A Chinese book purportedly publishing a Gelao 仡佬 manuscript fell into my hands a few weeks ago (I think that it may have been sent to me by a friend in Hong Kong). I took one look at the manuscript and felt that it was phony. Not wanting to deal with it, and yet not wanting to throw it away, since it was a specimen of something, I promptly put the book in the mailbox of my colleague, Adam D. Smith, who is a specialist on writing systems in China.
Before telling what Adam did with the book, I should explain who the Gelao people are. In brief, they are Tai-Kadai speakers in southern China and northern Vietnam. Their autonym is Kláo, which the Chinese transcribe as Gēlǎo 仡佬; in Vietnamese they are called Cờ Lao. They speak a cluster of dialects in the Kra language group of the Tai–Kadai language family that are customarily called Gelao.
The book is entertaining in that the manuscript is certainly fake, in the sense that it is made to deceive, though why is hard to tell (some kind of joke?). It seems to have fooled the Guangming Daily (unless they are in on the prank too). Do they do April Fool in China? The book was published in April 2013….
Adam swiftly and succinctly demonstrated that the manuscript is fraudulent. To see how he did it, read the post entitled "Fake Gelao 仡佬 writing system and manuscript" on Adam's blog called LingQiBaSui 零七八碎, which identifies the book, names the story recorded in it, and provides a link to an English translation, together with testimonials from those who were hoodwinked by the falsifiers.
[The text] …is “translated” into Chinese in such a way that each “Gelao” graph corresponds to exactly one Chinese character, the same Chinese character each time (except for a few slips – see below). Word order is preserved. The end result makes sense in Chinese. This alone tells us that this is not a translation. It is also puzzling to find not a single mention of an actual Gelao word in the entire publication.
The post ends: "Fake, fake, fake, fake" — something that we in Chinese Studies are all too familiar with — and closes with a memorable clip from Seinfeld.