Teacher Deng: An Introduction

大家好, (Hi, everyone!)

This is the official website of Teacher Deng Tutors. My name is Cody Dickerson, but my students know me as “邓老师” (Teacher Deng). I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Chinese at the University of Pittsburgh, and have studied Mandarin Chinese for four years and counting. I lived and studied in Beijing for one year, and my experiences there have inspired me to teach Chinese and share what I have learned about China and Chinese culture.

I do two main things with this website. First, I regularly share my thoughts on China and learning Chinese, as well as post occasional samples of translations that I am working on. These can be found by scrolling down from here and reading my blog posts. Second, I run and operate my online tutoring business, Teacher Deng Tutors. If you are interested in what kind of tutoring I offer or in setting up lessons, please select the “Tutoring” tab at the top of the page.

A quick guide to the tags on my blogposts: I tag pretty randomly and avidly so that things show up in searches.  However, I do use a few key tags pretty systematically.  “Sample” takes you to posts that are translation samples and show off my work, and when I tag things as a “sample” I generally include another tag for the genre, i.e. poetry, book, article, news, etc.  “housekeeping” takes you to posts about general blog upkeep (hellos, goodbyes, plans for when I’ll post, etc.), “recording” takes you to posts that include audio recordings for lessons/pronunciation, and “photo” takes you to all of my posts with photos I took while in China.  These may overlap a little bit but they’re probably the best say to navigate the site.

Thank you for your interest! I hope to be seeing more of you!

谢谢,Thank you,
邓老师, Cody Dickerson


Selection from Chapter 2 of “A Madman’s Diary”

Lu Xun (鲁迅) is essentially the face of modern Chinese literature – he published many works between 1918, when A Madman’s Diary (狂人日记)was first published, and his death in 1936.  He is known for, first, his attempts to bring more of the spoken Chinese into literature (which up until that point had largely been reserved for Classical Chinese), and second, his strong polemics against traditional Chinese culture and his desires for post-Qing dynasty China to modernize.  Anyways, without further ado:





I couldn’t be afraid, and continued down my path.  There was a group of children before me that were there discussing me; their eyes were just like Zhao Guiweng’s and their faces were all ashen.  I thought, how do I have so much enmity with them that they act this way.  Unable to control myself, I shouted, “Tell me!” and they ran away.

I thought: how do I have so much enmity with Zhao Guiweng, so much enmity with the people on the street; it can only be that, twenty years ago, I stepped on the old ledgers of Mr. Gujiu,* really upsetting him.  Although Zhao Guiweng didn’t know Mr. Gujiu, he must have heard of the affair, and was getting retribution for him; he must have colluded with the people on the road to turn them against me.  But what about the children?  At that time they hadn’t yet been born, so why were they staring at me so weirdly today, as if they were afraid of me, as if they wanted to hurt me, surprising and saddening me.  I understand.  This was taught to them by their parents!

*Gujiu (古久), in Chinese, is “ancient and old”


I have a love-hate relationship with Lu Xun.  His writing and his life are both very interesting – he went to medical school in Japan before returning to China to become a writer, and his writing is entirely shaped by his belief that writing, that new and modern ideas, was the cure to treat China’s ills.  “A Madman’s Diary” does interesting things that pull from Lu Xun’s very educated background, taking cues from Gogol’s “Diary of a Madman” and using “madness” to give the main character “clarity.”  That is, only by being mad can he see all of the ills of society, which otherwise are thoroughly socialized into us and therefore normal.  He does this well and in what I think is an interesting way to create a story.  On the other hand – “stepping on the old ledgers of Mr. Gujiu,” that is, of “Mr. Ancient and Old Times,” is an appallingly simple allusion.  In this passage, the Madman is concerned with having offended the ancient ways and traditional thought, and thinks people hate him for having offended them.  His wondering about the children is Lu Xun’s pretty obvious wondering: how is such a negative system constantly produced and reproduced?  Oh, because we learn it from our parents.  Lu Xun is fantastically important and I enjoy his writing, besides, the juxtaposition of Classical and Modern Chinese creates a very fun and challenging read, yet, the very clear and blunt nature of his polemics has always left me wanting.

Anyways, if you’re interested in the collection of his that I’m reading (which includes an (alright) English translation!), you can scope it on Amazon here.  For those not up to date on your Chinese history, his writing is a fantastic and fascinating look into  early “Republican China,” the space between the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 and the formation of the People’s Republic in 1949.  And if you do know Chinese or have studied China, your bookshelf honestly isn’t complete without a few of his works, so get on that.

Getting Back to Blogging

I’m baaaaaaaaaack!

Hey all!  I’ve been out for a little while, but am getting back into the game once again.  Be sure to check out my old content – there’s lots of it, and don’t forget to scope the tutoring page if you are interested in Chinese lessons, in person (for you Pittsburghers out there) or on Skype.  There are a few projects and things that I’m going to be posting about, so be sure to come back and see what I have in store!  


Vairocana Buddha


“Now, I, Vairocana Buddha am sitting atop a lotus pedestal; On a thousand flowers surrounding me are a thousand Sakyamuni Buddhas. Each flower supports a hundred million worlds; in each world a Sakyamuni Buddha appears. All are seated beneath a Bodhi-tree, all simultaneously attain Buddhahood. All these innumerable Buddhas have Vairocana as their original body.” ~The Brahma Net Sutra

A statue of the Vairocana Buddha atop Jing Shan (immediately behind the Forbidden City), Beijing, China.

If you are interested in learning Chinese, please visit my tutoring page to see about setting up lessons!

Chinese News 1

So, over the past week I’ve been using the Twitters and stuff, favoriting all of the news that caught my eyes or that I thought would be worthy of sharing. So here it is!

Will You Still Love me Tomorrow?

The Wall Street Journal’s Life & Style section tells us about Arvin Chen’s new movie. I am, generally, an appreciator of Chinese cinema, and so seeing a good review of it makes me happy for two reasons: it means someone’s paying attention to and enjoying and telling other people to watch Chinese cinema, and it means that the film is *probably* *hopefully* an example of good Chinese cinema, because bad stuff certainly also abounds. Anyways, WSJ treats the subject matter (coming out of the closet as a married man and, sort of, coming of age) pretty well and very readily puts it in the same camp as Ang Lee (李安) and his Wedding Banquet (喜宴), also about dealing with homosexuality and marriage, and Brokeback Mountain. Which seems like a lot to live up to but also means the movie should be pretty good if it lives up to the comparison. What I’m saying is that I’m excited.

First Lady Peng Liyuan

This is an interesting piece about the evolving role of China’s first lady. I think the Christian Science Monitor gets a little ahead of itself with speculation already voiced by several other news outlets, but it’s an interesting article, hopefully especially for people that don’t know a lot about China but are kind of interested. America’s First Lady has such a big public outreach role, and I think it’s fun and fitting to learn about China and China’s government through changing first ladies. Peng Liyuan, wife of new president Xi Jingping (习近平), appears to be setting herself up to be way more public than any of her predecessors, and CSM makes it seem like she’s going to be bringing the newfound visibility of her position to issues like HIV/AIDS and China’s relationship with the World Health Organization.

Chinese Students Struggle for Returns on Education in U.S.
(you need to log-in/potentially have a prescription to view the Chinese version of the article)

More from the WSJ. I include this article about Chinese students struggling abroad because it’s a two way street and includes a good deal of warning/advice for Americans that may be heading abroad anywhere. The article discusses the high price for Chinese students of attending American universities, compared to the not so remarkable advantages, especially if you’re going to take it back for a pretty normal job in China. It turns out that it comes down to your interactions, your connections, and all the things you do outside of class that get you used to American life, that actually prove valuable for the good jobs at home in China or abroad. My advice for American students: your situation is exactly the same, never leaving your dorm while abroad does not a good-for-your-future (-or-anything-else) study abroad experience make.

Why Non-Chinese Make Good Chinese Teachers

This article is not really *news* but came out last week from the good people over at Laowai Chinese (老外中文). I post it relatively selfishly as it’s about the advantages/disadvantages of having Non-Chinese speakers like me teaching and tutoring Chinese. He articulates both sides well and leaves me feeling that, especially on the American side of the ocean, the advantages of a Non-Chinese speaker as a teacher can be pretty strong, especially if (like me) you know the disadvantages and do your best to get around them.