Joel of Danwei has posted about an interesting calligraphy scroll presented to Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau.
The characters read “You Are No. 1!”
That’s not a translation: the Cantonese pronunciation of the characters 腰呀冧吧温! (”yiu a nam ba wan!”) approximates the English sentence.
I just love stuff like this.
Read in Mandarin this is just gibberish, especially the character 冧.
Read the whole post for details.
The technique also recalls the cover of Visible Speech, by John DeFrancis, which renders part of the Gettysburg Address phonetically in various scripts, some more closely than others (see the bottom line for Chinese characters with Mandarin pronunciations):
source: If you can read this, you’re Number One!, Danwei, December 6, 2007