’s! It’s quite the expat hangout, and although it’s not the cheapest, the burgers are really good.
I was also curious if he was going to be recognized as we walked the streets of Shanghai. He wasn’t, for the most part, although I did hear some of the staff whispering as we went into Malone’s, “isn’t that Dashan??”
Anyway, it was good to meet someone so high profile and yet so poorly understood as Mark. We also discussed some small projects we may be collaborating on in the future. Stay tuned.
I’m still getting over jetlag and don’t feel like writing much. Instead, I’ll share this little qipao gallery of some of China’s famous female stars. (Note that there are 4 pages in all; the links to the other pages are at the bottom of the pages.) Notably absent is Gong Li. Also, page one is not the best of the lot.
I don’t explore these Chinese portals very much, but I was kinda surprised by some of the content put online when the media are “controlled” and the government tries to always keep a wholesome image. Some of the ones I’m talking about are the “leisure” section’s Christy Chungfeature (quite bizarre, and revealing), the creative bust cover-up feature, and the Maxim gallery (gee, I wonder if Maxim’s getting those royalties…).
What’s the strategy here? Give people just enough of what they’re looking for on Chinese sites so they don’t go elsewhere and discover the immense wealth of information (AKA “porn”) out there on non-Chinese sites?
Seems to be.
Update: Micah in the comments has pointed out a similar gallery which has better, higher res images. Very nice.