Buying Chicken

Life in China: A Picture A Day, April 7, 2016 - I apologize to my vegetarian friends who may not like this picture, but, it is part of life in China! This is how I buy chicken at my supermarket. There are usually a few pre-packaged pieces, but nowhere near the variety of if you just buy it unpackaged. For whole chickens, they always come with the head and feet (unless you are in an area with a supermarket that caters to expats :-)) For a city raised girl, I’ve come a long way! When we first moved to China, I wouldn’t buy a chicken unless the head and feet got cut off, now I just throw the whole chicken in the pot! (But I still don’t eat the feet!) I’ll see how people handle this picture and then I’ll decide whether to post buying meat at the wet market, or others pictures I’ve hesitated posting!




White Water Buffalo

Life in China: A Picture A Day, April 6, 2016 - Today we visited the Dongguan Xiangshi Zoo. This is a much smaller zoo than the ones we’ve visited in the surrounding big cities, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. For the most part, we enjoyed it, though we skipped the shows. They had something we’ve never seen before, I thought they were albino Asian water buffalo, but Leah translated the information and they are a specific breed from Guizhou province. There were 4 or 5 adults and a calf. There doesn’t seem to be much information about them in English online, but, there are 135 breeds of water buffalo listed for around the world! and the Guizhou White was one of them! You can see a regular colored one in the background. We have seen the regular colored water buffaloes working on farms outside of the cities. Asian water buffalo are almost extinct in the wild, as most are now domesticated.


Life in China: A Picture A Day, April 5, 2016 - I have good news for all my friends in the southern USA…if there is a famine, you won’t starve! You know all that Kudzu that is everywhere you go? It is not only edible, but good for you! Every part of the plant, except the woody vine, is edible, although in Asia the root, called “gé gēn,” is the most popular. We have never seen it in the supermarkets, but the wet markets have it. We decided to give it a try, made some soup with it, and although I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite, it wasn’t bad! It reminded me of jicama, very hard when fresh, somewhat difficult to peel and chop, and not a lot of it’s own flavor. We also purchased some “ge fen,” or kudzu root powder, for a drink. I decided to try it plain, again not my favorite, but, it suggested adding a little sweetener, and I can see that would make it very palatable. It seems there are plenty of US websites that suggest using the leaves for salad. And… the root and flowers are used in TCM, have been for 2000 years! You’re probably thinking everything is used in TCM! Not really, but I write about the interesting things :-) The main use over time has been for alcoholism, supposedly it helps with hangovers! Who wants some now??? And a lot more…look up either kudzu or pueraria if you are interested in the medicinal uses.

Tomb Sweeping Festival

Life in China: A Picture A Day, April 4, 2016 -Today was an official holiday in China, called Qing Ming Jie 清明, or Tomb Sweeping Day/Festival. It is a day/weekend celebrated by Eastern religions to pay respect to your ancestors, clean their graves, burn incense and make offerings. I’ve never actually seen a grave in Guangdong province, they are outside of the city. I have seen them when we were at the rice terraces (which is pictured) and also driving through the New Territories of Hong Kong. Since they are in the countryside, families usually pack a picnic to enjoy after tending to the graves. Nowadays, since so many people aren’t in their hometowns where their ancestors’ graves are, you can hire someone to tend to the graves for you. I thought it was interesting that those people who are specifically remembered are considered part of the extended family and called the “living dead,” whereas those who have been forgotten by their families are considered to be ghosts or the “dead dead.” The belief is that you can send things to these ancestors by burning a likeness of the object, so, as you can see by the pictures, you can buy paper money, houses, cars, games, jewelry and even iphones and ipads! My favorite is the package with Hades tea and beer! Leah took these pictures yesterday at the wet market in Dalingshan, the town next to us.

Ginger Tea

I have a whole assortment of “tea” that I enjoy in China! “Old” ginger tea is considered not just a drink, but a Traditional Chinese Medicine Remedy. “Old,” or mature, ginger, with the light brown skin, is the type you probably see most often in stores. Young ginger is much lighter colored on the outside and doesn’t need peeled. Ginger is recommended for nourishing the blood, improving circulation, improving digestion, reducing nausea (including motion sickness), reducing inflammation, and as a pain reliever.

You can make your own tea at home or, in China (and probably Asian stores elsewhere), buy packets ready mixed with other beneficial ingredients. In the packets, it is generally mixed with black tea and dark brown sugar. The box on the bottom of the picture also has Luohanguo (see Jan 9 pic of day).

Ginger, red dates and brown sugar tea is sold especially for women to drink during their monthly cycle and post partum. The ginger helps with cramping, and the ginger and red dates are both good for blood circulation, and red dates are high in calcium and iron. Goji berries are also often mixed in.

Old ginger increases body temperature, so is especially good if you are cold (winter, poor circulation, etc). Young ginger decreases body temperature, so is good when you are hot (summer, fevers, etc).

Those with high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, or in menopause, are advised to reduce or avoid use of ginger. It is a blood thinner so doesn’t mix with certain medications. It’s probably best to read up on precautions before using more than a few slices a day!

Collecting Snails

Life in China: A Picture A Day, April 2, 2016 -Today, Leah and I had lunch with a friend then took the bus to check out a DIY market near our library. We did find it, there were about 10 vendors, plus kids were painting masks and adults were doing some silk screening. There were numerous shipping containers converted into shops and restaurants, but best of all … there is a park that we didn’t know about, called Creative Park, with 3 small lakes. These people along the lake were all collecting snails to eat! There were LOTS of snails and people were just filling their bags or buckets. The one I’m holding was one of the biggest, people were collecting all sizes. We then figured out that there is a path that leads to an adjacent park, which made it easy for us to walk home :-)

Bottle Gourd

Life in China: A Picture A Day, April 1, 2016 -This squash never really looked much different from the regular zucchini squash I buy so I’ve tended to just ignore it. Leah finally decided we should try it. As with so many other vegetables, it has many names! In English, it can be called calabash gourd (with a rounded bottom) or bottle gourd (long and slender like the picture), in Chinese it is pu guo 蒲瓜 (pronounced poo gwa), and in other Asian countries it can be lauki, doodhi, or opo squash. They are all the same other than shape; It has smooth light green skin and white spongy flesh with seeds. I read both to take the seeds out or to leave them, so we left them in and they weren’t even noticeable. It has a very mild taste, but is supposedly packed with health benefits; It has a very high water content and is good for digestion, urinary health (acts as a diuretic), eases constipation, weight loss (especially when juiced), high blood pressure and heart health! Taste a small piece before using and if it is bitter you shouldn’t eat it. We peeled and cubed ours, then tried it two different ways. We made a soup with the bottle gourd, carrot, onion and sweet potato, boiled them in water, then pureed the mixture and added coconut milk and seasoning (It looked like pumpkin soup!)…. turned out delicious! The other half we just stir fried with some beef strips, garlic and onion. I liked it in the soup best, but the stir-fry was also good. They are harvested young for eating, if left to mature, then they are dried and the shell hardens making them just right for bottles and musical instruments. I’m curious if those of you outside of Asia can buy these?

Chinglish Bird Sign

Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 14 - Today we went for a 7.5 mile ride by the lake! Farther than we have gone before, so we saw some new areas. China has been cracking down on people hunting songbirds, so I was glad to see this sign posted, and it gave us a good chuckle too :-) someone made a good effort…and we did get the point! Seeing how in 2.5 hrs, we only saw one other foreigner, and he was with a Chinese girl, I guess we should be thankful they even have it in English!

Supermarket Fun

Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 13 - Saturday Night at the supermarket…. A giant live Kinder egg, pandas having hot pot, furniture polish without the spray cap (we had to go to customer service and have them get it and put it on?), and chocolate covered taro candy …. there’s ALWAYS something new to find when grocery shopping in China!

Saturday Supermarket.jpg

God of Wealth

Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 12 - Today is the 5th day of the Chinese New Year and the day considered to be the birthday of the God of Wealth. In many places, the day is welcomed in with abundant fireworks to honor and please this God. He is seen frequently in Chinese New Year decorations, often with coins or yuanbao. Many people will also eat dumplings called jiaozi today because they are shaped like yuanbao. (check picture from Jan. 21)


I’ve always loved daffodils, so it’s the one flower I especially like to buy each year at the Spring Festival Flower Fair. In Chinese, it is called shui xian 水仙, which is literally “water immortal” and the English translation is often either “water fairy flower” or just “water narcissus”. They are put in shallow bowls, of all sizes, with just water or water and pebbles. It is believed that if they bloom on New Year’s Day, it will bring good fortune for the upcoming year, so, they are cultivated very carefully to do just that; And mine did have its first few blooms on New Year’s Day, today there are many more! The blooms are quite small and have a very sweet smell. I bought a small dish with a dozen bulbs and it cost 20rmb or about $3usd. Sometimes, you will also see “narcissus carving” where the bulbs have been cut a certain way in order to bloom with a certain curve, then they are put in a dish to grow as a bird or something else. I found this interesting article about the Chinese bringing daffodil bulbs to the USA in the late 1800’s:

Old and New Architecture

Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 10 - I’ve always enjoyed seeing the contrast of old and new architecture in China. I didn’t think we had any right here in Songshan Lake, as it’s a fairly newly developed area, but we found this building yesterday. We rode our bikes down this new road it’s on, which I guess was always a road of sorts since this house is here! We live in the housing in the background, which is across a small inlet from the lake, and there is new housing going up on the other side of the road. I really like that this old house is all decorated for Chinese New Year. They also had a big garden and a horse across the street. If these people own the land this old house is on, they are going to be quite wealthy when they decide to sell it!


Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 1 - Happy Chinese New Year! Fireworks are a HUGE part of the Chinese New Year celebration! Here in Songshan Lake, the real firecrackers started about 10 am on New Year’s Eve and went off every so often throughout the day. Then the frequency picked up about 10pm and just before midnight, they were constant. But, it was nowhere near as noisy as other places we’ve lived. I remember our first Chinese New Year in Shanghai where it seemed like a war zone! The practice of setting off fireworks comes from an ancient myth about a monster named “Nian,” the same word for “year.” He came once a year and attacked and killed villagers and their livestock as the New Lunar year arrived. An old man supposedly figured out that Nian was afraid of loud noises, lights and the color red. So, each year, houses are decorated with red, and fireworks are set off to scare away the “evil spirits”. This morning, I took a walk, and if the red paper left from the fireworks is any indication, the people living here were successful at scaring Nian away! In modern times, fireworks are popular as decorations as well as the real ones.

Fish Decorations and as Food

Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 7 - One of the most popular sayings for Chinese New Year is “Nian nian you yu 年年有余” The basic meaning of this is “May you have abundance through every year.” The word for abundance, surplus, or plenty, is “yu.” This sounds the same as the word “yu ” which means fish, so, you can see why fish are such popular decorations during Spring Festival! Today is New Year’s Eve in China and families will gather for their “reunion dinners.” A very important dish to serve is fish, usually served whole as a symbol of prosperity, with the head and tail representing the beginning and ending of the year. A portion of the fish is saved for finishing in the new year, indicating that there is “surplus” for the New Year!

New Clothes

Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 6 - On Chinese New Year, It’s important for everyone to wear a complete outfit of new clothes, as it symbolizes a new start for the new year. In the stores, you see much more traditional style clothing than at other times, and of course the favorite color is red! Gold is also popular, and pink and purple for girls and ladies. Many people prefer Western styles nowadays, it seems the traditional styles are most popular for children. Colors can also vary, but the big no-no’s are black and white, these are the colors symbolizing funerals and death and are believed to bring bad luck if worn on New Year’s Day. Many people also have their hair washed and cut just before the New Year. Washing it on New Year’s Day is believed to wash away your luck, and using scissors for anything the first few days of the new year is considered bad luck because you are “cutting” your wealth.

Chubby Women Sculpture #1

Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 5 - I have seen three sculptures around the lake that have caught my eye as something different for China. Usually, women are portrayed as very petite, so I was curious about these. I have been looking for information about them and was so excited that I finally found it! It turns out that they are a part of a well-known series, from 2010, by Xu Hong Fei 許鴻飛, president of the Guangzhou Sculpture Academy. He did the series because he wanted to challenge Western ideals of beauty. “His ‘Chubby Women’ are not limited by their size and enjoy active and fulfilling lives.” The statue series have made a couple world tours and have been loved! So, here is the first one I saw at Songshan Lake, titled “Under the Sun.” As I explore more of the lake, I expect to find more statues!


Spring Festival Flower Fair

Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 4 -Today we went to the Dongguan Spring Festival Flower Market or Flower Fair. I love these because there are so many beautiful flowers and other interesting things to look at! Since flowers represent the arrival of spring, they are a very important part of the Spring Festival celebration. Probably the most popular flowers are orchids and daffodils. The daffodils aren’t blooming yet, because they are supposed to bloom for New Year’s Day. In addition to flowers, there are Spring Festival decorations, gift items, toys for the children, cuttings from fruit trees, orange trees, nipplefruit “trees”, snacks and more! This particular fair is only open for one week. I bought some daffodils, colored pussy willows, a small plant that translated to “long life plant”? and some small hexagonal lantern decorations. It was really hard to choose a few pictures to represent this! If you are interested in seeing more pictures of the Flower Market, my daughter has started a blog and has quite a few pictures she posted.

Chili Pepper Decorations

Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 3 -There is a Chinese idiom 红红火火 hóng hóng huǒ huǒ , literally “red red, fire fire.”

As you know by now, red is a very lucky, or auspicious color in China, and fire is considered to be very energetic. When you tell a person or business “hóng hóng huǒ huǒ”, it’s the equivalent of telling them “good luck.” During Chinese New Year, strings of chili peppers are used to represent this idiom.

Street Musician

Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 2 -Some things in China really aren’t that different from home. This was a musician I saw performing today, and I thought that he could have been doing the same thing in the USA and fit right in. He sounded pretty good, but I’m not sure what he was singing about since it was in Chinese (Ok…maybe a little different than the USA!). He was next to a bus stop near our shopping plaza, an area that probably gets the largest amount of people here. Guitar case open to collect money, probably trying to raise some extra cash for Spring Festival, so I threw the six 1yuan notes I had in.

02-02 street musician2.jpg


Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 1 - How many years have I been looking at this in the markets and didn’t know what it was???? Well, I finally learned! Most commonly, it is called “celtuce” or “stem lettuce,” and “wosun” 莴笋 in Chinese. It is also called "asparagus lettuce".

I learned that the thick stems are peeled and then sliced or chopped for stir-fries (or steamed), and the leaves are good for soups. So, we did just that! A stir fry with pork, mushrooms, and celtuce, turned out very good… celtuce has a mild taste, somewhat like celery (I didn’t think it tasted like asparagus like some said), and it kept a nice firm, crispy texture. We added the leaves into vegetable beef soup, and although I can’t say they added much flavor, they added a nice dark green color. I read that they can be bitter. Supposedly, the young stems and leaves can also be used raw in salads. Found in most (southern) Chinese stores/markets with produce (not sure about other areas?). For those of you outside of China, check your Asian markets!