All 21 entries tagged China

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August 08, 2008

And so the Olympics

And what sporting event would be complete without terrible bbc jokes and puns?

So far the worst:

‘a countdown Carol Vorderman would be proud of..’ – particularly terrible because she was recently effectively sacked.

‘Not so much House of Flying Daggers as House of Falling Stars.’ – terrible

Meanwhile the fireworks and drumshow were great.

Edit And sports presenters should probably shy away from broad cultural and historical statements – Zheng He is not Zhang Yi


January 15, 2008

It's The Daily Mail again: This time 'I have big problems with [Chinese] culture.'

Writing about web page http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=506153&in_page_id=1811

I have big problems with animal cruelty. Torturing animals for any reason is morally reprehensible. I do not (generally) consider the use of animals for medicinal (testing) purposes, food, pets and agriculture a form of torture/cruelty. Bear baiting, cock fighting, the conditions in battery farms, cows hooked up to milking machines: all disgusting.

When it comes to the eating of animals, I don't eat seafood, pig flesh or anything that is carnivorous/omnivorous. I find it hypocritical that people who love nothing more than chomping on their bacon, sausages and blutwurst will cringe at the idea of eating dog meat. Rare steaks dripping with blood and finding tiger penis soup gross? Very odd. 

How about the keeping of animals in captivity? I don't generally have a problem so long as they are looked after. Domestic pets are fine (and yes, animals are abused, as are children), although I have a problem with the caging of birds. Zoos are a necessary evil in that they are often of limited space (see the Gorillas in London zoo, or bent-fin Killer Whales in any aquarium) but they preserve rare species or species on the brink of extinction.

What has all this got to do with The Daily Mail and "Chinese Culture"? 

Well I came across this recent article on a random Google search and I gave it a read. Some choice tidbits:

"It's almost a form of child abuse," says Carol McKenna of the OneVoice animal welfare group. "The cruelty of Chinese zoos is disgusting, but think of the impact on the children watching it. What kind of future is there for China if its children think this kind of cruelty is normal?

"Zoos like this make me want to boycott everything Chinese," says Emma Milne, star of the BBC's Vets In Practice.

"I'd like to rip out everything in my house that's made in China. I have big problems with their culture."

"Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by their behaviour towards animals, as the value of human life is so low in China."

I think Emma Milne is bordering on racist there. "I have big problems with their culture... the value of human life is so low in China". Disgusting. Perhaps we should boycott her? 

The Chinese do have some serious problems with animal cruelty. Zoos and supermarkets alike. I've seen videos of monkeys beaten by street performers, images of tigers having had their teeth shaved to the point of exposure of the roots and I've personally witnessed crabs, lobsters and fish kept in distressing conditions in run-of-the-mill Beijing supermarkets.       

Does this provide a stunning indictment of "Chinese culture"? I don't think so. You will find such cruelty in any developing country, especially one so difficult to regulate (through geographical and population size). Moreover, even in "developed nations", animal cruelty is common. I previously mentioned battery farms: if you've seen the pictures and videos they are vomit-worthy. Cows screaming with milk-swollen udders waiting for the machines to kick in;  chickens dragged through electric baths, cows still alive because the bolt hasn't killed them first time around; animal culls; cosmetic testing (and let's not pretend that's not cruel); the list goes on and on.

Let's get back to Emma Milne. Here's a BBC article in which she's quote with regards to her views on dog-breeding:

Emma Milne, from BBC One's Vets In Practice, described the dogs as "mutated freaks". She claims inbreeding to produce show dogs has led to damaging genetic weaknesses.

"Modern bulldogs can't run, they can't breathe, they can't give birth," she tells the Real Story programme.

"They have enormous problems with too much soft tissue in their mouth and it adds up to a dog that is struggling for air all its life."

The breed, once pitted against bulls in fighting rings, is now a regular at competitions where champion bulldogs are worth up to £50,000.

Males and females with the flattest faces, biggest shoulders and smallest hips are mated to produce the purest possible offspring.

I agree. This sort of dog-breeding is disgusting. The animals are, as she says, essentially "mutated freaks" and it is cruel to breed them in this fashion to win dog shows so that rich housewives (and househusbands) can show their wealth and cruelty to the world. I don't see the same sort of criticism of "British culture" though. Perhaps it's not so obviously cruel? Watching a tiger kill a chicken is nasty and inhumane. But keeping a little dog as a fashion accessory..? 

How about the "child abuse" with some children witnessing animals feeding on chickens? It may be terrible and it may verge on abuse. I saw Jurassic Park when I was about nine or ten and I remember seeing a T-Rex (which I found quite realistic at the time) eating a chained-up goat. Veliciraptors  tearing apart  a live cow (off-screen). Not a great example? Seeing a realistic polar bear swipe off the jaw of another polar bear (in the rubbish Golden Compass)? Perhaps seeing what appears to be a lion killing and eating a deer (in I am legend)? Or the strangling of one's own dog (again I am legend). What about the brutal stabbing of a tiger depicted in Gladiator (not to mention the number of grisly deaths)? Will this have less of an impact on a child than seeing a tiger killing and eating?

There's much to fix in China. There's also much to fix over here. There's no use climbing on your high-horse because people here don't like to witness what goes on in an abbatoir while they're busy using their lipstick (that may well have been tested by rubbing it over a monkey/ape's eye) and carrying fashion-accessory pets. 


February 08, 2007

What I'll probably miss most about Beijing: Cheap Taxis

BJ CabI've spent a lengthy period in China now. It's been 7 months now and I'll be heading back home (for a while) towards the end of the eighth month. In fact, I've spent about a year and a half of the past 5 years in China. I've come to think about it as a second home.

And what will I miss most? The cuisine? The 名胜古迹? The people?

No, I will most miss taxis. Call it an indulgence, but taxis are cheap. Public transportation is cheaper by far, of course. In fact they've just reduced the cost of  a standard bus ride on the 东三环 (Third ring road) to less than half a 元 (which is the equivalent to about 3p). You could travel all the way around the road for three pence, a journey of about an hour without traffic. The taxi will cost substantially more. Taxis in Beijing have a standard fare of 10 元 (about 66p) compared with the GBP2.60 as soon as you step into a British cab. 

I used a taxi today for about 2 hours, including 10 minutes waiting time, for a grand total of 170 yuan (including tip): about GBP 11.50. That's less than the cost of taking a cab from Warwick to Coventry City Centre and back. In fact that cab ride would probably cost you about GBP15.00.

Ai, back to the good ol' London Undergroun.


February 04, 2007

My favourite new toy…

I was sitting in Starbucks the other day in Jianwai dajie, when a horde of loud-but-friendly AmericanIt gives me tea. Without leaves clogging up my mouth. Therefore it is good. tourists entered (mostly some very nice and retired old Jewish ladies from Miami and some much younger and quieter but just as friendly southern African-Americans). The staff were having some problems communicating effectively with a couple of the old girls who were looking at the various mugs, beakers and other trinkets. So while I was up getting some tissues, one of the waiters asked for my help in translating 半价 (half-price).

So I very helpfully pointed at the sign which said both 半价 and 50% off in English and told the waiter that the sign had the English translation and then told the ladies what the waiter was trying to say. After the had finished pointing and asking whether certain items were included in the offer, I thought I might as well pick up a half-priced teapot. At about GBP4.50, it was expensive by Chinese standards but it looked nice, simple and sturdy and so I picked it up at a whim. 

Now I can make tea effortlessly and with little cleanup. I never really used to drink tea when I was younger, save the odd cup loaded with milk and sugar and, of course, a rich tea biscuit with half of it ending up at the bottom of the cup.  Having given up Diet Coke for a certain someone special, I drifted more and more towards tea and I find myself enjoying it without sugar, without milk, just black and strong, brewed from Earl Grey leaves. Delicious. 

I'm going to start sampling more Chinese teas now that my taste is a bit more open to different flavours. I've always been a fan of 乌龙茶 and 龙井茶 but now I want to move on to some of the different flavours and mixtures.  


January 31, 2007

That has to be more than seven years of bad luck…

Writing about web page http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007\01\27\story_27-1-2007_pg9_12

A 2,500-year-old mirror worth £500,000 was dropped and smashed on a Chinese TV show. A model was showing the ancient mirror to the audience when it slipped from her hands and fell to the floor. It shattered into pieces, shocking the audience - especially owner Chen Fengjiu who was sitting in the front row.

Ouch. That mirror managed to survive not only the Warring States Period  (战国时代), but also countless other wars. It predates even the first unification of China. 

And it's destroyed by a hapless model. Oh dear.

Whoops

Someone's not keeping her job

<
>Image Source: Pakistan Daily Times >

January 27, 2007

Anti–Communist Propaganda in China

As you all should know, the Chinese currency is the RMB (人民币 Renminbi or People's Currency) and its basic denomination is the yuan. The most popular note, I imagine, is the 1 yuan note whose basic value is about 1/15 of a pound.  These notes exchange hands all the time: in taxis, restaurants, street markets, vendors etc. etc.

So I was quite surprised when I came upon this in Changsha, Hunan:

Note1

As you can see, the note looks fairly crisp despite the dog-ears (I think the 1999 marks the year the type of note was introduced into circulatin, rather than the note itself). 

But there's something unusual about the note. If you look closely at the bottom line, there's a row of Chinese characters stamped on:

Note2

The message reads "退党,退团,退队,三退保平安". I think this is adequately translated as: "Quit the Party, Quit the League, Quite the Youth (Movement), the three (renouncements) ensure safety."

It therefore delivers what could be interpreted as an ominous message to those within the party tiers at both the very young, youth and adult levels.  It's clearly just a simple stamp and it's very easy to distribute. It might not be effective, but the message is reminiscent of the old Communist (and anti-Communist) slogans. If it's carefully used, then it's practically untraceable and could cause quite a nuisance for authorities and for anyone actually caught with the note. 

One of my friends guessed it might be the Falungong (Cult) movement. It could be a variety of other movements ranging from Taiwanese looking to stir up trouble to seperatists in XiZang (Tibet) and XinJiang. 

Anyhow, it was very interesting to see from a historical perspective and one wonders if these folk might use such stamps in English to spread their anti-Government propaganda to those who are coming to China for Beijing 2008. 


January 23, 2007

Surprisingly Delicious

Goose Leg

This was the first course in a fancy restaurant in Changsha, Hunan (China). Goose Leg with Mushroom in a tomato sauce.  I was a bit apprehensive at first, but I'm always willing to try new things (so long as it doesn't contain pork/carnivorous animals). It was delicious. The meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender and I even munched down the webbing. The mushroom was soft, smokey and mouth-watering. A great dish. And I'd definately try that kind of goose leg again.

Yum. Yum. Yum.  


Chinese Idiom of the Day #7: 井底之蛙

井底之蛙 - Jing Di Zhi Wa 

Literal Meaning - Well-bottom's Frog (Frog at the bottom of the well)

Figurative Meaning - A Person with a very limited outlook

Story Behind the idiom:

A frog once lived in an abandoned well along the East Sea. Once, the frog saw a turtle at the edge of the well, and it boasted to the turtle "I can jump around in the mud and swim in the water. What a carefree life! Come down here and join me in my paradise!"

The turtle wanted to go into the well, but it was too big for the well-opening. Then it told the frog, "I live in the ocean which is so wide that you cannot tell the sky from the sea, and it is so deep that you cannot see its bottom. Even if there was a flood lasting several years, the water level would not rise. If it did not rain for years, the ocean would not become shallow. Only when you live in such an ocean can you truly enjoy a carefree life!" The frog was stunned.  


January 22, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #6 : 临渴掘井

临渴掘井 - Lin Ke Jue Jing

Literal Meaning - Reach Thirst Dig Well

Figurative Meaning - Leaving things to the last minute

Story behind idiom:

In the Spring and Autumn Period, Duke Zhao of the State of Lu fled to the State of Qi, following palace turmoil. He admitted his mistakes to Duke Jing of Qi. Duke Jing advised him to go back to Lu, as he might become a wise ruler, since he recognised his faults. But Yanzi, an official of Qi, said, "It is too late to make weapons when one is endangered, and to dig a well when one needs water desperately."

This idiom warns against not being prepared, but seeking help at the last moment.  


January 21, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #5 : 盲人摸象

盲人摸象 - Mang Ren Mo Xiang

Literal Meaning - Blind Men Touch Elephant

Figurative Meaning - Take a part for the whole

A group of blind men gathered around an elephant, trying to find out what the creature looked like. One of them happened to touch one of the tusks, and said: "An elephant is just like a turnip." Another touched one of the elephant's ears, and said, "It is like a big fan." One put his arms around one of the beast's legs, and said: "It is like a column." One who happened to place his hands on the body of the elephant said, "It is like a wall." But the one who got hold of the tail said, "It is like a snake." They then fell to arguing with each other.

This idiom is used to satirize those who know only a part of a thing and not the entirety or essence.  


January 20, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #4 : 手不释卷

手不释卷 - Shou Bu Shi Juan

Literal Meaning -  Hand Not Release Book

Figurative Meaning - Diligent in Study

Western Equivalent - Bookworm, Always with a book in hand

Story Behind Idiom:

Lv Meng was a meritorious general of the State of Wu during the Three Kingdoms Period. He came from a poor family and had not had the chance to go to school when he was young. When he became a general, the duke of Wu encouraged him to read some books. Lv Meng took his advice, and started to study hard. Even when he was marching or fighting, he would find time to study. There was always a book in his hand. Finally, Lv Meng became a learned general.

(nb Lv is a pinyin representation of an L followed by a short and sharp Oo sound. So it would sound a bit like Lew or Lieu)


January 19, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #3 : 指鹿为马

指鹿为马 - Zhi Lu Wei Ma

Literal Meaning - Point (at) Deer as horse.

Figurative Meaning - Calling a stag a horse

Western Equivalent - Calling black white.  

Story behind idiom:

In the Qin Dynasty, the prime minister, Zhao Gao, plotted to usurp the throne. Fearing that the other ministers would oppose this, he though of a way of testing them. He presented a deer to the emperor, and said, "This is a horse." The emperor laughed and said, "You must be joking; this is a deer." Then Zhao Gao asked the ministers present. Some kept silent, some said that it was a deer, and others agreed that it was a horse.

Later Zhao Gao had all the ministers who had not said that it was a horse killed.

This metaphor describes distorting facts by calling white black. 


January 17, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #2 : 对牛弹琴

对牛弹琴 - Dui Niu Tan Qin

Literal Meaning - Face cow, play (stringed) instrument.

Figurative meaning - Reasoning with Stubborn people or talking to the wrong audience

 Western Equivalent - Presenting a pearl before a swine.

 

 Story behind idiom:

 In ancient times there was a man who played the zither very well. Once, he played a tune in front of a cow, hoping that the cow would appreciate it. The tune was melodious, but the cow showed no reaction, and just kept on eating grass. The man sighed, and went away. 


January 16, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #1 : 三人成虎

三人成虎 - San Ren Cheng Hu

 Literal Meaning : Three people become a tiger

 Figurative Meaning: If you repeat a lie often enough, it will be believed

 

Story behind the idiom:

In the Warring States Period, Pang Cong, a minister of the State of Wei, said to the ruler of Wei: 

"Someone said that there are tigers in the streets. Do you believe it?"

"No, I don't believe it." His master replied.

Later on Pang Cong said:

"Now two people have said that there are tigers in the streets. Do you believe it?" 

The Ruler showed some doubt. Later still Pang Cong said:

"Now three people have said the same thing. Do you believe it?"

The Ruler said "Yes I do." Pang Cong continued, "There are no tigers in the streets at all. Yet if three people say the same thing, you believe it! We must be alert against rumours gaining credence."

 

 

 


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