God use VPN

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One of Kohei Jose Shimamoto's photos on Facebook:

Fó tiàoqiáng 佛跳墙
("Buddha jumps over the wall")

This is the name of a famous dish with a long history:

Steamed Abalone with Shark's Fin and Fish Maw in Broth

Also called "Buddha's temptation", the dish gets its colorful name from the supposition that — drawn by its irresistible aroma — even vegetarian monks would be tempted to jump over the walls of their monasteries to get a taste of it.

It would appear that this is the signature dish of the YOGA Kitchen — Yǒu jiān chúfáng 有间厨房.

In Cantonese pronunciation, jau5/6gaan1/3 有间 — except for the final nasal — sounds a bit like "Yoga".  The usual word for "Yoga" is  jyu4gaa1 瑜伽.

The translation ("Buddha jumps over the wall"), as I will explain below, is actually very clever and has deep meaning, but it may not have been created by the YOGA Kitchen, since it is actually rather widespread on the Mainland (see here and here).

All right, we start with the name of the dish:  Fó tiàoqiáng 佛跳墙 ("Buddha jumps over the wall").  It's easy enough to see how they get from "Buddha" to "God", but how do they get from "jumps over the wall" to "use VPN"?  If you are familiar with internet blocking in China, this is easy too.

To prevent people from watching YouTube, using Facebook and Twitter, reading international news, etc., the government throws up the Great Firewall.  But China's netizens are resourceful and use VPNs to jump over the wall.  The usual formulation for jumping over the Great Firewall is fānqiáng 翻墙, and tiàoqiáng 跳墙 is a close enough synonym for that.

"Buddha jumps over the wall" –> "God use VPN".  Ingenious!

[h.t. Ki-Tsìng; thanks to Maiheng Dietrich and Yixue Yang]


  1. liuyao said,

    December 28, 2015 @ 10:38 pm

    lol, that's got to be one of the best mistranslation ever. That it does convey the sense of doing something forbidden makes me wonder if it was intentional.

  2. liuyao said,

    December 28, 2015 @ 11:12 pm

    Searching on Chinese social media reveals that the image goes back at least to March this year, and "God use VPN" first appeared in 2013.

    By the way, the dish is often translated as Buddha's Delight in Chinese restaurants in the US.

  3. DMT said,

    December 29, 2015 @ 5:42 am

    …Shark's Fin and Fish Maw…

    Any idea how "maw" became the standard English word for the swim bladder when discussing Chinese cuisine? I was unfamiliar with this meaning of "maw" until I encountered it as a label for a pile of mysterious dried yellow things in a Hong Kong supermarket.

    The OED's two citations for "fish-maw" are from the 19th century, both connected to China:

    1840 H. Malcom Trav. 30/1, I tried sharks' fins, birds' nests, fish-maws.
    1858 P. L. Simmonds Dict. Trade Products Fish-maws..are sent to China and used as glue, &c.

    But based on the OED's other citations for "maw," by the 19th century this word was already dialect or archaic. So was "maw" the normal word for the swim bladder among some group of fishing folk during the 19th century, later becoming attached to the Chinese culinary item because the first English-speaking people to encounter it happened to come from that group?

    (Since the Howard Malcom cited by the OED was from Scotland, I checked the online DSL, which lists "MAW, n.3 Also ma(a)we. The stomach; freq. of a fish (Ork. 1929 Marw.)" – but could this "stomach" perhaps actually be the swim bladder?)

  4. K Chang said,

    December 30, 2015 @ 12:08 am

    Oh, this is both a mis-translation and actually APPROPRIATE translation.

    The dish "Buddha jump over the wall" was supposed to evoke that "the dish smells so good, even Buddha will scale walls to get a taste of this definitely-not-vegetarian dish" feel.

    In other words… naughty!

    And getting through VPN? Naughty!

    This is like that 神馬 (什麽)(mis)translation that actually turned it into a new meme.

  5. Rodger C said,

    December 30, 2015 @ 12:36 pm

    The idiom also occurs natively in English: Monica Baldwin's memoir of her immediate post-convent years is titled I Leap over the Wall.

  6. amy said,

    January 2, 2016 @ 1:27 am

    There actually seems to be a VPN service named 佛跳墙 at the moment, which appropriately enough is located at http://www.godusevpn.net/

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