Warning: Declaration of TarskiCommentWalker::start_lvl(&$output, $depth, $args) should be compatible with Walker_Comment::start_lvl(&$output, $depth = 0, $args = Array) in /hsphere/local/home/ackerfors/snigel.nu/wp-content/themes/tarski/library/classes/comment_walker.php on line 0 Warning: Declaration of TarskiCommentWalker::start_el(&$output, $comment, $depth, $args) should be compatible with Walker_Comment::start_el(&$output, $comment, $depth = 0, $args = Array, $id = 0) in /hsphere/local/home/ackerfors/snigel.nu/wp-content/themes/tarski/library/classes/comment_walker.php on line 0 Olle Linge - Languages, literature and the pursuit of dreams · Asienkunskap


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Visit Hacking Chinese instead: This post about studying Chinese is partly or completely obsolete. A revised version, along with much more related to language learning can be found at Hacking Chinese. This post is kept here for the sake of consistency.

Today was the first day for the students who start the same education as I did three years ago. This time, I  have the opportunity to teach the introduction course together with a friend (Per), which means 20 hours of teaching this week. I might write more about this later, although it’ll probably be in Chinese, but what’s relevant for now is that I’ve taken some time to go through the Chinese section of my website to make sure that things are up-to-date.

Usually, everything related to Chinese can be found by clicking the Chinese category in the menu to the left, but here is a summary of what you can find there:

Learning Chinese – Tips, tricks and reflections
Tools – Software, hardware, gadgets
Asienkunskap – Exams, vocabulary, resources
Studying in Taiwan – Resources, reflections
My Chinese studies – Taiwan, progress, blog
Reviews – Textbooks, literature, film
Related posts – Everything I’ve written about Chinese

There have been no really big updates, but I have made sure to convert the world lists from Short-Term Spoken Chinese to Anki. If you find anything that Isn’t working as intended or if you think something is lacking, please let me know, preferably by commenting on this post!

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Important: This is no longer my main page about studying Chinese, please visit Hacking Chinese to learn more about how to study Chinese more efficiently!


I started studying Asienkunskap in Linköping in 2007, and during that first year of Chinese studies, I accumulated a lot of material that might be of use to other students. If not explicitly stated, everything here is written by me. This is what I currently have available:

Complete lecture notes (Nordostasienkunskap 2)
Take-home exams
(Nordostasienkunskap 2)
Papers (Nordostasienkunskap 2, projektarbete)
Reviews and reflections (course-related books)
Word lists (Short-term Spoken Chinese volume 1-3)
A list of all posts related to Asienkunskap

Lecture notes for Nordostasienkunskap 2

What follows is transcriptions of fourteen lectures relating to East Asia held by Mats Anderson and Göran Lindgren in 2007 and 2008. The files are in Rich Text Format, in Swedish and provided as is, meaning that I take no responsibility whatsoever that the content is accurate, although I believe most of it is. Click on the titles to download the files.

Noa 2-1 – Kina 1
Noa 2-2 – Mentalitet
Noa 2-3 – Japan 1
Noa 2-4 – Japan 2
Noa 2-5 – Sydkorea
Noa 2-6 – Nordkorea
Noa 2-7 – Japan 3
Noa 2-8 – Ekonomi
Noa 2-9 – Kina 2
Noa 2-10 – Taiwan
Noa 2-11 – Kina 3
Noa 2-12 – Kina 4
Noa 2-13 – Kina 5
Noa 2-14 – Japan 4
Noa 2-15 – Japan 5

Take-home exams

Noa 1 take-home exam – Take-home exams for our course in North-East Asian culture and history. They cover (among other things) Western imperialism, Korean history, the Meiji era in Japan, comparisons of different versions of events during the Long March in China, and an attempt to summarise Daoism. I received 91/100 on this course and Per Bäck earned 90/100.
Download my exam in Swedish (.rtf)
Download Per’s exam in Swedish (.pdf): part 1, part 2

Noa 2 take-home exam – Take-home exams for our course in North-East Asian recent history and politics. They cover (among other things) economy in the region as a whole, opposition parties in Japan, negative aspects of Chinese growth, Chinese system of guanxi, and politics in South Korea. I received 95/100 on this course and so did Per!
Download my exam in Swedish (.rtf)
Download Per’s exam in Swedish (.pdf): part 1, part 2

Paper (projektarbete)

Quo vadis, Taiawn?– Since I knew suspected I might be leaving for Taiwan later that year, I decided to write my paper about the election held in March 2008, which in many ways can be said to have been a crossroads in Taiwanese Cross-Strait (i.e. dealing with mainland China) politics. The title is Quo vadis, Taiwan? and the paper was written during and slightly after the elections were held. I received full points for this assignment.
Read more about Quo vadis, Taiwan?

Renminbi: Under värdering – This is a paper written by one of my friends, Per Bäck, who studied Asienkunskap at the same time as I did. It’s about the alleged under-evaluation of the Chinese currency (yuan or renminbi), a topic which was relevant then and is still debated hotly. Per also received full marks for this paper.
Download paper in Swedish (.pdf)

Course-related reviews and reflections

Miljoner sanningar – Per Bäck’s reflections on Linda Jakobsson’s book.
Download document in Swedish (.pdf)

The Journey to the West – My reflections on this classic by Wu Cheng’en. Probably not the pinnacle of reflective writing, but perhaps it might provide inspiration for someone. Note that the review and the document are complete different.
Download document in English (.rtf)
Read my review

Den törstige munken och hans dryckesbröder – Per Bäck’s reflections on this the first part of the Chinese classic 水滸傳. I’ll have to read it myself some day.
Download document in Swedish (.pdf)

China Candid – My reflections on this book by Sang Ye. Probably not the pinnacle of reflective writing, but perhaps it might provide inspiration for someone.
Download document in English (.rtf)

Röd åklagare – Per Bäck’s reflections on this book about crime, justice and corruption in China, written by Xiao Rundcrantz.
Download document in Swedish (.pdf)

One Man’s Bible – My reflections on this novel by Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian, a lovely book which I highly recommend.
Read my review

Vitlöksballaderna – Per Bäck’s reflections on this book by Mo Yan, telling the story of a revolt in a small Chinese village. The farmer have been forced by the government to produce garlic, and when the garlic market collapses, the people decide that enough is enough.
Download document in Swedish (.pdf)

Mei Wenti! – My reflections on this Catharina Lilliehöök’s book about living in China, a book I found somewhat deterring.
Read my review

Word lists

Important: I no longer use ZDT to learn Chinese. The lists for ZDT will still be here, but no longer updated. The vocabulary can and should be accessed from the Anki software, which is far superior to ZDT. If youh aven’t changed already, you should do so now.

Short-term Spoken Chinese – Threshold, chapter 1-30 (汉语口语速成入门) – My lists of new words for ZDT (see the Tools section), sorted into categories, one per chapter of the book. I have often left out proper names and I take no responsibility whatsoever that the lists are correct (I doubt that there are many errors, though). Please use File >> Restore Data when importing the characters to retain category structure. The file can easily be opened in any text editor for use with other software or independently.
Download list (.zdt)

Short-term Spoken Chinese – Elementary, chapter 1-25 (汉语口语速成基础)– Same as above, use at your own risk, but please report any errors you might find. Please note that proper names go in a separate category. Use File >> Restore Data when importing the characters to retain category structure. The file can easily be opened in any text editor for use with other software or independently.
Download list (.zdt)

Technical Chinese – New words from our course in technical Chinese for ZDT – Includes basic vocabulary for math, chemistry, physics and biology. As for the lists above, use at your own risk, but please report any errors you might find. Please note that proper names go in a separate category. Use File >> Restore Data when importing the characters to retain category structure. The file can easily be opened in any text editor for use with other software or independently.
Download list (.zdt)

Short-term Spoken Chinese (汉语口语速成) – Complete glossary for the first three volumes in .xls format, an outstanding word list compiled and contributed by Henrik Gustavson. Not only does it contain all the words for the first three volumes, but they are also neatly arranged in various useful ways. For the automatic generation of the lists to work, changes should be made in the tab named “kapitel”.
Download list (.xls)

Related posts

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Quo vadis, Taiwan?

This is the final version of my project “Quo vadis, Taiwan?”. I am reasonably satisfied with it, even if there of course always remain things to be done. Here is the abstract:

This paper is a study of the presidential election and the coinciding referendum on United Nations membership, held in Taiwan on 22nd March 2008. Two questions lie at the heart of the study: “What were the alternatives for voters on 22nd March?” and “In what ways were the ballot-casting on 22nd March important?”

In order to answer these questions, Taiwanese history is presented briefly, with heavy focus on recent times leading up to the election and to the referendum. To summarise, the alternatives were the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), lead by Frank Hsieh, and the Kuomintang (KMT), lead by Ma Ying-jeou. Both parties were prepared to lead Taiwan closer to China to a higher degree than the incumbent president, Chen Shui-bian, but differed in how far and how fast such a change in policy ought to be pursued.

The alternatives can also be said to be either pragmatic, focusing on economy (KMT); or ideological, focusing on Taiwan’s rights to international acknowledgement (DPP). The presidential election seems to have been more important than the referendum on United Nations membership. The referendum put two questions to the voters. The first, initiated by DPP, asked if Taiwan should apply to the United Nations under the name of Taiwan (done once before and was blocked by China). The second was initiated by KMT as a counter-manoeuvre, and asked if Taiwan should apply to the United Nations under any name (since the early 1990s, applications under the official name Republic of China have been blocked annually by China).

The referendum is deemed to have little practical effect, except to stir up agitation in Beijing and further isolate Taiwan from the international community by presenting her internationally as trying to change the status quo which is at present a safeguard for peace in the area.

Download “Quo vadis, Taiwan?” (PDF, 381KB)

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My first year studying Chinese is now concluded. I finished all my courses roughly a week ago, but naturally, teachers need some time to correct the exams and set grades. This is now done. As I have said before, I was not at all certain about two of the courses, but it seems like I was worrying in vain. Really, worrying is not the right word, because these grades mean little to me practically, since I will not use them for anything. Still, grades are a sign of knowledge, albeit not a perfect one, so high grades generally means that I have done what I was supposed to do and hopefully learnt a lot in the process. This is what the first year looks like. The third column is points, 1,5 points represents one week of full-time studying, so a complete year consists of 60 points or 40 weeks. The fourth column is grades on the scale of 1-5.

Of course, it feels very good to be able to post this and know that I have performed well during my first year. I do not know what kind of post will be here next year, but I can at least promise that there will be one.

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Title: Short-term Spoken Chinese, Elementary
Author: Ma Jianfa
Year: 2004

Changing authors from the first two volumes, one might have supposed that some things in Short-term Spoken Chinese ought to have improved. This is indeed the case, but the price paid is much too high, since many things in the Elementary volume are much worse than in in the Threshold volumes. However, on a general note, what I said about the first two volumes mostly holds true for this volume as well, so I will not bother to reiterate all the short-comings of the first two books, but instead focus on a comparison.

Advantages: One thing has improved greatly, and that is the explanation of grammar. The sections now include many and various examples which enable the student to understand the grammar explained in a broader sense than was previously possible. Very good.

Disadvantages: Sadly, the new grammar sections are rife with problems. Most notably, they contain a vast amount of characters the student has no chance of understanding (usually 20-30 new characters for each chapter, almost doubling the total number used in the book). Using a dictionary to look up all the words necessary to understand the examples is incredibly time consuming. Also, many of the characters are extremely rare (one sentence is about make-up equipment to such a detail that I did not know the words in either Swedish or English).

Furthermore, and perhaps even worse, the chapters themselves contain characters that are not present in the glossary. This might have been understandable if it was a stand-alone elementary textbook, but it is not. The authors know exactly which characters they have covered previously, and ought to be able to include all the new ones in the word lists. Fortunately, our teacher provided us with extra word lists for each chapter (sometimes comprising twenty characters that were omitted from the original lists). This is unforgivable.

In order to alleviate this problem for other people, I have composed word lists myself that cover all the texts and the grammar. Those lists, and much more, can be found in my Chinese section. (Edit: These lists are now available from within Anki, the old ZDT-lists are still available from the Chinese section, but won’t be updated).

Oddly, the letter “e” is missing from the appendix. Admittedly, there are not many words beginning with e, but still there are some.

I discussed these various points with my teacher, and he withheld that these books still are among the best available. That might be true, so I advise you again not to make the mistake of taking me for an expert. I have only used these text books, and for all I know, they might indeed be the best around. Still, I do not like them, and find in them too many errors or signs of flawed thinking to give them more than a couple of snails.

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Important: This post is mostly obsolete. I no longer use ZDT and I see no reason that you should either. The words for these books are now available from within Anki, a program I think far superior to ZDT. The old lists will remain here, of course, but they won’t be updated.

I have now assembled all new words from the first three volumes of Short-term Spoken Chinese into two ZDT backup files ready to be imported for revision and reference. The volumes covered are for the second editions of Short-term Spoken Chinese: Threshold/Hanyu kouyu sucheng: rumen (汉语口语速成入门) and Short-term Spoken Chinese: Elementary/Hanyu kouyu sucheng: jichu (汉语口语速成基础). Please note that these word lists contain all words necessary to understand the texts, which means that they contain more that do the lists in the books. Up to and including chapter 12 also cover new words in the grammar sections as well.

I take no responsibility whatsoever that these lists of words are correct, but I highly doubt that there are many errors, since I have used them to revise for my own exams. However, should you find anything wrong, please let me know so that I can correct the mistake.

The translations were made in many different ways. If applicable, the included “CEDICT” was used. If not applicable, I have used the excellent online dictionary Dict.cn. In rare cases when all else has failed, I have translated my teachers Swedish translations into English.

Please note that proper names are put in a separate category for Short-term Spoken Chinese: Elementary/Hanyu kouyu sucheng: jichu.

Words from Threshold/rumen (71K)
Words from Elementary/jichu (86K)

Update: The word lists have been moved, but the links should now be working properly again.

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Yesterday, I received an e-mail with the results from the take-home exam I handed in for our course about recent history and politics in North-East Asia. One of my goals for March was to earn full grades for the two exams we had, but it is only now, six weeks later, that I can conclude that the goal was actually accomplished (I had 175.5 out of 177 on the other exam). Still, four important things remain before I can focus fully on preparations for my Taiwan adventure. First, there is a project that is to be handed in next week. Second, there are three language-related exams (one translation, one general, and one technical Chinese).

As usual, I publish exams I hand in (last years take-home exam can be found here). It is written in Swedish, and focuses on five question relating to: economy in the region as a whole, opposition parties in Japan, negative aspects of Chinese growth, Chinese system of guanxi, and politics in South Korea. I received 95/100 on this course.

Download exam (597K, RTF)

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Title: One Man’s Bible
Original title: 一个人的圣经
Author: Gao Xingjian
Year: 1998

I read this novel as part of a study assignment, which is why it is more ambitious than my normal reviews. The instruction was basically to reflect upon the novel and its contents and since I thought I might as well publish what I hand in, here you have my reflections on Gao Xingjian’s One Man’s Bible. This novel is utterly impossible to spoil, so even though I do reveal parts of the story, I do not feel that I have to issue a spoiler warning.

One Man’s Bible is a story composed of two narrative threads, beautifully interlaced to form varied and lucid fabric depicting the author, his background and relation to his native country: China. The focus of the novel is roughly equally distributed between the two threads. The first explores the author’s historical heritage, focusing on the Cultural Revolution and the period following it, the second consists reflective musing on literature and life, always with clear connections to his personal background.

About the author
Gao Xingjian is a fascinating character in many ways, not least because of his background. He was born in 1940 to a bank official and an actress in Ganzhou, People’s Republic of China. Before the Cultural Revolution, he studied at university and worked as a translator. During this period, he also produced numerous works of literature, but he was compelled to burn them all out of fear of government reprisals (Literature resource center, 2008-02-21).

As the tremors of the Cultural Revolution shook China, Gao fled to the rural parts of western China in order to hide. He worked on a farm and later as a teacher, but persevered in his writing. Yet again, he had to immolate his manuscripts to avoid persecution by the authorities. After the Cultural Revolution, he moved back to Beijing and became a renowned and prolific playwright (Literature resource center, 2008-02-21).

In 1987 he left China, probably for good, since he does not want to return to that authoritarian state. He is now settled in France, where he has begun to produce literature in French, as well as to publish old material in translation to English (as of 2008, four books are available in English). Gao Xingjian is possibly most well-known for being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000 (Literature resource center, 2008-02-21).

About the novel
As I have already stated briefly, One Man’s Bible consists of two parallel stories, and although interlaced and supporting each other, I think reflections upon the book will merit from treating these threads separately. Let me begin with the thread concerning historical times, because it is the basis of the novel and without it, the thread taking place in modern times would be pointless.

Writing about terrible things belonging to the author’s personal history is always difficult, because there is so much suffering in the world that I as a reader do not feel the need of adding more. Certain authors are capable of writing about terrible events and, at the same time, manage to create great literature (Imre Kertész and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn spring to mind). I think that Gao Xingjian places himself firmly in this exclusive group of authors, mostly because of the reflective writing that parallels the historical retelling (more on that later), but also because it is apparent in his writing that his main objective is not to earn sympathy or to paint as dark a picture as possible of China’s history. This impression does of course not render this very story in a more positive light, but it makes the novel worthwhile.

The author focuses on fairly subjective narration of his experiences, not always in chronological order, but always with added comment and thought. It is not a wallowing in filth, repression and terror, but rather a story of a deeply reflective man put in a society in which he cannot thrive. It is moving to know that although he risked death, he still wrote during the Cultural Revolution. Thinking reflectively and openly was not something he felt that he could do, but over and over throughout his writing, he expresses an aptitude for reflective writing.

Note that Gao Xingjian does not write to encourage humanity to learn from history, because, as he rather cynically puts it “when people have forgotten about it [the terrible times], it will make a comeback, and people who have never gone crazy will go crazy […] This is because madness has existed since the birth of humanity, and it is simply a question of when it will flare up again” (p. 195). Instead, it is a one man’s bible, a story about a lonely man and his need to “release himself”, something which he associates with a “deep, instinctual animal drive” (p. 196).

I have previously read one book which takes place during the cultural revolution (Red Azalea by Anchee Min) and, even though I would like to make it clear that I do in now way intend to say that these books are similar in any other way, I would like to say that their portrayal of society is reminiscent of each other. Both are stories about repression, albeit it in different ways, and paranoia and fear are themes which run as a scarlet thread through both novels.

Throughout the novel, the author often touches on the issue of wearing a mask to conceal one’s real emotions and thoughts about what is going on in one’s vicinity, which is a theme I think can be traced to most novels set in repressive, totalitarian states. Perhaps, it is something present in most societies, albeit that the consequences of violating the masquerade is fatally different in the China of Gao’s youth, compared with that of present day Sweden. We all wear masks to present a face to the world which enables us to survive and thrive in the social milieu. The difference for me personally is of course that changing masks is something that can be allowed to function naturally and is seldom forced upon me from the outside. In the China of One Man’s Bible, this is not so. The author notes that “[h]is real face only came into existence later on, when, finally, he was able to take off the mask. But taking it off was not an easy matter, because the face and the facial nerves had become stiff from wearing the mask” (p. 212).

By way of making a connection to the other narrative thread in the novel, I would like to comment on another theme, which is present in almost all 61 chapters of One Man’s Bible, namely women. In the beginning, Gao’s relationship to the opposite sex is fairly ordinary, but after being scorched by a particular girl who betrays him after him having invested trust and emotion into his relationship with her. He says that you (here using second person singular to address aspects of himself, more on that below) “wander from country to country, city to city, woman to woman, but don’t think of finding a place that is home. You drift along, engrossed in savouring the taste of the written language, like ejaculating, leaving behind some traces of your life.” (p. 426) It is through his conversations with these women that we receive the story of One Man’s Bible. Women also constitute an important thread running through the historical narration, since the author often uses them as a basis from which to explore his past.

As seen in the quotation above, the author uses second person singular to separate himself from the story, because, as he says, literature is like a camera for a photographer in that it allows the author to shield himself from what he is writing about. This technique feels awkward in the beginning, but after a while, I sense a true separation between author and main character, and I cannot help but admire how skilfully this is executed. In certain chapters later in the novel, Gao uses this technique to highlight certain effects (since he uses third person singular for his historical narration, he is thus enabled to comment on what has happened, both from his standpoint behind the camera, as it were, and as a participant in the events he describes).

Gao Xingjian manages to do what few other authors are capable of, namely to write about suffering and misery in a way which makes his novel worthwhile to read, not because of the suffering, but because of the way in which the author relates to it. The greatness of One Man’s Bible resides in its ability to combine such reflections and still manage to create great literature. The language of this English translation (by Mabel Lee) is excellent and the stylistic ingenuity shown by the author makes this pure joy to read. Even though it is sometimes hard to relate to what is being told, and although the story itself is not always mesmerising, my overall impression of One Man’s Bible is very good. I intend to read more by Gao Xingjian and, if I may, I humbly suggest you do the same.


Gao Xingjian. (2003). One Man’s Bible. Flamingo: London.

Literature resource center (accessed 2008-02-21).

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Title: Färden till Västern
English title: Journey to the West
Original title: 西游记
Author: 吳承恩 (Wu Cheng’en)
Translation: Göran Malmqvist
Year: 1590s

The Journey to the West is one of the four great Chinese classics. In our course focusing on East Asian culture and history, we had to choose one of these and after reading about the different works, I felt that The Journey to the West would suit me best. Not having read the others, I cannot say that I was correct, but I can say that I enjoyed this book immensely.

The story revolves around the Monkey King and his attempt to overthrow Heaven. However, he is thwarted in his attempt and his only way out is to serve as the guide and companion to the Buddhist monk Xuanzang on his journey to the west to retrieve the sacred Buddhist scriptures.

There are many things which appeal to me in The Journey to the West and I will cover the most important ones in this review. First and foremost, I find Chinese legends about might and magic entertaining. It is a world previously unknown to me and providing a door into this world, makes this book wonderful. Second, I enjoy the straightforward narration, without tedious details which is so cumbersome in much old literature. The story is focused, well designed and fast paced.

Third, the translation deserves a paragraph on its own. Göran Malmqvist is absolutely brilliant; I cannot describe in words how much I enjoy his prose. Comparing it to an English translation I have also tried, the Swedish translation is infinitely more enjoyable. His mastery of the Swedish language is entertaining in its own right and it can clearly be seen both in the translation of the short poetry-like parts of the book, but also in the prose.

It is difficult to assess what I think of the work itself, since it is impossible to separate it from my impression of the translation. However, the overall impression is one of lasting admiration and I will definitely try to get hold of the sequels and read them as well. Sadly, they have gone out of print, but I can probably borrow them from a friend.

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Since my studying tends to be computerised, the amount of useful material concerning Chinese has been proliferating rather fast during this autumn. Combined with the fact that I have wholeheartedly adopted the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation’s motto “share and enjoy”, I hereby present you with a new section on Snigel.nu, devoted to the study of the Chinese language. You can access it by the brand new link in the left-hand menu or simply by clicking here.

I hate when other people link to sites without telling me in advance what I will be able to find there, so here is some sort of comprehensive list of the yet humble features of my Chinese section:

  • Useful links to programs and web sites I use in my everyday studying
  • Resources for the text books I have
  • Exams and assignments written by me
  • A collection of blog entries related to Chinese


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