Your Beijing Street Signs, Explained

Thanks to all who wrote in with guesses about the meaning of this not-entirely-obvious "thou shalt not" sign in Beijing's Ritan Park:

Thumbnail image for IMG_3006.JPG

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for CarBomb.jpgAnd this smaller oddball one, from the Central Business District:

After the jump, another Beijing sign that should make the meaning of the first one immediately clear. For now, congratulations to Alex Woods, who was first with the right answer; and to Osama Abbas Khan, who was about two minutes later.

Some other worthy guesses:

I'm guessing the first one is something like, "Don't harm the trees."
 
The best guess within our office on the second one is "No al-Qaeda bombings in this block." If it was in London, it might translate as "No al-Qaeda bombings in this block.  We apologise for any inconvenience."
 __
"No Fishboning Permitted!!!"
__
"Don't pull the martial arts weapons off the pine trees"
__
The sign must mean: "Don't step on the fishbones lying on the ground, because it will make a funny noise."
__
My guess - "cutting down trees and/or removing tree branches is prohibited."
__
Beware of falling Douglas fir twigs?
__
For the second one: "Low Clearance Ahead - Do Not Proceed with Peacock Displaying on Roof."

[From another reader: "As for the car bomb graphic, it might also be admonishing drivers not to allow a peacock to escape via the sunroof!"
__
No chickens allowed in redwoods
__
No Rapture?
__
Don't spit your bones on the floor
__
I've been to Beijing (perhaps even to this park?) but I can't say I've ever seen that sign before.  To me it looks like a pine branch and suggests "don't muck up the pine trees" but that would be a bit weird.  So I'm going to guess it means something more like "Don't walk on the grass / stay on the path".  That would make sense given that it's a park and there are times that sections might need to be re-seeded and there definitely is an element of "don't trample" in that sign.

So that's my guess, from a confused White guy.
__
What is "No collecting firewood", Alex?
__
It obviously means, "Don't catch yourself in your zipper."

And that's good advice in any language!
__
Don't bury fishbones in the park.
__
So I'm dying to know what the sign meant. My guess was don't climb the trees.
__
No firewood collection. Or no breaking limbs from trees for firewood.
__
It means "Do not jostle the pine branches." Not knowing any better, I actually did this as a visitor last year at Mt. Huangshan because the wafts of pine pollen are much too mesmerizing and was warned by a security-person to stop.
__
My guess: Don't leave fish bones lying around after picnicking on fish.

Do I win a free subscription?

No, but you have my gratitude for a good effort. Answers after the jump.

This more explicit warning sign, also from Beijing last week, should make the other one's meaning clear.

Thumbnail image for Firecracker2.jpg

Yes, it's "no firecrackers" -- the mysterious stylized illustration on the previous sign depicts a string of a hundred of so firecrackers beginning to go off. The importance of this message will be obvious to anyone who has lived through the deafening days-long detonations during Spring Festival, aka Chinese New Year. In addition to the two winners, congrats to others who came up with the correct answer, including: Harvey Handley, James Dyett, Kim-Son H. Nguyen [who admits a special advantage in growing up in Vietnam playing with firecrackers], Brian Glucroft, Justin Gareau, Holly Smith, Stephan Faris, Matthew Cawood, Jay Wasserman, Terri Tyminski, Tad Fallows, and others I may have forgotten.

As for the second photo, which I thought meant "no car bombers," a gloss by Brian Glucroft:

>>"No sirens"?  Both in terms of light and noise.

Or maybe maybe no loudspeaker announcements, such as for those vehicles that go around blaring advertisements.  Maybe it's a noise sensitive region....

Or maybe it is "no giant sponge monsters on top of car"! (instead of the black being the "figure", use the orange)

Finally, the figure is on top of the slash, not behind it.  Does that you can do it (whatever it is)?

Anyways, I agree.  Very nice sky for Beijing.<<
And, from a reader in Seattle:
>>My wife (from China) says the second one means "no transporting loads on top of cars."  (btw, she knew no firecrackers instantly). <<
And, from someone in China:
>>Having lived in China for a bit, it didn't take too long for me to figure out the "no
firecrackers" sign.

As for the second sign, I have seen it many times before and never figured it out. But the firecracker sign gave me an idea: could it mean "no setting off fireworks on top of your car?" I have seen people in a Chinese wedding motorcade dropping fireworks onto the road, so perhaps in the past they affixed them to the roof of the car.<<
Thanks to all.
Presented by

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

Video

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in Global

From This Author

Just In