KMT supporters protesting Chen Chu’s (陳菊) appointment to the presidency of the Control Yuan, with the slogans 「拒絕酬庸撤換陳菊」 (Reject cronyism, withdraw Chen Chu), 「民主已死，暴政必亡」 (Democracy is dead, tyranny must fall) and 「民心已死，還我民主」(The hopes of the people are dead, give us back our democracy). There was a middling crowd outside the Legislative Yuan in the morning, where KMT legislators occupied the floor. These were taken after work.
A friend of mine posted a Taiwanese phrase in a Mandarin-language Facebook post recently that caught my eye:
The post translates roughly to:
For the first time in my life I got a drink for NT$1 in a lucky draw, and it turned out to be when I was buying a coffee for [name omitted], isn’t this what they call [lit.] the pig not getting fat, while the dog balloons.
There seems to be several variations of this phrase, including the one above, the version my colleague suggested 「豬沒肥，肥到狗」(ti bô pûi, pûi tio̍h káu) and the one listed on the Ministry of Education dictionary 「豬毋大，大對狗去」(Ti m̄ tuā, tuā tuì káu khì (Click link for audio)). A literal reading of the phrase is someone being unable to fatten their pig for market, while the dog, which is meant to serve as a guard dog, and should be agile, is getting fat instead.
One explanation of this phrase I found at this blog, suggests that it was originally quite a misogynistic phrase, as it could be used to describe a situation wherein the son of a house, who would actually benefit the family if he got a good education, gets bad grades in school, while the daughter, who wouldn’t benefit the family with an education, gets good grades:
A very horoscope-heavy profile on Weiling Chen (陳慧翎), the director of the Taiwanese drama On Children (《你的孩子不是你的孩子》) and the actor in the recent first episode, Ivy Yin (尹馨) makes reference to this interpretation, when the director (Chen) mentions that her mother once used the phrase, comparing her and her younger brother:
“Piscean Chen Weiling’s pressure growing up came from not being understood. She always remembers when her mother said, “the pig won’t get fat, while the dog gets fatter,” questioning why she was more brilliant than her little brother.”
It does seem to have a wider application, however, as both the poster and the subject of my friend’s post were male. In this context it’s kind of a mixture between ‘casting pearls before swine’ and a bitter cry of ‘why do some guys have all the luck.’ My friend is suggesting (jokingly) that he deserves good luck, but instead it’s being wasted on his friend.
A report in the Liberty Times used the phrase in a political context too, although the fact that Tsai Ing-wen is a woman may make the use of the phrase more natural. If you couldn’t tell from the subtle objective tone below, Liberty Times is not a big fan of the KMT:
“The KMT has always considered cross-strait relations its strength, and its leading elites take their orders from Beijing. Now, it seems, this has become toxic to their election hopes, so these heroes are unable to make use of their skills in this department.
As the situation continues to evolve, if Tsai Ing-wen doesn’t make any mistakes, the overall trend of the November election isn’t hard to guess at, as only the party in government will be sitting pretty in the mid-term elections. It’s only this situation that will drive Beijing to reconsider their stance on Taiwan. Cross-strait tensions are unlikely to ease until next year. However, China, in the end, is sure to discover that “the pig isn’t getting fatter, while the dog is ballooning”. Isn’t this dialectic quite good fun?”
This suggests that China will end up working with the DPP (the fat dog), rather than the KMT (the skinny pig), despite its idea of which party should be the best for it to work with.
So by now everyone’s quite likely seen the photo below of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) choking Kuomintang (KMT) legislator Chen Yi-min (陳宜民) over the latter’s attempt to disrupt the DPP’s passing of a holiday bill. The bill is an altered version of a KMT bill that the DPP had opposed while in opposition. The KMT reportedly has little opposition to the bill itself, but were objecting to what they see as DPP partisan hypocrisy in trying to pass a bill they had previously opposed and in passing the bill without allowing any time for debate. The KMT are not necessarily opposed to the practice of passing a bill without debate, but are rather a little miffed that the DPP is doing this despite praising and visiting students taking part in the Student Sunflower Movement, who were protesting the very same method of passing bills when the KMT was trying to pass a cross-strait trade-in-services act in 2014. Despite more publicity being given to the photo below, the KMT reportedly stuck the proverbial boot into a few DPP legislators too, but less conspicuously.
Anyway, this post is not primarily concerned with politics, but rather with a Taiwanese phrase used by former New Party legislator Li Sheng-feng (李勝峰) when commentating on the scuffle on TVBS’s political chat show ‘The Situation Room’:
Nothing good or auspicious is said when people are cursing at each other; people hate themselves for not being able to hit each other harder in a fight.
I originally thought that this was a mixture of two phrases in Taiwanese:
2. 「相罵恨無聲，相拍恨無力」sio-mē hīn bô-siaⁿ , sio-phah hīn bô-la̍t which means “When in an argument, you hate yourself for not being able to shout them down louder, and in a fight you’ll hate yourself for not being able to hit them harder”, or, you’ll always try and find a way to bring the other person down.
But my (very gracious) Taiwanese friend called his mother in the south and she said that the phrase that the guy says on the TV program does actually exist and that it is the same as the meaning of No. 2 listed above. But she also pointed out that people in southern Taiwan say “hūn” instead of “hīn”.
Feel free to share your opinion or any similar phrases you have in the comments section.
As the legislative and presidential elections draws near in Taiwan, politics is in the air… and on buses and on every street corner.
If anyone missed the first part of the presidential candidate debate on Dec. 27, you can view Part 1 here:
The next one is on Jan. 2 at 2pm.
Meanwhile, in District 8, independent Lee Ching-yuan (whose KMT membership was revoked in July due to his opposition to then KMT presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu) is gunning for incumbent legislator Lai Shih-bao. He’s released two leaflets with the intention of smearing Lai, both on the basis of whether he’s actually living in the district and his alleged incompetence in dealing with food-safety issues surrounding the Ting Hsin oil scandal.
The first leaflet attacking Lai on the Ting Hsin scandal is below:
The first page of the Continue reading
Have you been enjoying the flood of campaign leaflets flowing through your letterbox? I’m living near the boundary between the 5th and 8th electoral districts, so have been getting a range. One particular leaflet released by KMT candidate Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) caught my eye, as the entire thing was dedicated to smearing Lin’s rival for the 5th electoral district of Taipei, Freddy Lim (founding leader of the New Power Party (時代力量) and lead singer of heavy-metal band Chthonic):
The front side of the leaflet poses a question to Lim:
I want to ask Freddy Lim: “Why did you burn our national flag?”
Geeking out again after discovering another commemorative coin. The front reads 「共同經營大台灣」 (Running Greater Taiwan together) and below that “搏聚休戚與共的生命共同體” (United together through thick and thin as a community of fate). It’s written in seal script, which explains why it’s quite hard to read. I thought 「共」 looked particularly unlike it’s seal script version:
However, you can see the pattern when you compare it with 與, as the bottom of both characters is the same. You can download the seal script font for programs on your computer, including Word, here, although unfortunately you have to type in simplified for it to work (after unzipping drag the TTF file into your Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Fonts folder).
This coin was issued in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Taiwan being ceded to the Republic of China by Japan after World War II. This is commonly referred to as 「光復」(guang1fu4) in Chinese, which literally means “to restore the light”.
This term has sparked a certain amount of controversy given its implication that those living in Taiwan under Japanese rule were living in “darkness” until Chiang Kai-shek came to bring them to the light. The government of Taiwan launched a series of campaigns to attempt to “re-sinicize” and the populace of Taiwan, which the Republic of China government felt had been brain-washed or “enslaved” (奴化) by the Japanese in during the 50 years of colonial rule. The local population had been introduced to modernity under Japanese rule, but many artists and writers faced persecution or marginalization under the new Kuomintang government, as they were seen as collaborators by the new regime or never properly got to grips with writing in Chinese. Those who had been formally educated in the Japanese language had to learn Mandarin and this led to much of their work being overlooked until more recently, when it was translated from Japanese.
There is an excellent book on this period by historian Huang Ying-che (黃英哲) called Uprooting Japan; Implanting China: Cultural Reconstruction in Post-War Taiwan 1945-1947 (《「去日本化」「再中國化」戰後台灣文化重建（1945-1947）》): Continue reading
This is Li Ang’s much anticipated follow up to her 1997 book Everybody sticks it in the Beigang Incense Burner (《北港香爐人人插》), which I’ve yet to read. At first glance it is an irreverent look at the misogynistic self-aggrandizement that characterizes the generation of democracy campaigners who rose to fame after being imprisoned in the martial law era in Taiwan, some of whom later formed the Democratic Progressive Party and went into government under former president Chen Shui-bian. The book also deals with the symptomatic nature of the way the February 28 incident and the White Terror continue to manifest themselves in the political arena. Although this might seem a rather obscure or outdated theme, it can give us an insight into the background of the political mindset in today’s Taiwan, particularly in light of the recent Sunflower Movement and the problems in governance that it has highlighted. The attempt to smear the participants of the Sunflower Movement in March and April as violent rioters, for example, is reminiscent of the Kuomintang’s rhetoric against democracy protesters during the 1980s and 1990s that features in the book.
The book centres around the life of Chen Junying (陳俊英) from his youth as a dissident during the Martial Law era, to his slow drift into irrelevance as a retired politician living in the US in his later years. Li Ang goes to great pains in the introduction, stating several times that the character isn’t based on any one person in particular – her protestations are so frequent however that it’s almost as if she’s prompting us to take this denial with a pinch of salt.
Chen feels owed by Taiwanese society and Taiwanese women in particular and he has a mantra that recurs throughout the book which rationalizes his misogynistic behavior:
(My translation) He was forever the one being let down, it wasn’t just the Taiwanese people who owed him, didn’t Taiwanese women owe him too‽ So it was natural for him to sleep with a good number of women when he came out of jail.
The book can be read as a satire up to a point and parts of it are quite funny, recalling the satirical bite of Wang Chen-ho’s Rose, Rose, I Love You /《玫瑰玫瑰我愛你》, like the protagonist’s assumption that he will ejaculate more than other men because of the years he spent in prison, and because he thinks so much of his own masculinity:
(My Translation) She discovered that Chen Junying was excessively liberal with toilet paper after making love. When he climaxed, he didn’t leave that much ejaculate in her (his sperm wasn’t particularly greater in volume than other men, nor did it smell fishier), and not much of it would drip out of her vagina after they’d finished, so one or two sheets of toilet paper would have been enough to absorb it all. He would grab a handful of tissue from the box, however, and pass her a pile, watching her as she meticulously wiped herself clean of any trace until all of the tissue was used up.
In the same vein, Chen takes a very chauvinistic attitude during sex, as, despite being reviled as a dissident by many women in his youth, he still finds time to grumble about the only girl who is willing to get together with him, and treats her with scorn, viewing her status as the product of a “mixed marriage” between a mainland soldier and an aborigine as below his – with a lot of his fellow dissidents using the phrase 「無魚蝦也好」 (bô hî, hê mā ho – If there’s no fish, you can make do with shrimp) to tease him Continue reading