For 2,000 years, Qu Yuan’s patriotic spirit has influenced many people and he remains revered by Chinese people all over the world. His spirit is certainly the driving force that makes the Duanwu Festival a great and happy time. The annual Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu), as it is known in the west is also known as the Double Fifth Festival (fifth day of the fifth moon of the lunar calendar). Over the years, the festival has been given many other names based on various local customs and celebrations. As with many Chinese traditional celebrations, there are legends behind the origins of the Dragon Boat Festival. Among the many stories of the festival, the one most deeply rooted in Chinese culture is of it being in honor of the poet and statesman Qu Yuan of the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.). This was a time when the seven largest individual states, Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei, and Qin, contended with each other for dominance.

Legend has it that Qu Yuan (circa 340 – 278 B.C.) was a wise, kind, and honest court minister who did much to eliminate the corruption rampant in the state of Chu during the Warring States period. Being an erudite man, Qu Yuan was trusted by the king of the state of Chu, which gradually became stronger with the help of Qu Yuan’s sound advice. Qu’s success, especially his ability to fight corruption, antagonized other court officials and incurred the jealousy of other ministers.  Eventually banished, then reappearing in court and long appreciated for his wisdom, he was upset at the outcome of a treaty made by the king of Chu and, in despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide in 278 B.C. by drowning himself in the Miluo River. That fateful day was the fifth day of the fifth month. 

The story goes that many fishermen tried to rescue him, but the body was never found.  The fishermen, worried that the fish would eat his body threw food into the river to feed the fish and tried to scare fish away by splashing the water with their paddles and beating the drums on the long narrow boats.  Thus, the Dragon Boat Festival.   While the festival is a celebration of the heroic suicide of this 2200 year-old scholar and poet, the contrast to modern China’s bursting technological progress is, to say the least, stark and profound.

Third Beijing International Audiology Conference

 China has the largest population of any country in the world, with just shy of 1.4 billion people, nearly 5 times that of the United States. Estimates of disabling hearing loss* (as defined by the World Health Organization) range from 30 million to 75 million individuals. Within that population, less than 2% receive hearing assistance. Surprisingly, there are very few professionally trained audiologists or hearing aid dispensers, so hearing assistance is difficult to access and prohibitively expensive for most of the population. This year, overlapping the Dragon Boat Festival,  The Third Beijing International Audiology Conference was held May 26-28, 2017 and was hosted by the Beijing Society of Audiology and attended by an estimated 1,000 professionals including audiologists and hearing aid dispensers. Over the years, nationally and internationally well-known experts have been invited this conference to share the progress and advancement in their research and work, as well as topics focusing on new technology, new products, new services, covering a wide range of hearing science, screening and diagnosis, hearing aid fitting, hearing aid verification and validation, hearing and speech-language rehabilitation etc.  Changes of significant magnitude for government deregulation and morphing of products from medical devices toward more accessible wearable communication devices received repeated emphasis were noted by US and other Western hearing throughout the conference.

Christopher Schweitzer, noted American audiologist and fellow Coloradan, delivered the keynote address, discussing changes in the U.S. regulatory landscape including PSAPs and proposals to allow OTC hearing aids and how ubiquitous mobile connection devices will push value towards processes and platforms rather than the traditional focus on physical products.  Another America audiologist at the meeting was Dr. Dan Schumaier, President of the Ear Technology Corporation.  Dr. Schumaier is the inventor of the Dry and Store device and holds a number of other technical patents, such as TransEar as well.  Dr. Schumaier introduced a technology called ClikFIT® at the conference.  He came up with the idea of Clik because of his own frustration with computer systems that seemed to crash at the most inconvenient times. While the hearing industry has shifted to digital processing for good reasons such as better sound quality and more programming options, the downside is that it has increased dependence on specialized computer hardware and software.  Other digital hearing aids require a computer and software programs to fit hearing aids and frequently involve multiple visits to the office that are both costly and time-consuming. Clik follows a different path to better hearing: all of the tools needed to customize Clik for each user are pre-loaded onto its advanced, industry-first microprocessor.

In these difficult markets where computers and high technology may not be readily available for costs, availability, knowledge of hearing and hearing devices, it is often necessary to consider other innovative applications where the sophisticated programming is not necessary.  These innovations as to platform, easy programming and other innovations will be of great assistance to those millions of hearing impaired individuals in developing countries.  The Beijing conference noted many of these innovations that are either currently or soon to be available and offered quite a fitting compliment to Qu Yuan’s festival and the ideals for which he gave his life.

 

 

 

 

 

Although most hearing impaired adults and children in the US, Europe and many other countries around the world are oral individuals obtaining great benefit from their hearing instruments for everyday communication.  There are, however, a small percentage of individuals that use sign language daily for their communicative needs.  Living within the United States it would seem that American Sign Language (ASL) is the main language of the deaf around the world.  While one of the major forms of sign language, it is by far the universal language signed in all parts of the planet.

The definition of sign language is any means of communication through bodily movements, especially of the hands and arms, used when spoken communication is impossible or not desirable. The practice of signing is probably older than speech. Sign language may be as coarsely expressed as mere grimaces, shrugs, or pointing; or it may employ a delicately nuanced combination of coded manual signals reinforced by facial expression and perhaps augmented by words spelled out in a manual alphabet. Wherever vocal communication is impossible, as between speakers of mutually unintelligible languages or when one or more would-be communicators is deaf, sign language can be used to bridge the gap.

History

One of the earliest written records of a sign language is from the fifth century BC, in Plato‘s Cratylus, where Socrates says: “If we hadn’t a voice or a tongue, and wanted to express things to one another, wouldn’t we try to make signs by moving our hands, head, and the rest of our body, just as dumb people do at present?” While Americans suggest that sign language began in the streets of Paris in the 1750s and the observations of Michel de l’Epee, there were numerous attempts, printed alphabets, and signing materials before then by Pedro Ponce de Leon (1520-1584), who is said to have developed the first manual alphabet. It was refined by Juan Pablo Bonet (1620), George Delgarmo (1680) and many others that finally by 1720 the British Manual Alphabet was pretty much in its present form. Thus, 30 years prior to the Paris discovery, there was successful manual communication.  Of course, it is also history that de L’Epee published his manual alphabet in the 18th century that has survived basically unchanged in France and North America until the present time. In 1755,  he founded the first school for deaf children in Paris; Laurent Clerc was arguably its most famous graduate. Clerc went to the United States with Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet to found the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1817.  This move popularized the use of the Paris sign language system in North America and the system brought by Laurent Clerc became the American Sign Language (ASL). 

While ASL is used in many places, it is not universal.  It is used primarily in North America, Central Africa, West Africa, Bolivia, and a few other places. Sign languages tend to be regional and very specific to certain areas.   Gallaudet University offers a full list of countries around the world and the sign language system used.  It is interesting that these languages developed side by side with the spoken language in most places but are not necessarily related to them as there are different grammatical structures.  The World Mime Organization (2017) offers the following list of the various languages and where they are signed:

References:

Whittman, H. (1991).  Classification linguistique des langues sign.  Revue qucoise de linguistique thorique et applique, 10:1, 215.

World Mime Organization (2017).  Sign Language.  Retrieved June 6, 2017.