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 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 2016: A Picture A Day, December 31 – Today, we visited the Humen Opium War Museum and the Sea Battles Museum. There’s a lot to this story in history, but very briefly (and over simplified!) , although originally opium was used as medicine, it gradually grew to be used recreationally. British and American companies started trading it in large amounts, but many Chinese learned how dangerous opium really was, and saw how it destroyed the lives of those who used it. In June of 1839, a Chinese man named Lin Zexu led the destruction of over 2.5 million pounds of British and American opium! This happened in Humen, a town about a 45 minute drive from us. This event triggered the Opium Wars which followed. The pictures, starting with the large one and going clockwise, show: A painting of the destruction of opium in Humen in June 1939, an elaborately carved opium pipe, an opium smoking tool (with Chinese lions), canons, Lin Zexu, and some who fought in the Opium Wars.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 13 – When we were shopping yesterday, I was excited to find a box of Christmas postcards, 36 cards for 10 rmb ($1.45usd)! Most are nice looking, I even gave some out today at our Dongguan coffee morning, but, there are a couple with “Your Name” printed in the banner across the front! We have seen this before on notebooks and even mall decorations, sometimes reading “Your text here.” All I can figure is that whoever is making these items are copying their pictures from somewhere that you are supposed to customize the items before printing. Since the English level of those making them isn’t good, they are just made and distributed this way. I guess I won't be using those two cards!
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 23 – I’m not sure how I’ve made it this far into the year without posting specifically about dragons! Dragons, called龙 long, are HUGE in China and there is no way I’ll cover everything there is to learn about them in this paragraph! Most importantly, dragons in China are GOOD, unlike dragons in Western lore that are/were mean, ferocious enemies. Chinese dragons are mainly symbols of power and good luck. They have a very different look than most Western dragons. They have NO wings (although they can fly) and they don’t breathe fire; They have scales like a fish, the mane of a lion, the claws of a hawk, a long tail like a snake, the antlers of a deer, the mouth of a bull, the beard of a catfish, the nose of a dog, and eyes like a shrimp! Legend says that the emperor was a direct descendant of the dragon. Legend also says that the Imperial dragon had 9 dragon sons; today, you can still recognize nine different specific dragons, used in different ways. The dragon is also one of the Chinese Zodiac animals, the only mythological one of the group. Long ago, the dragon symbol was only allowed to be used by the emperor, but, today dragon symbols are widely used as a decorative symbol. This large ornamental pillar with a dragon wrapped around it is located in the Dalingshan Town Square, in Dongguan.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 16 – Most people who haven’t been to China don’t realize that there are a large number of government sanctioned Christian churches which are perfectly legal for Chinese citizens to attend. The teachings aren’t the same as in foreign Christian churches though. You must commit your life to China first and God second. Christians who don’t agree with this often turn to “underground” churches, and those are the ones that the government isn’t happy about. In areas with a lot of foreigners, there are often special services, depending on the area, you need to show a foreign passport to participate in these. Leah was invited to attend a youth group at a Chinese Christian Church today. She took the bus to the town of Shilong which was about an hour and 10 minute bus ride from us. The youth group was held upstairs from the main congregation, and she took the first picture on her way up; you can see it’s a full house! In the picture with the sign, the part with the red cross is the church name, Shilong Fuyin Tang, basically Shilong Christian or Gospel Church. This was at the back of the building, which used to be the main entrance, so the rest of the sign says where to enter the church now. She went to a small museum in the afternoon, and the church she attended supposedly has about a 150 year history. The other picture shows an old picture of the church. Leah said the caption reads that “Christianity was brought to Shilong in the late 19th century. In 1863, an American missionary built Shilong Church, called Presbyterian Church. After the Boxer Rebellion (1900), the church was destroyed.” At some point (possibly 1918) it must have been rebuilt because it says a school was established, and that during a famine it was used to provide food and medicine. Thanks to Leah for the pictures and translations.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 11 – Moon gates are very old elements used in Chinese architecture and gardens. They can be indoor or outdoor and serve as a connection or transition between two places. Sometimes you actually have to step over a threshold, which adds even more emphasis to the concept of entering a new place. The full moon is “worshipped” in China, and considered a symbol of happiness. The moon gate represents the full moon rising and is therefore very inviting for people to pass through. Today we visited the Lingnan Museum of Fine Art and Keyuan Park and this moon gate was in a garden area between the two. We had planned to visit Keyuan Garden, a very well-known garden in Guangdong Province, but it was closed today :-( We will have to go back! I’m sure they have more moon gates in the garden!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 25 – Jim returned to China today after a week in the USA, and as usual, wanted to sleep all day from jetlag! In order to keep him awake, I suggested we have dinner out and listen to some live music. In Songshan Lake, we only have the Hyatt with live music, so we drove about 25 minutes to a place Jim enjoys called Gecko Pizza. On Sunday nights, they have live Filipino music, which we really enjoy. Filipino bands are popular in expat areas of China. We like that they play a lot of old American music :-) Tonight they included Santana and Fleetwood Mac, as well as many more. It did the trick and Jim was wide awake :-)
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 14 – We saw baby spas where we lived when we first came to China in 2009-2011, but I never saw them the whole time we lived in Shekou. I always thought the babies looked so relaxed and happy in the water, so I was happy to see a couple of baby spas in Dongcheng yesterday, unfortunately, there was just one older child in a pool at the time. The babies have a type of ring that is fitted around their neck so their head stays above water. The sign for the one we saw yesterday says it is for ages up to 6 years old, and offers bubble baths, water play, water therapy and music. The spa pictures are from yesterday, but the actual baby in the water was from 2009.
I decided to check online and see if there are any in the USA, and found that a franchise started in Texas in 2014! For all of my friends with babies, grandbabies, or if you’re just curious, they have a nice video about baby spas. http://floatbabies.com/
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 13 – Although Western Culture traditionally has a “man in the moon,” did you know that China (and some other Asian countries) have a lady and a rabbit in/on the moon? Celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival in China supposedly dates back more than 3000 years and although the legends vary slightly, the typical story is that Chang-e, now called the Moon Goddess, took either an elixir or pill of immortality and ended up making the moon her home. Her husband missed her so much that he gave sacrifices to her. Others soon followed, and starting worshipping the moon because of her, thus the beginning of the Mid-Autumn, or Moon Festival. In Chinese mythology (and many other cultures), there is also a rabbit, called the Moon Rabbit or the Jade Rabbit, who lives on the moon and makes elixirs for Chang-e with his pestle. So, you will often see them together in decorations for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Next time you look at the moon, see if you can find the Moon Rabbit and his pestle! Here is a short video of the more complete legend of Chang-e.
Today, Leah and I were in the ‘downtown’ Dongguan area and we passed this large display being set up.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 12 – One of the traditions of the Mid-Autumn, or Chinese Moon Festival is for children to parade around carrying lanterns, under the full moon, on the festival night. Traditionally, these were handmade, often to look like animals or flowers, but today many can also be purchased ready-made. In addition to children carrying them, they can be hung in trees or around houses, some kinds are floated on water, and some are let loose to float skyward. The stores near us have many options for sale, from kits to make or decorate your own, basic paper accordion style lanterns, ones with modern day characters, and modern, plastic ones with flashing lights! Here are various lanterns we’ve seen for sale near us, as well as a couple pretty ones (with flowers and birds) that I bought for decorations :-)
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, July 19 – I’ve seen charging bull statues in a number of cities in China. Shanghai supposedly has one on the Bund that is similar to the New York City Wall Street Bull. Shenzhen has one in front of their government building as well as a giant one in Sihai Park near where we used to live, and this one pictured is in Dongguan. I don’t think it’s “famous” like the others, but it’s the closest to where we live now and definitely the most colorful! In China, the bull, especially the charging bull, symbolizes determination, diligence, perseverance, and hard work. This makes it a popular decorative statue for offices and desks. The bull, or ox, is one of the twelve lunar zodiac signs, it’s most recent year was 2009 and the next will be 2021. If you are an ox (bull) the previous traits are supposedly part of your personality.
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.
Today was the Dongguan International Marathon: It started in Songshan Lake and the runners came right past where we live. We missed the front runners, they were much faster getting this far than I anticipated! But, we watched others go by for an hour! There were 15,000 participants in 4 different length races. The participants included everyone from the professional marathon runners down to babies being pushed in strollers! And a whole group of Anime characters, Batman, the Mario Brothers, the Monkey King, a miniature Pikachu, quite a few Supermen, hula dancers, plus quite a few with bunny ears :-) By the time the back of the group came by, they were mostly walking, and there were a good number of children. I loved the two little girls pictured, they were just walking along, hand in hand, singing away. We watched the finish on TV, both male and female winners of the full marathon were from Kenya.
Each spring in southern China, along with warmer weather, comes what they call huinantian 回南天 which literally translates as “back to the south.” We live in a subtropical monsoon climate, and March and April is when the cold northern air meets the warm moist air from the South China Sea: This is considered an annual meteorological phenomenon. Humidity at this time is basically 90% and above! Everything is dripping wet! Well, I shouldn’t say everything, luckily our apartment isn’t dripping inside, but the halls outside of the apartment are …. the walls and doors are literally dripping, and the floors are wet and very slippery! The ground outside is wet like it has rained even if it hasn’t. So, for the next week, we are supposed to have fog, mist, rain, and thunderstorms. It’s kind of a strange feeling being damp and sticky, yet slightly cool! I can’t walk outside without my glasses and camera fogging up. The mist and fog does give the lake quite a mystical look though. This picture of the lake was partially due to my fogged up lens. The other pictures are the glass doors in our building lobby, and the floor outside of our apartment.
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!
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 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.