The Wenyan-lang Hello World program reads like this:


Even those of us who don't understand the characters can likely recognize it as a form of Natural Language Programming—a programming language whose code mimics prose—in its wordiness and its structure as sentences. In fact, Wenyan is built on its namesake, Classical Chinese (or Wényán), the written form of Chinese used from the 5th century BCE to the early 20th century. Because Wenyan-lang's inventive feature occurs in the nuance and humor of its multicoding between Classical Chinese and code, as a non-reader, I am exploring this language through the insights of others. Yidi Tsao, a Berlin-based artist, curator and writer, explains that the text the Hello World actually prints (you can see it between the quotes 「「 and 」」) translates not to "Hello, World!" but closer to "Greetings to Heaven and Earth."

The humor and poetry in its engagement with Wényán become more clear in longer examples. In the 99 Bottles program below (translated and notated by Tsao), beer is replaced with the more era-appropriate wine:

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This entry originally appeared at esoteric.codes/blog/wenyan-lang, and may be a summary or abridged version.