I’m kind of used to Baidu copying almost every initiative that Google comes out with, so it’s always interesting to see what Baidu does that’s consciously different from Google’s way. One such thing is Baidu Images. You’re probably used to Google’s search-centric approach. While you can search for images on Baidu too, Baidu takes a much more curated, discovery-based approach to the home page.
Check out this screenshot:
Oh, also there are lots of pictures of pretty girls. No matter what you search for. Apparently that’s just a Baidu thing.
But also, there’s this “动漫” section now (indicated by the red arrow at the top). If you click on that, you get some kind of manga/anime directory at the top (I didn’t really look at this much):
But then if you keep scrolling down, you get an endless collection of Chinese comics! This is kind of cool. Here’s just a tiny selection:
I’m not sure if the people in this picture are Chinese, but I found it through Baidu Images:
This reminded me of a similar funny photo I’d seen before. Turns out there are quite a few, if you look. Here’s one gallery, and another with more photos, and of a more international nature (but also more NSFW).
In the past couple months, Baidu has been accused of a lot more than just indexing copyrighted music that’s already online. The alleged sins include:
– Bullying other sites to take down any negative publicity about Baidu (the implicit threat: taking a big fall in Baidu’s rankings if you don’t comply)
– Using superior technology to secretly host the MP3 files it indexes and hide the evidence
– Moving files from server to server to “comply” with take-down demands while the MP3s stay comfortably downloadable from Baidu’s index
Two nice pop culture references there, but interested in Chinese onomatopoeia as I am, I can’t help but fixate on the Street Fighter sound effect label: 欧由根. This especially amuses me because I remember when I was playing Street Fighter II in high school, my friends and I could never quite agree on what the heck Ryu was saying. We always thought it was something like “Har-yookin,” but apparently at least some of the Chinese hear it as “oh-yoogun.”
For those of you who have no idea of what I’m talking about, or only a very fuzzy recollection, this video, taken directly from the Street Fighter II video game, has plenty of sound bites for you:
Anyway, curious, I Baidu’d the phrase and, on a page about 我们丫丫吧, found some interesting stuff. I couldn’t help trying to decipher these:
– 欧由根: the classic shoryuken in the illustration above (see 0:11, 0:12, and countless other places in the video)
– 啊卢给: Hmmm, either it’s a hadouken (0:08), or it’s someone else’s move. (Anyone…?)
– 加加不绿根: the hurricane kick (0:54)?
If you’re Chinese and you used to play Street Fighter II, I’d love to hear what you used to hear the characters saying.
Those of us that learn Mandarin according to the Beijing standard typically learn the expression 二百五 pretty early. While it seems to be the innocent number “250,” it actually has a slang meaning: “stupid” or “idiot.”
Zhao Wei: 十三点
Those of us spending time in China’s south eventually come to a realization: you don’t hear 二百五 that much around here. What you do hear, especially in Shanghai, is 十三点 (“13 o’clock”). While it means basically the same thing as the north’s 二百五, it’s milder, often approaching something more like “silly” or “dopey” (in Chinese, 傻得可爱, or “cutely silly”).
Interestingly, Baidu Zhidao even gives us a poster child for the 十三点 look: a character once played by actress Zhao Wei (赵薇).
Baidu tells us that when it’s used between two people of the opposite sex, it’s often used in flirting (and most often comes out of the girl’s mouth).
As for origins of the expression, Baidu Zhidao gives us two main theories:
1. It’s a reference to an illegal move in a gambling game (6 and 7 can’t be played at the same time, and they add up to 13)
2. It’s a reference to an hour that traditional clocks do not strike (no military time back then!)
13 o’clock: the shirt!
I thought 十三点 might be a fun thing to put on a shirt (more fun than “250” anyway), so I made this new one. I think it’s the kind of thing that laowai would enjoy wearing to see what kind of reaction it gets out of the Chinese, whereas the Chinese can’t fathom why a foreigner would possibly want to wear a shirt with that on it. (Good times all around!)
The Sinosplice shop has other conversation-starting Chinese-themed t-shirts.
>This time google.cn appears to do much better than Baidu. But if we look closely at the top 20 search results, we’ll find there are 7 results at google.com and 5 results at google.cn that direct us to Web sites that use traditional Chinese characters, which are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and by the overseas Chinese community.
> It can be rather challenging for the mainland Chinese to read traditional Chinese, though they can understand most of the message. Nonetheless, this mix of simplified and traditional Characters is not the most user-friendly approach. Verdict: Baidu wins.
I was somewhat surprised by this conclusion. While it’s true that reading simplified characters is more comfortable for the average mainland Chinese citizen, one would think that breadth of search counts for something. If, for example, I’m doing a search on a Taiwanese politician, I’m likely going to want to see articles from Taiwan (which will be in traditional characters). I also know for a fact that many of my Chinese friends prize very highly information sources from Hong Kong or Taiwan.
I’m not saying the author is wrong in his conclusion, though. I think that the Chinese people I hang out with are a rather international-minded bunch. I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Also, while the whole subprime thing is not at all a favorite conversation topic of mine, when I hear it referred to in Chinese, it’s usually by the abbreviated name 次贷. The search numbers for this term are a bit different:
– Baidu: 6,940,000 results (compared to 1,050,000)
– Google.com: 2,180,000 results (compared to 387,000)
– Google.cn: 2,220,000 results (compared to 1,540,000)
Clearly, searching for 次贷 gives Baidu a clear advantage. I realize perhaps the author was trying to go for the “translation feel” in his search results, but it’s interesting to see the results of the same search “with Chinese linguistic characteristics.”
On Thursday I noticed three kinds of Trojan condom ads in the subway car I was riding*, and I’d never seen Trojan ads on the subway before. Trojan is getting into the market a bit late; the dominant foreign company is Durex.
What interested me was the content of the ads. One of them was a long horizontal ad which read 不只是神话…… (“it’s not just a myth”). Another was a rectangular ad which briefly recounted in both Chinese and English the Trojan War story, focusing on Helen’s role as the motivation for the war. The last was on the subway door, and it was a 9-by-9 grid of the Trojan condom logo in various colors. None of the ads contained anything about condoms or safe sex, with the exception of the inclusion of the Trojan China website: trojancondoms.cn (which only clues you in if you know English).
[I don’t think I misremembered it, but that URL gives me “Bad Request (Invalid Hostname),” and none of my searches (Google, Baidu) turned up a Trojan condoms Chinese website. “Trojan Condoms” is 特洛伊安全套 or 特洛伊避孕套, depending on which word for “condom” you like. Most of my searches did turn up this video on Chinese YouTube clones, which is pretty funny, but NSFW and not for kids.]
I know the Trojan subway ads could be a marketing tactic, but it doesn’t seem at all compelling. I doubt the typical Chinese commuter knows what Trojan makes, or will connect any of the ads with condoms, and they’re not interesting enough to get people asking what they’re for. So… What’s the point? I really wonder if Trojan knows what it’s doing in China.
A: They all have the Chinese name 黄雪, which in English means “Yellow Snow.” (Comedic gold, this is!) The surname Huang is fairly common, and it’s not unusual for girls’ names to include the character 雪.
If you want to see more Chinese yellow snow, you can do a Baidu search for 黄雪. Unfortunately, the term more often seems to refer to snow in northern China (and Korea) that mixes with the yellow dust. Not as funny.
Thanks to John B for bringing this Chinese name to my attention!
Micah has an interesting post on some of the factors that come into play when translating a foreign movie title into Chinese for mainland viewers. In the entry he talks about the titles of the following movies:
– The Host (Korean)
– Pirates of the Caribbean
– Night at the Museum
– The Devil Wears Prada
– Casino Royale
Micah tells us that the Chinese name of the creature in The Host is 魊. Hoping to see what a 魊 supposedly looks like, I searched for an image of it on Baidu. Although page 2 of those search results seems to suggest that the creature looks like Maggie Cheung, I didn’t really get my answer. However, I did end up discovering a site I didn’t know about: CnMDB.com. Yet another Chinese site shamelessly ripping off a successful foreign website. (Yawn.)
Note that the IMDb page has no ads (in this selection), way more movie pictures, and uses a romanized version of the Korean name.
OK, I’ll admit it. I like some Christmas songs. Not so much “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as some of the more traditional ones. So I get a kick out of hearing these songs sung in Chinese. Thinking that some of you may feel the same way (you all seemed to really enjoy the Hakka Jingle Bells song), I decided to put together an album of Chinese Christmas music.
This album contains secular kids’ classics like “Jingle Bells” as well as religious classics like “What Child is This.” Some songs sound like they are sung by a church choir, while others are more playful. Some of the songs’ sound quality is good, while others’ are abysmally low. The melodies are familiar, but the lyrics are all in Chinese. Oh, yes. You need this to make your Christmas complete.
1. Jingle Bells
2. We Wish You a Merry Christmas
3. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
4. Silent Night
5. The First Noel
6. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
7. What Child Is This
8. Joy to the World
9. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
10. Jingle Bells
11. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
12. Silent Night
13. Joy to the World
[The sharper among you may have noticed that some of the songs towards the end repeat. That’s because there are multiple versions of some of the same songs.]
I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t find Chinese versions of “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” or “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” but I suppose these will do.
From time to time I search for random things using Baidu’s MP3 search. Sometimes I find interesting things, such as Buddhist songs. My most recent interesting find has been Bible stories in Chinese.
One of the Bible stories turned up in a search. I listened to it and rather enjoyed it, and noticed that the filename used a simple numerical progression. I fired up my download manager, and a little while later I had downloaded all 150 Old Testament Bible stories. Based on the filenames of the ones I had, it was easy to guess what the filenames of New Testament Bible stories would be. Pretty soon I had all 120 of those as well. Only later did it even occur to me to check out the site they all came from: www.jdty.com.
That website only lets you download them one by one, but it does have names for all of them, which the filenames don’t. The MP3 files there don’t have any ID3 tags at all. I copied the filenames into a simple index file, then used a program called MP3tag to edit the MP3s’ ID3 tags, giving each MP3 file a title, track number, etc. (That way when you play them on your media player or MP3 player you can see the names of the individual stories.)
Based on the message in the footer, jdtjy.com is not the owner of the copyright for the files. Still, I can’t see any anyone getting upset about me re-releasing these MP3 files in a bulk download, so here they are, until I’m told it’s not kosher:
I think these Bible Stories are really useful listening practice for many Westerners with a Judeo-Christian background. A lot of us grew up hearing these Bible stories, but we may not have heard them recently. Still, when you listen to these MP3s, you have a context, and you can likely figure out which Bible story you’re listening to even if you have no clues besides “Old Testament” (which is how I started out listening to them). That context really helps you fill in any vocabulary or comprehension gaps. It also forces you to learn to recognize the Chinese names of familiar characters such as Jacob, Moses, Abraham, Joseph, etc.
Despite having that familiar context, what makes these Bible stories so interesting to me personally is what’s different. There’s melodramatic music in every episode, and the storytellers took some liberties with the way the stories were told. In doing so, they injected a healthy dose of Chinese culture. Just listen to the way Mary talks to baby Jesus, or the way the Israelites argue with Aaron over creating the golden calf. And then of course, there’s the fun of hearing the voice of God in Chinese, or Abraham sounding like an old Chinese man. To me, it’s just really entertaining.
Download away! If you just want to hear one or two before you download them in bulk, you can download one or two from the jdtjy.com site first. Oh, and if you’re looking for a Chinese Christmas Story, it’s #005 and #006 (in the New Testament, of course).
Note: These are big files. I figure I can handle the load because (1) probably not too many people are going to download them, and (2) Dreamhost gives me a ridiculous amount of bandwidth, of which I use up approximately 0% every month. If bandwidth does become a problem, I might have to figure out how to set up a torrent…
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!
I have just returned from yet another visit home. I no longer have many reverse culture shock experiences (e.g. the cliché “Americans are so fat” one), but I notice lots of little things. This is how I measure the growing disconnect between modern American culture and me. Here are some of my observations from my last visit:
– Having lived in China for so long, I no longer like sweets as much as I used to. I find myself somewhat repulsed by the ubiquitous sugary goodies, and I have to carefully space the ones I want to enjoy if I want to stomach them.
– I no longer want pizza when I go home. Between Papa John’s, Hello Pizza, and New York Pizza (Jing An Temple), I’ve got all my pizza needs covered in Shanghai, with a satisfactory array of styles and prices. The same goes for pretty much all fast food.
– I have zero interest in American TV anymore. Anything that’s good will come to China on DVD. (Same goes for movies, unless there’s something really new that I want to see.)
– My parents’ ADSL connection was often slower than my connection in Shanghai. I know it’s partly because my parents’ connection isn’t very good, but still… how sad.
– White girls get hotter every time I go home. (Also Hispanic girls, black girls, etc.)
– Life is hard without an ayi. (Oh, China, you have spoiled me rotten.)
– Americans complain about the cost of real estate, but many homes in Florida are actually cheaper than homes in Shanghai.
– The last couple days of my visits are always characterized by frantic shopping trips for friends in China. I’m getting better at remembering all the people I should shop for, and even getting better at figuring out good presents to buy. (More on this soon.)
While I was home, I pretty much only heard mainstream music. Two songs stood out: Ridin’ by Chamillionaire (what a stupid name, but I can’t help loving this song) and SOS by Rihanna (good use of the Tainted Love beat). And what do you know… both can be found through Baidu (here’s how).
I’d been telling my girlfriend that we’d do karaoke sometime soon ever since Valentine’s Day, and last night I finally made good on that promise. We showed up at “PartyWorld” (AKA 錢櫃) at 11:45pm, and, thrifty young souls that we are, waited around for fifteen minutes for the hourly rate to drop from 158rmb to 58rmb.
I, of course, abhor karaoke. I can’t sing, and I don’t particular enjoy proving that to the world, even when “the world” in Asian style karaoke means only the other people in the private karaoke box with you. My girlfriend is a good singer, though, and she doesn’t like much crappy pop, so I don’t mind going to karaoke with just her. She sings, I eat. (If drinking happens to be on the agenda, I sometimes end up singing.)
So I’ll just mention here a few songs I found noteworthy. Most of them are not new at all.
– 嘻唰唰 by 花儿乐队 (Flowers) (click for Baidu MP3 search). I’ve written about this poppy punky band before, but they’ve caught my attention again. The title of this song could be another entry in the onomatopeia vocabulary list, and the fun immaturity of the song reminds me of Leather Jacket by Screeching Weasel (but not nearly as punk). In keeping with the sound suggested by the song’s title, the band was dressed as window washers in the video. This song is currently one of the most popular titles at PartyWorld.
– 完美的一天 by 孙燕姿 (Stephanie Sun) (click for Baidu MP3 search). This song really reminded me of a lot of Japanese pop I’ve heard, maybe a little like something by Chara. I guess it’s largely the rhythm that makes it seem like a nice change from a lot of Chinese pop. The video also struck me as Japanese-esque, with the singer being pushed through a supermarket in a shopping cart, and later hanging out with a giant inflatable leaning Astro Boy on the beach.
– Phonebook by 林凡. 林凡 is a decent singer I guess. I wasn’t totally paying attention, but I think in this song she’s brooding about friends and lovers from the past, and she has found an old notebook with names and numbers of those people. The thing is, she calls this book a “phonebook.” So while she’s earnestly crooning about these former relationships, she suddenly busts out with the English line, “IT’S AN OLD PHONEBOOK” (which is in all caps on the screen, of course). So amidst all this mushy nostaglia, I get this image of an old phonebook like the one we used to keep next to the microwave in the kitchen shoved in my face. Awesome.
I’m still no fan of (sober) karaoke, but I gotta say, it’s a lot more tolerable when it’s just the two of us and I have some veto power. It was also a refreshing musical smack in the face, considering all I’ve been listening to for the past few days is I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning.
About a year ago I presented a Hakka version of Jingle Bells and a lot of people enjoyed it. I thought this year I’d share another Chinese take on the Christmas classics. This time it’s a band called Cookies (曲奇) singing in Cantonese (so to me it sounds almost as bizarre as the Hakka song). You have to listen to a bit of Canto-pop before they get into it, but at the 1:26 mark they start singing to the tune of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” followed immediately by “Jingle Bells,” then “Joy to the World,” “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” “Deck the Halls,” “Come All Ye Faithful,” “Silent Night,” and finally “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (don’t be alarmed when they only slip into English briefly during those last two). It all has a very bizarre Canto-pop hyperactive feel to it.
You can find and download the song easily through Baidu; just follow this 曲奇圣诞歌 search link, then either click on one of the 试听 (“listen first”) links, or click on one of the song titles and then download the song from the MP3 link on the new page.
While I’m at it, I thought I’d throw in some Chinese Christmas flash fun as well. Check out these links (also found through Baidu):
– What do Santa Claus and a skiing alien accompanied by snow pigs have in common? Watch this “origin of Santa Claus” cartoon to find out.
– Chinese Jingle Bells Rap. Nuff said.
– 圣诞结 (that’s someone else’s pun, not my 错别字), the most depressing Christmas song ever. It has lyrics like, “of all the people I’ve loved / not a single one is left by my side / only loneliness keeps me company throughout the night / Merry, Merry Christmas / Lonely, Lonely Christmas.” On this joyous holiday, this is a great song to remind you how miserable it makes some people. (Note that for many modern Chinese, Christmas is seen as a day to be with a boyfriend/girlfriend).
– Hit Santa with a Snowball. This game is not fun, it’s just hilarious to me because the animation is so awful and the “music” has about a 3 second loop. Well, that and the fact that you get presents out of Santa by knocking him silly with snowballs.
– Santa does Mission Impossible. And also some Chinese song covers.
I recently stumbled across this Chinese webcomic called Old Wang through Baidu. It’s an odd mix. It’s by Chinese people, about China, but in English. Not natural English. The home page makes these claims:
> The 1st English/Chinese Theme Cartoon Portal
> A Career Life Forum for the Commuting Tribe
A lot of the comics seem like an attempt at a Chinese Dilbert. But they’re not really funny, they’re just sort of… odd. And yet I found myself reading a few more of them. A representative example:
Since Google launched the Google Ads program, website design has been seriously affected. The question of “where will I put the Google Ads in my layout?” has become an important one. I’ll admit that I, too, made this a significant factor in my own redesign of this blog.
There has been a buzz for a while about Baidu starting an ad program similar to Google’s. What I’ve noticed in the past few weeks is not directly related, though… it’s the 990 pixel wide by 60 pixel high Flash ads that appear on Baidu News. There are currently no ads on the Google News front page. (The Baidu News ad is positioned at the bottom of the screenshot below.)
As I see it, these ads represent a clear departure from Google’s strategy. The ads are so large that they span the entire width of the screen, but they resize smoothly (using the fluid flash technique?) to fit 800 by 600 monitor resolution. Google’s ads are simply small (and sized absolutely), so they work at any resolution. Furthermore, Baidu’s ads are Flash, the antithesis of Google’s largely text-based ads.
It’s interesting to see Baidu leaving Google’s well-worn path occasionally and charting some new territory.
P.S. The ad is for 蒙牛 milk, which is the same company that sponsored the “Supergirl” show.
It was bound to happen. Baidu wants to be a major player and catch the world’s eye. It had its initial public offering (IPO) just last month. But when you play with the big kids, you have to play by their rules. And the big kids care about intellectual property rights. So now the world’s biggest music companies are suing Baidu.
I’ve visited quite a few Chinese Buddhist temples in my day, and those temples invariably have Buddhist music playing in the gift shop. I’m frequently somewhat attracted to that music, even though I can’t understand it. There’s just something about the chanting… the feel of it. I never liked it enough to actually buy a CD, though.
Recently I had the idea of looking for this kind of music online. Baidu’s MP3 search was the natural place to start. (See my tutorial on it if you don’t know how to use it.)
First I did a search for 佛教 歌 (buddhims, songs) in Baidu web search. I clicked on the top result (on fowang.org). Sure enough, it was a listing of Buddhist songs. They were supposed to be downloadable MP3s, but none of the links worked. No problem.
I opened a new tab and went to Baidu’s MP3 search. I copied and pasted what I deemed to be key words from the names of the songs in the fowang.org listing. I got some decent results with the following terms (click on the Chinese to see the search results):
– 佛 (Fó, Buddha)
– 阿弥陀佛 (Ēmítuófó, “Buddha preserve us.” A common refrain in Buddhist prayer, also known as Amithabha.)
– 观音 (Guānyīn, Goddess of Mercy)
– 菩萨 (Púsà, Bodhisattva)
– 经 (jīng, used in scripture/prayer names)
– 咒: 大悲咒, 大明咒, 普庵咒 (zhòu, something like “incantation,” used in the names of ceremonies)
– 梵唱 (fànchàng, Buddhist chanting)
I’m no expert on Buddhism, so if I’m off on any of these brief explanations, feel free to let me know.
Obviously, you don’t have to stick to these searches; you can find your own terms and copy and paste them into the MP3 search box, even if you can’t type Chinese. Your computer will need to support GB2312 (Simplified Chinese) encoding, however. Baidu doesn’t use Unicode.
If you can view Chinese in your browser but can’t read it, you can still download the songs that Baidu MP3 search turns up. Look for songs with a relatively large filesize (over 1 M). Rightclick, then “Save as.” You may want to rename the file when you save it.
That should give you a taste of some Chinese Buddhist music. If you like it, consider making a visit to a Chinese temple and actually buying a CD.
I think any modern student of Chinese should be using Baidu’s MP3 search. With it, it’s possible to find a huge variety of MP3s on the internet, and it’s totally free! (Yes, the world’s loss regarding intellectual property rights in China can be your gain!) I can imagine, though, that for a beginning student of Chinese, an all-Chinese interface can be daunting. It is my aim to make it more accessible to the beginner.
Note: to use Baidu, your computer must support Chinese fonts. Baidu uses GB2312 encoding, which should be automatically detected by your browser, but the Chinese characters will only be readable if your computer supports them.
OK, let’s suppose you’re a total beginner. You’ve heard of this hot boy band called F4, and you figure it’s as good a place as any (plus you don’t have to actually use any Chinese to search for it!).
Enter your search term in the box (in this case it’s “F4” without the quotes).
Choose your format. I only want MP3s, so I select the “MP3” radio button. (The choices, left to right, are: 歌词 (lyrics), 全部音乐 (all music files), mp3, rm (RealPlayer format), wma (Windows Media Player format), flash, 其它 (others), 铃声 (cell phone ringtones).)
Click on the button next to the search box, “百度搜索” (Baidu search). (For the future, when you do searches from the search results page, make sure you click on the left button. The right button will be “歌词搜索” (lyrics search).)
You will see a table of your search results. Below you will find a guide to interpreting this table:
歌曲名: Song Title (this name is linked to the MP3s you download)
试听: Listen First (uses Windows Media Player in a popup window)
歌词: Lyrics (very useful, especially for pop music, although not 100% reliable)
铃声: Cell Phone Ringtone
大小: Filesize (in megabytes)
格式: Format (MP3, WMA, etc.)
下载速度: Download Speed (especially if you’re outside of China, this may be important)
Right click on a title (choose from the 歌曲名/Song Title column) and “Save as“. There’s a good chance that you’ll want to change the filename, as they are often completely random or unhelpful.
Update: You now have to first left-click on the song title. A pop-up window will appear containing the URL to the MP3. Right-click on that to save.
That’s it! Also try out the lyrics search. You can click on 歌词 (lyrics) for any search result that has them. You can also search for lyrics directly, from the search results page. Click on the right button, “歌词搜索” (lyrics search).)
Note that the lyrics are not always 100% accurate. Most are submitted by users.