Την ίδια ώρα, στην Κίνα...

The Wonderfully Elusive Chinese Novel
Perry Link / NYRB

The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P’ing Mei, Vol. 5: The Dissolution
by an unknown author, translated from the Chinese by David Tod Roy
Princeton University Press, 556 pp., $39.95

In teaching Chinese-language courses to American students, which I have done about thirty times, perhaps the most anguishing question I get is “Professor Link, what is the Chinese word for ______?” I am always tempted to say the question makes no sense. Anyone who knows two languages moderately well knows that it is rare for words to match up perfectly, and for languages as far apart as Chinese and English, in which even grammatical categories are conceived differently, strict equivalence is not possible. Book is not shu, because shu, like all Chinese nouns, is conceived as an abstraction, more like “bookness,” and to say “a book” you have to say, “one volume of bookness.” Moreover shu, but not book, can mean “writing,” “letter,” or “calligraphy.” On the other hand you can “book a room” in English; you can’t shu one in Chinese.

I tell my students that there are only two kinds of words they can safely regard as equivalents: words for numbers (excepting integers under five, the words for which have too many other uses) and words that are invented expressly for the purpose of serving as equivalents, like xindiantu (heart-electric-chart) for “electrocardiogram.” I tell them their goal in Chinese class should be to set aside English and get started with thinking in Chinese.

This raises the question of what translation is. (...)


(...) Novels were not the primary language art in imperial China. Measured by volume, xi, translatable as “drama” or “opera,” would be in first place, and measured by beauty, calligraphy or poetry would be. Should we compare poetry across civilizations? If we do, classical Chinese poetry wins easily. The contest is almost unfair, because, as my students of Chinese language eventually come to see, the fundaments of language are different.

Indo-European languages, with their requirements that tense, number, gender, and part of speech be specified, and with the mandatory word inflections that the specifications entail, and with the extra syllables that the inflections add, just can’t achieve the same purity—a sense of terseness and expanse at the same time—that tenseless, numberless, voiceless, uninflected, and uninflectible Chinese characters can achieve. In a contest, one person has a butterfly net and the other a window screen. Emily Dickinson might have come to be known as the greatest poet in world history if she had written in classical Chinese. Should Westerners feel defensive that this was not the case? Far better just to inherit what we all have done, and leave it there.


Super Moderator
Staff member
Καταπληκτικό. Μου δημιούργησε την επιθυμία να μάθω κινέζικα.


Staff member
Α, τελικά εσύ το 'χες βάλει; Πάντως, δεν έχεις παράπονο: το θυμόμουνα το θέμα!


Staff member
Δεν ξέρω, αλλά, για κάποιο λόγο, αν πίστευα στο υπερπέραν, θα προτιμούσα μια θρησκεία όπου το θέαμα θα σε περίμενε στο άλλο άκρο. :-)
Renowned Chinese writer's new book [=new translation] to remove off shelves
(China Daily)

The Chinese version of Rabindranath Tagore's Stray Birds translated by renowned Chinese writer Feng Tang was stripped off the shelves today following criticism over its "astray interpretations".

The translated line that received most criticism was when "The world puts off its mask of vastness to its lover" was translated to "The world unzipped his pants in front of his lover".

Another criticized part lies in the word "hospitable" in the line "The great earth makes herself hospitable with the help of the grass". Feng translates this using the Chinese word "sao", which is closer to the English word "flirtatious".


Despite criticism, however, there are also those who favor Feng's translated work." Tagore is a poet, and so is Feng. A poet's view of another poet is surly different from that of a translator's. This is rather helpful in understanding poems," said a senior Chinese publisher who chose to remain anonymous in an interview with China Daily Website.

A Chinese sociologist and sexologist, Li Yinhe, also voiced support for Feng's poems. She wrote an article in her sina blog yesterday, saying that Feng's version of Stray Birds is the best Chinese translated version ever.

"If we compare Feng's version with that of Zheng's, it makes no effort to see that Feng's version is poem, but Zheng's merely interpretation of poem. Feng exceeds Zheng in terms of poetic quality, as he has brought out the beauty of poems, only in his way.

If there is a flaw in Feng's works, then, it is being too 'Feng'," Li said.
Καλή σας χρονιά. Ήταν ο Τζόου Ενλάι ομοφυλόφιλος;


HONG KONG — He was a towering figure of the 20th century, instrumental in building the Chinese Communist Party from the battlefield to the halls of power. He worked alongside Mao Zedong for decades, and was revered for his rich intellect and even temperament.

And as the first premier of the People’s Republic of China, Zhou Enlai met with Henry A. Kissinger in Beijing in 1971 to pave the way for President Richard M. Nixon’s groundbreaking trip to China the next year, beginning a new era in global politics.

Now, a book being published this week offers a radical reinterpretation of Zhou’s life: He was probably gay.

That assertion is sure to be contentious in China, where homosexuality is not widely accepted and where many may view it as an attack on Zhou’s character. Indeed, the book is expected to be banned in mainland China, as are other unauthorized biographies of Zhou.

Tsoi Wing-Mui, the author of the book, “The Secret Emotional Life of Zhou Enlai,” writes that Zhou’s sexual orientation would explain several mysteries about his life, including his cool treatment of his wife at the time of their marriage and his careful relationship with Mao.

Ms. Tsoi, a journalist who was the editor of a liberal political magazine in Hong Kong, presents no proof that Zhou was gay. There are no lovers with tell-all stories, only clues from his diary entries and correspondence with his wife.

Ms. Tsoi said she wanted her interpretation to add to the understanding of an important historical figure, giving texture to his personality. “Before writing this book, I really didn’t have a good impression of Zhou Enlai,” she said in an interview. “But afterward, I have a lot of sympathy for him.”

She said one diary entry from when Zhou was a young man provided a clue to his yearnings.

In late 1918, Zhou, then 20, was living in Japan, where he planned to enroll in a university. Weeks earlier, he had left the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin. So had a young man two years his junior, Li Fujing, a classmate who had gone to study at the University of Hong Kong. Their separation proved wrenching for Zhou, as he noted in his diary.

“In these months, the moon or the morning breeze, the rain against my window, and flowers; all make me long for my family, and thinking of my brother Hui, I suffer terribly!” Zhou wrote, his Chinese characters rendered with bold and urgent brush strokes.

The relationship between the young Zhou and Mr. Li (“brother Hui”) was more than a close friendship, Ms. Tsoi writes; Zhou was in love with Mr. Li.

Viewing Zhou as gay raises questions of what direction his life, and China’s path, might have taken had same-sex relationships been accepted in Chinese society.

Zhou and Mr. Li stayed in touch and traveled to Britain in 1921 in hopes of going to a university there; Ms. Tsoi writes that they were living in London at the same time. Mr. Li was accepted to the University of Manchester, but Zhou was unable to afford the high cost of living in Britain. Despondent, he moved to France, Ms. Tsoi says.

There, Zhou received a stipend from the Soviet-funded Communist International and began his rapid ascent in the party’s ranks.

“We don’t know what happened to them when they were in Great Britain,” Bao Pu, the book’s publisher, said in an interview. “It’s impossible for them to be together, and they know it.”

Viewing Zhou as gay adds a new interpretation to a well-documented incident in 1925, when Zhou’s fiancée, Deng Yingchao, arrived in the southern city of Guangzhou. Zhou had proposed to her via postcard when he was in Europe, Ms. Tsoi writes. The couple had not seen each other in five years and had never been romantically involved.

Gao Wenqian, a former historian for the Communist Party and the author of the 2007 biography “Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary,” which is banned in China, wrote that Zhou did not meet Ms. Deng when her boat arrived.

So she set out to find Zhou at the Guangdong General Workers’ Union.

“When he saw Deng enter the room, Zhou gave her a quick smile, but he continued his intense discussions, and, when the meeting ended, he got up and hustled out of the headquarters building without bothering to greet his bride-to-be,” Mr. Gao wrote.

Official party accounts interpreted Zhou’s less-than-warm greeting as a reflection of his total commitment to the Communist cause.

Far more consequential, yet also more tentative, is Ms. Tsoi’s interpretation of how Zhou’s sexuality may have influenced his relationship with Mao. Many historians, including Mr. Gao, believe he behaved in a more cautious manner than he could have.

Zhou, who outranked Mao in the Communist Party until the mid-1930s, failed to stop the rise of Mao’s cult of personality, which led to the disastrous Cultural Revolution, which began in 1966 and is widely seen to have ended only with Mao’s death in 1976, nine months after Zhou himself died. While Zhou is credited with saving many party cadres from the worst excesses of the marauding Red Guards, he was careful to stay loyal to Mao.

Sidney Rittenberg, 94, an American who joined the Chinese Communist Party, first met Zhou in 1946 at the party’s base in Yan’an, in northwestern China. In the 21 years that Mr. Rittenberg had contact with Zhou, he said, he never suspected that he was gay. But he said that if he had been and it had become known, Zhou would have been ruined.

Roderick MacFarquhar, a professor at Harvard who focuses on elite Chinese politics, said, “My reaction is that if it is true and that this was known to Mao, then the chairman had yet another way of threatening Zhou.”

Ms. Tsoi said Zhou might have been terrified that his sexual orientation would be revealed to the chairman. Mr. Rittenberg said he “would not only want to hide it, he would have to — if it came out, he would be ruined.”

Ms. Tsoi said homosexuality was seen as a sin against socialism. “They viewed it as a capitalist way of life,” she said.

While many top cadres cowered from Mao’s dictates, some did not. Zhou, as head of government, was in a position to curb Mao’s power.

“Why was he so afraid? Where did it come from?” Ms. Tsoi asked. “His original sin was his homosexuality.”

But Rebecca Karl, a professor at New York University who wrote a 2010 biography of Mao, said that China was hardly unique in its homophobia and that, until recently, exposing a leader anywhere as gay would have ruined his or her career. Ms. Karl said that the book, which she has not read, may only “provoke needless controversy about Zhou.”

“I think this kind of speculation is really not very interesting,” Ms. Karl said in an email. “Fluid sexualities were not unusual in China (or anywhere), and deep male-male or female-female friendships and passions were (are still) a norm.”

It may never be known whether Zhou’s relationship with Mr. Li was more than that of a close friend. Mr. Li died in 1960.

And Zhou himself may have sought to hide his most intimate feelings. He kept a diary, discovered in 1952, for only a short time. In his first entry, on Jan. 1, 1918, he took account of his life so far, his dreams and his shortcomings. Then he opened his heart.

“For the first time in my life I am immersed in this word ‘love,’ as to the heart of the passion. ...”

A bold, thick brush stroke of black ink blots out the rest of the sentence.
Πρωτοχρονιάτικα μηνύματα από τους δικηγόρους των δικαιωμάτων του ανθρώπου και από τους ακτιβιστές του κόσμου της εργασίας (China Change)

The Day Will Break at the End of the Night
— New Year Greetings from the 300-member Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group

‘In Winter-frozen Earth, Spring Starts to Quicken’
A 2016 New Year’s Message from China’s Labor Community
Urgent Action: Statement on the Detention of Peter Dahlin
By Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (中国维权紧急援助组)
(China Change)
Sometime after nine pm on 3 January 2016 a human rights professional, Mr Peter Dahlin, a Swedish citizen, disappeared on his way to the Beijing Capital Airport. He was scheduled to fly to Thailand via Hong Kong shortly after midnight. Peter’s girlfriend, a Chinese national, has also disappeared.

Peter Dahlin is a co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action), an organization based in China working to promote the development of the rule of law and human rights through training and the support of public interest litigation.

According to Chinese authorities, Peter was detained on 4 January 2016 on suspicion of endangering state security. These charges are baseless.

Since 2009, China Action has been helping to advance the rule of law in China. It has organized training programs for human rights defenders to receive instruction from expert rights lawyers, focusing on matters of land rights or administrative law. It supports ‘barefoot’ lawyers who provide pro-bono legal aid to grassroots victims of rights violations, from demolition and eviction to arbitrary detention. China Action also releases practical guides on the Chinese legal system.

China Action is dedicated to promoting human rights within the existing legal framework of the People’s Republic of China and has only ever advocated non-violent, informed reliance on Chinese law. In spite of this, Peter has been arbitrarily detained on spurious accusations.

Despite constant requests by the Swedish Embassy, the Chinese authorities have denied direct contact with Peter and have not provided any communications from Peter to the embassy. The authorities have not provided any information regarding the exact nature of the charges. The denial of consular communication is a direct violation of Chinese law and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Furthermore, that the authorities have continued to conceal Peter’s whereabouts could amount to an enforced disappearance, a violation of international law.

Additionally, Peter suffers from Addison’s Disease, a rare defect of the adrenal gland, which is potentially life threatening unless properly medicated daily. The Chinese authorities have denied medical care to human rights defenders in detention in the past. That Chinese authorities have merely issued a verbal assurance that Peter is receiving his medicine while continuing to deny direct consular communication is appalling.

Peter’s detention comes amid a six-month long assault on the country’s human rights lawyers. Since 9 July 2015, over 300 lawyers, human rights defenders, and their family members have been harassed, detained or subjected to travel bans.

Peter’s supporters initially sought to pursue this matter through quiet diplomatic pressure.

According to Michael Caster, speaking for the organization, “Peter’s ongoing detention for supporting legal aid in China makes a mockery of President Xi Jinping’s stated commitments to the rule of law. Peter must be granted direct contact with the Swedish Embassy and his family without delay. The Chinese authorities must immediately release Peter from detention and drop all charges against him.”
Γράμμα από τον εκδότη:

“The difficulty of publishing political books in Hong Kong is already in the international spotlight. People in the industry are feeling great fear and pressure; they want to stay out of trouble so that they won’t be the next one [to disappear]. I received many calls from friends and family trying to persuade me. Because of that, we decided after much deliberation to suspend the publication of your work,” Jin wrote.

“I sincerely ask for your understanding. We published China’s Godfather, Xi Jinping, but circumstances have changed, and I am not able to face the huge consequences,” Jin said, adding that he was “deeply sorry”.
(τα παχιά προστέθηκαν από μένα)
A German’s Video Likens Mao to Hitler, and China Wants Him Punished
(...) when Mr. Rehage called Mao Zedong “China’s Hitler” in a YouTube video in December, he said, reaction became “ridiculous.”

Mr. Rehage noted that both Mao and Hitler were responsible for the deaths of milllions.

An influential Communist Party website called for him to be punished under Chinese law, despite the fact that Mr. Rehage lives in Hamburg. Coupled with events like the recent disappearances of five people connected to a Hong Kong publisher of books critical of Beijing, the episode has raised questions about China’s reach across borders.

The website, Communist Youth Net, which is owned by the Communist Youth League, published three commentaries accusing Mr. Rehage of “blaspheming” the founding leader of the People’s Republic, who died in 1976. Such people should be “shown the bright sword,” one read.

Mr. Rehage’s statement was “subjective,” meaning incorrect, and is therefore not protected speech, Zhu Wei, the deputy director of the Communications Law Center at the China University of Political Science and Law, was quoted as saying in one of the articles.

The party’s own verdict in 1981 that Mao, under whose political campaigns millions died, did more good than harm, was “objective,” meaning correct, Mr. Zhu said.

So Mr. Rehage broke the law with his statement, Mr. Zhu and an unnamed lawyer were quoted as saying, citing China’s “Internet sovereignty.”


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Αφήνεται να εννοηθεί ότι θα ξεκινήσουν κομάντο Κινέζων τιμωρών για να πάνε στο Αμβούργο να τον συνετίσουν;