May 19, 2013
I’ve been in China visiting my son the last week or so. The other day I saw a sign in both Chinese and English (not that unusual). The Chinese said: 蒸饺 and below it the English said: “Dump Ling”. Naturally I took this to be sign of a growing tolerance for dissent in China’s public forum. Like everyone, I’ve read that an arts and culture scene that has space for people like Ai-Weiwei has resulted in greater and greater opportunity for street level expression of opinions that run counter to the status quo.
Of course I had no idea who Ling was. I could only infer that someone wanted to dump him. I was reasonably comfortable attributing a male gender to this execrable Ling—after all is it usually a man that people want to dump, whatever culture we’re talking about. Well, maybe not. This is the former land of Soong May-ling, better known to Westerners as Madame Chang Kai-shek, who was a political figure in her own right. She died in 2003, and it’s doubtful that my students would have any idea who I would be talking about. So frankly, it didn’t occur to me that Soong-May could possibly have been the Ling that someone wanted to dump.
It seemed more likely that Ling was some kind of minor local official—maybe someone who works for the bus company, or who manages the KFC down at the mall. Or maybe this unfortunate Ling was a college professor known for giving particularly pedantic and boring lectures on food ethics and animal welfare. Who would not want to dump Ling, if that were the case?
Except that, as those among my two regular readers who happen to read simplified Chinese characters have already figured out, this sign did not really have anything to do with dissent or protest at all. I realize how exceedingly unlikely it is that either of my two regular readers actually does read simplified Chinese characters, but still I can’t exclude the possibility that maybe somebody out there is going “Chuff, chuff,” up their sleeve right now, taking delight in the way that people are being strung along by this week’s entry in the Thornapple blog.
Because if you copy 蒸饺 and put it into Google translate, you will see what I did not recognize walking along the lake at the Summer Palace. You will see that there actually is a food connection to this week’s Thornapple blog, and that when we went inside to try some of the 蒸饺 (along with a nice cold Tsing-Tao beer), we discovered that they were delicious!
Given the high level of brilliance I associate with both of my regular readers, I’m sure you have already figured out what we had, if you hadn’t done so by seeing the title alone. Still and all, I’m not going to spell it out for you. Who is brave enough to enjoy the chuckle without trying the Google translation?
Go ahead. And don’t think I meant 转储市长. This was not intended to be another Virg Bernaro blog.
Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University