Tag Archives: Mythology

Translation: “A Record of the Ancient Dove’s Migration”

On March 27th, the Chongqing Evening News published a remarkable story. Defying the direct orders of official government bureaus forbidding Chinese media to hype the Google fiasco, the Chongqing Evening News ran a story about a mythical bird whose name sounds just like the Chinese word for Google and whose story sounds, well, familiar. You may have seen this story in brief on EastSouthWestNorth, but we wanted to translate it in full because we found it so remarkable that something this brazen was published in a mainstream newspaper. We imagine some heads at the Chongqing Evening News will roll because of this.

Translation

We have translated this somewhat loosely in the hopes of conveying more clearly the parallels with the real Google story, but readers of Chinese should read the Chinese for the full, pun-tastic effect. We also moved one sentence from the middle of the text to the beginning because it read oddly in English otherwise.

The “Ancient Dove” [sounds like “Google”] is clearly very close to extinction within China, it is a bird hard to find when one “searches” […] It is held that this bird is the forbear of all modern birds, so it is called “Ancient Dove”.

This species originated in North America according to biologists, who believe the bird to have come from the area of present-day Santa Clara. By the turn of the century, the bird could be found everywhere. After March 23, 2010, the species began a large-scale costal migration in China, towards a southern port, and vanished from China.

Google - the "Ancient Pigeon"
Google: the Ancient Dove
Ecologists suspect the bird’s odd behavior is connected to the extreme climate changes happening in recent years, especially the ecological, environmental, climate and geological calamities in China. When met with adversity, the Ancient Dove cannot persevere as tenaciously as the Grass Mud Horse, so it raised the flag of retreat, attracting the disdain of some of the world’s animal lovers.

Special Characteristics

Its shoulders are draped with blue, yellow, red, and green feathers, and it is a bit bigger than the common dove. Its call sounds like the English word “googol”; Native Americans believe that this sound represents an “unbelievable number”. Mathematicians performed rigorous calculations and believe this number is probably ten to the hundredth power.

Environment

The Ancient Dove has an extremely strong capacity for adaptation, and can evolve quickly to become a new, indigenous subspecies. For example, at present there are large populations of American Ancient Doves, Japanese Ancient Doves, British Ancient Doves, and other subspecies. Because archaeology has proven the original Ancient Dove came from America, we often refer to the American Ancient Dove as “Ancient Dove”, and attach the name of the country they are located in to identify other subspecies.

The story in the Chongqing Evening News
Early research has shown that the Ancient Dove’s leaving may give rise [to the dominance] of another, long-clawed bird that looks just like the Ancient Dove but is actually a bird of prey: the “Paidu Bird” [sounds like “Baidu”, Google’s chief domestic competition]. The numbers of this ancient legendary domestic bird are presently expanding explosively. Now, Chinese people can only use this poisonous, ferocious bird, whose calls are in Chinese and who loves only money to fulfill the Ancient Dove’s function.

Habits

Living in groups, the subspecies in each country may excel at different things. The Ancient Dove eats anything with words on it, and can naturally estimate the relative worth of food. It performs advanced calculations to decide the proper sequence [in which to eat].

As you know, its mortal enemies are the “River Crabs” [sounds like “harmony”, a reference to government censorship], the “Wenzuo Crabs” [sounds like “the Chinese Writer’s Association“, which is also associated with censorship], and other types of Chinese crabs.

Current Population

In the world, there are an estimated 120 billion Ancient Doves, but they have already mostly disappeared from the Chinese mainland. What were once Chinese Ancient Doves have migrated to Hong Kong, so there is a downward trend in the worldwide population.

Many animal lovers went to the Beijing Ancient Dove santuary before March 23, 2010, to express their grief.

Our Thoughts

It is fascinating that the talking-about-it-without-talking-about-it approach to discussing politics in China has spilled over from the internet and into the real world. This is, of course, not the first time, but it is the latest example of a kind of “news” that could never have been written or understood anywhere but China, where it seems sometimes a true story can be told only mythologizing and anthropomorphizing it. Could it also be the beginning of a trend, or will the censors head it off at the pass by making an example of the folks at the Chongqing Evening News? What will happen to them remains to be seen. But their having the guts to publish a story like this in the face of harsh warnings not to address the Google issue sympathetically shows a spirit that I think the now-exiled Ancient Doves would be proud of.

The Story of Spring Festival

Given that it’s right around the corner and not much else seems to be happening in the Middle Kingdom right now, this seems as good a time as any for a historical detour into the holiday’s origins.

First, the origin myth of Spring Festival (translated and with illustrations from this Chinese site):

Tradition has it that in ancient China there was a monster named “Year” with long tentacles on its head that was extremely ferocious. “Year” generally lived deep down on the ocean floor, climbing to the shore only on the Lunar New Year to devour livestock and people.

Because of this, every year on that day, people of every village, the old and the young alike, would flee to remote mountains to avoid being attacked by the beast.

This New Year’s Day, as the people of Peach Blossom Village were escorting the old and young to the safety of the mountains, an old man with a slivery beard and eyes that seemed to be sparkling came begging, his frame resting on a single walking-stick and his arms carrying a sack.

Some people in the town were sealing up their windows and doors, others were cleaning and preparing for the journey, still others were herding their livestock; the chaotic sounds of bustling, panicked people and horses were everywhere. No one thought to look after this old beggar.

An old granny from the town’s east end was the only person to give the old man a bite to eat and urge him to head up the mountain and avoid the beast. The old man smiled, stroking his beard, and said, “Granny, if you let me stay in this house for one night, I’m sure I can drive this ‘Year’ beast away.”

The old woman was shocked; looking closer she saw the beggar’s frame was hearty, that he looked spirited and poised. But when she continued to advise the man to go up the mountain, he simply smiled, saying nothing. The old lady felt it was hopeless; out of necessity she left her house and took asylum in the mountains.

At midnight, the “Year” monster burst into the village. He discovered that the scene was different than in years past; in the grandmother’s house on the east side of the village red strips of paper were pasted around the doorway, and inside the room a lone fire glowed brightly. The monster trembled, and let out a strange scream.

“Year” glared at the woman’s house for a moment, then screamed madly towards it. When he neared the doorway, the sudden “bang, pow” of explosions filled the air. “Year” quivered and shook, unwilling to approach the house again.

As a matter of fact, the things “Year” feared the most were the color red, bright flames, and the sound of explosions. The door to the old woman’s house burst open, and in the doorway stood a man wrapped in a red cloak, laughing uproariously. “Year” turned pale with fright and helplessly jumped upwards.

The next day was the first of the new year; as the people hiding in the mountains returned to their homes they were shocked to see that everything in the village was safe and sound. Suddenly, the old grandmother realized what had happened, and hastily told the other villagers of the old beggar’s promise.

Everyone crowded towards the old woman’s home, all they could see were the red paper strips, some unburned bamboo still exploding “bang!” in the courtyard, and a red candle still flickering inside the room…

The villagers were wild with joy, to celebrate this auspicious event they put on new clothes and hats and visited the homes of their friends and family to share congratulations. This news spread quickly through the surrounding villages; soon everybody knew the way to banish the “Year” monster.

From then onward, every year on New Year’s Eve every family puts up red scrolls, sets of firecrackers, and keeps candles brightly lit, keeping watch during the night. When dawn comes, they still go to the houses of friends and family and exchange congratulations. This custom continued to spread and grow as it was passed down, and became Chinese people’s most important traditional festival.

There appear to be many versions of this story, and many versions about the origins of Spring Festival (as one would expect for a tradition so old). Although traditions of celebrating the new year through sacrifices to the gods and ancestors may have started as early as the Shang dynasty (roughly 1600 B.C.E.-1000 B.C.E.), when the new year officially began doesn’t appear to have been fixed formally until the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.E.–220 C.E.). The origins of traditions are also difficult to date; the site that the above story is translated from says that the tradition of writing couplets on red paper for the festival began in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 C.E.) and that the tradition of posting 福 (happiness) on the door is from the Song Dynasty (960-1279 C.E.) or earlier, but no evidence is provided. The tradition of spending New Year’s eve with ones family, apparently, comes from the Wei-Jin period (220-420 C.E.)

A good amount of information on current traditions is available at Wikipedia for those outside China, those in-country are welcome to browse the Wikipedia page, but might do better just to go outside and watch the festivities. With all the firecrackers, it’s not like you were going to be resting anyway.