Shu Dong is a website gathering the stories of everyday China: people anonymously post on it, sharing their sadness, fears, and tensions. Stories published on Shu Dong are very personal, and tend to focus on everyday life and family relations. These articles give a direct access into the feelings and values of young Chinese people today.

This link offers a more detailed introduction to the website.

The Marco Polo Project is a community website inviting emerging translators to practice their skills while making new voices from China accessible to the world. Some of our users have been particularly active on the site, and we thought we should give them the attention they deserve.

Today, we start the series with Simon Cooper from the UK.

Simon Cooper

Simon, tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from, where do you live, what do you do? 

I’m from England and have a background in civil and structural engineering. Currently I’m in England focusing my time on studying Mandarin Chinese. Part of this involves translation from Chinese into English. This exposes oneself to texts written by native Chinese people which increases vocabulary, reading ability, grammar awareness and cultural appreciation.

How long have you been learning Chinese? What got you started with the language? 

I’ve been learning Chinese since 2011. At the time I was in Taiwan and had already taught English there for a year. However, I still hardly knew any Mandarin. I decided I wanted to change this, and so enrolled at Chiayi University Language Center to study Mandarin full time. I found it one of the most interesting and rewarding learning experiences I’ve had, and so have continued to study it ever since.

How did you first hear about Marco Polo Project? 

On this post at Olle Linge’s Hacking Chinese website: http://www.hackingchinese.com/using-translating-to-improve-your-chinese/    The article mainly emphasizes the use of translating English into Chinese as a way to improve your Chinese. However, to translate well this way I believe you must first have read and understood a lot of Chinese written by native speakers. Translating Chinese to English is a process that certainly helps with this.

What do you like most about Marco Polo Project?

The fact that it’s mutually beneficial to practitioners of translation and those who want to read about Chinese culture in a different language.

Do you have any particular translation tip or technique you’d like to share? 

When you get stuck translating a word or phrase, this is often because the Chinese to English dictionaries aren’t comprehensive enough. In these situations, using Chinese to Chinese dictionaries will often solve the problem. I’ve often found definitions of words I couldn’t find before or even new definitions that aren’t in Chinese to English dictionaries. If this fails, it might be a term that’s been created recently to comment on something specific, in which case doing a Google search of it will lead you to different articles that use it or even explain it directly (such as those in Wikipedia). Reading these articles will hopefully reveal the meaning of the term. If you’re still unsure of your translation, asking a native speaker always helps. They can always rephrase something in Chinese which you then can translate into English.

Thank you Simon! I hope we’ll read more of your translations on Marco Polo Project! 

You can check out Simon’s personal page and a list of his translated work by clicking on this link.

This first official bulloger website (a word play on the word “blog” in Chinese) was founded by Luo Yonghao in 2006. After being shut down by the government, an international version of the original website was created, and hosted at bulloger.com. The website is now shut again, and unaccessible.

Dissatisfied with the censorship legislation, Luo Yonghao strives for contents from liberal and edgy Chinese bloggers, offering different views from those of  traditional media channels restricted by censorship law. Our selection of articles from Bullogger offers reflections on cultural, political and economic issues. Articles are generally a stimulating read – though the closure of the website means we haven’t been able to source any fresh content from them yet.

Key writers from Bullogger include He Weifang, Liu Yu, Xu Zhiyuan, Kun Kun,

Consensus Network (共识网) is a platform founded in 2009 by Lide Gongshi Network Media Technology: its address is www.21ccom.net. The aim of this platform is to find consensus amongst the people in “an era of great change”. Its content includes international affairs, individual thoughts, historical interpretation and a look into China. Their selection proposes in-depth analysis from a range of  leading Chinese writers and intellectuals.

Articles from Consensus Network on our platform tend to be longer and more complex than those from other sources – but very well worth the read! Among authors who publish on Consensus Networks, you may be interested in the poetic prose of Muran, the legal reflections of Chen Hongguo, pieces on urbanisation by Zhou Qiren, or the work of celebrity educator Xin Lijian.

 

At last! The Marco Polo Project is online. It is not looking great yet, there is much much to do on it. But there is something. Something that didn’t exist before. What was just an idea, a mad plan jotted down on a notebook in the middle of the night, in a Tianjin Hotel room five months ago, now has come to life. This is soooo exciting!

We had our mid-term meeting for the Marco Polo project last Sunday, and the discussion went well. A few amendments to the constitution, but overall, everyone agreed. Now we’re making it. But wow, when was that moment in my life I took a right turn, and became the founder of an NGO? So random!

Yesterday, I’ve been working on drafting ‘user stories’ for the information architecture part of the Marco Polo project. It’s an interesting process: in order to develop the architecture and navigation plan of your website, you imagine a fictional user – giving him or her a name, an age, a profession, as well as a motive for visiting your website; then, you describe, in all details, the interaction between that fictional user and your intended website.

It a a fabulous visualisation technique, and suddenly raises many questions you wouldn’t ask yourself otherwise: she wants to input text but is not logged in – what action triggers an error message? is she redirected to a registration page? She wants to register, is that instant, or does she receive an email with an activation link? Little details and decisions you need to make.

I was reminded of things I read about architects – how the art of architecture is about building daring shapes in space, inspired from dreams or animals. But their art is, also, that of the mason, build something that holds together; and something even more down-to-earth, a kind of simple commonsense, or knowledge of the human – make sure there is a pathway to each room. Build in windows, plumbing, ventilation. Think where your doors will be.

But for a fiction writer, this process is more than just about making a blueprint. Believe it or not, I grew attached to my characters. I started wondering, will their life be changed by this website? Will they, or will they not contact another user? Will something happen then? It was exhilarating, to imagine as fiction something I want to bring to the world. Dangerous also – probably – taking me far from the mundane drafting of a business plan or of a budget, into my own fantasy-world, where volunteers jump in, enthusiasms feed each other, yet everyone does, to a point, exactly as I tell them.

Dan came with a nice surprise on Friday: he set up a demo website using googlesites to promote the Marco Polo Project. I had an intial feeling of – wooo, more work – but then very soon, I started thinking – how cool to have an attentive programmer friend, who takes initiatives. And it’s a good way to promote the idea. Check it out here.