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.
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.
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.