Tag Archives: blockedonweibo

Firefly Chinese, Blocked on Weibo (the book), and other new projects

After I finished turning my Blocked on Weibo blog into book form last month (it’ll be published next August by The New Press; note: cover needs to be changed and subtitle needs updating), I decided I needed a break and finally watched the Joss Whedon series Firefly for the first time. Of course, as someone who grew up on Cowboy Bebop and other deep space sci-fi, the show was a dream come true, and even if the series isn’t as mind-blowing as it is plain ol’ entertaining, I still blew through it in a couple weeks.

Anyway, so after watching it, I figured no doubt tons of people have already documented and translated all the hilarious usages of Chinese in the show, and as I expected, there are many, most notably Kevin Sullivan’s fantastic Firefly-Serenity Chinese Pinyinary. But the format seemed a bit stale, so I figured it might be nice to update it for Web 2.0 and add video clips, analysis, “ratings” of the actors saying the words, and audio clips so you can learn to pronounce stuff properly the next time you hit ComicCon in your Hoban Washburne Hawaiian shirt. So I started up with Judy He a new Tumblr blog called Firefly Chinese that does all this, tracking the usage of Chinese in the show and Malcolm Reynold’s heroic quest to butcher the Chinese language–one profanity at a time. So hope folks enjoy it.

As for other stuff, I’ve been doing a lot of fun work for China Digital Times, some of which has been translated into Chinese for their site. I’ve also been working on a couple projects with a professor and advisor here at Pitt, political scientist (the title does not do justice to his genius and immense breadth of knowledge about China) Pierre Landry. One is tracking what is happening on social media during the 18th party congress. I started posting some results on Blocked on Weibo, but I’ll be performing more serious quantitative analysis in the months to come once I finish collecting the data. Another project is a paper on comparing official Chinese government statistics versus remote sensing data from the Barometer on China’s Development. Basically, my September was spent combing through geocodes, Chinese town names, and gaining insight into Google’s usage of Chinese mapping data (which apparently they license from a Chinese company, AutoNavi). Fun fun fun. Hopefully we’ll come up with some interesting results and I’ll present some time next semester.

As for other stuff, I’ve been posting more regularly the fun stuff I glean from my Weibo tracking on Twitter (@jasonqng) and I’ve contributed a number of other pieces to Nathan, Eric, and Jasmine’s website Waging Nonviolence. If you need a dose of hope in what citizens can still do when united, go there. I also made the fun Tumblr blog Finding Doraemon just for kicks over the summer while I was in Asia (summer workshop with Deborah Davis, Pierre Landry, and Juan Chen on Chinese survey data at CUHK; followed by wandering Angkor Wat with Hippo Wong; and then studying Mandarin at IUP-Tsinghua).

Ok, I think that brings us up to speed. Now to catch some NBA games…

Coded and categorized: analyzing a sample of 219 blocked Weibo words

Thought I ought to cross-post something I just added to my Blocked on Weibo site:

Back in December, after I’d completed searching through half of my 700,000 word list, I decided to look more closely at what kind of words were being blocked. I used the 218 two- and three-character words that I’d uncovered at the time to be blocked only 2 one-character word are blocked: 屄, cunt / ; and ҉, a Cyrillic character that is associated with backwards or bi-directional writing) as a sample and then proceeded to tag them according to whatever categories I began to see developing. (The categories are at the end of this post and on the second page of the spreadsheet as well.)


direct link

As would be expected, most of these three-character and under keywords were names of people (most Chinese names are made up of a one character surname and a one or two character given name). 87 of the 219 were names of people, and the vast majority of those people, 54, were CCP members. Nine of them were involved with either corruption or other controversy in which they were usually dismissed. Fifteen of the people are dissidents of various sorts.  Three are criminals who were neither dissidents nor CCP politicians and are probably listed because their crimes were so gruesome.

Because of the way Weibo censors items, inoffensive words are inevitably caught in the net. For example, “grand justice” (大法官) was blocked because it contains 大法, i.e. Falun Dafa. Other inadvertent blocks included Théodore de Banville(庞维勒) because it contains 维勒, a reference to Uyghurs.

Words related to sex or sexual activity also compose a great deal of the list. This include anatomy like 女阴, slang like 吹箫 (blowjob, but literally blow flute), and “immoral” sex acts like 恋足, foot fetishes. Discrimination that would be considered wildly un-progressive in the West is also on display. Lesbian and homosexual (同性爱) are blocked, as are Islam (伊斯兰) and Muslim (穆斯林).

Finally, the list of blocked words on Weibo is actively adjusted and changed. These words were blocked at the time of their search in November and December, but most of this list has been unblocked since late-January.

Here are the categories I used to code this list:

? – I’m unsure of why it is blocked [1]
person – a fictional or real human with a name
place – geographical location or named geographical body
“clean” slang – slang or abbreviated phrases that are not “obscene”
sex – related to sex, sexual activity, or sexual organs
obscenity – obscene phrases
morality – words dealing with actions that might be considered “immoral”
crime – self explanatory
scandal/controversy/corruption – self explanatory
religion/”cult” – self explanatory
CCP – Chinese Communist Party
princeling – deals with children of CCP members
demonstration – related to a mass protest
dissent – related to ideas or thoughts conflicting with CCP
force / violence – related to weapons, shows of force, or violence
minority – dealing with minorities or ethnic groups in China
nonCCP politics – other political issues not related to CCP
foreign – self explanatory
internet/computer – self explanatory
other media, content, and art – self explanatory
history – either historical figures or events
inadvertant? – it is blocked because a word within it is blocked

[1] If other categories are checked off, it indicates my best guess.