Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Posts Tagged ‘Learn about China’

Comprehensive List of All the things You Will Love About China- Tales from the Crypt

Posted by w_thames_the_d on November 9, 2014

Living in China has made me an authority on China. In my quest to share such knowledge, I have started my ‘Tales from the Crypt’ posts which explain in detail the realities of China.

The following is a comprehensive list of all the things you will love about the PRC, should you decide to visit and or live there:



Posted in Beijing Smog, Beijing Smog- Daily pics, Big brother..., China, China Fact, China What they are commenting online, Chinese sayings, Counterfeits and such, Cultural oddities, Food, Jobs, Let me educate you..., News From China- Whats hot, People, Photos | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Improving Quality Education…- or Well Just Forget That

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 13, 2009

This is rich. Under the auspices of closing some gap in opportunities in chinese education, the government in  connection with Peking University has implemented a new master plan. It purports to start a ” a pilot program aimed at improving the country’s university entrance system.”

The article from the China Daily states that under the new and improved system, Headmasters of schools (Principals) have the ability to recommend students to study at University of Peking, without taking entrance exams, but just on the word of the school headmaster! And this will improve education how…(just to explain, entry into Chinese universities is fierce, the parents begin preparing them from the age of 4 or so. They are taught special skills all in the hopes of being able to attend Tshinghua, PKU, or Remnin University).

Not to belittle the country, but I have a few observations. One is that entrance exams are set up to ensure that the most intellectually talented actually enter the top-notch schools.  Schmidt, Hunter and Ones, have campaigned about the veracity of using such measures. In the states we have taken to using other factors that supposedly narrow some gaps that exist in entrance procedures, but just allowing students to waltz in all on the word of a high school principal, doesn’t makes sense even in an alternate universe. At least some schools would say they are attempting to narrow some divide in minority groups, but China already gives ten points to all minorities in college entrance exams-this doesn’t add up.  I get the premise but just have to shake my head about this one.

In a country so rife with corruption, doesnt this seem to be actually taking that to the next level, as if to say ‘hey we don’t really need to hide this anymore, we will do things our way’.

The really sad part of this is my second point and that is that this type of sponsorship by some supposed expert just does not work in this country. It actually reminds me of the milk scandal just around the time of the olympics. The company that produced the tainted milk, Sanlu Group, was actually on a list of ‘trusted companies’ that didn’t have to undergo quality inspections as other ‘less trusted’ companies did. Let me reiterate, Sanlu Group, the company that produced toxic milk was freed from that pesky need to be subjected to routine tests for product quality as it was put on a governmental list of most trusted companies. See hwere I am going here…

Tests, rules, regulations serve a purpose, we don’t always care for them, but as we have learned or should have learned with Sanlu, they are a necessary evil. I just wonder what the situation will be in academia here if this sort of thing will be allowed to continue.

Posted in Counterfeits and such, Cultural oddities, Let me educate you..., Product Quality, Ranting in general | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

High Nose…

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 12, 2009

When you come here you will see that many may admire your ‘high nose’. What they mean is really the bridge of your nose. To the average Chinese, this bridge is a good thing, looks strong, and the stronger the better.

They call the bridge charming, and think it accentuates our eyes.  The funny thing is that here they seem not to be able to distinguish a large abnormal nose a la Alan Greenspan, versus say a Brad Pitt. Dont get me wrong, I think they would without exception vote for the latter in a beauty contest, but I have seen many foreigners whose nose I would love to have filled with nickles, seen as a ‘handsome foreign friend’ here.

China  the land of reinvention….

Posted in Counterfeits and such, Cultural oddities | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Youtube- Where for Art Thou

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 12, 2009

Quick rant. Ok, so the government blocks social networking sites as they don’t want people to use them to riot… sounds weak but their house their rules. But Youtube…wtf… I mean what, are a bunch of Uy*ghur people going to use YouTube to incite a rebellion (that was the party line on the reason for pulling social networking sites- as in not Chinese ones).

I actually think this is nothing more than protectionism. Yeah,the Chinese government can make baidu pull off any offensive information about tian**men or Ti**t, or anything for that matter, but they claim Google is slow to do so. Well, what about YouTube? Think, right now in China each year they need 10million jobs just for the recent college grads- that is a lot of new jobs. In addition, while they are not innovating at a rapid pace, they are merely following, which actually inhibits them in big bang sites like youtube or google. Thus, it would appear that the blocking of these sites would serve to force the locals to utilize home-grown (copycat) sites of arguably inferior quality all under the auspices of protecting the masses.

whew, glad to get that off my chest… but still loving Beijing

Posted in Big brother..., Cultural oddities, Let me educate you... | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Four eyes…

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 11, 2009

“Hey double eyes”. In China it is actually a good thing. See, the Chinese, as do all Asians,  have more fat in their upper eyelids giving them a puffy look. In pursuit of a more international look they go to any length to get that ‘double eyed’ look that we have.  Actually there is a boom across Asia, especially Korea to obtain the elusive double eyes check out the link here.

Yeah, while American and Brazilians are looking to enhance their breasts or rears, Asia is cutting those eyelids. Actually the first time I saw one of these devices I was spooked, but as they say live and learn, now when I see it, I just understand…

Posted in Counterfeits and such, Cultural oddities, Let me educate you... | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Wanna get Married…

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 5, 2009

Lets get married…

In 2008 I grew accustomed to them, long lines of maybe 10 or 15 cars, all identical driving towards the city. Usually they were expensive cars, BMW’s, Mercedes and the like, exact same brand, model, color, moving like a presidential motorcade.

Weddings, that is right, what I was witnessing was an interesting cultural phenomenon, that even the government was pushing- group weddings. I do not lie, can you imagine it? Ten to 15 couples, many of whom did not know one another would do a group wedding, to save costs, to economize, call it what you like, all of them together taking the lifetime vows to love obey and honor. And I am not talking about poor folk, those motorcades were for newlyweds going to or returning from weddings, many of them part of china’s nouveau- riche, people dropping U$ 20,000 on this moment.

I saw photos, considered it odd, not very intimate. I guess the government and the people really wanted to capitalize on the 2008 fame from the olympics, and being a mysterious and superstitious sort, they capitalized on it. The tv praised them, the people watched, not knowing what to think. Not being an expert in such things, it to me appeared in a word- cheesy, just didnt seem right. Hell, I dont even like group photos at amusement parks, let alone on this special day. To me it would seem to be a time for intimacy, or at least a time with your family. I have not seen it much as of late, maybe the craze has slowed down.

Hopefully that was just a fad, as was marrying in Mcdonalds or at least holding the reception in one (yes this did happen when it first came, especially in the Guangzhou area). Imagine that, wedding photos from Micky D’s, or wedding photos that need to be mounted on a wall due to their size. How do you explain to your guests that yes there is your wedding photo, but actually you are the couple 7th from the left, yes you assure them, that was you…

Posted in Cultural oddities, Let me educate you..., People | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Scrumming to work

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 4, 2009

Just took that 22 minute ride to work on the subway with thousands of my newest friends, it got me thinking… Did you know that American football games are 60 minutes long, but in reality there is only 6 minutes of bone crunching violence- the rest is basically set up and planning. Riding a subway in Beijing is like American football.

Beijing has about 8 subway lines but there are two main arteries, they are lines 1 and 2. Line 2 is basically a square around the heart of the city, and line 1 bisects it a little below the center. All of the other lines are offshoots of these two major ones. I take line 1 all the way to work, it is when line 1 and 2 meet that chaos ensues, thus the football analogy.

I travel 11 subway stops, most of which are peaceful, the problem is the dreaded 3rd stop, Jiangwomen. This is a main crossing point for lines 1 and 2 and when the doors open, the ensuing activity approximates your average scrum in rugby. See, the actual prep work starts about one stop before, where the huddled masses begin to elbow push and wiggle their way towards the doors, waiting to be liberated at this juncture and go about their ways. This would be like two football teams approaching the line of scrimmage- all of the players look at one another, check alignment, call out signs…
Then, we slowly approach, this is like the quarterback and linebackers calling an audible. Last minute adjustments are made, people change their minds, look for a better spot…
The doors open, this is what I would like to term “looking into the mouth of the beast”. It is at this moment that all of the strengths and weaknesses of mankind are exposed. It is like that scene in Night, by Elie Weisel, where the guards throw bread scraps to the starving Jews who fight, father against son, brother against sister, for the little morsel. That is what happens when the doors open- the rush of humanity is impressive. Basically those leaving have the right of way, but those who wish to enter, resemble the bulls of Pamplona before they open the gates, their nostrils flare and they are wide-eyed.

This is the actual play in football. In football there are 22 men who potentially can bang into each other, curse, shove and throw each other about. That is what happens at this stage. Those entering wait for the passengers to leave, and typically they do, as quickly as possible, and then comes the flood of humanity. The new entrants lower there shoulders and literally push the young the old, the women and men, and vie for a precious spot. I will video this event as it is captivating.

Funny thing is that just like American football, although the violence when it transpires, is intense, there is an emotional down time just after. Thus, between stops there is an eerie calm, just like a football huddle as we all prepare for the next onslaught.

Posted in Cultural oddities, Let me educate you..., Subway | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Lets be friends…

Posted by w_thames_the_d on November 25, 2009

When I came to China I was surprised to see how many ‘friends’ I had. Everywhere everyone was asking me if we could ‘be friends’. Friends, I thought, hell yeah, cant have enough of them…

Now ‘being a friend’ in China can mean many things, just as in the States. For instance, if you have amorous desires towards a woman and she says this, well, just walk on. Or, for instance, in the fifth grade, this is akin to a pact, being a friend may mean best friend, or to be on one’s sacred friend list. A list of people with whom one can chat, phone, generally annoy.

What I have found out is that in China, if asked, answer in the affirmative that you will be a friend to all. When they ask they question here, they are basically asking if they may communicate further with you in the future. The beauty of it all is that they are pretty timid people, so keeping in touch may mean nothing more than a text message a week or an email.

Being accepted into a friendship in China, is like being in the mob. They have several layers, like an onion. Typically when asked this question, you may feel it odd, seems somewhat sophomoric. Basically it is a benign request, unless it is from an overbearing student or 20something who wishes to improve their English, it is just another person for them to put in their list of names in their cell. Maybe its for prestige when showing others, maybe to help you, doesn’t really matter, just say "Yes, I would be honored to be your friend."

All about Chinese culture…

Posted in Cultural oddities | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »