An archive of visual dialogue.


4 tones
A vintage image
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hello again dsnlg

17 years ago, November 19, 2003

Welcome back…interesting image…what exactly does your image represent? I like it…I’m just curious.

Educate me.


Thanks… yeah, it turned out I missed this place :D, plus it’s been slowing down at work, so I need some distraction.

Well, I found out nerdartist speaks Chinese. I’ve been trying to learn Chinese also.

The crazy thing about Chinese is the tones. The same sound can be pronounced with 4 different tones, and have 4 completely different meanings. This has to be the hardest thing for an English speaker to get used to.

It’s hard to imagine without hearing it, but the graph represents the pitch of each tone. The first one is high and level. The second one starts in the middle and raises up… etc.


We missed you anethon. Welcome back.


Interesting. Thanks for the description…


having lived with a Chinese women for a few months now, I have definately got more used to these various tones. In the begining tho, it was pretty alarming. She would start screaming, and I would think something terrible had happened, when in fact it was just her tone.


I had character translations and photo information up before, but I’ll only provide it if people request it - I’d rather get an un-pre-interpreted opinion first :)

17 years ago, November 20, 2003

Lessee, I asked my wife for a translation… something like ‘fly’ , ‘company’ , ‘law’ , and ‘down’ ? Each in a different tone? I like the images, and I can see the relations to the words.

I don’t like the corners, I think you could’ve found another way to anchor those images. That’s pretty subjective, but it was my first reaction. Otherwise ‘hen hao’ :D


holy crap. I can’t believe I didn’t see it! The shapes in the pictures actually show the shape of the tone! Very clever.

I was sitting here working on my reply when that last lazy neuron fired off, and it suddenly became clear. (I’ll have my reply up in a few..

So what was the photo information?



I almost didn’t add the related words of the proper tone, and now wish I hadn’t - it takes away from the less obvious shape-in-photo part which was what I was really going for.

— Meanings of the characters:

1: fei (first tone) to fly 2: pei (second tone) to accompany 3: fa (third tone) Buddhist teaching 4: xia (fourth tone) down

Photo details (left to right, then top to bottom) 1: Hebei province, the kite was brought by a Japanese actor whose foundation helped fund student scholarships 2: Dongzhimenwai foreigner compound, one of the foreign babies with her Chinese “auntie” - these kids spoke much better Chinese than I ever will, and not much of their family’s language 3: Buddhist monastery in Beijing, I forget the name, but it’s a bike ride away from the compound 4: Public park in Beijing, featuring boats shaped with ducks



nice, so they’re all your photos? I just announced my resignation from my current job. I’m going to go back to school in the fall. But we’re planning on speniding the months till then in Taiwan and/or China. I’ll have to pick your brain about travelling/living/working over there….

17 years ago, November 26, 2003

I have a feeling this one isn’t going to help my rating, but I really like it. Next time I’ll do less Photoshop and more typography or drawing or whatever.

I’ll include the context so people can tell what is going on… First woman pictured was a coworker of mine - she had the best American English I heard over there. She was a linguist at a top university, and tutored pronunciation drills. Next man pictured was a guard for the flag lowering ceremony outside the Forbidden City. The boy was a table away from me at McDonalds (stupid roommates would drag me there all the time) who was eating his french fries dipped in his ice cream cone. The last girl is a peasant in rural China.

The bell underneath was in that same lamasery in Beijing; the interesting part is that the focus is stronger on the left, so the characters are more pronounced. (Easier to see in the original.)

Beneath that are the tone diagrams from anatheon’s last image. — Interpretive stuff: So we’ve got four people with a gradation of education. First one was in college, second an adult working, third a school boy in the capital, fourth a peasant girl who studied in a two room school house. That gradation is echoed in the focus of the bell, which shows the characters that represent literacy and education; the characters that unite them all and all Chinese regardless of their four toned Mandarin or eight toned Cantonese. The arch of the bell which crosses their eyes or foreheads is echoed with a parallel line in their pictures, the arms of the woman to the shoulders of the soldier to the nose and shoulders of the boy to the window in the girl’s picture. The men are front and center, more vibrantly colored, due to their historic cultural importance - though one of the effects of the one child policy is that girls are more valued than in ancient times; not yet equal (mothers would buy the blue diapers for boys regardless of their baby’s gender, so they stopped selling the different gendered diapers over there) but making significant progress from the days of feet binding.

17 years ago, November 27, 2003

wow - I’ll give you a 4 just for that description!

The image is completely clear to me - nice job!


Nerdartist— I think this designologue is progressing in a really interesting direction. And I really like that you are using your own photography. It is also nice to hear such a strong, well thought out concept.

My critique besides the fact that it is a little photo shoppy would be that I would like to see this strong concept expressed graphically. That is the ultimate challenge when designing. In this case I think more levels of information would probably help convey everything you are trying to say.

Right now, based solely on the visuals and without the comments you posted, your point does not come across so well. If you could convey your concept in a visual sense without the need for lengthy explanation, I think this could be a 4.


Amazing.. The concept here is so thick I can’t even see the images. I’ve given three of these four images 4s (which is a big deal for me). Keep up the great work!


I appreciate when people interested in chinese culture, and present it in an interesting way^_^


Wow - this is one stimulating designologue!


Hey, how’s the next one coming?

(Not that I’m one to talk, I’ve been holding up my other dsnlg plenty, vacation and all.)


is that a metal trash barel?


It’s a giant bell at a lamasery in Beijing.