WMD, Non-Believers, and Power of Words 语言的力量

During our last trip to China, we visited many regions predominately populated with people of minority ethnicities (minorities), and saw their languages used (or not). We also met with some unconventional usages of Chinese and English.

Seen in the restroom of a restaurant in DuJiangYan.



Seen in a restaurant in Xining. Rough translation of the Chinese version: "Our Lord! Pray don’t punish us, were we to forget or err. Pray don’t burden us, as you burdened the ancient people. Our Lord! Pray don’t task us with what we couldn’t accomplish. Pray forgive us; pray pardon us; pray pity us. You are our protector; pray help us, so as to confront those who do not believe [in Islam]." (Emphasis added.) Those are pretty strong, fighting words. I guess freedom of expression (or of religion) is sometimes more abundant than we would have thought.


Some humorous signs seen in the hotel shown below. We don’t know if the humor is intended. The first is a sign in the bathroom, warning about a possible slippery floor. The second is over a flight of stairs, warning about a low beam above.


Our hotel in Lijiang, Yunnan. According to the Dongba (a scholar in the Naxi minority language and culture) shown below, the Naxi language hotel name (second line) is written with "right sound, but wrong characters."

A Dongba we met in Lijiang. The newspaper he was reading is in Chinese. Almost all social function is carried out in Chinese here. Dongba’s are only found in stationary stores, such as the one shown in this picture.


Winery in Mu’s residence, the palace of the local administrator. Even though the Mu family is of Naxi minority, as is most of the local populace at the time, the sign is written in Chinese only, with no Dongba ideograms. Mu’s family strongly believe that the knowledge of Chinese language is an important tool to bring prosperity to the region and people.


Dr. He (no relation), a Naxi medicine man famous for his cures for cancer. Here he’s showing off some of the newspaper articles about him published in western media. Inside the house there are more collections like this, which he liked to show his visitors as well. Although he speaks Chinese perfectly, he prefers to use his not-so-perfect English.


House of AI Siqi, Mao Zedong (Mao Tse Tung)’s philosophical adviser. Why would a revolutionary need a philosophical adviser? Because he wants his words weighted with the persuasion of a philosophy.


"Their ultimate sacrifices is forever." Dedication to the Nationalists (Guomindang) died during the war to recover Tengchong, by Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai Shek). It is rare to see Jiang’s handwriting in mainland China. But here in the
Cemetery of the National Heroes for the Tengchong recovery battle, it’s only proper to have the highest dedication from Jiang, who was the head of the Nationalist government.


"Righteousness of Heaven and Earth." Dedication to the Nationalists died during the war to recover Tengchong. The character for "Earth" is left intentionally incomplete, to signify that at the time parts of China were still under Japanese control.

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