TED Talk on China, Chinese Youth and the Power of Blogging

Matt | Blogging in China,Chinese Culture | Monday, July 29th, 2013

It has been awhile and I have missed thinking about and writing about China.  My current job is slightly different than teaching in China, but once in a while I come across something interesting about China or Chinese culture and my interest peaks so does my excitement.

My wife introduced this TED talk on China from the “Chinese Oprah” Yang Lan.  I really enjoyed her presentation, but what I kept thinking about was how impressive her English was.  I find it challenging enough to give a great presentation in my native language and I couldn’t imagine how challenging it would be give a talk in another language. Well done Yang Lan.

Chinese Food

Matt | Chinese Culture,Cooking Chinese Food | Friday, May 27th, 2011

Here is a response to a 6th grader concerning food in China.  I thought it was very smart and brave of this student to reach out and ask for this information.  I was glad to provide it, although talking about Chinese food made me extremely hungry..

What is in a typical Chinese daily diet?
A typical Chinese diet involves a lot of rice.  Rice is known as a “main dish”.  It is usually served at the end of a meal to fill up with.  A Chinese person would often say they are not full unless they have a “main dish”.  A main dish could also include bread, but it is usually white rice.
Along with rice, Chinese also eat a lot of vegetables and tofu as well as soups.  Most dishes are stir-fried using garlic, ginger and green onion and then with sauces usually including soy sauce, Chinese vinegar, sesame oil and or peanut oil.
For most meals there would also be a meat or a fish dish included.  These could be cooked in a variety of ways.  Meats are mostly stir-fried with some vegetables mixed in.  Fish is cooked in different ways.  One popular method of cooking fish is boiling it in a spicy water and oil mixture where there are so many peppers that the waiter has to scoop out 2-3 bowls of peppers before you can start eating it.  It is called Shui Zhu Yu and it is very delicious.
Sounds like a lot of food huh?  It usually is.  But it is also delicious.  Another great feature of eating in China is that they use a “shared plate” system: they order many dishes for the table and everyone uses their chopsticks to pick out the food they like.  It’s kind of like a buffet at your own big round table except that you use chopsticks to pick out your own food.
Overall, I think a Chinese diet is quite healthy as they eat a lot of vegetables and tofu as well as eating freshly made food.
What’s the most unique food you have eaten in China?

The most unique food I have eaten would probably be Hot Pot.  Hot Pot is very popular in China especially in the spicy Southwest province of Sichuan (some people in North America spell it the old way, Szechuan).  Picture a big pot filled with spicy water and oil on one half and a chicken soup flavoured water on the other half.  This pot is brought to your table and a burner is placed under it so that it will come to a boil.  In this “hot” pot you put in vegetables, tofu, thinly sliced beef, mutton, as well other interesting things (such as pigs brains! – which I could not eat).  When the vegetables and meats are cooked you reach in with your chopsticks and pull out your food, dip it in a sesame sauce to cool off the spicy flavour and eat it.  Hot pot is delicious especially in the colder Fall and Winter months.
Again, this is a social type of meal and it is fun to eat with a group of 4+ people.  Most Chinese meals are meant to be shared and so eating is very social.  Food is very important to Chinese culture.

What is the oddest thing that you have ever eaten?

The oddest thing I have eaten is tough to say because in China you can eat some very interesting things.  The choices range from the safe dishes I mentioned above (except the pigs brains) to things like silk worms on a stick (like a shish-kebab), rabbit ears in a spicy sauce (also from Sichuan province), to fried scorpions.  I think the fried scorpions were the oddest thing for me as I am a really picky (aka bad) eater.  They tasted like fried chicken bones.  They were small about 1 1/2 inches long and very crunchy.  There wasn’t much taste to them.  Still that was quite odd for me.

What was the most expensive thing you have ever eaten?

The most expensive thing I have ever eaten was probably a lobster dish that was designed like a dragon.  For my wedding in China a friend of my wife’s family treated the families to a delicious meal.  As we were foreigners and since we were in Inner Mongolia which is far from the sea he wanted to show his generosity and so he order this dragon-shaped lobster dish for each of the tables.  This dish cost about 1200 RMB each which is about $200 USD.  There was one of these lobster dragons at each of the three tables.  Unfortunately, most of my family are also picky (aka bad) eaters and we don’t eat a lot of seafood, so we didn’t enjoy the lobster as much as others could have.  Still is was a beautiful dish and a beautiful gesture.


I hope this gives you an idea about Chinese food.  Thank you again for asking.  You’ve reminded me of how delicious Chinese food is and how friendly Chinese people are, unfortunately I am now very hungry :)  Thank you for your questions and good luck with your assignment. Hopefully, one day you will get the chance to go to China and eat real Chinese food.  You will love it.

Blogroll: China Opening Up

Matt | Chinese Culture,Living in China,Preparing to Come,Visas | Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

I haven’t done a blogroll recently, as I haven’t been writing much recently, but here goes.

Since the Olympics have ended, I’ve heard that the visa situation has gotten a bit easier.  Then I stumbled across this China Briefing’ post Hong Kong Issuance of China Visas Easing.  This article mentions that it is for tourist visas in China and once you get onto the mainland you’d need to change it into a working visa.  It’s nice to see the visa trade is opening up too.

Lost Laowai’s You Buying the Angry Expat Ideology? This post talks about the importance of opening up our minds and hearts if we truly want to live in a foreign country.  It’s a nice idea about why foreigners get upset so often here in China.  Open your minds and hearts.

Filination.com has a nice exhibit to help you open your eyes: China’s Top 5 Most Beautiful Girls.

China.org.cn has a post with pictures of an Adult hotel opening in Nanning.  The photos makes help you visualize how China’s sexuality is becoming more open in such a traditionally conservative culture. Open your minds, hearts, wallets (legs?!)

Weekly Round up: Oh (Big) Brother…

Matt | Blogroll,Chinese Culture | Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Since coming to China 3 years ago I’ve been a bit paranoid about being watched. I’ve lived in hotels, university dorm rooms and now in my own apartment and I’ve gone through different waves of paranoia. Now that the Olympics are coming closer, a lot of weird little things are happening around me here in Beijing.

A few weeks back I picked up one of my favourite expat magazines, That’s Beijing, and was surprised at how it changed. It used to be a must read and now it was a cleaner, glossier, more anti-septic magazine. I didn’t know why until I read some other blogs today and found out the management has been changed just in time for the Olympics. From ImageThief’s article The New That’s Beijing and the Art of Stench Management. This is a shame as That’s Beijing was a great magazine. But it looks like now we’ll have to look for The Beijinger instead.

China Law Blog put out another great piece: You Saw Me Do What? Privacy in China. The talks overtly on how you’ll be watched if you come to Beijing for the Games.

Absurdity, Allegory and China had many good articles that I enjoyed, but here are two. The first, Don’t Go There, informs us how Beijing University is now off-limits because it is an Olympic venue. The second: Public spaces vs Private Needs, sadly, talks about how the beautiful new Olympic structures – the Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium and the CCTV building – will likely become off-limits to the general public and what some of the likely options will be. From what I’ve seen of parks, exercise spots and generally nice places in Beijing, I’m guessing it will become surrounded by a wall, a gate, a guard, a ticket booth, and beside a shopping mall, above a shopping mall, or near a shopping mall.

Analects of Confucius – Chapter 11

Matt | Analects of Confucius,Chinese Culture,Learning Chinese | Monday, July 14th, 2008

Here is the 11th Chapter in Confucius’s famous book, written by his disciples, called The Analects of Confucius. It is written in little posts, lessons, stories, with each chapter holding about 30. A lot I didn’t understand or didn’t care for, so I’ve included only the ones that I enjoyed, understood, or thought interesting to share. Like Confucius said, “It’s better to read one book a hundred times, than a hundred books one time.” So, I keep finding myself reviewing this book. Oh well, I guess that means I still have a lot to learn.

4/ Confucius said, “Yan Hui always entirely accepts whatever I say. He has never disagreed with me, and this is of no help at all.”

Like someone else said (Emerson?) If two people always agree, one of them is unnecessary.

20/ Zi Zhang asked how to become a good man. Confucius said, “A good man neither has to follow in other people’s tracks, nor has to be accomplished in learning or virtue.”

I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow. If I fail, if I succeed… sorry, thought I’d jump into song there. Don’t follow others. This reminds me off a famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, another great philosopher/teacher, “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide.

22/ Zi Lu aksed, “Should one person respond immediately to a call?” Confucius said, “How can you respond immediately to a call with your father and elder brothers alive?”

Ran You asked the same question, “Should one respond immediately to a call?” Confucius said, “Yes, one should.”
Gongxi Hua was deeply perplexed, saying, I am puzzled. May I know why you gave two different answers to the same question?”

Confucius said, “Ran You usually hangs back, so I urge him on; Zhong You advances bravely and sometimes audaciously , so I hold him back.

As a teacher you often have to adjust your style based on each student’s individual needs. Some need to be urged on and others need to be held back. Often in teaching, I find encouraging a student’s self-confidence is vital.

Weekly Roundup – China Experiences/ Experience ChinaWeekly Roundup – China Experiences/ Experience China

Matt | Blogroll,Chinese Culture,Dating | Saturday, July 12th, 2008

I’ve been a little lax on keeping up with what’s happening around China with the Olympics less than a month away. Actually, it hardly feels like the Olympics are so close. The weather has been unusual for a Beijing summer: rain every day, what is this London? Also, while people are working feverishly to finish things, subways, buildings, restaurant menus, still feels odd the ‘Pics are so close. But, deep down in the background, there is a wave of excitement that is slowly building; that the Olympics will be here soon.

Fortunately, some friends have been forwarding me some interesting articles about China that I’d like to share and here is one from the Independent Enter the Dragon..and Gain.. This talks of the benefits of (UK) students coming and experiencing China first hand. Also, it mentions how the quality of teachers coming to China has increased dramatically and that I’d agree with. Remember to get your qualifications before you come to China if possible if you want to teach.

Another great article, actually a nice series of articles, that I found on MoneyMSN, is called Keeping up with the Wangs: Land of 1.3 Billion Shoppers. It’s a lengthy piece, but the charts are fantastic, if you’re a nerd like me and like to read interesting charts and statistics – i.e. there are more cell phone users in China than people in the U.S. All in this series of articles looks fascinating.

This last article from Asia Times, touched me close to home, as a 30 something guy who isn’t married and who has an active father who’d like to see me get married off. Sunday Afternoon at the Marriage Mart

This talks about how parents of one-child babies sometimes go to the park and try to sell (pair) off their child. I found it quite interesting and terrifying. I was interested in how even in pairing off their children, how the selling (girl’s) parents would lie and try to trick the unsuspecting buyer (boy’s parents), by showing a different picture of their daughter. Like all things you buy here, you need to examine it closely to make sure you aren’t getting cheated: this includes love to I guess. What terrified me, wasn’t that this happens, it’s only parents who love their kids and want them to be happy, what terrified me was thinking about my dad being unleashed in this park trying to get (buy) me a nice girl and to see what he’d write on my advertisement card.

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