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Words Are More Treacherous Than We Think (sartre)

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Essay title: Words Are More Treacherous Than We Think (sartre)

As a bilingual individual, I have the privilege to not only enjoy either Chinese or English literature, but also grasp Chinese and American culture through direct interaction with their people. However I admit, I continue to overestimate the boundaries of language—it dominates our thoughts, and confines us within our own culture. I’ve also seen that no matter how much I wish otherwise, language has undeniably been an impediment to respecting those who are different.

I researched the years of Chairman Mao Ze Dong with an English Source The Unknown Story of Mao by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, in which countless paragraphs described Mao’s actions during the Cultural Revolution similar to this: “[Mao] had intended the Great Purge to install much more merciless enforcers” (Chang, pg. 537). The authors paralleled words such as “tyrant” and “relentless” with Mao. And solely judging by their arguments and fallen for their authoritative figures (one of the co-authors has experienced part of the Cultural Revolution herself), I could only agree that Mao was indeed “merciless”. Although I’ve acknowledged the knowledge issue of authority, the authors’ damages on me were permanent: as often as I thought about Mao, the words “tyrant” and “relentless” loomed over my mind. Such language enforced thoughts dominated my opinions on Mao for a long period of time, and such negative understanding of Mao still reside within me through memory. However, although the authors’ words were treacherous enough to sway me to their standpoint, I was still able to discern that they were biased enough to avoid Mao’s success in poetry.

I recall the numerous occasions in China where we avoided the details of the Cultural Revolution in history class, but completed detailed studies of Mao’s poems in Chinese class. Such poems had the power to mesmerize its readers into a state of reverence to the poem’s composer. And that was one aspect of the Chinese culture—to respect the great leaders for the wonders and contributions they have made for China. So why then, wouldn’t the authors of The Unknown Story of Mao mention his poems? Through experience, I’ve concluded that even if the author chose to translate one of Mao’s poems into English, I cannot see how it is remotely possible to completely maintain the original essence of the poem. For example: one of many frequently used poetic phrases is “江山” (jiang shan), literally speaking it refers to rivers and mountains, and yet it actually conveys the meaning of society or motherland. This Chinese phrase contains both its literal and its intended meanings, but how can anyone use one

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