By Teng Biao, translated by Rogier Creemers Teng Biao (滕彪) is a well-known legal scholar and rights lawyer in China. Read the original here. Even in Robinson’s world of one man, his life required information, reflection and memory. Human society not having information is even more impossible to imagine. It may be said that a person is moulded by the information he or she comes into contact with and masters; a society is the same. Thinking and memory cannot be separated from language. Modern philosophers have paid more and more attention to the extreme importance of language in human societies. The thinking human (homo sapiens) exists first and foremost as a language human (homo loquens). Society and language have not stopped interacting for a blink: regardless of […]
When many westerners arrive in Beijing or Shanghai, their suspicion that all Chinese really are the same is quickly confirmed. The fact that 92% of China’s population identify themselves as Han, almost seems like an underestimate at first glance in the subway station as the homogeneous mass of tanned skin and black hair surge onto the train. Today I want to challenge this misconception. Despite first impressions, there are huge regional differences in China. As with all ethnic groups, the idea of a single common “Han” people is a social construction, not scientific one. Throughout history the definition of “Han” has been murky. Note: I’m using “Han” here, but it is not clear whether or not a concept exactly like ethnicity existed in ancient China. For the most […]
On my way to the supermarket I pass a man fixing bicycles, a place that can repair virtually any article of clothing and at least three shops that can solve any problem on almost any cell phone. This culture of fixing things instead of throwing them away is something I deeply admire. In Longzhou I had a flat tire, so I went to the repairman who worked behind a newspaper stand just off campus. His body was a rich brown, and he hardly had any hair left on his head, just a few wisps combed over. He only spoke the local dialect, and I could only speak Mandarin, but he knew what I wanted when he saw the sorry shape of my bicycle. He pulled […]
This last week I had the chance to chat with 小米2020 (xiaomi) who is one of the organizers behind yizhe group (http://yyyyiiii.blogspot.com/). This group translates western journalism on China, so that it can be more accessible to common Chinese people. Sometimes because it covers a different perspective, but often because the news is considered to “sensitive” to be reported domestically. Tom: How would you describe the purpose of Yizhe group? 小米2020: Yizhe is the Chinese word for “translator”. We are all individuals who can understand more than one language. And most of the Yizhe members are bilingual in English and Chinese, with Mandarin as our mother’s tongue. When you can do that, you cannot help noticing that there is a gap of information in terms of what you […]
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