Archive for February, 2009

It’s a cat, no wait, a rat!

February 25, 2009

So a guy named Mr Xian has captured a 6 pound rat with a 12 inch tail in the coastal city of Fuzhou. It was identified as supposedly being a Chinese bamboo rat which generally don’t get any bigger than 10 inches. Now this monster is the size of a cat! Is this just some freakish monster rat that’s been happily living off the food scraps of humans, eating so much it’s grown huge, or the product of perhaps an animal that’s been tucking into the industrial wastes of China? Thanks to the factories with no concern for the environment, we know there’s no shortage of waste!

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Until death do us part

February 23, 2009

I read with interest an article in The Age newspaper discussing the ancient Chinese tradition of marriage for the afterlife.  Marriage is such an important social ritual for the Chinese, securing the future of the family.  Even today, the hope is still to produce a son to carry on the family name.  And in a society where the elderly are a respected and nurtured part of the family, marriage means you will be taken care of into your old age, even if it means raising your grandchildren.

Throughout China, anxious parents spend their weekends at park fairs where they can submit their child’s details and search for prospective son or daughter in laws.  More and more young Chinese are putting off marriage in lieu of study, careers and world travel.  Marriage, whilst still a necessary part of life, is slowly being seen as something that can wait and more importantly, should now have an emphasis on finding your true love.

Parents matchmaking in a Beijing park

Parents matchmaking in a Beijing park

So it really came as no surprise to me to read about marriage for the afterlife.  It’s a practice that has been around for centuries, known as minghun, marrying those who died young as a way of securing a happy afterlife.  This played a particularly important role for women, for whom “an afterlife marriage is the only way to access a male bloodline, esuring descendants to care for her spirit beyond the grave.”

Sadly I see no reference to families going about this macabre practice for their deceased daughters.  It would appear only the sons are worthy of such a marriage.  Historically, women who were already engaged to a man who died prematurely were encouraged to join their husband-to-be in the grave, with many poisoning or hanging themselves.  The alternative was to live with the man’s family as their domestic slave.

This practice has recently resurfaced into modern day times, with the reporting of abductions throughout China of young women to satisfy the families of men who have died single.  These women become the corpse bride of the deceased, with families paying up to four times their annual income to secure a body.  Whilst I’m sure the actuality of this happening is very rare, it certainly highlights the complexities of Chinese society and the length that some families will go to, to not only ensure the happiness of their “little emperor” but to guarantee the future prosperity of their family and ancestors even beyond the grave.

The sky is grey.

February 18, 2009

Recently, my home state of Victoria has been beset by ferocious bushfires. Approximately 7000 people have lost their homes with a death toll of 200 and climbing. Initially our Summer was quite mild, but by the second month it had kicked into top gear. Through mid to late January and then into February we had what became one of the hottest weeks on record, with days of temperatures over 43 degrees Celsius. We actually hit the record high of something like 45.6 degrees.

Smoke from country bushfires lingers over the city of Melbourne.

Smoke from country bushfires lingers over the city of Melbourne.

This extremely hot weather combined with a lengthy period without rain became the perfect combination for an absolutely terrible bushfire. Even today, over two weeks later the smoke still lingers in the sky.

The sky in Melbourne for this past week has resembled how the sky in China looks practially every day. The horizon a constant grey haze which leads into a light blue grey sky. On the heaviest smoke day, there was no cloud definition; just like China. The biggest difference however was in China, the visibility is 100 times worse. In Melbourne, despite the haze, you can still see a very long way; in China – it gets so smoggy it’s just outright disgusting.

Smoke from factorys and man made pollutants lingers over China..permanantly.

Smoke from factorys and man made pollutants lingers over China..permanantly.

On the television.

February 16, 2009

In a few days time, it will mark the one year anniversary since the date we left for our Chinese adventure. We have been home for just over four months now and many of the memories are already fading. Still, when anything Chinese turns up in the paper, on TV or on the internet, it easily captures our attention.

Recently I had to get up abnormally early to drive into work. As I was eating breakfast I was flicking through the TV channels and came across the Chinese News. It must have been around 6:30am. It was strange yet comforting to hear the unfamiliar yet very familiar language. Whilst I can only speak a small amount of Mandarin, I find it very easy to recognize it as a language. p6140650

I found it funny that it should be on so early. While in China, I remember complaining to Courtney about how few English channel choices there were. I remember saying how it would have been awesome to even have had subtitles for the regular Chinese programming. There must have been over 30 TV channels on regular(non-cable) Chinese TV. Some of the shows looked quite interesting. Many were round the clock news, and others…well just out there. Thinking back to how weird it felt – how isolating, not to be able to understand or enjoy such a simple facet as TV – and then I remember while over there, thinking back to how many Chinese language options were on here in Australia. Other than the odd Chinese movie on SBS, a Chinese speaker could enjoy getting up at 6:30am to watch the news. Ah well, I suppose it all evens out.

So, it was crackers..oops!

February 11, 2009

Regarding Monday’s fire, where the newly built, not-yet populated, 40 story Mandarin Oriental went up in flames, Central China Television(CCTV) has reputedly apologised for causing it. Without authorisation they had hired people to set off firecrackers for the start of the new Lunar Year celebrations. The CCTV building co-incidentally, is next door. One fireman was killed in the blaze, with seven others injured.

Way to go CCTV!

Towering inferno, Beijing style

February 10, 2009

As crowds watched, the 40 story Mandarin Oriental building burnt brightly in the night like some kind of massive candle. Thankfully un-occupied, the building was scheduled to be opened late last year but was delayed…and if you were one of the ones scheduled to move in, I’d be buying  a lotto ticket right about now. The night was coincidentally Lantern festival – celebrating the new Lunar year. People were allowed to set off fireworks until midnight and well….if you’ve got em, use em! Authorities are unsure what started the blaze – which burnt from the top down, but I would bet any amount of money that someone’s stray fireworks have hit something flammable – perhaps a nice tasty unprotected gas bottle, and the rest is history.

The Mandarin Oriental lights up the Beijing skyline

The Mandarin Oriental lights up the Beijing skyline

I have witnessed firsthand the way people in China set off fireworks. They do it with little to no consideration for the surrounding area. They set them off beside busy roadways, where smoke is cloaking the traffic, and debris falls on the cars. They do them in big crowds. In China, they just don’t think of safety. Grown adults are comparable to children in a lot of cases. Excitable and unthinking. Big boom first, oh, did i just burn that down? a distant second.

I could not think of anything worse than being stuck in a towering inferno in China. The lack of safety systems also applies to things such as evacuating. If that building was occupied, man, I dont even want to think what kind of deathtrap stampede there would have been to escape.

Let there be light!

February 9, 2009

Today in China is what is known as the Lantern Festival. On the 15th day of the first Lunar month, the Lantern Festival represents the end of the Chinese New Year. Typically kids hit the street with their lanterns and in turn answer riddles hanging from others. It’s an enjoyable, beautiful little holiday, and well, who doesn’t like lanterns? Last year the day we arrived in China was lantern festival, unfortuantely we were still in ‘oh my god where are we!’ culture shock phase to experience it. One day!

Ost Trifft West

February 8, 2009

A little while ago we stumbled upon a series of prints by Chinese artist Yang Liu.  Yang Liu was born in China but spent a lot of her youth in Germany.  Her series Oft Trifft West focuses on the cultural and social differences between China and Germany, and to a greater extent the West.  Her experiences whilst growing up has given her a unique perspective on both of these cultures, resulting in this quirky collection of images.  It’s easy to say there are broad generalisations within her work, but I think anyone who has spent time between China and the West can appreciate the sometimes comical differences.  Germany is represented by the blue and China the red…

Social networks

Social networks

How leaders/bosses are seen.

How leaders/bosses are seen.

How we see each other.

How we see each other.

Time and punctuality

Time and punctuality

Queuing

Queuing

How we deal with problems

How we deal with problems

The elderlys life is less alienating in Chinese society.

The elderlys' life is less alienating in Chinese society.

How we eat

How we eat

A to B

A to B

How we show emotion

How we show emotion

There’s many more, these are just a few.  I think it’s an interesting commentary on how different China is in comparision to large parts of the world.

Man aged 98 on trial for fraud

February 7, 2009

A 98 year old named Zhou Zhiping on February 3 attended Beijing’s Criminal Court for fraud charges. Zhou allegedly fed information to a guy named Chen that he was an ex-high ranking official and still had links to state leaders. Zhou and two younger guys(both 50+ :)) said they were going to unfreeze some ‘national funds’, and that if Chen funded them he would later be rewarded.

Chen gave the three of them 749,000 yuan from April 2007 to June 2008 before realizing he had been conned. If Zhou is convicted for fraud – which China being China is almost guaranteed, he faces ten years in jail. So by the ripe old age of 108 he’ll be a free man once more!


Click here to read the full story.

Of course you must remember to take everything you read from China Daily with two grains of salt – it is a government run(cough propaganda) newspaper afterall.

In China? You’d be shot!

February 4, 2009

That’s right, if you dared to throw a shoe at a government official; particularly one as important as the PM, Wen Jiabao, you’d be hauled away and never heard from again. We always liked the look of Wen Jiabao, he always had this genuinely happy, smiling face. He looked like a nice man. You know how sometimes you can just tell whether someone looks nice or nasty? Well we got good vibes from Wen, despite not knowing much about him at all! He was heavily involved with the recovery efforts after the Sichuan earthquake disaster – and whether or not it was propaganda images is unclear, but he was out there and did appear to be genuinely helping. Most of the country did actually. It was heavilly covered by Chinese TV at the time.

It is good though that some Chinese saw the funny side of the incident. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said that state leaders should be respected, however to laughter, added, “Next time I should watch out for not only [those] who are raising their hands, but also [those] who are untying their shoelaces.”

I guess it’s just lucky for the thrower, that the shoes missed!


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