Monday, December 23, 2013

December 24th in China

The night of December 24th is called peace night and everyone eats an apple.
In China, tonight is called "Ping An"night.  Ping  in English means safe and  apple in Chinese is pronounce "Ping Guo." A beautifully wrapped a single apple is given to a friend to express best wishes. 
I knew nothing about this tradition and suddenly on Christmas Eve, my students began bringing beautifully wrapped apples.  It was curious to observe dozens of fruits stands set up along the boulevard selling gaily wrapped apples for just one day…gone the next day.

Christmas Eve is just another working day in China, albeit thousands of Chinese Christians attempt to celebrate Christmas quietly. Last year the iconic Catholic cathedral next to the old campus of Shangdong University was closed for remolding and repairs. It will open its doors to the public this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Lots and lots of students are excited to go into the church which is usually gated and locked at all times. This is a rare treat that many students don't want to miss.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Premium Admission?

Actually, the real story doesn't match the headline or the printed summary. The real question might be, how differently does ICE treat different nationalities in this "investment" immigration program; apparently, money doesn't guarantee automatic admission.  Also, several foreigners I have spoken to express the same sense of freedom they experience in America. What we natives feel and take for granted is quite different from what foreigners feel and yearn for.

Chinese investors 'buying' US green cards for $1m

18 December 2013 Last updated at 00:05 GMT

As the US debates how to reform its immigration system - and deal with roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country - wealthy foreigners already have a legal route to a new life in America.

A visa programme called EB-5 offers overseas investors the opportunity to get permanent residence - a green card - in return for $1m (£614,000). In areas with high unemployment, the visas are available for a $500,000 investment.

The visas have been available since the 1990s, when Europeans were the main beneficiaries. But today Chinese citizens represent a majority of the applicants.

While critics complain about foreigners "buying" their way into the US, the scheme's supporters told the BBC that the developers fund projects that create jobs in America.

Produced by the BBC's Franz Strasser

Altered States is a series of video features published every Wednesday on the BBC News website which examine how shifting demographics and economic conditions affect America on a local level.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Chinese Names - the deep skinny

Some time ago I wrote a little bit about some of the quirky names my Chinese students chose for their English names, and a wee bit that I had learned about their Chinese names.

Daisy gave a more thorough presentation on Chinese names that shed deeper insight on this serious subject among Chinese.  Chinese names generally consist of 2-3 characters (names): a surname which comes first rather than last like our Western names, followed by an Adjective name and then a Noun name.

It's often claimed that there are approximately 500 surnames in China. This belief seems to derive from a well-known book titled One Hundred Family Surnames, written by an unknown author during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). This book is widely used as a vocabulary text for students in old China, and it lists 507 surnames, of which 441 consist of one character and 66 of two characters. This list, however, is by no means exhaustive. At present, there are more than 5,000 Chinese surnames. They are derived from many sources, such as the names of ancient states or townships, official titles, given names, posthumous names, and specific localities, or trades.

The most common surnames in China, in descending order are Zhao, Qian, Sun, Li, Zhou, Wu, Shang, and Wang. In southern China, however, the most common names, in order of frequency are Chen, Li, Zhang, Huang He, Wu, Zhou, Hu, Ma, and Mai.

In old China, one's surname was revered because the individual bearing it was but a small link in the long history of an illustrious clan. One never changed a name, especially a surname. If a person did so, he/she had probably committed a grave or heinous crime and wanted to sever ties with the past through a name change. Such a person would most likely move away from home to start life anew.

People with the same surname shared a commonality and considered themselves relatives  regardless of the number of generations removed geographical distance or lack of consanguinity. Since the commonality was derived from a common ancestor at some point in time, it was considered an insult when a person with the same surname disclaimed family or other close relationships. For the same reason, old Chinese customs prohibited marriages of couples with the same surname.

A Chinese  person has many given names. One month after birth, an infant was given a 'milk name'. This name was used by family members, relatives and close friends. The name was usually selected either by the family elder or by a literate friend. Names for boys reflected the parents' wishes for his good health, longevity, prosperity, expected talent, virtues, diligence, filial piety, patriotism or intelligence. Girls were named after exotic flowers, pretty birds, musical instrument or jewels. Girls might also be named for feminine attributes such as beauty, grace, thrift and purity. In some families, however, girls were not given names but were simply referred to as the "oldest girl" or "second girl" or "third girl" and so forth.

Frequently, all the boys in one family would be given names that shared the same first character, or adjective. This was sometimes done with the girls in the family, as well. Since the two characters of the given name go together, they should be spelled together as a single word or occasionally hyphenated when the name is anglicized. 

Another method for selecting a given name was based on the child's horoscope and its relationship to the "Five Elements."  A fortune teller, after studying the month, day and hour of the birth, determined whether  the infant had a full complement of the Five Elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. If any elements were lacking in the child, a character with the radical or root of the missing element was used in the name to correct the deficiency and make the child "complete."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Translation-English Class

May I introduce you to the smartest, sweetest, happiest, hardest-working, kindest, dynamic class of university students at Shandong University. I am so very proud of them. They are all required to speak multiple languages along with a killer schedule of classes. They are so studious and hungry to learn and put their learning into practice.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Making of Gutter Oil

Sometimes people ask me why I didn't eat street food. This is one good reason.

Watching this short video reminded me of so many things I saw in China. For instance, a food vendor puts the food in a smallish plastic bag propped up in a bowl. The purchaser then carries the bag to wherever he/she will eat and usually has a bowl there waiting to lay the plastic bag in; and then he/she eats the contents of the plastic bag. I saw Chinese folks carrying plastic bags of stir fried food everywhere at lunchtime in Jinan.

I was always amazed to see small makeshift street "cafes" pop up on the sidewalk at dusk, complete with 10" folding X-stools for chairs and tiny tables.

The authorities may dismantle those hole-in-the-wall gutter oil factories, but the operators quickly find another spot and jump right back into business. There are so many millions of back allies ripe hole-in-the-wall operations of many kinds.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Giant Chinese, World-shaping Infrastructure Projects

Even the most casual visitor to China will be impressed by the massiveness the architecture and the public plazas.  A billion-plus people need a lot of room for their entertainment, infrastructure and business. Equally impressive is the speed at which these construction wonders have arisen. The human toll and gargantuan land grabs are equally huge.

There is an old Chinese saying:  IF YOU WANT TO BE RICH, YOU MUST FIRST BUILD ROADS.  In the past year China has built the world's longest sea bridge, the world's longest gas pipeline and a super high-speed railway line connecting all the major cities in China's eastern corridor. Even now the $10.7 billion Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge will connect two huge regions when it is completed in 2016. 

$44 BILLION: China is one of the 32 countries who sighned an agreement for the construction of connecting highways to span the continent and even reach Europe.  ROAD TRIP!

$102 MILLION: The Pingtang telescope will be the world's largest radio telescope when completed in 2016.

$176 MILLION: Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory conducts China's major scientific projects and is the country's most expensive research facility.

$200 MILLION: The Guangzhou Opera House is one of the three largest theaters in China, designed by architect Zaha Hadid.

$368 MILLION: The Hainan power grid project is China's first underwater cross sea power grid and will link the southern island of Hainan to mainland China.
Hainan Island is touted as China's Hawaii. Our visit to the southern shore of Hainan Island in the dead of winter was memorably pleasant, albeit far short of our Hawaiian visits.

$473 MILLION: The Qinling Tunnel is the longest highway  tunnel in China.

$717 MILLION: The Kashgar-Hotan Railway connects all the cities and towns of the southwester Tarim Basin.
This reminds me of many buildings which were so sleek and impressive on the outside, yet a walk into the past on the inside.

$760 MILLION: China Central TV Headquarters is a loop of six horizontal and vertical sections covering 1,551,837 ft.

$900 MILLION: The Tianhuangping hydroelectric project is the biggest in Asia and plays a vital role in providing power supply in eastern China.

$1.1 BILLION: The Shanghai World Financial Center Project is home to the second highest hotel in the world - the Park Hyatt Shanghai is on the 79th floor.

$1.3 BILLION: The Baltic Pearl Project is China's largest foreign development project and consists of residential and commercial properties out St. Petersburg, Russia.

$1.7 BILLION: The Nanjing Metro Line was completed in 2005 and is used by more than 180 million people a year.

$1.8 BILLION: The Shanghai Yangtze River Tunnel and Bridge is the fifth longest cable-stayed bridge in the world.

$1.9 BILLION: The Chengdu Shuangliu Airport handles 35 million passengers annually.

$2.12 BILLION: The Wuhan Railway Station serves the world's fastest trains at 217 mph.

$2.2 BILLION: At 128 stories, The Shanghai Tower will be the tallest skyscraper in China and the second tallest in the when completed in 2014.

$2.2 BILLION: The Qinshan Nuclear Power Phase II will add to the Qinshan plant and have the most nuclear reactors of any site in the world.

$2.88 BILLION: The Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Plant is the first nuclear power station in northeastern China and will reach 45 billion kWh annually.

$3 BILLION: The Great Gabon Belinga iron ore mine is China's largest African mining operation.

$3.3 BILLION: The Tianjin offshore drilling rig is China's national base for offshore oil development.

$3.5 BILLION: The Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal is the largest single construction project in China and the third largest building in the world.

$4.5 BILLION: Lingang New City is a planned city proposed to be completed on this distant land in 2020, to house almost 1 million people.

$6.3 BILLION: The Xiangjiaba Hydro power Project is expected to be completed by 2015 and will generate 31 billion kWh annually.

$5 BILLION: The Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev project will create the fastest inter-city train in the world at 280 mph.

$6.3 BILLION: The Beijing South Railway Station is Asia's largest railway station.
Obviously photoshopped blue sky. Living is Beijing is akin to a two-cigarette-pack smoking habit per day. Jinan is 2 1/2 packs a day.

$6.5 BILLION: China is one out of several countries that signed a contract to reconstruct the ancient SILK ROAD linking China and India with Europe.  

$6.76 BILLION: Xiluodu Dam will be the third tallest dam in the world and second largest hydro-power station in the country.

$7.89 BILLION: The Su-Tong Yangtze Bridge is the world's longest cable-stayed bridge.

$8 BILLION: The Shanghai Yangshan Deep Water Port Project will hand the largest container ships in the world.

$8.3 BILLION: The Nigerian Railway Modernization Project is China's largest overseas project.

$10.2 BILLION: The Yangjiang Nuclear Power Station in Guangdong province will be the biggest nuclear power plant in China.

$10.2 BILLION: The Guangdong Yangjiang Nuclear Power Station will be China's newest power plant when completed this year.

$12 BILLION: The Hainan Wenchang Space Center launch project will be the country's newest launch center.

$14 BILLION: The Harbin-Dalian High-Speed Railway will serve the first high speed train in northeast China.
We visited the spectacular snow & ice festival in Harbin in January when it was 40-degrees below zero. High-speed trains running in that weather is impressive, indeed.

$16 BILLION: Hangzhou Bay Bridge is the world's longest cross-sea bridge project.

$18.2 BILLION: The Jiuquan Wind Farm will be the largest wind power base in the world when completed this year. Wind is plentiful in the Gobi Desert.

$23.1 BILLION: The Kunming New International Airport is China's 4th largest aviation hub. Those ribbons of dancing concrete are awe-inspiring to behold. I tried in vain to capture their massive beauty with my camera.

$33 BILLION: The Beijing Shanghai High Speed Railway is the wold's longest high-speed rail project.

$45.4 BILLION: The Ningzia Ningdong Energy and Chemical Industrial Base will double the provence's GDP and generate $30.3 billion after the planned 2020 completion.

$62 BILLION: The South-to-North Water Diversion Project is expected to divert 44.8 billion cubic meters of water to the North by 2050.  That assumes the rivers won't run dry like unto our mighty Colorado River.  High in the northwest mountains snowmelt is affecting water resources and we were told that the Chinese government is building five reservoirs in five mountains to capture and control the water.
$306.7 BILLION: The "Turn the Pearl River Delta Into One" will result in an urban mega-city bigger than Wales.

$458 BILLION: The Tianjin Harbor Industrial Zone is one of the largest chemical ports in the world.

Other great Chinese infrastructures worth mentioning:
$2.6 BILLION: China's construction of the Libyan coastal railway project.
$4.5 BILLION: Guangzhou Nansha Lair shipbuilding base project.
$5 BILLION: Niger oil project
$5.4 BILLION: Changzing Shipbuilding Base, world's largest shipbuilding base 
$7 BILLION: Algerian East-West Highway Project
$10.7 BILLION: Baosteel million-ton steel base project in Zhanjiang East Island.
$11.7 BILLION: Rural Market Project
$20 BILLION: Portland Oilfield Sinopec investment
$26.8 BILLION: Tianjin ethylene project
$38 BILLION: Zhangzhou and Fuzhou-Xiamen railway projects
$77.5 BILLION: Super market projects
$77.5 BILLION: Liaoning Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Project
$237 BILLION: State Environmental Protection 11th 5-year Plan   ...surrrre.
$800 BILLION: Zhejiang Sanmen Nuclear Power Project
$900 BILLION: Northern Energy and Chemical Base Project
ONE TRILLION: Tianjin Binhai New Area Investment
....a new world coming

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Traditional Chinese Marriage

Traditional Chinese marriage is a ceremonial ritual within Chinese societies that involves a marriage established by pre-arrangement between families. Chinese culture allowed for romantic love but monogamy was the norm for most ordinary citizens.

In traditional Chinese thinking, people in "primitive" societies did not marry, but rather, had sexual relationships with one another indiscriminately. Such people were thought to live like animals, and they did not have the precise concept of motherhood, fatherhood, siblings, husband and wife, and gender; not to mention, match-making and marriage ceremony. Part of the *Confucian "caviling mission" was to define what it meant to be a Father or a Husband, and to teach people to respect the proper relationship between family members and regulate sexual behavior. They also believe that a good wife makes a good husband. There is also a rule that arranging a match relies on the parent's order and on the matchmaker's word. A male who was not married by age 20 and a female who was not married by age 15 was considered disobedient to parents; and their parents would most likely be laughed at by the neighbors.

Cicero said, "Custom will never conquer nature, for it is always she who remains unconquered."   In traditional society, the rich were usually not monogamous.  The number of concubines was sometimes regulated, which differed according to the man's rank. Emperors almost always had multiple royal concubines. Female concubines were treated as inferior and expected to be subservient to the wife  (if there was one). Women who were not married in a large, formal ceremony had less right in the relationship and could be divorced arbitrarily. They generally had a lower social status or were bought as slaves. Women who had eloped may have also become concubines since a formal wedding required her parents' participation.

In Chinese tradition, a Ghost Marriage is also a marriage in which one or both parties are deceased. Other forms of ghost marriage are practiced worldwide, from Sudan to India to France even since 1959.  The origins of Chinese ghost marriage are largely unknown, and reports of it being practiced today can still be found.  Chinese ghost marriages were usually set up by the family of the deceased and performed for a number of reasons, including: the marriage of a couple previously engaged before one of them died; to integrate an unmarried daughter into a patriarchal-lineage; to ensure the family line continued; or to maintain that no younger brother was married before an elder brother.

There are still some mysterious marriage traditions in China. However, now marriage traditions are changing a lot and there are laws to regulate behavior that contribute to the stability of the country.

*Confucius lived approximately 600 BC.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

DRAWING LOTS on Baby's First Birthday

Drawing lots is a traditional Chinese birth celebration. It is held on a baby's 1st birthday to predict the baby's future, career and interests. It is also a way to express good wishes for a baby's prosperity. As a kind of family game, drawing lots is a way to exam if infants are well educated by their mothers.

On that day, parents put some goodies in a row or in a circle in front of a baby. Goodies usually include  a pen, a dictionary, a ruler, money a seal, a counting frame, a soccer ball, among other things. Each object has different meanings. A pen is believed to be related to a writing career. A ruler represents a lawyer. Money represents wealth. A seal is the symbol of an official or civil servant. A counting frame (abacas) represents a businessman.

It is generally believed that the items the baby grasps indicate his interest. For example, what Qian Zhongshu, the great Chinese scholar and writer of Fortress Besieged, grasped on his first birthday was a book. So his father named him Zhongshu, which means love for books. And coincidentally he read countless books all his life. In a book called Guanzhuibian he quoted more than 10,000 books, 2,000 of which were written in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Latin. 

While drawing lots, attention must be given to some things. First, items for the baby to grasp must be of similar size and color so that the baby will not be disturbed. Second, parents must not guide the baby. In other words, what the baby grasps should be of his own free will. Third, the baby can only grasp twice and the items should all be new to the baby. They can't be familiar things. Fourth, the celebration should begin before lunch; and usually consist of noodles, which means living a long life in China.

In ancient times, people regarded this tradition as a prediction of the baby's future; perhaps because people believed that one's interests lead to what one will be. Nowadays, people just do it for fun to celebrate baby's first birthday. It has gradually become a tradition for Chinese people.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

National Day of China

The Chinese are presently taking a week-long vacation in celebration of their national holiday. The People's Republic of China (PRC) was declared and established on October 1, 1949. Unlike our one-day Fourth of July, the Chinese government permits 7 days off for celebrating its birthday.

During the national holiday last year we took a wonderful trip along the Silk Road beginning at Urumqi and ending in Xi'an. We're excited this year because we sent Lily on her very first airplane trip to Urumqi with a large tour group to enjoy her first trip along the northern Chinese Silk Road. We're looking forward to talking to her about her experiences and seeing her photos.

Got a letter from one of our students who is "celebrating" just like most college students do:

How’s it going? It has been a long time since you left China and we miss you often.
As you possibly know that October first is the National Day of China, which we have looked forward to from the beginning of this semester. Do you know why? Because we usually have seven days off for celebrating our National Day!
In fact, we don’t do special things on the day except that the government arranges a series of performance such as the military review, the raising of the national flag and so on. However, it is an absolutely good chance to get relax from study or work during the long holiday. Some people like taking a trip, some people prefer to visit relatives, and others would like to stay at home relaxed. As for me, I prefer to stay some undisturbed places watching movies on the computer, learning a new song or just skimming through a book.
Again, this time I did not go home, for my hometown lies far away from here and I will go back home in winter vacation. Sometimes I miss my parents very much, so I call home frequently. And I have got accustomed to staying at school during all kinds of small vacations. Moreover I have a good time here. Yesterday, some of my friends, who come from the same senior middle school as mine but different campuses of Shandong University, came to visit me. We had lunch together, and we talked a lot .It was very pleasant. We had great fun that day!
That is what I am doing—enjoying my holiday! O(_)O ~~ We miss you a lot!

PS: I’m sorry if I have made grammatical mistakes in this letter. And would you mind helping me point it out? I cannot thank you anymore.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mid-Autumn Festival

The Chinese people celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Cake Day or Moon Festival at this time of year. When we arrived in China at the end of August there were mountains of moon cakes in all the markets. 

Here is the story of Moon Festival and how modern China celebrates it today as told by Opal Shao, one of my freshman Oral English students:

According to legend in ancient China, there were ten suns in the sky, each taking a turn to burn the earth. One day, however, the ten suns all assembled, so the earth became too hot. Houyi, a skillful archer, shot down all but one of the suns. To reward him, the emperor of the mortals gave him a magic pill which could grant human beings eternal life and warned him that he would only need half a pill to regain immortality.

Houyi took the pill home and stored it in a case. He decided to share the pill with Chang'e on the 15th day of August, when the light of the full moon shone on the earth. However, Chang'e opened the case secretly when her husband was away from home. She swallowed the entire pill and flew out the window into the sky. Chang'e reached the moon. She became lonely on the moon without her husband and always cried regretfully. Although Houyi was a great archer, he did not shoot down the moon because he loved his wife. Once a year, on Middle Autumn day, Houyi has a chance to visit his wife. That is why, that night the moon is full and beautiful.

All of us have learned that we'll take moon cakes on that day, but do you know the origin? Actually, there is a story about the moon cake. During the Yuan dynasty, China was ruled by the Mongolian people. Leaders from the Song dynasty were unhappy at submitting to the foreign rule, and set how to fight the enemies without being discovered. The leaders of the rebellion knowing that the Moon Festival was drawing near, ordered his cook to make special cakes. Baked into each moon cake was a message with the outline of the attack. One the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. Today, moon cakes are eaten to commemorate this legend.

Nowadays, there are hundreds of varieties of moon cakes on sale a month before the arrival of Moon Festival. They are mode with sweet nuts, red beans, lotus seed past or Chinese dates...then wrapped in a pastry.  Sometimes a cooked egg yolk can be found in the middle of the dessert. 

Moon is always used as a symbol of reunion in Chinese culture, so, besides moon cakes, Chinese family members will try to go home during this holiday. The families eat moon cakes together and watch moon in the evening. Those who can not return home watch the bright moonlight and feel deep long for their loved ones.

We Chinese people really love the festival, not only because it is our precious national culture, but also because we can have great fun with family and friends. During which we will gain happiness and love. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Memorable Saturday in Jinan China!

Roslyn and I had a great Saturday afternoon & evening in Jinan with Lily. We visited giant InZone Mall, Damming Lake and a great dinner at an authentic fish restaurant. Lily had her first "driving lesson" in a boat  on boat at DaMing Lake. 

Roslyn drove the boat away from the dock and then turned the wheel over to Lily.

Whenever Roslyn saw a young couple or a family taking pictures of each other she would routinely offer to take a photo of them together.
Dr. Kim is an eminent law professor who introduced us to a very authentic, earthy fish restaurant. We let him do all the ordering which was an adventure because he had a very "adventurous" palette. You can see for yourself all the delicacies we ate. He ordered from an array of live fish swimming in dozens of fish tanks.
Because Shandong Province has a long coast line, fish is a prominent part of the cuisine of this province. There are so many more kinds of fish that the Chinese are willing to eat. 

I have no idea what this sea creature is. But it seemed safe enough to eat. Added to the culinary adventure.
Loved these deep fried critters. Kind of like seafood French fries. Very tasty.

This is a section of fish eggs. I preferred them battered&fried. This was more authentic Chinese.

The delicacies kept coming regardless of the size of the table. Folks just pile them on top of each other. Our table in this restaurant was small and square. Most of the time the tables are large and round with a glass lazy-susan in the center which rotates the food around to all the guests. I love the Chinese style of dining because I get to taste so many culinary delights and not be limited to one thing on my own plate. The Chinese really know how to celebrate with food! And the food in Jinan, Shandong Province, China is fabulous!!!
More hot water cheers!

One of Dr. Kim's colleagues joined us and the conversation matched the feast. What a memorable dining experience. That's the Chinese way.

I recently heard a proverbial saying about Chinese eating habits:
"The Chinese will eat anything on four legs except a table; anything that flies except an airplane; anything in the ocean except a boat."