Literature in Translation: “Liu Qí-Wei’s Life as an Adventurer” by Liu Níng-Sheng

In 1993, I went to Papua New Guinea with my dad, Liú Qíwěi, who was then 82 years old. On our trip he lamented: “life has a way of messing with me: When I had the energy to travel, no one would sponsor my research; now that I’m old and have sponsors, I’ve lost all my energy.” However, when he was seventy, he was still researching different aboriginal tribes and collecting data on the Borneo culture. My dad was a strong man.

At our last stop in Papua New Guinea, everyone was suffering from mosquitoes bites along the Sepik river. Even with the most potent bug spray, the mosquitoes were unstoppable; and because I was filming and had to keep a steady hand, the mosquitoes were unscrupulous in their attacks. By the time I told my dad, “I’m not sure I can take this any longer,” my hands were utterly swollen. Seeing my condition, my dad finally agreed to go home with me a few days earlier than planned and we never went further up the river.  I was once bitten by fleas when we were in the Tali highlands in China. It was extremely itchy and the swell from the bite was as large as a water glass. To stop the swelling, a shaman grabbed a few bushels of urtica thunbergiana, pulled up my shirt, and repeatedly hit my body with them. The excruciating pain left me covered in cold sweat; however, the ritual also stopped the itching. Throughout the whole trip, my father was pickier than I was about our diet, which consisted of “vegetables,” also known as tree leaves, combined with fish, canned meat, or crackers. With no variety day in and day out, he became tired of the meals and would sometimes skip lunch and just drink water instead. What he enjoyed most was instant coffee, so we brought some of that with us.

From that adventure I learned of my father’s deep respect for foreign cultures–he never treated the people as lower class, the way most travelers would. When I once again traveled through Papua New Guinea, I saw that most tourists didn’t judge foreign cultures fairly. Instead, they would use the cultural perspectives innate in them to criticize a local culture. For example, when purchasing food, they would say, “So dirty!” or “Is this edible?” These attitudes are indeed worth discussing.

When I sat on the floor with a Papua New Guinean to chat, I could tell from the body language of other tourists why cultural exchanges are so difficult. They don’t have the desire to understand, let alone identify [with the locals]. The Papa New Guinean later said to me: “You’re the only one who’s willing to sit with us, to identify with us.” How tedious would life be if the whole world spoke only one language, ate the same food, and dressed the same? Through my dad’s mentoring and influence, I learned the importance of respecting other cultures. When I once passed through Tahiti, I noticed that the aboriginals were working hard to restore their native music and dance after enduring foreign influence over the past hundreds of years.

When Paul Gauguin went to Tahiti, he argued with the local government, which was trying to suppress the local culture after missionaries were offended by the perceived flirtation of the native dances. In fact, promoting reproduction and the longevity of their culture was the essence of their dances. Many aboriginals are fond of war; some are even cannibals and head hunters. Aboriginals partake in cannibalism believing that it allows them to attain the spirit and wisdom of the hunted, whom they see as their respected enemies. [But without understanding], we criticize their cultures and customs, and simply think that their behaviors are amoral and uncivilized. However, we need to first learn about their culture to understand the reasoning behind such ceremonies. These are all lessons I learned from my father.


  1. 巴布亞紐幾內亞 (Bā bùyà Niǔ Jī nèi yà)-Papua New Guinea. This usage is most common in Taiwan.  Abbreviated version: 巴紐(Bāniǔ).
  2. 感嘆 (gǎn tàn)-To sigh, to lament.
  3. 造化 (zào huà)-Nature, the creator.
  4. 弄人(nòng rén)-To mess with someone.
  5. 部落 (bù luò)- Tribe.
  6. 原住民 (yuán zhù mín)-Indigenous peoples / aborigine.
  7. 婆羅洲 (pó luó zhōu)-Borneo.
  8. 採集 (cǎijí)-To gather,  to collect, to harvest.
  9. 熬 (áo)-Endure.
  10. 防蚊藥 (fáng wén yào)- Bug (mosquito) spray. 防: to protect , to defend, to prevent. 蚊: mosquito. 藥: drug, medicine.
  11. 吃不消 (chī bu xiāo)-To be unable to tolerate or endure / to find sth difficult to manage
  12. 肆無忌憚 (sì wú jì dàn)- Unrestrained; unscrupulous. 肆: indulge. 無: without. 忌: fear. 憚: to shrink (from fear).
  13. 跳蚤 (tiào zao)-Fleas.
  14. 巫師 (wū shī)-Wizard, magician.
  15. 咬人貓 (yǎo rén māo)-Urtica thunbergiana.
  16. 民族 (mín zú)-Nationality, ethnic group.
  17. 商榷(shāng què)-To discuss, to bring up for discussion.
  18. 認識 (rèn shi)-To understand, to become acquainted to.
  19. 認同(rèn tóng)- To identify with, to recognize, to approve of.
  20. 薰陶 (xūn táo)-Influence.
  21. 風俗 (fēng sú)-Custom (social).
  22. 壓制 (yā zhì)-Suppress.
  23. 傳教士 (chuán jiào shì)-Missionary.
  24. 西匹河 (xī pī hé)- Sepik river.
  25. 大溪地 (dà xī dì)-Tahiti.

Original commentary, “劉其偉的探險生涯,” by 劉寧生著, from 聯合報副刊. Dated November 14, 2011.

English-Chinese Vocabulary Builder: Cosmetics

Face- 臉 (liǎn)

Foundation- 粉底 (fěn dǐ). 粉: powder. 底: foundation, bottom, base.

  1. Liquid Foundation- 液狀粉底 (yè zhuàng fěn dǐ). 狀: shape, condition. Here it refers to the base of the foundation.
  2. Mineral Foundation-礦物粉底 (kuàng wù fěn dǐ), or 礦物狀粉底 (kuàng wù zhuàng fěn dǐ). 礦物: mineral.
  3. Cream Foundation- 膏狀粉底 (gāo zhuàng fěn dǐ). 膏: cream, paste, ointment, balm.
  4. Powder Foundation- 粉狀粉底 (fěn zhuàng fěn dǐ)
  5. Foundation Sponge- 粉底海綿 (fěn dǐ hǎi mián). 海綿: sponge. 海: ocean. 綿: cotton.


  1. Loose Powder- 蜜粉(mì fěn). 蜜: honey.
    Used to set the makeup so that the makeup lasts longer/用來定妝以讓妝更持久(yònglái  dìngzhuāng yǐ  ràng zhuāng gèng chíjiǔ)。
  2. Pressed Powder-粉餅 (fěn bǐng). 餅: flat cake.
  3. To apply powder- 撲粉 (pū fěn). 撲: here it means to pat on.
  4. Puff (for powder)- 粉撲 (fěn pū).

Concealer- 遮瑕膏 (zhē xiá gāo). 遮: to hide, to conceal, to cover up (short coming). 瑕: same as 瑕疵 (xiá cī), which means blemish, flaws. 膏: ointment, paste, or cream.

Blush/Rouge- 腮紅 (sāi hóng). 腮: cheek. 紅: red.

Eyes- 眼睛(yǎn jing)

  1. Eyeshadow- 眼影 (yǎn yǐng). 眼: 眼睛, eye. 影: 影子, shadow.
  2. Eyeliner- 眼線 (yǎnxiàn).
  3. Eyeliner pencil- 眼線筆 (yǎnxiànbǐ)
  4. Eyeliner, Liquid-  液狀 (yè zhuàng).

Eyelashes- 眼睫毛 (yǎn jié máo)

  1. Mascara- 睫毛膏(jiémáogāo).
  2. Brush- 刷子 (shuāzi).
  3. Eyelash Curler- 睫毛夾 (jié máo jiá).
  4. False (eye)lashes, Falsies- 假睫毛 (jiǎ jié máo).

Eyebrows- 眉毛, 眉 (méi mao, méi)

  1. Eyebrow Pencil- 眉筆 (méi bǐ).
  2. Brow Gel- 眉膏 (眉膏).
  3. Tweezers- 鑷子 (niè zi). Used to pluck one’s eyebrows/用來拔眉毛的 (yònglái bá       眉毛 méi mao de). 拔: to pull out.

Lips- 嘴唇, or just 唇.

  1. Lip Liner- 唇筆 (chún bǐ). 筆: pencil, pen.
  2. Lipstick- 口紅 (kǒu hóng). 口: mouth. 紅: red.
  3. Lip Balm/Chapstick- 潤唇膏 (rùn chún gāo). 潤: moisturizing, smoothing. 唇: lips. 膏: balm, ointment, paste.
  4. Lip Gloss- 唇蜜 (chún mì) . 蜜: honey.
  5. Lip Color- 唇彩 (chún cǎi). Can refer to lip gloss or lipsticks. 彩: colors.

English-Chinese Vocabulary Builder: “Is Adding Fiber To Food Really Good For Your Health?”

Here’s a short list of health- and medical-related vocabularies I compiled from an NPR article, “Is Adding Fiber To Food Really Good For Your Health?”, dated February 13, 2012.

  1. Fiber- 纖維 (xiān wéi).
  2. Synthetic fiber- 人造纖維 (rén zào xiān wéi). 人: man, human. 造: made.
  3. Public health- 公共衛生 (gōng gòng wèi shēng). 公共: public. 衛生: health, hygiene, sanitation.
  4. Food additives- 食品添加物 (shí pǐn tiān jiā wù). 食品: food. 添加物: additive. 添加: to add. 物: object, matter.
  5. Scurvy– 壞血病 (huài xuè bìng). 壞: bad. 血: blood. 病: disease.
  6. Ingredient- 成分 (chéng fèn).
  7. Disease- 疾病 (jí bìng).
  8. Prevent (diseases)- 預防 (yù fáng).
  9. Cure (diseases)- verb: 治療 (zhì liáo)、醫治 (yī zhì)、根治 (gēn zhì)、治癒 (zhì yù). 根: root.
  10. Rickets佝僂病 (gōu lóu bìng) or 小兒軟骨病 (xiǎo’ér ruǎn gǔ bìng).  小兒: children. 軟: soft. 骨: bone. 病: disease.
  11. Iodine- 碘 (diǎn).
  12. Goiters– 甲狀腺腫 (jiǎ zhuàng xiàn zhǒng). 甲狀腺: thyroid gland. 腫: swelling, swollen, to swell.
  13. Carbohydrates- 醣類 (táng lèi), or 碳水化合物 (tàn shuǐ huà hé wù). 碳: carbon. 水: water. 化合物: chemical compound.
  14. Colon cancer- 大腸癌  (dà chángái). 大腸: the large intestine. 癌: cancer.
  15. Cardiovascular disease- 心血管疾病 (xīn xuè guǎn jí bìng). 心: same as 心臟; the heart (organ). 血管: vein/artery. 疾病: disease.
  16. Heart disease- 心臟病 (xīn zàng bìng). 心臟: heart (organ).
  17. Food scientist- 食品專家 (shí pǐn zhuān jiā). 食品: food. 專家: specialist, expert.

Happy translating and stay healthy!

English-Chinese Vocabulary Builder: Oral Surgery

I recently had to go to an oral surgeon as a patient. During the process, I took note of the medical terms that were used and mentally translated them to distract myself. Here’s a brief list for your reference.

  1. Oral surgery- 口腔外科手術 (kǒu ​qiāng wài ​kē​ shǒu ​shù)
  2. Consent form- 同意書 (tóng ​yì shū)
  3. Local anesthetic-局部麻醉 (jú​ bù​ má ​zuì)
  4. General anesthetic- 全身麻醉 (quán ​shēn ​má ​zuì)
  5. Wisdom teeth- 智齒 (zhì ​chǐ)
  6. Premolar- 前臼齒 (qián ​jiù ​chǐ)
  7. Diet- 飲食 (yǐn ​shí)
  8. Soft foods- 軟質食物 (ruǎn zhí shí​ wù)
  9. Pain- 疼痛 (téng ​tòng)
  10. Swelling- 腫脹 (zhǒng ​zhàng)
  11. Salt water- 鹽水(yán ​shuǐ)
  12. Bruising- 瘀傷 (yū​ shāng)/烏青 (wū ​qīng)
  13. Soreness- 酸痛 (suān tòng)
  14. Blood- 血 (xiě)
  15. Spit- 吐  (tǔ)
  16. Swallow- 吞嚥 (tūn yàn)
  17. Anesthetic-麻藥 (má ​yào)
  18. Numbness- 麻痺 (má ​bì)
  19. Teeth extraction- 拔牙 (bá ​yá)
  20. Gauze- 紗布 (shā ​bù)

Happy translating!