Tag Archives: chinese

What Language to Learn: South-East Asia

The boys at ComingAnarchy might enjoy this one…

I am close to wrapping up my tour of South East Asia, having visited Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. In all three countries Chinese strikes me as more useful than England. This was especially surprising in Thailand and Malaysia, which are noted tourist areas… I can get almost nowhere in English, but I find a large fraction of the folks I meet can communicate with me in Chinese. I find that conversations stress my Chinese vocabulary much less often than while actually in China, though, so it seems that most people who speak it have picked it up as a second language.

Review of "Forbidden City Cop"

Forbidden City Cop‘s plot, such as it is, is of the evil Gum Kingdom’s quests to conquer the Chinese Empire. The simpleminded and friendly Emperor is no match for the clever Gum barbarians, and from the offer of a concubine to the capture of a space alien, the Emperor believes & accepts every Gum entreaty. It’s up to doctor who moonlights as an Imperial Bodyguard and inventor, Ling Ling Fat (“008”, Stephen Chow), to save the day.

Chow’s films are a combination of lighthearted physical comedy and commentary on culture. The recent Shaolin Soccer (2001) is a masterful example of this, combining the rise of an improbably sports team (a la The Longest Yard) with a realist examination of contemporary urban China. Forbidden City Cop is an earlier example of the same themes, deftly combining western imports (UFOs, the Academy Awards, spy thrillers) with traditional (ancient heroes, an Empire in distress) and contemporary (kung fu) themes.

The only downside was the subtitles, sometimes hardly readable because of their positioning on the screen. Still, the film was funny and cute, and I recommend it. I rate it 8 / 10.

Rent from Greencine. (Currently out of stock at Amazon.)

Chinese (the Nationality and the Languages)

Sun Bin, a fine blogger, and I have been hanging out at Tom Barnett’s and Catholicgauze’s blogs. Some excerpts

From Thomas P.M. Barnett :: The Weblog:

Besides being bad in itself, sacrificing the security to a multiparty because a party dictatorship is insulted is not a lesson we want to teach Beijing. And especially not when the dictatorship’s arguments boil down to racial politics for an offshore state that was ruled from the mainland for all of one thousand days in the 20th century.

From Geographic Travels with Catholicgauze!:

Sun Bin is referring to Zhonghua Minzu, the Chinese Nation. As it was developed, it referred to all ethnicities within the border of the late Qing Empire. (Similar to America’s focus on nationality by land and not blood). Of course, since that time China lost Mongolia and (for a few hundred days) gained Taiwan, so “Chinese Nationalists” may now exclude Mongolia and incorporate China.

Read the whole things!

Chinese Perspectives on the 600th Anniversary of Zheng He’s First Voyage

600 Years Ago,” China Doll, 9 July 2005, http://hollymolly.net/ca/2005/07/600_years_ago.php (from Simon World).

I’m a great admirer of admiral Zheng,” by m.c., China Doll, 9 July 2005, http://hollymolly.net/ca/2005/07/600_years_ago.php (from Simon World).

The Chinese Admiral, Muslim eunich, and adventurer Zheng He left China to see what he could see 600 years ago today. He voyaged to Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Persia, Africa, and perhaps farther. Chinese bloggers are divided on his legacy

Zheng He’s Treasure Ship, background
Columbus’s Santa Maria, foreground


The Chinese discovered America in 1421, 71 years before Christopher Columbus did in 1492; passed the southern tip of Africa (Cape of Good Hope) 76 years earlier than Vasco da Gama; rounded the globe about 100 year earlier than Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet (1519-1522) and surveyed Australia three centuries before James Cook did in the 18th century.

We can only contemplate today what the legacy of the great Chinese armadas would have been if China had not abandoned her glorious maritime and scientific heritage and retreated into a long, self-imposed isolation from the outside world. What we do know as a fact is that by incorporating the discoveries of the Chinese fleets and by importing the Chinese navigational know-hows, the Europeans charted their even more adventurous routes and began their 500 years domination of the world.

Perhaps, who was first to discover America or to circumnavigate the globe is not nearly as important as the difference in spirit between the Chinese and European explorations. For the Europeans, they were about colonization and seizing control of foreign lands and for gold and silver. For the Chinese, the explorations were about friendship and promotion of peace. The Europeans loaded their ships with treasures and plunder when they returned home; the Chinese loaded their junks with treasures when they set sail away from home.

Perhaps, just perhaps, if the Chinese had not given up their explorations, Africa would not be so miserable nowadays.


Zheng He’s explorations was more for political, or “show-off” reasons, instead of a simple gesture of international friendship. I’d say it took almost 1/3 of the nation’s GDP.

The explorations could probably not be financially sustainable for long by the Ming Dynasty. The European controlled the seas for the next 500 years, not because by mere technologies, but its privately funded maritime system, insurance structures, and seafaring traditions. All of which we didn’t have.

Granted. Admiral Zheng’s journey was glorious, but I’d think twice about trivializing the West’s maritime records. The fact is – they made progress, and we stopped for the next 500 years.