大世界 Da Shi Jie — Kerry Ann Lee

I enjoyed Kerry Ann Lee’s new exhibition: 大世界 Da Shi Jie/The Great World: Shanghai Works 2009-2010 currently at Toi Poneke in Wellington.

Three bodies of work feature in the exhibition, which has shown at Island6 art centre and Shanghai Art Museum in 2010, while Kerry was in residence there through the Wellington Asia Residency Exchange (WARE) program. Electric Warrior is a series of raw wire sculptures highlighting the rapid urban development. I loved the idea of wireframe versions of our intimate daily objects — shoes, bras, dumplings. The display on transparency projectors, throwing wireframe shadows on the walls of the gallery, captured the essence of life in flux, the ephemera of daily life and culture.

Chinese Relatives

Chinese Relatives, features paper-cut pieces set into recycled window frames, inspired by local stonewall tenement houses that were being gradually demolished revealing a mysterious assortment of ephemera – stickers, lucky charms, pop posters and calendars.

The third section deconstructs Shanghai architectural landmarks such as 东方明珠塔, the Oriental Pearl Tower, featured above. At the rear of the gallery, a video shot riding though Shanghai neighborhoods conveys the sense of landscapes in flux, all combining to create the effect of “big dreams built on top of shifting terrain.”

大世界 Da Shi Jie literally means “The Great World,” and is also the name of a station on Shanghai Metro line 8.

Da Shi Jie / The Great World: Shanghai Works 2009 – 2010 runs until Friday 20 May at Toi Pōneke Gallery, 61 – 69 Abel Smith Street. The gallery is open from 9.00am – 7.30pm on weekdays, and from 10.00am – 4.00pm on weekends.

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Class Notes – Current Slang

Back in 中文学校 this year, with a wonderful class and teacher, 许稚宜. I love that our discussions bring up current mobile and internet slang that’s emerging through texting, but not in any textbook, nor Google Translate or other marvelous online language tools like nciku.

One of the interesting ones is 神马 (shén mǎ) “sacred horse” being used for 什么(shén me) “what”. I wonder if that also corresponds at all to Tibetan mythological animal and concept of windhorse, རླུང་རྟ། (lung-ta)? I can’t seem to find a direct Chinese translation for it — if you know, please share in comments.

Another is using 杯具 (bēi jù), cups as homonymic slang for tragedy, 悲剧 (bēijù). In the same manner, 洗具 (xǐ jù) washing stuff, is used to mean comedy 喜剧 (xǐ jù), and tea set 茶具, (chá jù), is used to mean 差距 (chā jù) difference.

An ancient, but new-to-me, language quirk is the unattractiveness of the number 250, 二百五 (èrbǎiwǔ), which means idiot or stupid person. If someone is trying to sell you something for 250 yuan, they’re probably joking. According to Wikipedia, the expression is based on 半弔子 (bàndiàozi). In ancient China, copper coins were grouped by stringing them together through the square holes in the center; originally 1000 was a unit of currency called a 弔. 半弔子 literally means half a 弔 (500 coins), which is a slang term referring to a person who is inadequate in skills or mental abilities. Since modest Chinese scholars may call themselves 半弔子 to humbly deprecate their own expertise, 半弔子 is not necessarily a pejorative term. On the other hand, 二百五 (250) is half of a 半弔子 and it is an insult. Ryan McLaughlin offers an alternate explanation,

ChinaSmack has a up-to-date glossary of current slang.

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Last Train Home

So moved by Last Train Home (归途列车), a film by Canadian citizen Lixin Fan (范立欣) which follows the Zhang’s annual Chinese New Year’s trip to visit their children who are left in grandmother’s care in Sichuan’s Guang’an city, Huilong village (回龙村), while they work in a garment factory in Guangzhou. Beautifully heartbreaking and masterful in capturing both the intimate story of an individual family and the huge macro forces reshaping Chinese society. Shown here as part of the Country/City/Home Chinese Film Festival presented by the Confucius Institute, Victoria University of Wellington. If you have the opportunity to see it — don’t miss it.
Last Train Home reviews and further info: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Facebook, Indiewire, Wikipedia, NYTimes, Danwei.org, and CSMonitor.

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Not much left to talk about… China bans 18 topics from media

BEIJING, March 26 (UPI) — The Chinese government has notified the country’s media outlets of 18 subjects banned from reporting, including corruption, yuan revaluation and food safety.

Liu Yunshan, director of the Communist Party’s publicity department, faxed the notifications to newspapers and radio, TV and Internet news outlets Sunday, one day before Google Inc. announced it was pulling its search Web site from the country, The Asahi Shimbun reported Friday.

The banned subjects include problems in Tibet and the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region, difficulties faced by graduating students seeking jobs, the rising price of cooking oil and reports on criticism against China from U.S. officials and other international leaders.

“Most of the subjects that people are interested in have been banned. We don’t know what to report on,” an official at a Chinese newspaper told The Asahi Shimbun.

via China bans 18 topics from media – UPI.com.

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吃不消 Food Inc in China

吃不消 Food Inc

Interesting translation of Food Inc., 吃不消 chībuxiāo means “unable to stand” (as in exhaustion, exertion) made up of individual characters
吃 to eat
不 not or no
消 to consume, use, disappear, remove or spend.

I’m going to guess this is a Chinese “original” as the original Food Inc is not even a book but a documentary (available for download and DVD) — and very much worth watching.

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Human Flesh Search Engines in 中国

Illustration by Leo Jung

Fascinating article “Chinese Cyberposse” in New York Times Magazine about Chinese “human flesh search engine” (人肉搜索引擎 rénròusōusuǒyǐnqíng) phenomenon accompanied by wonderful calligraphic illustrations by Leo Jung.

Feng decided to get revenge on the human-flesh searchers. He and a few other users started a human-flesh search of their own, patiently matching back the anonymous ID’s of the people who organized against Diebao to similar-sounding names on school bulletin boards, auction sites and help-wanted ads. Eventually he assembled a list of the real identities of Diebao’s persecutors. “When we got the information, we had to think about what we should do with it,” Feng says. “Should we use it to attack the group?”

Feng stopped and thought about what he was about to do. “When we tried to fight evil, we found ourselves becoming evil,” he says. He abandoned the human-flesh search and destroyed all the information he had uncovered.

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Inconvenient Truths and Digital Activism

Two interesting talks coming up:

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Chinese Social Networks Online

China Lets a Hundred Social Networks Bloom (Sort of). Interesting update on social networks online in China and what’s happening demographically.


Chinese broadband users above the age of 13 number 286 million, nearly double that of the U.S. broadband population, says a new report from market analysts Netpop Research. In five years, Netpop forecasts, that number will double. While 35 percent of American users are under age 35, in China younger users make up 73 percent of the online population.

Facebook lookalike RenRen 人人, is visited by 23% of Chinese broadband users. 51.com (19%), and Kaixin001 开心网 (12%) are the other most popular social sites.

Fanfou 饭否, a Twitteresque site has been offline for weeks, joining a list of Twitteresque sites that seem to have been simply shut down by the government soon after access to the real Twitter from China was blocked following the murderous racial riots in Xinjiang province on July 5th. TaoTao 网页 and Zuosa 做啥, have been untouched.

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Studying Chinese language at Popup Chinese and Chinese Class 101

Exploring two interesting sites for learning Chinese: PopUp Chinese offers audio lessons, tests and shows, and sister site Chinese Class 101 features audio podcast lessons and online learning center.

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New Zealand to launch first Chinese digital communities website

Excited to see new New Zealand Chinese Community online (http://chinesecommunity.org.nz), launching at the Rising Dragons, Soaring Bananas International conference July 18th.

From Xinhuanet:

“This partnership between Auckland City Libraries and the New Zealand Chinese Association has been a great opportunity to develop this tool and provide the Chinese community with platform to share stories for future generations, said Group Manager Libraries Allison Dobbie on Friday.

“New Zealand Chinese Association Auckland Inc (NZCA) is delighted to be partnering with Auckland City Libraries to launch and produce the Chinese Digital Community,” said Kai Luey, Chairman of New Zealand Chinese Association Auckland Inc.

“Chinese Digital Community is replete with rich, everyday stories which will resonate with people from all walks of life. It is a landmark project for our Association and one which will ensure Chinese New Zealand stories are kept alive forever,” he added.

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