I had never expected that the China initiative would come to fruition in the form of a Ping-Pong team. -Richard M. Nixon
Have you met the Fuwa? No? Well the Fuwa are the "Official Mascots of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, carrying a message of friendship and peace – and good wishes from China – to children all over the world." They are five cartoon characters each having its own color – like the Olympic rings. Beibei is the Fish, Jingjing is the Panda, Huanhuan is the , Yingying is the Tibetan Antelope and Nini is the Swallow. Their names, put together, form the greeting, "Welcome to Beijing." Ignore the sites that suggest the Fuwa are harbingers of doom.
I have found the official 2008 Olympic website to be really interesting. And, with only 71 days to go (as the site tells me), I wanted to point out an important feature of the site. You can learn foreign languages with the Fuwa!! Yes, the Fuwa teach simple phrases in French, English, and Putonghua (that is, standard Mandarin, the official Chinese spoken language). With the website "Chinese website users will be able to learn simple, useful phrases that might come in handy next summer with visitors from around the world." While other "users of the official website [will] acquire basic conversation skills." Sample phrases include:
- What is the maximum amount of money we can withdraw from the ATM each day?
- She is not only intelligent but also beautiful.
- I want to withdraw 500 euros.
The site allows you to listen to each phrase in any of the three languages. I do not think the Fuwa do the actual translating. China Daily interviewed Han Meilin, the creator of the Fuwa, and you can read an English transcript at their site. Meilin reports he was paid one yuan for the effort (and copyright). Finally, on the Fun Page you can download screen savers.