There’s a range of new HSK exams coming out in 2005 – I’ve written up what little I know here.
Some time ago I mentioned reading and enjoying Wang Xiaobo. I had a shot at translating one of his essays into English, and the result is below. Credit is also due to everyone who helped over at Chinese-forums.com – if you follow that link you’ll see an earlier version, the current one with notes, and plenty of detailed discussion in between . . .
A Peculiar Pig
When they sent me to the countryside, I fed pigs and herded cows. Of course, these animals could manage fine without people. They’d saunter about eating and drinking, falling in love as spring comes. Simple lives, nothing of consequence. But when people come along, their lives get organized. Each cow, every pig, they all get given a purpose. For most, it’s a tragic one. The former laboring, the latter fattening. I don’t think that’s much to complain about though. My life at the time wasn’t much better – nothing to do but watch the revolutionary operas.
Finally got around to doing more on the HSK Vocab Database today – description of what’s new here. Time for beer now, as I’ve just spent far too long trying to correct errors in the database and my eyes hurt. And beer will help.
How chuffed am I? Way back in 1998 I started learning Chinese from elementary school readers (I was teaching in an elementary school at the time). One of the stories I read was the suprisingly titled ‘Karl Marx Loves Children’.
I was reminded of this story while writing this post for Chinese-forums.com, and I managed to find it via Google. The story is on the website of the People’s Educational Press, purveyor of fine teaching materials to the nation’s eager young minds. Re-reading this is like meeting up again with an old, slightly sinister and never-quite trusted classmate…
Here’s the first paragraph. I can’t remember what age this would have been for, but certainly elementary school kids. As far as I can tell this is still in use today.
Marx loves Children
The great revolutionary Karl Marx loved children very much. Usually, no matter how busy he was, he’d find time to go to where the poor people lived and see the lively lovable children. Never mind how ragged their clothes, or how dirty their hands, Marx would always press in amongst them and often press a few coins into their hands.
I find this stuff fascinating. I mean, even if Marx did like kids, and I have no reason to believe he didn’t, do the Chinese children of today need to know it?
It’d be wrong to think that these elementary school readers are all propoganda, or that China is the only nation guilty of feeding its kids a slightly squewed world view. An old villager I sat next to on a train once quizzed me about the Opium Wars, and I knew nothing.
An unscientific flick through these stories (the entire curriculum seems to be on that site) shows that references to communist leaders, the motherland and fun-lovin’ revolutionaries are, on the whole, rare. Stories like the classic Ma Liang’s Magic Brush, the maternal Mother’s Love and the frankly morbid (for goldfish) Daddy Teaches Me To Use My Brain are in the great majority. But at the same time, does the hero of the story Study, for China have to be former premier Zhou Enlai? Does In the Motherland’s Blue Sky have to explain China’s reliance on foreign-made aircraft as nothing more than the result of the mischief-making of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four?
If you want to have a look through this kind of stuff – it’s fascinating for cultural reasons, and of no little use to anyone looking for simple Chinese reading material – you can start here with ‘Ethics and Life’, or here for ‘Language’.
Went snowboarding at the weekend. Never been skiing or snowboarding previously, and I’m not sure I enjoyed it enough to go back and do it again, but it was good to try.
It was out at Nanshan. There hasn’t actually been any snow yet, and they only had artificial snow on a couple of the slopes (including, thankfully, the one for complete beginners and babies). I wasn’t feeling entirely confident about the sliding down slidy snow on a slidy board idea at first, but we got a couple of hours tuition which I don’t think taught me very much except that falling over won’t kill you. We also covered the right way to fall, but unfortunately the right way to fall (with your arms curled up in front of you) isn’t so good it overrides the genetically-programmed fingers splayed and screaming method of falling. I managed not to do myself too much damage though, perhaps because I never stayed upright long enough to build up any real momentum. Plus, snow is fairly easy stuff to land on, although it gets you back later.
I allegedly learned to turn in the training. I wasn’t very good at it, and never really figured out how to control things like direction, speed and degree of turn. I’d try to turn left with a view to stopping, but just spin myself 180o right and then continue downhill at the same speed, with a different leg at risk of breaking. All good fun . . .
Driver #205476, ‘fessed up when he realised that he’d missed the exit from the 2nd ring road, stopped the meter at 18Y and drove me round the long way at no extra charge, instead of pretending that the long way isn’t a long way as most drivers do when they miss the exit. Accepted a rounded-up 20Y note after a couple of attempts to give me change. Verdict A 的哥 Beijing can be proud of.