Interesting observation from a recent visit to Kenting National Park, on the southern tip of Taiwan.
Take a look at the images below, to the uninitiated they appear to be promoting three different hotels, however they are all taken in the same place.
In actual fact, they have more in common than first meets the eye, they share:
- an identical logo
- the word “hotel”
- and most importantly, the same Chinese characters
The three names photographed (there may be more we didn’t spot!) are:
- New Osaka Hotel: a correct English translation
- Shin Osaka Hotel: New has been written "Shin" using an old Taiwanese romanization system
- Xin Da Ban Hotel: New has been written "Xin" and Osaka has been written "Da Ban" using the standard Chinese pinyin system
Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into Latin script and is used in China, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. Taiwan only adopted the use of standard pinyin in 2009 and take-up has been rather slow.
Whether in Mainland China, or as in this case Taiwan, it is important to remember that it is the Chinese name that counts. This applies as much for trying to track down your hotel late at night as it does for placing an order with your new Chinese supplier.
When visiting China, especially outside of the big cities, if possible always try to get names and addresses written in Chinese characters.
For the majority of Chinese people, invariably including taxi drivers, pinyin is like a foreign language and your attempts to read it will be greeted with nothing more than a puzzled look.
It's doubtful that the owners of this hotel will ever read this post, but if they do, our advice would be to choose an English name and stick to it. For the record New Osaka Hotel works just fine for us!
For this blog, we thought we would share a puzzle of the Chinese language that has been amusing us recently.
The mystery surrounds the Chinese character for goose, ‘e’, which is a character comprising of two characters, one being the word ‘wo’, which means ‘I’ or ‘me’:
and the other is the word for bird, ‘niao’, which traditionally is written as follows:
The two characters are usually combined with ‘wo’ being placed to the left and ‘niao’ placed to the right to form the character ‘e’ meaning goose:
Why, you may wonder, would standing next to a bird represent a goose? In China, are geese considered to be a man’s best friend, always standing by your side?
Whilst pondering the possible reasons for this curiosity of the language an intriguing discovery was made!
Unusually for Chinese characters, the word for goose can also be written in the following form, with the same pronunciation:
Rather brutally, the bird is being stood on!
So in Chinese whether you choose to stand on, or stand by your bird is of no consequence, in both cases the meaning is still goose.
Why this may be we are not sure, so if anyone has a good theory please feel free to let us know…
Unlike most countries where you can hire a car from the airport, in China a local driving licence is required before hitting the road.
Fortunately, for the citizens of most countries, taking a 45 minute theory test is sufficient to obtain the document if you have one in your own country.
Applying for the licence is an interesting experience for anyone not familiar with the country and it’s rather bureaucratic ways.
At the Vehicle Management Bureau in Shanghai, located at 1330 Hami Road, the application process has seemingly been designed to employ as many people as possible whilst at the same time appealing to fans of orienteering.
The process, which involves zigzagging across the bureau's leafy compound visiting numbered buildings, serves as something of a test of endurance - possibly to weed out those not fit to drive on the chaotic roads.
On top of a basic medical, which requires visiting seven different doctors, there are a whole army of clerical staff to process your paperwork.
Indeed at one step, there are three people employed just to attach your photo to a form – one to cut out your passport photo, another to apply glue and a third to press it to the form!
Once all these formalities are complete, there is a waiting period before you can take the theory test, which was two weeks at the time of writing.
The test can be taken in a number of different languages; although a bit of Chinese knowledge will help as this question demonstrates:
Question: The picture is a slowdown sign.
There is a bank of over 10000 questions which are randomly chosen for the test, which seem to benefit candidates with good memorizing skills more than anything.
Some questions offer interesting cultural incites like this one:
Question: The driver may drive a motorized vehicle ______.
A. After drinking alcohol
B. When he suffers from a disease that impedes safe driving
C. When he is exhausted
D. After drinking tea
Others meanwhile, focus on the punishments for not adhering to the law:
Question: If a motorized vehicle driver runs away or commits other extremely serious acts after causing a traffic accident, the driver is subject to a prison term of _____.
A. 3 years ~ 7 years
B. 2 years ~ 5 years
C. 1 year ~ 3 years
D. 3 years ~ 5 years
Whilst some are just bizarre, such as this gem:
Question: When the driver senses he will inevitably be thrown out of the vehicle, he should violently straighten both his legs to increase the force of being thrown out and jump out of the vehicle.
which is brilliantly followed up with:
Question: After jumping out of the vehicle and landing on the ground, the driver should put both his hands around his head and roll in the direction of inertia so as to evade the vehicle and keep off the danger area.
At the conclusion of your theory test, which is done on a computer, your result will be given instantly.
Correctly answer 90 of the 100 questions and you have your Chinese driving licence!
When handing out the Senlinx business card, the flow of questions usually follows a familiar pattern:
- Your company’s called Senlinx – what does that mean?
- Oh right, so where did you get that logo from?
Having discussed the origins of our company name
in the last blog entry, it was only logical therefore that we followed it up a piece about the logo.
The logo takes its inspiration from the Chinese character ‘Lin’ which is the second character in the company’s Chinese name.
‘Lin’ is a character comprised of two components; the upper part being ‘Yu’ (meaning rain) and the lower part ‘Lin’ (meaning woods).
In our design, the rain is represented by a raindrop and the woods by a tree:
Senlinx and its official Chinese name were then added to create the final design:
Commissioned locally in Shanghai, the process to design the logo was an iterative one which seemed to take on a life of its own!
We are very satisfied with the design which can now be found emblazoned on our business cards, promotional items and on the shirt of the JG Trading Cycling Race Team
We are often asked how the name Senlinx came about, so today’s blog aims to offer something of an explanation.
When founding the company, the requirements for choosing the name were to:
- be unique
- give a hint of China
- be easy to remember
- reflect the nature of the business
Senlinx was originally derived from the Chinese word for forest 'Senlin' which in Chinese characters is depicted by two characters 'Sen' and 'Lin':
An 'x' was added to the end to create Linx, as one of our key aims is to assist businesses develop links in China.
Whilst registering the business in China, a strange twist of events saw the official Chinese name change. As the Chinese word for forest had been taken, a different combination of characters had to be chosen.
Thus the character 'Lin' (meaning woods) was replaced with another character pronounced 'Lin' (meaning heavy rain), and the final Chinese name became:
Do you find the name Senlinx easy to remember?
How did your company choose its name?