Rage in Kunming

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We at Language Log are already quite familiar with Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province. That's where the completely fake Apple store was discovered by a blogger named BirdAbroad (see "Your friendly fake Apple Stoer in Kunming"). It's also where we located some of our most amazing airport Chinglish.

Now, in the same airport, a Chinese Communist official went on a rampage after missing his flight and thoroughly trashed a check-in station. First, a silent video which is fairly well known:

What this man is doing in Chinese would be called fā píqì 发脾气 ("throwing a tantrum; having a fit"), a kind of infantile behavior to which adults sometimes succumb. His name is Yan Linkun, and he's the deputy chairman of a mining company and a member of the Communist Party political advisory body in Yunnan, as well as a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Here is an article from the Chinese version of China Daily showing Yan Linkun apologizing to a broadly smiling higher-up who is shaking his hand amiably.

I was extremely fortunate to find a shorter video with sound, so we can hear some of the what the man is shouting:

It's hard to hear everything Yan Linkun is saying, but it seems like part of it goes thus:

Wǒ běnlái dǎ de shì tóuděng cāng de. . . Shénme yìsi a! Shénme yìsi, a? ! Wǒ běnlái shì tóuděng cāng de. . . . Tài qīfù rénle. . . Dōu jǐ cìle? ! Tài qīfù rénle. Āi, gǎnjǐn gěi wǒ kāimén nǎ! . . . Āi, nǎ yǒu zhèyàng de, tài qīfù rénle! . . . Tóuděng cāng. . .
我本来打得是头等舱的。。。什么意思啊!什么意思,啊?!我本来是头等舱的。 。。。 太欺负人了。。。都几次了?!太欺负人了。哎,赶紧给我开门哪!。。。哎,哪有这样的,太欺负人了!。。。头等舱。。。
"I originally booked a first class [ticket]…. What do you mean, huh?! What do you mean, huh?! I originally booked a first class [ticket]…. You're really bullying me…. And not just once?! You're really taking advantage of me. Hai! Hurry up and open the door!… Hai, how can you be like this? Really browbeating me!… First class…."

I have translated qīfù 欺负 ("dupe; hoodwink; cheat; deceive; bully; take advantage of") in several different ways to try to bring across the various nuances of the word.

Perhaps others who watch the video can catch more of Yan Linkun's ranting and raving or what some of the onlookers are saying.

I sent this video to a former student of mine who lives in Kunming. Here is her reply: "YouTube is blocked in China… no freedom… i could have used a VPN, but again it's not working very well and very slow to watch videos in 阻国."

She makes a very clever pun on zǔguó 阻国 ("blocking / obstructing country") and zǔguó 祖国 ("motherland; fatherland; homeland; native land").

The motherland could have used a bit more blocking right there in Kunming when Yan Linkun began to trash the check-in counter. The security forces just stood by and watched, perhaps because he's a member of the Communist Party and can behave with impunity?

[Thanks to Jing Wen, Jiajia Wang, and Fangyi Cheng.]


  1. Observation said,

    March 2, 2013 @ 7:27 am

    Many thanks for the interesting article and video! Many politicians seem to have difficulty controlling their anger.

    Last month, Lawrence Ma (馬恩國), a barrister, a Shanxi CPPCC member and the vice-chairman of the Association of Hong Kong Professionals, was involved in a heated argument with anti-government legislator 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung.

    Like Mr Yan, his temper tantrum was, linguistically. quite interesting. The line 'You're not even a ****ing Chinese!' became the talk of the city, and many commentators sniggered at mistakes like 'I'm a general public'. What's even more ironic is that he accused Leung of 'not being Chinese' when he admits to loving Australia!

  2. ahkow said,

    March 2, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

    Think there's a typo in the transcription, i.e. not 我本来打得是头等舱的 but 我本来搭的是头等舱的 ("I was supposed to be taking first class").

  3. Victor Mair said,

    March 3, 2013 @ 7:34 am

    I've looked at these videos dozens of times, and I cannot escape the conclusion that what set the man off was losing face in front of his sons, who — at the beginning of the silent one — are seen wearing light-colored jackets and with light-colored packs on their backs. At first Yan is standing there calmly and confidently — somebody will get that door open for me and I'll get on the plane. After all, I'm a CCP official who travels first class. But then the boys start to complain that they're going to miss their plane, and they'll be late for school, or whatever. Yan can't take that(the boys are his bǎobèi 宝贝 ["precious darlings"), so he blows up royally, and the rest is history.

    The woman in red who is on a cell phone and who rebukes a security guard who is standing nearby is probably Yan's wife, whose presence would only add to his discomfiture, though she might be an assistant of his.

  4. Gianni said,

    March 3, 2013 @ 9:10 am

    The word 打 or 搭 are both possible. He uttered it without a tone. Also, the word 啊 should be second tone, indicating questioning.

    One important reason that no one wanted to stop him is perhaps almost everybody there thought him to be a man with unknown mental illness. Even the airport securities feared people with mental illness because in China a man with mental illness can kill you without being punished.

  5. julie lee said,

    March 3, 2013 @ 10:29 am

    It's interesting how the ranting official kept inverting the truth,
    " You're really bullying me…. You're really taking advantage of me…. how can you be like this? Really browbeating me!:"

    You'd think he was the victim, instead of the offender.

  6. hanmeng said,

    March 3, 2013 @ 11:27 am

    Two sons. So much for the one child policy.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    March 3, 2013 @ 11:47 am

    From Cheng Fangyi, a graduate student in China:

    I think ahkow is wrong. And I think It may be "dǎ de 打的" or "dǎ de 打得", not "dā de 搭的".
    "dǎ de 打的" can be used in the following contexts:
    Nǐ dǎ de shì huǒchē piào háishì fēijī piào? 你打的是火车票还是飞机票? ("What did you book, a train ticket or plane ticket?")

    Wǒ dǎ de shì fēijī piào, tóuděng cāng. 我打的是飞机票,头等舱。 ("I booked a plane ticket, first class.")
    Wǒ dǎ de shì 20 hào de fēijī piào. 我打的是20号的飞机票。 ("I booked a plane ticket for the 20th.")

    Wǒ dǎ de shì tóuděng cāng. 我打的是头等舱。 ("I booked a first class ticket.")
    If the man said dā de shì tóuděng cāng 搭得是头等舱 ("seated in first class"), the context should be that the man was originally sitting in a first class seat, but that he was forced to move to a regular seat for whatever reason. In this case he can say Wǒ běnlái dā de shì tóuděng cāng de 我本来搭的是头等舱的 ("I was originally seated in first class") to someone around him.

  8. Victor Mair said,

    March 3, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

    From Jing Wen:

    I was wondering if it should be dǎ 打 ("strike, hit" and countless other meanings) or dā 搭 ("ride; travel by" and many other meanings). Maybe he was saying dā fēijī 搭飞机 ("riding / flying in an airplane"). Now, dā fēijī 搭飞机 ("riding / flying in an airplane") is a southern expression. In the north people usually say zuò fēijī 坐飞机 ("sit / fly in an airplane"). He may also have been saying dǎ de tóuděng cāng (de piào) 打得头等舱(的票) ("booked a first class ticket"). Do you have any idea where he comes from? He was so hysterical that I can not tell from his shouting whether he is a southerner or a northerner.

    Another thing I am confused about is that the title of the video says he was late so that he was unable to board. But he also said dōu jǐ cì le 都几次了 ("this has already happened several times"), which means that this was not the first time that he missed the plane. However, didn't he know he can not board after the first time he was late?

  9. David Walker said,

    March 6, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

    I heard (might not be true) that the family missed their first flight because they took too long eating breakfast in the airport and dawdling. If that's true, I have no sympathy.

  10. Steve said,

    March 12, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

    There's an even longer (though silent) video on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iZ_JbUbU50

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