I recently read a Yahoo News article titled “Baidu.com Ready for Stock Market Debut.” I read the story only partly interested until I got to the part about how the name “Baidu” (百度) was chosen. Literally, it means “100 degrees,” so I figured the logic behind the name was akin to the logic behind the name “Yahoo 360.” You know, something about connections… about connecting you to the information you’re looking for. I was quite wrong.
> 李彦宏: The name “Baidu” is actually related to searching. Back in the second half of ’99 before the National Day festivities I was thinking about making something — about making a Chinese search engine — and I needed a name for it. I set a few conditions for myself: The first was that the domain name should be short. The second was that it had a definite connection with searching. The third was that it couldn’t be too obvious. It couldn’t have a word like “search” or “seek” in the name; it should be a bit subtler. The fourth was that Chinese people could understand it. It needn’t be an English word that Americans would understand; rather, being a Chinese language search engine, it should be understandable to Chinese people. It was actually taken from a poem by Xin Qiji (辛弃疾): “众里寻她千百度” [something like “searching for her desperately in the crowd” (?)].
I’m not good at translating, and I’m especially unqualified to translate Chinese poetry. But I believe in this usage 度 is simply used to express a degree of intensity. Together with 百, it expresses a high degree of intensity. I, rightly or wrongly, translated it above as “desperately.” I’m not sure how close I am.
For more context, here is the original poem it came from:
I can understand most of the poem without much difficulty, but again, I’m no translator, so I don’t want to touch it. I can confirm what Yahoo says, though. It “refers to a man ardently searching for his lover in a festival crowd.” If someone else wants to offer a translation, that would be nice. (Here’s a spoiler, though: in the last line, he finds her.)
Another interesting part of the article was this line: “Baidu.com’s advertising notes that Chinese has 38 ways to say ‘I.'” Huh? 38?! I wanted to factcheck this, so I did some searches. A lot of searches. Using Baidu as well as Google. I couldn’t find that claim anywhere. All I found was a Peking University BBS thread on the word “I” in various Chinese dialects.
Then I turned to Wenlin, my dictionary program. To my surprise, it listed 35! Not all of them are commonly used (or commonly used to mean “I”), but I guess that’s a start. In case you’re wondering, they are:
A while back I made a webpage dedicated to the Chinese song “The Moon Represents My Heart.” I also put online ten different renditions of this song in MP3 format. I thought it was pretty cool to be able to compare them. Aware that the Chinese words on the page would soon have Baidu’s searchbot on my case, I did my best to keep it off my site with my robots.txt file. Looks like that was completely futile.
Teresa Teng’s version of the song was the first to be hammered. I had to replace it with a link to MP3.baidu.com‘s search results to preserve my own bandwidth. Soon, the bandwidth consumed by the other MP3s on that page started creeping up as well. I had to remove Andy Lau’s rendition. Then Lesley Cheung’s. I forgot about it for a while, but if I hadn’t checked my stats in the middle of April I would have exceeded my bandwidth allotment solely because of those MP3 files, as bandwidth consumption had taken another big jump. I removed all the MP3s. I had no other choice.
Lesson learned: do not put up Chinese songs for download. Your bandwidth is no match for China’s web surfing population! (Well, don’t put up popular songs, anyway. Rapping flight attendants might be OK.)
In other news, I recently participated in an anonymous blogging survey for someone’s thesis. I was e-mailed because I was in the Technorati Top 2000. Wow! That kind of surprised me. Top 2000 out of 9,500,068 blogs. Top 2% isn’t too shabby for a niche blog prone to periodic entries as boring as this one.
In case you’re wondering (as I did) where this “Technorati Top 2000” list can be found, it can’t. There’s only a Technorati Top 100 online. The student contacted Technorati with details of the study, and Technorati complied.
Pretty much every Chinese person has a government-issued ID card (身份证). They serve the roles of American social security cards (and sometimes driver’s licenses, for non-driving-related ID purposes). These ID cards are necessary for all kinds of everyday procedures and thus indispensible in daily Chinese life, although in some cases the ID number on the card is all that is needed.
Recently I became interested in the structure of the ID numbers on these cards. I was trying to sign up with an online Chinese bulletin board. I ran into a problem, however, because a Chinese ID number was a mandatory part of registration. I wondered: did the number really need to be valid? Was this important?
I googled 身份证 to determine the appropriate number of digits, and then entered a random number. My application was denied. Invalid ID number. Ah, so they won’t take just any old number.
But, I reasoned, they couldn’t possibly be checking the number I input with a central database of the ID numbers of all Chinese citizens, now, could they? I figured the ID number had information encoded in it, which was checked against the other registration information I provided in my application (such as date of birth).
I googled for an image of a 身份证 and found one. Some basic analysis was all that was required to invent an ID number that the automatic form would accept. Soon after, however, I decided that an account involving a fraudulent ID number could possibly get me into real trouble, and I cancelled my application.
Just recently I came across a related entry on the excellent Chinese blog GiE: 身份证号都代表什么意思？ (what do the digits of an ID number mean?). Here’s a simple summary of the information provided on GiE in Chinese:
– Chinese ID numbers are arranged left to right, composed of 17 ID digits plus 1 validation digit, for a total of 18 digits.
– The first 6 digits are the address code of the owner’s place of legal residence.
– The next 8 digits are the owner’s birthdate: year (4), month (2), day (2).
– The next 3 digits are a “sequential code” for distinguishing people of identical birthdate and birthplace. Odd numbers for males, even numbers for females.
– The final validation digit is based on a formula which, quite honestly, I don’t understand at all. (If you can read the original Chinese and explain it, I’d be very interested.)
The above system applies to new (since 2000, maybe?) 身份证. In the examples below, you can see some changes over the years:
You’ll also notice on these ID cards that 民族 (ethnic group) is listed on the card. Most Chinese people are Han Chinese (汉). You may notice that in the examples above, the last guy is not (although you wouldn’t know looking at him).
I’ve always thought it would be funny to get a fake Chinese ID card (these are easy to acquire, I understand) with my real picture and Chinese name on it, that said I was 汉族 (Han Chinese). But then I doubt the PSB have much of a sense of humor about that kind of thing, so I never went through with it.
Note: I wondered briefly if it was kosher to write about this kind of thing online, but the blog entry on GiE that I linked to was public and written in Chinese, and all the 身份证 pictures I linked to were found through Baidu Image Search, which is known to wholly comply with the Chinese government.
Google may be the search engine of the West, but in China it’s still trailing one called Baidu (百度). The name means “one hundred degrees.” I hear Baidu is so popular in China that the word 百度 is starting to be used as a verb in Chinese just like we now say “Google it” in English.
Baidu recently published its list of top 10 searches of 2004, and organized the data in such a way as to actually make it interesting reading. The results are really very illuminating (if you trust internet search results to reveal anything real about a culture). Readers of Chinese, I recommend you look at the original. For everyone else, here’s my select translation:
Top 10 Search Terms:
Pao Pao Tang (an online game: 泡泡堂)
Dao Lang (a singer: 刀郎)
QQ (China’s most popular IM software)
BT (abbreviation for BitTorrent)
“Mice Love Rice” (a song: 《老鼠爱大米》)
Guo Jingjing (Olympic gold medalist 郭晶晶)
House of Flying Daggers (movie: 《十面埋伏》)
A Chinese-style Divorce (a TV series: 《中国式离婚》)
“The Legend of Little Bing” (a novel: 《小兵传奇》)
Top 10 How To’s:
How to kiss
How to lose weight
How to put on makeup
How to use contraception
How to write a thesis
How to make a webpage
How to protect the environment
How to get pregnant
How to face difficulties
How to make money
Top 10 Why’s:
Why am I always the one that gets hurt?
Why join the Party?
Why are you having an affair?
Why do we need to innovate?
Why do we need to pay taxes?
Why do we need to go to college?
Why can’t I get online?
Why do we need an education?
Why do we need to learn English?
Top 10 What Is’s:
What is love?
What is health?
What is a blog (博客)?
What is a computer virus?
What is e-commerce?
What is cloning?
What is nanotechnology (纳米[技术])?
What are the ‘Three Represents’?
What is BitTorrent?
What is corporate culture?
The other top tens I didn’t translate are:
Top Ten MP3 Songs
Top Ten Sports Stars (Michael Jordan is still #3!)
Top Ten TV Series
Top Ten Movies
Top Ten Online Games
Top Ten Tourist Destinations
Top Ten Male Singers
Top Ten Female Singers
Top Ten Most Photographed Men
Top Ten Most Photographed Women
Top Ten Historical Figures
Top Ten Authors
Top Ten Cell Phones
Top Ten ‘Mosts’
Top Ten History of’s
I found this link via AKEM, a Chinese blogger who has quickly become one of my favorites. She’s a college student in Hangzhou, my original “Chinese home.” If you read her entry, you can see her commentary. She also links to Google’s 2004 Top Search Results, which is kind of interesting for comparison purposes. For one thing, Google’s list is a lot duller. There are no telling “why’s” or “how to’s” “what is’s,” which were the most interesting to read of Baidu’s lists. And Google’s top 5 search terms are all over-sexed female celebrities rather than four computer entertainment-related terms and a singer. Hmmm…
The name of the Christmas song “Jingle Bells” is 圣诞铃声 (something like “Christmas Bells”) in Chinese. But the famous English refrain “jingle bells, jingle bells” in Chinese is the onomatopoeic “叮叮当, 叮叮当,” which sounds like “ding ding dong, ding ding dong” to Western ears. It doesn’t sound at all like sleigh bells ringing to us, it just sounds really funny (or maybe like doorbells). In my experience, every Westerner who learns these Chinese lyrics busts out laughing.
I tried to find a Mandarin Chinese version of “Jingle Bells” using Baidu MP3 Search. All I turned up was a version which I originally thought was Cantonese, but two Cantonese-speaking friends say it isn’t. The refrain definitely sounds like “ding ding dong” though. My guess is it’s Vietnamese. Can anyone identify the language?
I was disappointed because I can’t understand the lyrics, but I think the song may sound even funnier this way. I’m not one to mock any language, but this song — like the Chinese version — just sounds really funny, for cultural reasons, I guess. Give it a listen:
The moon represents my heart. I wince when I type out this sentence. It’s terribly awkward English, but I really don’t know how else to translate it. I’m no accomplished translator or anything, but I’ve given this quite a bit of thought and come up with nothing better.
月亮代表我的心 (“The Moon Represents My Heart”) is an extremely famous song in China. Most foreigners here know it, and every Chinese person seems to know it. It’s a pretty simple song, but I just can’t seem to translate that line. I’m of the opinion that pretty much anything has a good translation if the translator is clever enough. I’m ready for someone cleverer than I to show me the way.
Even if I can’t translate its title well, after four years of living in China I’ve developed something of an affection for the song. I think it’s sort of a mandatory study for anyone living in this culture.
I feel a bit silly about it, but after searching a bit for a good translation of the song and downloading different versions of it via Baidu’s MP3 search, I thought I might as well put this stuff online for other people to benefit from as well. I even made it kinda pretty, I think.
Check it: Sinosplice’s 月亮代表我的心 page. (Get the MP3s now if you want them — if they drive my bandwidth up much I’ll have to take them down.)