Jul 20

(Letter) Tianjin’s LaoBaiXing on the Olympics

Written by guest on Sunday, July 20th, 2008 at 2:14 am
Filed under:culture | Tags:, , , , , , , ,
Add comments

(This is excerpted from: Tianjin’s “Old Hundred Names” on the Olympics)

Here’s what some of our neighbours and others from our daily routines in the city think about the Olympics. I asked them, “What do the Olympics means to Chinese people?” (奥运会对中国人有什么意义?) and “Why are they doing so much preparation?” (我听说中国为了奥运会作很多准备。为什么是这样?)

[Warning to foreigners: Do NOT attempt to improve your Chinese by paying close attention to subtitles done by a 2nd-year Mandarin student! 😉 ]:

The text bubbles identify each person’s name, age, and occupation (which are also listed at the end of the video).

You can see how friendly and accommodating Tianjiners are, though the accents indicate that some of these folks moved here from other provinces.

Of course there is much more to say about what the Olympics mean to China, but I thought it’d be fun to just let a few of the local “Old Hundred Names” (老百姓 / lǎo bǎi xìng / ‘regular Joes’) speak for themselves. I curious to hear Chinese readers’ reactions (and if you need to criticize the subtitles, that’s OK too! 😉 ).

There are currently no comments highlighted.

15 Responses to “(Letter) Tianjin’s LaoBaiXing on the Olympics”

  1. Chops Says:

    Wow, the Tianjin Eye appears to be built above a bridge.


  2. Buxi Says:


    I am *incredibly* impressed. Well done. I promoted your post from the “Letters” section to the main page. With submissions like this over on the “Letters” tab, I hope people will keep a close eye on that section going forward.

    You handle tones very well for a second year learner. I also have little to fault with the subtitles… minor quibble: when two of the gentlemen you interviewed (Master Liu and someone else) said the Games would raise China’s 知名度, you translated it as the world’s estimation of China. More literally, it means increasing China’s name-recognition, increasing China’s fame around the world. Frankly, your translations are better than what I saw in the Ted Koppel program, as well as the recent HBO special on China’s lost children.

    But I’m not impressed just by the Chinese skills. This sort of grassroots journalism… I just wish there was more of it in the West. Those in the West are given so little opportunity to hear directly from average Chinese people, so I really thank you for making that available.

  3. snow Says:

    You’ve got to love these everyday Old Hundred Names, with their sincerity, dignity, and warmth. It struck me that there’s not much difference between their answers and what the official Chinese media has been publicizing in past months. Some would rush to the conclusion that Chinese people are brainwashed by the CCP. It’s probably true to certain degree. Also true to a larger degree would be that many official policies or propagandas of the Chinese government in fact reflect the wills (social/cultural/economical/political needs) of the Old Hundred Names (or they will lose their mandate). It is this larger truth that has often been ignored or denied by some people in the West.

  4. Joel Says:

    One thing I forgot to include: you can only see the text-bubbles (“annotations”) when you watch it on the YouTube site. Otherwise you have to wait to the end to see their names, ages, and occupations.

    @Buxi – you’re way 太客气了。Besides, I had a lot of help, especially with the transcribing. Question about “了解” – I discussed the way that was used in the video with some Chinese friends, and it was hard to decide how to translate it (understand? comprehend?). As you can see, I went with “get to know.” What do you think? And I tried to get more females, but although some were willing to answer, they weren’t willing to be filmed. The one who did appear on camera was sort of pushed into it by an older guy who’s answer to the questions was “I don’t understand the Olympics!” (我不懂奥运会!我不懂!) I got that answer from several people.

    @Snow – I agree that sometimes people forget that all the CCP members are Chinese, and that Mandate of Heaven business is no joke.

  5. Netizen Says:


    The video is very well done. The average joes are friendly and welcoming as always. They, as many others, are expecting successful Olympics.

  6. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    This video is really cool. A few observations.
    1. People have a commone, shared narrative about the Olympics.
    2. Everybody mentioned “showing China to the world”. One person mentioned the contact would allow Chinese to learn about people from other countries.
    3. Tianjin people can talk, although few of your interviewees spoke with the old fashioned Tianjin flavor.
    3. How was the sampling done? Did you approach people randomly? There was only one female.
    4. The last guy who gave a long talk seemed professional in his delivery.

  7. Joel Says:


    although we’ve had classes in how to do real research and interview sampling, i sure didn’t bother with any of that this time around. i simply went about my day and interviewed people as it was convenient, using the video setting on our point-and-shoot camera. It took a few days to get them all. The first young guy works at a family bbq shop i get lunch from often, the girl happened to be near the bikes outside the gym where we exercise, one bike repairman we use often, the guy who guards the bike park in our neighbourhood and his son, that kind of thing. The last guy is a friend, former Chinese teacher now banker, who’s engaged to one of our American friends. He had a longer warning than the others. It was hard to find women willing to be recorded, thought I sure tried.

    I’ve interviewed other folks for magazine articles, but this time i wanted to use a different pool, instead of reusing the same folks:
    Mr. Lu (bike repairman) (lots of fun with him and his buddies)
    Guang Yuan (student destined for America)
    Mr. Chang (sidewalk barber)
    Liu Wei, who is in the video, will have a profile in August, but the rest were all first timers for me.

  8. Buxi Says:


    Great stuff on your blog, thanks for sharing! I gotta find fault with one comment though:

    And, thankfully, Chinese cups are smaller than North American cups, plus East Asians are genetically among the weakest drinkers in the world.

    To that I say, psh. Many East Asians tend to flush red when drinking, but that has nothing to do with ability to hold their alcohol. Most Chinese men, especially in the business world, can easily hold their weight!

  9. Joel Says:

    That statement comes from a decorated biology prof at one of our universities, who also happens to be a Beijinger. Chinese businessmen’s (infamous) drinking habits are the result of people building up their personal tolerance levels, not genetics. Genetically, according to this Chinese biology professor, (and now I’m sketchy on how the details worked) East Asians either have more of or less of a certain enzyme that metabolizes alcohol, meaning they on average get drunk faster. Of course drinking habits can raise and lower tolerance levels. The people living in eastern Russia apparently are the opposite, and able to drink the most before getting drunk. But I really don’t remember the details. This prof used to give us free Chinese lessons after class while we were in grad school. That said, I don’t personally know squat about anything taught in the sciences; I’m just passing along what that prof told us.

  10. opersai Says:

    nice work! The last guy somehow reminded me of CCTV reporter though. -__-…. I guess it’s the preparedness of his answer that made the impression.

  11. cerebus Says:

    joel, great work. I hope these people are not disappointed.

    about the alcohol: the theory actually works out pretty well for asians: yes, they cannot break down and metabolise the alcohol as well as some others but that’s because they worked out much earlier in history that if you just boil water before you drink it, you don’t get sick. the rest of us couldn’t figure that out, and ended up fermented fruit during long winters, which raised our tolerance levels evolutionary, while asians were simply drinking hot water. in fact, the west only put two and two together less than 500 years ago.

    i’m way inspired to do the same thing with a video here where i live.

  12. Joel Says:

    ha, way off topic, but the same prof also said that this difference in genetic predisposition is one reason why alcoholism takes on slightly different forms between the regions. Being able to consume buckets before you start to notice the effects can be more harmful overall than getting drunk quicker (and thus getting it out of your system quicker).

    I’d love to see similar stuff from other regions of China. I just did this with and older point-and-shoot. These folks are neighbours, friends, and others we see regularly.

  13. Buxi Says:


    Oh, you mean there really might be a genetic difference? Well, if there’s one thing that we Chinese are good at… it’s learning to persevere through hard work and repetition. Glad to hear tolerance is one of those things we can build up. 🙂


    i’m way inspired to do the same thing with a video here where i live.

    Do it!


  1. Global Voices Online » China: Tianjin People’s View on Olympics
  2. Global Voices Online » China: How you feeling about the Olympics?

Leave a Reply