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 2017: A Picture a Day, March 10 – Another new experience with Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s probably been about six months now that I’ve been dealing with pain in my right thigh and hip from bursitis. I decided to see (with a friends help) if the pharmacist could recommend any TCM remedies. He suggested two things, one was a normal pill form, which came with a 2 ½ day supply. The other was the interesting one! In the box were six little plastic containers, filled with dough type balls. The containers even had fancy little Chinese looking designs on them! I had to scrape off the wax that held the ball closed, then work to pop it open. Inside was the ball of medicine wrapped in wax paper. The pharmacist said I could just break pieces off and eat them, but that it didn’t taste very good, so he suggested that I break little pieces off and roll them into balls and swallow them like a pill (which I did). I did taste it also, and it wasn’t as bad as I expected, but didn’t taste good either! I did this twice a day, so the box was only a 3 day supply. Both medicines together cost 15rmb or $2.20usd. Now, did they work? Not miraculously! But, the day after I started them, I really over did the walking, and I’m not sure anything could have helped! So, I need to buy more to give them an honest try!
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, March 7 – You can see vendors selling quite a variety of things in China. Today we passed this man selling baskets and gourds. The gourds you see hanging from the trunk are considered to be good luck symbols; I’ve often seen them hanging on rearview mirrors. They are bottle or calabash gourds, and their Chinese name sounds similar to words for “protect” and “happiness and rank,” as well as looking like a number “8” which is considered lucky. There’s a lot more to their significance, here is an article with a lot more information if you are interested http://www.thechairmansbao.com/history-gourds-china/ . I was excited when I saw that he also had backscratchers because my husband had just asked for one ;-0 So, we bought a backscratcher for 5rmb or about 75 cents in USD.
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, March 5 – As most people do, I grew up with four seasons separating each year. However, in China, and some other Asian countries, there are 24 solar terms that separate the year! These 24 Solar terms, called Jie Qi节气, originated thousands of years ago as a guide for farmers (maybe like the Western Farmers Almanac?), and are still used today. But, they are so much more than agricultural terms to the Chinese people! They offer insight on the weather, the best foods to eat during each time period, and a general guide to daily living. For many of the terms, our office even sends out notices telling you what kind of weather to expect or even what foods you should eat for the best health during this period!
Translations of the terms are: Spring Begins, The Rains, Insects Awaken, Vernal Equinox, Clear and Bright, Grain Rain are all in spring.
Summer Begins, Grain Buds, Grain in Ear, Summer Solstice, Slight Heat, Great Heat, are all in summer.
Autumn Begins, Stopping the Heat, White Dews, Autumn Equinox, Cold Dews, Hoar-Frost Falls are all in autumn.
Winter Begins, Light Snow, Heavy Snow, Winter Solstice, Slight Cold, Great Cold are all in winter.
Today, March 5th, 2017, is the 3rd solar term of the year, called Awakening of Insects (Chinese: Jing Zhe). Tradition says that hibernating animals (not just insects) are awakened by the spring thunder. Supposedly, if thunder happens before this date, you can expect unusual weather for the rest of the year! The picture is of some water striders we actually saw a couple of days ago; there were hundreds of them on the pond!
Here is a short YouTube video about the 24 solar terms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSfoDp_rglU
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, March 3 – Today we tried Monkey Head mushrooms by recommendation of my Chinese teacher. They can go by a lot of other names, but the Chinese name “hóu tóu gū 猴头菇” literally translates to “monkey head mushroom.” These are usually found in the dried mushroom section of the Chinese supermarket, and sometimes, if you are in China, you can find them fresh. As you can see by the picture, they look kind of “furry.” They are also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, for many different benefits! My teacher suggested we try them in soup, so we did, but, I must admit, I wasn’t crazy about them! They had an unusual taste to them, somewhat bitter. Because they are dried, you are supposed to reconstitute them. I thought that since they were going to cook in the soup for a couple of hours that I didn’t need to … wrong! I read afterwards that soaking them, even overnight, can remove the bitterness. The texture was interesting, they were like sponges, holding a large amount of the soup broth. If you decide to stir fry them, be sure to squeeze all of the water from soaking out! We’ll try that next time! We looked at recipes and saw that they can be combined with numerous things, and are often used as a meat substitute. We made our soup with black silkie chicken, celtuce, carrots, some dried daylily buds, and the mushrooms.
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, February 28 - This type of three-wheeled carts are very common around us, but usually they are used for work purposes. They carry all sorts of items: recycling, furniture, street food, plants, and .... sometimes people. You don't usually see little kids sitting in the back alone though, but these two were very well-behaved as we drove past them!
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, February 11 –These are pictures I’ve collected of fancy bottles of baijiu being sold during the Chinese New Year festivities. Baijiu is Chinese “white liquor,” most commonly made from sourghum. I personally have never tasted it, and don’t plan to, but it is supposedly strong stuff! I read that the Chinese drink the ones that are 60-120%proof, but those exported are more like 50% proof. It is a regular part of Chinese business dinners, where the men present (but not the women) are expected to drink it. If you want to read more about it, try here http://baijiuamerica.com/what-is-baijiu/ . I’ve been tempted to buy some at this time of year, just for the bottle! This is the only panda bottle I’ve ever seen; most are the floral ones. If you would like to add to this or correct me if I’m wrong, please do in the comments!
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, January 26 – This pair of children are called 金童玉女, Jīn tóng yù nǚ, “Golden Boy and Jade Girl (or maiden),” or “The Golden Children.” Although not as common as other Spring Festival decorations, they are still common to see. In reading about them, it seems that they are originally from the Taoist/Daoist religion, and were assistants of the goddess Guan Yin, also called Kwan Yin. The legend is that when they were born, many treasures accompanied their births, so they were named “Golden Boy” and “Jade Girl,” and they then became immortals by serving Guan Yin. In modern day China, especially as Spring Festival decorations, they are seen dressed in traditional Chinese clothing, and are portrayed as round-faced, chubby children. This makes them symbolic of well-fed children, indicating wealth and prosperity. They are displayed as a pair, usually facing each other. Figuratively, they represent lovely young children and are believed to bring happiness and good fortune to a family.
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, January 22 – The chickens and roosters have invaded Pikachu’s spot in the game machine! Did you know that roosters don’t say “cock a doodle doo” in Chinese? They just say “wo wo wo”! Anda chicken says “ge ge!”
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, January 20 – On January 28, 2017, the Year of the Rooster/Chicken will begin. If you were born in 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, or 2005, then, according to the Chinese Zodiac you are a rooster or chicken! However, this isn’t as easy as just the year, as Chinese New Year, or the lunar new year, is on a different day each year. For a complete list of dates, look here: https://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/social_customs/zodiac/rooster.htm
For those who will be born in the upcoming year, 4714 of the Lunar Calendar, they will more specifically be “fire roosters” “or “red fire chickens.” In one place online, I read that according to more specific info, 2017 is actually a female, or chicken year. We are seeing a lot of roosters and chickens as we are out and about, although they don’t seem as plentiful as some of the other zodiac animals in previous years have been. My picture shows a live chicken from where we live, some rooster statues from a Spring Festival Flower Market, and lots of cute plush chickens from the display window of our local variety store.
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, January 14 – The Chinese New Year preparations have started! Artists doing custom calligraphy are common at this time of year because people like to have custom couplets made to hang on their doorways. This man had a table set-up at our shopping plaza today and was making some couplets for a woman when I went past. I posted some information about couplets last year January 17, 2016.
In the written Chinese characters, the words are very carefully chosen, as they have very specific guidelines, including that they rhyme, have the same number of characters on each side, and that the two must correspond to and complement each other. Some examples translated would be:
A wide sea lets fish jump; a high sky lets birds fly.
A mountain of books has a way and diligence is the path; the sea of learning has no end and hard work is the boat
Distance tests a horse's strength; time reveals a person's heart.
Smooth sailing with each year; success with each step.
Heaven adds time and people get older; spring fills the world and blessing fills the door.
Life in China 2017: A Picture A Day, January 13 – The use of dougong brackets goes back thousands of years in Chinese architecture. The word “dougong” literally means “cap and block.” They were/are a system of wooden interlocking pieces that gave the needed support because the walls were not load-bearing. They were layered under the wide eaves to support the load of the roof. The more important the building, the more layers of brackets. This system supposedly holds up very well in earthquakes, holding even when brick walls fall. They are credited as the reason so many ancient Chinese buildings lasted for so long. As time passed, methods changed some and the dougong brackets became more decorative and artistic. Today, you can still see beautiful, brightly colored dougong brackets on special buildings. These in the pictures are from the Po Lin Monastery in Hong Kong and the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Guangzhou. You can see more pictures of the ones used at the Po Lin Monastery in my blog post here: http://www.myownchinesebrocade.com/travel/2017/1/12/big-buddha-and-ngong-ping