Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Taiwanese Slang: 夭壽 (iáu-siū) and ㄎㄧㄤ or 勍 (khiang)

I was reading some of the comments to this crazy music video by 9m88 and barely understood it. Time to learn some slang!
  • 么壽這女人明年金曲一定得獎 又可以爵士又可以復古 還可以ㄎㄧㄤ: The first word 么壽, also written 夭壽 is Taiwanese, pronounced iáu-siū. The corresponding mandarin is 夭折 which means to die prematurely. It can mean "it's a shame" and in slang it's is used like a cussword, but it can also be used for emphasis. I think this is how it's being used here. At the end is ㄎㄧㄤ, pronounced "kiang", is discussed here. It's a slangword derived from Taiwanese, used to say that a person's head isn't on straight, e.g. they are drunk or high, or acting crazy. It's slang meaning is different from it's original meaning, which is "to take advantage of someone" -- probably written 勍 (khiang). So this comment is saying... "Fuck, she's already got next year's Golden Melody Awards in the bag, she can do jazz and retro and can also go nuts" or something.
  • 這首歌到底嗑了多少才能又ㄎㄧㄤ又有品質: This sentence also uses ㄎㄧㄤ. The word 嗑 is Mandarin, and means to use your teeth to crack open something hard or sometimes used to mean chit-chat, but it's also used in a phrase 嗑药 which means to take drugs. So this translates: "How much drugs did she have to take to make this so nuts yet so quality?"
  • 看不懂這三小 不過好喜歡: I've discussed 三小 here, but this is a common one I'll rehash. It means "what" but it's a cussword. So I'd translate this "I don't understand what the fuck this is but I like it." There's another comment on another one of her videos to the same effect: 雖然不知道在唱三小 不過我喜歡.
Anyway, about 9m88, she performed in this year's Taiwanese Waves concert in NYC. I had hoped to go but it was too difficult for me to go to NYC that weekend. Her videos are always interesting... I think the above comments kind of sum it up. Anyway, I like 'em.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Song Lyrics: Odyssey to Tamsui (流浪到淡水) by Chin Man-Wang (金門王), Lee Ping-Huei (李炳輝) and Chen Ming-chang (陳明章)

Original music video:


Performance by lyricist Chen Ming-chang:


Song: Odyssey to Tamsui (流浪到淡水)
Performer: Chin Man-Wang (金門王) and Lee Ping-Huei (李炳輝)
Lyrics: Chen Ming-chang (陳明章)



ū-iân, bô-iân, ta̍k-ke lâi tsò-hué
有緣,無緣,逐家來做伙
Fated or not, we all come together


sio-tsiú ím tsi̍t pue, hōo-ta--lah, hōo-ta--lah
燒酒飲一杯,予焦啦,予焦啦
And drink a cup of wine, drink up, drink up


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Song Lyrics: 追追追 Chase Chase Chase by 黃妃 N̂g Hui

This is a pop song originally sung by Hokkien singer N̂g Hui (黃妃). I first heard of it via a cover by Chen Ming-chang (陳明章), who actually composed the song and lyrics for the original.





There's a guy on the bongos on this version that looks like he is having a ton of fun.

Song: 追追追 (Chase Chase Chase)
Original Artist: 黃妃 (N̂g Hui)
Cover Artist and Composer: Chen Ming-chang (陳明章)


tshian kang suí, tshian kang gue̍h, tshian lí phâng
千江水 千江月 千里帆
A thousand rivers, a thousand moons, a thousand sails

tshian tāng san, tshian lí kang san, guá siōng suí
千重山 千里江山 我上媠A
A thousand mountains, a thousand miles of river and mountain, I am most beautiful

bān lí gu̍eh, bān lí siânn, bān lí tshiū
萬里月 萬里城 萬里愁
A million moons, a million cities, a million sorrows

bān lí ian, bān lí hong-song, guá siōng iau-kiau
萬里煙 萬里風霜 我上妖嬌
A million smokes, a mllion hardships, I am most charming



siánn-mih khuán ê sat-khì, siánn-mih khuán ê kak-sik
啥物款的殺氣 啥物款的角色
What kind of murderous mood, what kind of role

siánn-mih khuán ê hiau-hiông, pik gún tshik má tuī hong-tîn
啥物款的梟雄 迫阮策馬墜風塵
What kind of person, makes us to press on and fall from our heights

siánn-mih khuán ê ài-tsîng, siánn-mih khuán ê tuī-lo̍h
啥物款的愛情 啥物款的墜落
What kind of love, what kind of fall

siánn-mih khuán ê un-liû, hōo gún li̍t-iā lóng siūnn lí
啥物款的溫柔 乎阮日夜攏想你
What kind of warmth, makes us think of you day and night

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Song Lyrics: 最遙遠的距離 The Furthest Distance by 流氓阿德 Ardor Huang feat. 蔡依玲



Song: 最遙遠的距離 (The Furthest Distance)
Artist: 流氓阿德 (Ardor Huang) feat. 蔡依玲



lí ê hîng-iánn, sī guá ê la'h li't
你的形影 是我的日曆
Your whereabouts are my calendar

lí ê mîa-lī, sī guá ê li't-kì
你的名字 是我的日記
Your name is my journal

lí ê hí-nōo, lí ê ai-lo'k, sī guá ê sù-kuì
你的喜怒 你的哀樂 是我的四季
Your love and hate, your sorrow and joy, are my four seasons

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Song Lyrics: 撼山河 (Shaking the Mountains and Rivers) by 陳明章 (Chen Ming-chang)

This is a song by Chen Ming-chang (陳明章), who has had a fairly prolific career. His Wikipedia entry in Chinese is very long but unfortunately, very little is written about him in English. A few highlights: in the '80s during his mid 20s, he worked in the day helping his mother after his father suffered from a stroke, and at night he taught guitar classes. He began to ponder the question: "what is Taiwanese music?" because of the influence of Chen Da (陳達) and from learning about the 228 Incident. His big break was writing the soundtrack for Hou Hsiao-hsien's Dust in the Wind (戀戀風塵) and The Puppetmaster (戲夢人生); he would later also write the soundtrack for Hirokasu Kore'eda's Maborosi (幻の光). In the late 80s, as martial law was lifted he and others started a musical group called Blacklist Studio (黑名單工作室) which put out protest songs against the KMT government (for example, Taipei Empire 台北帝國) in Hokkien.

I really enjoyed the shamisen solo in this song, preformed by Kenta Kurumatami (車谷建太).



Song: 撼山河 (Shaking the Mountains and Rivers)
Artist: 陳明章 (Chen Ming-chang)


tsiàng san hô, tsáu thian-gâi
唱山河 走天涯
Sing the mountains and rivers, walk to the end of the world

lîn-sing tsòng-khuài it pue ím
人生暢快一杯飲
Life is a carefree, a cup of drink

Thursday, March 7, 2019

228 Massacre in Chiayi and Alishan article

A new piece I translated is up at the Taiwan Gazette:

The 228 Massacre in Chiayi: "The Airport and Train Station Were Washed with Blood"

Another piece which I helped out a little bit on (mostly was not due to me though) is also now up:

The 228 Massacre in Alishan: “All We Have Left are Ashes and Bones”

This was a short article that took forever to translate, because there were so many names of people and also places that no longer exist (e.g. schools that existed in the Japanese era and are now renamed or gone). The article itself was encyclopedic, often going through long lists of names of people. We cut the names that don't appear in the narrative of the article, but I'll include them later in this note. There was also a part about Tsou who came to assist the rebellion in Chiayi, and we moved that content to another article (to appear soon).

One decision I made in this translation was to romanize most of the names in Taiwanese Hokkien, because I felt that most of the victims would have gone by these names at that time. Some of them, like painter Tan Ting-pho (陳澄波, Chen Chengbo in Pinyin, Chen Cheng-po in Wade-Giles) already have well-established romanizations in Hokkien. I romanized aboriginal (e.g. Tsou) names using their native languages rather than the alternative Chinese name they may have adopted.

There is that saying about a single death being a tragedy, but many deaths is a statistic. These statistics are mentioned a lot, but I think what tends to be overlooked is how much cultural heritage was destroyed by the KMT during the 228 Massacre and subsequent White Terror. Their attack was two-pronged: first, they destroyed the existing cultural landscape by killing or silencing the existing artistic and intellectual establishment; and second, they imposed their own nationalistic vision of culture through their party-state education system. Taiwan could only begin to rediscover its own culture after the end of martial law; we will never know how much has been forever lost. The KMT will often apologize for its killings, but it rarely apologizes for its cultural destruction. Partly this is because there is less demand for it, but partly I think they don't feel bad, that what they had replaced it with is "better" -- some even feel proud of it (some feel they were simply replacing Japanese culture, but I think this is clearly untrue -- I think their hatred of Japan caused them to equate Japanese influence with Japanese culture). We should all remember that Taiwan existed before the R.O.C. (Republic of China, the state to the KMT's party) and that the culture and institutions of the R.O.C. are part of Taiwan, but do not define Taiwan.

To this end, I'd like to share a little about two artists I learned about in the translation of this article (though one of them will appear in the Tsou article later). In this article we can see how eager most Taiwanese at the time were for Chinese rule. Few of them advocated for independence and many of them joined patriotic organizations within the Republic of China framework, but they were killed when they couldn't toe the line. The modern-day meaning of these events is clear: do Taiwanese want to try this again? Whenever a foreign power enters Taiwan, whether the Japanese or the Chinese KMT, there is bloodshed and cultural destruction. Today, the cultural and political gulf between Taiwan and China is as wide as it has ever been.

Finally, the material which we removed:
  • The name of the KMT-installed Chiayi mayor was Sun Chi-jun’s (孫志俊).
  • The militias that converged at Chiayi were from: Putai (布袋), Yanshui (鹽水), Putzu (朴子), Chiali (佳里), Liuchiao (六腳), Fanlu (番路), Douliu (斗六), Taichung (台中), Puli (埔里), Beigang (北港), and Tainan Cheng Kung University (台南工學院).
  • Of the ten people taken from Liucuo Village and executed by the road by KMT soldiers, three are named: Khu Sui-ing (邱垂榮), Khu Ong-tshing (邱旺松), and Khu Lian-tshun (邱連春).
  • Lin Wen-shu (林文樹) also went to Tsui-siong Airport to negotiate with the KMT, and was killed.
  • Of the three female members who went to the airport to negotiate and who were let go, two are named: Chiou Yuan-yang (邱鴛鴦) and Liu Chuan-lai (劉傳來).
  • A list of names of people executed on March 23rd: Chen Zhen (陳陣), Lu Yi (盧鎰), Hsu Hsien-chang (蘇憲章, Chiayi director of the Shin Sheng Daily News 新生報), Chen Rong-mao (陳容貌), Shih Chu-wen (施珠文), Lin Teng-ke (林登科), Huang Shui-Shu (黃水樹), Hsueh Chieh-te (薛皆得).

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Liuzhangli article

A new piece I translated is up at the Taiwan Gazette:

The Graveyard at the Center of Taiwan’s White Terror Period

The source article was really good and nuanced, and I really enjoyed translating it. I had a chance to visit the actual site earlier this year; I'll start with a little commentary on the article before I go into a trip report (mostly to help those who are interested in visiting it).

The article does a good job of showing that the victims of White Terror are not a homogeneous group; it is a group that includes both dissenters and foreign spies. In debates on White Terror, the focus is usually on one of these extremes. However, I believe that categories are never so rigid; meaning, there are always people who are standing near or on the fence. When is it right to seek a foreign power to overthrow the regime at home? The answer obviously depends on how "bad" your regime at home is, and how "good" the regime replacing it will be. These are judgement calls, which individuals sometimes make poorly. It is clear to us today that the CCP would not have been a better choice for Taiwan.

Regarding the actions of the KMT, the debate seems to mostly fall along the lines of whether the KMT was justified in its actions or not, with one side claiming that those were "messy times" where extreme action was necessary and the other side saying that political executions can never be excused. I tend to lean toward the latter camp in this situation, because I believe the widespread antipathy to the KMT regime was of its own making. That is, the KMT perpetrated the 228 Massacre, the KMT installed a fascist regime to consolidate its own control over civil society, the KMT imported a nationalistic party-state from another land, and the KMT deliberately killed, imprisoned or otherwise locked out the existing Taiwanese intelligentsia in favor of cultivating its own power base. These actions have nothing to do with protecting Taiwan from Communist invasion; the threat of this was merely an excuse. These actions have more to do with their own survival as a regime, their tendency toward heavy-handed government, and their ideology of Chinese nationalism. This doesn't negate whatever policy achievements they may claim, but it is a stain on their legacy that can't be ignored. The onus must always be on the dictator to prove that his methods were truly necessary.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that many who were killed during White Terror were suspected of spying by a very paranoid government. Their guilt should not be taken as a given, and we should differentiate between having leftist or even Communist sympathies versus actually spying for the CCP. One example is left-leaning Huang Rong-can, named in the article as the woodcutter who depicted the 228 Massacre, who was executed after a spy named him in a confession (today I believe this charge has been cast in doubt by accounts of known Communist Party members from Taiwan). There were yet others who were killed for rebellion during the 228 Massacre, such as the Tsou musician Uyongu Yata’uyungana; his story will appear in a forthcoming translation.

More information on the sites, and how to visit them "below the fold."