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Beijing door

Newsletter #14 – Merry Christmas – 2013 in review


Christmas is a time of giving – but we’ve already been given a lot this year. We will take this last newsletter of 2013 as an opportunity to thank those who contributed to our efforts – and be grateful.

First, we would like to acknowledge the work of the Marco Polo Project team, more particularly that of our web development manager, Ross Ensbey. Under his leadership, we launched a new gamified version of our website with improved side-by-side translation, and shifted our hosting to the cloud. We would also like to thank Fau-Zii Chan and Serge Soudoplatoff for donating space on their servers, and significantly reducing our operating costs as a result. Let’s not forget the generosity of our graphic designers – particularly George Galanis who redesigned our website, and Glenn Stephenson who created an amazing infographics and RSAnimate to present our project.

Our editorial line has grown through the work of our interns Sarah and Mansi. We added an ‘easy read’ column to our front page, while continuing to source diverse, high quality non-fiction from the Chinese web. Writers have been remarkably supportive in granting us license to republish their texts, and we’re looking forward to working more closely with some of them in the future.

Marco Polo Project is now registered as a charity, thanks largely to the support of our legal advisors, Seeyan Lee and Jenny Wu. We received our first government grants from the Victorian Multicultural Commission and theDepartment of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Their support will allow us to run the first Australia-China Festival of Digital Literature in 2014, bringing together readers, writers and translators from both countries. This success, and the success of the coming festival, are not ours alone, but come from the support of many people and organisations who have put faith in us, particularly Yeeyan,DanweiAsialinkLanguage ConnectionBeijing BookwormThe Wheeler CentreMelbourne Writers FestivalEmerging Writers FestivalAALITRA,LCNAUFYAPozibleHub Melbourne.

Finally, we would like to thank our community. Together, we translated thousands of characters, and with each new sentence, we made the bridge between China and the Western world that little bit stronger. Our twitter following has grown to beyond 500, our facebook fans above 1500, and we’re building a Chinese-speaking community through Weibo – with plans to bring these various groups more closely together in 2014. We are also growing offline, with translation workshops and all-you-can-translate events running in Melbourne and Nanjing (largely thanks to the efforts of our interns Beate and Zhou), and hopefully soon Shanghai, Beijing and Sydney.

In short, this has been an epic year. Thank you for support, all of you – and we’ll see you for more in 2014!


Marco Polo Project translation events

The Marco Polo Project is looking for partners to organise all-you-can translate events in and outside China.

Translation events bring together native speakers of Chinese and/or English for a 2h30 translation race, followed by discussion. They’re a great opportunity to read good writing, improve language skills, and make new friends.

All-you-can-translate events are extremely cheap to run – you just need a space with good WIFI, a few computers or tablets, and a small group of people willing to spend time together reading and translating Chinese. If you’re interested in organising your own, send us an email at info@marcopoloproject.org, post a comment on this page, or contact us through facebook, twitter or weibo. We will send you a full event pack, including pdf handouts, and help you set up your first event.

The video below introduces our event – if you can’t access it, this link will take you to the youku version, accessible in China.


Newsletter 13 – November 2013 – We’re expanding in China

We’re expanding in China 

Last week, we ran our first Marco Polo translation salon in Nanjing. Twenty five translators gathered at the Banpocun Cafe on Qingdao Lu for three and a half hours of collaborative translation – together translating over 5000 characters. This event was held in collaboration with the Nanjing University Graduate Student English Club and the Australia China Youth Association. Participants were very pleased with their experience, and we’ve been invited to run future similar events by other local student clubs.

We’re also building new collaborations with Chinese web-organisations. We presented our project at the Shanghai Makers’ Carnival, and as a result, we’re now regularly working out of the Nanjing Makers’ Space. These contacts and co-working opportunities are precious for us to better understand the Chinese digital space, and better engage our multilingual online community. As a first step, we’re now active on weibo, and we’ll soon start our own weixin account. So follow us now – and join the conversation!

Multicultural Commission Grant

We’re pleased and honoured to announce that the Victorian Multicultural Commission awarded us an organisational support grant to run a series of workshops next year in Melbourne. We wish to warmly thank the Victorian government for their support, and all those who helped us along the way.

This grant not only shows recognition of the value we bring to Chinese learners and speakers, it also marks the growing importance of offline events to our overall mission. We’re currently developing a complete ‘event organisation pack’, allowing interested language organisations or language exchange groups to run their own translation events, using our website and contents as a base. If you would like to run your own Marco Polo translation marathon, or anyone around you would, please contact us at info@marcopoloproject.org

The Marco Polo Project is a living community. Without you, we do not exist. Now we need your help to grow. So that a larger audience can learn about us, please talk about the Marco Polo Project around you, send a link to your friends, or share our translations on Facebook, Twitter, Weixin or Weibo.

We are also looking for donations and sponsorships, to support further web development. If you think you can help, please contact us.

Our sources – Douban

Another regular source of articles for is is Douban.

Douban.com, launched on March 6, 2005, is a Chinese social networking website allowing registered users to create content related to cultural life in Chinese cities. Some Chinese authors and critics also register their official personal pages on the site. Douban registered users are mostly young urban Chinese people who go to the platform for ratings and reviews of books/movies or music or join movements and discussion boards, and it gives a direct insight into emerging trends in urban China.

Our sources – my1510

Readers and users often ask us where we source our texts. So we thought it was time we prepared a short series of posts about our sources.

Our first go-to website is My1510.


This online platform created by Chinese TV journalist Rose LuQiu LuWei brings together articles written by different Chinese writers and bloggers. Some of the pieces published here are shared from traditional media, while some are original blog posts; some writers are recognised intellectuals others emerging citizen bloggers. Topics range from politics, society and cultural analysis to more personal reflections on contemporary Chinese life.

The platform was developed around one core vision: to provide independent opinions and valuable information. My1510 bridges the gap between news from traditional media channels and opinions from citizen bloggers, striving to be a platform that provides valuable information for its readers.

Our first Chinese event

Last week-end, we ran our first event in China, at the Banpocun Cafe, 32 Qingdao Lu, Nanjing. This event was a partnership with the Nanjing University Graduate Students English Club and ACYA Nanjing. It brought together over 25 participants who, together, translated over 5000 characters during the evening.


Running translation events has become a growing part of our organisation’s strategy. Our website offers a base for mutual language exchange among native Mandarin learners and English learners – or allows native Chinese speakers to practice their English writing skills. These events are also the opportunity for participants to gain confidence in their own linguistic capacity, and learn to define and elaborate meaning in a collaborative fashion.


Last week, we were amazed at the speed and efficiency with which those coming formed into teams and interacted to find the best word or structure: more than translation training, these workshops build up participants’ awareness and skills in the collective negotiation of meaning.