Happy Year of the Pig

saturday, feb 18 is the first day of the year of the pig. as far as i know, everyone is looking forward to a fat year: get rich young piglets. i found these messages more difficult to translate than the solar new messages, because they’re not only more punny, but also more culturally specific; understanding the joke requires knowing lots about what pigs mean in chinese culture. anyway, the joke, of course, is always the pig’s identity. i’m in north carolina, but friends have generously forwarded lunar new year’s greetings. here are three text messages making rounds in shenzhen:

脸大眼小, 是个领导;

the blind person
tells super accurate fortunes.
a crowd brings over the trussed up, de-haired one
to have it’s fortune told.
the blind person
upon rubbing [the pig] says happily:
a fat butt and round belly, you’re a party member;
a round face and small eyes, you’re a leader;
fine skin and soft flesh, you’re keeping fresh.

here, the joke hinges on the line 众人抬褪过毛的 which implies a trussed up, de-haired pig that has been brought to market. however, the 的 makes the pig implicit, because the next character is the pronoun “you”. the final pun is between keep fresh and keep the avant-garde party line.

猪的四大理想: 四周篱笆全撒掉, 天上纷纷掉饲料, 地球屠夫死翘翘, 世界人民信回教。 感谢猪先生对人类做出的贡献! 希望肉价不要在上涨。

a pig’s four ideals: fences on all four sides have been knocked down, feed continuously falls from heaven, all the earth’s butcher’s die with four limbs straight up, all the world becomes muslim. thanks to mr. pig for their contributions to humanity! hoping that meat prices don’t go up.

this one rhymes, is easy to memorize, and contains great images. i didn’t get the muslim line until yang qian explained that muslims don’t eat pork! i knew that but… i had been thinking in religious terms, where the joke is that for most han chinese, muslims are defined by the fact that they eat lamb and don’t eat pork. yang qian kept chortling, “all the world becomes muslim, of course pigs would be happy!”


2007 year of the pig resolutions [or to paraphrase bill murray in caddyshack: BE THE PIG]:
everything you eat, tastes good—-a pig’s appetite.
everywhere you sleep is comfortable—-a pig’s sleep.
when facing tribulations—-dead pigs don’t fear boiling water [1].
on loosing confidence—-insert scallions in the pig’s nostrils: pretend your an elephant [2].
when working and treating other people—-pig bajie carrying his wife on his back: be willing to work hard [3].
on getting rich—-get rich like a fat pig, don’t get sick and raise lots of piglets [4]!

the footnotes:

1. dead pigs don’t fear boiling water is a phrase used to criticize someone’s indifference to a matter that other’s care about.
2. the scallions are the pig’s “trunk”. the phrase 装象 puns 装像, an expression that means to fake it.
3. an allusion to “journey to the west”, pig bajie wanted a wife and so carried any woman on his back to see if they liked him.
4. 猪 pig puns 珠, the word for pearl.

happy chinese new year!

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