Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 30 – I posted a picture back on July 28th of Zoomorphic Animals used on the eaves of Chinese architecture, and told how the number used indicated rank in ancient China. Door Studs were another way that rank was indicated in ancient Chinese architecture. The pictured door was on a temple in Guilin. Being a temple, It has the highest number of studs found, which is 81 (9 rows of 9 studs). In modern times, door studs continue to be used as decoration, but originally they held on iron plates to strengthen the doors. Doors also often had, and many times still have, decorative knocker bases. The more important the building, the more elaborate the “pushou” or knocker base. They are usually found in the shape of one of the animals with special meaning in Chinese culture. These date back over 2000 years. As well as being decorative, they were functional as a knocker, and when the doors were closed, a lock could be fastened around the two rings. These two knockers were from the temple area in Ngong Ping, where we visited in Hong Kong last week.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 29 – Westerners often think of “Chinese” people as all being part of one large group, but this isn’t true. There are actually 56 ethnic groups in China. The people we generally think of as “Chinese” are the Han Chinese, which make up the majority of the population. The other 55 minority groups only account for about 8.5% of the population. Many of these people look nothing like the Han Chinese. The village we stayed in for Christmas was home to many people of the Zhuang ethnic group, the largest of the ethnic minorities. The elderly women around the fire with Leah are Zhuang, you can see they wear a certain style of clothing. They were selling sweet potatoes, taro and eggs cooked over the fire. The ladies also worked as porters for the hotels, carrying peoples luggage in baskets strapped on their backs. The lady weaving is from a nearby village. She is one of the Yao ethnic minority. An interesting fact about these ladies is that they cut their hair when they are 18, but save it and continue regularly adding it in with their current hair. This lady had also cut her hair when she had her 2nd child, so she actually had two cut lengths of hair, (all the hair she grew in her life!) added to her current hair. Traditionally, their families were the only ones who saw them with their hair down, but, now you can pay them a few dollars in US money to take their hair down for you. They have a special way of putting it up and a specially shaped hat holds it in place. She was weaving cloth like the sleeves of her jacket.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 20 – Christmas is NOT a legal holiday in China. It is acknowledged by many people, and of course the Christians in China celebrate the best they can, while working and going to school! Young Chinese people like the idea of celebrating Western holidays, even if they think differently about what they are celebrating, and stores in the bigger cities take advantage of selling Christmas decorations. China has also developed one of its own Christmas traditions: Giving apples on Christmas Eve. This came about because the word for apple, “pingguo,” sounds similar to “ping’an ye, ” which means “peaceful night.” The Chinese connect this to “Silent Night” which to them represents the Western Christmas Eve. Stores sell special little boxes that apples can be given in on Christmas Eve. I’ve never tried to buy an apple on Christmas Eve, but supposedly the price goes way up because of the high demand.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 19 – I think I may have mentioned that we don’t get mail very often. It’s usually just the 2 or 3 bills we get each month. We don’t even get junk mail where we live now! I only check it once every week or two, so today I was surprised to have not just one personal piece of mail but two! The only problem is, they were mailed from the USA last JANUARY! See the dates? 1-11-16 and 1-21-16! So glad to have finally received this long lost mail! Who knows where it has been all this time! Mail doesn’t always take this long though, it’s usually about a month from the USA. The government run China Post is NOT the mail service to use for anything important, it’s very inconsistent! We order things online quite often, and it’s AMAZING how fast they are delivered, BUT, they come through private delivery services, NOT China Post! I’ve also included a picture of our local China Post….it’s actually quite old, dull and boring!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 18 – Cooler weather seems to bring out the vendors who walk around carrying their goods for sale in boxes or baskets attached to a bamboo or wooden yolk. They might be selling tofu, candy, fruit or something else. They usually have some kind of metal they strike with a certain rhythm which seems to indicate they are selling something. Even I have learned to recognize this sound and know to look for a vendorwhen I hear it! The sound reminds me of a cowbell! Today, we saw the man who is seated, taking a well-deserved rest since he had probably been walking along the lake before coming to the shopping plaza. I photographed the other two vendors last fall/winter.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 17 – In areas away from the large city centers, especially smaller towns, there are usually motorcycle-taxis waiting to give you a ride. They wait at bus stops, near shopping areas, etc. They are a little cheaper than a regular taxi, but they are often illegal also! When we go shopping in the next town, there are always men there waiting; some ask us if we want a ride (in Chinese) and others don’t. I took this picture from the bus, these two men didn’t seem to be trying very hard to get work!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 16 – I’m always surprised at the huge amount of frozen pizza available when I’m back in the USA! I’m curious if pizza is so popular in other “Western” countries? Anyhow, this picture shows the frozen pizza selection at our bigger supermarket in the next town; I think our smaller supermarket only has 2 kinds. And I can guarantee that outside of the cities, you would never find frozen pizza in China! The “Special Barbeque Pork “sounds pretty good (even though it also has peas and corn on it!), but what do you think of “tropical fruit,” “Durian,” and “Blueberry” pizza?
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 15 – I think these sleeve covers that the Chinese ladies use are a great idea! They are basically just tubes of fabric (or plastic) with elastic at either end. You pull them up over your sleeves, or bare arms, to protect your clothing or skin while you are cooking, cleaning, out riding your scooter or whatever. As you can see from the variety available, they are pretty much a fashion accessory like a scarf, but for your working hours! I’ve only seen women wearing these, but there is a pair for sale in this picture that says “Happy Father’s Day” so maybe they are for men too?
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 14 – This is the 5th and I think the last of the Chubby Women statue series around Songshan Lake. There are many more in the series in other places though. This is the series by the sculptor named Xu Hong Fei, from Guangzhou. You can see the other four on my blog here: http://www.myownchinesebrocade.com/picture-a-day-1?tag=Xu+Hong+Fei
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 12 – I don’t normally eat fast food, but we’ve been curious about this Chinese fast food restaurant chain 真功夫 “Zhen Gongfu” or “Real Kungfu.” We were going out shopping around lunch time today so decided to try it, and we actually thought it was pretty good! You may think you recognize the person on their sign, but you’re wrong (LOL)! The company insists that their logo is no one particular, it just so happens to closely resemble Bruce Lee in his famous yellow shirt! The company however, has no legal permission to use Bruce Lee’s image, so, these pictures are NOT Bruce Lee! Welcome to China :-) Wikipedia says that Real Kungfu is the 8th largest fast food chain in China. Today, I had chicken and mushroom and Leah had pork and preserved vegetables, both came with rice and boiled lettuce and we also got the pork bone soup. They mainly have meals with rice, meat and vegetables, including fish and eggplant and beef and mustard tuber (I don’t know what that is! ) You can get other things like chicken seaweed rolls, steamed eggs, fish balls, steamed buns, and sides of broccoli, mixed vegetables, or preserved vegetables. Both of our meals together cost 52 rmb or $7.50usd.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 11 – I’ve definitely been enjoying the weather since returning to South China ten days ago, and very glad that I left Ohio before the snowstorm hit! I prefer the flowers over snow! There are some beautiful trees blooming here right now, and one is the Bauhinia Tree. The Bauhinia is also called the Hong Kong Orchid because it is the official emblem of Hong Kong. They even have a large golden bauhinia statue near the harbor and a representation of the bauhinia on their flag. The Bauhinia is also called the Purple Camel’s Foot and the Hawaiian Orchid Tree. They are native to Southeast Asia, but are now also grown in other areas of the world with warm climates. The flowers, in varying shades of pinks and purples and also white, bloom throughout the winter. They eventually get long seed pods, but it’s too early for them now and I can’t find a good picture I’ve previously taken. www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 10 – Longans are another popular fruit in south Asia. They are similar to lychees, which I wrote about back in July, but aren’t nearly as messy, and I think have a sweeter taste. They are called “long yan” in Chinese, which is literally “dragon eye.” You can probably see in the pictures how the translucent white flesh, with the dark seed in the center, can be compared to a dragon eye. The thin outer covering can easily be removed by first squeezing it on the side so it splits open, then peeling it off. When you purchase the fresh fruit, they are often still on the branches because they supposedly stay fresher that way. They can be eaten raw, cooked, often in soups or desserts, and dried. I like to use dried ones in fruit tea. They are also popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine, where they have quite a list of healing properties! www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 9 – Our local shopping plaza has just switched its decorations from Halloween to Christmas. And… along with the Santa Claus toys, the first roosters have appeared! Chinese New Year is very early next year, arriving on January 28th. 2017 will be the “Year of the Rooster,” so, it looks like in China, Santa will be sharing the spotlight with the rooster this holiday season :-)
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 8 – When “International” restaurants are mentioned around us, it often just means other Asian cuisine: Japanese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, etc. The Chinese seem to LOVE Japanese food, so, living in China, we have the benefit of having quite a few Japanese restaurants around. Japan is known for its “cute” food and “sushi art” and we have a chain of restaurants around that make some cute ‘onigiri’ or rice balls. No, they doesn’t taste any different, but it’s fun to eat cute food :-) Tonight, Leah and I had these little panda bear rice balls with little octopi tied on their backs! You can buy all kinds of molds and nori (seaweed) punches to help you make your own cute food at home too :-) Here’s a You Tube tutorial to show you how to make some panda onigiri . You can buy the mold and punch on Amazon! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONlY7hP426g
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 7 – Living in the USA, I only ever knew gingko as either the tree with the unique fan shaped leaves that turned such a pretty yellow in the fall, or the health supplement known to help with memory problems. Once moving to China, my first introduction to gingko seeds or gingko nuts, in Chinese called “white-fruits” 白果 (bai guo) or “silver apricots” 銀杏 , was as a dessert in a Chiuchow/Teochew cuisine restaurant; it was delicious and I ate way too much! Gingko nuts have hard shells, are yellow or green inside, and are toxic to eat without cooking (because of something called MPN). Even after cooking, you should limit the amount you eat to approximately 8 per day (Nobody told me this the first time I had them! But, luckily, I was fine!). Quite a bit of information says that children should avoid them altogether, or eat about half of the adult amount. If you have a gingko tree near you and decide to harvest your own, be careful because the pulp can irritate your skin. We buy them in the supermarket shelled and vacuum packed, I’m honestly not sure if they are cooked or not, but we always cook ours in some way before eating them, usually in stir-fries. I’m surprised that the package has no information at all about the “safe” way to consume them! They usually have a slightly sweet taste, but sometimes can be slightly bitter, and they are kind of soft and chewy. The Chinese use them mainly in rice porridge, sweet soups and other desserts. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, they are good for the lungs, kidneys, anti-aging, and are considered an aphrodisiac.
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, December 5 – At our larger discount/supermarket stores, like Walmart, we have carts that require a one yuan “deposit” in order to use the cart. When you finish shopping and attach the cart to another cart, you get your one yuan coin back. I guess this is to discourage people from taking the carts, but, I think if someone really wanted to take one, the one yuan, which is currently 14.5 cents in USD, wouldn’t really stop them!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 4 – This display was set up outside of the supermarket in the town next to us. While this is not regularly there, snakes and turtles are commonly used as both food and Traditional Chinese medicine where we live, they are thought to give longevity and health when consumed. When snake is offered on a restaurant menu, it is often referred to as “dragon.” These people had a large container of snake wine and they were offering free samples, as well as selling bottles of it. Snake wine is made by infusing the whole snake in the wine. On display, there were also horseshoe crabs (which I’ve been told are used in soup), frogs, some kind of insects, and ganoderma (a type of mushroom). I personally missed seeing this, Jim and Leah saw it and took these pictures.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 3 – I am back in China and ready to finish my year of “A Picture a Day” up. I’ve posted before about the fact that you don’t drink the tap water here, and that we have bottled water in our home. When I was back in the USA, I enjoyed the ability to get drinks at drinking fountains while out shopping. There are no drinking fountains in China. If you want a drink of water when you are out shopping, you buy a bottle of water. These pictures are from the Hong Kong Airport. Still not regular drinking fountains, but quite fancy “Water Zones.” Leah said the Chinese says “Drinking Water.” They have hot, cold or room temperature water available. The one on the left was from when we left HK; it also has fluid disposal because you can’t take any drinks or filled bottles on the planes, even if you have bought them at the airport! The picture on the right was after we arrived back in HK and were in the area waiting for a ferry to return to mainland China. Here, they even had ice available!