Friday, December 26, 2014

Cultural differences between North and South area in China

           Most Chinese folks I met considered six-million-strong Jinan in northern China a back-water, blue-collar city, but I am grateful that we were not assigned to teach at a university in southern China. Why? The food in south of China is routinely spicy hot. I would have died of starvation. Jinan is famous for it garlic and fish; and students often complained that the food was salty. Salty is world's better than spicy to my palette; but I think my students overstated the saltiness. Jinan food was divinely suited to my taste.
         I liked Joey's sometimes rambling presentation, for her natural attempt to express her opinions rather than just copy 'n past something from the Internet, and her interesting views on the percieved differences between north and south citizens of China.

We all know that north area is different from south area mostly as a result of the weather no matter what country it is. Northern people are more straight-forward while southern people are very reserved.  Culture differences in China can be divided into 5 aspects, which are Characters, Foods, Art, Builds, and New Findings of Life.

1.  Character. In northern area, people struggled with the nature for living, which formed the characters of being straight-forward and out-going. They are tall and strong, especially the males. 

While the souther people live in a better environment than northern people, they pay more attention to the art, as a result that they are mild and soft.

2.  Foods.  Northeastern area in China is very famous for its rice. Besides, northern people are more accustomed to food made from wheat, especially for staple. Southern people like to eat rice.  

People in northern area like to eat and drink in big mouthfuls, coz they care less about this kind of things. Southern people tend to enjoy the food very slowly to feel the test, for example, drinking tea.  
Northern people eat peppers to be warm and try to keep away from the cold feelings inside. However, southern people eat peppers to avoid the wet air outside and inside.

3.  Art.  Just as Beijing Opera in Beijing,there are many kins of opera in China varying from North to South. In north area, take Shanxi Opera for example, it is famous for roaring the dialogues which are always very tragic and heroic reflecting the history of ancient Emperors and heroes.   

While southern people have Huangmeixi Opera, which is very mild and talks about the love story between a wit and a beauty.

4.  Buildings.  In south area, the houses and the roads are often very tortuous for the winds being able to flow into. While it's commonplace in north area that the design of buildings are more plain and regular. They are often located in North and face to South. And in northeastern area, the direction isn't always that clear.

5.  Funny things which are newly found of Life. [Well, this is the most interesting part of my speech.] These are things you can never know in America or any other country in the world. If you live your lifelong time in only north or south area, you will not experience these things either.

        Bathing towel…This kind of bather towel is used to clean our body when we are having a bath. It's commonplace to be seen in north China, while southern people have never seen it. Northern people use it first to rub the dirt on our body, and then use bath liquid to make our body smooth and fragrant. However, southern people only use bath liquid. What's more, they have baths nearly every day because of the weather, while we northern people usually have baths every three or four days a week.

        Tofu jelly…This kind of food is often eaten in the morning. It's salty in north wile sweet in fourth. Mostly we can't accept the other taste of it.

        Tomatoes and eggs… It's a kind of famous food in China. Northern people put sugar into it while southern people don't.

        Soybean milk… It's  little confusing that there is hardly regulation of it. In northeastern area and most cities in southern area, people often make soybean milk very sweet. 

On the contrary,as far as I'm concerned, several cities in Shandong Province tend to put salt in it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tai Chi

During the last decade of my otherwise clueless life, I became aware of a slow-motion meditation-type, boring-looking exercise routine called Tai Chi. Whilst on walkabouts in China I saw individuals and groups of people engaging in Tai Chi all over the place. But then something happened. I began to observe small Tai Chi groups holding swords while doing their slow-motion routines and the light dawned. This otherwise innocuous, meditative routine is a martial art of warrior thrusts-jabs-n-stabs for  practice for battles, spiritual or worldly. Yikes! Then I saw Tai Chiers using poles and whips. Double Yikes! I'll never observe Tai Chi in the same, limited, western view again. Preparing for war, mentally or physically, is systemic to this art and culture. I paid closer attention to Lucy's presentation.

Tai Ji Quan is a major division of Chinese martial art. Tai Ji Quan means "supreme ultimate fist." Tai means "supreme'… Ji means "ultimate"… Quan mean "fist."

There have been different sayings about the origin of Tai Chi. The traditional legend goes that the wise man, Zhang Sanfeng, of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) created Tai Chi after he had witnessed a fight between a sparrow and a snake; while most people agreed that the modern Tai Chi originated from Chen style Tai Chi, which first appeared during the 19th century in the Daoguang Reign of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Tai Chi has its philosophical roots in Taoism and is considered as an internal martial art, utilizing the internal energy, or Qi, and following the simple principle of "subduing the vigorous by the soft." Taoism is the oldest philosophy of CHina which is represented by the famous symbol of the Yin and Yang which expresses the continuous flow of Qi in a circular motion that generates two opposite forces, plus and minus, which interact and balance with each others to bring existence to the physical and metaphysical world.

The most famous forms of Tai Chi practiced today are the Chen, Yang, We, Woo and Sun styles. All the five styles can be traced back to Chen style Tai Chi. According to historical records, Tai Chi was founded by Chen Wangting (1597-1664), who lived in Chen Village, in today's Henan Province in China. Based on the Chen style and created by Tang Luchan, a Hebei native of the Qing Dynasty, the Yang style is now the most popular style worldwide. The Woo Style is based on the Chen and Yang styles and created by Woo Yuxing. 

The Sun style is derived from Chen and Woo styles and created by Sun Lutang. The Sun style is a combination of the more famous internal Chinese martial art forms of Ba Gua, Xing Yi and Tai Ji. The We style is based on Chen and Yang styles, and it was created by Wu Jianquan.

Nowadays, when most people talk about Tai Chi, they are usually referring to the Yang style, which has already spread throughout the world and is practiced by millions or people.

Tai Chi is not only a martial art, but has also been widely acknowledged as being an effective health exercise. Whether Tai Chi is practiced for health, as athletic sport or martial art it takes time, patience and qualitative practice to develop Tai Chi's internal properties. To achieve a high standard in Tai Chi training is a highly complex process.

In conclusion, no matter you are young or aged, male or female, no matter strong or weak, slim or plump, you can choose Tai Chi as your ideal physical exercise. Just as a Chinese saying goes, "As a man sows, so he shall reap." Once you decide to practice it, Tai Chi - the world of Yin and Yang, the world of the nature and relaxation will become a whole, new life style in the future for you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Copyright - A big problem in China

The repeated phrase we heard from students justifying infringement of copyright was:
Copy and Improve.
So, as long as you improve what you snatch in China, you are not violating copyright law.
Jules has another point to make on this issue in China. Think Napster.

One of my friends once complained to me about the complexity when she downloaded some software to her her newly bought iPhone5 through iTunes. When first enter into it, she has to register a new name and have to tick all the rules that Apple Company had given to her. Sometimes, when she wants to download something, a credit card and bank account numbers are necessary and irresistible. It's true that many chinese Apple owners are bored by this problem, since they have already used got used to enjoy the endless and fruitful resources on the Internet and some certain software which can not only save time and money but also can get the achievement without their own thinking. 

This behavior is viewed as a kind of cheat and desperately unrespectable to the copyright of the owner. Although it's still common in China and perhaps becoming seriously in the era, this phenomenon increasingly bring negative effect to social regulation and the enthusiastic in creativity which alarm the authority and related law departments to regulate the legislation as soon as possible.

Hence, some famous online music website like Baidu, have to change its formal free-of-charge system into a pay-as-you-download one. This reformation arouse a heatedly debate. For some of the music lovers couldn't accept that their mania had now become a burden to the cost of living and actually become a tragedy when download music. They cannot get back that sense of easiness and excitement when staring at their octet money fly away on the online-paid webpage. Apparently, the vice of the opponent outweighs the proponent which lead to this new-born law quickly nips in the bud.

We should deeply think about this deadlock. It's a tug of war between the government and the public, but if you carefully inspect this phenomenon through the veil you can easily find out that the sticking point is the contradiction of profit.

China still has a long way to go on this side. But since China is developing rapidly at a high speed, we feel confident that the consciousness of the copyright and the protection of the private property would increase gradually.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Chinese Dragon

Over time I discovered the general symbol for males is the dragon and for females the phoenix. Lex gave a very short, pithy presentation on the male symbol. No one ever bothered to give a female symbol presentation.

Today, the world belongs to many different nationalities and races. Different races have different cultures and totems. For example, we all know that the bear stands for Russia and the eagle can be used to describe the America. But what is the totem of China? Well, that my topic today, the Chinese dragon.

The Chinese dragon is a mythical creature in East Asian culture with a Chinese origin. It is visualized as a long, scaled, snake-like creature with four legs and five claws on each (though it does not always have five claws). In contrast to the dragon of western culture which stands on four or two legs and which is usually portrayed as evil, the Chinese dragon has long been a symbol of auspicious power in Chinese folklore and art. The Chinese dragon is traditionally also the embodiment of the concept of male and associated with the rain and water. Its female counterpart is the Fenghuang (usually translated as phoenix).
The dragon is an important part of Chinese culture. And Chinese usually call ourselves the descendants of the dragon. Because in the ancient China, there were a lot of tribes at first. Then a great leader, who's name was Huang Di, unified all of them. The problem was, as a united tribe, they didn't have one same totem. Every tribe had their own totem. Some used the bear, some used the fish, while the others used the snake or something else. To solve this problem and make an agreement, Huang Di created a new totem. It has the long snake-like body, lion-like head, fish scales, buckhorn, the claw of eagle and so one. It was called the Dragon.

But, nowadays, in European-influenced cultures, the dragon is aggressive, warlike that the Chinese government wishes to avoid. It is for this reason that the giant panda is far more often used as a national emblem than the dragon. 

A large number of Chinese proverbs and idioms feature references to the dragon, for example: Hoping one's son will become a dragon.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Mongolian Nationality

Candy is a no-nonsense gal from Mongolia. She was the only student who watched & listened to me on the edge of her seat. That wasn't necessarily a good thing. She wasn't inclined to buy everything I was 'selling.' Turns out that's part of her Mongolian nature. She's Mongolian through-&-through which kept me on my toes ready to defend her several challenges. Her searching eyes and ready smile left a lasting impression. When she gave her presentation she wore her beautiful native costume.
I was struck by similarities I saw between the Mongolian culture and some of the Native American and Central American cultures I'm familiar with.

The Mongolians live mostly in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. While some Mongolians have become urban dwellers, most still live in the countryside. Many engage in animal husbandry, while other are farmers. Diet consists of mutton and dairy products. And milk is often made into yoghurt and milk wine. The Mongolians enjoy music and poetry, and much of their culture relates to their past martial glory. During the annual Nadamu Fair, they compete in horse racing, archery, wrestling, as well as song and dance.


The caftan, hat, sash and boots form the indispensables of the Mongolian attire. The caftans come in various materials, ranging from leather to drapery. The caftan can also serve as a makeshift tent, a blanket, or a screen while its long and wide sleeves can be rolled down to protect from the sun, wind or rain. Women's sash is generally shorter and narrower than men's. In some places, married women war an embroidered silk vest instead of a sash. Men's sash is longer, folded into a broad band and is tightly tied around the waist. The sash also serves to stash the Mongolian knife and attach pouches. The hat has always been the most special item on a mongolian's attire. It is typically adorned with whatever trickiest the owner valued, or with pearls or even precious stones, if one could afford them, and with long, colorful tassels streaming down. A hat is worn when meeting or greeting non-family members, entering a ger (though one may be invited to remove the hat once inside), or when in the street. It is considered indecorous to go bareheaded.

Architectural Style

For Mongolians on the pasture, their typical house is the ger (yurt), a domed round tent. the ger is of wooden lattice frame erected into a circle and secured with strips of rope, forming a head-high self-supporting cylinder. A door frame, roof poles and a canvas outer covering complete the set. For additional stability, a heavy weight is suspended from the center roof pole. Inside the ger is very spacious and well-ventilated. It is quickly dismantled, packed away and then transported by yak or camel to the next destination.


In the 16th century the Mongolians believe in Shamanism but turned to Lamaism in the Yuan Dynasty.


The Naadam Grassland Festival of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is Mongolian's most magnificent yearly entertainment event in China, combining the traditional "Three Manly Games" of Naadam: wrestling, horse racing, and archery, with cultural exhibits and even a livestock fair. It means "entertainment" in the mind of the typical Mongolian. The Naadam Grasslands Festival has a history that dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368 AD). The Festival is held on the 4th day of the sixth month of the Chinese calendar (between July and August in the Gregorian calendar), when the harvest season reaches culmination. The Festival can last 3 to 10 days, depending on the scale of competitions of shooting, wrestling, and horse-riding.


The Mongolians are unconstrained and warm-hearted people as they treat others warmly and politely. They greet everyone they meet during their travels even they do not know each other. Hada, a Tibetan word, is a strip of silk used as a greeting gift among both Tibetans and Mongolians. It is presented under very specific circumstances only: when welcoming unfamiliar guests in one's home or when encountering a stranger on the steppe with whom a cordial relationship has developed. Hada is usually made from either silk or cotton. Mongolian Hada is generally white in color, but shades like light blue and light yellow occur as well. WHen one is lucky enough to be presented a Hada, one should grasp it gently in both hands while bowing slightly, and the presenter will also bow in return. The giving and receiving of Hada, including the act of bowing to each other, is a outward sign of mutual respect. When visitors go to a Mongolian's home, they will be treated very well by being given wine. But they must fully respect their host's customs such as: they will not step on the threshold, sit beside the niche of Buddha, or touch children's heads, etc. They admire fire and water so guests should not dry their feet or boots on the stove, nor should they wash or bathe in the river, as it is holy and clean in their eyes. In the Mongolian culture, colors are significant. At a Mongolian funeral, red and white should be avoided, whereas curing their festival, black and yellow should not be used. Passing the snuffbox is an old tradition in Mongolian culture, and is the most common exchange of amenities when people meet. When one is a guest in a Mongolian home, the host will take out his snuffbox, open it (its contents generally being try aromatic and consisting of a blend of tobacco and/or herbs) and pass it to the guest. One is expected to pass the snuffbox under one's nose in order to better appreciate the tobacco's aroma. To be polite, one should nod one's head or give another sign of appreciation. This shows respect and can serve as the basis for future amicable relations. The snuffbox contains a small spoon made other of gold, silver, copper, ivory or camel bone.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Varieties of Chinese

       I've heard a phrase used to define a country: Culture -  Language - Borders. The potpourri of cultures and languages in China is impressive. Repression has been a remarkable tool in up building China, both ancient and modern. But a new reality has set in. Tourism and social media has had an affect. While Mandarin is the official language of the country and the teaching English is so widespread making it a common thread among the elite and rising middle class, there are still areas of China where the local dialect renders the people almost unintelligible foreigners.   There are still  Chinese who have to rely on translators to understand what leaders in Beijing are speaking, but they can read what they said after-the-fact…if they can read. Kind of explains why China is governed/ruled the way it is. Quite a feat.
       A fellow English teacher who spoke Chinese very well told me that when some of his students who came from a distant province became aware that he could understand what they were saying whilst they spoke Chinese among themselves, they immediately began to speak in their local dialect rendering his Chinese useless. So much for inclusion.

       Note how Taiwan is referred to as a province by Chinese sources as opposed to a country as recognized by other nations in the world.

Anny did pretty good on her complicated presentation in Oral English class.

Linguists identify between seven to fourteen subgroups in the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family.  Traditional classification of seven of the groups include:
Gan       (Jiangxinese)
Guan     (Mandarin or Beifanghau)
Kejia     (Hakka)
Min       (including the Hokkien & Taiwanese variants)
Wu        (including the Shanghainese variant)
Xiang    (Hunanese)
Yue      (including the Cantonese and Taishanese variants) 

In addition to the standard, accepted languages and dialects in China, it is customary to speak informally of dialects within each proving, e.g. Sichuan dialect, Hainan dialect. These designations do not generally correspond to classifications used by linguists, but each nevertheless has characteristics of its own. 

The question of whether the various varieties of Chinese should be called dialects or languages in their own right is contentious. There are two principal uses of the word dialect. If varieties are consider dialects of a single language when they are mutually intelligible, and separate languages otherwise, then the principal branches of Chinese, and even some of the subbranches, are distance languages. If, on the other hand, Dialect is used in its other meaning of a variety that is socially subordinate to a standardized or otherwise prestigious variety, perhaps one that share a common written language and literature with the prestige form, then they are all dialects of a single Chinese language, though Cantonese and to a lesser extent Shanhainese and Taiwanese are local prestige forms with use in the media and a nascent literature.

Whew! That's a mouthful!

The following is a brief overview of today's Chinese dialects:
1.  NORTHERN DIALECT (also called Mandarin)….
The official tongue of China, mainly based on Beijing dialect.
2.  JIANGSU DIALECT (also called Wu Dialect)….
Mainly based on Suzhou dialect, which in a way is closer to the Song Mandarin than that of the Northern Dialect. Song Dynasty (960-1279) is the most economical, culturally and intellectually developed period of Chinese history with vast volume of written materials produced during that time. Jiangsu Dialect again branches into many different sub-dialects, and Shanghai dialect is one of them.

3.  ANHUI DIALECT (also called Hui Dialect)….
Mainly use by people of Anhui province.
4.  JIANGXI DIALECT (also called Gang Dialect)…
Mainly used by people of Jianxi Province.
5.  HUAN DIALECT (also called Xiang Dialect)….
Mainly used by people in Huanan Province.
6.  Gujian Dialect (also called Minnan Dialect)…
Mainly sued by people inFujian and Taiwan Provinces.
Mainly ethically based (by Kejia ethnic people) who speak this particular form of dialect and can be found in Fujian, Taiwan and other southern provinces.
Mainly used by people in Guangdong Province and Hong Kong.

This only just begins to scratch the surface of the complexity of Chinese languages & dialects. There is also Guan (Mandarin) with eight main dialect areas of Mandarin in Mainland China, Min with eight more dialect areas, Wu with six dialect area, Yue  with nine dialect areas, among others.

In addition to the varieties within the Sinitic branch of Sino-Tibetan, a number of MIXED LANGUAGES also exist that comprise elements of one or more Chinese languages and and dialects, plus OTHER languages.   YIKES!!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Chinese Characters

       We learned that more Chinese students study English than there are English speakers in all of America. While that unfortunately does not translate to very much English speaking fluency in China, it is always a good experience for anyone to study something of another language. It enriches knowledge and appreciation of one's primary language. Jane proved to be a good example of this with her presentation.
       We never saw a yellow #2 pencil in China. Students use .5 or .7 fine tip pens or mechanical pencils. Why? Because whether writing Chinese characters or English letters, all their writing is incredibly tiny…and because most written Chinese characters are much more complicated that English alphabet letters. The thickness of a #2 wood pencil would blur the words/characters and besides, there are no pencil sharpeners to be found which would need to be used every few minutes, anyway.  
       Is it any wonder that illiteracy was common for centuries in China? It's a wonder to see Chinese students today reading and writing in two or more languages of such divergent complexities.
      Because Jane used so many Chinese characters to illustrate her points, her presentation had to be posted at a photograph so you can see all her examples. Zoom In for more comfortable reading. Reading it as is….is more like our experience reading their Written English assignments; by electrical moonlight ( the only light in our Chinese apartment ).

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ancient Chinese Jade Culture

The Chinese fascination with Jade puzzled me. One of my most intelligent students spoke with glowing conviction of the power of Jade to heal. I listened to her with polite amazement. She wasn't the first of my college-educated students to swear by the medicinal value of jade. Copper bracelets have nothing on jade in China. Serious bio-feedback. It is said in China: Gold is valuable, Jade is precious. In fact, the written Chinese character for jade is similar to the character for imperial power. Go figure.

        "The ancient Chinese dictionary, Xu Shen's Explanation of Words and Phrases published during the Eastern Han Dynasty, defined jade as the "most beautiful stone with five characters"….hardness, subtle color, musical quality, the smooth fracture and transparency. The 5 characters were respectively equal to man's courage, benevolence, wisdom, self-discipline and fidelity.

        "Jade symbolized a man of noble character. Confucian endowed jade with eleven virtues, such as courtesy, wisdom, benevolence, fidelity, sincerity and so on. It is clear that jade had been personified. It was not just a piece of jewelry, but a part of one's being. The ancient Book of Songs noted that "a gentleman would never discard his jade ornaments without any reason, and the way he thought and spoke should be as mild and gentle as jade." Ancient Chinese also thought a man should treat himself as a piece of jade needing to be carved.

        "The ancient Chinese also believe jade can stave off evil spirits and create safety. According to Taoism, jade collecting the essence of the earth and heaven, could keep one immortal physically. In Zhou Dynasty people began to sew thousands of jade pieces into burial suits for rulers, so that their corpse would not vanish.  The custom developed further in Han Dynasty. The tombs of Prince Jing of Wester Han Dynasty and his wife were excavated and two jade suits were found. People do not make the burial suits any longer; however, still believe its protective powers and buy jade wares.

        "Jade also represents the imperial powers. We can get the idea from the way our ancestors created the character "yu" which means the jade. The character was gotten from the character "wang" meaning 'the king' or 'emperor.' Three horiztonal line of the "wang" implied the earth, the man's world and the heaven, and the vertical lines suggest the man who can understand the three worlds. When people wanted to wear a jade, they would drill hole with it, so the added spot of the "yu" character implied the hole and distinguished difference between the two characters. Jade also had an impact on other Chinese characters. Many emperors also preferred to used jade to make imperial seal. For instance, the imperial seal of the Qin Dynasty, the first feudal society in China, was made of jade.

        "All above, jade is beyond the definition of ornaments for Chinese. That is the reason why jade culture never died away, although China is not the main origin."

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chinese Nostalgia

Vila was a sweet visiting student from humble village roots far from Jinan. It is a curious practice in the Chinese university system that invites students to take classes at another university somewhere in China  (and sometimes Asia) for 1 or 2 semesters. Students bop all over the place. I had 3 incredible students from South Korea. The Korean students' English was always superior to their Chinese peers. Real home-sickness is not uncommon among freshmen students.

"As is know to all, nostalgia is a recurrent them in Chinese poetry. Most of us, especially the foreign readers of translated versions of Chinese poetry, may well be taken aback --or even put off-- by the frequency, as well as the sentimentality, of the lament for home. Actually, to understand the strength of the sentiment, we need to know that it has been deep-rooted and profound over the ages.

"To begin with, in ancient times, transportation and communication were largely limited and people were greatly isolated by mountains and rivers. Once separated, reunions seemed far from coming. Although they had thousands of words, few letters could be delivered. For this reason, even letters from homeland ere worth their weight in gold. Drifting on strong lands alone, poets were inclined to recall happy memories of their family members and hometowns at the sight of familiar scenes, especially when they were seriously ill and severely frustrated. And on holidays, they often found themselves drowned in great homesickness, In this case, nostalgic poetry seems the best embodiment of their loneliness and longing for home.

"In the second place, the Chinese desire for stability and rootedness in place is prompted by constant threat of war, exile, and the natural disasters of flood and drought.  Compared with natural calamities and man-made misfortunes, human beings seemed so insignificant and powerless. Have you ever seen the movie 1942?  Actually, I have seen it twice. From the hero's perspective, even dying closer to one's hometown is a kind of consolation. As a prevailing Chinese old saying puts it, if dead people can't be buried in their ancestry graves, their should will wander aimlessly all the time just like ghosts.  In other words, it's the forcible removal that makes the Chinese keenly aware of their loss and the importance of their homeland.

"Finally, it is the feeling of relaxation, warmth and sincerity that makes our longing for home ever-lasting. Faced with fierce competitions, people are not isolated by distances by  mistrust and jealousy. In this case, home is not a place to protect us from heavy rains and strong winds, but also a place to ease our minds and cure our wounds. That is the place where our beloved ones live in and our in exhaustive motivation comes from. That's the reason why so many people can endure all manner of difficulties and fight their way home. That's the reason for the emerging of the so called Chinese Spring Festival Travel Rush, the greatest temporary migration in human history.

"In a nutshell, Chinese nostalgia may be expressed in different shapes in different times, while the essence is the enduring."

Monday, July 21, 2014


Cerina was by far one of our best female students with a sharp sense of humor. Her presentation gave us a peek inside Chinese culture known mostly to the natives. You see and learn a lot about a culture living within it for a good stretch of time. But there is a unique native perspective and that always surprises visitors, especially in China.

The term :Chinese style: became popular about eight years ago thanks to a television series called Chinese Style Divorce which depicted how couples were entangled in three kinds of betrayals: mental betrayal, physical betrayal or mental/physical betrayal. 

Chinese-style Road Crossing: Whether the light is red or green, al long as a handful of people are gathered together, they'll cross the road as a "flock."  One can only count on being safe crossing at a Chinese intersection if one is walking in the flock.
Chinese-style school pick-up: God to any primary or even secondary school when school breaks and witness the chaos created by the quantity of parents waiting at the gate. Listen to the noise generated by the crowd as well as the variety of bicycles, motorbikes, and tricycles used by the parents. Even the busiest bazaar an't beat it. Note: Parents carry one or two children on their bicycles or motorbikes in the most precarious, hazardous fashion, which would be illegal in any western country and probably deserving of jail time.

Chinese-style tricks for curbing traffic jams: Limiting the time period and the areas in which one is allowed to travel by car. Limiting the amount of cars sold. Limiting car use depending on whether one's license plate is odd or even. Auctioning license plate numbers.

Chinese-style blind dates: The girls show up with their mothers. THe mother's job is to make detailed inquiries into whether or not the candidate for marriage has some real savings in his bank account, a car, a house.

Chinese-style gift-giving: A peculiar "collective movement" one week before the Chinese New Year or during major events such as the Moon Festival or the Boat Festival. People are so busy delivering present to their relative, and of course also to government officials, that the roads are chock-a-block. Note: Chinese gifts are among the most elaborately packaged gifts on the planet. Yards of satin, bows, shiny paper and layers of boxes within boxes. Not being tea-drinkers or moon cake fans, we re-gifted a lot, much to the delight of our landlady, the cafeteria cooks and whoever else we could find.

Chinese-style food safety: Melamine-enriched infant milk. Poisonous rice. Clenbuterol-fed pork. Dyed buns. Recycle cooking oil that come from the gutter…  This is all to blame on the economy, of course.

Chinese-style politico: The "three-must-haves" for any public official: a mistress, a secret bank account, and a getaway mansion. The more of each of these items, the better. 

Chinese-style suicide: A prominent feature of the 'Chinese-style suicide' is the most of Chinese suicide victims did not kill themselves because they were mentally ill. Instead, they committed suicide mainly because of their families' economic problems and the traditional Chinese outlook on life: laying down one's life for justice.

China's government is determined to tackle these problems. If you come to China in ten years or so you ma find totally different Chinese-styles.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Chinese Tea Culture

I don't drink classic tea, particularly caffeinated teas; but I'm imbibe an herbal tea now and then. But I learned from our students that hot water is also called tea. Boiling hot water dispensaries are everywhere on campus because one can not drink the water in China. Freshman student, Emma, gave a good information about Chinese tea culture even though she struggled with it. I prefer to see students give honest, personally prepared presentations rather than copy something perfectly scripted from the Internet just to save face.

Tea Garden in China

Chinese people are believed to have enjoyed tea drinking for more than 4,000 years. Legend has it that tea was first discovered by Shennog, who was tasting hundreds of herbal medicines to fast their medicinal power. Since then, tea was originally used for detoxification and mean to be chewed in the mouth. Later, people began to eat it with water In Han dynasty, Chinese people gained a wealth of experience, including different tea species, baking skills, infusing, water selection, tea sets and so on; initially forming a set of tea drinking customs.

Tea as a drink prepared during the Tang Dynasty. In Song dynasty, tea became a popular drink. You can see tea houses everywhere. Someone worked in the house was called tea doctor. New skills created many different ways to enjoy tea. During Ming and Qing dynasty, drinking tea had been an elegant hobby so that many literati like drinking and talking tea to show off themselves. There is a saying that literati drink tea, warriors drink wine.
Tea plant

How does the teach make? First is withering. After people put off the leaves, they evenly place them in house to make leaves dry. The new leaves must be parched in tea cauldrons. Then is rolling and chopped. This step make the smell of tea out of the leaves and easily volatilize when people drinking it. The last step is ferment. It takes four pounds of fresh tea leaves to produce one pound of parched Chinese tea. Different steps decide different species of tea, including black tea, green tea, white tea, yellow tea and dark green tea. In addition, China has many kinds of tea, the most representative are the China top ten famous teas.

Oolong tea being infused in a gaiwan

Tea is a healthy drink which has anti-aging, prolong life and physical effects. It can refresh you when you are tired. It is also good for eyes and teeth. Whats more, tea can prevent cancer and reduce radiation. 

A tea plantation
About how to drink tea, this formed tea arts. Different tea has different arts. For example, Oolong tea art has 36 steps. So, someone calls Chinese tea as Gongfu tea. If you have a chance, you really should see the tea show. You can see tea doctor use long spout of the teapot to pour. It is interesting and amazing. Chinese say tea drinks like life.
Leaves of tea plant
Tea of different fermentation prepared, in cups:  green tea, yellow tea, oolong and black

Tea set

Tea Culture Photos Tea Ceremony SCAM

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Chinese Table Manners

Now that you have your chopsticks well in hand, it's time to get the rest of your Chinese dining ettiqutte down pat. Food is huge in China. Our students list "delicious food" as their first delight. But in a culture that has favored delicious food for several thousand years, there's bound to be a few rules attached; especially in a society where appearances and decorum matter very much. I'll let Leslie, Olive and Cheris tell the rest of the story.

Eating is dominate aspect of Chinese culture, and eating out is a most common way to honor guests.   Similar to westerners, eating together in China is way to socialize and deepen friendships. No matter at home or restaurant, there are many eating manners that one must pay attention to.  There are rules for inviting guest over. When guest of honor enters into room, hosts stand until the guest of honor is seated. The host then orders dishes brought and the guest should be silent. When dishes arrive, the meal begins with a toast from host, and guests then make a toast in turn in honor or host. 

A round dining table is more popular in China than a rectangular or square one since many people can be seated comfortably facing each other. Seating arrangement is most important part of CHinese dining etiquette. In ancient times it was enacted according to a 4-tier social status: 1. imperial court, 2. local authorities, 3. trade associations, 4. farmers & workers. Respect in modern times is simplified to: 1.master of the banquet, 2. guests.  Seat of honor is reserved for master of banquets or guest with highest status or most aged and that person is one who always faces east or facing entrance. In China, left is the sign of being respectable; so, the host can take the seat beside The Big, or sit opposite The Big, and next to the door. Why' that? Obviously  it's convenient to pay the bill. Those with high social position sit closer to master of banquet and lower positions sit furthest from the seat of honor. 
Guest of honor should be first one to start the meal. The best food in a dish should be left for the guest of honor.

Unlike the West where everyone has their own play of food, in China the dishes are placed on the table and everybody shares. Sometimes the host will serve some dishes with his/her own chopsticks to guest to show hospitality. This is a sign of politeness. 
If the dinner is held in the host's family and the meal is cooked by the beautiful hostess, then when she serves the dishes and told you she's very sorry that the soup today is not so tasty, or the beef is a little bit over-fried, and if you believe she really thinks that way, alright, you may be out of her list next time. The appropriate thing to do would be to eat whatever-it-is and say how yummy it is. If you feel uncomfortable with this, you can just say a polite "thank you" and leave the food there. 
Never try to turn a fish over yourself, since the separation of the fish skeleton from the lower half of flesh will usually be performed by the host or waiter. Superstitious people deem bad luck with ensue and a fishing boat will capsize if you do so. This is especially true to southerners in China.
As Chinese food contains meat with bones, so it's OK to spit the bones on the plates or table.

Men, women and children participate in the custom of toasting. During the 1st toast of the night, all stand. The toaster may say "gan bei" (dry glass) which is like the western  "bottoms up" and all are expected to finish the entire drink. If the beverage is not baijiu then gan bei is not said; rather, "thank you for coming" or something similar is said. All are expected to clink their glasses with other guest within reach. Women & children do not normally drink alcohol but still participate in the toast with what they have. Anyone can propose a toast. If you are too far from the person you want toast, then tap your cup or glass to get attention; don't raise your voice. And when you toast someone superior to you like a teacher or elder, you are supposed to let the rime of your glass tap lower than the rim of their glass to show respect.

Unlike the many western nations, a hand must be placed over the mouth while using toothpick to conceal the action. Not doing so is considered rude. Used toothpicks should be placed on your bowl or plate that you do not intend to use again. Never should be left on tablecloth for a waitress to have to pick up, nor thrown on the floor. Such throwing is rude on floor is rude to restaurant or host and putting on tablecloth is inconsiderate to servers.  

…One should not point teapot spout directly at others as this is same as using the finger to point at somebody, which is very impute and also means that this person is not welcome in the house. Obviously, at circular table, the teapot mouth must point at someone, but it is not supposed to point directly to the person on the left or right of the teapot. Across a table does not count, so it is fine.
… When pouring tea for other, hold teapot with right hand and press lid with other hand to show honor and sedateness. If you are getting teach for yourself, make sure to ask other first if they would like some more tea. Then serve yourself after you have served them. Using teach to force the visitor out, there was a rule in Qing Dynasty's officialdom as "the tea that given by the boss shouldn't be taken." So if the boss give tea to his subordinate by his own hand, which is given by a servant, that means he is impatient to the subordinate, and the subordinate should leave immediately. If the boss is visiting the subordinate house, the subordinate must not give the tea to the boss by his own hands, either because that's very impolite and means to force the visitor out.
… If you are not pouring your own tea, but at a restaurant where the service is attentive, in the region of south CHina (especially Canton and Hong Kong) the one who gets the tea uses the knuckles of first and middle fingers to tap the table 2 or 3 times to show thankfulness. This looks similar to knocking on a door, but don't knock as heavily as if it were a door. It is a tap, not a knock; the motion resembles a knock.
…  When the teach runs out and requires more hot water, you may leave the life ajar but still on the teapot -- this is a signal for attendant to refill it. Do not entirely remove the lid and place it on table. The lid touching the table is allowing good luck to escape, and also the table might be dirty. Do not leave a teapot with lid ajar in  middle of table. It should be toward the side of table so that the attendant may refill it without rehang across patrons in an invasive/taking manner.

In most restaurants in Chinese countries, there is not tip required unless it is posted, and will already be on the bill. Guests should not truly 'split the bill' with the host. A gust who splits the bill is very ungracious and embarrassing to the host. If you do not accept the host paying for the bill, it is implying that the host cannot afford it or you do not accept the friendship or hospitality of host. However, it is expected for the guest to offer to pay for the meal multiple times, but ultimately allow the host to pay. It is also unacceptable to not make any attempt to "fight for" the bill. Not fighting for the bill means you think that the host owes that meal to you somehow. Therefore, if you are the guest, always fight for the bill but never win it on the first meal in your host's hometown. After the first meal at your host's hometown, and sometime before you leave, it is customary to bring the host's family to a meal out to thank them for your stay if you did not bring  initial small present for them when you arrived. For that meal, you may pay but you must request your host's attendance and cooperation with allowing you to cover that particular meal.
If you and an acquaintance are on a business trip, it is acceptable to split the bill, but more common to rotate who pays for the meal, with meals of similar cost. Though it is a rotation, here is still the same mock-fight for the bill. The difference is that you may say, "Fine fine, since you are my elder, this is fine this time, but the next meal, I cover." Or something to that effect and pay for the next meal. This rotation does not have to be a meal necessarily. For example, you may rotate a meal and a game of golf. The key to the rotation being viewed as acceptable or not, is the enjoyment both parties actually get from the activity and the approximate cost. Golf would not be an acceptable oration of the other person does not enjoy golf, is rather bad at it while you are excellent at it, etc.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


It is our custom in a school canteen/cafeteria to look for someone to eat with; anyone, stranger or friend. Quite often our lunch partner would ask me, "How long have you been in China?" There would always be a look of surprise to learn the short time we'd been in China because my command of chopsticks seemed so natural and skilled. Even John, who struggled at first, got the hang of it and looks comfortable using chopsticks.  It's one thing to know how to use chopsticks and quite another to use them properly in public. One is judged on one's chopstick etiquette, even though uninformed foreigners are given a small measure of forgiveness. I have to admit, I was guilty of a few chopstick faux pas before I got educated. It's natural for people like me who speak with their hands, to 'speak' with their chopsticks during dinner conversation….oops.

Both Cheris and Olive gave presentations about chopsticks. They set us straight and made us better Chinese guests.

In Chinese cuisine, food is cooked in bite-sized pieces and easy to hold and eat. Therefore, chopsticks are used at the table instead of forks and knives. There are some rules for correct use of chopsticks that are suggested you follow to make your stay in China happier, though you will be forgiven if you have no idea of what they are:

  • Never stick or leave your chopsticks upright in the bowl of rice. This resembles ritual incense burning and implies feeding the dead and death in general. Thus, it is deemed extremely impolite to the host and seniors present.
  • Do not tap on your bowl. Beggars tap on their bowls to attract attention, and also, when the food is coming too slow in a restaurant, people will tap their bowls which insults the host or the cook.
  • Treat chopsticks as extension of your fingers. It is impolite to use them to point at other people or wave them around.
  • Do not impale food with chopsticks. 
  • It doesn't matter if you hold chopsticks in the middle or at the end, but you should make sure the ends are even.
  • Do not chew the ends of chopsticks or pick teeth. They are likely going to be washed and reused. 
  • Chopsticks are not used to move bowls or plates.
  • One should not 'dig' or 'search' through one's food for something in particular. This is sometimes known as "digging one's grave" or "grave-digging" and is extremely poor manners.
  • When eating rice from a bowl, it is normal to hold the rice bowl up to one's mouth and use chopsticks to push or shovel the rice directly into the mouth.
  • It is considered poor etiquette to point rested chopsticks towards others seated the table.
  • Resting chopsticks at the top of the bowl means "I'm finished." Resting chopsticks on the side of one's bowl or on a chopstick stand signifies one is merely taking a break from eating.
  • Chopsticks should not be used upside-down. However, it is  acceptable to use them backwards to stir or transfer the food to another plate if the person does not intend to eat it and there are no serving chopsticks.
  • Holding chopsticks incorrectly will reflect badly on a child's parent, who have the responsibility to teaching their children.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


        It's an interesting experience being in the minority. My tall, elderly, white-haired, large-nosed, very Polish-looking husband turned heads as we walked down the streets of Jinan, China like unto Brad Pitt. I would stand back and watch people stop and stare as John walked by, turn and watch him walk away. This never ceased to amaze me.   We were stared at all the time in Jinan because foreigners are relatively few in this city of 6 million. Our visit to Shanghai was pleasant because foreigners are everywhere so no one takes much notice if you look different.
        At a potluck gathering on Central Campus, I spoke to a female American professor who had a pretty good command of the Chinese language. When I commended her on this skill, I was surprised to discover that she wished she couldn't understand everything students said because their comments on her physical appearance were uncomplimentary and rude. In particular, comments about her large nose; which by western standards was just fine. That was the first time I took notice of the characteristics of the Asian nose: small and flat.  No wonder Chinese stared at John's large Polish proboscis. That said, you would think there would be more dental awareness in China; enough said.
         A story in China Daily told of a young father who was surprised at his "ugly" new baby boy because he had married a "beautiful" wife. It turns out his wife's beauty was the result of successful plastic surgery which she did not reveal to her husband. He claimed he had been hoodwinked and filed for divorce.
        Aviva's presentation helped us better understand the deep-seated awareness our students harbor of physical appearance, particularly among female students.

Women's Good Luck Face

Traditional Chinese culture believes that "face comes from heart." It means that one's personality, thought and behavior could be seen from the face. Meanwhile, our appearances are divided into good or ill luck. Wealthy Chinese men want what most rich guys want in a potential way: good looks. But they also want something special: a good-luck face. Today I am gonna talk about the women's good-luck face.

Sometimes we have to admit that women actually decide the ups and downs of their men, because women can form a special kind of mental aura around their husbands which can affect the men's health, career and wealth. So, many people would like to marry a girl with a good-luck face.

Now, I will take Lydia as an example to show you what the most standard good-luck face looks like. First, your hair is supposed to be soft and straight, having soft hair means you have a gentle personality, could live an easy life and listen to your husband. (My wild, curly hair must give them a strange impression of me & my marriage!!)  Second, a round face is very necessary. Your forehead should be a little square and also there is meat in your face. It is great if your whole face looks willing to make friends and ready to help others. Third is the eyes. They should have clear distinction between black and white in your eyes, just like the leading lady in the cartoon. Girls with this kind of eyes are often naive and simple, they look pretty good and they are kind and polite. They usually have an optimistic attitude in life. Then, a straight nose is also necessary. Girls with good nose are thought to be confident and competent. They can help their husband in business and achieve big success. Next, your lips are opposed to be red and the teeth should be good. At the same time, a soft clear voice is also very important, because this kind of girls are usually gentle and considerable. They are the typical good wife in men's eyes.

When we talk about the gook-luck face, we are saying it as a group of three. It best for you to have a group of features. But, if you only have one or two, it is ok. A girl with these facial features are considered to be a good wife. If men marry her, they are more likely to have a happy family and get success in their career, because she will bring them the good luck and a bright future. But, if you don't have these features, it does not matter so much. You will not bring ill luck to men. It shows that you are just normal girl.

Candied Gourd…Most popular traditional Chinese Snack

The word snack is thrown around with ambiguous abandon in China. The word confused my western idea of individually wrapped snacks. Sure, the grocery stores sell gobs of such snacks; but on the street, snacks are a different animal. Fried squid, pineapple quarters, melon quarters, scorpions, cicada are just a few examples. But the most popular, ever-present snack is the oddest candied crabapple-looking fruit stacked on a stick. We bought one once just to see what the attraction was about. I took one bite and gave the rest to John. Looks are deceiving. Nicole's presentation gave us a better description of this ubiquitous snack.

An old man was selling the candied gourd
I'll tell you about a very common snack in our daily life. We see it nearly everywhere on the street. It is red and tastes both sweet and sour. Do you know what it is?

It's candied gourd, a Chinese tradition. I still remember a picture which looks like a small 'tree' laden with fruit. Actually, it was an old man selling candied gourds.

The origin of this snack is from the Song Dynasty. One of the emperor's high-ranked imperial concubines (that's one of his wives) became ill. She didn't feel like eating anything. The doctor in the palace used many expensive medicine, but it didn't work. So the emperor put a notice asking for a doctor who can cure his wife's disease. Several days later, a doctor from the people asked for the emperor. He felt the pulse and then said, "Boil rock candy and hawthorns together and eat it before meals." Later, the imperial concubine really recovered. Since then people knew that hawthorns are good for digestion, and day by day, it gradually became today's popular candied gourd.

Rolling over hawthorns in sugar mixture
If you want to make candied gourd by yourself you should prepare several fresh hawthorns, sugar and a bamboo stick.
Wash the hawthorns first and then pick out the core. Slide 5-7 hawthorns in one bamboo stick. Place sugar in a wok with 3kg water. Heat 20 minutes and stir. Roll hawthorns in sugar mixture.This a general instruction of making candied hawthorns. In practice, however, it's not so easy.

Various candied gourds
Anyway candied gourd is enjoyed by old and young. It can get up one's appetite, allay tiredness and reduce your fever. Since its origin from Beijing, it has become a part of the history of Beijing City. It somehow implies a simple, quiet and historical urban lifestyle of native in Beijing. Nowadays, this CHinese traditional snack is very popular over all our country. What's more, it has developed many varieties. For example, people often put other fruits into it to satisfy different people's appetite. All in all, if you introduce Chinese snacks to anyone, candied gourd is the most representative one.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Chongqing Hot Pot

For quite a while after arriving in Jinan City, I heard the term Hot Pot but had no idea what it meant. Then a group of students took me to a hot pot restaurant…a unique experience. I think this is the genius of the American critique of Chinese food about eating a Chinese feast and you're hungry an hour later.
Betty's presentation gave us a glimpse of this technique.

Chongqing hot pot is famous for its unique flavor and is popular all over China.  I can remember clearly that when I first come to Shandong University, many of my classmates asked me about the reason why the people living in Chongqing like the hot pot so much. What really makes them confused is that even though we have ate so much, we don't feel uncomfortable. Now I will tell you something about the Chongqing hot pot.

Chongqing Hot Pot is the most famous dish in Chongqing. Chongqing local people consider the hot pot a local specialty, which is famous for its peppery and hot fast, scalding yet fresh and tender. People gather around a small pot filled with flavorful and nutritious clear soup base. You have a choice of spicy, pure and combo for the soup base. Thin sliced raw variety meat, fish, various bean curd products and all kinds of vegetables are boiled in the soup base. You then dip them in a little bowl of special sauce. Be careful since the spicy soup base is burning hot.

It was first eaten by poor boatmen of the Yangtze River in Chongqing area and then spread westwards tot he rest of Sichuan. Now it is a very popular local flavor and can be found in every corner of the city. There are a great variety of hot pots. If your are adventurous enough, you can basically cook anything with hot pot, like pig's brain and duck's kidney.

Chongqing people love their hot pot, especially when the weather is steamy. The fire dances under the pot, the heavily oiled and specced soup boils with hazy steam, and the people are bathed in sweat. Although hot pot can be found wherever there are street vendors or small restaurants, Chongqing hot pot has the greatest variety and is known for its delicious soup base and dipping sauce. I think according to my introduction, you can imagine how delicious the Chongqing hot pot is. It you come to Chongqing, don't forget to fast the hot pot. I think this will m=not make you disappointed and with the development of society, I believe ho pot will becoming more and more popular in the world and become a world famous brand in the future.