Chinese people learn how to lie in childhood essays

| April 4th, 2010

20100404-lies-essay-01

Chinese people were first taught how to lie in their essays? A post 80s generation netizen published a post titled “our childhood essay sentences guarantee to work”, the words and phrases are selected from her childhood essays and generated quite an echo on the internet.

1. “Classmates saw the clean classroom, wiped the sweat off their forehead and smiled…” (describing after students cleaned the classroom)

2. Q: “Kid, thank you, what’s your name?” A: “My name is Red scarf (worn by Young Pioneers)” (Used after when helping elders cross the street etc. good deeds)

3. Xiao Ming, Xiao Hong, Xiao Li, Xiao X … (Actually Chinese people’s names are easy to come up with…)

4. “Today the weather was clear and cloudless, and we came to the XX park for an outing. First entered our sight was the rockery…”

“In the fading light of dusk, we are reluctant to leave XX, I will remember this happy and meaningful day!”

(Why do we always have to write an essay after each field trip?)

5. “I love my home, but I love my great motherland more”

“Looking at the red flag raising slowly, my sense of respect arises spontaneously”

6. “When shopping auntie gave extra 20 cents in change. Lowered my head and saw the red scarf in front of my chest, I gave it back…” Then say something: I lowered my head again, and noticed the red scarf is even brighter.

7. “Today it was my first time washing clothes, today it was my first time washing the dishes, today it was my first time making the bed, today it was my first time…” (Sure enough, the first time was commemorative)

8. “In my memory, this story is like the brightest star…”

9. “My legs are like filled with lead…”

10. “Class was over, some… some… and others… Our after school life is so rich!”

11. “Numerous revolutionary ancestors lost heads, shed blood, only in exchange for a happy life we have today, compare to them my feel extremely ashamed…” “The Five-Starred Red Flag, is dyed red with the blood of the martyrs.” (Childhood is very bloody…)

12. “One day, Xiao Qiang is walking to school, One day, teacher Wang is biking home… Another XXX day.”

13. “Whenever I encounter difficulties and want to retreat, the mind suddenly flashes XX’s (Zhang Haidi big sister etc. [a famous disabled writer in China]) image, compare to her my difficulty is nothing.” (Obviously at that time we do not know them, why do we love to pretend that we know them so well?)

14. “Since the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee…” [1978 12/18]

15. “Under the candlelight, looking at mother’s hands full of calluses and skillfully knitting the sweater for me, I could not help myself but to have tears in my eyes.”

16. “Red like fire, white like snow!”

17. “For example… Newton… Einstein… Madame Curie… Edison…” (The four famous example that make teachers vomiting blood)

18. “Without enduring the storm, how can we see the rainbow? Without the bitter chills to the bone, how can we smell the plum flowers?” (sentence pattern used to describe perseverance)

19. “Missing our teacher… Today is teacher’s day; teachers are candles, burn themselves to light others.” “They are the engineers of the souls.” “Poem goes: Spring silkworms produce silk until the last minute of their lives…” “That day, teacher Wang used her last bit of her strength and taught us the last class… But Ms Wang only taught us one semester then died of cancer… we miss her more than…” (In elementary school, in order to write a touching essay, many teachers died of terminal illnesses.)

20. “Today I picked up 10 cents on the ground, gave it to xx uncle… I was indescribably happy… teacher praised me, I was so happy that I jumped three fee high (classic!). Chairman Mao said: do a good deed is not difficult, what is difficult is do it every day…”

21. “In the light, looking at mother’s white hair, I… with tears… I must…” (hmm mothers all have white hair after the age of 30)

22. Xiao Hong shares the same table with me, under her pretty eyebrows are the big bright limpid eyes, as if they can talk…” (as long as writing about eyes, us [水灵灵] bright and limpid )

From Southern Weekend:

This post was first written by Lin Yan (林嫣) born in 1982, now works for a new style media in Guangzhou. One day she was bored, then dug through her essay books back the days and summed up more than 20 fixed sentences that were used over and over in these essays. For example “Today I picked up a dime on the ground, gave it to police uncle… I was indescribably happy… the police uncle praised me, I was so happy that I jumped three feet high”; “At that moment, uncle Le Feng’s image appeared in my mind … I lifted up my favorite piggy bank, smashed it and donated all the coins to the children in disaster areas…”

After she posted them on the Internet, it quickly attracted nearly 20,000 netizens’ views and replies.

Netizens swarmed in and started to vote and picked out the most used words and phrases in their childhood essays: “Since the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee…”; “I love my home, but I love my great motherland more”; “Teachers are candles, burn themselves to light others.” “Kid, thank you, what’s your name? You are welcome, my name is Red scarf (worn by Young Pioneers)”; “For example… Newton… Einstein… Madame Curie… Edison…”; “In the light, looking at mother’s white hair, I… with tears… I must…”

The website where the voting happened, its mainstream registered members are post 80 generations, most of them were born or settled in the first tier cities, and are well educated. Similar voting also included “the essay titles you have written”. The result showed, everyone all have written “XX, I want to tell you”, “The Great XX”, “Without sweeping the snow in front of you door, how to sweep the world”, “An unforgettable thing”… These sentences “we all have used before” were voted as one of the 1980s generation’s memory collection.

The history of how this generation formed their minds has high degree of similarity, they all had the same reflex symptoms – when talk about meetings immediately thinking about the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee, when thinking about Zhang Haidi they feel full of guilt; however after growing up they have the kind of clear and “laughing at oneself” attitude when recalling the past, wish to go back through time and space to live it through all over again.

A media editor born in the 70s wrote the following essay when he was young “In the new China, the people can reflect motherland’s dignity the most are the guards in front of the embassy. They can resist foreigners’ temptation of dollars and pretty girls, stood there loyally, firmly.” When it was exposed by his colleagues, many years of the glory image was ruined. Before this, he often strictly told the new interns, writing articles should have less propaganda more human language.

This is a strange growing process. This generation’s actions show a sign of maturity, eager to overturn their own past. Most of the people this age including Lin Yan have admitted that they have never picked up a dime from the floor, also never smashed “the beloved piggy bank”, in fact you didn’t need to smash it, and there was always a plug under the “piggy’s” butt.

In Lin Yan’s view, these “excessive force” of expression, was “necessary” at the time. “All the advanced, representing the mainstream values and behaviors, are all spotless.”

Right now, post 90s generation with a more adequate social tolerance seems to be more relaxed in their essays. Their writings appeared with Martian language (a term to describe words beyond common knowledge in the Chinese speaking cyberspace) and naughty Internet slang. But when it comes to the principles, the older generation has still found that different generations growing up under the same disciplinary system with the same set of ideas, quickly reach to consensus.

2010 winter Olympic Games Women’s speed skating 1,500 meters champion Zhou Yang, in February interview with the state media said today’s achievement she “thanks her parents”. However after being criticized by the leaders indirectly, this girl born in 1991 changed her words to “thank the country” first.

Good “Uncle” and Bad “Uncle”

Lin Yan paid attention to the college entrance exam essays that got the perfect scores. They are not lack of “Uncles” with the glorious images – the deaf and mute uncle who turned around and saluted to the Five Starred Red Flag after being helped by someone; the uncle who jumped into the turbulent current bravely and selflessly to rescue state properties; the neighbor uncle who sold tea eggs on the street in order to put students at the disaster areas to school… “Uncle” image was one of the most frequently targeted images in Chinese elementary and middles school essays in the past 30 years, and helping forming several young generations’ thinking. 2010, the reform of elementary and secondary essays has enter its 30th year. This year, middle school language curriculum of the first –composition assessment standards still emphasize the “correct thinking”.

The participants of essay reform thirty years ago Nanjing Normal University High School grade teacher Xu Zuyun said, the language composition – including the “Uncle” image is always what the country implements and reflects.

Xu Zuyun is a student in the 1950s, when some “uncles” are to be disowned. Even the “uncle” is the biological father, once he is classified as the right wing (politically), should be regarded as the “enemy of the people” firmly drawing the line from them.

Xu Zuyun recalls, since 1980, although still closely linked to language teaching, writing “love the party, love socialism” are the basic purpose, but paid more and more attention on the aesthetic, sincerity and innovation of the text.

At that time, the most referenced uncle in the elementary and middle school essays is still “Uncle Lei Feng”. His mantra is “serve the people”.

Lin Yan recalls in the Chinese language textbook, “uncle” always had dense eyebrows and big eyes, also had the total determination and dignified look, and always dressed in simple clothes. This image is related to “Uncle’s” early life pursues, he either was buying train tickets for grandma or catching thieves for auntie, and when necessary he also gave his precious life.

What made the deepest impression on Lin Yan was, a couple showing their love and affection in the par and was written in the essay by prose writer Mao Dun and included in the middle school Chinese language textbook. As a comparison, Mao Dun praised the other young couple in the park: they race against time reading books, “pursuit of revolutionary truth”.

Some fresh and innovative “uncles” also included foreigners, they are usually scattered in a variety of composition and biography anthologies. For example, “the great scientist, “uncle” Edison had disappeared hours before his wedding. It took the family a while to finally found the groom. After all, this scientist who puts his whole heart on his career had forgotten the wedding…”

However, in the past 30 years, “Uncle” is also changing with the time, gradually more relaxed, occasionally they had some flaws, but never making any principal mistakes.

In 2004 the following story in the college entrance exam essay received zero point. “A young mountain climber encountered a blizzard, because he thought he was not capable of saving his friend, he chose to leave the leave alone.”

Essays taught Chinese people how to lie?

Years later, these textbook articles are disclosed as fictitious or being “heavily processed”.

Post 80s Blogger Han Han said that Chinese people learned how to lie first in their essays. These words touched Lin Yan’s heart.

In Lin Yan’s memory, teachers never seem to care about if the story in the essay actually really happened, and she also found the essays write about the correct values can often get higher scores.

Until now, when Lin Yan eats half of a bun or an apple, she always looks for a ditch to throw it into. This was due to an excellent essay back then “half of a bun flow in the drain, drifting to Africa, sending it to the hungry hands of our proletariat brothers.”

She still remembers when the teacher taught in class “In the 1930s, U. S. Financial crisis, a group of dairy farmers dump cans of poor selling milk into the ditch.” her emotional expression, “capitalists rather wasting food than donating them to poor people.”

“The ‘uncles’ in the essays all reflected the Chinese textbooks.” Lin Yan said.

2009, Hangzhou Foreign language School language teacher Guo Chuyang and couple of other colleagues personally “experienced” the existing primary school teaching materials. These “uncles’” glorious deeds are very suspiciously questionable.

People’s Education Press’s (PEP) “Father and Son in Earthquake” tells a story of warmth about the Los Angeles earthquake in 1989, but in fact, there was no earthquake of 1989 in Los Angeles.

People’s Education Press’s (PEP) “Edison saves his mother” is about the young Edison performed appendicitis surgery on his mother under the candlelight. But according to the historical records, the first appendicitis operation in the world was done when Uncle Edison is about 40 year of age.

“The textbooks are still telling lies now, how does it teach the students to tell the truth? If essays do not tell the truth, how do we bring up children with dignities?” Guo Chuyang said.

After Lin Yan started working, she found that the 90s and 00s generation’s thinking being regulated and trained is still widespread.

Last year one of her failed interview also had to do with a “failed” essay. An elementary school student born in the late 1990s in Xiamen wrote an essay about the “uncles” of revolutionary martyrs. He criticized “some government officials and school leaders at the tomb of the martyrs crying crocodile’s tears. Fake! They never cared about our children’s true thoughts and effectiveness of the education.” Angry mother posted this essay on the Internet after it got 0 point when graded by the teacher. However she refused the interview with media, “The kid has not graduated yet, can you understand?”

Dairy tells the truth

Lin Yan still keeps a diary, this habit was from junior high school, first as a record of some “trivial, meaningless, unqualified for written composition” things, then there are more and more “truth” that there is no way to be written in essays.

For example, the views of Xu Zhidai, Dai Wangshu and Yue Dafu which left out by the history textbooks; the views on 1999 Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia after the U.S. bombing, some college students’ anti-American demonstration in the morning and then lined getting a visa to the U.S. in the afternoon…

By Lin Yan’s argument, their generation grew up shaping up this double personality.

She noticed many people around her have the similar compulsive symptoms. “Confirming the past is to be denied, denying what was confirmed in the past.”

But two things made her to question, after many years, are they really able to combine the divided themselves into one?

One is the 9.11 incident, whenever the television news broadcasted the tragic destruction of the symbol building of “U.S. imperialism”, the huge dining hall would always burst out in applause and cheers.

Another is when she was about to graduate from the graduate school, thousands of young people swarmed to protest in front of the French supermarket Carrefour in Hefei, the demonstrators showed a variety of slogans, one of which was “monsters, show your true colors.”

Lin Yan is still writing dairy, as a new style media reporter, she and her colleagues at work will often run into dilemma of whether telling the truth or lies, she could only write down the truth in the dairy which only opens to herself.

And to these self-deprecating replies of “Essay ending sentences that guarantee to work” were no longer exciting to her. She realized, even now, facing the reality and the interests when given choice of telling the truth or lie, many people seem to always write the essay of the past.

However, recently she found in the this era where network has been highly developed, when the suppressed expressions of truth finally came out, their colors have often changed – the people with deeply divided state of lives, were deeply obsessed with the naked truth of the popular Muzi Mei Diary, even they were the unbearable truth, were also seen as rare (valuable) resources.

Right now, the well-known diary of chief director Han Feng “Uncle” which documented his extramarital affairs and details of bribery, corruption and obscenity was exposed on the Internet. However before this incident, Uncle Han was just praised by the leaders, “working effectively in the past 6 years.”

Surprisingly, Han Han recommended in his blog, that netizens should spare this cadre. In his view, comparing with officials who have a habit of immersing in lies, this “uncle” who writes his diary is honest enough.

23 Comments | Leave a comment | Comment feed

  1. KonW says:

    wow,, long story bro
    nice report, tho i skipped some paragraphs

  2. b-real says:

    gotta fix some spelling. Diary not “dairy speaks the truth” You spelled it right only once. please fix that. I can’t stand chinglish

  3. b-real says:

    Oh and I bet you have the shit you find in text books are not verifiable until high school. All my teaching buddies really try to avoid having scholastic studies outside of the lesson plan for the fact that most of shit their students get pissy over is utter bullshit. There is no point to try and set them straight because their parents, and the boss were educated with similar bullshit. Im pretty sure the kids that get to go overseas to study get their mind fucked when they pick up a book from any library and it won’t jive with what they learned.

    Kind of like the stuff they brainwashed my parents about communism. My mother to this day still thinks its evil. I have reassure her its not evil, just a tad bass ackwards.

  4. Eason says:

    Wow, nice sentences! The original author really has zhuangbility!

  5. GuoBao says:

    “I love my home, but I love my great motherland more”.

    If one of my students wrote something like that I’d request him to remove it for either 1. Being an idiot. 2. Promoting stupid nationalism. or 3. Trying to suck up to someone.

    I’d hand out an A for someone to write ““Looking at the red flag raising slowly, my sense of respect arises spontaneously for the people who truly believed in and worked for the socialist ideals before Chairman Deng through a mouthful of lobster sputtered “It is glorious to get rich!” and everyone forgot about it.”

  6. Baoru says:

    Good points. I personally experienced writing some (only some!) of these topics. However, it still depends on the student if they want to make more exciting their essays.

  7. Jason says:

    I think most of us have made use of some of the sentences here in elementary school. The one about picking up a coin is so classic. 🙂

  8. Wang Er says:

    These phrases were so 80ish (but the 22nd was my favorite when I was a child with Xiao Hong replaced with Xiao Hua). Want to see how kids write today?

    http://tieba.baidu.com/f?kz=148530821

    http://www.showqq.com/article/38.htm

    http://hongdou.gxnews.com.cn/viewthread-4835516.html

    The last one is classic.

  9. jane says:

    But there was a quake in Los Angeles in 1989! I was there! Anyway, what’s with this overglorified title of “new-style media reporter?” There’s nothing “new-style” about most of the “media reports” I read.

  10. Potomacker says:

    I admit that although this was not up to the usual standards of translation for this website, I felt compelled to see where the writer was heading. Since arriving in China, I have struggled to come to grips with understanding this ‘double personality’ as it exhibits itself in so many forms. There was the university student who assured me that she was free to talk about anything as long as it was the right opinion. I could tell from her expression that she felt odd only after she heard herself say such a contradiction. And speaking of relevant vocabulary, I wish the translator had known to use terms such as catchphrase, trite, and cliche.
    After reading this, I think I can better understand how Chinese students can claim that they are required to write in their Chinese language classes and yet turn out such meaningless fluff in English. It has everything to do with how they are graded and what their teachers consider the purposes of their compositions to be.

    • Key says:

      This article was one of the most read articles at one point on the Southern Weekend website. The target audiences are really the post 80s generations who actually when to school in China in their childhood, so I am sure some of it gets lost in translations partly for that reason. And there were also a lot of language and Chinese culture specific references, just made it really tough. I skipped some of sections because I thought they were just too difficult to explain without writing even more… I am glad that you see some points from it.

  11. Eason says:

    I’m a high school teacher, I had a student (a girl) recently try to use the plot of a movie (Shopaholic) to support her argument about addiction. I tried to explain to her that a Hollywood movie is not real and thus cannot support your argument, but she didn’t understand.

  12. kira says:

    Actually when Chinese children start English wirting they will also pick up sentence or phrase that “gurrantee to work”, they are taught so and reinforced to continue by teachers. I am curious if western children have any kinds of sure shots when they write

  13. GuoBao says:

    Wirting is never gurranteed.

  14. b-real says:

    the quake was not in Los Angeles it was in San Francisco. But to chinese what is the difference I guess.

  15. Kenny says:

    If you have never been to schools in China, you would never understand this truth.

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