B; it’s more than a letter, much less than love

Couplets and rhymes circulate as text messages on Chinese cell phones and as scratched graffiti on walls. Although economic class and levels of education may separate texters from scratchers, nevertheless, the spirit of the message and the understanding of what it means to be human — especially and unfortunately about gender relations — is often…

poor but honest farmers? that’s the buzz…

乡下人三句话培养好孩子:1。孩子,爸妈没本事,你要靠自己;2。孩子,做事先做人,一定不能做伤害别人的事;3。孩子,撒开手闯吧,实在不行,回家还有饭吃。 城里人三句话害孩子:1。宝贝,好好学习就行,其他爸爸妈妈来办;2。宝贝,记住不能吃亏;3。我告诉你,再不好好学习,长大没饭吃! Country people raise their children on three sentences: 1. kid, your parents are useless, you’ll have to depend on yourself; 2. kid, to accomplish anything, first you have to be a good person, never do anything that would harm anyone else; 3. kid, let go and give it your best shot, in the…

if we are what we eat, what are we becoming?

养生 (yǎng shēng) or taking care of one’s health is a Shenzhen obsession. However, the difficulty of living a healthy life has given rise to cynical takes on the preventative measures of traditional Chinese medicine. A text message currently making the rounds, begs the question, “if we are what we eat, what are we becoming?:…

80s nostalgia

More text message fun; this time 80s nostalgia We miss the 80s, when medicine still cured illnesses; doctors took care of the sick and dying; people wore clothing for photographs; borrowed money was returned; you didn’t need a paternity test to know who the child’s father was; schools weren’t money making enterprises; being sick was…

Life lessons

Chinese politics confound me because they seem complicated and redundant. Fortunately, text messages simplify the problem. Of interest is the way that “family” operates as a metaphor to explain and justify power relationships. Actual job descriptions follow translation: 小姑娘看报,问妈妈:什么是党委,妈妈:党委就是你爸,整天不干活还老骂人。小姑娘又问:政府呢?妈妈:政府就是你妈,整天干活还被你爸骂。人大呢?人大就是你爷爷,名义是一家之主,但整天提着个鸟笼子,啥事不管。小姑娘又问:政协呢?妈妈:政协就是你奶奶,整天叨唠,但没人听她的。小姑娘还问:什么是团委?妈妈:团委就是你哥,整天在外瞎折腾,啥忙都帮不了,小姑娘最后问:什么是纪委?妈妈:纪委就是你,名义上是监督父母的,但是吃父母的,穿父母的,受父母领导,关键是还整天问这问那。 Reading the newspaper, a little girl asked her mother, “What’s the Party Committee?” Mom answered, “The…

revenge of the grandparents

Grandparents do the work of raising the next generation. Here’s a joke making the rounds. Go granny go! 「喂!現在我們不在家,請在聽到「嗶」聲後留言……… “Good morning. . . . At present we are not at home but, please leave a message after the beep……… 嗶… beeeeeppp … 如果你是我的兒子之一,先按1,再依照你打電話的目的,擇1到8; If you are one of our children, press 1 and then select…

why text messages?

As the Christmas decorations have been quickly swept away, Shenzhen has entered Chinese New Year mode. Rabbits are popping up everywhere and every type of text message from year in review to greetings are already circulating. On this blog, I have translated text messages because they provide insight into what my Chinese friends feel is…