It’s sad when great pieces of art don’t get the recognition they deserve.
Nope, I’m not talking about sales figures for Party Members, but in fact one of the funniest, wittiest and most original China satire sites of all time.
And you’ve probably never heard of it.
I know very little about the people behind Gou-Rou. The main writer was a “Tom” who used to comment frequently on the dead and sadly missed TalkTalkChina. Little is known about the mysterious Tom other than the fact he was based in Hong Kong. Many is the time I have pondered whether some famous China journalist like Tom Philips of the
Morning Star Grauniad or Tom Hancock of the S oros-owned Zionist Conspiracy Mouthpiece Financial Times could in fact be the mysterious Tom, but neither seem to possess the necessary devilish wit and biting sarcasm,
Gou-Rou was a website that existed during the Golden Age of China Blogs – before the internet destroyed everybody’s attention span and nobody could concentrate on anything more complex than a Spongebob Squarepants meme. Obviously heavily influenced by British comedy legends Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris – with a ton of shout-outs to their masterpieces TV Go Home, Nathan Barley and Brass Eye – Gou-Rou had the type of dry and acerbic humour that can only be seen today in the occasional China Daily Show post (also well worth checking out).
Like Brass Eye and TV Go Home, Gou-Rou was a fake news website that also contained satirical spoofs of Chinese TV shows and pastiches of awful CCP propaganda and even more awful expat-magazine listings. Sadly, once the unspoofable Goebbels Times came along there was no need for Gou-Rou anymore, but the site remains online in a “that which is dead can never truly die” state like some nightmarish Lovecraftian god. I highly recommend checking out the still-alive Gou-Rou archives for the gems contained within before Mark Zuckerberg becomes the 46th President of the United States and the entire internet is replaced by a looped image of Mark’s head spinning around 360 degrees surrounded by the word “OBEY.”
Here are a few of the choicest slices of Gou-Rou to whet your appetite…
Hello, readers. Here in China, there’s an awful lot of Olympic-themed TV on now and probably for the next few years. In this, our Olympic special TV rundown, we give you a taster of some of the highlights of what’s on during the Games themselves!
Olympic Breakfast with Wang and Zhou
Each morning during the Olympics, Consterna Wang and Gilette Zhou bring you a light hearted (and at times hilarious) look at the Olympics and the previous days events. Video montages of foreign athletes making mistakes will provide humourous asides from the main content – interviewing Chinese medal winners + members of the public inside a gigantic swing shaped like the Olympic Rings. (BTV6, 4:30am – 6:00am every morning)
Just because children might not be naturally excited by the Olympics doesn’t mean they can’t also be manipulated into thinking about it all the time! Starting in July, “Uncle” Feng will demonstrate how to make olympic shapes out of balloons to an in-studio audience of 3-6 year olds. Highlights will include “Uncle” Feng’s Bird’s Nest Stadium, “Uncle” Feng’s Inflatable Javelin, and in the final week, a step by step guide to building a life-size working replica of Liu Xiang, no longer the World Record Holder for the Men’s 110m Hurdles. (3pm – 3:30pm CCTV Kids. Also Available on CCTV 9 – with voice dubbing provided by 2004 US presidential hopeful John Kerry as “Uncle Feng”)
Isn’t Beijing Great?
Foreigners attending the Olympics will be interviewed to ascertain their positive impressions of Beijing. In Episode 1, a group of Dutch visitors explain how the “Great Wall is really long, the Forbidden City is amazing, and the Chinese people are so friendly and welcoming and rich”. Several visitors will be filmed as they apply for Chinese citizenship. (CCTV1 – Midday till late.)
Welcome to Chinafood
Introductory show, aimed at the tens of foreigners permitted into China for the Games, highlighting the wide variety of traditional Chinese food. Each episode goes to a new region of China, where three dishes are prepared, one consisting of stewing some meat and then chopping it up, the other two of chopping up all the ingredients into small pieces and then frying them.(CCTV-9, 2.30, 5.20, 11.12 pm daily)
Zhongguo Aoyun Lishi
History series drawing tenuous links between famous Olympic success stories and China. Episode 1: Chionis of Sparta and Leonidas of Rhodes were two of the most famous runners in the ancient Olympics. Two Harbin Technical College students, who have chosen Chionis and Leonidas as their English names, are interviewed about how excited they are for the 2008 Beijing games.(HLJTV, 7.20-7.53 pm every Wednesday)
Caring Han Athletes
Heartwarming programme showing that members of China’s all-conquering, non-drug-taking Olympic team have not forgotten their roots. Each week, we follow a different athlete as they visit hospitals, schools and local government buildings in bottom-rung single-industry cities around China to hand out trinkets to children and old ladies, accompanied by a relaxing piano moods soundtrack. Episodes end with most presentable children available waving Olympic and Chinese flags and shouting “中国加油！” while performing the state-mandated arm movements.(HBTV-2, 5.35 – 6.45 pm Mondays)
Enthusiastic police officer Xie Fei attaches helium balloons to his body and becomes Beijing’s leading expert in high-rise crime and prevailing wind directions. When it Rains, It Pours! – special Olympic themed six-parter. Floating gently in a south-westerly direction over Xizhimen bus terminus on the lookout for dissidents pretending to be beggars in order to discredit China’s economic miracle, Officer Balloon stumbles upon a needlessly complex plot to undermine the Olympics. However, before he can report back to his superiors he is caught in a sudden downpour caused by government weather management techniques and gradually forced to land — will he be mangled by the terrorist types? And how is former Tottenham and Olympique Marseille winger Chris Waddle connected to the whole thing?(BTV-2, 7.15-7.43pm Fridays)
From China to Britain, a Book Odyssey
by Freddie Toastfork
With the unveiling of the five hideous mascots for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there has never been a better time to raise the profile of Chinese literature in Britain, particularly for a number of companies specialising in publishing translated Chinese literature in Britain. So that’s why I’m here, to provide my integrated consultancy services and encourage those companies to get their books into the shops and flying off the shelves, as part of the British Council’s current Do China Favours With No Apparent Reciprocity campaign.
At this point you may be thinking. “How do you know what works in the book-selling world? I’ve never heard of you. Who are you?” Of course you’ve never heard of me. I was always in the background, working from the shadows. Pulling strings, toggling switches, slowly rotating dials until they produced an audible electric hum. But the fact is, I’m the expert on book marketing. I practically invented the modern concept of selling novels. If it hadn’t been for me, nobody would have even heard of books, let alone read them.
I came up with all the classic methods to induce book purchasing and the catching of eye to cover. Hideous shiny embossed lettering on the cover? I came up with that. Making the author’s name bigger than the title? That was me. ‘Recommended’ novels stacked in a less formal manner on tables in the middle of the shop to create a friendly, market stall ambience? Me again. Cluttered quotes from critics on the dust jacket? Actually, that was J.G. Ballard’s idea, but I came up with putting quotes and award names on giant round stickers that obscure most of the cover.
Now, the main problem is that while the money-burdened public like serious world literature, that doesn’t mean they’re going to read it. We don’t care if they read it either, as long as they buy it. So, my advice to anyone wanting to sell classics of Chinese literature is this: lie.
Specifically, the blurbs on the back covers should be punchy paragraphs of mendacity. The public want to be really grabbed by the blurb – they don’t want to hear from some crusty academic saying how great the new translation is.
Let’s try some examples.
The Family by Ba Jin
In rural China, respect is everything. In his latest hard-hitting thriller, ex-cop author Ba Jin takes on a brutal journey into the heart of organised crime. Xiao Dong is a young man about to “make his bones” for his crime family, but can he go through with it? His target is a wealthy businessman who will not kowtow to the Family – and the father of Pingping, the girl he loves. “Gripping, taut, a bloodied tour de force,” said the London Review of Books.
Camel Xiangzi by Lao She
Xiangzi is special – there aren’t many camels that live in their own apartment in Hong Kong, and even fewer that can talk! But Xiangzi feels lonely and alienated in the big city, so when a local zither enthusiast offers him a place playing the trombone in a modal jazz ensemble, he jumps at the chance. An international hit with young adults and literate camels alike, Camel Xiangzi is a heartwarming story of life on tour, the struggle for success and staying true to yourself.
Rainbow by Mao Dun
Mao Dun is sometimes hailed as ‘China’s answer to Nick Hornby’. In Rainbow, we can see why. The story follows teenager Nick as he grapples with the troubles of life, love and rock’n’roll in late 70s Iowa. Nick’s family is troubled, his school grades are low, but one passion holds his life together – the newly formed rock group of ex-Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, Rainbow. When Nick gets the chance to tag along on Rainbow’s US tour, it seems as though all of his prayers have been answered, and he even falls for the girl of his dreams. But traces of the past, and a bizarre conspiracy surrounding the band’s vocalist, Ronnie James Dio, may yet come to haunt him…
Beijingese-Actual Meaning phrasebook
by Rudolph Bracket
What Chinese people say, and what they really mean, presented in pinyin for the ease of our Chinese-deficient readers.
In the shops
Wo bu hui pian ni xiansheng – Wo xiang pian ni xiansheng
Ni hao pengyou! – Ni hao, you qian de ren
Ni hui putonghua ma? – Ni de yisi wo wanquan mingbai, danshi wo bu zhidao zenme huida ni de wenti.
In the Taxi
Women zou er huan ba, bijiao kuai! – Zou er huan wo hui zheng duo yi xie qian!
Ni shi nali lai de ren? – Wo hen congming, zhidao ni bu shi Beijing ren
Oh!! X – Hao! (X=the country you say) – Oh X mei you zhongguo hao!
Ni hao – Ni bu hao
Ni chi fan le ma? – Ni juede wo chuan zhei jian yifu wo pigu zenmeyang?
Waiguo pengyou – Waiguo ren.
Hello Hello! – Wo xiang he ni de xue!
Look look! – Ni kan zheibian, wo hui sha ni!
So you’ve decided to heckle a plenum, committee or other meeting of the Chinese Communist Party. Good for you. As a veteran of this pursuit (I once heckled the late, geat Deng Xiaoping, though it was admittedly sort of an accident), I felt qualified and obligated to provide people with the following tips, which will begin…. now.
1) Choose your moment
Don’t be a jerk. This may seem like odd advice considering I’m advising you on how to interrupt a meeting with uncalled-for derogatory remarks, but bear with me. You’re trying to liven up this meeting with witticisms and insults, so make sure it’s actually necessary. If the speaker is witty, erudite and fascinating to listen to, don’t bother – you will only ruin the meeting for everyone. Now, I know people say that Chinese Communist speeches that are actually interesting are as rare as hen’s teeth, but with the increased industrial pollutants in the Yangtse and Yellow Rivers, hens with teeth are more and more common in China these days. So you never know.
The CCP isn’t a monolith, much as it would like to be. It’s also not a monograph – that would be a detailed treatise on a particular, usually quite narrow, subject.
So the CCP does have different factions and its politics does change – you can use this! Read up on how the speaker has conducted himself in the past. Or use Maoism as a weapon – although the Leftist faction is regaining influence in Chinese politics, it’s still uncomfortable for many to be seen as too close to Mao-era politics. Try comparing the speaker’s assertions to something from the Yan’an era. That should get ’em riled up.
3) Keep it simple
When you’re heckling, you’re on a limited timescale. Very limited. You’ve got to yell out your piece, get the punchline in and then BAM, out of there. You don’t have time to ramble about the massive number of problems caused by and facing, say, the Three Gorges Dam. Just point out it was a decades-long demonstration of how not to do civil engineering projects and be done with it.
Another facet of “keep it simple”, is don’t be afraid to go back to basics. Yeah, it’s great if you can come out with some epigrammatic number that cuts to the heart of the current debate, belittles the speaker and references a classic Rolling Stones track at the same time, but don’t belabour it. Sometimes it’s enough just to shout “why don’t you give a speech standing up, shortarse?”
4) Do your research
I can’t stress this enough, people. And I’m not even talking about studying CCP agricultural policy in depth or any of that kind of thing, I’m just saying get your facts straight. If all the speaker has to do to respond to your heckle is say “I think you’ll find it was not Jiang Zemin who coined the phrase ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, actually”, you’re history. I’ve seen too many good but overconfident hecklers come a cropper on this one.
Well, that’s it for now. Enjoy yourselves, take care out there and remember – always heckle the Chinese Communist Party responsibly, even if at times it seems trivially easy. Peace out.
Native Teachers Wanted
A world famous state primary school in near south 5th ring road, seeks two motivated, fun, presentable Native speakers to teach starting from September 1st. Hours will be Mon-Saturday, 10am-8:45pm including free dinner. Salary 4000Rmb / month.
Sales Manager Position available
A joint-venture company is seeking a sales manager for its Beijing Office. You will be well-educated, white, with excellent Chinese and English. Available to live in Beijing for two years.
Desirable traits: At least 14years managing Multi-national Company preferred. + at least 2 years extensive experience in the copper plated gas-pipe seal industry preferred. Age over 35 years Able to invest in company also a benefit.
Salary range : 8000 – 9000Rmb / month depending on previous experience.
English Teachers Urgently Needed
Come live in Beautiful China!!! We have vacancies for the English teacher must urgently need to filled. Salary 5000rmb / month, positions available:
Jilin, Zhengzhou, Chengde, Dalian, Wuhan, Chengdu, Hefei, Taiyuan.
I am lovely tall Chinese lady. I offer full massage for you 24 hour discreet location. 300rmb / hour. Send me mail yes to Qiaojinu@163.com
We urgently need foreigners for Modelling and Acting. Please send photo and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org .
World famous exports company requires Assistant for the china manager. Necessary requirements: Female, 20-24, pretty, shapely, able to work late, desirable features, 160-180 cm
Secondary requirements: English speaker, able to use computer / office / word, honest, reliable, hard-worker, relevant experience, education.
Engineer with experience on the Trio-tech production line software system control apparatus (Gamma version upgrade) required for manufacturing firm in Guangdong. Pay negotiable. ( Position to be filled urgently – The manual is in English and we don’t know how to turn it off)
Native American Teachers Wanted
If this kind of stuff doesn’t have you snorting milk out of your nostrils or calling up your doctor to report a serious case of split sides then I don’t know what will. Go check out Gou-Rou and laugh: laugh like a drug-addled hyena being forced to watch looped re-runs of Police Academy 4. DO IT.
If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.