Chinese 'classical poem' was brothel ad
Science journal mistakenly uses flyer for Macau brothel to illustrate report on China
Tuesday 09 December 2008
A respected research institute wanted Chinese classical texts to adorn its journal, something beautiful and elegant, to illustrate a special report on China. Instead, it got a racy flyer extolling the lusty details of stripping housewives in a brothel.
Chinese characters look dramatic and beautiful, and have a powerful visual impact, but make sure you get the meaning of the characters straight before jumping right in.
There were red faces on the editorial board of one of Germany's top scientific institutions, the Max Planck Institute, after it ran the text of a handbill for a Macau strip club on the front page of its latest journal. Editors had hoped to find an elegant Chinese poem to grace the cover of a special issue, focusing on China, of the MaxPlanckForschung journal, but instead of poetry they ran a text effectively proclaiming "Hot Housewives in action!" on the front of the third-quarter edition. Their "enchanting and coquettish performance" was highly recommended.
The use of traditional Chinese characters and references to "the northern mainland" seem to indicate the text comes from Hong Kong or Macau, and it promises burlesque acts by pretty-as-jade housewives with hot bodies for the daytime visitor.
The Max Planck Institute was quick to acknowledge its error explaining that it had consulted a German sinologist prior to publication of the text. "To our sincere regret ... it has now emerged that the text contains deeper levels of meaning, which are not immediately accessible to a non-native speaker," the institute said in an apology. "By publishing this text we did in no way intend to cause any offence or embarrassment to our Chinese readers. "
But publication of the journal caused some anger among touchier internet users in China who felt the institute had done it on purpose to insult China, or that it was disrespectful to use Chinse as a decoration. But generally, the faux-pas sparked much amusement among Chinese readers.
On anti-cnn.com, a foreigner-baiting website set up after a commentator on the US broadcaster made anti-Chinese comments following the crackdown in Tibet in March, the reaction was mostly "evil fun". One wrote, "Next time, please find a smart Chinese graduate to check your translation", and another said they should try writing "I am illiterate".
The journal has since been updated online and its cover now carries the title of a book by the Swiss Jesuit, Johannes Schreck (1576–1630). The Jesuit text in question was "Illustrated Explanations of Strange Devices".
Chinese is a tonal language, which means words sounding the same can often have very different meanings depending on how they are spoken.
There are tales of drunken teenagers walking out of tattoo parlours with characters reading, "This is one ugly foreigner" or "A fool and his money are easily parted".
Another web-user wrote: "I recently met a German girl with a Chinese tattoo on her neck which in Chinese means 'prostitute'. I laughed so loud, I could hardly breathe."
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 'Do not give them a reason': Baltimore man divides police and rioters in hope of avoiding violence
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark finale review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
The Visit: Watch terrifying trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3 - review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton, really?
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia