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).
Busy with work and classes, I don’t have a lot of time for pleasure reading, but I manage to read a bit here and there. Lately I’ve been on this extended classic sci-fi novel kick. I’m almost through the entire Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, and I’m currently reading Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (1961). Since these are classics, they have all been translated into Chinese already, as our friend Joel Martinsen reminds us on Danwei.
I’m not really very interested in reading these novels in Chinese, but I’d be interested in discussing them with Chinese people, so I thought it would be a good idea to learn these books’ titles in Chinese so that I at least would have a starting point for my nerdy wild goose chase of trying to find Chinese people who have read them. Some of the titles are interesting.
First is Stranger in a Strange Land. I think this is a cool title in English, and interesting that it comes from the Bible:
> And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land. (Exodus 2:22)
The Chinese name of Stranger in a Strange Land is 《异乡异客》. When I first saw this name I parsed it as four parts, literally meaning “strange country, strange guest.” But it can be taken as two parts, meaning “alien land, stranger” (Wenlin’s translation). This strikes me as a very nice translation. But does it keep any of that Biblical reference? I was curious.
The original “stranger in a strange land” quote comes from the King James Version. In the New American Standard Bible, for example, the quote becomes:
> Then she gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” (Exodus 2:22)
(Yeah, not quite as catchy.) So I didn’t think there was much hope of the Chinese book title matching the Chinese Bible verse, but I thought I’d check anyway. I checked two different online Bible versions. Results:
> 西坡拉生了一个儿子，摩西给他起名叫革舜，意思说，因我在外邦作了寄居的。 (出埃及记 2:22, source)
> 她生了一个儿子，梅瑟给他起名叫革尔熊，因为他说：「我在外方作了旅客。」 (出谷纪 2:22, source)
Not even close. That satisfied my curiosity. I still like the name 《异乡异客》 anyway.
The other translation I was interested in was the name of the Foundation series. I kind of suspected what it would be, but I hoped it would surprise me with something cleverer. Nope. The Chinese translation is 《基地》 (literally, “base”).
Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that this translation falls a bit short. The whole premise of the “Foundation” is that it is an organization that will become the foundation of the new galactic empire. Yes, the Foundation starts out as a base on a planet, but by giving the Foundation the Chinese name 基地, you’re just calling it “base,” and without the abstract, far-reaching implications. (The abstract meaning of “base” is a separate word in Chinese–基础–which can also be translated as “foundation” but would never work as a book/series title… It would be like calling the series “Basis.”)
OK, so I can’t think of anything better, but “Base” is just lame. Boo, translators. Hiss.
Also, what’s up with translating Brave New World as 《美丽新世界》 (literally, “Beautiful New World”)?
At least no one tried any funny business with the translation of 1984 (《一九八四》).