Wolf's milk, a slime mold attractive to young Chinese?

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"Growing up on wolf's milk" — when I first encountered this expression, which was applied to youth who had survived the multiple catastrophes of the first quarter-century of the PRC, I took it literally because I thought that they didn't have much of anything else to eat.  Naturally, though, I did wonder how they would be able to obtain a significant amount of milk from she-wolves to make a difference.

For a moment I thought that maybe starving children were going out into the woods and scavenging for Lycogala epidendrum, commonly known as wolf's milk or groening's slime, which grows on damp, rotten logs from June through November. It wasn't long, however, before I realized that the expression "growing up on wolf's milk", as it occurred in PRC parlance from the 70s and later, was being used metaphorically to describe the hardships experienced by those who endured the privations of early communist rule in China.

Now some younger Chinese who never experienced the sufferings of the fifties, sixties, and seventies are looking back on the impoverishment of that period with a kind of pseudo-nostalgia, as described in this article in Chinese.

The "wolf's milk" trope essentially means a "tough upbringing" (e.g., growing up during the Cultural Revolution — hē lángnǎi zhǎngdà 喝狼奶长大).

It was famously used in this passage of the article by Sun Yat-Sen University professor Yuan Weishi 袁伟时 that got Freezing Point (Bingdian 冰点) magazine closed for a couple of months in January 2006 (when it reopened without editor Li Datong 李大同):

20 shìjì 70 niándài mò, zài jīnglìle "Fǎn yòupài", "Dà yuèjìn", hé "Wénhuà dàgémìng" sān dà zāinàn hòu, rénmen chéntòng de fājué, zhèxiē zāinàn de gēnyuán zhī yī shì:  "Wǒmen shì chī lángnǎi zhǎngdà de."  20 duōnián guòqùle, ǒurán fānyuè yīxià wǒmen de zhōngxué lìshǐ jiàokēshū, lìng wǒ dàchīyījīng de shì:  wǒmen de qīngshàonián hái zài jìxù chī lángnǎi!

20世纪70年代末,在经历了反右派、大跃进和文化大革命三大灾难后,人们沉痛地发觉,这些灾难的根源之一是:"我们是吃狼奶长大的。"20多年过去了,偶然翻阅一下我们的中学历史教科书,令我大吃一惊的是:我们的青少年还在继续吃狼奶!

In the late 1970s. having gone through the three disasters of the Anti-Rightist Campaign, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution, people realized in their sorrow that one of the sources of those disasters was that "we had grown up on wolf's milk". More than twenty years later, as I happened to glance through one of our secondary-school history textbooks, what startled me was that our youth are still drinking wolf's milk!

Here's the full article.

Wikipedia on Yuan Weishi.

NYT coverage, Feb '06.

Coverage of the reopening by David Bandurski, Mar '06

Translated interview with Yuan Weishi, The China Story

Discussion in a 2007 paper (pdf) by Geremie Barmé:

This is no place to delve into the arcana of Yuan's piece, suffice it to say that the well-known, and relatively outspoken, historian expressed his dismay on reading some of China's modern history high school textbooks. In them he found dangerous distortions of the historical record. Highly selective and ideologically-driven descriptions of events leading up to the infamous razing of the Garden of Perfect Brightness (Yuanming Yuan 圆明园), the imperial Manchu demesne outside Beijing which was destroyed by Anglo-French forces in 1860, and the Boxer rebellion of 1900, were not only incorrect but, Yuan warned, serve only to inflame nationalistic passions among impressionable teenagers. Yuan also cautioned that the irrational spirit guiding history teaching in China today endangers the country's mature and rational participation in the global community. He recalled that the xenophobic violence of the Red Guard generation was bred by just such a biased education.

Inculcated with a sense of patriotic ire through their school days, and convinced that the outside world was a malevolent enemy set on subverting China's revolution, the Red Guards attacked all things foreign during the early months of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. Countless people would lose their lives in the ensuing mêlée, although today very few people will admit to being involved with murder. The US-based academic Rae Yang is one of a handful of former Red Guards who is candid about her past. She recalls that her teachers were astounded by the visceral fury of the young rebels. Why should they have been so surprised that we acted like wolves, she asks. After all, we had all been fed on a constant diet of wolves' milk at school.  In his article on teaching history in China today, Yuan Weishi observed with dismay that, 'Our children are still being fed wolves' milk!

Li Datong's letter protesting the closure of Freezing Point, Feb '06 (translated excerpts via the WaPo), and twelve years later, his open letter protesting Xi Jinping's enthronement as Dictator Perpetuo.

Teng Biao 腾彪, "Tōngguò Hànyǔ gǎibiàn Zhōngguó 通过汉语改变中国" ("Changing China through Mandarin"), Boxun, Apr 5, '06:

"Dǎngbào shèlùn tǐ" hé "xīnwén liánbò qiāng" biǎomíng, jíquán zhǔyì shì zuòwéi yī zhǒng quánwēi yǔfǎ, zuòwéi yī zhǒng guānfāng měixué lái tǒngzhì wǒmen de sīwéi xíguàn hé shěnměi xíguàn de."Lángnǎi" shì tōngguò yǔyán, sīwéi hé wúyìshí biàn chéng wǒmen xiěguǎn lǐ de "láng xuè" de. Hái yǒu bǐ zhè gèng "wéiguān", gēng shēnrù de "quánlì jìshù" ma?

"党报社论体"和"新闻联播腔"表明,极权主义是作为一种权威语法、作为一种官方美学来统治我们的思维习惯和审美习惯的。"狼奶"是通过语言、思维和无意识变成我们血管里的"狼血"的。还有比这更"微观"、更深入的"权力技术"吗?

"The style of Party newspaper editorials" and "the tune of the news broadcast" indicate that totalitarianism dominates our thinking habits and our aesthetic habits as a dominant grammar and as an official aesthetics. "Wolf's milk" has become "wolf's blood" in our veins through language, thinking and unconsciousness. Are there more "microscopic" or more profound "techniques of power" than these?

[Translation by Rogier Creemers on China Change.]

The Freezing Point article was actually a reprinting: Yuan had originally published it in 2002 in the magazine Dōngfāng wénhuà 东方文化 (Eastern Culture).

There's a claim that the phrase was uttered in 1979 by Deng Liqun.

Wikipedia article on Deng Liqun.

Xu Shili 徐时利, "'Lángnǎi' shǐhuà '狼奶'史话" ("A History of Wolf's Milk"), Mínzhǔ zhōngguó 民主中国(Democratic China), Aug 18, '06.

The above article has the mythological references to growing up on wolf's milk.  After all, Romulus and Remus suckled from a she-wolf in 4th-3rd c. BC Roman mythology, and I seem to recall that similar stories exist for the foundation myths and legends of Turkic, Mongolic, and other Central Asia peoples, but I will leave it to our readers to give more precise references.

I suppose this kind of thinking informs the blockbuster propaganda films "Wolf Warrior" and "Wolf Warrior 2" as well, and we may perhaps refer to it as "lupine nationalism / patriotism".

See "The linguistics of a political slogan" (8/1717), especially in the comments.

Or, more precisely, inspired by the very peculiar slime mold I mentioned near the beginning of this post, the adjective could be lycogalactic (concocted faux-Greek for "made of, resembling or pertaining to wolf's milk").

Reference to Lycogala sp. may be of interest to the biologists among Language Log readers.  It's a plasmodial slime mold (myxogastrium). Readers might like to peruse the rather extraordinary pages on Myxogastria.

Wikipedia

UCMP (University of California Museum of Paleontology)

Many pictures here.

Fuligo septica video.

Slime mould Physarum sp. solves maze.

Other Lycogala pictures (the Czech name vlcí mléko also means "wolf's milk").

The genus was named by Micheli (Nova plantarum genera…, 1729), who explained that it means "wolf's milk" (Latin lac lupinum).

Other astonishingly beautiful slime mold pictures from Taiwan here and here.

Myxogastria are now classified in the group Amoebozoa, which also includes, well, amoebae.

Please don't look down on the lowly slime molds as unworthy of our interest.  They are actually at the cutting edge of research in a variety of disciplines:

"How Brainless Slime Molds Redefine Intelligence [Video]:  Single-celled amoebae can remember, make decisions and anticipate change, urging scientists to rethink intelligent behavior" by Ferris Jabr, Scientific American (November 7, 2012)

"Trump doesn't have a science adviser. This slime mold is available.  Hampshire College has promoted a brainless slime mold to its faculty. And it's working on border policy."  By , Vox (4/5/18):

The mold is Hampshire College's first "nonhuman resident scholar," complete with its own office and faculty webpage. (This very much fits in with the culture of Hampshire College, an institution that is so liberal arts it doesn't have "majors" and that recently hosted an event exploring "the effects of mass incarceration through dance.")

With the aid of human research assistants, the slime mold is using the problem-solving skills it acquired over a billion years of evolution to tackle policy problems. The project sits at the intersection of science, philosophy, and art. And it encourages us to consider natural forms of intelligence that exist outside the human mind.

For having no brain or neurons, slime molds — a.k.a. Physarum polycephalum are incredibly intelligent, capable of solving complex problems with extreme efficiency. An additional plus: They're naturally nonpartisan.

"Slime molds are not Republicans and they are not Democrats; they're neutral; they're other," says Jonathon Keats, the experimental philosopher who convinced Hampshire to promote the mold to the ranks of its faculty and who penned the letters interpreting their work. "By way of observing what they do, [it] could be a way of getting out of our assumptions, out of our gridlock," he says.

….

Slime molds can exist as free-floating single cells. But when two or more slime mold cells meet, they dissolve the cell membranes that separate each individual and fuse together in one membrane. That means two individuals, with individual genetics, can exist within the same body. And there's no limit to the number of individuals that can join the collective, called a plasmodium. Each cell of the slime mold is making decisions that ultimately benefit the whole collective.

When slime molds are placed in a new environment, they'll spread out in every direction in a fractal pattern, assessing the lay of the land. If they find something beneficial to them, like food, they'll reinforce the pathway. If they find something they don't like — like direct sunlight — they'll recoil.

It sounds simple, but through this process, slime molds can solve an impressively complex array of problems.

If you spread out oats (slime molds' favorite food) on a map, the slime molds will find ways to connect the sources of food with the shortest possible routes. If you add some obstacles to the map, like salt (which the slime mold hate), they'll find creative ways to avoid them. When scientists model metropolitan areas in this manner, with the food representing centers of dense populations, slime mold can somewhat accurately recreate maps — like this map of the Tokyo rail system. It took human engineers years to map out the system. It took slime mold just a few hours.

Solving network problems through nonneurological means.

[h.t. Geoff White; thanks to Jichang Lulu]



26 Comments

  1. Philip Taylor said,

    April 8, 2018 @ 4:32 am

    Slime moulds are indeed, as Victor says, well worth studying. I have spent many a happy hour watching their seemingly intelligent behaviour through a microscope.

  2. Bathrobe said,

    April 8, 2018 @ 9:35 am

    Reading The China Story translation of the interview with Yuan Weishi, I was somewhat nonplussed at the discussion of hanjian. He says:

    "The term hanjian targets the Han ethnic group, but the Han did not form a separate country and have no separate autonomous regions. The central government of a multi-ethnic country can enact laws protecting minority rights, but to enact laws punishing the criminals of a particular ethnic group that do not apply to other ethnic groups is impossible."

    If I understand it correctly, the term hanjian dates back to the Qing emperors. In fact, it represented a repudiation of the Han Chinese who helped the Manchus take over China. Instead of praising these people, to whom they were deeply endebted, later Manchu emperors (I think it was Kangxi) placed the utmost emphasis on 'fidelity'. Taken to its logical conclusion, this meant condemning the traitors who had delivered the country into their hands and praising those who had steadfastly supported the Ming well into the Qing dynasty. Hence the term hanjian 'Han traitor'. In his discussion of hanjian, Yuan Weishi seems to completely overlook this historical background.

    I tend to agree with his assessment that much nationalist propaganda seems to have helped make the views of young people more intolerant and intransigent. Young people are more enraged than ever about what the Japanese did during WWII and completely dismissive of what the Japanese have actually done by way of atonement. That is not to defend what the Japanese did nor to excuse the deliberate provocations of recent Japanese politicians, but if youth is brought up with a hardline nationalist slant, the opportunity for any kind of rapprochement or understanding can only end up dead in the water. Reading forums where young Chinese can vent their views in English, one is struck by the out-and-out intransigence (often accompanied by a lack of balance and at times helpings of ignorance) of many young commenters.

  3. Chris Button said,

    April 8, 2018 @ 9:03 pm

    …I seem to recall that similar stories exist for the foundation myths and legends of Turkic, Mongolic, and other Central Asia peoples…

    This comment made me think of Pulleyblank's (1962) suggestion, cautiously accepted by Vovin (2000), that the origins of the loanword 湩 "milk" might be in Yeniseian.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    April 8, 2018 @ 9:12 pm

    From Mehmet Olmez:

    As far as i know, there is not any Turkish/Turkic legend about this topic. Since 20th century in Turkey (and also after 21th century in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan etc.) there is such/similar 'fake' legends related with the wolf (kök böri / boz kurt 'gray wolf') (all are tendentious interpretations from Rashidu'd-din's Jami al-tawarix).

    Because Turkish historians (also Turcologists) "interpret" well known Mongolian story on "gray wolf" from Rashidu'd-din as "Turkish Legend". Of course there is a story about Turks /Tujue/ in Chinese annals (Ashina) but we don't have any parallel version in Turkic sources (at inscriptions or in Divan Lugat at-Turk).

    My Turcologist masters (including those cited below), they know the story very well:

    The story belongs to the Mongols (Rashiduddin Fazlullah), but Turkish historians (from 20th century) interpret the story as Turkish!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashid-al-Din_Hamadani

    https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/003446698

    Rashiduddin Fazlullah's Jamiʻuʾt-tawarikh = Compendium of chronicles: a history of the Mongols / English translation & annotation by W.M. Thackston.

  5. Victor Mair said,

    April 8, 2018 @ 9:15 pm

    From Stefan Georg:

    Rashid's history is written in Persian – our Mongolistics teacher M. Weiers – back then, hardly thinkable today – insisted that we learn Persian in order to read it, beacause it contains unique data on Chinggisid history – Rashid obviously had access to the „Altan debter", the (presumed) original of what later became known as the „Secret History of the Mongols" :-)

  6. Victor Mair said,

    April 8, 2018 @ 9:16 pm

    From Peter Golden:

    Having recently finished an article (to appear soon – I hope), a survey of the ethnogonic tales of the Türks as reported in Chinese and (one) Tibetan-Uyghur sources, I can say that I have not encountered any such direct reference. Mehmet is correct. There are bogus legends floating around, based on Rashîd ad-Dîn. There are hints, however, that the wolf tale (and wolf's milk tales may well have circulated well before Rashîd. Gardīzi, in his section on the Turkic peoples, recounts a tale in which the 'sparseness' of the facial hair of the Turks and their 'canine disposition' are attributed to the wolf's milk (along with ant's eggs) that was given to Japheth, the ancestor of the Turks, during a childhood illness (Gardîzî, Ta'rīḫ-i Gardīzī ed. Ḥabībī: 547, Martinez, 'Gardîzî's Two Chapters': 118, Dromp, 'Lone Wolf': 518–19. The Japhetic origin of the Turks is a commonplace in many medieval Muslim and Jewish genealogies of the nations.

    All of this most probably goes back to Turkic oral traditions. The above is taken from my article that has not yet appeared. I would recommend the article by Hayrettin İhsan Erkoç, 2017. 'Türk Mitlerindeki Motifler (VI.-VIII. Yüzyıllar' Journal of Old Turkic Studies 1/1: 36-75, which covers much of this ground. The notion that the Türks in the famous origin tales in the Zhoushu and Suishu (repeated in later accounts), in which the ancestor of the Ashina clan (the ruling clan of the Türks) was born of a female wolf (and obviously suckled by that wolf continued, apparently, in oral traditions. Gardīzī, although writing ca. 1050, drew on accounts that went back to the 8th century (see: Czeglédy, "Gardizi on the History of Central Asia (745-780 A.D." AOH XXVII/3 ( 1973): 257-269). The Qarachay-Balkar (Malqar) Turkic people of the North Caucasus in their variants of the Nart Sagas (common to a number of North Caucasian peoples) have one that involves a figure akin to the Ashina ancestor: Örüzmek (= Ossetian: Uruzmag/Uruzmaeg, Circassian: Warzmameg/Wezyrmej), who falls from Heaven and is found by Debet (a blacksmith and important figure in the Nart Sagas). He finds the young child in a blue rock (the color blue is also important in ancient Turkic lore) that had split in two. In it was a young hero who had seized a huge wolf by the neck and was suckling from her, while birds circled about (Victor, you will recognize elements of the Wusun tale here – and the probable interaction of the Wusun and Türks). This young child grew miraculously, becoming the size of a three-year old by the time Debet reached him some minutes later. Debet wanted to rear him as a blacksmith, but the Nart shepherds insisted that they have him as he would clearly be a great hero. He was called Börü Emček "Wolf Suckling" and only later took the name Örüzmek. These Nart Sagas were recorded/transcribed by scholars in modern times from villagers who, one may be reasonably sure, never read the Zhoushu or Suishu – or anything else. I wrote an article on this account "A Qaračay Nart Tale of Lupine Origins: An Echo of the Ašina Tradition?" in Omeljan Pritsak Armağanı, ed. M. Alpargu, Y. Öztürk (Sakarya: Sakarya Üniversitesi Yayın No. 51, 2007): 149-169.

    In the Turkic tradition, real and imagined, wolf's milk does not have a negative role. Rather, it evidences their supernatural origins.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    April 8, 2018 @ 9:23 pm

    From Marcel Erdal:

    I have two questions about Rashîdu 'd-Dîn, though, the great Ilkhanid wazîr: Does he make something like an ethnic distinction between Turks and Mongols? I mean, we know that the Ilkhanids continued to speak and write Mongolian in his time, so he must at least have been aware that they spoke completely different languages! Also, the Turks of his time didn't pretend to Jinghizkhanid connections, did they? In case he did make this ethnic distinction, whom exactly does he credit with his wolf story?

  8. Victor Mair said,

    April 8, 2018 @ 9:24 pm

    From Peter Golden:

    Rashīd uses the gentilic "turk/atrāk" in a generic way, e.g. aqwām-i turk or atrāk, and often includes Mongols in that number. It really refers to any of the northern steppe peoples (just as Saqāliba was used to denote the "Slavs" as such, as well as various northern forest peoples, cf. the Volga Bulgar ruler is called "malik as-Saqāliba"). The Ilkhanids were still speaking Mongol, as the Rasūlid Hexaglot shows. There is evidence (several articles by Grigor'ev) that it was still used in some Jochid circles as well. As far as I know, none of the Qïpchaqs and other Turkic tribes under Chinggisid rule claimed Chinggisid connections. This came later with dynasties (e.g. the Uzbek, Crimean and Kazakh khanates), which had bona fide claims to Chinggisid descent.

  9. Victor Mair said,

    April 8, 2018 @ 9:25 pm

    From Marcel Erdal:

    We know that Mongolian was still spoken among the Ilkhanids not only because of the Hexaglot, by the way, but also because some words of theirs are mentioned by some contemporary Arabs, and because there also survived some documents of theirs, which I'm sure you also know.
    So, did Rashîdu 'd-Dîn link the wolf story with the Atrâk / aqwâm-i Turk?

  10. Victor Mair said,

    April 8, 2018 @ 9:26 pm

    From David Morgan:

    Both the Secret History (tr. De Rachewiltz, p. 1) and Rashid al-Din (tr. Thackston, vol. 1, p. 114) have Chinggis descended ultimately from a wolf and a doe (the animals being humanized in R al-D's version). But both have the wolf as the male partner; so no wolf's milk! R al-D's account is likely to come from the Altan Debter, via his informant Bolad (Pulad), Qubilai's representative at the Ilkhanid court. Tom Allsen, who knows as much about this as anyone, regards the Altan Debter as a collection of material or an archive, rather than as a chronicle to be compared with the Secret History (to which R al-D does not appear to have had access). Of course, the AD doesn't seem to have survived, so we only know of its contents from its use in other sources.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    April 8, 2018 @ 9:27 pm

    From Peter Golden:

    Yes, of course there is evidence other than the Hexaglot that the Ilkhanids were speaking Mongol. I did not mean to imply that the Hexaglot is the only source (it is the one best known to me – after years of labor :-)). To the best of my knowledge Rashīd did not link a wolf tale with the Aqwam-i Atrāk. There is no evidence that he knew of the Ashina, Kök Türk Empire et al. His Second Section has the interesting heading "On those tribes of the Atrāk who at this time are called Muġūl." This comes after his section on "The History of the tribes of the Oğuz" (aqwām-i Uġūz), which recounts how Oğuz Khan gave names to the Qanglï, Qïpchaq, Qarluqs and other Turkic peoples. My sense of his text, in this regard, as noted earlier, is that he is using "Turk"/"Atrāk" as a generic denoting what we often term – for want of a better term – the Turko-Mongolian peoples.

  12. Victor Mair said,

    April 8, 2018 @ 9:28 pm

    From Marcel Erdal:

    From his personal ethnic and cultural perspective, they were apparently all the same, even if they spoke different languages …

  13. Victor Mair said,

    April 8, 2018 @ 9:29 pm

    From Dotno Pount:

    The apical ancestor of Chinggis Khaan is Börte Cino-a, or Gray Wolf.

  14. Victor Mair said,

    April 8, 2018 @ 11:04 pm

    From an anonymous reader:

    "Grew up drinking wolf's milk" means "being brainwashed by the CCP".

  15. loonquawl said,

    April 9, 2018 @ 3:23 am

    Romulus and Remus also started off being succored by a she-wolf – is there any connection between those tales, or is that just the coincidence one would expect from a finite number of auspicious animals being used in myths of the type [Auspicious Animal][performs auspicious act]on[later influential person] ?

  16. Philip Taylor said,

    April 9, 2018 @ 4:53 am

    Dotno Pount : "The apical ancestor of Chinggis Khaan is Börte Cino-a, or Gray Wolf". That is intriguing, because in the 2007 Russian film Монгол /Mongol), the protagonist Temüjin (later to become Genghis Khan) becomes engaged to, and later marries, a girl called Börte.

  17. David Marjanović said,

    April 9, 2018 @ 5:36 am

    He finds the young child in a blue rock (the color blue is also important in ancient Turkic lore) that had split in two.

    Blue is also what Ashina means. (Through Sogdian.)

    the coincidence one would expect from a finite number of auspicious animals being used in myths of the type

    Well, there aren't any other pack-hunting predators in Eurasia north of the area where lions can be found, so if you want an origin story for a leader, a wolf is pretty much the only choice.

  18. Victor Mair said,

    April 9, 2018 @ 7:55 am

    From Peter Golden:

    There is the famous comment of Abu Shāma (d.1267) regarding the defeat of the Mongols by the Mamlūks (largely consisting of Qïpčaq ghulāms) at 'Ayn Jālūt: "to everything there is a pest of its own kind" (he was referring to Qutuz, the Qïpčaq commander of the Mamlūk forces). In Arab eyes, the Mongols and Turks were "ethnically" the same. Even their features were similar. For Rašīd, who lived somewhat later – and in Iran – the same perspectives held true. Nonetheless, he gathered a lot of information about the different groupings – from native informants.

  19. Peter B. Golden said,

    April 9, 2018 @ 8:21 am

    Ashina 阿 史 那) EMC*ʔa şi' na', LMC ʔaʂŗ´na' Most probably is Khotano-Saka âşşeina-âššena "blue" (= Turk. kȫk "blue," Clauson (1972): 708-709), as in Kök Türks, see S.G. Klyashtornyi, "The Royal Clan of the Turks and the Problem of Early Turkic-Iranian Contacts" Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae XLVII/3 (1994), pp. 445-447. There are other theories (Beckwith, Atwood), but this seems to work best.

  20. bratschegirl said,

    April 9, 2018 @ 11:33 am

    I'm interested to see the comment relating the "drinking wolf's milk" phrasing with brainwashing. Made me think of the phrase commonly used in English (probably strictly US, though) to describe the same phenomenon, that one has "drunk the Kool-Aid."

  21. Eidolon said,

    April 9, 2018 @ 5:21 pm

    I would consider the use of "wolf" symbolism in films like "Wolf Warrior" and "Wolf Warrior 2" to be of a more positive nature than the use of "wolf" symbolism in "wolf milk." Generally speaking, and distinct from the Roman and Mongolian mythological traditions, wolves are viewed negatively in China. Wolf milk is not associated with nourishment, but hardship and toxicity; having a "wolf's heart" is another way of saying treacherous or cruel; many proverbs reference the wolf in a negative way, etc. But in recent centuries, wolf symbolism, though still retaining its traditional semantics, has also gained a more popular association with masculine nationalism through works like "Wolf Totem," which promoted the "wolf mentality" associated with Mongolians as a positive stereotype. It is this latter sense that informs the use of wolf symbolism in "Wolf Warrior."

    "Reading forums where young Chinese can vent their views in English, one is struck by the out-and-out intransigence (often accompanied by a lack of balance and at times helpings of ignorance) of many young commenters."

    Chinese posting in English forums are not necessarily representative of the whole population. The alienating experience of living outside of China is more likely to encourage radical nationalism, since the generally negative portrayals of China in the Anglophone world combined with persistent ethnic stereotyping is likely to trigger powerful defensive reactions. This isn't limited to the Chinese, either. People from the Middle East have a similar experience.

  22. Victor Mair said,

    April 9, 2018 @ 10:06 pm

    Long before Wolf Totem, there was "Chyi Chin (Qi Qin) – Wolf" 狼-齐秦

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqpqA5icgaU

    This masterpiece comes from Chyi Chin's 1985 Wolf Album – the album and title song which really launched his career. This is not his 1985 version but from 1997 (I think) and features some stunning guitarwork. The song is about a wolf in the wild, trying to find a place for itself, and hoping for a better future. It lives a lonely life and is often in danger. The instinct to survive makes a wolf cunning, tough and sometimes cruel. The only hope in its heart is to find a larger grassland where it has better living conditions. Chin see himself as a wolf – hungry, running in a remote poor land in the cold wind. Chin once said that this song sings out his own loneliness back then and his expectations for the future – but to always be positive like the wolf in the song. Hold onto your hopes and dreams, and never give up.

    Chyi Chin was born on January 12, 1960 in Taichung,Taiwan. He started his career in 1981 with the album See her Slip Away Again. His first guitar was a gift from his elder sister Chyi Yu, whilst he was in a teenage correction centre, and he kept on practicing during his days of military service. He often mentions that he owes his success to his elder sister who is as extraordinary as he is. They formed a very strong bond over the years. He also has a sister called Chyi Lu. Chyi Chin has put out more than 25 albums. He has always loved Mainland China, and has lived in Shanghai. Audiences called him "a Wolf from the North" ( which he calls himself in the song) as they believed the unconstrained singing and hair-raising howls belong more to a singer from the vast northern prairie.

    He rose to fame in China again recently after appearing on the hit talent shows 'I am a Singer' and 'The Voice of China'. He remains very highly respected in the Chinese pop music scene.

    Mandarin Lyrics

    我是一匹來自北方的狼 走在無垠的曠野中

    淒厲的北風 吹過 漫漫的黃沙掠過

    我是一匹來自北方的狼 走在無垠的曠野中

    淒厲的北風 吹過 漫漫的黃沙掠過

    我只有咬著冷冷的牙 報以二聲長嘯

    不為別的 只為那傳說中美麗的草原

    我是一匹來自北方的狼 走在無垠的曠野中

    淒厲的北風 吹過 漫漫的黃沙掠過——— '¬++—

    我是一匹來自北方的狼 走在無垠的曠野中

    淒厲的北風 吹過 漫漫的黃沙掠過

    我只有咬著冷冷的牙 報以二聲長嘯

    不為別的 只為那傳說中美麗的草原

    Pinyin

    Wǒ shì yī pǐ láizì běi fāng de láng zǒu zài wúyín de kuàngyě zhōng

    qīlì de běi fēngchuīguò mànmàn de huáng shā lüèguò

    wǒ shì yī pǐ láizì běifāng de láng zǒu zài wúyín de kuàngyě zhōng

    qīlì de běi fēngchuīguò mànmàn de huáng shā lüèguò

    wǒ zhǐyǒu yǎozhe lěng lěng de yá bào yǐ èr shēng chángxiào

    bù wéi bié de zhǐ wèi nà chuánshuō zhōng měilì de cǎoyuán

    wǒ shì yī pǐ láizì běifāng de láng zǒu zài wúyín de kuàngyě zhōng

    qīlì de běi fēngchuīguò mànmàn de huáng shā lüèguò

    wǒ shì yī pǐ láizì běifāng de láng zǒu zài wúyín de kuàngyě zhōng

    qīlì de běi fēngchuīguò mànmàn de huáng shā lüèguò

    wǒ zhǐyǒu yǎozhe lěng lěng de yá bào yǐ èr shēng chángxiào

    bù wéi bié de zhǐ wèi nà chuánshuō zhōng měilì de cǎoyuán

    English Translation

    I am a wolf from the north Walking on the boundless wilderness

    The desolate north wind blows past The slow sand brushes past

    I am a wolf from the north Walking on the boundless wilderness

    The desolate north wind blows past The slow sand brushes past

    I can only tightly clench my cold teeth And respond to my plight by howling

    Nothing else can attract me Only the beautiful grassland in my dreams

  23. ajay said,

    April 10, 2018 @ 10:40 am

    Primo Levi used the phrase "eating bear meat" to refer to undergoing and surviving intense physical hardship in "The Periodic Table", but I can't remember if that was a common phrase in Italian or something a friend of his said or just something he invented.

  24. Chris Button said,

    April 10, 2018 @ 9:27 pm

    Generally speaking, and distinct from the Roman and Mongolian mythological traditions, wolves are viewed negatively in China.

    I cannot comment on its etymological validity since it may well simply represent folk etymology, but the notion that the Japanese word "ōkami" for 狼 wolf comes from 大神 puts Japan squarely in the Roman/Mongolian camp rather than the Chinese one.

  25. Victor Mair said,

    April 11, 2018 @ 9:30 am

    From Thomas Allsen:

    The Mongols were interested in the milk of all herd animals but I have never run across a ref. to wolf's milk.

    As for Rashid al-Din, his info came from now lost Mongolian records that also fed into several Chinese sources, including the YUANSHI. But beyond that, and equally important he gathered oral traditions from Mongols and Turks stationed in Iran. I have been through this material numerous times and wolves appear in it only in ethno-genetic mythologies.

  26. Ana said,

    April 12, 2018 @ 6:30 am

    The Post-90s would say, 'we grew up on toxic milk.(毒奶)' XD

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