Make a trip to China

Terracotta soldiers, Xi’an, China


China World Hotel & China World Trade Center, Beijing, China.


National Center for the Performing Arts, known as the “big egg”. Beijing, China


The whole “egg”.


The new CCTV (China Central Television, the No.1 TV media in China) building.


Huaqingchi, a famous holiday destination 2000 years ago for royal families when Xi’an was China’s capital. Xi’an, China.


The 2000 year-old city wall, in central Xi’an, China. Nowadays riding bicycles along this ancient wall has become a popular tourist attraction.


Old and new. Xi’an, China.


A mosque in Xi’an, China.


A snack shop outside the mosque. Xi’an, Beijing.


Another food stall, Xi’an, China


Bowls and pots sold on streets. Xi’an, China.


A tea shop. Shanghai, China.


A huge teapot! Shanghai, China.


A backstreet of shops selling living goods. Beijing, China


Hongkong, China


A breakfast restaurant in Wuhan, China.

A variety of breakfast in Wuhanese life. Wuhan, China.

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Did you check your tatoo?

Tattoos are almost always associated with gangs and criminal organizations in Asia. This is not necessarily the case in the west, where tattooing might be seen as “trendy” or “cool”.

I love that western people appreciate the beauty of Chinese symbols. But think twice before putting a Chinese tattoo on your body. Why? Because we see a lot unfortunate cases of people getting into embarrassment not knowing what the thing on their skin actually means!

People love Chinese characters, for its artistic appearance. For those who don’t know Chinese, flaring some characters across their arms appear exotic or intriguing. Yet what looks mystical often makes nonsense or bear an embarrassing meaning. For instance, NBA player Marcus Camby had a Chinese tattoo that neither Chinese or Japanese people could understand.

Let’s look at a few examples!

David Beckham’s Chinese tattoo. It’s an old Chinese proverb that says: death and life have determined appointments; wealth and honors depend upon heaven.
Does it say the right thing?  Yes! A big congratulation to Beckham, he is praised for being clever with his etching. He got the right writing on his back. No jokes, no embarrassment. Very nice calligraphy. It’s a 100% pass.

But these ones aren’t lucky:


Wow, “Bad Boy”. Good calligraphy, but with a fatal mistake!—-the symbols are in the wrong order. To make English speakers understand it’s almost like “Bad Yob”. The order for the Chinese word for “boy” is reversed! That’ll give any Chinese a good laugh^_^


Guess the meaning? In your wildest dreams you wouldn’t even think of: terrible diarrhea. Yes unfortunately that’s what the two characters means: insane diarrhea. I guess if you really hate someone this is a great way to play fool on the person. Tell him to get a tattoo of this two symbols, but never reveal the true meaning, and prepare to get smacked when the person finds out.

This lady must really love food, cause her tattoo reads:
What is tattooed to her arm reads: rice fried with pork fat.

Let’s look at a correct one but still with problem

This inscription is from Confucius. It reads: gentlemen should speak slowly but act quickly. Nice meaning there but the calligraphy is hardly qualified. The handwriting is too casual and naive.

Here comes another food lover

“Sweet and sour meat”

One more

The tattoo reads “Chicken, mouse, mouse, tiger.” I don’t know what he’s trying to say? Besides, the character for “chicken” lacks one stroke. It’s ridiculous!! It must be done either by a foreigner or a Chinese that slept at all his Chinese classes.

A more shocking one:

This symbol means both “bitch” and “prostitute”. Why would anybody want that? plus in this big size? Check the translation first! And check with experts!

A similar one:

Only the bottom two characters read as a word. It means: slut. The other three each has its own meaning (pull, husband, situation) but makes no sense when put together. Judging from the picture, it is a typical example of the person choosing characters for him/herself based on the appearances but made no effort in getting to know their meanings.

More laughs:


“Stupid Americans!”

And a technical mistake:

The tattoo artist draw “death” mirrored. Besides, the character for “life” isn’t written correctly.

Go to google and search “ridiculous Chinese tattoos” you’ll be amused, if you can read the real meanings. Now you understand why it’s so important to know the meaning, before you feel cool wearing Chinese symbols on your body.

In the next episode, we’ll share some good words with good meaning, that are good for tattoos.

(Source: photos from Google images; explanations by Yun Zhang. )

Posted in Chinese for fun | 2 Comments

What does mandarin mean?

1 A 10 year old boy asked me: “what does ‘Mandarin’ mean?” before I was about to answer, his classmate blurted out: “It means—a very difficult language!”

Who says not? I laughed at his witty answer.

The Chinese word for Mandarin is 普通话,which literally means: common speech. Mandarin refers to the standard sound of Chinese(think it as the Chinese version of correct, British English). It’s a phonetic that all Chinese understand and communicate with, because there are hundreds of dialects from various townships, cities and provinces. Mandarin in sound is closest to the sound of Beijing dialect.

So, that’s Mandarin. But I praised the boy for his creative thinking! He was right in a way, as it is considered as one of the most difficult languages to learn.

2 I asked my students from Westford School why they wanted to learn Chinese. One boy said: “because I really love Sushi!”

Then you should pick up Japanese, man!

3 I was explaining to a younger student that Macau, a city in China, was once a colony under Portugal’s administration. He asked me what colony is, and made a curious guess: “is it a tribe?”

This is Macau, with a Portugal influence in its architecture:

What the boy imagined a “colony” to be:

^_^

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Have you tasted authentic Chinese food?

It disappoints me hugely whenever people say “Oh I love Chinese food! Sweet and sour pork is my favorite! Chop suey and chicken chow mein, delicious…” Not wanting to dampen their enthusiasm for Chinese food, but I do want to shout out loud, at the top of table mountain, that: Sweet and sour pork and chop suey are NOT real Chinese food!”

Most Chinese food that westerners know and are exposed to are westernized Cantonese food. If you travel to China, the variety and flavor of authentic Chinese food will amaze you, and you’d feel struck with this big knowledge that you’ve been fooled all these years by those fake, westernized Chinese food!

Well, it’s never too late to get to know what real Chinese food are like. Here I’ll share with you delicious recipes. Most importantly of all, they are authentic Chinese food.

Let’s start with some key ingredients and famous Chinese meal that are cooked with those ingredients.

1 姜 Ginger

There are two indispensable ingredient in most Chinese cooking: ginger and garlic. Ginger was introduced to China more than 2000 years ago, from tropical jungles of Asia. Fresh ginger roots are golden-beige in color with a smooth, dry skin. They are readily available all year around. In culinary uses, ginger is often paired with onions to create a balance in seasoning-the “hot” yang ginger is offset by the “cool” yin spring onions.

Let’s look at a famous dish cooked with ginger: Shredded beef with onion and ginger:

This dish originated in Sichuan, and like so many other dishes from that province, it has now become an international favorite. Pork or lamb can be substituted for beef.

what you need:
300g beef steak; 1 medium onion; 25g fresh ginger root, peeled; 3 tablespoons oil; 1 tablespoon chili bean paste; 1 tablespoon light soy sauce; 1 teaspoon sugar; 1 tablespoon rice wine; 1 teaspoon rice vinegar; 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil.

How to cook:
1 Cut the beef into thin shreds; thinly shred the onion and ginger root.
2 Heat the oil in a preheated wok or pan until smoking, stir-fry the onion and ginger for about 1 minute, add the beef, and continue stirring for another minute or until the color of the meat changes.
3 Add the chili bean paste, blend well, then add the soy, sugar, rice wine and vinegar. Cook for 30-4- seconds more. Sprinkle on the sesame oil. Serve hot.

Another indispensable ingredient in Chinese cooking is: garlic.

Garlic has been known to the Chinese from very early on- it is mentioned in the calendar of the Xia, written in about 2000 BC. It is called suan in Chinese.

Garlic is available all year around. Store it in a dry, airy place at room temperature, in a plastic bag to prevent from shriveling. Garlic also has many medicinal virtues. It is supposed to neutralize the noxious effect from unclean water and putrid meat.
In Chinese cooking, garlic is equally important as ginger and spring onion.

Crystal-Boiled Pork with Garlic Sauce:

“Crystal boiling” is a unique Chinese cooking method used for white meats such as chicken and pork that are very fresh and tender. The raw ingredient, usually in large pieces (a whole chicken or a joint of pork), is cooked in boiling water for a relatively short time, then the heat is turned off, and it is left to continue cooking in a warm pot.

Serve 10-12 as a starter or 6-8 as a main course.

What you need:
1 1 kg leg of pork, boned but not skinned.
2 For the sauce: 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic; 1 tablespoon finely chopped spring onions; 1 teaspoon sugar; 4 teaspoons light soy; 1 tablespoon distilled spirit; 2 teaspoons sesame oil; 1 teaspoon red chilli oil.

How to Cook:
1 Place the pork, tied together in one piece, in enough boiling water to cover it. Bring back to the boil, skim off the scum and simmer, covered, for about 50 minutes.
2 Leave the pork in the liquid to cool, covered, for at least 2-3 hours before removing it to cool further, skin side up, for another hour or so.
3 To serve: cut off the skin, leaving a very think layer of fat on top, as on a ham joint. Cut the meat across the grain into small, thin slices and arrange neatly on a plate. Mix the sauce ingredients, and pour the sauce evenly over the pork.

In Shanghai, the meat is served cold and the sauce does not contain any chili, while in Sichuan, the meat is served warm and the sauce has chili oil in it. Any leftovers can be used in a number of dishes, such as the famous Twice-Cooked Pork with Bamboo Shoots.

In the next episode we’ll talk about another important ingredient in Chinese cooking: Spring onions.

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Chinese dissident won Nobel Peace Prize

October, 8th, 2010, Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace.

The 54-year-old scholar and author, who won the prize for his outstanding contribution to human rights, is currently serving an 11-year sentence on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” imposed after an unfair trial.

Liu Xiaobo co-authored Charter 08, a proposal calling for legal and political reform in China to establish a democratic system that respects human rights. It was originally signed by around 300 Chinese scholars, lawyers and officials, and timed to mark International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2008.

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Lesson 5: Chinese names


Various Chinese names I gave my students in Westford High School, according to the phonetics of their English names.

Chinese People’s names comprise two parts, a surname and a first name. Chinese people put the family name before the first name, as a sign of respect for a person’s ancestors.
In general, first names have a meaning, expressing parents’ aspirations for their child. For example, boys’ first names often use characters meaning strong, courageous, intelligent, etc. In girls’ first names there are often characters meaning beauty, lovely, pure, gentle.

When meeting a person for the first time, first names are not usually used straight away. Rather surnames are used followed by a form of address indicating profession, job position, or kinship. For example, Wang buzhang (Head of Department Wang), Zhang laoshi(Teacher Zhang), Liu xiansheng (Mr. Liu) etc. People usually address each other by first name alone if they are friends, or if older person is addressing a younger person.

Getting a Chinese name for yourself:

Many non-Chinese speakers are intrigued by the Chinese characters which are so artistic. Many of them want a Chinese name. Often we translate the sound of an English name into a Chinese symbol that bears the closest sound.

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Lesson 4: Some typical misconceptions of China

Misconception 1: China is like what you experienced via movies, TV or your local Chinese restaurant.
The real China is so different than the Americanized, Hollywood version: in real China, very few people study Kungfu, nobody karate chops each other, and few people actually like sweet and sour chicken.

Misconception 2: Chinese people eat dogs.
Well, partly true. Those who eat dogs (or cats) are mainly Cantonese people. It’s wrong to think that ALL Chinese eat dogs and cats. Various NGOs are working towards calling people not to eat companion animals and things are getting better.

Misconception 3: Chinese women are subservient.
No! In the old days Chinese women were supposed to stay at home serving their husbands and raising children. You might have heard of “binding feet” story, but that was history. This country is now full of entrepreneurial, competitive and assertive women. A lot of successful single women put off marriage late, because they can’t find a “ideal husband”! It’s universal that men feel threatened when you earn more than him.

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