Driving in China – Just Go

Matt | Chinese Culture,Driving in China | Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

The problem with \

Driving in China seems to follow the general flow of things here, which appears to be:

just go baby, just go.

From a pedestrians point of view it looks like cars have the right of way and buses trump all. Cars seldom stop for people and buses never do, except at scheduled bus stops. Bicycles are fast, furious and everywhere. Electric bikes are deadly. They fly by in stealth mode, sometimes at speeds of up to 40km/hr. Sometimes I’m about to step off a sidewalk and whoosh an electric bike zooms by inches away from exploding into me. But, the biggest adjustment for me was in crossing a street in China.

Crossing the street in China is a challenge as you continually need to look in all directions, like running down on kick-off in an American football game, for all sorts of vehicles or 240lb linebackers (buses). The biggest challenge for me as a walker was watching cars turn right at a red light. Cars do NOT need to stop when turning right at a stop light. Actually, cars can speed up into the turn right. These drivers just go, and like a round-a-bout in Europe, without looking at the oncoming cars. The car coming onto the road seems to have the right-of-way. And no-one looks for pedestrians. The walker needs to be on the look out. Or to walk confidently giving a “straight arm” to the driver telling them they need to stop. Be careful, buses will NOT stop.

This “just go” mentality often leads to messy situations especially as more and more people are owning cars. People drive where they want when they want. Street signs seem to be recommendations only. Driving on sidewalks, driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and driving in the bicycle lane are common practices here. Actually I saw all of these situations while I was walking yesterday.

But sometimes, just going, can get you into trouble.

China Developing

Matt | China Developing | Monday, May 26th, 2008

China is a developing country, yet, I’m often startled at the shocking contrast you’ll see on the streets of Beijing. From seeing the parade of black tinted Audis and Porsche Cayannes pass by and on the same street you’ll also see fruit vendors selling their goods on the back of a horse drawn carriage. China is the country of contrasts. I’m writing this post while enjoying my Starbucks coffee and studying about China.

Chinese Visas update

Matt | Visas | Sunday, May 25th, 2008

From China Law Blog here’s an update on Chinese visas. A Z-visa is still the way to go.

The Beijinger’s fantastic summary on Chinese visas – Fact or Fiction. MUST READ.

Analects of Confucius: Chapter 7

Matt | Analects of Confucius | Saturday, May 24th, 2008

I am feeling a bit lost these days and I need to make some decisions soon, so I thought I could use another dose of learning from THE teacher, Kong Zi, otherwise known as Confucius. Here are my favourite sections from his Chapter 7 in The Analects.

3. Confucius said, “Not to cultivate virtue, not to review what one learned, not to practice personally what is righteous, and not to correct one’s mistakes in time – these are all my worries.”

Good advice to follow. I especially like the idea of reviewing what one has learned and to put it into practice. These are two things that I could improve upon.

6. Confucius said, “Stick to the way to your goal, base yourself on virtue, lean upon benevolence, and take your recreation in the six arts (i.e. music, the rites, archery, carriage driving, classic books and arithmetic).”

I like the idea about staying focused and using virtue and caring towards others to keep you on the right path and in your free time to focus on positive things. Mind you some of them are a bit dated, though I still like the image of Confucius driving a buggy or a car. I do agree with the idea of focusing on books, music, math and being active. If you want some more tips on being virtuous here are some links from a great American teacher, Benjamin Franklin.

8. Confucius said, “I will not instruct my students until they have really tried hard but failed to understand. If I give them one instance and they cannot draw inferences from it, I will not teach them anymore.”

Tough teacher, but great principle: students must learn and figure things out by themselves. Learning must come from inside each of us.

20. Confucius said, “I was not born with knowledge, but, being fond of ancient culture, I was eager to seek it through diligence.”

I like this thought that the way to acquire knowledge is through hard work and diligent study.

22. Confucius said, “When walking in the company of other men, there must be one i can learn something form. I shall pick out his merits to follow and his shortcomings for reference to overcome my own.”

This is one of my favourite quotes from Kong Zi, that we can learn something from everyone.

27. Confucius fished with a hook but not with a net and he never shot birds in the nest.

I like this one as it shows the honour in the way Kong Zi lived and hunted.

28. Confucius said, “I am not one of those who pretend to understand what they do not. I suggest that one should listen to different views and choose the sound one to follow, see different things and keep them in mind. Knowledge obtained in this way is reliable, though not as good as innate knowledge.”

Listen to others’ views and choose for yourself. Good advice. Don’t pretend to understand what you do not. This one, I’ve got to work on.

China’s tough times in print

Matt | News About China,Olympics 08-08-08 | Monday, May 19th, 2008

The other day I was having a class where we talked about TV news reports. I planned to start with a brainstorm about news stories about the main questions that all news stories answer: who, what, where, when, why and how? So when I asked the class about some big news events recently, the obvious one was the Earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan. I tried to move the topic away from that as it is still an emotional event that is ongoing. So, I tried getting other topics,

  • The earthquake
  • The torch relay controversies – I heart China, no heart France.
  • The March14th riots in Tibet (picture the Quebec referendum)
  • The snowstorm (picture the Ice storm that hit Quebec, Ottawa, Toronto back in ’97)
  • Inflation of 8% (food +20%)

All of these emotional events have taken place in the past 6 months. Talk about stretching one emotional, physically and spiritually. I don’t know how a country like Canada would handle this as well as the stress of putting on the Olympics (which Toronto would have had if Beijing didn’t get it.)
China, and the Chinese people, have been hit by a one hurdle after another and all have been quite visible. I don’t really know why I’m writing this except that I was shocked and impressed by how resilient the people and country have been. It is an emotional time now. While I don’t agree with everything and am sick of seeing certain things on the news repeatedly, I do hope that the Olympics in Beijing turn out to the best ever – China deserves it.

Usually, I don’t watch the opening ceremonies as I find them too long, theatrical and boring, but this time I will watch. Actually, I can hardly wait. I honestly believe this will be the most impressive and exciting opening ceremonies ever. Personally, I think the opening and closing ceremonies will be breathtaking. I cannot wait.

I hope China gets some good news their way and an exciting Olympics will do that. I cannot wait for 8-8-08 to come.

How to cook Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken) – A foreigner’s dream

Matt | Cooking Chinese Food | Saturday, May 17th, 2008

Kung Pao Chicken (Gong Bao Ji Ding) – The Recipe

I wasn’t sure if I’d ever find true love, and I still haven’t, but from a culinary point of view I’ve found the closest thing to true love and that’s a recipe for Gong Bao Ji Ding. Picture chicken breast cut into cubes with peanuts in a spicy sichuan hot sauce and NO BONES. It is the probably the most popular dishes for foreigners in China and it is my favourite dish by far. I’ve become an expert on eating Gong Bao Ji Ding and have become a bit of a snob when it comes to eating it. So, when I couldn’t find decent “Ji Ding” around my apartment, I finally decided to learn how to cook it.

With a lot of help from the book, The Everything Chinese Cookbook, and making a few additions based on what I like. I have found that everyone makes Gong Bao Ji Ding there own way. Here is my recipe for Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken).


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons liao jiu (Chinese rice wine; dry sherry; bai jiu – would probably work too)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (can buy at Jenny Lou’s)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 4 tablespoons oil for stir-frying
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 handful (1/2 cup) of dried red hot chilis
  • 1 cup unsalted
  • 1/4 cup ginger root sliced (jiang)
  • 1/2 cup spring onion diced into big pieces (da cong)
  • sichuan black peppers (make your tongue go numb)

How to prepare

  1. Cut the chicken in small cubes. Add the regular soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of liao jiu (cooking alcohol), and the cornstarch to the chicken, adding the cornstarch last. Marinate the chicken for 30 minutes.
  2. Mix together the dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of liao jiu (cooking alcohol), sugar, and sesame oil.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons oil to a preheated wok, skillet or frying pan (I use this). When oil is hot, add the chicken cubes and stir-fry until they are golden brown. Remove the chicken from the wok and drain.
  4. Fry peanuts if raw. Add fresh oil to the pan. Add raw peanuts and fry until they are brown and tasty. Can add a pinch of salt for taste. For me, roasted peanuts is the key to good Gong Bao Ji Ding. Get this step right and you’ll enjoy it.
  5. Move peanuts to the side, add a bit of oil if needed, and add the garlic clove, ginger root and spring onion. Stir-fry until aromatic. When it smells good. Mix in the peanuts, add the red chilis chopped and include the seeds (hot) and the sichuan peppers (I use ground sichuan peppers, but I think the full round ones would be better).
  6. Move the spicy peanut mix to the side and add the sauce to the wok and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and add the chicken. Mix everything and simmer for a few minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Serves about 2, usually, unless I’m hungry.  I usually like to have it on top of some white rice, so the rice can absorb some of the spicy sauce.

Enjoy.  Let me know how it turns out.  If you have your own recipe, I’d love to hear it.  Now I’m off to marinade my chicken and get the show started. Zai jian.

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