Chow Yun-fat

« previous post | next post »

Hong Kong movie star Chow Yun-fat has fallen afoul of the authorities on mainland China for supporting the Occupy Center democracy protesters.

It's interesting to see how the media report what he said about having his films banned on the Mainland.

"'I'll just make less then': Actor Chow Yun-fat responds to alleged PRC ban for supporting HK protests"  (10/27/14)

The Shanghaiist report was picked up by reddit and other outlets: "Banned from mainland China? Chow Yun Fat doesn't care" (10/27/14)

Let's see what Chow Yun-fat actually said when asked whether he was concerned about being penalized by mainland entities:

Caang1 zim3 zung1 bei6/2 noi6 dei6 fung1 saat3
("[Is he / am I] being blocked out by the Mainland [for] supporting Occupy Central?")

Faat3 go1 mei6 geng1 gwo3: mai6 wan2 siu2 di1 lo1
發哥未驚過: 咪搵少啲囉!
("Elder-brother Fat (Chow Yun-fat) hasn’t been afraid:  then I’ll just earn a bit less [money]!")

The last sentence in particular is wonderfully Cantonese:  mai6 wan2 siu2 di1 lo1 咪搵少啲囉 ("So I'll make a little less money, that's all.")  The fact that three of the five characters have mouth radicals attests to the transcriptional nature of the writing, and four of the five characters represent distinctively Cantonese morphemes, siu2 少 ("less") being the only character that is also used with the same meaning in Mandarin.

Perhaps inevitably, his Cantonese answer is mostly being reported in Mandarin, e.g. as "Nà jiù shǎo zhuàn yīdiǎn luō 那就少賺一點囉!", though some outlets give Cantonese with Mandarin translation for quotations from other actors who have joined Chow Yun-fat in lending their support to the democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong and in being punished by PRC authorities.

It is fascinating to see how Hong Kong and other Chinese media deal with authentic Cantonese statements from people as famous as Chow Yun-fat.

[Thanks to Brendan O'Kane and Bob Bauer]


  1. Eidolon said,

    October 28, 2014 @ 7:45 pm

    I imagine the proper way to treat Cantonese in Mandarin specific media is to treat it as any other language your viewers have no knowledge of – translate it. In English news, for example, we don't get a transcription of what Chow Yun-fat said in Cantonese, we just get the translation. There's no value to putting in the Cantonese from their angle because 'we' won't get it.

    But what about regions in China where both Cantonese and Mandarin are spoken? Hong Kong media and Guangdong media specifically are interesting to juxtapose.

  2. Tom said,

    October 28, 2014 @ 10:12 pm

    Even 少 is arguably being 'misunderstood' if a Mandarin-speaker takes it to mean "less/fewer" by itself, without the comparative particle 啲 after it.

    Although actually in both languages the meaning of 少 in different contexts is interestingly complicated.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    October 29, 2014 @ 8:13 am

    From Bob Bauer:

    The phrase is "Occupy Central", not Occupy Center, since the original plan of the Occupy Central organizers was to occupy Chater Road in Central district.

  4. Rachel said,

    October 29, 2014 @ 11:00 am

    After reading this post, I was reading an article in today's 世界日报 and found an interesting clause: "當然唔會收番(不會收回言論)". This is presented in direct text, not as a quotation (though it is an indirect quote). It's interesting that the reporter and editor seem to be assuming a certain, but definitely limited, amount of Cantonese literacy on the part of their audience. I'm not sure what languages the readers of 世界日报 generally read, but the articles always seem to be written in clear Mandarin to me.

  5. Yi said,

    October 29, 2014 @ 4:36 pm

    Thanks to the popularity of Cantonpop and Cantonese movies and TV series since 1990s, I do think it's ok to assume some basic Cantonese literacy in most part of mainland China. Presenting a direct quote in its original language, if possible, is always better than just a translation because the choice of words in the original language might contain subtle messages that will get lost in translation. This is analogous to, for example, a direct and short quote from French president in an NY Times report. I don't think any reader will be put off by it.

  6. Rachel said,

    October 30, 2014 @ 9:14 am

    The interesting thing, though, is that the 唔 is presented not as a direct quote, but as an indirect one — i.e., in the main body of the text itself. Perhaps it's a typo, but this is a use of 唔 in ostensibly Mandarin text, not just quoting Cantonese.

  7. John said,

    October 31, 2014 @ 2:03 am

    Not distinguishing direct and indirect quotations is a hallmark of Chinese news writing. Many news articles are basically a series of quotes strung together without a single quotation mark, and set off only by a "So and so said that…" (「XXX說,」) . It can be maddening as a reader, but it is what it is.

  8. Victor Mair said,

    November 1, 2014 @ 9:10 am

    Here is a link to an article from yesterday's Apple Daily about Chow Yun-fat as a Hong Kong patriot versus Jackie Chan as a Beijing apologist. This article refers to an article that appeared earlier in the Wall Street Journal and entitled "Chow Yun-fat Beats Jackiet Chan" (see next item below).

    Reference is made to Chow's Cantonese utterance that he'll just earn less money if he's blackballed by the mainland.

    Aside from the humor in the Apple Daily article, it's also interesting for being written almost entirely in Cantonese.

    "Chow Yun-Fat Beats Jackie Chan

    "In the fight for Hong Kong democracy, root for Chow Yun-fat over Beijing apologist Jackie Chan."

    We don’t know who would win a kung fu showdown between Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-fat, but it’s clear who the people of Hong Kong would root for. Mr. Chan is a longtime apologist for the Communist Party and critic of democracy. Mr. Chow supports Hong Kong’s democracy movement even though it may get him and his movies blacklisted in mainland China. “I’ll just make less then,” he quipped this week.

  9. Michael Watts said,

    November 3, 2014 @ 2:42 am

    I can't endorse the english translation people are running with — I didn't understand until Victor Mair's translation that he was saying "I'll just make less [money]" and not "I'll just make less [movies]".

  10. Tom said,

    November 3, 2014 @ 3:10 am

    搵 means "to make money" (as in earn or obtain).
    "Make" in "to make films" would be a different verb.

RSS feed for comments on this post