My thoughts on Venezuela’s likely censorship of the internet

It looks like Venezuela is following China’s example as Chavez is likely to impose control over the internet. I have written on the subject at my blog and on how Hong Kong, notwithstanding being part of China, has probably the freeest press in the world. Read about it at my blog at Weebly.com

Yellow Crane Pavilion of Wuhan, Hubei

In May this year I went to Wuhan, Hubei to visit a client. I took the opportunity to visit the famous Yellow Crane Pavilion (黄鹤楼 pinyin: Huáng Hè Lóu), which is a structure of about 7 storeys built on a slightly elevated land at the bank of the famous Yangtze River. The history of the pavilion dated back to the Three Kingdoms period (220-280). When I stepped onto the terrace on the top floor of the pavilion, I had a fine view of the Yangtze River and the entire city of Wuhan. I was overwhelmed with emotion and proud of the greatness of the history of China.

The building is said to be named after a fairy tale that a fairy once passed here riding on a yellow crane. The building is regarded as one of the three most famous ancient terraces in China. There were many poems using this pavilion as the subject and below are the two most famous ones (sources of the two poems: Wikipedia)

Poem by Cui Hao
Yellow Crane Tower was made famous by an 8th century poem written by Cui Hao called “Yellow Crane Tower” (黄鹤楼). The original text of the poem is shown below:

昔人已乘黄鹤去,此地空余黄鹤楼。
黄鹤一去不复返,白云千载空悠悠。
晴川历历汉阳树,芳草萋萋鹦鹉洲。
日暮乡关何处是? 烟波江上使人愁。

A modern English translation of the poem may follow as such:

Long ago a man rode off on a yellow crane, all that remains here is Yellow Crane Tower.
Once the yellow crane left it never returned, for one thousand years the clouds wandered without care.
The clear river reflects each Hangyang tree, fragrant grasses lushly grow on Parrot Island.
At sunset, which direction lies my home town? The mist covered river causes one to feel distressed.

Poem by Li Bai

There is another famous poem about it by Li Bai called “Seeing off of Meng Haoran for Guangling at Yellow Crane Tower” (黄鹤楼送孟浩然之广陵). The original poem is shown below:

故人西辞黄鹤楼,
烟花三月下扬州。
孤帆远影碧空尽,
唯见长江天际流

A modern English translation of the poem may follow as such:

My old friend’s said goodbye to the west, here at Yellow Crane Tower,
In the third month’s cloud of willow blossoms, he’s going down to Yangzhou.
The lonely sail is a distant shadow, on the edge of a blue emptiness,
All I see is the Yangtze River flow to the far horizon.

My dear friends, please make a translation of the two poems. You may post it at “the comments” or send to me at bzin88@gmail.com

Can you find real friends at language social nets?

I have been a regular user of the language social nets like italki and Livemocha (hereinafter referred to as the said two nets) for almost 2 years, although I was on a hiatus for over 1 year and became active again in October this year. During the period, I have made a lot of friends. Recently I came across an interesting topic raised by my good friend, Judy, as to whether one can find real friends over such nets.

First and foremost, no one would argue that the two said two nets are not dating nets like Match.com or Love.163.com in the US and China respectively, the purpose of which are to serve people who are looking for dates or relationships. Whereas the purpose for the said two nets is for people to look for language partners usually from another part of the world. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to develop real friendship or a relationship.

Having said that, I think real friendship can be made over the nets like the said two nets. It is particular so in LiveMocha, whereby friends review the exercises or homeworks of other friend without any material benefits. A lot of my friends have gone through the trouble of going through the exercises I submitted in details and recommended ways as to how I can improve my language skills. I reciprocate the same by reviewing those of my friends. If that is not real friendship I don’t know what is.

As for my personal experience, I think I have found, among others, a real real friend in Jose Antonio of Mexico, whom I met at italki, in about June of 2008. He was very supportive of me when I wrote a similar blog then. He used to contribute from time to time to my former blog. Jose and I had difficulties understanding each other and I think we still do as my Spanish was limited then and still is, so was and is Jose’s English, but that did not affect our friendship. When I started this blog in about a month ago, without asking, Jose contributed a page long article entitled “The Chinese and Mayans were connected 5000 years ago” (my title), which has created tremendous interests among my Spanish speaking friends. To Jose, thanks once again.

Another good friend of mine is Jenny at my blog at 163.com. We share our personal feelings and concerns with each other from time to time, although we are only Platonic friends. Also Jane too at bzin1.weebly.com, I have been reviewing her English exercises. She is very kind to let me put up her works at my site for the benefits of my other friends. From time to time Jane gave me advice and inputs regarding the said website. Thanks also to Joseph which had written more comments on my blog at Wordpress than anyone, although I have known him for only three days. Also to John, another frequent follower of my blog, who shares his interests in music with me at bzin1.

As I write on, I notice one fun fact is that of all the names mentioned above, they all start with a J, Judy, Jose, Jenny, Jane, Joseph and John. I think it is what we Chinese say I have unspoken connections (緣份)with people’s names starting with the letter J. My friends, if you are angry with me because I did not mention your name as yours does not start with a J, let me know. If that is the case I owe a big apology to you.

Another issue encountered by users of the said two nets is whether one should meet his or her friend face to face personally. It is unlikely that friends of the said two nets would meet face to face as most of them are literally world apart. If such situation arises, what is your position? Personally, I have reservations about meeting a person whom I  know over the internet. Nonetheless, I have met one of my friends, an Italian fellow, together with his wife, when they came to Hong Kong as tourists. They were an extremely nice couple and we had a nice coffee and a nice exchange of languages in English and Spanish.

As a man, I have lesser concern, or no concern at all, regarding my personal safety if I am to meet with friends of the said two nets personally. If you come to Hong Kong, I would be most delighted to meet with you personally and extend a warm Hong Kong hospitality to you. As a matter of fact, I have never had any bad experience with my friends on the said two nets. The same cannot be said of my female counterparts. A couple of them told me that they occasionally were being pestered or harassed by some so called “men friends”. I think that is one of the negatives of an open communications system that one has to live with amid the many benefits that come with it.


马照跑舞照跳 Horse races go on and night clubs stay open

马照跑, 舞照跳 This quote, originated in Hong Kong in the eighties. is associated with the smooth transition of the sovereignty of Hong Kong from the British to the China motherland. The literal translation of this quote is “horses continue to run and people continue to dance”, which figuratively means “Horse races will go on and night clubs will stay open”.

I went to the Shatin race course for a horse race yesterday. It reminded me of the said quote. Let me write about the background thereof. Hong Kong was ceded to Britain under an unequal treaty under the Qing Dynasty which gave Britain “the right” to rule Hong Kong until 1997. In the eighties, China made it known unequivocally to the British that China wanted Hong Kong back came 1997. Back then, Hong Kong people were concerned that the change of sovereignty would mean a loss of freedom or a loss of the capitalistic lifestyle, which Hong Kong got so used to. With hindsight, Hong Kong people’s worries were unwarranted as Mainland China seems more materialistic than Hong Kong nowadays At that time, in order to calm the fears of the local people, the then China chief negotiator, Zhou Nan, said this popular quote, which meant that the status quo of Hong Kong would be maintained notwithstanding the change of flags. Under the doctrine of communism, gambling and sexes associated with horse racing and night clubs respectively are totally unacceptable. However, those were and are part of the lifestyles of Hong Kong. By saying that quote, the Central government was essentially saying Hong Kong would maintain a system which is financially, legally and politically independent from the Mainland China, thanks to which Hong Kong continues to prosper.

Below is an extract from the article entitled “Horse racing in Hong Kong….” written by Rory Boland at About.com, which aptly describes what horse racing is all about in Hong Kong.

Horse racing in Hong Kong is a pivotal part not only of many people’s lives but the city’s economy, and horse racing in Hong Kong is followed far more passionately than anywhere else in the world. Racetracks, particularly Hong Kong’s Happy Valley, which offers flat races only, are regularly packed, boasting an electrifying atmosphere that is rarely replicated on other racetracks. Outside the stadium, locals pour over form guides and tipster rundowns.

In all honesty, Hong Kong’s obsession with the horses is more an obsession with gambling,…….however with some of the world’s best tracks, world class race meets and a manic crowd, a visit to the track is a must. Those who are used to the refined atmosphere at English meets, or the sober surroundings on American tracks will find the roaring Hong Kong crowd and humble approach an exciting shock to the system and Happy Valley is simply one of the world’s greatest sporting spectacles.

Aside from the gambling and the racing, Happy Valley is very much a social affair. Beer tents and make shift hot-dog stands keep 40,000 people fed and watered, and much of the racetrack turns into the city’s biggest al-fresco bar.

Hong Kong Jockey Club

The Hong Kong Jockey Club has a monopoly on racing and betting in the territory, a holdover from colonial days, and the HKJC is the territories largest taxpayer and charity. The organisations privileged status is thanks to the average six million plus bets placed on each meet, meaning a flutter for nearly every Hong Kong resident.

According to an article of BBC in 2002:

the Hong Kong Jockey Club receives in excess of U$10 billion in betting revenues (around 80% of the US combined take from 167 racecourses), and the totalised wagers staked on a single day’s meeting can quite often be more than an entire year’s betting on many European and American racetracks.

Nevertheless, the HKJC does not make a profit, nor is it allowed to do so. Instead, the Jockey Club is Hong Kong’s largest contributor to tax revenue, and is the biggest single supporter of the city’s charitable causes. Indeed, at the end of the 2000 – 2001 racing season, the HKJC had given HK$1.06 billion in charitable donations to assist 180 charitable organisations and community projects.


Hiking the Mount Parker and Tai Tam Reservoir Trail

Last week on a sunny cool Thursday, my mother, a few overseas friends and I went hiking at the subject trail. We finished the trail in three hours. We scaled some steep hills on the first part of the trail, but aided by the paved steps, even my over eighty years old mother found it a pleasant exercise. Along that part of the trail, we saw mountains of different species of plants. As a matter of fact, I have gone through that part of the trail not too long ago and it was covered in my post about two weeks ago.

The second part of the trail started from what the local people called the windy pass and zigged zagged all the way down to the bottom of the mountain. The views of the reservoir from the pass were breathtaking and the breathtakingness increased along the way. There are in fact three reservoirs which make up the Tai Tam Reservoir. The water of the reservoirs was so clean, the air was so fresh, the atmosphere was so serene,  and the mountains were so green, I feel we, Hong Kong, are blessed.  My overseas friends were amazed that Hong Kong got such beautiful country park yet little known to visitors. According to them, a trip like this could be fit for a one day event and made some tourists stay one more day in Hong Kong .


The speaking of plums quenches one’s thirst 望梅止渴

By popular demands “The Chinese Metaphors” returns. The subject of this post is shown in the title. However, one should note that the literal translation of 望梅止渴 (wàngméizhǐkě) should be “The sight of plums quenches thirst”. It is a direct Chinese metaphor which the author borrowed an object to convey a meaning as opposed to an insinuating metaphor whereby the author borrowed an indirect object to convey a message to the hearer without offending him.

Background

During  the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), a general, Cao Cao 曹操,  was leading his troop of soldiers across a desert under the scorching sun.  The soldiers. were moving very slowly. even though they were close to the destination, due to the running out of body water and strength. Cao Cao tried all means to 0rder the soldiers to expedite, but to avail.  As a last resort Cao Cao claimed that there was a plum forest ahead of them and the sweet and sour plums would relieve their thirst.  When the soldiers heard that, saliva came up to their mouths and their thirsts were said to have cured.

Meaning

The are some scientific bases in this metaphor. It is likely that the presence of a pickled plum will bring saliva to one’s month. As to whether it would quench a thirst that is besides the issue. However, this metaphor, if effectively used, is a good icebreaker line, and will help you make a lot of sales and friends.

Examples

  1. If you can’t buy your son a Ferrari, buy him a model.
  2. In a sales competition, when your team members run out of steam, as a humor, you showed them a picture of a bonus check and say this metaphor. This would on the one hand relax them and on the other hand get them back on track.
  3. When your wife  goes on  a trip for a long period of time, you tell her that you are looking at her picture to quench your thirst. She will love you more.

One man’s poison is another man’s meat

That is what I amounted to say yesterday, when I put up  a post about eating poisonous snakes.

I, and most Chinese do, find that snake meats or snake soups tasteful and good for health. I can understand that some people feel otherwise.

A few of my friends found the said post distasteful (see the reverse pun). If I have  caused uneasiness to them, I must apologize.

If you are an ophidiophobia (snakephobia) or you find snake soup not your cup of tea, or bowl of soup,  please skip the next post.