Good Characters’ analysis of Beijing’s “One World, One Dream” Olympic slogan in Chinese

2008-06-10 — Good Characters (Leave a message)

“One World, One Dream” is the English slogan of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In Chinese, it is 同一個世界, 同一個夢想 or in Simplified Chinese 同一个世界 同一个梦想 (Tong Yi Ge Shi Jie, Tong Yi Ge Meng Xiang, pronounced toong yee guh shr jee-eh, toong yee guh moong ssee-ahng).

One WorldIt is literally 同 (same) 一個 (one) 世界 (world), 同 (same) 一個 (one) 夢想 (dream).

Some Chinese have wondered why the character 同 (tong)–meaning alike, equal, or together–is included in the slogan. It seems redundant. Without it, shortening the slogan to 一個世界, 一個夢想, would actually make it easier to pronounce and remember.

一 (yi, one), 一個 (yi ge, one piece), 同一 (tong yi, same one), and 同一個 (tong yi ge, same one piece) can all be used to express the idea of “one.” Why add the 同 (tong, same) character when just 一 (yi, one) will do?

According to the official press release, “In Chinese, the word ‘tongyi’, which means ‘the same,’ is used for the English word ‘One.’ It highlights the theme of ‘the whole Mankind lives in the same world and seeks for the same dream and ideal’.”

One DreamAccording to our speculation and from the brand naming point of view, 同一 (tong yi) was probably chosen because it is unique and brings out an implicit association to a very similar sounding word with a slightly different tone of pronunciation, 統一 (tong yi), meaning to unify, to integrate, or to unite. It makes one think of China’s dream of uniting Taiwan and the mainland.

If 同一 (tong yi) is used to represent “One,” why not 同一 (one) 世界 (world) , 同一 (one) 夢想 (dream)? The possible answer is: Because without the character 個 (ge) in the middle, 同一世界, 同一夢想, sounds too much like 統一世界, 統一夢想, unify the world, unify the dream.

Another explanation could be that 同一 (tong yi) also sounds similar to 同意 (tong yi), meaning to agree, to approve, to consent to, or to say yes. It softens the sound of the slogan and makes it more agreeable, important because it comes from government that is still controversial.

一個世界, 一個夢想 (one world, one dream) is great, but it does not serve a political purpose.

同一世界, 同一夢想 (same world, same dream) is good, but the unification association might be too obvious.

同一個世界, 同一個夢想 (same one world, same one dream), the chosen slogan, is not perfect, but it has potential to influence people beyond what it actually says.
A sidenote about the word “dream” in Chinese:

The Chinese slogan used 夢想 (meng xiang), but we think 理想 (li xiang) is more appropriate.

The dictionary meaning of 夢想 (meng xiang) is to dream of, to hope for (something not attainable), or to have vision of.

The dictionary meaning of 理想 (li xiang) is a dream, an ideal, perfection, desirable, or a cause.

The Dream of UnificationFrom Beijing’s official press release, “One World, One Dream” is “simple in expressions, but profound in meaning. It is of China, and also of the world. It conveys the lofty ideal of the people in Beijing as well as in China to share the global community and civilization and to create a bright future hand in hand with the people from the rest of the world. It expresses the firm belief of a great nation, with a long history of 5,000 years and on its way towards modernization, that is committed to peaceful development, harmonious society and people’s happiness. It voices the aspirations of 1.3 billion Chinese people to contribute to the establishment of a peaceful and bright world.”

Obviously, “One Dream” is speaking of an ideal that its creators believe to be obtainable, is it not?

Although 夢想 (meng xiang) and 理想 (li xiang) are both about dreams, the first is more romantic than the second.

Breaking it down, the word 夢想 (meng xiang) is literally 夢 (dream) 想 (think) whereas 理想 (li xiang) is 理 (reason or logic) 想 (think).

Using 夢想 (meng xiang) implies impossible things or things that are not likely to happen. Although it is true that in reality few expect “One World, One Dream” to really happen.

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