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Qingming in literature

john  —  April 3, 2013

Qingming was frequently mentioned in Chinese Literature. Among these, the most famous one is probably Du Mu’s poem (simply titled “Qingming”)

Simplified Chinese  English translation
清明时节雨纷纷  A drizzling rain falls like tears on the Mourning Day
路上行人欲断魂 The mourner’s heart is breaking on his way.
借问酒家何处有 Where can a wine house be found to drown his sadness?
牧童遥指杏花村 A cowherd points to Almond Flower (Xing Hua) Village in the distance.
Flying kites

flying-kitesFlying kites is an activity favored by many people during the Qingming Festival (the Remembrance Holidays). Kites are not only flown during the daytime but also in the evening. Little lanterns are tied to the kite or to the string that holds the kite.

And when the kite is flying in the sky at night, the lanterns look like twinkling stars that add unique scenery to the sky. What makes flying kites during this festival special is that people cut the string while the kite is in the sky to let it fly free. It is said doing so can bring good luck and help eliminate diseases.

qingming-celebrationAll in all, the Qingming Festival is an occasion with unique characteristics, integrating sorrowful tears to the dead with the continuous laughter from the spring outing.

(Source: Chinadaily, April 3, 2013)

Apr1_Beijing_pollutionThe pol­lu­tion in Bei­jing was bet­ter over the week­end and Can­thy always updates sit­u­a­tion. I think she’s got my Eng­lish habit of always ask­ing “hows the weather?”. I also check the CN Air Qual­ity app on my iPhone which updates the air qual­ity and pol­lu­tion lev­els by the hour. The map shows the sit­u­a­tion across China so you can see the whole pic­ture, although it would be if you could also see other places in the world to compare.

Apr1_Pollution_SZ_BJDespite today being good and sim­i­lar with Shen­zhen, over­all the sit­u­a­tion still reminds appalling. You can see by the charts that the two cities could not be more oppo­site. And the graph­i­cal image tells a fright­en­ing pic­ture of the sit­u­a­tion. The new Pres­i­dent of China, Xi Jin­ping was on the TV again recently declar­ing to sort out pol­lu­tion. But sadly not many Chi­nese peo­ple I speak to think any­thing will hap­pen any­time soon. So it could eas­ily sound just like an April Fools Day joke. How­ever, I am will­ing to wait until the smog clears and see what he will do. But then I am liv­ing in Shen­zhen where the prob­lem doesn’t exist.

(Blog posted by Ray on April 1, 2013. You can see the original article by following this link to

Fair outlook at Ditan Park

john  —  February 23, 2013


Ditan Park welcomes visitors to its annual Spring Festival fair to appreciate the traditional customs of the Chinese Carnival. Every year, residents will be selected to perform the role of the emperor during the ritual in the morning, which was conducted annually at the beginning of the year to bless the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) harvest.

Source: City of Beijing

U-Turn on Tough Traffic Light Law

john  —  February 9, 2013


Dri­ving in China is more haz­ardous and dan­ger­ous than almost any other place in the world. Mainly for two rea­sons: firstly 80% of car own­ers are first time dri­vers. So they don’t have expe­ri­ence and road sense that we grow up with in the west. Sec­ondly: most dri­vers ignore the traf­fic rules and reg­u­la­tions because they don’t agree with them and the penal­ties are low and not enforced.

How­ever, this was set to change in the New Year when the gov­ern­ment intro­duced new laws. This would mean tighter restric­tions and tougher penal­ties to reduce traf­fic fatal­i­ties and make the roads safer. The most con­tro­ver­sial new law stated that if you jumped an “amber” light you would get a six point penalty on your license. Which is the same penalty for jump­ing a red light, so if you did it twice you would lose your license.

How­ever, there has been so much oppo­si­tion from dri­ver that the gov­ern­ment has caved in and sus­pend this new law. As some­one who have dri­ven in China for sev­eral years I agree with this new law and think it should have remained. It may be harsh but at present when dri­vers see amber traf­fic lights they just speed up try­ing to get passed before it turns red. An amber light in China means “drive faster”, whereas in the west in means slow down and dri­vers do. At the end of the day any­thing that can cut speed­ing cars and make the roads safer has to be good for everyone.

(Blog posted by Ray on January 8, 2013. You can see the original article by following this link to


It’s already the 1st Feb­ru­ary and I’m not sure where Jan­u­ary went. I’ve had an irreg­u­lar start to post­ing on this pho­to­blog in 2013 and I’ve got behind again by a cou­ple of weeks. Any­way, a new month and another new start to try to post more fre­quently and stay on tops of things.

This month it’s Chi­nese New Year, so fes­tive dec­o­ra­tions are going up every­where. Red Chi­nese paper cut­tings are very pop­u­lar and tra­di­tional at this time of year. These ones appeared on the win­dows of the can­teen at work and say Happy New Year 新年快乐  (Xīn nián kuài lè).

I know it only feels like we just had Christ­mas and West­ern New Year, but the Chi­nese New Year is a much big­ger event in China and it means I get to go home and see my fam­ily. I can’t wait!


(Blog posted by Ray on February 1, 2013. You can see the original article by following this link to

Heavily polluted air in Beijing

john  —  January 13, 2013

People visit the Tian'anmen Square in Beijing, capital of China, Jan 11, 2013. The PM 2.5 (particles less than 2.5 microns) data in Beijing hit 240 to 446 on Friday, which means the 6 rating heavily polluted air quality. [Photo/Xinhua]




Related story:

Beijing air pollution soars to hazard level (BBC)

A winter swimmer jumps into the icy water of the frozen Shichahai lake in Beijing, capital of China, December 22, 2012. Temperatures in Beijing could plunge to the lowest in almost three decades over the weekend, weather forecasters said Saturday. Photo: Xinhua

People enjoy themselves on the frozen Shichahai lake in Beijing, capital of China,December 22, 2012. Temperatures in Beijing could plunge to the lowest in almost three decades over the weekend, weather forecasters said Saturday.

Temperatures in the Chinese capital Beijing could plunge to the lowest in almost three decades over the weekend, weather forecasters said Saturday.

Temperatures are expected to drop to minus 15 degrees Celsius in urban areas over the weekend.

Beijingers started to feel the freezing weather after a cold spell came in from Siberia on Friday night, Wang Hua, chief forecaster of Beijing Meteorological Observatory said.

Chen Dagang, a senior meteorological forecaster at the observatory, said the capital city’s lowest temperature in recent decades was minus 15.2 degrees, recorded in 1985.

Wang said in Beijing’s mountainous northern suburb, Sunday’s temperatures could drop to minus 20 degrees Celsius. However, he said they would rise again on Monday.

On Saturday, fewer people were on Beijing’s streets. Not many people were seen at Tiananmen Square, a tourist hot spot.

“Your hands go numb in just a few minutes. Cameras also work very slowly due to the cold,” said a woman surnamed Zhou, who works on the square.

Most parts of the country, except the central and southwestern regions, will see temperatures fall by six to eight degrees Celsius in the next three days. Some parts of north and northeast China will witness a drop of 10 to 14 degrees Celsius, according to the observatory.

The National Meteorological Center on Saturday kept its blue alert for the cold weather that is sweeping many northern regions in China.

(Blog posted on December 23, 2012. You can see the original article by following this link to Global Times)

How to Use a Squat Toilet in China

john  —  November 25, 2012


The “western” toilet is making inroads into China and in big cities and airports, you’ll find a few of them in the row of toilets in the bathroom. However, there are still lots and lots and lots of squatty potties and likely as not, you’ll venture into one. It’s not as hard as it seems, but it’s good to know what you’re getting into before you go…


1. Pack Tissues. Before you even leave the hotel, make sure you’ve got portable toilet paper with you. Lots of public restrooms don’t provide it. Wet wipes and hand sanitizer are also good to have along as if there’s a sink, there may not be any soap, and probably no towels either.

(1. 装好卫生纸


2. Plan Your Business 1. “Preventive Peeing” or going before you go is a good way to avoid getting caught in a place that won’t have a nice toilet. (Nice doesn’t necessarily mean Western by the way.) Pretend you’re all five years old and make sure everyone goes before you leave the house.

(2. 计划你的旅游A

“预防你的小便”或者说在你出发前你得想到你要去的地方可能没有一个让你觉得舒服的厕所(这里的舒服不是说只有俺们外国的才最舒服,中国的厕所其实没啥 不好的)你就当自己是个五岁的小孩,出门前一定要尿尿。然后大家一起出发别落下任何一个人。)

3. Plan Your Business 2. If you’re going to be out and about, think about where you’ll be and try to plan some pit-stops in between. Especially in big cities, international hotels, upscale restaurants and shopping malls will have clean washrooms with most of the amenities (toilet paper, Western toilets, soap and towels).Places to avoid using the bathroom: large markets (especially outdoor markets), street-side public bathrooms (though they’re improving), tourist spots.

(3. 计划你的旅游B


4. Bag Hand-Off.

If you can, hand any unnecessary bags to a friend while you use the washroom. There are generally no hooks and you’ll need your hands to balance, to dig around your purse for tissues and to hold on to the door if the lock is broken.

(4. 别带你的包


5. Queuing Up. If you find yourself outside the comfort of your hotel, don’t panic. It won’t be unbearable. Queues in China don’t work the same way as they do in the States. Women generally line up in front of a particular stall rather than hang back as one opens. This can create a free-for-all so it’s best to stick to one door and keep your eye on it. If it happens not to be a Western toilet, better to get in there than re-queue. Many times, doors have pictures or signs indicating Western or squat-style toilets. Also, check the lock, if it’s red, then it’s occupied. Green means free but always knock.

(5. 排队这件事儿

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA如果你发现你自己已经不在那个舒服的旅店外了,别难过。这不是那么难忍受的事情。排队这件事在中国虽然不那么流行不过我们在美国也有不排队的时候不是吗。女厕所里面大家经常是一个个排在各个厕所前,并不是说在每个门前都晃来晃去等谁出来了就进去。所以说你得看准了自己等待的那个厕所位置并且一直盯着。如果前一位上完厕所出来你不幸的发现这不是座便器,我建议你最好还是进去吧,不然你又要重新排队了。不过很多情况下,门上面都会有标准注明那个是蹲厕那个是座便。还有一点要记着,上厕所前检查一下门锁,如果上面显示转到红色,那就是锁上了,要是绿色那就表明里面没人。)

6. Pants Check. I don’t want to scare you but some washrooms are rather wet – either from splash effect or the toilet maid (usually there is someone assigned to sit in the washroom and clean it) running amok with her mop. Either way, it’s not moisture you want on your new linen trousers. If it’s wet, roll them up, especially if you’re in line for a squat toilet. If you see other Chinese ladies rolling, then be sure to. They know something you don’t.

(6. 检查好你的裤子


7. The Squat. OK, well, you’ve found yourself in a squatty potty. It’s really not that bad and many argue it’s actually healthier to go this way than sitting down. Whatever, if you’re not used to it, squatting can be really difficult. Face forward and try to let your pants down while ensuring that the ends are up (hopefully you’ve rolled) and not touching the floor. There are grooved places for your feet on either side of the toilet. Try to get somewhere in the middle, feet flat on the floor (you don’t want to fall in, believe me) and aim for the potty.

(7. 蹲下


8. Paper Discard – Not in the Pot! Chinese plumbing in public restrooms generally doesn’t handle paper. If you can remember, please put anything other than #1 or #2 in the basket. Try as hard as you can NOT to look at the basket, it’s usually open and teeming with things on which you’d rather not lay eyes.

(8. 扔掉卫生纸


9. Finish Up. Out you go, you accomplished squat toilet user. Unroll your pants, wash your hands, if you can, and find your friends waiting for you outside.

(9. 结束

用完厕所,你已经完成了作为一个使用蹲厕的人的步骤。放下你的裤腿,洗干净手,然后找到在外面等你的朋友= =)


It’s really not that bad once you get the hang of it and isn’t it better than hovering over a public toilet seat?

China’s reputation for horrible public bathrooms used to be well-deserved, but these days, the government is doing a lot to improve the state of the facilities. You’ll often find public toilets rated with stars. There’s a lovely 4-star public toilet on the Sacred Way outside of Beijing, for example.

Have a few coins (1-2rmb) with you for use in public restrooms. There’s usually a charge and toilet paper will be given with the fee.

Try not to freak out about the squat toilets. Likely as not, you won’t have to use one and if you do, it’s all part of the experience.

What You Need

Toilet Paper (e.g. pocket tissues)

Anti-bacterial wipes or gel

Handkerchief for drying hands when towel isn’t available

An open mind and a sense of humor













(Pick from kdnet &

Anyone who has been on a subway in a major Chinese city can vouch for the abundance of mobile users in the Middle Kingdom. One could rightly assume that getting a cell phone and plan would be as easy as buying a bottle of water. Unfortunately, the process can prove to be confusing and reliable information is difficult to obtain online, especially in English. But with a few key pointers, you’ll be freely tapping away on your touch screen in no time.


1) China Mobile

As the world’s largest mobile phone operator, China Mobile would appear to be your best option. China Mobile has the most reliable and widespread coverage; it’s estimated that they cover 97% of the entire population.

For international calling, you must buy an IP (voice over IP) card. You can purchase these at the same place you buy a SIM card or refill cards. Simply follow the instructions on the card and be sure to double-check the rates to your home country so you don’t run out quickly. International text messages start at about 0.45 RMB per text, but receiving international texts is free. Make sure you enter the appropriate country code before sending your SMS.

You can purchase a new China Mobile SIM card almost anywhere they sell cell phones, and even from street vendors; just point to your phone and say “SIM kǎ”. Often you will purchase a SIM card with 50 RMB credit. Certain numbers will cost you more if they contain more “lucky numbers”; 8’s are associated with wealth and prosperity while 4’s hold connotations of death and bad luck. A cell number with lots of 4’s may be significantly cheaper to purchase. You can purchase refill cards (sometimes slip receipts) at most convenience stores and street vendors; say “你卖手机充值卡吗?”(Nǐ mài shǒujī chōngzhí kǎ ma?). Be sure to specify your provider as cards are exclusive to each company (Zhōngguó yídòng中国移动is China Mobile; Zhōngguó liántōng中国联通 is China Unicom). These are usually in 50 and 100 RMB increments.

You will be able to choose your plan when you purchase your SIM card. The most common prepaid package is called M-Zone, and the most basic plan is about 0.12 RMB per minute (domestic calls) and 0.08 RMB per text message (domestic). You can change your plan, add more text messages or up your data plan by calling 10086.

Continue Reading…

Learning Mandarin For Flying

john  —  September 28, 2012

I use to travel very frequently for business in China, sometimes flying every week. Nowadays my schedule is more relaxed, but knowing Chinese for travelling, is one of the most practical uses of the language. In China most business travellers want to sit as close to the front of the plane as possible; so they can get out first and save vital minutes. You will even see passengers trying to get up and get there luggage the second the planes wheels hit the runway and it’s yet to come to a stop. Whenever I fly I always tell them I want to sit at the back of the plane, as there is more chance that I can get a spare seat beside me. So I couldn’t understand why when I flew the other week they put me in the middle of the plane. Then I saw the blue luggage tag and realised I was flying Premium Economy Class, 高端经济舱 (gāo duān jīngjì cāng) which is just behind business class. China Southern Airlines is only airline domestic to offer this class, but is quite commonly for international airlines on long-haul routes. The seats are the same as in economy, but you get more space and legroom in front, which makes a big difference in comfort for not that much more money. I’ve now added these new words to my list of travel phrases, so I won’t be so confused next time I check in. Unless they put me in First Class, as I don’t yet know how to say that in Chinese ;-)

(Blog posted by Ray on September 11, 2012. You can see the original article by following this link to

Canthy paid for her mum to go away on two-week holiday to Europe and she was arriving home today. In China it’s the custom that you see off you friends, family or client when they leave. Which means for long trips you often take them to the airport and pick them up on their return. In England you would normally drop them off at the tube, coach or train station and let them make their own way, but in China that’s not the custom. The airport is only 20 miles (32km) from where we live in CBD and it can be a nice drive as there is a dedicated airport express toll road. China has 70% of the worlds toll roads, so these tend to be wide, modern, fast and relatively cheap. This journey only costs CNY 5 (50p) going, but it’s free coming back from the airport into the city. We made the journey in under 30 minutes but arrived too early. So we did what most people do and parked up on the side of the road just after the Chinese imperial (Forbidden City) style toll gate. The only problem was coming back we got caught in a huge traffic jam and the return trip took two hours!

(Blog posted by Ray on August 29, 2012. You can see the original article by following this link to