Monday, January 26, 2009

"word hell"


"word hell" (wenzi diyu), or more accurately, "(chinese) character hell," is an interesting term describing getting into political or legal trouble for writing words that can be misconstrued as an attack on a leader. in the Qing dynasty, there was a charming old saying, "the clean wind cannot read; why, then, are you (the wind) turning the pages of my book?" the character "qing," or "clean," was also the name of the Qing dynasty: hence, the saying could be misconstrued as a veiled attack on the non-Han Chinese Qing authority. the blogger i quote above goes on to give a more modern example (cut off by my bad pasting skills). during the Cultural Revolution of the 60s and 70s, in some places traffic lights switched the red and green lights. "red," with its positive revolutionary meaning, was to indicate "go," and "green" was to mean "stop." i had never heard of this, but some pretty absurd things happened during those times.

1 comment:

ERIC said...