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Friday, March 6, 2015

Spider-Man and an Ewok: Watched From Above

I have recently noticed a peculiar pattern — characters from popular fantasy and science fiction movies suspiciously watching me from high vantage points as I walk outside in China. Here are just two examples:

a large Spider-Man figure peeking over the top of the Sunshine Mall
Spider-Man watching me in Chongqing

A dog resembling an Ewok looking down from a porch
An Ewok watching me in Zhongshan

Coincidence? You decide. But I am going to keep looking up.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

No Revolutions Today: A Yellow Umbrella in Zhongshan, China

Today I saw something I found especially thought-provoking due to what was being held and where it was being held. In front of me, two young women walked under a yellow umbrella in Zhongshan, the renamed birthplace of Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen.

two young women walking under a yellow umbrella

At a one point, a passing policeman on a motorcycle noticeably jerked his head to look at them, but he continued down the pedestrian street without turning back. No revolutions are likely now in Zhongshan, whatever yellow umbrellas mean across the river in nearby Hong Kong.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What's An American Name?

In context of news about a state legislator in the U.S. saying "Asian-descent voters should adopt names that are 'easier for Americans to deal with'", I had an online conversation with an American acquaintance about the new names Chinese sometimes choose to use when they come to the U.S. to live, work, or study. I think it could be of interest to readers, so I will share it below.

For reasons of privacy, I have changed two names to Mark and Juan, as well as changed some of names I used as examples.
Mark: I had a student from China that changed his name because he wanted an "American" name. So he called himself Juan. :) I told him that was a nice name but it wasn't an "American" name. We had a good laugh but he kept it.

Me: In the 2000s more babies in the US were named Juan than Charles, Adam, Brian, Steven, Timothy, Richard, or . . . Mark. Seems like the student had it right. :)

http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/decades/names2000s.html

Mark: It was still funny and we did have a good laugh. Don't forget, he didn't come from a Hispanic background.

Me: Juan also didn't come from many other backgrounds which have influenced what names are common in the US.

I would agree his name seems atypical for someone coming from China. If I met him, it would catch my attention as well. I suspect the deal here is that for many who come to the US (from wherever) and want a new name, their choice is indirectly or directly impacted by race/ethnicity, not just "Americanness". Your student's choice doesn't fit into how that has often played out, so it stands out to us. I'm curious to know how he chose it.

On the note of unusual name choice... In China, I often meet younger people who, at least in my eyes, have chosen rather creative English names. My favorite is "Spoon".
As always, feel free to share your thoughts.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Boat Going Nowhere in Zhongshan

A scene at the Nanxia Land Mark (南下新码头) "entertainment city" in Zhongshan, Guangdong:

statues of two men on a boat in front of large Chinese characters and a McDonald's

The red traditional Chinese characters "迎陽" (Yíngyáng) are the name for a nearby community. And it didn't look like the boat would be going anywhere soon.

More tomorrow. . .



Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dogs Where the Dogs Don't Go in Hong Kong

A recent post about dogs in Chongqing reminded me of a scene two months ago on Sharp Island in Hong Kong. Both a sign and how it was observed seemed to say something about Hong Kong's pet culture.

person with two dogs in an area with a "No dogs allowed" sign

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Another Store Inspired by 7-Eleven: The 1-Eleven Store in Guiyang

A photo of a store, presumably in China, resembling a 7-Eleven gained some attention on Twitter earlier this month:


Brian Ashcraft later shared examples of other stores apparently inspired by 7-Eleven, many not in China.

I'm not sure whether or not I have seen the store in the tweet, but I know I have seen at least one other store which took a similar approach.

1-Eleven Store in Guiyang, China, with a store sign similar to 7-Eleven's

I saw the 1-Eleven store in Guiyang, Guizhou province, almost four years ago. I didn't check to see if it sold 1UP, but the "TM" symbol representing "trademark" on the store's sign made it extra special. I doubt the store now exists since since other signs posted at the time indicated it would be closing.

7-Eleven doesn't currently have any stores in Guiyang, but it does have stores in Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Qingdao, Shanghai, Tianjin, and a number of cities in Guangdong province. Somewhat similar to imitators I have seen of KFC and McDonald's, the 1-Eleven store could at least be symbolic of an opportunity existing for 7-Eleven to further grow in China.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Performing Monkeys and Their Masters in China

Over a year ago as I crossed the road at a familiar intersection in Zhuhai's Gongbei subdistrict, I looked down and to my surprise saw three monkeys crossing the road as well.

three leashed monkeys crossing a road in Zhuhai

three leashed monkeys crossing a road in Zhuhai


Near the same intersection two hours later, I saw a sizable crowd had gathered to watch the monkeys perform a show.

monkeys performing in Gongbei, Zhuhai


This month in Zhuhai's Nanping Town, I once again saw monkeys performing for a human crowd.

monkeys performing in Nanping, Zhuhai

monkeys performing in Nanping, Zhuhai


As I watched, I wondered about the lives of both the monkeys and their masters.

I am reminded of these performances and others I have seen in China by a powerful photo essay on ifeng.com (in Chinese; photos say much on their own; HT Chris Buckley). Beginning in 2002, Hongjie Ma's photographs capture a period of 12 years in the lives of performing monkeys and their masters from Henan province. Neither the monkeys nor the humans appear to have had easy lives. And they lived them together.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

An Alaskan Malamute and Wolf Teeth in Zhongshan

In a period of a little over an hour tonight in Zhongshan, I had unplanned experiences touching on recents posts about pets dogs and selling wolf-dog teeth in Chongqing, which is approximately a 1500 km (930 miles) drive from Zhongshan.

First, I met a young couple walking their friendly dog, an Alaskan Malamute, next to the Shiqi River.



Then not much later, I saw teeth for sale at a street corner.



The seller told me they were wolf teeth and not wolf-dog teeth. Based on my memory, the teeth appeared larger than what I had seen in Chongqing.

And that's all for these topics today.

McDonald's Celebrates in China With Year of Fortune and Year of Luck Burgers

Last year, I wrote about McDonald's "incomparable" Prosperity Burgers — a special localized menu item available only near the Lunar New Year in places such as Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. For some reason, they are not available in mainland China.

Instead, for the holiday this year in mainland China McDonald's offers two other special burgers.

promotion at McDonalds.com.cn for their special Chinese New Year burgers
Image from McDonalds.com.cn

They don't look anything like a Prosperity Burger. Nor do they look like something I would want to eat. But I have been deceived by appearances of food in China before, so I decided to give them a try in Chongqing.

I started off with the Year of Fortune Burger (年年有利堡).

Boxed Year of Fortune Burger


The main ingredients are a slice of chicken with a layer of skin topped by two fried shrimp sticks, lettuce, and a mayonnaise-based sauce.

McDonald's Year of Fortune Burger (年年有利堡)


After one bite, I wasn't feeling the fortune. After a second bite, I removed the shrimp sticks, took the skin off the chicken, and scraped off the mystery sauce. I found it passable after that, somewhat.

I left the McDonald's. After walking a couple of blocks, I worried if I waited much longer I would not be able to convince myself to finish this important project. So I stopped by another McDonald's.

Now was time to try the Year of Luck Burger (年年有福堡). It was not packaged in a box like the Year of Fortune Burger, possibly because it did not require as much structural support or shielding.

wrapped Year of Luck Burger


I thought the main ingredients were two pork sausage patties topped by a tomato, lettuce, and mystery sauce. I thought . . .

McDonald's Year of Luck Burger (年年有福堡)

I took one bite into the burger and was overwhelmed by unexpectedly high levels of pork flavor. That is not a tomato on top of the sausage patties but instead something like a ham patty. I took a second bite, considered whether I could rescue the burger, and determined my luck had run out for the moment.

Fortunately for McDonald's, I am probably not their target customer for these burgers. Perhaps others in China enjoy them. But for me, the Prosperity Burgers far outshine their cousins in mainland China.

Friday, February 20, 2015

What to Do About China's New Year Yang?

Confusion surrounds the identity of this year's Chinese zodiac symbol. Chris Buckley succinctly explained why:
The reason is that the word for the eighth animal in the Chinese zodiac’s 12-year cycle of creatures, yang in Mandarin, does not make the distinction found in English between goats and sheep and other members of the caprinae subfamily. Without further qualifiers, yang might mean any such hoofed animal that eats grass and bleats. And so Chinese news media outlets have butted heads for days on what to call this year in English, recruiting experts to pass judgment.
Some claim the answer can be found in which animal was bred or eaten first in China. I am not clear what that logic says about other Zodiac creatures such as the monkey or dragon.

Others believe the answer depends on region:
Fang Binggui, a folklorist based in southeast China's Fuzhou City, says the image of the zodiac Yang is open to regional interpretation. "People depict the zodiac animal based on the most common Yang in their region. So it's often sheep in the north while goats in the south."
Fang's explanation matches up with another north-south regional difference: the Japanese zodiac specifies the animal to be a sheep while the Vietnamese zodiac specifies the animal to be a goat.

Based on what I have seen during the past month, though, it doesn't appear there is universal agreement on what to use even within individual cities in southern China. While not necessarily representative, photos I took in four Chinese cities — Chongqing in the southwest and Macau, Zhuhai, and Zhongshan in the southeast — at least provide a taste of the variety which can be found there. The photos include Lunar New Year displays, signs, or artwork I happened to notice, most often in shopping areas, public squares, or parks. After the photos, I will share brief thoughts on how I will be handling the zodiacal challenge.

Sometimes the choice of animal is expressed in English. Some of the animals are easy to identify. Other are more challenging. One has wings.

A bit of the new year spirit in Chongqing:

Alongside the Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street

A pedestrian bridge in Yangjiaping

Inside the SML Central Square shopping center

Outside the Sunshine Mall

Above the Guanyinqiao Pedestrian Street

Door at Shenghui Plaza

At Haitang Yanyu Park

Also at Haitang Yanyu Park

Across the street from the Chongqing Zoo

Inside the SM City shopping mall

Inside the Starlight 68 Plaza shopping mall


Macau:

In Taipa Village

Also in Taipa Village

Inside the Shoppes at Venetian

At Largo do Senado (Senate Square)

At the Portas do Cerco (border crossing point with Zhuhai)

A lobby inside the Galaxy Macau resort

In Coloane Village

Also in Coloane Village


Zhuhai:

In front of Gongbei Port (border crossing point with Macau)

At the New Yuan Ming Palace

Also at the New Yuan Ming Palace

At the underground Port Plaza shopping center

Inside the Vanguard supermarket in Gongbei

In Zhongshan:

Outside Yu Yip Plaza

Outside of the Central Power Plaza shopping mall


My take? If people are using all these different animals in China, and they all count as yangs, why not just go along with it? The trick then is what to say in English. Perhaps it is time, as the earlier sentence suggests, for another loanword in English — "yang". Yes, there is already "yin and yang", but English is comfortable with homonyms, and it would help address English's "trade imbalance" with loanwords.

But if I have to choose an animal more specific than all yangs, although I am tempted by the Tibetan antelope, I have decided to go with the goat if for no other reason than I have seen several live goats recently.

Goat near a familiar-looking statue at Foreigner's Street in Chongqing

Goats at the New Yuan Ming Palace in Zhuhai

Now I just need to figure out which type of goat.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Another Lunar New Year 羊

Happy Lunar New Year, Spring Festival, Chinese New Year, or whatever you like to call it.

Lunar New Year Greetings in Portuguese and Cantonese at Largo do Senado (Senate Square) in Macau
Lunar New Year Greetings in Portuguese and Cantonese at Largo do Senado (Senate Square) in Macau

And Happy Year of the  . . . 羊.

Is it goat, ram, or sheep in English? Can I go with something else, like an antelope or gazelle?

People can have strong differing opinions about the answers to these questions. Some thoughts on them tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dog Teeth For Sale in Chongqing and Online

Roughly between the center of the Jiefangbei shopping district and Chaotianmen in Chongqing, one day I noticed a woman selling some interesting items.

woman selling wolf-dog teeth and heads in Chongqing


Two days later in the same area, I saw a man selling similar items.

man selling wolf-dog teeth and heads in Chongqing


I asked the woman if those were dog heads in front of her, and she said they were. I asked the man if those were wolf heads in front of him, and he said they were. Both followed up their answers with comments that left me a bit confused though. After some online research, I believe they were explaining that the heads and teeth for sale in front of them were from wolf-dogs, an animal which I did not know much about at the time.

Wolf-dogs, as their name suggests, are a mix of wolf and dog. Wolf-dogs can have varying degrees of "wolfness" and "dogness" in terms of genes and behavior, and there are disagreements over what should be labeled as a wolf-dog. One type of wolf-dog, the Kunming Dog, was bred in China. PetYourDog has a description of the breed:
The Kunming Dog is a wolf dog that originated in China in early 1950s. The purpose for its development was to create a military dog for the Chinese army. Several breeds of dogs as well as several cross breeds were involved in this dogs' gene pole but most of the breeds used are unknown. . . .

It has exceptional and proven working capabilities and the dog is gaining popularity among common people as a family companion. This rare dog needs early age socialization and obedience training. A well trained and socialized Kunming Dog will make very good family pet; one that gets along well with children and treat them as its masters. This breed generally gets along well with other dogs and pets in the family. With proper training and socialization, this rare breed of dogs can be an exciting addition to a family.
The Dog Breed Info Center says that Kunming Dogs can "make excellent pets".

So it is possible what I saw came from animals that I suspect many people would consider to be dogs, even if it is technically accurate to describe them as wolf-dogs.

News articles about people in China selling items similar to what I saw can be found here, here, and here (all in Chinese and all include images). In those cases, the teeth are described as coming from dogs. The articles explain that some people believe dog teeth ward off evil spirits. Also, sellers can be concerned their products will be perceived as fakes — a reason to display dog heads.

If you want to buy dog (or wolf-dog or wolf) teeth, you do not need to visit a seller in person. It is easy to find sellers online. For example, on Alibaba's Taobao, a Chinese website similar to eBay, one seller offers jewelry made with teeth from the Tibetan Mastiff, a domestic dog.

Taobao.com page selling Tibetan mastiff dog teeth


And Alibaba's related site which targets online buyers outside of China, AliExpress, also offers plenty of dog teeth options, including one seller offering "vintage fashion".

AliExpress.com page selling "Vintage fashion dog teeth amulet Lovers pendant necklace"


Want to instead use a U.S. online site to buy your dog teeth? eBay has a few options, including a bracelet.

eBay page offering "Real Tibetan Mastiff Teeth Bracelet"


I don't know whether the sellers I've mentioned are selling what they say they are. But given how often I see restaurants in China with dog meat on the menu, I wouldn't be surprised by genuine dog teeth being readily available.

Many questions come to mind, but I don't plan to dig more deeply into dog teeth sales, something I have come across far less often in China than seeing people with their pet dogs. However, one day I will get around to commenting on the practice of eating dog meat and sharing some of what I have seen.