Neil Armstrong and Chinese Urinals

Posted in Society, Translations at 2:25 pm by Benjamin Ross

On multiple occasions during my stop through Zhejiang this past March, I noticed stickers such as the one below, posted above urinals in Internet bar bathrooms.


It reads 上前一小步, 文明一大步, or in English “Step forward one small step,  (become) civilized one big step.”  This notice, urging male patrons to inch closer to the facilities while urinating, is actually a play on words from another famous quote in China, “这是一个人的一小步,却是人类的一大步,” which is the Chinese rendering of “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” the famous words uttered in 1969 by Neil Armstrong upon the first successful Moonwalk, 24 years before Michael Jackson accomplished a similar feat.   

The “XX一小步,XX一大步” slogan format is not uncommon in China, as 40 years ago Mr. Armstrong inadvertently unleashed the perfect template, when translated into Chinese, for parallel metaphorical (I’m sure there’s a more technical term) public service announcements that still resonates today, even in dingy netbar lavatories.

The most prominent example of the “Armstrong template” is probably “个人文明一小步,社会文明一大步,” meaning “One small step for personal civility, one big step for society and civilization.” This slogan can be observed in public areas as a general reminder to people to wait in line, throw away trash, not spit on the floor, or anything else which is associated with “civilized” behavior.

The reason that Armstrong’s quote has stuck so well (in addition to the sheer magnitude of the moon landing) is that short, concise quotations, often with minimal (or no) grammar, are probably the most poignant ways to make witty statements in Chinese.  The prime example would be the 成语 (cheng2 yu3), where four characters are muttered in succession, and communicate an implicit meaning which usually requires several sentences of English to explain.

While Neil Armstrong’s command of the Chinese language is likely far superseded by his knowledge of the universe and astrophysics, I do imagine he would be humored to know that his legacy has produced one of the more indelible slogan templates in the Chinese lexicon…Or at very least to know his speech patterns are memorialized in the coveted real estate above Chinese netbar urinals.



Cultural Revolution Propaganda Part 3

Posted in Society, Translations at 10:55 am by Benjamin Ross

Here is the next batch of propaganda posters. I’m going to try to get the remainder up by the end of next week.

The regime will come from the gun
The regime will come out of the gun
The Selected Works of Mao Zedong
The Selected Works of Mao Zedong
Take over the fight, fight till the end.
Take over the fight, fight till the end.
note:  “fight” in this sense is through words.
Grasp the Revolution, Promote Production, Promote Work, Promote Combat Readiness
Grasp the Revolution, Promote Production, Promote Work, Promote Combat Readiness
the Selected works of mao zedong
The Selected Works of Mao Zedong
Be Ready for Combat, the Enemy Must be Annihilated
defend stalingrad soviet union world war II memorial poster
Injuries are man’s medal of honor
Soviet Union World War II memorial poster

note:  I am assuming the Chinese is a translation of the Russian.  If anybody can confirm (or deny) this, that would be great.

Proletariat, Unite!  Workers, Peasants, Soldiers, Unite!  We must Liberate Taiwan
Proletariat, Unite!  Workers, Peasants, Soldiers, Unite!  We must Liberate Taiwan
Far and Wide, the Prospects are Endless
Far and Wide, the Prospects are Endless
Great teacher, Great commander, Great leader, Great Helmsman, Long Live Chairman Mao.  Long Long Live (Chairman Mao), Long Long Live (Chairman Mao)
Great teacher, Great commander, Great leader, Great Helmsman, Long Live Chairman Mao.  Long Long Live (Chairman Mao), Long Long Live (Chairman Mao)



Cultural Revolution Propaganda Part 2

Posted in Society, Translations at 12:36 am by Benjamin Ross

Here’s the next batch of posters.  I’ll have more up as I get them scanned and translated.  Corrections welcome.

Long Live the invincible Marxism, Leninism, and Mao Zedong Thought!
Long Live the invincible Marxism, Leninism, and Mao Zedong Thought!
The Red Army does not fear difficult expeditions
The Red Army does not fear difficult expeditions.
Carry out in depth the Revolution’s Mass Criticism! Everything will come out
Carry out in depth the Revolution’s Mass Criticism! Everything will come out.
Soldiers and civilians unite as one, view the world and see who is the enemy.
Soldiers and civilians unite as one, view the world and see who is the enemy.
Long Live and victory to Chairman Mao revolutionary literature and art!
Long Live and victory to Chairman Mao’s revolutionary literature and art!
Carry out life, studies, and speech using the Mao Zedong Thought of the masses
Carry out life, studies, and speech using the Mao Zedong Thought of the masses.
Navigating the sea is dependent on the Helmsman Lin Biao
Navigating the sea is dependent on the Helmsman.
Revolution is dependent on Mao Zedong Thought.
Lin Biao 11/29/67
Be vigilant, defend the Motherland!  Prepare to annihilate the enemy’s invasion!
Be vigilant, defend the Motherland!  Prepare to annihilate the enemy’s invasion!
Forward and Victory with Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Path
Forward and Victory with Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Path.
Unite!  We must liberate Taiwan.
Unite!  We must liberate Taiwan.



Cultural Revolution Propaganda

Posted in Society, Translations at 3:49 pm by Benjamin Ross

This past summer, my former fellow Fuzhouite Ron Sims (aka “Black Man in China”), asked me to find some of those old Cultural Revolution style posters and bring them back to the US.  In addition to being a prolific podcaster, Ron is also a talented artist and web designer and had wanted to master the style of Chinese propaganda posters.

After a bit of a search, I was able to pick up a fairly comprehensive pack of 50 poster prints in one of those touristy shops near Qianmen.  Unfortunately for Ron, I have a soft spot for 60’s and 70’s propaganda, and it’s almost January and I still haven’t sent them to him in Cleveland.  I thought it would be interesting to translate some of them so that those of you who don’t 看中文 could read them (and have your thoughts properly molded) as well.  I have about 40 more, so if there’s interest, I’ll throw the rest up too.  Enjoy.

Unite, World Proletariat!  Down with American Imperialism!
Let the Vast Heavens and Earth be Smelted into a Red Heart
Long Live and Victory to Chairman Mao’s Proletariat Revolutionary Road
Long live the Great People’s Republic of China!
Sing L’internationale
You should be concerned about the National Grand Dispute.  Carry out the Proletariat’s Cultural Revolution to the end.-Mao Zedong
Hold high the party’s 9th General Assembly.  The banner of unity and victory comes from victory to victory
Study the Revolutionary Spirit of Lu Xun.  Suppress the Road of Confucianism.
Rise up!  Cold, Hungry, Suffering Slaves
Have a Very Happy New Year



Sexual Education and Family Planning with Chinese Characteristics

Posted in Health and Medicine, Society, Translations at 6:01 pm by Benjamin Ross

This past summer, during my trip to the Yu Village in Southern Hebei, I came across a jovial series of public health/sex education signs. They were constructed out of tile and affixed to the sides of stone buildings lining the main road of the Yu Village. Several generations ago, public displays such as these were the main avenues for the dissemination of public information. Thesedays, they are less and less common, and virtually non-existent in major cities. The following signs give step-by-step instructions on how you and your family can live a happy healthy life, and I have translated them for your enjoyment. Read carefully. You might even learn something.

(Click on the images to see enlarged views)

Fresh New Marriage and Child Rearing for 10,000 Families

Carrying out the activities of “Fresh New Marriage and Child Rearing for 10,000 Families” relies on the community, depends on families, and is for the greater purpose of establishing proper childbearing masses, science, civilization, and improving the institution of marriage. Our purpose is to create families which are civilized and happy, have less children, and become rich fast. There should be a societal trend in which marriage and childbearing is delayed, having less children is eugenic, and having a girl is just as good as having a boy. Happiness is connected to you, me, and others. Keep your knowledge of marriage and child rearing up to date, and help to establish Fresh New Marriage and Child Rearing.

Promote the idea of women having only one child.

note: ”10,000” is a commonly used Chinese hyperbolic expression implying an extremely large, if not infinite number.

The Wonderful Green Spring Period

What is the Green Spring Period?
The Green Spring Period is the stage which occurs from about 12 or 13 years of age until about 17 or 18.

The Green Spring Period…
is sexual development and the sign of maturation; For females it generally begins at the time of the first menstrual period. For males, it starts around the time of their first emission.

What are the signs of the Green Spring Period?
blurb: Every year (I) get 6-13 inches taller.
blurb: Every year (I) get 5-10 kilograms heavier.

The secondary sexual characteristics appear
females: the nipples protrude, the pelvis widens,the breasts develop, pubic hair and armpit hair begin to grow: menstrual periods begin and gradually become more regular, the voice gets higher.
males: stature increases, muscles develop: pubic hair, facial hair, and armpit hair begins to grow: Adam’s apple starts to show, the voice gets deeper and the tone gets lower, they begin to produce semen

side note: 青春期 (the Green Spring Period), in English is commonly known as “puberty.” However, the adolescent in me couldn’t help but leave it directly translated.

Chinese stick figure public health poster
The Wonderful Green Spring Period

“Menstruation,” What’s going on?
blurb: “What’s happening?”

Once a girl has reached the Green Spring Period, the inner lining of the uterus and the hormones begin to react. Girls will find that a cycle begins, and they will bleed. Blood will come out of the vagina and this is called “menstruation.” The menstrual cycle on average is 28 days. Menstruating is a sign of a healthy girl.

What you should pay attention to during your menstrual period
-Maintain a stable, optimistic, cheerful mood
-Avoid strenuous exercise and heavy manual labor
-Don’t go into the rice paddies barefoot
-Eat less cold and spicy food
-Do not swim
-Do not shower
-In order to prevent the private parts from getting to cold, do not sit on any cold surfaces.
-Every day use warm water to wash the genital area or eluviate
-Change and clean your “menstrual belt.” After you wash it, dry it out in the moonlight.

If you fall in love early, you could easily be affected by bad guys

What are the dangers of falling in love early?

blurb, middle right: 工读学校 (a special school for kids who need extra discipline)
-It will influence studies and work
-It will influence physical health
-Having a baby early will bring a lot of pain and suffering

Wish You A Happy Marriage

What is the pre-marriage examination?
Before they register to get married, young men and women undergo a health examination which is called the pre-marriage examination. There are a few diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis which need to be healed before getting married. This is in order to benefit the health of the woman and the child.

Why do you have to register to get married?

Once you have registered, the marriage is a legal marriage, and (the couple) can receive legal protection.

Regular gynecological exam
After women get married (they should regularly check) blood pressure, heart, pelvic exam, pap smear (cancer screening) , ultra-gynecology, etc. If there is a disease, they can find it early, and treat it early.

Help for you to get through the difficult peri-natal period

What you should pay attention to during labor
-Eat more, eat high calorie soup, milk, eggs, etc.
blurb: “It looks like this time you’re really going into labor!”
-Giving birth at home is way too dangerous!
-Don’t be nervous going to the hospital to have your baby. It will go much better if you do it with a doctor.

What you should pay attention to during the post-partum period
-Make sure you get 10 hours of sleep every day.
-Maintain proper ventilation
-Eat less, but more often
-get enough activity
-get adequate sunlight
-keep warm and keep sanitary

How to Have a Healthy and Smart Child

Why close relatives can’t get married
Regulation: It is illegal for relatives whose relations are closer than third cousins to get married.
blurb: “Cousin, Cousin.”
blurb: “Illegal!”
The mortality rate of children whose parents are close relatives is three times that of those whose parents are not related.

The chances of inheriting a genetic disease are 150 times higher for children whose parents are related as opposed to those of unrelated parents.

How to choose the best age to have children
blurb: “I’m 26 years old!”
sign: Females are fully developed by the age of 23-25.
The best age to have children is 25-29.

What is 优生?
优生means having a happy, healthy child
blurb: “This child is really smart!”
blurb: “This child is growing really well!”

Who determines the sex of the child?
banner : Having a boy and having a girl are the same
sign: mother XX father XY female child XX male child XY
The sex of the child is determined by the male!

note: The word next to the crying mother and female child in the bottom right (过去) means “in the past.” The word next to the two happy parents and the female child (现在) means “now,” thus implying in the past having a girl would make a couple sad, whereas today it will make a couple happy.

Necessary Precautions for Pregnancy

How to project your due date
The easy way to calculate is to start from the last menstrual period and either subtract 3 or add 9 to the month, and from the day add 7.

Due date:
If the pregnant woman is used to using the lunar calendar, she can add 15 days to the date.

How do you know you’re pregnant?
The most important sign of pregnancy is that the menstrual period stops.
caption: “I don’t want to eat. I want to…throw up…”

Early on in pregnancy, most women feel nausea, vomit, notice enlargement of the breasts, and become picky about their food
What to pay attention to after pregnancy
You should:
-Keep the skin clean
-Take good care of the breasts during pregnancy
-Make sure you are having regular bowel movements
-Do a prenatal screening
-Control your sex life
-Wear loose clothing
-Stay in happy spirits

Healthcare for Infants

What kinds of special neonatal care should be given to infants?

Neonatal refers to the period from when the baby is born until it is 28 days old

Be sure to keep them warm, keep the skin clean and sterile, have good oral hygiene, keep the umbilical cord clean, sterile, and dry,
loss of body weight

Do not button their clothes. Do not use a needle either. You should use a 带子系 which is tied at one side

The best thing for infants to eat is their mother’s milk

Mother’s milk is full of various nutrients. it’s easy to digest and absorb, it can boost the immune system, it’s economical, convenient, clean, and it’s the appropriate temperature. Under normal circumstances, at about 10-12 months, an infant should stop drinking its mother’s milk.

Care for Common Infant Maladies

What kinds of maladies do infants often get?
high fever,children’s pneumonia,
Make sure the air in their room is fresh
Give them enough water
Make sure the respiratory path is clear

This disease is the result of low iron intake
(Eat) more foods which contain iron such as meat, eggs, liver, vegetables, and vegetables should be added to the diet.

Infant Diarrhea

Make sure the anus and surrounding area is clean and sterile
Control the diet
Do not use medication without the guidance of a doctor

Children’s Rickets
This disease is caused by a vitamin D deficiency
You should eat more eggs, liver, vegetables, and fruit, and spend more time in the sun.

Care and prevention for other diseases in infants

bed rest, cover the blanket, keep the room dark and ventilated, drink a lot of water

Care for whooping cough
Keep the air fresh to prevent choking on smoke
Eat less, but more often
make sure they get adequate sleep

“Children’s Hospital”

Go quickly to the hospital to get a diagnosis


Choosing the Most Suitable Birth Control Method for You
Contraception method choices

1. For unmarried women
The best contraception methods:
-the man wears a condom
-short-term or “visiting relatives” birth control pills
-make sure to stop taking the pills 6 months before you want to get pregnant

2. During the breast feeding period
The best birth control methods:
-contraceptive implants
-long-acting contraceptive injections (get the injection every 3 months)

3. A mother with one child
The best birth control methods:
-oral contraceptives
-contraceptive injections
-contraceptive implants

4. Parents with two children
-The best birth control methods:
-getting the tubes tied
-contraceptive implants

5. Couples living in two different regions
The best birth control methods:
-“visiting relatives” birth control pills

6. Women nearing menopause
The best birth control methods: condoms
(those using birth control should stop half a year after the onset of menopause)

Control the population and thus improve the population’s quality.Strengthen the population and the Family Planning Policy.  Stabilize the low birth rate.



Barack Obama Targeting Chinese Voters?

Posted in Down in Chinatown, Translations at 8:32 pm by Benjamin Ross

During a routine walk through Chinatown today, I noticed that (like most neighborhoods in Chicago these days) the streetscape was blanketed with Barack Obama signage.  Chinese Americans are not usually viewed as a critical voting bloc, but apparently the Obama camp thought they were significant enough to put out this poster.

Barack Obama Poster in Chinese

It reads:

Please cast a vote for Obama
Strong Reforms
Lower taxes, more benefits
Whole-heartedly save the economy

Regardless whether or not Barry O. can garner the Chinese vote, his hold on the state of Illinois is a formidable force not to be reckoned with.  My own guess is that the sign is not targeted at Chinese American voters, but rather at “regular” Americans, as if to say “Look, Obama is multi-cultural.  He even attracts the Chinese.”  As for me, the sign had no effect.  I sent in my ballot last week.

伟大的导师,伟大的统帅  伟大的领袖, 伟大的舵手

奥巴马万岁,万岁, 万万岁!

*Midwesterner in the Middle Kingdom does not give explicit endorsements to any candidate or political party.  However, you are encouraged to give deep, thoughtful consideration to any candidate who may have a mother from Kansas.



Picture of the Day: Olympic No-Smoking Propaganda

Posted in Health and Medicine, Olympics, Society, Translations at 4:11 pm by Benjamin Ross

I saw this advertisement at the bus stop outside my apartment this morning.

Chinese No Smoking Advertisement

It reads:

Establish a non-smoking environment. Controlling smoking begins with me (you).

There are so many messages wrapped up into this advertisement it is difficult to know where to begin. Here’s what I see.

-You will be healthy if you don’t smoke.

-You will be happy if you don’t smoke.

-There is an inherent connection between quitting smoking and helping the environment.

-There is an inherent connection between the environment and the Olympics.

-A proper Chinese family should have only one kid.

-Having a girl child can make a family just as happy as having a boy.

The Chinese word for “propaganda” is 宣传 (xuan1 chuan2). However, unlike the English word, the Chinese term does not necessarily come with a negative connotation. 宣传 is more like a public service announcement, messages for the greater good of the masses. But like “propaganda,” 宣传 often specifically tells the reader what action he should take or how he should think, rather than just stating the facts.

A picture may be worth 1000 words, but a carefully procured picture, along with a working knowledge of Photoshop and an explicit slogan, is usually worth a whole lot more.

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