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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pandas bear hopes for China, Taiwan

Pandas bear hopes for China, Taiwan
Amber Wang, Taipei
December 23, 2008
The Age

TWO giant pandas are about to make their long-anticipated and highly scrutinised trip from China to Taiwan, sealing a year of blossoming diplomatic ties between the two arch rivals.

The move of the four-year-old pair, whose names together symbolise unity, comes amid hopes that the goodwill gesture will be matched by an increased willingness to work towards warmer cross-strait relations.

A delegation of Taiwanese officials, animal experts and journalists flew to the pandas' home in south-west China's Sichuan province yesterday and were due to return to Taiwan with them today.

The pandas, named "Tuan Tuan" and "Yuan Yuan," are at a research centre in Ya'an. "Tuanyuan" — a combination of the pandas' names — means "reunion" or "unity" in Chinese...

For full article, go here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Romance of Three Kingdoms and Facial Hair

Just a passing thought - all these images from the Romance of Three Kingdoms (or go watch Red Cliff) show the Chinese in abundance with massive amounts of facial hair. Well that was almost 2000 years ago.

Just think Guan Yu and Zhang Fei. But we're all quite well known as to be comparatively hair-less creatures, when we think of say our European friends, if we look around the Chinese today. Granted we're all well geared with Gillette and the like, but I doubt we had that good facial hair growing power. Or do we? Or has society so decided we must look clean cut?

Something worth finding out more about. I feel like letting the hair flow.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Friends from the mainland.

Bob has graduated! Nice graduation photo to come soon. So yes, that means I've somewhat accomplished what I've set out for. I've passed the Masters program with a distinction average. And the dissertation did the job.

Of late, I have been questioning myself of what should have been painfully obvious. My recently acquired passion for all things China has overwhelmed most of what I read and reflect on - but the big question really - why then do i not have a single friend from China I would call a best friend, yet? I could wax lyrical and contextualize great a many Chinese stories, but in a nutshell, it's all really second-hand if my impressions all stem from just imagery in my head isn't it? The pictures in comic books, the cut scenes from movies, but what about first hand experience?

Perhaps, it's time to search for one. A few classmates/coursemates have come close, but they've left since graduation. I've made some twenty odd friends from various parts of the mainland throughout my stay in Australia thus far. The ones I click better with are from the South-east. The folk from Canton have been massively easy to get along with because we eat the same things (Teochews come from the same province as the Cantonese. My 'closest' buddy hails from Sichuan, and we spent a fair bit of time hanging out, but other than pursuit of good food in Melbourne together, we never made it to the we should meet up weekly stage.

So. Let's see. What's to come!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

'Inadequate sex' fueling crime in Guangzhou Province

Well, yes, sex sells and grabs headlines, but what is more pertinent here is the figure of migrant workers in the province of Guangdong. 30 million my friends. Numbers when it comes to China still explode in my head.

From China Daily... 29 November 2008

GUANGZHOU -- More migrant workers in Guangdong are committing crimes, especially sex offences, because of heavy workloads and inadequate sex lives, local authorities and researchers have said.

Twenty-five people were arrested this year for sex crimes, 10 of whom were migrant workers, the prosecution department of Xinhui district in Jiangmen city was reported by the Guangzhou Daily as saying on Friday.

The number of arrests is reportedly 50 percent higher than that of the previous year.

Almost 30 million migrants work in Guangdong, with 57 percent of them men, statistics from the provincial labor and social security department have shown...

For full article go here.

Been a while

It's been a while since the last update. Much has passed since. The paper's been handed up, and I've had some good news with regards to possible further study. What's not so great is that whilst the rest of Monash university have had their results published, mine's been a very Withheld. Now let's wait and see.

In other news, my dad's recommending that I read into this chap who was interviewed on the Phoenix Channel, Kluge Prize Winner 2006 - Yu Ying-shih. I did not manage to catch the whole interview, but I caught something really pertinent.

When one tries to understand someone, one has to understand his history and what he did in his life. To expound on that, I would think that I would approach my further studies with something else, what are the things the person did not do. I begin to realise the mark of a person sometimes is not too accurately immortalized but what he was remembered as doing. I think it is both the intellect to one, not do, or the inertia or fear, to not do, that marks the lesser known boundaries of one's character.

I think of this as I emerged from a discussion with a colleague and guide at Republic Polytechnic where I *still* retain employment. The outcome of the chat was this. Sometimes doing, is the wrong thing to do. Sometimes not doing, is also the wrong thing to do. Like a shepherd with his flock of sheep. As the wolf approaches, the time comes for the rod to be raised. Without showing the wolf that the sheep are not there for its taking, what then is the shepherd for? Smile at the wolf and use the rod for a walking stick with much of his sheep lying there dead. So. it is not about what one has done, but the things that one did not do, or dare to do, that is the understanding less found.

So with this, I write.

Do, as is to be done.
do not, but not that fear halts you.
Do, but do not impose
do not, but only because what is left to be done, has already, been done.

More to come.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It is done.

In all 79 pages of her glory.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Spongebob in China.

Is this what the world thinks of China? :) 19 million hits and counting.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Yes, a long awaited update.

Finally. The Abstract.

China is on the rise, but few today would stand and be counted as its friends . Whether this is due to discontent over its checkered human rights record or envy over its much noted economic prowess, any country with the size, influence and might of China is certainly a potential threat to the status quo. Having learnt that military might and political strong-arming are relics of a bygone era, the Middle Kingdom is seeking to assure its status as the next global superpower by way of gaining global influence through soft power initiatives. Adopting benevolence and culture over wielding a club, China enters the next phase of its growth knowing full well the benefits of national image building and this starts with making friends from beyond the Great Wall. The obvious first step lies with its long-lost sons and daughters - the Overseas Chinese. This paper will discuss the successes and challenges of this foreign policy measure in Singapore - the only country where the Chinese diaspora have become the majority population and the ruling class.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Is China a homeland, basis of identity, a source of tradition and historical capital, or an imagination imposed one me?

One more month to go before submission.

All good things to come, I trust.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Long overdue post

The journey has been tiring and satisfying.

Here're the opening few paragraphs of the dissertation thus far. Progress has been slow, and it's been one that's painstaking. Here goes.

There is a growing sense of fear1 today in the world today as communist China awakes from the doldrums of recovering from the Cultural Revolution and a century of humiliation from the West and Japan.2 China is well underway in transforming from a ‘Sleeping Dragon’ 3 into a global superpower. Benefiting from ‘capitalist roader’4 Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms from 1978, China is now on a path of ascendancy alongside a growing Asia-Pacific region. Deng had then famously declared, “To get rich is glorious”, and was the chief architect behind communist China’s ‘socialist market economy’. The paradoxical formula of communism and a market economy had allowed China to surge ahead, experiencing accelerated growth on many fronts. The world and in particular, the West, is beginning to perceive the resurgent China as a threat that will ultimately upset the balance of the world. Current indicators such as China’s growing economic, military and political might are just the tip of the iceberg.

This negativity is not only imagined by the West. It has also been imagined and further felt as a disconnect by sections of the Chinese diaspora who left the mainland at various times in history to reside all over the world today. Although there is little consensus5 on an apt description for the ethnic Chinese residing outside mainland China today, they can be broadly described as ‘Huayi’ 6, people of Chinese descent. These overseas ‘Huayi’ are descendants of the Chinese diaspora, the biggest human movement in history. Whilst ‘Huaqiao’ (first generation Chinese who left the mainland and the ancestors of today’s ‘Huayi’) viewed themselves as temporarily abroad rather than as permanent emigrants7, the ‘Huayi’ have, over time, assimilated into their host nations’ culture and now found themselves with little in common with their Chinese roots other than they way they looked and spoke. Them being Chinese, had become more of a simple ethnic definition that transcended political borders, rather than a cultural one linked to the mainland.

There was now a disconnect that needed to be bridged. Their feelings towards their land of ancestry today have been shaped by a number of factors. They include the varying periods of separation from the mainland, which is compounded by a understanding that is perceived through second-hand sources such as the media, or word-of-mouth. These factors usually exclude the primacy of actual experience, or a deeper and holistic understanding of China and what it means to be Chinese. An example below shows the feelings of a 20-year-old Singaporean Chinese student -

"PRC (People’s Republic of China) people are scheming, shameless, unethical, selfish, immoral and uncouth. For them, the means justifies the end. They can be very thick-skinned and openly ask for money without any shame. It is not surprising that their Singaporean counterparts shun and despise them. There is a big PRC population in Singapore - FTs, PRs and converted citizens. OK - this is an opportunity for the PRC community in Singapore to show how gracious and generous they are towards their own countrymen. Let time tell." 8

This is about to change. Indicators from the aftermath of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 show that China is beginning to master the use of cultural production and its agenda setting ability to great effect, informing the world they are out to make friends, not war. An article by Sheng Ding9 sets the scene for this paper. He noted that scholars had been questioning whether a authoritarian and nationalistic China would be able to adhere to international norms and fully integrate into the existing global system without causing friction to the status quo. He proposed that China was well aware of this, and was on the way to establishing a favorable national image, a China that was peaceful and responsible with great power. This ultimately creates a friendly international environment for its ascendancy - a sign that China is now placing great importance to nation image building as foreign policy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

China plays victim for its audience

Another pertinent one - China's learning how to use the media to good use. Cultural revolution media usage redux.


China plays victim for its audience
March 17, 2008 in print edition A-1
Source (Date of Access 7 September 2008)

Even as China faces global criticism for its crackdown on Tibetan Buddhists, it’s winning the battle that it most cares about: support for its policies among Chinese back home.

One key factor is a media strategy that, while still blunt and heavily reliant on censorship and propaganda, shows more nuance than usual for the lumbering Communist Party.

This last week the government has used something it traditionally viewed as a big negative, any suggestion that it’s not in total control, to its advantage by going large with print, still and video coverage of Tibetans attacking Han Chinese in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and destroying their property.

Not only does this rather ironically paint the Chinese state and its massive police force as something of a victim, analysts said, but it also stirs up feelings of fear and anger among many Han, the nation’s majority population, that add a personal dimension to the riots.

At a political level, the coverage has also bolstered the government’s assertion that its archenemy, the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, is masterminding the protests from abroad and the atheist government’s long-standing contention that Tibetan monks are anything but neutral, nonpolitical and peace-loving.

Many of the videos china/20080315/101987.shtml of the on the state-run CCTV website have been shot and edited to point up crimson-robed monks bashing and burning with the best of the mob. And to the extent the Dalai Lama has stopped short of outright condemning the monks and the protest, China gains points.

Click here for full article.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Division by the Han

Just the article I needed!


China misfires with divisive 'people's war'
By Wu Zhong, China Editor
Source (Date of Access 2 September 2008)

"HONG KONG - Chinese leaders can now let out a long and satisfied sigh of relief: the Beijing Summer Olympic Games have ended safely and without the interruption of any unsightly incident.
But the security of the Games was not achieved without cost. Certain heavy-handed tactics served to polarize China's ethnic groups and the government must now devote greater efforts to establishing solidarity between them. This is particularly important considering the growing distrust of the majority Han ethnic bloc towards the minority Tibetan and the Uyghur people.

China's Han majority accounts for over 90% of the country's 1.3 billion population. Many Han believe the successful Olympics
came at a great national price. They were humiliated and angry when the Olympic flame was dogged by Tibetan independence activists in overseas torch relays. They were shocked and outraged on hearing that the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an exiled group seeking independence for Xinjiang, had threatened to launch terror attacks against Olympic venues.

A series of terrorist attacks did rock Kashi and Kuqa in Xinjiang before and after the opening of the Games, leaving dozens dead, including policemen. According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, the ETIM is suspected in the attacks.

Still, subsequent terror strikes in Xinjiang were successfully contained and Beijing and China's other venue cities were not attacked. This was due in part to tightened security in Xinjiang, but also to the so-called "people's war" launched by authorities against attempted sabotage of the Olympics.

In the long term, however, the "people's war" may have increased the Han majority's suspicion of Tibetan and Uyghur minorities.

Following the first terror attack on armed police in Kashi on August 4, the Beijing Municipal State Security Bureau, the city's secret police, posted public notices asking citizens to alert them to suspicious persons or anything that "attempts to create ethnic conflicts, instigate national secession and threaten national security", media in Beijing reported. It was unusual for the State Security Bureau to make such a high-profile move. Reading the Chinese text, it was easily understood that Uyghur and Tibetan "separatists" were targeted.

Society in Beijing is well organized. In collaboration with a local police, several community committees (jumin weiyuanhui) are set up to help maintain social order. Members of such committees are normally housewives, retired cadre or workers familiar with the community. They keep an eye on strangers and inform the police of any abnormal happenings. Despite the rapid expansion of the city and increased social mobility, the system remains intact.

And with the recent surge of nationalist and patriotic sentiment, Beijing residents - who are mostly Han - were more than enthusiastic to help contain any attempt to sabotage the Olympics. Tibetans and Uyghurs generally have different physical characteristics from Hans and could be easily identified when arriving in a typical Beijing neighborhood. For ambitious Tibetan and Uyghur activists, the secret police notice must have been, at the very least, a deterrent..."

Full article here...

Bigger betta soap.

Random soap action from Indonesian grocer.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Wow. China used planes, rockets to prevent wet end of Games

China used planes, rockets to prevent wet end of Games

Mon, Aug 25, 2008
Source Date of Access 1 September 2008


BEIJING, CHINA - Meteorologists dispatched eight planes to release rain dispersal chemicals and fired 241 rockets into incoming clouds to ensure a dry Beijing Olympics closing ceremony, state media said Monday.

Rain clouds from the north of China had started to move towards the capital on Sunday afternoon, Guo Hu, head of the Beijing Observatory, was quoted by the official Xinhua news agency as saying.

"We decided to use planes to cover a larger area, along with firing rain dispersal rockets from the ground," said Zhang Qiang, an official at the Beijing Weather Modification Office, according to Xinhua.
Meteorologists also fired more than 1,000 rockets into clouds on August 8 to prevent showers from ruining the opening ceremony -- the biggest-ever operation of its kind by China.

China has long dabbled in rain dispersal and rain-making technology, using a vast array of chemicals to either induce or prevent rainfall.

Scientists have viewed the technology as promising, but acknowledge that no method has been developed to objectively prove that such techniques work.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Who's the Champ?

Fresh from the Dad...


China argues they're champions at the Olympics based on their 51 gold medals. The USA counterargues its the number of total medals won (USA 110 - China 100) that matters. The New Paper's Santokh Singh begs to differ and proposes that winners should be based on medal per country population - making the Bahamas the winners of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

country pop (mil) total medals ratio 1 per (mil)
1. bahamas- 0.31- 2- 0.155
2. jamaica- 2.8- 11- 0.25
3. iceland- 0.3- 1- 0.3
4. slovenia- 2- 5- 0.4
5 australia- 21- 46- 0.46
46. usa- 304- 110- 2.8
54. singapore- 4.6- 1- 4.6
68. china- 1300- 100- 13
87. india- 1100- 3- 370

Source - the New Paper, Singapore

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Unpolished Gem

A bandmate pointed out this book as one to get for an Aussie perspective on the same-issue. Am keen to eventually broaden research to include overseas-born Chinese elsewhere in the world, and this is a good start. Particularly poignant - the middle para in bold. I would argue - symptom of Confucianism or Chineseness, or both?


Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung
The Age (Source -
Juliette Hughes, Reviewer
September 1, 2006

THIS IS A MEMOIR SO vivid that images from it linger behind your eyelids - the pig's blood jelly that Alice Pung's father remembers wistfully; the festive paper chains made of cut-up Target catalogues; the fate of the chocolate eggs that the seven-year-old Alice hoards in a drawer.

The book begins as the ethnic Chinese Pung family arrive in Australia from Cambodia, fleeing the Khmer Rouge. Immigrants to this country have a vast range of stories to tell but their have a more complex narrative formed by the experience of life as links between the old country and the new.

Over time various ethnic groups have arrived and congregated in tight-knit communities for a while: Irish, Italian, Greek and, of course, Anglo Saxon. All have merged into the dominant Australian culture; significantly all have provided top footballers, politicians, chefs and writers, the first being a more reliable indicator of cultural integration than the last two. But Chinese Australians and other East Asians have been more inclined towards business and medicine than footy. However admirable their achievements, it takes a book like this to help bridge the wider Australian culture and the old ways...

...The stories are full of pain but there is a rich vein of comedy running through Unpolished Gem. Pung sees her family with Australian eyes and portrays them often as quaint. It's a position of privilege - certainly no one else could do this without risking prejudiced cultural stereotypes. Yet many of the Asian/migrant stereotypes are there: the family sets up a small business; her mother is an outworker, putting enormous pressure on the young Alice to look after her younger siblings; Alice is under massive pressure later on to excel at school.

Pung's sense of what it is to be a Chinese woman is often disturbing: "Constantly sighing and lying and dying - that is what being a Chinese woman means, and I want nothing to do with it."

Western notional female equality entices her. As a teenager she engages in the usual subterfuges in order to go to parties and feel comfortable with her friends. But she does not go as far as they do: she has a strong sense of what can be tolerated by both the cultures she inhabits, even as she loses the ability to think in Chinese.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Confucius - the first Christian Name

Dad was joking today that Confucius has to be the first Christian name in the world. And that the West was good at putting down the very glue that made Chinese who they are by well, giving it such a confusing name.

Reckoning that Confucius's proper Chinese name was actually Kong Qiu Ni, how in the world did it ever become Confucius? He jokes that he should be called Johnny (First name - Qui Ni) Kong (Family Name), as opposed to Confucius. Kong Fu Zi (or Kong Zi) is his formal title of sorts, meaning Revered Teacher Kong.

Apparently it was so thanks to a Jesuit Matteo Ricci, who was the first to Latinise the name as "Confucius."

And broken down - it would make sense.

Con = Kong
Fu = Fu (Teacher) Zi

Just not quite sure how the 'CIUS' works.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Please - join in the quest.

Click Here to be part of this grand investigation

Beverage of choice on me the next we get to meet.


Overseas-born Chinese population

A total of 33,335,827 overseas-born Chinese roam the planet today. And it never occured to me Indonesia would have the most! And that figure, according to some sources - added together would populate what could be the 34th largest nation (in terms of population) in the world today.

Source (Date of Access 19 August 2008)

#1  Indonesia:

#2  Thailand:

#3  Malaysia:

#4  Singapore:

#5  Philippines:

#6  United States:

#7  Burma:

#8  Vietnam:

#9  Canada:

#10 Australia:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Napoleon and his view on China

Some might be already familiar with the notion of China being the world's sleeping dragon (well, they're now pretty much awakened and breathing fire, albeit, peacefully). Napoleon needs little introduction - the short and stout Frenchmen who pretty much took over Europe with a belly of fire, never taking no for an answer. Apparently, even 200-odd years ago, he had the foresight to predict what's happening in the world today.

On China...He was supposed to have said, "Let China Sleep, for when the Dragon awakes, she will shake the world." Now - foresight or wisdom? Another perspective would reveal that he could have very much appreciated the value of what a cultural centre like China's could do to keep an empire together (like how early Christianity served as a glue for the Roman Empire).

Or something to that effect. That triggered a little hunt online for the origins of such a saying, if it indeed happened, and if it did, what it meant.

And I managed to find a pretty decent entry at the China History Forum.

"Actually, there seem to have been two quotes. The first one is attributed to Napoleon in 1803 (ie before he became emperor), he is said to have pointed to a map, on china and said (more or less, there are many versions of the quote)
"Ici repose un géant endormi, laissez le dormir, car quand il s'éveillera, il étonnera le monde" - "here lies a sleeping giant (lion in other versions), let him sleep, for when he wakes up, he will shock the world"

And then, there is a second, more famous one, which is supposed to have been said in St Helena (in which case, it might be in Las Cases Memorial of St Helena): "quand la chine s'éveillera, le monde tremblera" (when China wakes up, the world will shake).

As for Napoleon's knowledge of China, the second half of the 18th century was a moment when Jesuit missions were quite active in China (time of Amyot, Castiglione, etc... all Jesuits who held high positions in the Qing court). The first translations of classics date from this era, and many of the translations were into latin or french. The first translation of the Daodejing, of some Confucian classics, and more importantly of the Sunzi and other military books were done in the second half of the 18th century. It is quite likely that Napoleon did read Amyot's translation of Sunzi (in fact, a compilation of several military texts, which included the Sunzi).

Note also that all things asian, and especially chinese, were fashionable among european intellectuals from the 17th and 18th century. Leibniz was probably the first, but Voltaire took sides in the quarrels on the origin of chinese civilisation, and wrote a tragedy "l'orphelin de la Chine", which had some success, after a translation of a chinese play based upon a story from the Shiji (the orphan of Zhao).

So, Napoleon did have some notions about china, and chinese civilisation, and was in this respect pretty typical of many young educated people in the late 18th century (or early 19th)."


In another article found on the Washington Times

The sleeping giant stirs
J. Ross Baughman
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Source - (Date of Access 17 August 2008)

"Alexander the Great would have liked to have conquered the entire world, but found his limitations on the doorstep of east Asia. Centuries later, Napoleon knew his own military ambitions would fall short of the same frontier, and supposedly muttered "China is a sleeping giant. But when she awakes the whole world will tremble."

Sigmund Freud, who had a lifelong fascination with ancient Oriental art, also found this metaphor irresistible, except that the father of modern psychology saw in the sleeping giant China's potential for rage, born out of a deep-seated repression of ego and individualism.

Mao Tse Tung, the Marxist revolutionary, with an image of the "sleeping giant" in mind, promised his people that "All that the West has, China will have."

Now that's some food for thought on the world's imagination of China. At this point I'm wondering if any of these worries are founded as China has always proven to prefer to take the a 'pacifist' strategy of non-violence (as anyone who reads Sun Tze in any detail would know), and have hardly been known to take her internal problems outside of the country, much unlike the West, who take lands as they see fit hiding their resource gathering under a guise of pseudo-legitimate reasons. Why's the West keeping relatively quiet on Georgia today? I doubt there's anything to fear about China unless provoked. But it looks like the provocation will continue.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Conquer English to Make China Stronger

Everyone (my mistake), Anyone... should take some time to observe this phenomenon of Li Yang, one man hired by the Chinese to improve standards of spoken English in China for the Olympics. My experience with my Chinese friends reveals a common problem - they're all fantastic with the rudiments of the language (I've been asked on many occasions to help vet their work), but extremely low in confidence in its utility in day-to-day conversations. Now check out what China has been doing about this. Like anything in China, we're talking about en masse, and a little big to fathom easily. Inspired by the religious evangelists from the US, Li Yang adapted the method to appeal to Confucianist Chinese, getting students to dig deep into their loyalties and love for family and country to instigate a will beyond common means to well, in a word, conquer the language as if it were a battle.


The New Yorker, April 28, 2008
Evan Osnos
Source (Date of Access 16 August 2008)

"He is China’s Elvis of English, perhaps the world’s only language teacher known to bring students to tears of excitement. He has built an empire out of his country’s deepening devotion to a language it once derided as the tongue of barbarians and capitalists. His philosophy, captured by one of his many slogans, is flamboyantly patriotic: “Conquer English to Make China Stronger!”
Li peered at the students and called them to their feet. They were doctors in their thirties and forties, handpicked by the city’s hospitals to work at the Games. If foreign fans and coaches get sick, these are the doctors they will see. But, like millions of English learners in China, the doctors have little confidence speaking this language that they have spent years studying by textbook. Li, who is thirty-eight, has made his name on an E.S.L. technique that one Chinese newspaper called English as a Shouted Language. Shouting, Li argues, is the way to unleash your “international muscles.” Shouting is the foreign-language secret that just might change your life..."

Click here for full article.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why Number 1 means a lot to 1.3 billion people

Had a good long chat with the dad today about his views on China today and how they want to be number 1 really badly, and this was echoed in the papers. It's really a simple deal for the Chinese. They see themselves as victims of the West's unjust methods of the past (and probably still very much so today) and they're just making an effort to redeem themselves. Whether this machine of redemption has been so overwhelming that the Chinese consciousness loses touch with reality is really and possibly a figment of Western imagination.

My dad had an excellent anecdote. He related how present Chinese premier Wen Jiabao told the West - "You give me one big problem, it isn't a problem because I can divide it by 1.3 billion people and it becomes a small problem. But if you gave me 1.3 billion small problems then we have a really big problem." And this one was even better. In response to the accusations on Human Rights and Freedom of Movement, Deng Xiaoping, arguably the architect of contemporary econimic powerhouse China - "Fine, how about we just let them all go and do what they want. Will your countries, i.e. Australia & America take them in?" Perhaps the West never stopped to think of the consequences of such lip-service. And by letting them go - I doubt many countries would be able to take those quantities without seriously impeding their own way of life. One perspective of such considerations is this - China (read the communist party) is doing a damn great job at keeping a quarter of the world in order and productive. Would the world prefer if they all went amok instead?

Understanding China requires a little bit more finesse as we are dealing with quantities and qualities that few of us can fathom easily. More reading to do.


From the New Paper 13 August 2008
by Zhen Ming

Source - Ming, Z. (2008) The Boston Brahmin - Why Number 1 means a lot to 1.3 billion people. The New Paper.

"Numbers mean a lot to the Chinese.

It was no coincidence that at 8.08pm, on the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year of perhaps Team China's eighth millennium as a civilisation, they finally had their moment.

The critics, of course, ask: But at what expense?

They point to the human rights abuses and curbs on freedoms.

But for the full story, one should first take a walk on the ruins of the Summer Palace, or Yuan Ming Yuan, not far from the Olympic Park.

This will evoke the time when Britain forced opium on China which "enslaved a generation of Chinese and caused corruption that dwarfs anything in present-day China", as writer Richard L King noted.

"The burnt Summer Palace remains a symbol reminding China of its past weaknesses and humiliation," said Travis Hanes and Frank Sanello in their book, Opium Wars..."


I think this second-hand source of information makes it quite clear - an eye for an eye, really, is the name of the game now. And yes, this overseas-born Chinese is certainly aware of the influence of second-hand media information can be rather misleading. Still - the quest continues.

1.1 billion people, only 1 gold

And on the flip-side of things, we have the case of India. Probably the world's other emerging global superpower that can stand up to the wave of China, the Indians have a very different view of all thing Olympic as China races ahead to own the medal tally. And yes, I really love this article.

1.1 billion people, only 1 gold
India's first individual Olympic gold begs the question: How come?
By Ravi Velloor, India Bureau Chief
Source - (Date of Access 13 August 2008)

IT IS said about Alexander the Great that on his way to conquer India in 326BC, he stopped to take the blessings of a powerful Hindu sage meditating on the Khyber Pass.

The sadhu readily gave his benediction to the invader.

On his way home, the Greek king stopped to thank the mendicant and flush with victory, grandly ordered the sadhu to ask for whatever reward he desired.
The old man opened an eye briefly to look at the conquering hero.

'Just this,' he said. 'Move out of my way. You are blocking my sunshine.'

On Monday, the 25-year-old shooter who brought India its first-ever Olympic medal in an individual event, accepted his victory with the same detachment displayed by the ancient sage who encountered that early invader from Macedonia.

There was no fist-pumping, Tiger Woods style. No Michael Jordan high- fives or V signs.

Just a slightly bemused expression playing on the lips of crack shot Abhinav Bindra, almost as though he was watching someone else on the victory stand.

Not for nothing is the man from Chandigarh called The Monk.

Yet, even as Bindra's parents and national leaders erupted in joy at the unexpected gold medal that came India's way in Beijing, the larger questions loom.

India has a population of 1.1 billion people, though admittedly poor in large part.

It has a military of 1.3 million, where diet, discipline and spare time ought not to be an issue, especially since India hasn't fought a war since 1971.

Yet, while it has participated in every Olympics since at least 1900 it had never won an individual medal before. Much smaller countries have done a whole lot better.

Indeed, the country's most celebrated sportsmen are two who narrowly missed bronze medals in athletics: 'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh for the 400m at Rome in 1960, and the woman sprinter P. T. Usha who lost by 1/100th of a second in the 400m hurdles at Los Angeles in 1984. She was mistakenly declared third before the announcement was withdrawn.

The last time India won any gold was 28 years ago and that was in a team event, hockey, always considered the national sport until it got overwhelmed by cricket.

This year, the hockey team did not even qualify, leading to much soul searching across the nation.

How to explain all this?

Infrastructure is clearly one issue. India has few quality stadiums and few notable facilities have been added since it hosted the Asian Games in 1982. Indeed, there is deep worry that New Delhi may fail to keep its deadline to host the Commonwealth Games that are scheduled to be hosted by the national capital two years from now.

Aside from cricket, its sportsmen and athletes barely get recognised.

Budgets are sparse. Bindra's parents could afford to give their lad a private shooting range in their home, but not every athlete is as lucky.

Usha, the sprint queen of the 1980s, says she wore her first running spikes as a mature teenager although her talent had been evident for years prior to her success.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram allotted the equivalent of $390 million to sport in his annual Budget this year. Much of the money goes to waste, and is often used by officials for their own junkets. Indian participants at the Beijing Games number less than 60, a tenth of the men and women carrying the Chinese flag.

And of course, there is corruption. A senior official of the hockey federation had to quit in disgrace recently over allegations that he took money to include players in the squad.

But perhaps there are larger social and philosophical issues at play behind India's lack of will to win big.

Indian parents push their children to study hard, not work on their sport, although that is slowly changing, especially with the upper classes.

Mr Sudhir Damodaran, who pioneered the satellite television dish business in India, also attributes the absence of a searing desire to excel in sport to the Hindu mind's highly developed sense of impermanence.

'Unlike in the West, we Indians do not worship the human body,' says the 51- year-old businessman who works out three times a week. He insists that his weight - 67kg - has remained the same since he was 28.

'We see it as a mere temporary vehicle for the soul's journey towards salvation. And so we neglect it. We do not take pride in our physiques.'

Zhang Ziyi Being Chinese

In the Straits Times today -

Zhang Ziyi has quite happily quoted that she will not be an American even if she had children with her New York-based fiance. Told to the Chinese edition of Harper's Bazaar, "My children may be American, if my present fiance is their father, but I am Chinese now, and I will be Chinese forever."

Point made.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympics Games show China's strength, mask fragility

Sputnik Moment. Lovely analogy. Here's an article attempting to unravel the facade behind the games. From Reuters.

Olympics Games show China's strength, mask fragility
Wed, Aug 06, 2008
Source (Date of Access 10 August 2008)

BEIJING - 'Faster, higher, stronger' is the message from China that will resonate at the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday and during its battle with the United States for global sporting supremacy.

The Games are about much more than sport, of course.

For one analyst, the picture of China's Communist Party basking in national triumph amid glittering stadiums could be a 'Sputnik moment' - akin to the emerging Soviet Union's stunning launch of a satellite in 1957 - one that, for many in the West, will inspire as much fear as admiration.

And yet that picture glosses over the fragility of a nation beset by pollution, energy strains, social unrest and rural poverty, all of which were laid bare in the run up to the Games.
These have become party-spoiling leitmotifs of the Beijing Games story, along with condemnation of China's human rights record, anger over its restrictions on media and Western doubts about its will to reform and act as a responsible global power.

'Whatever the longer-term implications of the 2008 Olympics, what has transpired thus far bears little resemblance to Beijing's dreams of Olympic glory', US-based Council on Foreign Relations senior fellows Ms Elizabeth C. Economy and Mr Adam Segal wrote in a recent paper, 'China's Olympic Nightmare'.

'Rather than basking in the admiration of the world, China is beset by internal protests and international condemnation'.

Sick man no more
China's rapidly expanding economy has become a crucial locomotive as recession looms around the globe. It is no longer the 'sick man of Asia', and Beijing's Olympics will be an in-your-face confirmation.

'For China, this is the crystalisation of three decades of modernisation, a big show and tell, their big moment in the sun', said Prof Victor Cha, head of Asian studies at Georgetown University in Washington, and a former White House adviser on Asia.

For all the dividends of China's burgeoning trade and investment links with the outside world, however, a 'rising China' is seen by much of the West as a threat...

For the full article, go here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Culture Chameleons

Excellent food for thought this. Culture Chameleons. Quite a minor antithesis of mass culture, yet an interesting converging point for hybridity. Not quite sure how I can use this concept in the paper, yet. Ideas, anyone?


Culture Chameleons
By Danielle Ang
Source Asia1 - (Date of Access 10 August 2008)

She's Chinese, has adopted Indian nicknames, and peppers her speech with Malay colloquialisms.

She's Malay and loves Indian culture.

Welcome to the world of Singapore's Culture Chameleons, or CCs.

They tend to be young adults between 18 and 25, are open to inter-ethnic mingling, adopt aspects of their friends' cultures and, in doing so, even reshape their identities.

Take 18-year-old Colleen Gwee. Listening to her on the phone, one might not think she is Chinese.

This is especially when her speech gets animated: It takes on a Tamil accent with a lilting cadence and rolling 'Rs'.

The personal assistant will also pepper her conversations with Malay colloquialisms like 'Apa itu?' (What's this?) and 'Sial!', an exclamation in vernacular Malay-speak.

Her favourite food is chapati, an Indian dish, and she listens to Tamil pop songs. She even has Indian pet names like Pooja or Poonam. Friends, many of whom are Indian, gave her that moniker. Her boyfriend of two years is an Indian Muslim.

'Many people mistake me for an Indian or Malay or Eurasian, but my parents are Chinese Hakka,' she said.

Ms Gwee picked up conversational Tamil and Malay while she was in Naval Base Secondary School, which has a large number of Malay and Indian students.

Then there is Malay undergraduate Siti Hazariah Abu Bakar, 20. She fell in love with Indian culture when she visited India four years ago on a secondary school exchange programme.

She has since delved deeply into the Indian influences on her Malay heritage and enjoys her South Asian studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Sociologists here have noticed this revival of inter-racial interaction among the youth.

Though no proper studies have been done on this, Dr Tan Ern Ser, an NUS sociologist, said: 'My own study suggests that there is more inter-ethnic interaction among younger people, compared with older people.'

If so, the state of racial relations has never been better..."

For full article, go here.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Significant Numbers - the Opening Ceremony

100 million - $US spent on the opening and closing ceremonies by Beijing officials.

15,000 - singers, musicians, dancers and other performers used during the three-hour spectacular.

5,000 - of whom were drawn from the Chinese Liberation Army.

1 - electric fan placed in each flag pole, thus circumventing the still conditions inside the Bird's Nest.

29,000 - rounds of fireworks.

230 - Australian athletes who marched at the National Stadium from a squad of 433.

90,000 - spectators, the stadium's capacity, attended the opening of the Games.

205 - nations attending the 29th Olympic games.

08/08/08 - the date chosen for the opening ceremony. Eight is considered a lucky number to the Chinese. The production began at 8.08 pm, local time.

4 billion - viewers worldwide who took in the ceremony.

Source: The Age (date of Access 9 August 2008)

The Opening Ceremony

8th August 2008 and 8.08pm local time China. (thanks Shu Ling for pointing it out)

How much more fortunate can I get?, that's as Chinese as Chinese can be.

So the Opening Ceremony came and went without much of a hitch. The smog lost in its valiant battle to douse the Chinese Olympic endeavour and was seemingly blown away by the massive pyrotechnics and very stunning LED technology put to use. I just wonder if all that fireworks would have possibly added to the pollution the athletes would have to deal with the next day!

Nevertheless, the Ceremony did a more than decent job rousing strong pro-roots, i.e. pro-Chinese sentiments for me as I felt instances of connection with my lost heritage. What I found particularly gripping was when little kids representing the 56 ethnic groups of China passed on the Chinese flag to a squad of Chinese soldiers - symbolic in what direction, I'll have to leave it to the minds of all that saw that.

To digress, I must applaud the dancing/cheering girls for keeping up that energy for like 2 hours cheering on all the marchpast teams. Most looked evidently worn out from the repetitive moves accompanied by repetitive (thematic) music from around the world. But kudos to them for keeping the smiles on. Another point of digression (yet it could be of cultural significance) is how the Chinese love the concept of flying around on wire. Apparent since the days of Wong Fei Hong-esque martial arts flicks, this was clearly extended to this opening ceremony, which coincidentally was directed by Zhang Yimou (famous for his ancient China flicks, with yes, flying people all over the place). We had flying damsels, astronauts and even a flying former Olympic gymnast lighting the Olympic flame.

Another pertinent point was that of Taiwan. For some background on the origins of tension between China and Taiwan, read here. Otherwise, proceed to read below!

Taiwan to boycott Beijing Olympics if status is downgraded

Source (Date of Access 9 August 2008)
"Taipei - Taiwan on Thursday threatened to boycott the Beijing Olympics if China downgrades the island's status by calling it "China-Taipei" instead of "Chinese-Taipei" as defined by the International Olympic Committee (IOC)

"During the Beijing Olympics, if China-Taipei is used or appears at the Olympics venue, we will walk out the games," Tai Hsia-ling, director of the Sports Affairs Council, told a cabinet meeting.

"Since the Los Angeles Olympic Games, the Taiwan team has been using the name Chinese-Taipei at every Olympic Games. China must respect the IOC decision," she said.

Tai made the remark because in the run-up to the August 8-24 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese media has been referring to the Taiwan team as the China-Taipei team, not the IOC-approved Chinese-Taipei team.

Although the two names look similar to foreigners, it is very sensitive to Taiwan because China-Taipei means Taiwan is part of China, while Chinese-Taipei means Taiwan is part of the Chinese ethnic group."


This last point's extremely pertinent as it provokes the question of what it means being Chinese. Is it an ethnic matter, a geographical matter, a socio-geographical matter, the list goes on.

Now the hunt begins to discover the thoughts of overseas-born Chinese after watching this massively "China is Back" rendition of grandeur, exuberance and sheer spectacular.

The Significant Figure of this blog entry is - - -
2008 drummers of the opening act. 110,000 policeman and security forces on standby. Massive figures, no?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

An Aussie view on the Olympics

An Australian sporting perspective on the coming Beijing Games.


"The chip on China's shoulder
August 06, 2008 | John Birmingham
(Source Date of Access 05 August 2008)

They were the Middle Kingdom, the cradle of civilisation (yeah, yeah, I know, Mesopotamia and Egypt and all those other guys, but lets just ignore them for now). The Chinese dynasties, they were rockin’ the house when our hapless, barbarian ancestors were still perfecting their whole Dark Ages ignorance thing.

Then it all goes pear-shaped. The Poms whip in to carve off Hong Kong and run a very profitable opium racket. Japan invades and absolutely disgraces itself. Even turning Red doesn’t win the respect of old Joe Stalin who was, like, totally condescending about Chairman Mao’s dictator chops, and then Vietnam, tiny little Vietnam, kicks a whole heap o’ Chinese butt in a short, embarrassing war in 1979.

That’s the sort of history gives a country a chip on the shoulder, and if anyone knows about shoulder chips it has to be us down here in Vegemiteville. We could teach the Chinese a post-graduate course in performance anxiety on the global stage.

Will they notice me will they love me omigod omigod omigod will they even know I’M ALIVE?

There was a comment in one of our earlier blogs from an expat, resident in China for the past five years, who testified to just how important medal success will be for the host country. A comment from a Beijing cabbie summed it up for him.

“China is going to ‘finally beat the foreigners’ at the Olympics.”

It’s an anxious underdog frame of mind that we should be able to understand because it’s so often our natural state of being. Just have a look around the site here and check out how much wordage is devoted to the obsessive, molecular level analysis of how many medals ‘we’ are likely to bring home - when ‘we’ won’t be doing anything of the sort. ‘We’ will be sitting on our fat, hairy butts in front of the teev, inhaling triple cheese pizzas and bags of corn chips, breaking into a rancid sweat and heart flutters every time we have to reach for the magic stick to mute the insufferable waffle of the network commentary.

So yeah. It is kind of embarrassing that the hosts are investing so much face in how they perform in front the world.

But that would make them different from the rest of us because…?

I wonder some days if other countries even do this. Or are we the neediness champions of the world?"

Being Chinese - exclusive, inclusive, or birthright?

So, I did some thinking on what it meant being Chinese. The flipped it around and asked, how does one even qualify being Chinese in the first place? For that matter, an overseas-born one.

Here's a list of possibilities -

1.) By having an ancestral home in China, or home region / dialect group?
2.) A biological link or blood descent? Born of Chinese parents?
3.) By speaking the language?
4.) The practice of Chinese customs
5.) By displaying nationalistic/patriotic inclinations towards the mainland?

How much of all the above must one have before one qualifies?

Much to mull about.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Suspected terror attack kills 16 in China

Source ( Date of Access 4 August 2008)

More evidence revealing that it's really not that simple to impose the "Han-ness" of modern China onto her constituent 55 ethnic groups. One only needs to look at the map of modern China to realise the peripheries of her borders and her autonomous regions are as vast and dynamic as a volcanic ridge.


Suspected terror attack kills 16 in China
Source: The Age ( Date of Acccess 4 August 2008)

"Sixteen policemen in China's Muslim-majority north-west were killed today in a suspected terrorist attack, raising security fears four days before the Beijing Olympics.

In one of the deadliest reported attacks in China in years, two men drove a truck up to the police station in Kashgar city aiming for a group of officers carrying out morning fitness exercises, Xinhua news agency said.

The two got off the vehicle and threw two grenades at the station, moving in to hack at police officers with knives, it said.

Fourteen officers died on the spot, and two others lost their lives on the way to hospital, it said.

Both attackers were arrested, one of them with a leg injury sustained during the raid, according to Xinhua.

"The raid ... was suspected as a terrorist attack,'' the agency said, citing local police.

The incident threw a shadow over the Olympic countdown, after repeated warnings in recent months from the Chinese government that militants from the restive Xinjiang region were planning to stage attacks to wreck the Games..."

More here.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

It is thoughtfully essential to consider that much writing and literature that overseas-born Chinese such as myself are exposed to are written in English. For all the flower and endeavour of the language and its native writers, try as it might, it seldom captures the spirit of writing such as Chinese, known for weaving a rather rounded yarn instead of getting straight to the point. Fortunately the number of Chinese scholars well equipped to write in Chinese has bridged the divide rather nicely.

Extracted from a massively useful book I picked up from the Library.

"If we wish to discuss the contemporary Chinese experience in its broadest sense, we must take into account the "overseas Chinese" (huaqiao). Not only do they account for a substantial amount of the world's wealth - in 1992, the Economist listed their liquid assets to be roughly $3 trillion, eqivalent to "all of the bank deposits" in Japan" ("The Overseas Chinese, 1992) - but they live in a wide variety of nation states, retaining their Chinese identity in varying ways...

Concepts of Chinese and non-Chinese as the Chinese perceive them are complicated. The single English word Chinese not only misses certain meanings but may cause confusion. In Chinese, in both the spoken and the written language, many terms are used to reflect racial, cultural, ethnic and national attributes (Zhongguoren, Zhonghua Minzu, huaren, huaqiao, tanren, hanren, and so on.) These terms have evolved through time, some are recently invented, some originated from the Christian era but are still popular among the Chinese. Such singular terms alone, however cannot describe the complex situations of the Chinese identity. The modern cultural concept of Chinese, for example must be understood in the context of China's recent political history. In order to create a modern identity to cope with conditions created by China's confrontation with the Western world, the Chinese were obliged to deal with foreign concepts, including those of nation, state, sovereignty, citizenship, and race, and more recently, cultural and ethnic identity. Chinese officials and intellectuals have difficulty accepting these Western concepts, especially as they apply to Chinese living broad, who are often regarded as foreign nationals living under international law."

Blum & Jensen, eds. (2002) China Off Center - Mapping the Margins of the Middle Kingdom. USA: University of Hawaii Press


The Significant Figure of this blog entry is - - -
253 million Internet Users in China, and they've just recently beat the US in terms of internet users, becoming the new world number 1. And that's only 19.1% penetration of their total market.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thesis question revisited

Had a good chat with the thesis supervisor today, and the central argument's unfolding nicely.

The original idea first -
"The Imagination of China by overseas Chinese - The producers of Chinese culture - Did they get it wrong by over-representing just the Hans as the Chinese Identity. The Hans dominated China and of course, wrote its history. Are there dormant waves of representing China hiding under the weight of mainstream modern, possibly Communist China. The extra-sino nationalism wave - overseas chinese and chinese students overseas - using ‘culture’ as a symbol of unity"


And the new...
There has been government control over the mediated media messages regarding China's attempts to establish a cultural centre following the cultural revolution in 1966 with an overarching slogan of "Smash the old world, establish a new world". This was centered around abolishing the Four Olds: Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas. During this period cultural production was heavily skewed towards creating a socialist Utopian China.

Today, in light of the coming Beijing Olympics, China has taken control of its media vehicles with cultural production designed to place herself in a positive light. Two major blockbusters the USD$80 million "Red Cliff" and "Resurrection of the Dragon" both slated for release in 2008 coincidentally are stories on the Han dynasty, of whom the majority of Chinese are descended from.

This paper investigate if

1. This cultural centre has been essentially veered towards an over-representative Han culture. It is difficult to establish a homogenous cultural centre without ignoring and marginalising the other officially recognised 55 ethnic groups, and it seems the significance of this dominance is to be explored. Research will focus on how the Han culture came to be dominant, and will track its evolution from the Han dynasty (202 BC to 220 AD) to how it has become the world's biggest ethnic group today, numbering more than 1 billion.

2. The opening up of China's borders has resulted in an opposite flow of cultural influence, resulting in Chinese youths losing touch with their cultural roots. Inversely, the cultural production flowing out of China could be causing a rise in identifying with the Chinese race by the diasporic overseas-born Chinese. Note - It can also be argued if the Chinese identity today is the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution. - question to self - how much of this should I tackle?

The flow of the paper will be as such

Part 1 - China unpackaged
Chapter 1 - History of China - Ancient -> Imperial -> Modern -> Republican -> PRC (People's Republic of China) today
Chapter 2 - Defining China - the many faces - the modern political entity, OR Chinese civilisation OR a Cultural Region OR National or Multi-Ethnic entity occupying large tracts of land in East Asia?
Chapter 3 - Background and aftermath of the Cultural Revolution circa 1966

Part 2 - Cultural Production in China Today post Olympic announcement
Chapter 4 - Significance of 2008 Olympics, and media / cultural production changes post announcement in 2001.
Chapter 5 - Case Studies - the films "Red Cliff" and "Resurrection of the Dragon"
Chapter 6 - Reception/Influence by/on Overseas-born Chinese from Singapore, UK and the US.
Chapter 7 - Deconstructing what effects these films have on overseas born Chinese in terms of their imagination of China.

Part 3 - Conclusion

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Not alone

Looks like am not the only one peering inside and asking questions- Check out the American Born Chinese blog!

Here's the blurp -
"Welcome to my American Born Chinese (ABC) blog! I decided to start this journal because, just like many other ABCs, we have dealt with the constant issue of cultural assimilation in the United States. Many of us are second-generation Chinese U.S. citizens having had first-generational parents who immigrated here from mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan after the U.S. Immigration Act of 1965 loosened its grip on enforced policies regarding immigration from East Asia.

The term “American Born Chinese” is commonly coined with the acrynom “ABC” just as “BBC” is a term for British Born Chinese and “CBC” for Canadian Born Chinese. Often, overseas Chinese labeled with these terms are regarded as individuals who are removed from their own culture as not having adequate understanding of Chinese traditions/customs and values and also not being able to speak the native tongue (Mandarin, Cantonese, etc.) very proficiently, much less read and write in the language. For ABCs particularly, the Chinese population living on the coastal regions of the U.S. have a greater tendency to attain a stronger connection to the Chinese culture and influence due to the continual immigration of Chinese to these areas, thus, leading to the expanding populations of Chinese communities in states such as California and New York.

Assimilation into the mainstream culture is often the typical commonality prevalent among Asians or any other ethnic groups that have been born and raised in the U.S. for the majority (if not all) of their lives. Therefore, many have blended into the societal values and culture of the “host” country, and some have been viewed as seemingly having denied their heritage identity as a result. The derogatory terminology “banana,” and “Twinkie” are the common characteristics that reflect the “white-washed” tendencies of these ABCs - yellow on the outside, yet white on the inside."

Source: (Date of Access 29 July 2008)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tea Houses in Sichuan

This I found particularly exciting to hear about. Teahouse culture. I guess whilst the after-work nightlife type pub culture exists in many parts of the world, this is quite a different story. Definitely on my list of to-dos when I eventually get over to China for my great quest to traverse the Great Wall. Now why's this different - always thought the Chinese to be absolutely hardworking industrious people. But reading this shed some light - they're quite professional at slacking and taking a chill pill too. Love 'em ear-pickin'.


Teahouse culture

Drinking tea is not the exclusive pleasure of going to the teahouse. Other leisure activities include reading newspapers and playing Chinese chess or majiang (mahjong). Sichuanese people flock to teahouses to chat and exchange news and gossip. Before the era of television, teahouses were the first places where one could gather some information on the latest events.

Some people earn their meagre income in teahouse: blind people offering massages, shoe-polishers, fortune-tellers, musicians, singers, portrait painters and a variety of peddlers selling snacks or bric-a-brac. But the undisputed most original characters are the ear-pickers, the 'first character' in many scenes of local life. Wandering around the teahouses with ten kinds of ear-picking tools and making noise with his clips, the car-picker picks scrapes and scratches. Chengdu people are fond of ear-picking not because they want to have their ears cleaned but because it gives them a lethargic feeling which leads into a little nap. It suits very well the ideal of a quiet and nonchalant life many Sichuanese seek.

In traditional Chinese culture, tea-sipping was considered as a refined activity and tea-culture was synonymous with elegance. Nowadays, Sichuan teahouses display many elements of this earlier tea-culture, but they also have a 'vulgar' side to them. They are pleasant environments where people relax and chit-chat but, at the same time, they also gather many petty criminals. They are the reflection of society at any given time, and have always followed the evolution of local life. Despite a break of 15 years during the Cultural Revolution and the appearance of new leisure activities stemmed by consumer trends such as gambling and video projections, they are still standing in the whole province. Sichuan teahouses are definitely worth a visit!

Source - Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (1999)


Also overheard in a short doco on China's preparation for the Olympics, apparently some ear pickers even carry a tuning fork that's struck on the earpicker in an up-down swinging action that apparently stimulates the ear drums. Nice.


The Significant Figure of this blog entry is - - -
9.6 million square km. The land size of China. Compare that with Singapore and our humble 640sq km. Hmm.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hokkien, me?

Chanced upon this timely article from Singapore's Straights Times. A real big question of who am I. I used to imagine that i knew what it meant to be who I was until I realised that I could try asking myself that question in Chinese. Then I tried. And I found a radically different person.

Read on!


Hokkien, me?
By Stephanie Yap

published on Asia1 website July 21st.

WHEN I went to replace my lost identity card recently, the officer at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority took the chance to update my particulars in the Government's database.

Besides asking me for the usual biodata, such as my marital status and education level, she also asked me to verify that my dialect group is Hokkien.

Though I admire the rich diversity of dialects in the Chinese language, I find this categorisation quite meaningless in my situation. After all, only one of my parents has ancestors from Fujian province and I don't speak Hokkien anyway.

At any rate, when I collected my new IC, I found that my dialect group did not appear on the card. What is listed however is my race: Chinese.

I am not against racial categorisation per se. If I were to commit a crime and go on the run, it would help the authorities somewhat if they knew which race I belong to.

However, this incident did start me wondering about such ethnic categorisation and how little it says about an individual's self-identity. For example, I am officially classified as Chinese and thus Mandarin is considered my 'mother tongue', even though my ethnically Chinese mother speaks English and Hainanese and not Mandarin.

I picked up Mandarin only in primary school. And since scraping through my Chinese exams, I have had limited contact with the language, as I don't read Chinese newspapers, listen to Chinese music or speak to my family and friends in Mandarin...

Eager to read more? Click here.

The Significant Figure of this blog entry is - - -
1500 BC -

first recorded history of China during the Shang Dynasty, perhaps the earliest of all the Chinese dynasties, as they were the earliest one that could archaeologically accounted for, or perhaps not. There is growing evidence of an even precursor dynasty before it, The Xia, which some argue (I like this) is a myth. Have always enjoyed myths. Myths. More hugging than legends, more departed from facts.

Friday, July 18, 2008

And here's my research question off the top of my head.

The Imagination of China by overseas Chinese - The producers of Chinese culture - Did they get it wrong by over-representing just the Hans as the Chinese Identity. The Hans dominated China and of course, wrote its history. Are there dormant waves of representing China hiding under the weight of mainstream modern, possibly Communist China. The extra-sino nationalism wave - overseas chinese and chinese students overseas - using ‘culture’ as a symbol of unity.


The Hans are descendants of the Han dynasty which ran the course of 400 years (pretty respectable), considering the all-uniting Qin dynasty (responsible for the first phase of the Great Wall of China) lasted all of 20 before the Hans took over. They were ruled by the Liu clan. Those familiar with the Romance of Three kingdoms will recall one of the protaganists Liu Bei as one of the family. It is during this period that Confucianism became the official state consciousness. They also extended the empire to include present day Xinjiang, Korea and virtually touched Europe - laying down the early paths of the Silk Road.

Fast forward to today, and most Chinese are descendants of the Han. This makes the Han the world's single biggest ethnic group. Do the math. 95% of Chinese are Han, and there are 1.3 billion Chinese in the world today. So. Big numbers to consider.

The Significant Figure of this blog entry is - - -
95% of 1.3 billion Chinese are Hans.

I could be part of one of the world's biggest problems.


Please feel most free my friends, to contribute, add or critique the research question thus far. I was massively influenced and touched by Jet Li's Fearless, without realising the nationalistic (well, more ethnic) spur of an effect it had on me. It brought about an awakening of my Chinese-ness. And that's where my journey of pondering began. With Fearless about 3 years ago.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wandering China pioneering log and China Blue.

"Close your eyes and it will come to you."

This pioneering entry marks the beginning of Bob's scratchpad on researching the imagination of China. Will greatly appreciate all comments, critiques and honest truths. So, here it is, the beginning of a trip over 18,000 words, dreams and schemes and difficult truths.

Attended a class on contemporary China at uni today, conducted by PhD student Alexander Lugg. The seminar involved an hour-long documentary by Independent Lens (I like the idea behind the name) called China Blue chronicling the journey of an 18 year-old Chinese girl from Sichuan province, which they described as Central China.

Geographically, and in today's context of the People's Republic of China, it is indeed Central-ish, but in the context of China proper, i.e. without the Tibet and Xinjiang Autonomous Regions, it's really south-west China. Sichuan is described as a friend (who's from Chengdu, the capital of the province) as the land of plenty, good food, good environment, and well, peace & love. But I digress. The protagonist in the doco had to leave Sichuan for Shenzhen (like 130 million other Chinese who're involved in the world's biggest human migration within a country or otherwise to date) , a predominantly Cantonese-speaking area in the South-east, which has been the catalyst (some argue) for China's prosperity (both economically and intellectually) for some time now.

Here's the blurp on the film -
"They live crowded together in cement factory dormitories where water has to be carried upstairs in buckets. Their meals and rent are deducted from their wages, which amount to less than a dollar a day. Most of the jeans they make in the factory are purchased by retailers in the U.S. and other countries. CHINA BLUE takes viewers inside a blue jeans factory in southern China, where teenage workers struggle to survive harsh working conditions. Providing perspectives from both the top and bottom levels of the factory’s hierarchy, the film looks at complex issues of globalization from the human level."

What was particularly engaging about the film was this simple premise - the poor conditions are really the result of a greedy mind - capitalist-minded Western big corps wanting the highest margins for their products as possible, and forcing ridiculous whole-sale prices from the Chinese. And how do the Chinese make their products cheaper? Make their workers work harder, and pay them less and less. And of course, profit driven bosses have little choice. If they don't beat the stick, they'll simply lose business to other companies more willing to whip their employees and pay them even less.

More to come!

This will be a regular feature.

The Significant Figure of this blog entry is - - -
130 million
economic migrants moving around in China