Sat, Oct 19, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Chinglish gives rise to romantic idea

By Dan Bloom  /  Contributing reporter

Chiang Yi-chen, right, and Liu Yao-fu lock a tablet onto the “engagement bridge” earlier this month as a symbol of their love.

Photo: Wang shan-yen, Taipei Times

Sometimes Chinglish is responsible for odd signs around Taiwan that are good for a laugh. A slight mistranslation two years ago at the main train station in Chiayi City has led not just to a laugh, but to a triumph of sorts.

Welcome to Chiayi’s newly-inaugurated Love Lock Bridge (愛嘉檜心鎖橋).

It’s a short pedestrian bridge at the rear of the train station, and it already has 50 hinoki (a variety of cedar) wood tablets locked to the chain fence on the side of the bridge. Last week, long-distance sweethearts Chiang Yi-chen (江翊甄), from Greater Kaohsiung, and Liu Yao-fu (劉耀復), from Yilan, got married there, after several previous rendezvous in Chiayi.

On the second floor of the station building, a blue and white sign still bears the bridge’s former English name: Engagement Bridge. The Chinese characters above it read xianjie qiao (銜接橋).

What xianjie qiao means to signal is that the short bridge on the second floor of the rear station terminal connects one place to another. An apt English translation would have been “connecting bridge,” according to Victor Mair, a professor of Chinese studies at the University of Pennsylvania who has lived in Taiwan and often blogs about Chinglish signs in Asia.

In some English-speaking countries, such short pedestrian bridges between buildings are called go-between bridges, skyways, catwalks, sky bridges or skywalks, according to Mair.

The “engagement bridge” sign remained in public view for two years before journalists for Chinese-language newspapers in Chiayi reported the apparent Chinglish gaffe, quoting sources from Australia and Britain about how such bridges are named overseas.

Long story short, rather than walk around with egg on their faces, station officials decided to embrace the mistake and designate the bridge a romantic home for “love locks.” Today, lovers can use a heated engraving pen to write short sweet messages about love and friendship on hinoki wood tablets, and then affix the tablets to the bridge.

Similar bridges exist in Taiwan and around the world, of course. Greater Taichung has a famous “love lock” bridge with over 500 locks affixed to its railings, an expression of eternal love.

Chiayi officials hope the new bridge — an ideal setting for photos — will become a tourist attraction, as well as a successful marketing campaign for the nearby Alishan National Scenic Area and its forest of hinoki trees.

Love Lock Bridge was officially inaugurated on Oct. 10 with a marriage ceremony and red ribbons billowing in the wind. Chinglish does have its uses, it turns out, when used as part of a marketing campaign.

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