Archive for May, 2009

Pushing for the people

May 24, 2009
The now infamous Haizhu bridge in Guangzhou

The now infamous Haizhu bridge in Guangzhou

In yet another fantastic Chinese story, a Mr Chen Fuchao has climbed the Haizhu Bridge in Southern China’s Guangzhou, and promptly threatened to jump. Mr Chen supposedly was in debt to the amount of 2,000,000 yuan after a failed construction venture. Traffic around the bridge was brought to a standstill while police tried to negotiate his safe return.

Then along came Lai Jiansheng, a 66 year old ex-military citizen who offered his services to approach and calm the man. Being denied this privilledge, he instead broke through the police cordons and intercepted Mr Chen. After gretting the would be jumper, Mr Lai then proceeded to push him off the bridge where he fell into an airbag 8 metres below. Mr Chen lived, but has suffered spinal and elbow injuries from the fall.”

“I pushed him off because jumpers like Chen are very selfish,” Mr Lai was quoted as saying.

“Their action violates a lot of public interests. They do not really dare to kill themselves. Instead, they just want to raise the relevant government authorities’ attention to their appeals.”

The bridge has reported attracted no less than 12 people threatening to suicide since April. Mark that one on your tourist map!

Love dont live here no more.

May 20, 2009

As reported earlier in the week, China was all set to realise its dream of owning its very first Sex themed tourist park. Love Land, in Chongqing, Sichuan province promised to add that sexual history, sex position workshops and giant genital element that China was clearly lacking. Whilst it was all full-steam ahead, various officials have complained labeling the park “vulgar, ill-minded and misleading,” not unlike how they disputed America’s report on Chinese military strength. Love Land was sadly torn down over the weekend and shall remain a dream forever more.

R.I.P Love Land, May 2009.

Site update: Wuxi city guide

May 17, 2009

I’ve just added a city guide to Wuxi over on the right there under pages. Please click the image below and feel free to have a read and hopefully one day, even visit! Wuxi was our base of operations for some 8 months. It was a great little place to explore and certainly brimming with western comforts.

This lion statue greets visitors to Wuxi's Nanchang Temple Market. Here it's chewing on Courtney's finger puppet - Leo

This lion statue greets visitors to Wuxi's Nanchang Temple Market.

Welcome to Love Land!

May 17, 2009

Keeping in tradition with many other countries – mostly Asian (surprise surprise),  China is building its first ‘sex theme park.’ Situated in the very populous Chongqing, it contains attractions such as a History of Sex display, giant statues of genitals and models of naked bodies. If that doesn’t immediately entice you, how about the chance to participate in workshops to improve your sex techniques and safe sex methods?

I predict this place to be an absolute hit. You could build a theme park dedicated to toilets and it would be still be swarming with Chinese tourists. The Chinese are rapidly enthusiastic tourists; usually found in packs of identical cap wearing groups, following someone spruiking into a megaphone. Try enjoying the serenity of an ancient Chinese garden with multiple tourist trains cruising through – I highly recommend the experience.

Sex is somewhat of a taboo in China, with things such as pornography and prostitution being outright banned. This doesn’t mean they’re not rampant. One thing we saw absolutely plenty of while living there was brothels. Of course they were under the guise of a hair salon – but when you have 4-5 scantily clad young girls sitting in the front window under a red light – well yeah – hair salon, sure. They werent even tucked away into seamier areas. You would be walking along the street, and pass a baker, fruit store, brothel, hardware store, another baker, another brothel, cigarette store, convenience store, etc etc.

The other thing that had us somewhat stumped was what looked to be girly type shows. Next door to the school campus where we lived was a theatre of sorts. Inside was a large stage and seating auditorium that the school would often use for its graduation type ceremonies and other festivities. Every now and then this theatre would have posters out front with photos of girls in bikinis – like a full on girly type show for guys. God knows what was going on in there.

Laoshi hao

May 12, 2009

Tonight we have our first lesson with a Chinese tutor of whom we met briefly last Tuesday night. Her name is Ying (said: Ing) and she is a mother living in Box Hill North who has been in Australia for approximately 1 year. Her english is good but she was quick to point out, not that good. To us her english was completely fine. This was precisely the type of person we were looking for.

To date we have had really no trouble communicating with non-english speakers – particularly when they are trying to teach us Chinese. It can be difficult getting a point across sometimes, or explaining something intricate, but when it comes to language learning we would rather someone who actually has a true to life Chinese accent and is sometimes difficult to understand as it makes the learning experience that much better.

So tonight we have our first lesson and I am keen to see what we are taught. I often think back to a lesson we had with Mr Pan where he tried to teach us a few simple phrases. The funny thing about that lesson was that both Courtney and myself remember what he taught us perfectly to this day. Thanks to Mr Pan we can say, “Is that your pen?” “That pen is mine!” which we adapted into, “Is that your cat?” As you can see, highly worthwhile knowledge! In return for him teaching this, we taught him the word ‘Short-cut’, and how and when to use it – to which he must have used it at least once every time we saw him from that point forward.

I wish to continue learning Chinese as I feel I already know enough to form a platform from which to learn more. I am highly interested in foreign languages, and while I find it considerably hard to stay focused and motivated, I have a real desire to be able to hold a conversation. I find myself constantly wanting to be around Mandarin speakers, my ears pricking up at each and every recognisable word. I find myself in shopping centre massage stores more intent on listening to them speak than the actual massage.

Courtney likewise has a keen interest but also the additional factor that she is returning to China for several weeks in August and in order to impress her bosses with her language ability, wishes to build on that. She’s going to primarily Cantonese speaking areas – such as Hong Kong and Macau, but they’ll also be visiting GuangZhou on the mainland, where Mandarin is freely spoken.

Red Cliff

May 10, 2009

If i mention, the Battle for Red Cliff, does it ring any bells? How about simply Red Cliff? Do you know where that is? No? Neither did I. Red Cliff, or its Chinese name Chi Bi is the subject of John Woo’s latest Chinese epic. It refers to the location of a gigantic historical battle in China’s most well known story – the romance of Three Kingdoms – now that sounded familiar, right?

The three Kingdoms period of China immediately followed the fall of the Han dynasty where rival Warlords fought for control in the wake of a vastly less powerful Emperor. China was divided into three individual kingdoms,Wèi (魏), Shǔ (蜀), and Wú (吳). Interestingly enough, Wuxi where we lived was part of one of these….Wu (surprise surprise!) The then capital of Wu was later conquered by the following Jin dynasty – the capital being present day Nanjing.

To cut a long story short(and i mean _long_ ) the Prime Minster of the North, Cao Cao convinced (forced) the young and weak Emperor to invade the Southern Kingdoms of Wu and Shu (Xu in the movie). The northern armies were vast and greatly outnumbered their Southern counterparts. Lead by Prime Minister Cao Cao himself, the size of the invading army itself was unprecedented. Warlord Sun Quan, called on  rival Warlord Liu Bei for an alliance knowing full well that through sheer strength in arms they stood no chance, though the 10,000 ships of Cao Cao were manned by largely inexperienced sailors – a critcal factor considering the Yangze River plays a key role in that region.  What transpires is a classic battle comparable to David and Goliath – where in true Chinese fashion, strategic brilliance of the underdog dictates the course of the war.

Now I have to say I really enjoyed Red Cliff. While we were in China the movie was advertised all over the place. Once in the Wuxi train station, waiting to head to Shanghai, we watched a trailer for it that went for no kidding at least 20 minutes. I commented to Courtney how they might as well just put the movie itself on as they basically covered everything in it! The Chinese aren’t ones to be phased by spoilers.

So the movie came out and well we were oblivious to it. I don’t mind the occasional Chinese epic, but having just watched one several weeks prior; the Warlords, starring Jet Li – they tend to be all very similar – if not identical. I assumed Red Cliff was basically in the same boat and didn’t look into watching it. It was however when flying home to Australia from China, I was feeling a little sentimental upon leaving so opted to watch it on the plane. I was surprised and really enjoyed it. It was around 3 and a half hours long, and only part 1 of 2! The movie itself was somewhat enjoyable, if not wildly over the top.

A key part of my enjoyment of any Chinese movie(such as Beijing Bicycle) is the Mandarin itself. I love recognising words as I watch. Sure I read the subtitles but I take strange pleasure in recognising more and more of the language as I slowly learn. I can’t speak considerable amounts myself, but what I do know slowly grows with time.

On Saturday night we headed into Box Hill seeking Dumplings. We ended up grabbing a nice meal in Dumpling King though previous to this ducked into the local Xinhua bookstore. It still cracks me up that we actually have a local Xinhua. Inside I noticed many familiar looking Chinese period actors on the cover of a myriad of DVD’s. In China, period drama’s are about as common as our Home and Away and Neighbors. This store is practically Chinese books, music and movies only, no English. Larger releases such as Red Cliff would have English subtitles, but for the average Chinese person living in Box Hill, this would be a very good store as material in your own language doesn’t exactly grow on trees(we experienced that in China!). I had been wanting to see the 2nd part of Red Cliff and managed to find it instore with a little help from the people who worked there; myself being unable to read Chinese characters. The staff seemed overjoyed to be serving a ’round-eye’, and as i paid a mere 12.00 for the DVD, commented on how lovely the plastic bag they were putting it into  – of course covered in Disney characters. I love Chinese people and their Chinese ways, I really do.

So if you are by any chance interested in watching Red Cliff I do recommend it. It goes forever and is really only for a niche kind of person, but i did find it enjoyable. I wouldn’t recommend watching both parts back to back as you’re likely to die of boredom despite some wartastic eye-candy. I was more amused to write about purchasing the DVD in Box Hill as I continue to be surprised at how much of a mini-China our suburb turns out to be. To this day I still really miss China – more so knowing Courtney is going back there in August – and really hope to get back there myself in the not too distant future.

But for now, Zai Jian!


May 9, 2009

In what has to be the best news story I have seen in years, the Chinese government is actually forcing people to smoke more to keep the economy afloat of the world’s economic crisis. Never mind health, you will smoke for China! They have gone so far as to actually nominate particular Chinese brands and force people such as Teachers and Government staff to smoke a set amount per month. It has been reported that – unbelievably – a task force has even raided the ashtrays of village schools to ensure the cigarette butts present were officially endorsed brands!

Ah god, I love this country.

China has one of the worlds largest (if not the largest) smoking populations, coming at at something like 350 million smokers. The official death toll from smoking related illnesses is around 1 million per year – but like everything else in China, the actual numbers are probably ten times larger.

Gift cigarettes given at a wedding.

Gift cigarettes given at a wedding.

Cigarettes are an important part of society, and it’s rare to see a smoking man without one hanging out of his mouth – even when riding a motorcycle. They’re also commonly given as gifts to the guests at weddings.

As such a massive source of tax revenue, despite anti-smoking efforts, it’s unlikely to change any time soon (aka ever).

Don’t cry.

May 6, 2009

Parents of children killed in the Sichuan Earthquake have been complaining of being harassed by the Chinese government. Barred from displaying grieving in public, they have even been removed around sensitive times in a crack down that completely boggles the mind. Is there any element to average Chinese life the government does not feel threatened by?

It is unknown how many actual children died in the disaster that claimed over 90,000 lives. At least 14,000 schools were damaged – many of them of shoddy and unsafe design. It used to cross my mind from time to time when I was on the top floor of our teaching building how if an earthquake of that magnitude had hit Wuxi, the building while looking somewhat solid would likely have collapsed in on itself like a deck of cards.

The teaching building we taught in had around 15 classrooms, each with over 50 students in them. That alone is over 750 students, not counting the offices of teachers on the ground level. Apply that to the 14,000 schools that were damaged in the earthquake, some completely destroyed and you begin to comprehend just how many students died that day.

In China they do not build structures for longevity. They are built for the purpose of providing a much shorter term purpose – be it classroom or housing. With a country of so many people with an inconcievable amount of construction going on, they do not have the luxury of quality.  When an earthquake of 8.0 on the scale hits in China’s most populated city, Chongching, Sichuan province, disaster is inevitable.

Swine denial, denied

May 4, 2009

China has been accused of discriminating against Mexicans as the rest of the world runs around panicking about Swine Flu. A number of Mexican nationals have reputedly been held in quaratine as China fights to protect it’s overwhelmingly large populace from this months latest medical fad. One particular individual, a 25 year old Mexican flew from Mexico to Hong Kong to Shanghai. The Chinese then quarantined him, everyone on his plane, and everyone who happened to be in the Hong Kong hotel to boot. I swear to god if i had been staying in that hotel in HK and been yanked in my jammies into quarantine…i’d be pissed!
The Chinese have a right to be somewhat paranoid of large scale infectious spread – they’re not exactly the world’s most hygenic country. Several years ago they largely blamed foreigners for the SARs epidemic – and of course, it wouldn’t have had anything to do with fact they cough, piss and snot rocket nonstop while not washing their hands would it?

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