Language

A pedestrian walks past a mural from the "Heart of Cyberpunk" exhibition in Sham Shui Po district in Hong Kong on 24 October 2020. (Photo by May JAMES / May James / AFP)

'Transnational Chinese-language cyber intellectual enclaves': An emerging phenomenon

Wu Guo observes that with the prevalence of WeChat and other online platforms, “transnational Chinese-language cyber intellectual enclaves” are emerging. Such an avenue is freeing for some, as ethnic Chinese academics around the world who mainly use the Chinese language now have an avenue to share their views with other ethnic Chinese in or outside China. But for those keeping track of where the centre of gravity of China discourse is moving towards and who fear being left out of the conversation — should they be worried?   
People wearing face masks, following the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, hold China flags attend a flag-raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square on National Day to mark the 71st anniversary of the founding of People's Republic of China, in Beijing, China, 1 October 1, 2020. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/REUTERS)

The problem of inappropriate language in China's diplomacy

In today’s complex world of international relations, it seems that China has much to learn about the art of diplomacy. Boston University PhD candidate Pang Ruizhi says that China needs to stop using coarse, overly hostile and inappropriate diplomatic language, or risk diminishing, rather than growing its influence.
People climb the Great Wall, illuminated to mark the first day of Mid-Autumn Festival and the Chinese National Day, in Beijing, China, 1 October 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Wang Gungwu: The high road to pluralist sinology

Professor Wang Gungwu, eminent historian and university professor of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore, was awarded the 2020 Tang Prize in Sinology earlier this year. At the 2020 Tang Prize Masters’ Forums — Sinology held last month, Professor Wang traced the evolution of sinology in the West and East, observing that today, a “pluralist sinology” is emerging alongside a rising China. This allows for the term “sinologist” to be applied to a much larger group of scholars, and for the bringing together of various knowledge traditions and academic disciplines in the study of China. While there is much to be cheered by this, Professor Wang also urged his fellow scholars to be ready to “douse the fires that others had fanned”, as knowledge gathered by pluralist sinology could be used as a weapon amid intense rivalry between the US and China. This is the transcript of his speech. 
People walk in the tourist area surrounding Houhai Lake during Chinese National Day holidays in Beijing, China, 2 October 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

The China story is not just about politics, Confucius and mooncakes

For China to spread its culture abroad successfully, the China story needs to be modernised, says Wu Guo. Ancient Chinese history and literature may be too daunting, while mooncakes and fan dances may be too superficial. People want to know what the Chinese man on the street thinks about, and what his culture of today is. Contemporary cultural products such as idol dramas and pop groups may do the trick, but so would down-to-earth insight into the lives of Chinese people. Often, just a peek into the everyday is enough to know we’re all not so different after all.
Demonstrators, holding signs with Mongolian script, protest against China's changes to school curriculums that remove Mongolian language from core subjects, outside the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 31 August 2020. (Anand Tumurtogoo/Reuters)

Inner Mongolia's new language policy: Will it endanger Mongolian culture and language?

Inner Mongolian students were told that they will be taught in Mandarin instead of the Mongolian language using national textbooks. This policy seems to be for the greater good of fostering national unity in China, but the implementation methods can certainly be better refined. Zaobao correspondent Edwin Ong examines the issue. 
Proverbs encapsulate profound life experiences and reveal a culture's thoughts and way of life. (iStock)

Proverbs and sayings: Understanding a culture's biases, thoughts and way of life

Proverbs and sayings are not just traditional phrases handed down from generation to generation, says cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai. Dissected, they reveal a culture’s biases, thoughts and way of life. Understanding a country’s proverbs is understanding the people that use them.
Imperial painter, Emperor Kangxi in his casual outfit at his writing desk (《康熙帝便装写字像》), partial, The Palace Museum. (Internet)

Beautiful or outdated? The journey of Chinese characters through the ages

Cheng Pei-kai reflects on what a blessing it is that Chinese characters have evolved yet stayed intact through the years and writers can still use them to create works of literature that stir the heart, mind and soul. The fact that Chinese characters work auditory and visual muscles all at once have more than a little to do with it.
Students in a Chinese language class in Indonesia.

Is Chinese language alive or dying in Indonesia?

In 1966, Indonesia banned the use of the Chinese language. The ban lasted 32 years, and led to up to two generations of Chinese Indonesians becoming completely assimilated. However, when the ban was lifted in 1998, there was an immediate rush to learn the Chinese language. But is that enthusiasm still there? Zaobao reporter Sim Tze Wei visits schools in Indonesia to find out more about the changes in Indonesia’s Chinese language education over the past 20 years.
Hong Kongers should be effectively bilingual, but the majority of university students are failing English, consistently getting the ‘D' and ‘E’ grades. What has become of university education in Hong Kong? (iStock)

Lost in translation: What has become of university education in Hong Kong?

When cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai is tasked to use the English language to teach Chinese literature to Hong Kong students, he questions if it is all a ploy to help students improve their standard of English. Such a shame it is then, how gems of China’s precious literary and cultural heritage are withered away in every nuance lost in translation.