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Spoken chinese help please?

  1. May 31, 2009 #1


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    I wonder if there are some folks in our PF community knowlegable of Chinese, to help interpret some spoken language. If you know Chinese history and culture that will be very helpful.

    In the U.S. television series Kung Fu, it depicts some experiences of Chinese immigrants in the late 1800s, in the old West of the U.S. In this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kNyI3IaIgo", they are speaking Chinese during a funeral ceremony (1:21 to 4:15).

    Can you understand what dialect they are speaking? Do you think this was an authentic dialect for the period (late 1800s)? What are they saying?

    They are dressed in light colored hoods and holding some banners. Does this appear to be historically accurate? Was this a typical funeral ceremony for late 1800s? Are Chinese funeral ceremonies much different today?

    Can you tell what is written on the vertical banners?
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. May 31, 2009 #2
    It's obvious that the chanter is not a native speaker of Chinese. My wife says that the first two words he spoke, "Ching bai", mean please bow. Those were the only words she could understand. She speaks Mandarin so perhaps he was speaking Cantonese. She thinks it is not Cantonese but she can't be sure. The only characters she recognized on the banners were characters for respect and person. However, I saw the character for hand myself. She said that the hoods are authentic and she has seen them since she was a child. However she doesn't know about that time and place.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  4. Jun 4, 2009 #3
    David Carradine was found dead this morning in Bangkok, an apparent suicide. He was 72.
  5. Jun 4, 2009 #4


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    :frown: Nuts. :frown:

    RIP David, and thanks.
  6. Jun 5, 2009 #5


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    Thank you Jimmy, for your wife's interpretation. A friend of mine originally from Hong Kong, just sent me her thoughts. Her native dialect is Cantonese but also understands Mandarin.

    I have paraphrased them here:

    Old Chinese Funeral
    The show is portraying a traditional Chinese funeral probably practiced around the 1900s in rural China. Funeral ceremonies were a little different in the 1800s but I have only observed them in films. The Chinese history class I’ve taken, did not teach us these kinds of details.

    They are speaking Mandarin.

    What was spoken & reaction.
    The Chinese man called the names of the dead and the relatives & friends bowed.

    Chinese believe the number eight is lucky, so couplets often contain 8 characters, 4 characters per line. The text on one of the couplets reads "person died young but their soul will live forever". I can only see 2 characters on another vertical banner which reads "people (or person) respect" For funerals, the couplets will be in black and white, as compared to Chinese New Year when the couplets are in black and red.

    Modern Chinese Funeral
    Funerals are a little different today. We do not stand up and have candles on the ground. We burn white candles and incense sticks in a burner. We put fruits and other food items on a plate and place it in front of a big photograph of the dead person. Both men and women still wear the white hood (today made of rayon). We also burn paper houses, clothes, cars, watches, etc. for the dead person and believe that the dead person will receive these items and will live comfortably in heaven.

    I'm sorry to learn David Carradine died. For those who didn't know. He played the adult character, 虔官昌 Qián Guānchāng pronounced Caine Kwai Chang, a Shaolin-Buddhist monk, in the movie and television series Kung Fu. It is customary for a Chinese surname (last name), to be spoken first. His brother Keith played the teenage Caine.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2009
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