‘The Military Wisdom of Mad Tse tung’ spotted at Eslite in Gongguan 誠品DVD中有《(有)毛(病)澤東兵法》

This made me laugh when perusing the DVD shelves at Eslite Bookstore in Gongguan:


The English title of the third DVD from the left reads, “The Military Wisdom of Mad Tse Tung, although the Chinese reads as normal. Not sure if this was a passive aggressive gesture from the English proofreader or just a genuine mistake. Probably a more accurate representation of the content anyway…

Sing to speak Taiwanese: Part 3 (Chorus) ‘The hustle and bustle is all a dream’ 會唱就會講台語:〈繁華攏是夢〉第三段(副歌)

This is a continuation of Part 1 and Part 2. My favorite part of the song which also contains some useful vocabulary for those 3am calls to your ex to tell them how heartless they are and everything you’ve done for them. I’ve posted different versions of the song in each post, so here’s the 北七樂團’s version, although there’s another song at the end:

I’ve reposted the lyrics as they appear at KTV below as a reminder: Continue reading

Save the Firefighters and whatever the yellow ribbon used to say! 搶救消防員!

I was outside 7 11, when I saw this bicycle with two ribbons tied round it and decided to have a closer look. The yellow ribbon had already faded to nothing, but I assumed that it was in support of the Sunflower Student Movement, though if I’m wrong, feel free to comment below. 20141226_092500

The red ribbon read: 20141226_092455

Save the fire fighters

I searched online for this and found several linked websites and Facebook pages advocating for fire fighter rights, as below:

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/savefirefighters

A blog: http://savefirefighters.blogspot.tw/

A Youtube account: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0VNfomF1Mw

An Apple Daily news article: http://www.appledaily.com.tw/realtimenews/article/new/20140817/453271/

A blog post: http://berryvoice.org/b/item/151-voice-of-da-and-ker

And a post on a citizen journalism website: http://www.peopo.org/news/253311

The websites all advocate for better working conditions for firefighters in light of recent events, in particular with reference to the explosion in Kaohsiung, and a later demonstration on August 18.  Continue reading

Crosswords in Chinese 橫豎字謎

Photo via Wiki Commons

Photo via Wiki Commons

I’ve been eager to start a Chinese version of cryptic crosswords for some time, but it’s a pretty challenging feat.

There is already a tradition of the Chinese character riddle or 字謎.

Examples of this kind of riddle, taken from this helpful site are as below:

1. 真丟人 (The solution and an explanation follows in white, highlight it to reveal) You take the  「人」shaped two strokes off the bottom of 真 to get 直 which is the solution.

2. 見人就笑 (The solution and an explanation follows in white, highlight it to reveal) This is where the algebra component of 字謎 comes in. 人+ x=笑 hence 笑-人=x hence x=竺

3. 千古恨 (The solution and an explanation follows in white, highlight it to reveal) This references a popular saying taken from 《隋唐演義》 which goes 一失足成千古恨 (one step out of place can spawn hatred for a thousand years), here it means you combine 失 and 足 to get the character you want, 跌

4. 禮義廉恥 (The solution and an explanation follows in white, highlight it to reveal) These are the four social bonds 四維: propriety, justice, integrity and honor, if you were to put these into one character, 四 can be put on top and 維 put on bottom to make 羅.

5. 二小姐 (The solution and an explanation follows in white, highlight it to reveal) Another word for secondary is 次 and 小姐 indicates a woman, 次 and 女 can be combined into one character 姿 meaning posture.

6. 存心不善,有口難言 (The solution and an explanation follows in white, highlight it to reveal) This is algebra again, x + 心 = 不善 and x + 口 = 難言, so we have to think of a character that when it has a heart radical means not good, and when it has a mouth radical means “hard to say”, the solution is 亞, as 惡 means evil (not good), and 啞 means mute, which would make it hard to speak.

7. 寶島姑娘 (The solution and an explanation follows in white, highlight it to reveal) The 寶島 can only be 台灣, specifically the 台 and the 姑娘 is 女, which together make the character 始.

Try some of the clues yourself, or at least try to suss out how you get the answers.

I’ve blacked out the answers in this Google Doc.

I like it a lot better when the solution is hinted at in the clue, and think that it could be extended to longer clues, making a crossword. Unfortunately I lack the programming skills to make it happen.

I tried to make up my own cryptic Chinese clue a while ago, wonder if anyone can guess it.


Hint: 不令 is a synonym for 不善

Scientology is recruiting in Taiwan – Eeep! 台灣山達基

I didn’t realize how developed the Scientology infrastructure is in Taiwan, but got this familiar looking leaflet through the door asking me if I wanted a free stress test:


It reads:

Do you know where your stress is?

Is your vitality being drained by past experiences?

Find the source of your stress!

With this voucher you can get a free stress test!

Dianetics Daan Center

This is a professional and very accurate stress test, which uses a refined piece of equipment to help you find what is holding you back in life, the things that are causing you stress, it will also show up your problem areas, that are holding you back from your true potential and happiness. You’ll be able to see clearly what it is that is destroying your life and holding you back from your heart’s desires.

Come now and get a free stress test!

Scientology is called 山達基 in Chinese and their website is here. I’ve been watching some shows on Scientology on the Media Mayhem Youtube channel:

Makes for pretty scary watching.

I’ve searched the Taiwanese media, but there seems to be largely positive coverage of local branches of Scientology in the news, mentioning their voluntary work.

  • Here they are organizing an International Human Rights march in cooperation with other groups in a report by Central Daily News, with no reference to controversy over the group in the US.
  • Here they are helping out in the disaster area after the tragic Kaohsiung gas explosion in a report by China Times, with a direct reference to the philosophy of Ron Hubbard:

    提供教會創始人L.羅恩賀伯特所研究的「援助法」,幫助災民舒緩身體緊繃及情緒紓壓。Using the “assistance techniques” researched by the religion’s founder L.  Ron Hubbard, to help those affected by the disaster relieve the tension in their bodies and helping them with stress.

    but no reference to controversy over the group in the US and they are referred to as a “教會” (religion).

  • Here they are in Central Daily News again, with an anti-drug advocate from Scientology teaching kids more about the facts on drugs again with no reference to any controversy. The article also cites L. Ron Hubbard:

    黃彥嘉引用人道主義者L. 羅恩 賀伯特之言「當前文化中,毒品藥物的破壞性勝過一切。」Huang Yan-chia cited the words of humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard, “In previous cultures, the destruction of drugs was greater than anything else.”

  •   And in this Central News Agency article they are credited with helping setting up an educational resources platform, again with no reference to controversy.

I could not find any specific negative references to Scientology within Taiwan, only reportage on the controversy in the US:

  • A film attacking Scientology about to be released in the US is discussed in this article by Storm Media, which describes the group as a “highly controversial religion”. It also refers to some of the controversies specifically but doesn’t mention Taiwanese Scientologists at all.

There was also a reference in this Australian news article talking of Australian Scientology using Taiwan as a recruiting ground.

There does seem to be some resistance to Scientology in Taiwan and the Chinese-language blogosphere though, like this anti-Scientology Twitter feed, which seems to trace back to this blog. There is also this blog which has a strident anti-Scientology message.

I would be interested if anyone has found any (preferably more in depth) articles written on Scientology in Taiwan, let me know in the comments section.

In case it was not clear already – this is not an endorsement.

UPDATE (2016/8/1): An article critical of Scientology in Taiwan which cites an ex-Scientologist was recently published in the Atlantic.

Misappropriating money in Taiwan – 挨錢 or A錢?


A completely unrelated photo from wiki commons

A錢 e chîⁿ (click syllable to hear) means to steal or misappropriate money, but there has been debate online about what the “A,” pronounced “e” (click to hear) actually stands for, with some people attributing it to an abbreviation of an English word and others assuming that it represents a Chinese character. After looking online I found around three theories in total.

1. The first I found pretty unconvincing, essentially that this is an abbreviation of the English word “abuse”. Why this word would come to Taiwan when it isn’t really used in this context in English is anyone’s guess, maybe “appropriate” would be more convincing. I don’t think that verbs like this would be adapted from English however, not to mention that “A” means “adult” or “porn-related” in Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan.

2. The second two examples posited two separate characters as the Taiwanese for “A.” One was a random poster on Forumosa in English, who said:

It is a false adaption from Taiwanese. “A錢” should be “挈錢”(qie4 qian2).

The Taiwanese for 挈 (to lift/ to raise) is kho̍eh though, so it doesn’t really fit.
The second was on the comments section of a messaging board for UCPenn which stated it was 掖:

From what I have found, A錢 originally comes from 掖錢 (pronounced as yē qián in Mandarin), 掖 means “to hide under armpits and take away.”

But 掖 is pronounced  (click to hear) in Taiwanese, so this doesn’t seem to fit either.

3. The third and most convincing argument is from the Taiwan Language Blog which posits 挨 or the now defunct ae98ca21-1  – both of which can mean “to meet with” or “to push,” to pull” or “to grind.” The blog states that the use of the term in the sense of misappropriation and specifically in the verb-object phrase A錢 began to appear in newspapers at around the end of 1999. The blog owner suggests that in this context means to pull, and by extension to shift about or to take a bit from this to make up for that, which can by turn be extended to misappropriation of money:

“e(挨)”有“拉”的意義(如前述的挨弦仔,e-hien´-na`,拉胡琴),e-lai´-sak-k‘iʟ 也就有拉過來推過去的意思,也就是“挪東補西”,把那邊的錢挪過來補這邊的坑洞的意思了。

All in all I have the most faith in the third solution. If anyone else has a clearer idea let me know in the comments section. Feel free to contact me with any cool Taiwanese words or phrases you hear and want featured on the blog.

‘You Are the Apple of My Eye’ Review《那些年,我們一起追的女孩》 – What it’s like to be a dull person in Taiwan…


The nicest thing one can say about this film is that it gives an idea of what it was like growing up as a straight boy in Taiwan for the generation born in the 1980s, or at least an idealized “idol drama” version of it – but I think that this is done in a more interesting way in Eternal Summer (《盛夏光年》), which incorporates a gay story line and has more complex character development beyond the Taiwanese “everyman” represented in this film  and even Winds of September (《九降風》). Based on a short story by Giddens Ko, a Taiwanese blogger-cum-novelist, You Are the Apple of My Eye is an extended idol drama, a dreary recounting of the author’s high school and university years. The humor in the film incorporates several wank jokes reminiscent of American Pie, but in this film these just came off as weird as the film tries to be an idol drama and The Inbetweeners at the same time, so the protagonist is a compromise between the typical  Taiwanese drama male lead and an inbetweeners-style comically unself-aware weirdo and the balance didn’t quite work here, as he just came off as cocky.  Continue reading

Variants in literature: 犟嘴 for 強嘴 jiang4zui3 To talk back/to give lip


犟 jiang4 (/qiang3)

I found this variant of 強 in a traditional character version of a mainland Chinese novel (《馬橋詞典》 Dictionary of Maqiao by 韓少功 Han Shaogong). This character is not listed in the Taiwanese Ministry of Education dictionary although it is listed in the variant dictionary. I was surprised to see the character in a traditional character book, because it incorporates the simplified version (or variant) of 強: 强 above 牛 (ox). Lots of simplified characters were adapted from variants or commonly used shorthand however, so it’s not overly unusual. At first I thought it might be an amusing glitch thrown up in the process of transcribing the simplified characters into traditional characters, but after checking the original on Google Books, it seems to have been a choice by the author:


In the Taiwan variants dictionary it is weirdly listed as a variant of standard character  c07107 although this character cannot be typed – as it automatically switches back to 犟 when typing in zhuyin 注音 and Cangjie 倉頡.

Neither are listed as variants of  either. So I can only assume that Taiwan chose to replace this character with 強 in daily usage, although it still exists in its simplified form.

When is it 裡 and when is it 裏? Commonly used variants in action!

I recently posted a list of Chinese character variants and the Taiwanvore blogger posted an additional pair of variants to the list in the comments section – one in very common usage in Taiwan, specifically 裡 (for Cangjie fans that is 中田土) and 裏 (卜田土女). This variant pair is quite a rare example in modern Chinese as both are in regular usage, although according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, 裡 is the standard character (正體) and 裏 is the variant (異體). Continue reading

Nothing like a bit of Budaixi after a hard day at work in Wanhua 萬華街頭布袋戲

budaixiThere was a big celebration going on in in Wanhua (萬華) on Saturday, with people from the local temples dressed up as gods (some of which were eating bento boxes and others sneaking a quick pee in alleys, but well-behaved all in all). As I was cycling home, I saw this Budaixi truck, playing to no one, so I stopped to have a lookey-loo and as no experience is complete without being filtered through the ‘me-machine’ (a description of smartphones in Joshua Ferris’ new book To Rise Again at a Decent Hour – a promising book that didn’t really seem to come to a satisfactory end), I filmed a bit of it. This kind of thing offers a great opportunity to study a bit of Taiwanese, although I’m not sure how useful the vocab is. Below the video is a transcript courtesy of a Pingtung friend, the “x”s mark the bits that even he couldn’t understand. Anyone with a better ear for Taiwanese welcome to comment below to fill in the gaps:

XXX的信使,到現在一點消息都沒有,我的女兒XXX,女兒不見只好對付(fight)大宋(Song Dynasty 960-1279)官兵,來去(出發)啊~~~ (015~025音樂)


使差 or 使俠? (This one isn’t clear but the meaning is 信使 or messenger) it sounds like  kiap or gia̍p, but can’t be sure. Any help in the comments below would be appreciated. Continue reading