Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuantuan & Yuanyuan - Communist Youth League Operatives

They're incredibly cute and fluffy and everybody loves them. That's why they make --- the perfect spies.

Recently China sent a pair of adorable pandas named Tuantuan and Yuanyuan over to Taiwan as a goodwill gift between the two countries (or one country and one rogue province, depending on how you look at it).

All the news reports are saying how the pandas names together mean "reunion." And this is true. In Chinese, their names are 团团 (tuan2 tuan2) and 圆圆 (yuan2 yuan2), and the word 团圆 (tuan2 yuan2) means "reunion," therefore suggesting that the pandas could be a catalyst for China and Taiwan to reunite into one China (which even a whole platoon of pandas would have difficulty achieving).

HOWEVER, a homonym for 团圆 is 团员 (tuan2 yuan2), which is short for "member of the Chinese Communist Youth League!" (中国共产主义青年团 zhong1 guo2 gong1 chan3 zhu3 yi4 qing1 nian2 tuan2). The CCYL is for people ages 14-28, and is a kind of precursor to joining the actual Communist Party. Although many high school graduates are members, most of them do not actually go on to join the Party. Most pandas are not Party members either.

But this panda duo could be moles, sent to Taiwan in order to recruit and cultivate a new CCP Youth League presence within the borders of the renegade territory! Ingenious, really.

Another important question is "why do they always give pandas names with one character repeated twice?" Actually, Chinese tend to do this with all of their animal friends. In fact, I once met and played with a real panda! Her name was Didi, and she lives at Wolong Panda Preserve in Sichuan.

When I lived in Beijing in the late '90s, pets were just starting to become popular. I remember one guy in an outdoor kungfu class I was taking had a dog named "Ben Ben." Oh, it was the source of endless fun for the other classmates.

People get double-character nicknames too, especially young people. It is a sign of affection and sounds cute. If they just called the pandas Tuan and Yuan, it would be far less amusing.


Vince said...

LOL! Insightful! I was a CCYL member when I was in middle school! Fortunately, I've never had one of those nicknames that repeat the same character twice :)

I think if I have another dog years down the road, I might work him in Chinese instead of German or Bulgarian. The last exercise in a Schutzhund 1, 2, or 3 Obedience routine is the "send out" where after a heeling build-up, the handler points and commands the dog to "go out / voraus" and the dog runs out with full speed like there's no tomorrow and straight like an arrow for seemingly no purpose at all, until he gets to 40-50 yards away when the handler will voice-command him to down which he has to do IMMEIDATELY. Think about how powerful that command will sound for the "go out" - "POW!!!!!" (pao3)!!

Ben Moger-Williams said...

Ha! Thanks Zhengzheng. That would be sweet. Are you allowed to use other languages tho?

Vince said...

Yes. Any national language is okay. Some Chinese family up in Montana has one of Wiski's brothers. I've never met them, but the parents are fantastic trainers and their 12 or 10 year old daughter is training him. She works him in Chinese. I was told by friends who saw them train that the sports dog world needs to watch out for that little girl in a few years :)

Susan said...

Ben, Great imaginative leap forward in your post! I love it! I think I have a picture of you and DiDi, wasn't she the one they warned about: Don't touch her back? Don't touch her paw? etc.
Also being teased about having a dog's name started for you much earlier thanks to the Benji film(s?)!
Love, Mom
Must try training Boxer with "POW!"
But he only speaks kitty.