Bullet-Dodging Clothing

April 7, 2010

Like a “thunder-dodging needle” that does not help you dodge lightning “bullet-dodging clothing”, or 避彈衣, does not actually help you dodge bullets. In fact, it is better referred to as 防彈衣, or “clothing that protects from bullets”. In both terms 彈 means “bullet” and 衣 means “clothing”. The difference is that 避 means “dodge” while 防 means “defend/protect”. For former is used colloquially in Hong Kong and nowhere else. Clothing that heighten your speed and reflexes enough to dodge bullets do not actually exist in real life. Sorry.

In case you haven’t noticed, by the way, this post is about bullet-proof vests.

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Great Unifying Commander

March 11, 2010

As the last post mentioned, the term 水師提督 is no longer used to refer to an admiral in the People’s Republic of China navy; the rank died along with the Qing Empire. Instead, when the PRC was first formed the highest rank in its navy (and more) is 中華人民共和國大元帥, which translates to “Great Marshal of the People’s Republic of China”. Taken separately 大元帥 translates to “great/big”, “unifying” (as in “unifying theory” in physics”) and “commander in chief”, which is taken to mean the same thing as “Generalissimo”. Famous people who had a military rank include Joseph Stalin, whose name is really “Joe Steel” and would be the first entry in Epic Russian Things if such a blog existed.

Now, what about that missing picture on the post? Well, the problem is that the PRC never had a 大元帥. The only person who ever qualified for the rank was Mao himself and he declined. So it sat there unused; it was later abolished presumably because the title was too epic and the Party had to prevent the Chosen One from obtaining that title and therefore supreme power to overthrow the Communist Party in a glorious battle involving an army of terra cotta robot warriors, ghost dragons and a strange lady with a sword hiding in the Yellow River.

The story is a little different in the Republic of China, where founding father Sun Yat-sen did in fact have the title 大元帥. However, like the President of the United States he was merely the commander of the armed forces because he was the executive leader of the country so it was not a rank but more something he just did and could put in his resume if he needed another job.

The term 水師提督, somewhat literally translated as “Elevated Governor of Water Division”, is not actually a ceremonial title for Moses given by a Chinese dude who claimed that he was Jesus’ little brother. It’s actually a Qing Dynasty (read: last Chinese dynasty ever, so think 1700s to early 1900s) military rank. More commonly (and less epically) translated as “admiral”, 水師提督 was the rank given to the highest ranking officials in the Qing navy. There were three of them (each in charge of a fleet) and so perhaps it may be more accurate to translate the term as “fleet admiral”.

The dude in the picture was an admiral Si (though he is referred to as a general in the painting the Chinese term for general is really more a general [see what I did there?] term for “dude who leads a bunch of troops”) who accepted some kind of surrender from some other dude at what we now call Tainan in 1863 or so, when they made that painting of him. Now his badass portrait is immortalized in digital form on http://www.leek.tw/ to accompany historical facts about Taiwanese vegetables.

The characters 提督 mean “elevate” and “governor/supervisor” separately. Put together they become something like “high ranking commander” in a military context. The character 師 usually means “master” or “teacher” (it’s the first half of sifu) but here it means a military division. Since 水 means “water”, 水師 means “water division” or, since we’re referring to the armed forces, “navy”. It’s a rather archaic term that is no longer used in the Chinese military. Originally I wrote a ton here about current Chinese navy ranks but the Internet decided to eat my work so I will make that the next post.

Ironically, the only place where 水師提督 is still used is to refer to 水師提督門 (門 means “gate” or “door”), more commonly known as Admiralty Arch in London, England, which honors the very queen (give or take a generation) whose naval prowess the 水師提督 of the past had fought to keep out of the Great Qing Empire.

Flying Tiger Squadron

February 18, 2010

Flying Tiger Squadron (飛虎隊) usually refers to the Hong Kong Police’s Special Duties Unit (SDU), which is pretty much Hong Kong’s version of the American SWAT team or the British CO19. Except instead of names like SWAT or CO19 the one in Hong Kong is called Flying Tiger. Because their emblem is a tiger. And Flying Tigers are awesome.

As you’ll probably notice the picture I posted is neither a tiger with wings Photoshopped on to it or even a bunch of guys holding assault rifles ready to arrest some drug lords or the Triad or whatever.

The name 飛虎隊 actually originally came from the Republic of China Air Force American-National Volunteer Great Squadron (中華民國空軍美籍志願大隊), or American Volunteer Group in English, established during World War II (in 1940, actually, which basically means that American pilots were fighting the Japanese before Pearl Harbor). According to <a href=”http://www.flyingtigersavg.com/“>The Official AVG page</a> these guys were well paid (salaried plus a bonus that is worth $6,000 in 2008 money per confirmed destruction of a Japanese plane) and were pretty epic even without the nickname Flying Tigers. The name came, according to legends, because the AVG painted shark decals on their planes but Chinese peasants who have never seen sharks before (presumably because they live inland where tigers dwell) thought the planes had tigers painted on them.

And now you know.