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Thread: Absence of language barrier in wuxia fiction's China

  1. #1
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Default Absence of language barrier in wuxia fiction's China

    China has always been a large country wherein people spoke a number of varying dialects of the Chinese language. These dialects were sometimes so different as to make the speaker of one dialect completely incomprehensible to the speaker of another, although both parties were technically speaking Chinese. In pre-modern times, there was no national language like Mandarin that was applicable throughout China.

    In wuxia fiction, characters often travel all around the country. No matter where they go, however, the characters seem to be able to communicate easily with the locals. What happened to the language barrier? What language was everybody supposedly speaking?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Dirt's Avatar
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    Esperanto?

    Well, we are talking about books where the characters can jump 10's of metres into the air, write on stone, allow themselves to harness chi to where they can use it as a force.

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    Senior Member philip's Avatar
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    and they can do handstands w/o practicing!!!

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    Well, in book 2 of LXF, Gu Long took some extra pleasure to write in some language barriers between the Cantonese speakers and the Mandarin speakers. Made for some of the funniest scenes in the book.
    春花秋月几时了,
    往事知多少?
    小楼昨夜又东风,
    故国不堪回首明月中.
    雕栏玉砌应犹在,
    只是朱颜改.
    问君能有几多愁,
    恰似一江春水向东流.
    --南唐后主,李煜.

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Moinllieon
    Well, in book 2 of LXF, Gu Long took some extra pleasure to write in some language barriers between the Cantonese speakers and the Mandarin speakers. Made for some of the funniest scenes in the book.
    Who spoke which?

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    Senior Member Battosai's Avatar
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    In JY, dialects were given some attention. It's presumed that the fighters from the cental plains spoke the same language but those outside of it had accents that easily singled them out as outsiders. I don't think he had people who couldn't understand each other, though. Basically JY took the middle road of convenience but not total unreality; accents substituted for totally differing dialects.

  7. #7

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    Originally posted by Ken Cheng
    Who spoke which?
    LXF, thankfully, spoke both. But Xue Bing did not speak any Cantonese and was generally at a loss without him. There were also an instance where a Cantonese speaker tried to tell LXF something urgent through Mandarin instead of Cantonese... took forever and generally agitated everyone involved.
    春花秋月几时了,
    往事知多少?
    小楼昨夜又东风,
    故国不堪回首明月中.
    雕栏玉砌应犹在,
    只是朱颜改.
    问君能有几多愁,
    恰似一江春水向东流.
    --南唐后主,李煜.

  8. #8
    atlantean0208
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    in wuxia world, people usually speaking with their hands/legs more than the mouth, so language barrier is not always a problem

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    Senior Member SkineePanda's Avatar
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    I think the only character Jinyong mentions of a Cantonese fighter was the Canton guy who fights with a oar in Book and the Sword. The Red Flower members said he spoke with a heavy accent and could hardly understand him.

    But technically Yuan Chengchi should be Cantonese but I guess he was raised speaking Mandarin.

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    What dialect of Chinese did the other LUK SIU FUNG regulars (i.e. Sai Mun Chui Sheut, Fa Mun Lau, See Hung Jak Sing, Honest Monk, etc.) speak?

    It reminds me of an early 1980s TVB awards show for best theme songs. Actors Wong Yeun Sun and Wong Wan Choi appeared as their LUK SIU FUNG characters Sai Mun Chui Sheut and Fa Mun Lau to introduce the theme song (by Jenny Tseng) for TVB's 1970s GOD OF SABRE series with this humorous dialogue:



    Sai Mun Chui Sheut leads Fa Mun Lau to the stage of Hong Kong's Lee's Theatre, which until it was demolished in the late 1980s, was Hong Kong's primary public indoor concert venue.

    Fa Mun Lau: Thank you, brother Sai Mun. Actually, you didn't need to lead me out. I could have made it by myself.

    Sai Mun Chui Sheut: This is Lee's Theatre. It's better to be more cautious.

    FML: Even if it is Lee's Theatre, it doesn't matter. I, Fa Mun Lau, have always been good at finding my way around.

    SMCS: I've always admired that about you. You seem to be able to go everywhere without fear of getting lost.

    FML: I have a secret method for that.

    SMCS: What secret method?

    FML: I know many different dialects of Chinese.

    SMCS: That can prevent you from getting lost?

    FML: Of course. For example, if I hear people speaking Cantonese, I know that I'm on Canton Road. If I hear Shanghainese, then I've gone to Shanghai Street. If I hear Nanjingnese, then I'm on Nanjing Street.

    SMCS: Well, then you can go anywhere without getting lost.

    FML: Not necessarily. Sometimes, I do screw up and get lost.

    SMCS: How did that happen?

    FML: I was unlucky that time. I wandered over to India Street! Who the hell can understand Indian? By the way, your name is Sai Mun Chui Sheut. I've never heard of such a name. What was your hometown, and who were your ancestors.

    SMCS: Oh, when it comes to my hometown and ancestors, it's glorious!

    FML: How so?

    SMCS: My ancestor was one of Jesus' twelve apostles, Simon. After that came Sai Mun Pau, after that came Sai Mun Hing [an infamous philanderer from Chinese folklore - Ken]. After that came me, Sai Mun Chui Sheut. After me, my descendants spread our bloodline overseas. I know that in America, there is a great singer named Paul Simon . . . and a great playwright named Neil Simon. In Taiwan, to honor our Sai Mun Clan, they've even built a place called Sai Mun Ding [a popular shopping district in Taipei - Ken].

    FML: What you're telling me sounds a little fanciful. I'm only going to believe half of what you've told me.

    SMCS: That's up to you.




  11. #11
    Senior Member superboy's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Moinllieon
    LXF, thankfully, spoke both. But Xue Bing did not speak any Cantonese and was generally at a loss without him. There were also an instance where a Cantonese speaker tried to tell LXF something urgent through Mandarin instead of Cantonese... took forever and generally agitated everyone involved.
    How heavy can the accent be? Cantonese alone sounds very similar to Manderin already.
    "I will punish the evil and protect the weak, superboy is in a winning streak. The sky's peak is what I seek"

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    Senior Member superboy's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Ken Cheng
    What dialect of Chinese did the other LUK SIU FUNG regulars (i.e. Sai Mun Chui Sheut, Fa Mun Lau, See Hung Jak Sing, Honest Monk, etc.) speak?

    It reminds me of an early 1980s TVB awards show for best theme songs. Actors Wong Yeun Sun and Wong Wan Choi appeared as their LUK SIU FUNG characters Sai Mun Chui Sheut and Fa Mun Lau to introduce the theme song (by Jenny Tseng) for TVB's 1970s GOD OF SABRE series with this humorous dialogue:



    Sai Mun Chui Sheut leads Fa Mun Lau to the stage of Hong Kong's Lee's Theatre, which until it was demolished in the late 1980s, was Hong Kong's primary public indoor concert venue.

    Fa Mun Lau: Thank you, brother Sai Mun. Actually, you didn't need to lead me out. I could have made it by myself.

    Sai Mun Chui Sheut: This is Lee's Theatre. It's better to be more cautious.

    FML: Even if it is Lee's Theatre, it doesn't matter. I, Fa Mun Lau, have always been good at finding my way around.

    SMCS: I've always admired that about you. You seem to be able to go everywhere without fear of getting lost.

    FML: I have a secret method for that.

    SMCS: What secret method?

    FML: I know many different dialects of Chinese.

    SMCS: That can prevent you from getting lost?

    FML: Of course. For example, if I hear people speaking Cantonese, I know that I'm on Canton Road. If I hear Shanghainese, then I've gone to Shanghai Street. If I hear Nanjingnese, then I'm on Nanjing Street.

    SMCS: Well, then you can go anywhere without getting lost.

    FML: Not necessarily. Sometimes, I do screw up and get lost.

    SMCS: How did that happen?

    FML: I was unlucky that time. I wandered over to India Street! Who the hell can understand Indian? By the way, your name is Sai Mun Chui Sheut. I've never heard of such a name. What was your hometown, and who were your ancestors.

    SMCS: Oh, when it comes to my hometown and ancestors, it's glorious!

    FML: How so?

    SMCS: My ancestor was one of Jesus' twelve apostles, Simon. After that came Sai Mun Pau, after that came Sai Mun Hing [an infamous philanderer from Chinese folklore - Ken]. After that came me, Sai Mun Chui Sheut. After me, my descendants spread our bloodline overseas. I know that in America, there is a great singer named Paul Simon . . . and a great playwright named Neil Simon. In Taiwan, to honor our Sai Mun Clan, they've even built a place called Sai Mun Ding [a popular shopping district in Taipei - Ken].

    FML: What you're telling me sounds a little fanciful. I'm only going to believe half of what you've told me.

    SMCS: That's up to you.



    My rice was spraying out of my mouth when I read this thing.
    "I will punish the evil and protect the weak, superboy is in a winning streak. The sky's peak is what I seek"

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    Senior Member Ian Liew's Avatar
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    Oh, man.. Ken - your post brought back some incredible memories. As I read your post, I could remember those two on stage reciting those lines in Cantonese, and laughed again. Either you have a very good copy of the video, or you have an amazing memory! Those actors during that period had amazing showmanship - I will never forget Wong Yinsan and Wong Yanchoy in the aforementioned sketch, those two from the 'No biz like showbiz' (with that amazing Cantonese tongue-twister - do you know the exact words? I couldn't catch all of it), those two cops (one of them Lam Kahwah) bullying the drug addict to say that he prefers modern songs to costume songs, Ng Mantat (Wutipfa) and Kwan Chung *Moufa) with Moufa converting to a priest, and Chow Yunfat and Liu Waihung (can't remember if it was him) and their Wing Heong Tong advertisement! There's also that hilarious bit where Ho and Dodo (the two emcees) argue about their songs (Ho was leading the costume team, Dodo the modern team) and how people on the streets could sing them 0 and Ho went and cheated and dubbed Dionne Warwick, Donny Osmond and Barry Manilow singing costume themesongs! Throw in some great class from other artistes like Patrick Tse, Gigi Hwang, Shek Sau, Wynners and Adam Cheng, and you have a top class show. All this was classic stuff, and puts most of today's TVB artistes to shame.

    It's a shame TVB never came up with a follow-up to that event - costume drama themesongs vs modern themesongs. While many recent themesongs are nowhere near as classic as those in the 70s, an 80s version of the event would have been great. In fact, ever since watching that, I kept waiting for a sequel, and only gave up when the great emcee Hor Sausun migrated to Canada. If Eric Tsang hosts the next one with Liu Waihung I'm not watching it....

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    It was indeed a great show. TVB's shows actually felt like special events back then . . . not like the rote exercises they are today.

    I still have a 25-year old VHS tape of the show.

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    Senior Member philip's Avatar
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    How heavy can the accent be? Cantonese alone sounds very similar to Manderin already.
    u kidding? they sound horribly different, unless ur a speaker of both

    OT: wow...you ppl are old

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    Senior Member Crazy8's Avatar
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    i thought they speak somewhat like the cantonese. i think lao zhi spoke somewhat like tai san. cus tai san is within the language of cantonese, so i asume the majority of the ppl spoke cantonese. i think it is so today too (i'm not sure).
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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Originally posted by philip

    OT: wow...you ppl are old
    That's right, sonny . . . so respect your elders!

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    Senior Member superboy's Avatar
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    Originally posted by philip
    u kidding? they sound horribly different, unless ur a speaker of both

    OT: wow...you ppl are old
    They sound similar to me. Not to close, but close enough to help me understand some of what they are saying even before knowing the language. And I believe I am younger than you.
    "I will punish the evil and protect the weak, superboy is in a winning streak. The sky's peak is what I seek"

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    At age 31 (turning 32 in May), I make my official stake to the title of Old Fogey of the SPCNET Wuxia Fiction Forum.

  20. #20
    Senior Member philip's Avatar
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    i thought they speak somewhat like the cantonese. i think lao zhi spoke somewhat like tai san. cus tai san is within the language of cantonese, so i asume the majority of the ppl spoke cantonese. i think it is so today too (i'm not sure).
    no, majority of ppl speak mandarin today cuz it's official language of china. plus, cantonese is only a dialect in southern china, so i don't think the majority of the ppl ever spoke cantonese

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