Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Spreading around China’s cyberspace, namely through QQ and Baidu is the following post. I especially enjoy #2

The Most Interesting Ten Types of People in China

1. The most anxious Chinese is the wife of a corrupt government official. She dare not overspend, for she’s afraid to show her wealth. She’s anxious that superiors, especially those from Discipline Inspection Bureau and Procuratorate, might come talk to her husband. If her husband doesn’t return home for several days, she goes crazy. Her dream is to go somewhere unknown with all the money, and start everything from scratch.

2. The most stupid Chinese is the soccer fan. Chinese soccer fans are so stupid that if you sympathize with them, you turn into a fool too. They’ve spent their money, cried their tears and wasted their time. But the Chinese soccer team still has made zero progress over the past 20 years.

3. The richest Chinese are children. It’s hard to believe that children are the wealthiest in China. From the perspective of their parents, easily spending ten RMB is like a crime. But if you put ten RMB before a child, he would dismiss it.



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Mooncakes and Lost Weekends

Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations have begun in China. Practically, from my standpoint, this means 2 notable things: I will eat a LOT of Mooncake and I will work on weekends to make up for “lost” holiday time.

Originally used to celebrate the Moon Goddess of Immortality, the Mid-Autumn “Mooncake,” is now more glorified for its role in the overthrow of the Yuan Dynasty (TMongol Dynasty) by the Ming Dynasty in the 1400s.

The Han people of that time resented the Mongol rule of the Yuan Dynasty and revolutionaries, led by Chu Yuan-chang, plotted to usurp the throne. Chu needed to find a way of uniting the people to revolt on the same day without letting the Mongol rulers learn of the plan. Chu’s close advisor, Liu Po-wen, finally came up with a brilliant idea. A rumor was spread that a plague was ravaging the land and that only by eating a special mooncake distributed by the revolutionaries could the disaster be prevented. The mooncakes were then distributed only to the Han people, who found, upon cutting the cakes open, the message “Revolt on the fifteenth of the eighth moon.” Thus informed, the people rose together on the designated day to overthrow the Yuan, and since that time mooncakes have become an integral part of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

The Mid-Autumn holiday is celebrated with the typical holiday activities of eating, resting, traveling and according to my coworker “getting plastic surgery.”


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A Flying Pigeon

As a means of avoiding the hectic Beijing traffic, I recently purchased a bicycle. Branded the “Flying Pigeon,” my bicycle is an iconic Chinese 1-speeder designed entirely for utility rather than leisure or sport. The bicycle has a clunky all-steel frame with a rear rack, a newly installed front basket, a rusty side stand and a built-in lock for easy parking.

China has nothing short of a love affair with bicycles. They are cheap, convenient and easily maintained by the plethora of street repairmen scattered across major cities. Many of the roads in Beijing are designed with four carriageways including one in each direction specifically for vehicles with “less-than-four” wheels – though realistically you see people biking anywhere there is flat ground. Parking for bicycles is generally free, and crosswalk signs often display the silhouette of a bicycle rather than that of a person. The government estimates that a half-billion bikes are in use throughout China, and that production in China captures 2/3 of the global market share.

Getting my Bike Fixed Up

Biking around on a Flying Pigeon supposedly is like driving around a Ford Model T. The patriarch of all Chinese bikes, the Flying Pigeon is a bicycle brand that dates back to the rise of Chinese Communist Party power in the 1940s. Chinese history likes to say that the Flying Pigeon was at one point, the single most popular mechanized vehicle on the planet and that Deng Xiaoping, the post-Mao Zedong leader responsible for China’s free market economic reforms, defined prosperity as “a Flying Pigeon in every household.”

In recent years, the increasing number of wealthy individuals in China has prompted many traditional cyclists to upgrade to electric scooters, motorbikes or even passenger cars. But for the time being, the bicycle continues to be the king of the road, and the Flying Pigeon will always be remembered as its original flag bearer. I’ve seen at least a few locals cast a curious glance or flash a grin at the sight of my bike as if nostalgically reminded of decades past. Despite the rapid evolution of China’s culture and economy, the antiquated but effective design of this road warrior has helped it withstand the test of time and indeed has even been officially recognized as a “national key trademark brand under protection,” enshrining the brand forever into Chinese history.

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Chinese Food is Cheap

Chinese food might be the most universally affordable food. My dinner this evening consisted of 10 dumplings, 10 small baozi (bun filled with meats and vegetables), wonton soup and a tea for a total of 10 RMB or approximately $1.50 USD. Even 10 RMB is relatively affordable by average Chinese standards, and certainly by most Western standards. Based on what I’ve seen from my co-workers and other locals, it appears that the average middle class Chinese does not hesitate to eat out on a daily basis. In fact, some have readily admitted to me that they don’t cook at home because freshly made supermarket, cafeteria, restaurant, or night market / street food is just as cheap and often times, better tasting. I’ve also been told that I should be able to eat a full meal for much less than 10 RMB, meaning either I eat too much  or I’m not “local” enough to find the real bargains…both very plausible theories.

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The Great Firewall

a.k.a “Internet Censorship”

I won’t go too in-depth on this topic for obvious reasons, but nevertheless I think it’s worth pointing out how much this has changed my day-to-day life. Internet censorship in China applies across all different kinds of websites including search engines, news and media sites, social networking platforms and blogs, and pretty much all open-source technology. This is but one example of the Chinese government’s more “hands-on” approach to information and content distribution. Here’s a list of notable websites that are either completely blocked or are partially blocked (these tend to change day-to-day). Not until I arrived in China, did I actually realize how often I had been frequenting some of these sites.

  • Facebook
  • Wikipedia
  • YouTube
  • Picasa
  • Blogspot
  • Webshots
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter
  • Previously Blocked: New York Times, Huffington Post, MySpace, Flickr, Google, Yahoo, Hotmail.

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