Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, July 19 – When we were out a couple of days ago, I saw this zebra sign at a bus stop, and although it seems to be a strange sign, I was excited that I knew exactly what it meant! (It’s nice when things here make sense!) I’ve posted before about the civil safety notices you see all the time: on signs, buses, etc. Well, this is a safety notice concerning crosswalks. In Chinese, a crosswalk is called a “Banma xian” which literally translates to “zebra line”! So as soon as I saw the “banma,” literally “stripe horse”, or zebra…. I knew it was about crossing streets safely :-) If you look at a crosswalk, you can easily see why they call it a zebra crossing. It’s just in our Western minds we think a zebra crossing is a place for zebras to cross, and there are no zebras in China, especially ones waiting to cross the street!! Crosswalks can also be called “rénxínghéngdào xiàn” which translates more as “pedestrian crossing.”
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 6 –Dongguan, the city we now live in, has been considered the “world’s factory” for about 20 years (although things are starting to change, factories looking for cheap labor are moving out and high tech industry is moving in. This area produces a large amount of the world’s factory made merchandise: shoes, clothes, toys, cell phones, and more are specialties. The company my husband works for manufactures many name brand products, including Swiffer mops, Brita water filtration products, Procter and Gamble products, and more, plus their own line of household cleaning brushes, sold at Walmart stores.
Some quotes I found online:
“Dongguan, the city known as the “world’s factory,” is home to more than 10,000 foreign-invested enterprises and one of the largest global manufacturing bases.” (that was in 2013)
“One out of every ten pairs of sneakers around the globe is made in Dongguan, one in every five persons on average has a sweater which is made in Dongguan and 30% of toys in the world are also made in Dongguan. “
When I was in the states, just for fun, one day when I was in Pat Catan’s craft store, I purposely looked for things “Made in Dongguan.” It was easier finding them than I expected, and I’ve done the same in the past, looking for things made in Shenzhen while shopping in a Cracker Barrel store!
Today, we went to a small ladies holiday lunch and cookie exchange, then shopped at a temporary Christmas shop in the restaurant’s basement. I was expecting a little shop, but it was quite large, filled with items supposedly from a factory which supplies products to Hobby Lobby stores. This was a treat to have this type of merchandise to browse because usually you can’t find items made for export for sale in China.
Todays pictures show a small section of the Christmas shop we were at today, some of the items I found in the USA that were made in Dongguan, and the tag from a brush at Walmart, made by Hayco (actually in Shenzhen), where Jim works.
So, I have a challenge for those of you reading this … next time you are shopping and think of it, pay attention to where things were made. I know most just say “Made in China,” but, see if you can find something made in the area where we live: Guangdong province, and the main cities are Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan. You could even make a game of it and send your kids on a hunt around your house too :-) If you find something, come back and comment here! :-)
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 28 – There are thousands of schoolchildren who cross the border from Shenzhen, China, into Hong Kong every school day. In 2014-15, there were supposedly almost 25,000! As young as 3 years old, and up through high school. I’m not very knowledgeable about this, so I’m going to quote a China Daily newspaper article:
“More than 202,300 non-local children had been born in Hong Kong by the time the ban (passed in 2013) was imposed. They have permanent residence, but their parents, who are mostly from the mainland, don't, so the children live in Shenzhen and cross the border every day to go to school.The number of children crossing the border for schooling will peak in the 2018-19 school year, before gradually decreasing, according to the Hong Kong Education Bureau…” http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/epaper/2016-05/04/content_25061392.htm
These children can spend up to 4 hours a day getting to school and back home again. Sometimes they have an adult accompany them, but, more often, assistants are in charge of groups of students; The older ones are on their own. There are special lines at immigration for these cross-border students. Although the immigration halls are usually quiet places, if you happen to be there when the school children help fill the hall, it can be quite noisy! You aren’t supposed to use your mobile phones in the Immigration Hall, so I don’t have pictures of them all lined up, but here are a couple photos of children before we got to the immigration lines today, when returning to China from Hong Kong.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 1 – Chinese National Day has been celebrated on October 1st since 1949. It is celebrated in China, Hong Kong and Macau. The week following is called “Golden Week.” It is comparable to the USA’s 4th of July, only it lasts a full week instead of one day. Schools are closed as well as many businesses. Mainland China has three official days off, but many people will then have to work the weekend after to make up time. Travelling is very popular during this holiday, since people have more time off. New flags are put up on display, some areas have parades or fireworks. Our plaza had some live music, and we could have gotten a free little flag from our housing office if we wanted (which we didn’t) but, there’s really not much happening right here! The picture shows flag banners along the main road and above the escalator at the supermarket.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 21 – I think I have mentioned before that much of the “western” social media is blocked in China. This internet censorship in China is referred to as “The Great Firewall of China.” Most Chinese people have no access to Facebook, You Tube, Instagram, Wordpress blogs, many news sites, etc. Most foreigners, and some Chinese, use VPNs (verified personal networks) in order to gain access to the blocked content. In an article from 2015, including Chinese social media statistics, it states “To put Chinese social networking into perspective …. QQ (the #1 platform) has more users than Linkedin, Twitter and Instagram put together!” I use WeChat, the #4 platform to keep in touch with my friends living in China. It’s messaging, voice calls, video calls, and so much more! It has a newsfeed similar to FB, except on friends posts, you can only see comments/likes from those who are also your friends. We also have used it to send our location to others, add money to our phones, buy movie tickets, order taxis and pay them, pay for purchases at a store, and it enables you to do much more! I love the large amount of free stickers :-) A large amount of the content I receive is in Chinese, but it has a built in translator, so ‘usually’ works well for me to be able to read, although at times, it makes absolutely no sense at all! It enables me to chat with a Chinese person who doesn’t know English, we both send messages in our native language and then translate them. It’s a little strange standing next to someone and quietly communicating on your phone, but, it works! I’ve even communicated with the pharmacist in this way! Since I like to take pictures with my regular camera, not my phone, I recently learned that I can log in to Wechat on the web and easily transfer my pictures to post them on Wechat. I know I have SOOO MUCH more to learn about it, but little by little is good, then I can remember! Photos are just a bunch of screen shots from my phone! Here’s the link to the social media article I quoted: http://makeawebsitehub.com/chinese-social-media-statistics/
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 20 – Selfie sticks have been popular for years now, and are still very popular in China. More and more museums and other tourist attractions around the world have one by one been banning selfie sticks because of the safety concerns they create to both the users and the property. In doing some online research about it, more often than not, Chinese tourists are mentioned. In a 2015 article about selfie sticks being banned at the Forbidden City in Beijing, they stated, “There are more than 19,300 different models for sale on Taobao, China's answer to eBay, with the most sophisticated ones costing up to 757 yuan (that’s over $100usd!). Anywhere you go in China, with a decent amount of people (that’s pretty much anywhere!), you’re going to see a selfie stick being used. Songshan Lake, where we live, is included; There are always people taking selfies by the lake. I was busy looking for dragonflies to photograph, and these 3 young people asked if they could take a picture with me, since I had my camera right in front of me on the monopod, I took a picture of their selfie! :-) The article I quoted : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/11482712/Chinas-Forbidden-City-forbids-selfie-sticks.html
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 19 – The Chinese government continues to try to improve the image of the general Chinese population. There are civility and patriotic signs in most public places where we go: along the streets, at bus stops and on buses, at metro stations and on the metros, in parks, and also sometimes in businesses also. Most just have words: prosperous and strong, democracy, civil, harmonious, freedom, equality, fair, patriotic, dedication to your work, honesty, friendliness, etc. There is so much I could write about this, but I’m just going to keep it simple!
The pictures and approximate translations (if different from the basic words above) are : Top – Large sign at the park, Left middle – Placard on table at restaurant – (Don’t leave food, you are encouraged to not order excessive amounts and to take leftovers with you), Right Middle – Large sign in parking area, (Sunflower towards the sun, Communist Party toward the People) Left bottom – Large sign on building, Center bottom – Monitor on bus – (Country is Family), Right bottom – Banners along the Songshan Lake walkway. www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, June 18 – One of the many things that I was surprised by when we first came to China was the way a world map looks. It makes sense that for those living in the Eastern Hemisphere, that the continents would be positioned differently, but for me, having grown up and always having lived in the USA, I just never thought about it!
When you are a foreigner living anywhere in China where there aren’t a lot of other foreigners, most of the time, you become an instant celebrity. Chinese people outside of the big cities are used to seeing only Chinese people, so a foreigner is often a rare site to them. The younger a foreigner is and the lighter their skin and hair coloring, the more attention they get. I often wonder how many pictures of Leah have ended up on Chinese social media sites from the time we’ve been here. She wasn’t photographed as much when we lived in Shenzhen, it was mainly the small children with blonde or red hair that got the attention, and I remember Leah was really glad for a break after we moved there! Now, we are back in “celebrity zone,” she stays humble through it all, smiles for the pictures, and chats a little. There are usually at least 2 people together when they ask, so you get your picture with each one and then as a group. Today, when we went to the supermarket, this girl was very excited to see Leah and asked to take a picture. She was polite and asked for pictures of my friend, Kim, and me also, but it was obvious she really wanted Leah! She was actually working with 4 other people, passing out flyers for a photography business, so I took a picture of all of them afterwards, I’m sure Leah will want memories of this someday :-)
The cat of many names!: Originally from Japan, and called Maneki-neko, which means “Beckoning Cat,” in English most commonly known as “Lucky Cat,” and in Chinese “Zhao cai mao 招财猫 ” or “Welcoming Wealth Cat.” Westerners often think the cat is waving, but it represents the Japanese way of beckoning. The lucky cat dates back to the 1800’s in Japan, is known around the world, and is extremely popular in modern China. It is often found in businesses as it is believed it will bring good luck and wealth. Having right, left, or both paws raised, and also what it is wearing or holding, can all have special meanings. The most common is to have the left paw raised (often battery powered to move up and down) and wearing a red collar with a gold bell. There are many folktales about the cat, as well as numerous modern day characters depicted from Maneki-neko. Traditionally, the coloring represented a tri-color calico Japanese bobtail cat, but today it can be found in many colors, especially white, gold, red and black. There are entire stores for selling them, and they show up in all kinds of places! These pictures show the Lucky Cat at a local restaurant we like to eat at, some meat floss snack cakes at the local grocery store, a lucky cat shop from the Spring Festival flower market, and a mug with a lid for sale at a local store.
These are the "Fire Hydrant" signs in our building :-) There is one just outside our apartment door and another in the lobby that I pass every time I go out. I always picture Scooby Doo saying “Rire Hydrant”! It’s my guaranteed daily smile :-) I’m sure that the Chinese factory workers who make these signs don’t know any English, so, just as we think Chinese is so hard…English is just as difficult to them. As we might confuse two similar Chinese characters, I guess “F” and “R” are confusing to them!
Today, we visited a local park, Taohuayuan, or Peach Flower Park, which we hadn’t been to yet and thought it would be nice to go when the peach trees were in blossom. One of the things they had was a wishing tree, actually there were a couple, plus a wishing bamboo grove, and a wishing bridge! Wishing trees are a Buddhist tradition. You write your wish on a red paper or ribbon and throw it in the tree or tie it on a branch. There were actually ribbons tied on trees and sculptures throughout the park. I’ve seen other wishing trees that were so weighted down with ribbons, people had to put new ribbons on structures that had been built. This is done especially during festival times, so with Spring Festival having just passed, there were a lot of new ribbons!
Gong Cha is my favorite tea shop for a drink while we’re out. The company is originally from Taiwan, first started in 2006, but now has over 1000 stores in about a dozen countries, including CA and NY in the USA J We’ve had it in many parts of China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. When we lived in Shenzhen, it could be found in just about every shopping mall. They are known for Taiwan Style Bubble Tea. Teas with different kinds of fruit are plentiful, and you can add in extras to any drink: things like pearls, red beans (adzuki), milk caps, various jellies (herbal, coconut, aloe, fig, etc). You also choose your level of sugar and ice. We have found that different locations have different options though, and depending on the location, they may or may not have an English menu. This picture is from our neighboring town of Dalingshan. Photo credit goes to my husband Jim.
The peach blossoms are in full bloom…and the crowds were certainly out this weekend to see them! I had posted a close-up of a peach blossom on Jan 30 when they were just starting to bloom and look at them now! Beautiful! The Chinese people love getting out and enjoying the beauty of nature. Peach blossoms symbolize good luck and everyone loves taking their pictures with the flowers. Living in a tourist area presents a bit of a problem on weekends like this, as traffic is terrible, but we make the most of it!
We walked along the lake to the plaza area for lunch today. There were a lot of people out because the peach trees, magnolias and other blossoms are blooming beautifully right now. People everywhere were taking pictures either of, or with, the blossoming trees. When so many people are out, there are also an abundance of vendors out. Just like back home, I think a favorite of the children are the balloons. The two kinds we saw today were very ornate twisted creations like backpacks and hats, and also simple colored balloons on sticks. I had never seen a vendor dressed as a clown before, clowns don’t seem as popular here as in the USA, so I had to take his picture! A balloon is called a qiqiu 气球, which literally translates as an “air ball. “
Today we went to our Songshan Lake Library. Since I don’t read Chinese, trips to the library aren’t quite the same for me as in the USA! Our library here is four floors, quite large, but doesn’t have a specific section of English or other foreign books, so I usually just wander. There are “teasers,” maybe the title will be in English, but the book isn’t, and there are a few books and magazines in English, mixed in with the rest, if you can find them! There are also “readers” for learning English, that often have interesting articles. Leah looks for the young adult books, which are in the children’s room, and I look at the picture books! The page above is from the book I sat and read today: it’s in English, pinyin and Chinese characters. I can understand enough of the pinyin, that I can learn a few new words by reading at this level! I brought home a Charlie Brown and Snoopy comic book that is in Chinese and English, and I also found a Chinese painting book, in the Reference section, that I enjoyed looking at :-)
In China, many hot beverages are called “tea” although they are not true teas or what Westerners think of as herbal teas. This morning, I had a bit of a sore throat and got out the Korean Honey Citron Tea. This is basically candied fruit, like marmalade or jam, that you add to hot water! In Korea, there is a fruit called the citron that it is made from, but it seems that the ones made in China are made from pomelos. It is supposed to be good for colds, coughs and sore throat, kind of like we’d use honey and lemon in the USA. I’ve tried a lot of different brands, some are much sweeter than others. Start with a couple of spoonfuls, add water, (hot, warm or cold) and if you need more you can add it in. I think next time I’m stateside, I’ll try it with some marmalade! Red date, ginger and other citrus fruits are also available.
Today when I went to the supermarket in the next town we saw this local job fair set up across the street. There were probably at least 40 companies represented. Most seemed to have pictures of technology on their boards, but when I showed Leah the pictures she said there is also one for hairstylist assistants, so there must have been a variety of employers. The ones in these pictures are offering pay of 10-12rmb per hour, with meals and housing (dormitory style) included. (10 rmb is approximately $1.50usd) These positions would be for unskilled jobs.
It’s always interesting how things can have such different symbolism in different cultures. The owl or mao tou ying (pronounced mow (rhymes with cow) toe ying), literally translated as “cat-headed hawk” is one of these: Where as in much of Western culture the owl is considered “wise”, in China an owl is looked at as a bad luck symbol, frightening because it has traditionally been considered a sign of death. Because of this, it isn’t common to see owls depicted much, although once again, modern times are changing the thinking of at least the younger generation. Although there are about 30 different species of owls in China, I unfortunately have never seen an owl in the wild here. This picture, a Buffy Fish Owl, is from our recent trip to Singapore, it looks very similar to the Tawny Fish Owl, which can be found where we live, so I thought I’d use it to explain the symbolism of owls in Chinese culture.
This is a dessert called tangyuan. It is traditionally eaten for the Lantern Festival because the balls are thought to look like the full moon. I am late sharing this since the Lantern Festival was almost a week ago, but, since we were away, we are just finally eating the ones we bought. “Tangyuan” literally translates as “round balls in soup” and they are often served in a sweet soup, but can also be steamed or fried. Ours were frozen and we just had to put them in boiling water for a few minutes (until they floated). The outside is made of glutinous rice flour, and the sweet fillings are traditionally made from sesame, peanut and red bean. Today, there are also new kinds: we bought pink colored ones with purple sweet potato filling, and they were delicious! Also pictured are the traditional white ones with black sesame filling, which we had last weekend at the Lantern Festival party where we live. In Chinese, “tangyuan” is pronounced much like “tuanyuan” which means “reunion,” so the tangyuan symbolize happy family reunions.