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: 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!
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!
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: http://www.pacifichorticulture.org/articles/relict-gold-the-long-journey-of-the-chinese-narcissus/
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 9 - If you’ve read what I’ve previously shared about gold and fish… I’m sure you'll understand why goldfish are considered to be “lucky fish!” What better activity for kids (and adults!) at a New Year’s celebration than fishing for goldfish! There is a food fair, with some carnival type games, at our nearby shopping plaza and this “fish pond” is set up there. I’ve seen fishing like this at quite a few other places throughout the year, but in much smaller pools!
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.
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余.” This sounds the same as the word “yu魚 ” 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!
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.
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!
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. https://meitianadventure.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/dongguan-flower-fair/
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.
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.
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!