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2008 Beijing Olympic Game Meets Challenge: Chicken without sexual life?

by Chris Leo

People from Western countries visiting China often see some very funny names for Chinese dishes.. One man was so amused by the literal translation that he wanted to make a post on the internet about the "funny names".

These translations are first posted at www.chinahistoryforum.com by a foreigner who traveled throughout China. Let's see how “General Zhaoyun” interprets these unusually named dishes….

1. "Chicken without sexual life" - Tong Zi Ji 童子鸡 (do you mean virgin chicken?)
(Proper English translation should be "Spring Chicken" or "Poussin"/"Coquelet" in French). They refer to young chickens which have been bred for eating (for less than 3 months).

2. "Red burned lion head" - Hong Sao Shi Zi Tou 红烧狮子头
(Proper English translation should be "Freshly Stewed Pork-balls") - note that it's actually pork, but the fact that it looks like lion head, that's why it's called Lion Head (shizi tou) in chinese. But in English, it would really be misleading if people mistake it as lion meat.

3. "Husband and wife's lung slice" - Fu Qi Fei Pian 夫妻肺片
(Proper English translation should be "Spicy Pork Lung-slice") - it's a Sichuan food.

4. "Government abuse chicken" - Gong Bao Ji Ding 宫爆鸡丁
(Proper English translation should be "Chicken with Cashew Nut" or as it is known in the west, simply, "Kung Pao Chicken"). It's actually a Chinese food of Shandong origin, but is often mistaken as a Sichuan food as it's quite spicy. I don't know its historical origin, but there must be a history anecdote that leads to why it was literally named "Court Abused Chicken".

5. "Twice cooked pork" - Hui Guo Rou 回锅肉
This is a Sichuan food that has been literally and correctly translated.

6. "Bean curd made by a pock-marked woman" - Mapo Doufu 麻婆豆腐
(Proper English translation should be "Bean curd with spicy minced pork") - it's a Sichuan food. As Raymond Zhou wrote in the China daily newspaper, 'The process of standardizing a menu translation is a double-edged sword because it removes the ambiguity and unintended humor taking away the fun and the rich connotation'. How do we make foreigners, who grew and live in a different culture, fully understand Chinese food names? How do we maintain the original cultural connotation during the translation?

Li Yang, the voice director (Do you mean, Public Director?) of the Beijing Foreign Affair Office said, "Food name translation not only puzzles the foreign tourists, but also puzzles experts who engage in dish translation". He said, "How to translate food names is even a hard job for many linguistic experts". To solve this problem the Beijing Government invited many professionals from the USA, UK, Singapore and Hong Kong. They are also seeking more proposals globally. Beijing is trying to give it’s cuisine a linguistic makeover to cater to the much anticipated foreigners visiting during the Beijing 2008 Olympic game.

This article is originally published at www.sytra.cn

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