Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Working on a translation the other day, I logged onto Chinese Google. I was surprised to see the signature colorful "Google" title in grey, and a black and white banner with the exact date and time of the huge earthquake that hit Sichuan Province on May 12.

The banner reads: "May 12, 2008, 2:28 p.m. Let us always remember this moment, and wish peace for those who perished, and strength for those who survived."

Clicking on the banner brings you to an information page, which has links to news about the quake, and also has a feature where you can type in a message looking for a relative. Or, you can send a text message to a server with your name, location and contact information so others can find you. Google also has a search page where information for survivors has been posted. It says: "As of May 21, 5 a.m., 38,200 entries have been recorded, covering 80 hospitals."

A typical entry says:
Name: Ren Zhiping
Sex: female
Age: 21
Home address: Du Jiang Yan
Hospital: Chengdu No. 5 People's Hospital
Then it has the phone number and the last time of update: May 20

It is really interesting to see the online ripples of the quake. The first thing I thought of when I saw the 5/12 banner in black and white was 9/11. I remember looking up CNN.com that day and the whole Web site was messed up and the format was different. The fact that a familiar Web site looked so different was jarring and unsettling. Of course Google often changes its logo to suit an occasion or a holiday, but the change to black and white - the Chinese colors of mourning - had a similarly disconcerting effect.

I was in Chengdu once, and traveled through Sichuan Province briefly, but I have some vivid memories from there. It is a beautiful (and super poor) place with amazing food and a huge variety of people and cultures. I'm with Google in wishing peace and strength to all the people there.

UPDATE: Actually it looks like all of the search engines are doing the black&white color scheme as part of a whole period of mourning, not just Google.

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