The Chinese Elements – Part II

This is the second part of the series, Chinese Elements in the Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony.

The Character He 和, or Peace

During the MovableType show (don’t confuse it with the software I am using to write this blog), the Chinese character of “He” or 和 was shown three time.

Image credit: Getty via Yahoo

和 is written in Pinyin Chinese as He, but it is pronounced more similar with the English word: Her.

The character means peace, and harmony. The character does not really look like the one I displayed in this blog entry (if you have the Chinese system to show it. It is because the Chinese characters change its shape over the one thousand year. A good way to think about it is the English letter have different font. Some are pretty similiar with each other, but for some particular letters, the variation is big. For example, the letter E may have completely different way to write it in different handwriting fonts. The difference in Chinese is, there are several thousands characters and each has the tens of varations.

The Order of the Delegation Entrance

One of the most funny part of the ceremony was the entrance order of the delegates. It is maybe one of the few events in the Olympic history, or the recent world events that the order was completely taken with the Chinese way.

I believe many of my friends (I especially have my extended family member, Carrol and Jim in my mind when I write this article) may wonder: “What is the confusing order?” I can understand when people see each country’s delegation enter the stadium, the order seemed to be random if you don’t know Chinese. Let me try to explain this way.

Althogh the Chinese character seems very complicated, it also has the forming elements. Just like 26 letters are the basis of all English words, there are strokes that makes up a Chinese character.

Chinese has many different type of strokes, but most of them can be classified as the following five types:

Horizontal Stroke, like 一

Vertical Stroke like 丨

Leaning Stroke like 丿

Dot stroke like 丶

Turning Storke like 乛

(This is completely my own translation, and I believe the Chinese textbook for foreigners may have better commonly accpeted translation).

Take the Chinese numbers I mentioned in my previous article, one requires one horizontal stroke, and two are made up of two…

My last name 王 is made up of three horizontal strokes (like a three 三), but with a horizontal stroke in the middle. So, there are four strokes to this Chinese character.

This page provided wonderful way for you to understand how each character is writen.

Something to note is, how the character is writen has strict rules. Although the final result is the same, how you write the character does matter. Taking the example of 王 (Wang), you may want to write the first horizontal stroke and add the vertical one. Wrong! The right way is write the first two horizontal strokes, and write the vertical one, and finish the character with the last horizontal stroke. Complicated? How Chinese remember it and the billions of people write the character the same way? It is all by memorizing it one by one from very young children.

Here is how the character Wang was written: Stroke order of Wang. (Click the left bottom blue button, and then the right top blue button for the animation to start).

Well. Enough about Chinese characters. This time, the entrance order was determined by the strokes for the Chinese characters for the country/region name.

Image credit: Beijing2008.cn. In the image, the first charcter is 4 strokes, and the second one is 5 strokes

Australia, for example, is typically No. 3 to enter the venue, but this time, because the first character of the Chinese name: 澳大利亚 took 15 strokes to write, so it is the 203rd country to appear.

Romantic Chinese

There are many elements in the event that shows the romatic side of typically regarded as “serious” Chinese characteristics. Here are some: scenes:

  • The initial video of how paper is made (if you visit towns like Lijiang, Yunan Province and many other places, you have the chance to create your own paper from plant roots. I did it before)
  • The Chinese paintings
  • The dream of flying out to the space, and the beautiful fairy lady flying in the sky
  • Li Ning flied high in the sky with a moon like spotlight following him

All the flying elements are not created just for this event. It is seen in many places throughout the history of China. It also reminds me (a native Chinese) about how romatic our ancesters are. It is just the tough time in the recent centuaries that turned the nation into really over down-to-earth, and reality-driven mentality.

Anything Else?

There are just too many Chinese elements in this show that is hard for me to list. Anyone wants to add more and share your thoughts with our kind readers from outside China? I hope this is a great chance for people outside China to learn this nation a little bit more than 100% human rights, Tibet, freedom of speech, censorship topics. These topics will continue and need to continue, but just as Olympic gives the world a break, let’s give China a break.

6 thoughts on “The Chinese Elements – Part II

  1. zjemi

    During the games, I’ve been seeing a lot of Chinese shirts with Li Ning written on them. Is that in honor of Li Ning the torchbearer or is it a logo of a company?

    I noticed that President Bush is really enjoying himself at the games. Good for him. I really don’t like him, but I like that part of him that can really appreciate China’s Olympics.

    I hope all the journalists that want to call China a police state and all those things notice how few security guards are needed at the games–for some sports you can’t see any, for soccer only three on one side. Compare that with the security needed in the West. Also there’s a story today that Chicago is studying China’s security system in preparation for 2012.

  2. Carroll

    :-)

    I would hate to admit how long it took me to figure out what the “movable type” portion of the program was really supposed to represent. I think in my comment the other day I referred to them as “movable pillars”? I was out of the room when the introduction to that segment explained the history being depicted, so at first I thought it was something to do with architecture — the changing skyline as high-rise buildings were constructed.

    We were given a good explanation for the order in which the delegations made their entrance, but this time it was my husband who had briefly left the room. You are absolutely right, Jian Shuo — he was **really** confused when eventually he realized that they were all entering out of “alphabetical” order.

    I think people in other parts of the world, certainly here in the US, are learning a great deal about China from watching these Olympic games. I have no way of knowing, of course, how accurate or objective our commentators may be. But the other day as I watched a portion of the women’s bicycle race, there were many interesting descriptions of the areas, sights, and monuments along the course.

    Even the majority of the coverage about the stabbing death of our volleyball coach’s father-in-law the other day seemed to stress the fact that this was really just a random event of violence that could very easily have happened in New York or anywhere else in the world.

    I feel sure that the overall effect of this Olympic event will be positive for China in the eyes of the rest of the world. Here’s to the peaceful unity of all athletes and their fans, and here’s hoping the politicians of the world may someday follow suit!

    PS: I believe this is the first time any of my blog friends have actually had me in mind as they wrote an entry! It’s a feeling that makes me smile :-)

  3. DKwan

    “和 is written in Pinyin Chinese as He, but it is pronounced more similar with the English word: Her.”

    And more specifically that’s the British English pronunciation of “her”.

  4. Susan

    I really enjoyed watching the Opening Ceremony. I just watched the ceremony AGAIN, in HD quality. The CCTV live version was very poor quality and colleagues shared the NBC HD version with me today.

    The video quality of the NBC version was fantastic! It was also interesting to listen to the commentaries by the Americans. I didn’t pay much to the CCTV commentaries because I was so focused on watching the performance, but I don’t think they explained the symbolic significance of the performance. The NBC version explained the meaning of each performance although they cut out significant portions due to commercial breaks.

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