Tragedy visits Yi Zhongtian

The meme source
Jin Feng's seal

Professor Yi Zhongtian of Xiamen University shot to fame through his appearances on CCTV's Lecture Room program. His lectures on stories from the Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms period led to a series of best-selling books, as well as all of the controversies that come with reinterpreting history for the masses.

Yi was also the unwitting catalyst of one of the biggest online memes of 2009. In episode 15 of his first stint on Lecture Room, he uttered the line "Tragedy!" (悲剧啊!) while staring straight into the camera. Yi's wide-eyed expression caught the attention of forum commenters, who made a screenshot of that moment (top left) into a popular signature image at the bottom of their posts.

The meme gained additional traction through a parody of an Eileen Chang quote, "Life is like a luxurious dress crawling with fleas": "Life is like a coffee table, all covered in cups." "Tragedy" (悲剧) is a homophone for "cup" (杯具).

Now Jin Feng, a Shanghai-based artist, has brought the meme full circle. The Chongqing Evening News reports that Jin recently traveled to Xiamen to present Yi with a large seal based on the Lecture Room still.

The side of the seal reads "Cups!" ("杯具啊!"). The inscription on the bottom is taken from another of Yi's aphorisms: "One must be feeble-minded to be a leader."

JDM100211fullseal.jpg JDM100211underside.jpg
The full stamp and its inscription
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There are currently 5 Comments for Tragedy visits Yi Zhongtian.

Comments on Tragedy visits Yi Zhongtian

Why so PC, The inscription on the bottom is: "One must be retard to be a leader."

*personally I think the politically term developmentally challenged or , in this case, feeble-minded any better than retarded.

"crawling with fleas", not "flees"

Thanks for this. I'd been wondering where the whole 杯具 thing came from.

"One must be feeble-minded to be a leader."

-"Leader" is perhaps better translated as "cadre".

Compared to "retard" and "cadre", Joel's choice of "feeble-minded" and "leader" is indeed closer to Chinese on a single-character level, but perhaps not on a composite-word level.

official, maybe. But certainly not cadre - why exoticize it unnecessarily? I can see retarded over feeble-minded, but retard has implications in the English that I'm pretty sure Yi did not intend in his original.

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