Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mooncakes and Freedom

Today is the Mid-Autumn Festival, otherwise known as the Mooncake Festival. So I reveled in the holiday spirit the best way I could:

mooncakes for sale in Guangzhou, China
A variety of mooncakes for sale at a shop on Longjin East Road in Guangzhou

I have heard foreigners compare mooncakes to the sometimes dreaded fruitcake that can be passed from person to person. For example, some companies in China will give vouchers for boxes of mooncakes to their employees or business partners, and depending on your position or connections it is possible to end up with multiple vouchers. Although I enjoy mooncakes, I typically have little need for several boxes of them. Often I give most vouchers I receive to friends or coworkers who are happy to receive them. Do they want to eat more mooncakes? No. Instead, they typically use the voucher (or the mooncakes) as a present to give someone else...

The holiday also has a matchmaking tradition in some parts of China. That reminds me of a conversation I had today with this young woman:

young saleswoman at a clothing shop in Guangzhou, China

She works in international trade in Zhongshan, a city between Guangzhou and Zhuhai. However, she was spending the National Day holiday period (coincidentally overlapping with the Mid-Autumn Festival this year) working at her sister's clothing store in Guangzhou so her sister could be free to visit her hometown. I was checking out the store due to a side project I have been working on (some of which I hope to later share here), and she took the opportunity to try to sell me a shirt. They were all for females, though, so she said it could be a gift for my wife or daughter. After telling her I was not married and had no kids, I feigned feeling suddenly depressed and jokingly said "I am so sad."

She quickly and enthusiastically replied, "Don't be! You are free!"

So although there was no matchmaking for me today, at least her comment helps me appreciate my continued "freedom".

And by the way, I truly enjoyed the mooncake I chose at the shop in the first photo.

I also enjoyed that I did not walk away with an entire box.

Happy Mooncake Day!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Ghost Town and Shocking Experiences at the Shenzhen North Train Station

It has been quite a day, so a lighter post...

Today began pleasantly enough around 6am with a jog along the water at Hong Kong's Quarry Bay Park. Ah, if only I had kept running. But I had plans to take a trip to another city and running would not have been a practical way to get there. So today I partook in long subway rides in three different cities and threw in a high speed rail trip and a double-decker bus ride for extra spice. You might be thinking that means I must have been determined to reach my destination. Well, it turns out things did not go as planned, and I now find myself in a place I had no plans to visit. But at least it is a place with good food.

Instead of explaining why I spent more time on subways today than I ever intended, I will share one "special" part of today. I had the luck to spend a couple unplanned hours at the Shenzhen North Train Station:

Inside the Shenzhen North Train Station

The above photo was taken from the non-busy end of the station. Most (all?) of today's trains were unfortunately (for me) full, but the station appears to have the capacity to serve many more passengers. It was clear more trains (or more train cars) would have be useful today for the many travelers getting an early start to China's National Day "Golden Week" holiday.

The second level of the station particularly caught my eye. According to an article on The Nanfang, there used to be many more restaurants at the station. Although Kung Fu and KFC looked to be in fine working order, McDonald's, Yoshinora, Ajisen Ramen, and some others did not appear to be operating anymore. So I pondered the meaning behind this fast-food ghost town. At least it was bathed in natural light.

The most entertaining part of the station for me, though, was the security. As usual, I saw security using handheld metal-detecting wands. And as is not unusual for what I have seen at train stations in China, even when the wands beeped a warning, people were allowed to pass through without being checked further. (secret: After becoming suspicious, I once asked security at a hotel in Shanghai if their wand was functional. They admitted it wasn't.)

So to liven things up a bit, when a young woman checked me with the wand I pretended to receive an electric shock. I did not expect my admittedly unoriginal act to be at all convincing, but her unexpected scream suggested otherwise. Fortunately, she was more concerned about composing herself and continuing her conversation with her coworkers than exacting any retribution for my nonsense.

The best part of security involved the man operating one of the x-ray scanners. Impressively, he was actually viewing the screen. But I was not excited to see him eying one of my bags (full of harmless electronic goodies) rather suspiciously, and I was quite sure he wanted to search it. But then he saw me and asked if it was my bag. After I said "Yes", a smile spread across his face. He said since it was mine there was no need for him to check it. Then he chuckled a bit. I wondered if he had appreciated my earlier act. Or maybe it was something else. There seems to be much to ponder here.

Anyways, I did manage to catch a train out of the station, even if my choice of destination was improvised. Now I look forward to a good night's sleep. I am not exactly sure what I will be doing this weekend, but I think I will take a break from extensive subway riding.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Managed Protests, Restricted Speech, Counting Silently, Japanese Records, and Self-Medicating

I have read a number of pieces regarding the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands dispute and the related anti-Japan protests in China. I do not plan to comment on all of them, but I would like to recommend a few (in addition to those I mentioned before) simply because I think they add intriguing details or perspectives worth considering.

1. One of the often-discussed issues surrounding the recent anti-Japan demonstrations is the degree to which they were supported or organized by the Chinese government. In her piece on NPR "China Ratchets Up The Rhetoric In Island Spat With Japan", Louisa Lim touches on this topic and shares an intriguing discussion she had at a protest last week:
Almost all the demonstrators say they came out spontaneously to protest. But an onlooker who gave his name as Mr. Luo lets slip that he'd like to march, but today isn't his day to do so.

"I haven't been organized to demonstrate," the man says. "I'm having the day off. The government controls and organizes the demonstrations. You can't just go if you like. At the very least, there's organization among the universities. There are half a million college students in Beijing. If they all came here at once, it'd be unimaginable."
I would not argue with that last statement. See (and hear) more of what Lim found here.

2. William Farris, a lawyer for an Internet company in Beijing, in a blogpost "What Protesters Could and Could Not Say During Demonstrations In Front of Japanese Embassy" shared an excerpt from Caixin Online which provides a bit of evidence supporting the idea that the protests were examples not of free speech, but of government-permitted speech. He also shared photos of a number of strongly-worded signs that were permitted at a protest in Beijing. He provides English translations for the signs so more people can understand their messages. See and ponder the signs here.

3. Previously, a reader commented:
As a Chinese, I'm sad to see all the violence that's been going on, even in a modern city like Shanghai. I know that most Chinese don't agree with this, but 60+ years of anti-Japan brainwashing propaganda is hard to simply ignore.
The topic of brainwashing also appeared in Qi Ge's article "China's Brainwashed Youth" on Foreign Policy:
Ever since the 1970s, I have known that the Chinese people are the freest and most democratic people in the world. Each year at my elementary school in Shanghai, the teachers mentioned this fact repeatedly in ethics and politics classes. Our textbooks, feigning innocence, asked us if freedom and democracy in capitalist countries could really be what they proclaimed it to be. Then there would be all kinds of strange logic and unsourced examples, but because I always counted silently to myself in those classes instead of paying attention, the government's project was basically wasted on me. By secondary school and college, my mind was unusually hard to brainwash.

Even so, during my college years, I still hated Japan.
See what else this Chinese writer in Shanghai had to say here.

4. Regardless of any protests, many are focused on applying research to better determine who has a stronger claim to the disputed islands. Nicholas Kristof in his blog on The New York Times shared an article by Han-Yi Shaw, a scholar from Taiwan. In "The Inconvenient Truth Behind the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands" Shaw shares some "new" evidence:
My research of over 40 official Meiji period documents unearthed from the Japanese National Archives, Diplomatic Records Office, and National Institute for Defense Studies Library clearly demonstrates that the Meiji government acknowledged Chinese ownership of the islands back in 1885.
See Shaw's review of the evidence here.

5. In his post "Seriously Hooked on Nationalism" Jeremiah Jenne shared his theory for why the island dispute has recently received so much attention in China:
Yes, I know thar’s oil and gas under them thar rocks, but the real concern is that the current storm of violent knucklehead patriotism no longer has anything to do with national interests and has become all about national pride and transition politics.

China’s leadership swap is in a few weeks and it’s fair to say that things have not gone according to plan. A little bumptious distraction like, say, everybody hating on Japan for a week or two might seem like the perfect remedy.

But basically it’s just the Party self-medicating.
See Jenne's argument for his claim here.

That is all for now. I am not sure how much more I will focus on this topic, but other topics are definitely on the way.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Day "Without Fuss or Tears" for a Boy in India

Although it is set in India, Andrew Hinton's excellent documentary "Amar (all great achievements require time)" captures some themes I plan to soon revisit in regards to China. An article on The Telegraph (the one published in Kolkata) described the short film:
In 9 minutes 45 seconds, the film captures 24 hours of Amar’s life, where he is awake and on the go for 20 hours. The sequences show how he gets up at 4am, delivers newspapers, goes to an electrical shop to work, reaches school in the afternoon, and then again goes to the shop and works till night, after which he grabs a quick bite at home and starts his homework, for he has his reputation as class topper to live up to.

Hinton said he wanted to show the difference between the haves and have-nots.

“My nephew Javia is of Amar’s age, but he has such a privileged life. I wanted to show Javia that there are people like Amar who make their way in the world even in such adverse situations without fuss or tears. People have seen it across the globe and understood that they are blessed to have the privileges they take for granted,” added Hinton.
To this I must add... Based on the people I met during my two months in India several years ago, I would not be surprised if Amar himself feels blessed in certain ways.

A land of incredible diversity, here is a day in one of India's 1.2 billion lives:

Amar (all great achievements require time) from Pilgrim Films.

Self-Inflicted Wounds in China

The Japanese woman who shared with me her thoughts and experiences regarding China's recent anti-Japan protests was fearful of something she described as "unknown" and "completely irrational". She also believed that in some ways Chinese people were being more negatively impacted by the protests than herself. A mob's actions, described by Colum Murphy in the China Real Time Report, serves as a particularly disturbing example of why her concerns were not unfounded:
The beating took place on the afternoon of Sept. 15 in the central Chinese city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province. Mr. Li, his wife, one of his son’s and the son’s fiancée, were on their way back from a shopping trip when Mr. Li’s white Toyota Corolla was set upon by an agitated anti-Japanese mob brandishing sticks, bricks and steel implements, according to the Beijing Youth Daily.

Mr. Li’s wife urged the demonstrators not to damage the vehicle. “It was wrong of us to buy a Japanese car. We won’t buy one ever again, OK?” she was reported as saying by Beijing Youth Daily.

But the gang beat Mr. Li anyway, striking him on the head with a steel shackle and causing him to lose consciousness. Later, he was rushed to hospital where he was treated for open brain injury and then moved to an intensive care unit. He remained there until he regained consciousness three days later.

Mr. Li can now move the left-hand side of his body but the right side continues to be partially paralyzed.
For me it sounds like another world from many of my own experiences in China. Nevertheless, I feel this story is important for several reasons.

One, it is an example of the violence recently expressed in China. Whether or not most Chinese support the protests, there is genuine reason for concern.

Also, is it is an example of pain that China is inflicting upon itself. It makes it seem all the more reasonable to wonder if the anti-Japan protests are indicative of deeper problems that are not only about Japan's past actions.

Finally, as a Chinese reader wrote before:
People need to understand the effects of their actions.
The violent acts in Xi'an did not spring out of nowhere. Even if a protestor's words are not reflective of deeper beliefs and are a result of being "caught up in the moment", they can fan the flames of hate in others and even themselves.

To the reader's words I would add that people also need to understand the effects of their inaction. Or in other words, even doing nothing can be an action with visible effects.

When stores and restaurants refuse to serve Japanese because of their nationality, how many Chinese still walk through their doors? When relatives, friends, or coworkers speak hate, how many don't reply? When mobs carry out violent acts against people and property, how many don't intervene in any fashion?

In his article, Murphy reported that many users of Sina Weibo, a popular online social networking service in China, have not been silent and have expressed their criticisms of the protests (some other examples here). But it is important to note that Sina Weibo is not representative of China's full online world, and the online world is certainly not all of life in China.

I don't know the answers to the questions I asked. But considering such questions is important for both Chinese and foreigners who wish to better understand what is happening in China now and what might happen in the future.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Giant Centipedes in Hong Kong

Last night along what I will call an inlet of Junk Bay in Kowloon, Hong Kong, I noticed something peculiar scurrying in front me. I quickly realized it was a giant centipede:

A giant Malaysian Cherry Red Centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes dehaani) in Hong Kong, China

It was easily at least 8 inches long, not counting its antennae or the extended rear legs. I later saw two more and one of them looked to be at least 10 inches (25 cm) long -- huge. Although I had seen videos of such monstrosities, I had never before seen one in person. And wow... they're impressive (and fast). I wish I had more photos or even a video, but my camera's battery ran out at that point.

Various online sources about centipedes have a bit of conflicting information, but based upon coloring and number of body segments the above centipede is a member of the Vietnamese Centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes) species and is the Malaysian Cherry Red Centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes dehaani) subspecies. According to Wikipedia, the Vietnamese Centipede: an aggressive and nervous arthropod which is ready to strike if interfered with and is sensitive to vibrations nearby. It preys primarily on insects or other sizable predatory arthropods (like spiders). Sometimes, mice and small reptiles or amphibians are also on its menu if it is large enough to overpower such vertebrates. It will take almost everything that is not longer than itself. During a fight, the centipede will use its entire body coiling the prey or enemy with its legs firmly attaching to the body of the opponent. Then, it will quickly penetrate its forcipules into the victim for venom injection.
Although I had been known to pick up wild snakes in my younger days, I had no such inclination with these centipedes. Centipede bites are reportedly not uncommon in rural areas of Hong Kong. Their bites are painful and the venom can lead to symptoms requiring treatment at a hospital if there is an allergic reaction -- in one very rare case in the Philippines a child died.

If you are now intrigued about giant centipedes, you can watch a video by National Geographic (warning: cheesy narration) here, a brief video from Cheung Chau, Hong Kong here, and a video of a giant centipede capturing and eating a mouse here (not for mouse lovers). For those who root for the mice, watch a video (with a somewhat bizarre kung fu section) of a grasshopper mouse defeating a giant centipede here.

Finally, if you have a fear of giant centipedes (or are now developing one), do not let it dissuade you from coming to Hong Kong. They only come out at night and seem to be restricted to non-urban settings. Hong Kong has plenty of urban settings, so you can feel at ease. Based on the reactions of the Hongkongers passing by, seeing a giant centipede was an unusual experience for most of them.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Japanese Mother in China During an Occupation Anniversary

Tuesday, September 18, was a national day of remembrance in China marking the Japanese occupation many decades ago. For that reason, there were strong expectations for increased anti-Japan protests regarding China's dispute with Japan over some islands in the East China Sea. For one report on the day's protests see ABC News here and for some photos see The Guardian here. There is much more that can be found elsewhere online.

Since it was a day of heightened concern, I asked my Japanese acquaintance in Shanghai if she could share her experiences to follow up her earlier account. Here is some of what she wrote:
We stayed in all day yesterday [September 18]. I was afraid "the Red People" would come to the area where I live again, but they didn't this time. Whew. A friend of mine who lives in a high-rise apartment building right by the Embassy where they all gathered said she could see a crowd of people shouting for several hours, but it seems that it was rather strictly controlled by the armed police officers. The entire area was closed down and alongside the street there was a parade of police cars and maybe military cars parked throughout the entire block. My poor friend had to spend all day hearing the chorus of voices. Good thing her Chinese wasn't good enought to understand what they were saying.

I figured I need do some studying and for a start tried watching China Central TV's English channel. Well, I chose the worst day of the year for my CCTV debut. All they showed were images of the Japanese army from the war, the memorial ceremony held at the 9.18 Historical Museum, and some professor explaining how the islands belonged to China because of such and such reasons. A Chinese teenage girl was being interviewed and was asked about her impression of the museum. She said, "We must all learn from the history. China must get stronger!!"

If it were any Japanese teenager coming out of any war-related history museum, the first thing they learn from the "history" would be to not ever have another war and to keep peace.

What this Chinese girl meant was, "If we get into another war against Japan, big China will defeat them." I couldn't help but to think about what the Chinese education has done to this young girl's mind...

sigh, sigh, sigh.

Well, we're all safe. Some are still worried that there might be another protest this coming weekend, but overall the Japanese community is feeling a bit relieved that the 18th is over. And, what was the cause of all this??? Has the issue been solved????
That the day has passed must indeed be a relief. But her questions make it clear that much uncertainty remains.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Being Nice Enough and Brainwashing: Two Chinese Responses About a Japanese Mother and Anti-Japan Protests in China

The post about the recent experiences of a Japanese mother in Shanghai during a period of anti-Japan protests in China has received a number of responses. I will now share two of them. They are both from Chinese citizens yet express rather different perspectives.

The first is from a Shanghainese reader who has spent some time living in Australia:
You need to understand the war between Japan and China was serious, people like our parents' grandparents were living in FEAR as well. They [Japanese] CAME to OUR country and did stupid dirty things and currently Chinese are doing things IN our country so it's none of anyone's business. If they [Japanese] don't like it they could leave. I said that [about what Japanese people did in the past] because it's a very important part of why those older Chinese people (like the doorman) act very weird and sensitive on this issue. Also, allow me to remind Americans or Japanese or people from anywhere else that YOU used to say Chinese don't express what they think or what they want to say in the public. Now they did it, you think they are scary. Why has everyone been so harsh to Chinese? Chinese are exactly the same as your people. Don't forget Japan also had anti-Chinese protests lately, and don't forget in America there's a bunch of Muslim issues waiting to be solved. Honestly, Chinese don't need any of those foreigners who provide a good voice for China. And you certainly can't judge if any of these Chinese people are wealthy or educated because of their opinions on DiaoYu island issue or any China Vs Japan issue. Unfortunately, heaps of people who are well educated and wealthy dislike the history thanks to Japan. They have been nice enough living with the history and treating Japanese in a friendly manner. Because we know that the [Japanese] government is the government and that it is different from the Japanese people. Btw, especially in Shanghai those people who attended protests were not local Shanghainese (maybe only tiny little bit). On Weibo heaps of Chinese are more positive on this political issue and asking for the violent protests to be stopped. WHY CAN'T YOU SEE THAT???
I want to first respond to the question at the end of her comments. The main goal of the earlier post was not to provide a comprehensive overview of the island dispute or of the recent protests but instead to share a single person's experience that provided an important perspective on the protests' impact. So my answer to the question is "I can." I did not mention online examples of Chinese showing their disapproval of the violent protests* because they did not appear to be relevant to the Japanese woman's experiences.

The reader's comments reflect several important issues, and I have no doubt that a conversation with her would enable a deeper understanding of her viewpoints. There is much more I want to say, but I feel I could do it more effectively through some separate posts later. Also, I think it is best to simply follow her thoughts with those of another Chinese reader. He lived in the U.S. for a period of time and now works at a multi-national company in Shanghai. His comments were not written in response to the other reader's comments, but they can almost be read as one:
Thanks for writing up the article on the anti-Japan protests in China. People need to understand the effects of their actions. As a Chinese, I'm sad to see all the violence that's been going on, even in a modern city like Shanghai. I know that most Chinese don't agree with this, but 60+ years of anti-Japan brainwashing propaganda is hard to simply ignore. I think that China is setting itself back 10 years in the world's eye and has squandered away the positive image it built up through the 2008 Olympics and 2010 Expo. Chinese always think they're the victims. Historically that was true at times. What Chinese fail to appreciate is that if they want to be considered as equal or better than the West, they also need to act responsibly. The Sino-Japan relationship is difficult due to the Japanese occupation of course, but that war ended almost 70 years ago. China needs to learn how to forgive but not forget if it wants to become "superior". Otherwise it's no better.
And with that I conclude this post. More is on the way...

*Regarding a main claim of the linked-to-post, "On Weibo, Japanophobic mobsters are far from the majority", it would be helpful to see findings from a more rigorous analysis. Additionally, it is worth noting that Weibo users are certainly not a representative slice of all China. Nonetheless, the examples provided are striking. And they show that the Hongkonger I met is not the only one in China who thinks that bombing the islands might be a good way to resolve the current dispute.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Hongkonger's Solution for some Disputed Islands

I have received and seen a variety of responses to yesterday's post "The Impact of China's Anti-Japan Protests on a Japanese Mother in Shanghai". I would like to wait another day before sharing and commenting on some of the responses since they are still coming in. Today, I will instead share a related experience I had in Hong Kong, which has recently had a small anti-Japan protest of its own.

This past weekend at a waterfall on Hong Kong's Lantau Island a couple asked me if I could help them by taking their photograph. Given what was in the back of my mind due to a disturbing news report I had briefly seen at a ferry dock, after a couple photographs and some chitchat I could not resist asking them for their thoughts about the disputed islands in the East China Sea.

The young man from Hong Kong said he did not think the dispute between China and Japan was particularly important and labeled it as "just a political matter". Unlike some others in China, it did not at all appear to be an emotional issue for him.

I refrained from asking many questions since I wanted to let them get back to enjoying their weekend nature hike. But as I was about to walk away the young man said, "Actually, I was talking about this with my girlfriend the other day. And I said I thought they should just bomb the islands so nobody could have or want them."

Even though bombing the islands into oblivion for this purpose does not seem likely to happen, his proposal says much about how he views the dispute. But if this Hongkonger's solution could be effectively applied, I bet I know a Japanese mother in Shanghai who would not object.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Impact of China's Anti-Japan Protests on a Japanese Mother in Shanghai

There has been a growing clamor in China about some small islands in the East China Sea -- in China they are named Diaoyu and in Japan they are named Senkaku. Strong feelings pervade in China that it, and not Japan, is the righteous owner of these islands. If you are not familiar with the competing claims see an overview of the dispute's history by Scott Neuman on NPR.

There have been numerous protests in China during recent days, seemingly in response to the Japanese government purchasing the islands from a private owner. As summed up by Richard Burger:
We always knew the Diaoyu islands were a tinder box; now it’s exploded.
Disputes over land are one thing, but the anti-Japanese sentiment now being expressed in China is disturbing to say the least. One sign held by people proclaimed (as translated by Charlie Custer):
Even if China becomes nothing but tombstones, we must exterminate the Japanese; even if we have to destroy our own country, we must take back the Diaoyu Islands.
For more about the protests I recommend several recent pieces for an assortment of perspectives: "The Anti-Japanese Eruptions" by James Fallows, "Anti-Japan Protests Erupt In China Over Disputed Islands" by Louisa Lim, "On Beijing’s Anti-Japan Protests" by Eric Fish, "China’s Anti-Japan Riots Are State-Sponsored. Period." by Charlie Custer, and "Anti-Japan protests a double-edged sword" by Ko Hirano. Some of the titles on their own say so much.

Although the dispute has received attention in Western media, earlier I noticed a relative silence about one key aspect. Emily Parker summed it up in a tweet:

So before sharing one Chinese perspective and some of my own, I first want to share the thoughts and experiences of a female Japanese acquaintance who is now living in Shanghai, China. They highlight some of the protests' effects, intended or not, on Japanese in China.

Today I asked her if she had been impacted by the recent demonstrations in any way. She has (italics for emphasis are mine):
Things have been a bit tense... Yesterday I could see "the Red People" marching right through the street in front of our apartment. Hearing the news and actually seeing them was quite different. I actually felt fear, though I've heard some of those people are getting paid to participate in the march, without really knowing what for.

My daughter's soccer team's practice was cancelled and my husband was refused by 2 taxi drivers. I intend not to go out except to pick up my kids from the school bus for the next few days or however long it may take to calm down. Tomorrow there's supposed to be another big one.

In the Japanese news, they tell about many small clashes that have happened in towns, such as a Japanese civilian getting soup noodles thrown into his face, another had his glasses taken away and broken, etc., none of which is told in the Chinese news. Obviously the Western world doesn't care much about the situation.

I personally don't care to whom the island belongs, I just want everyday security. A lot of the educated, wealthy Chinese people don't care either, they know it's just another camouflage. They're probably bummed that their shopping trip to Japan on October holiday week may be cancelled. :(

This is all just too frustrating...
I followed up with some questions. Her reply:
Many of the weekend events are cancelled among the Japanese community, because the protesting and demonstration marching get really big on weekends. We think we need to be extra cautious and keep a low profile. The Japanese school in Shanghai decided to cancel all classes for at least next two days, and depending on how the situation turns out after the 18th (supposed to be the big anti-Japan day for Chinese people). There was supposed to be a big sporting event held this weekend, where all the parents and friends get to go watch, but it got postponed 'till next Tuesday, for the time being. There's a big chance it may get cancelled altogether.

Shanghai has quite a few soccer teams which are coached in Japanese by Japanese coaches, where naturally most kids are Japanese, though my daughter's team actually has a few Chinese kids and a Chinese coach, too. The practice was cancelled over the weekend for the same reason as above. The team uses the field that belongs to a Chinese school and there are many other people using the track, the basketball court, and other facilities. We want to avoid any kind of situation that may cause "clashes" between Chinese and Japanese.

I don't think the kids have had first hand experience of such anti-Japanese sentiments yet. In a way they are the least exposed to the real Chinese community, as they take the school bus to and from the Japanese school and don't get a chance to mingle with local kids much, which I personally feel that they are missing out on an opportunity, but living in a country like China, it can't be helped. (Americans or Europeans who send their kids to American, British, or International schools may think they're a bit more "Internationally" exposed, but I don't see much difference in terms of being cut off from the Chinese community.)

Today I had to go to the shop across the street to get enough groceries to last for the next few days. I was quite nervous just to cross the street and was hoping people woudn't be able to tell that I was Japanese (though I think they could).

I felt the same as I was walking back with my kids from the school bus stop back to our building. I figured as long as we stay withing the compound, there shouldn't be a big problem since most people living here are wealthy, educated Chinese along with other foreigners. But as I was entering the door, I heard a voice coming out of the doorman's walkie-talkie, and it completely freaked me out. It supposedly was a voice of another doorman who could see us from a distance saying, "Are they Japanese?". I know my Chinese isn't perfect, but I heard it clearly. I couldn't believe my ears. I just pretended I didn't hear it and walked right into the building, saying "Xie xie" ["Thank you"] to the doorman as usual. This doorman usually says "Bu yong xie" ["You're welcome"] back to me, but today he didn't. Believe it or not, this little incident gave me the biggest FEAR in these past few days. Much more so than seeing the protest marching outside my window.

Having lived in the US as a minority, I've had people say discriminatory words towards me, or look down on me. But this is nothing of that sort. This is a simple, but very strong FEAR towards the unknown, something completely irrational.

As for my husband, he was told to get off after he got onto the taxi once. I think they could tell from his accent.

3 Panasonic factories have been severely destroyed and also a Toyota dealer was burned down, as well as many Japan-related shops and restaurants having been attacked and plundered. The thing is that most of the workers at these factories are Chinese, and they'll be without jobs for the next however many weeks or months until these factories are restored. Also, most of the shops and restaurants are owned by Chinese.

OK, I still have to cook dinner. We still get hungry.
Based on earlier conversations, I know she appreciates much about her life in China and has found living there to be a special experience. She is someone who could potentially be a positive voice for China in Japan. But now, despite not caring who owns some small islands, doing her best to avoid any potential "clashes", and recognizing that in some ways the protests have hurt Chinese people more than herself, she is living in China with her husband and children in fear.

To the Chinese people who have been expressing anti-Japanese sentiment, whether through words or actions, I have one question:

Mission accomplished?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Chinese Painting of a Wall and Misfortune

Yesterday I visited the University Museum and Art Gallery (before 1994 known as the Fung Ping Shan Museum) at the University of Hong Kong. One of the the pieces that most caught my eye was a 1992 painting by Wei Guangqing (魏光慶) from his Red Wall series (紅牆系列). A brief informational note translated the Chinese words on it, 人禍勿喜, as "Don't rejoice at other's misfortune". The note also stated:
Born [in 1963] in Huangshi, Hubei province, Wei is Associate Professor at Hubei Institute of Fine Arts. He graduated in oil painting at the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in 1985.
I am still pondering the painting:

What are your thoughts about it?

You can read some background and other people's thoughts on Wei's Red Wall series here and here. You can see some other examples of Wei's art here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Sky Above a Zhuhai Pond

During my visit to northern Zhuhai I did not only enjoy Beishan Village's traditional architecture, I also soaked in a bit of nature as well:

a pond in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

I will always enjoy seeing a blue sky with clouds, especially in China.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Beishan Village in Northern Zhuhai, Guangdong Province

After meandering through the streets of Hetoupu Village in northern Zhuhai, I walked further along the road that brought me there after my random bus ride. Soon I came upon nearby Beishan Village (北山村). Although I saw more people than in Hetoupu, it was also mostly quiet on that hot Saturday afternoon.

Yet again, I do not have any historical details to share and this may be the first post in English about a village I have visited. Some enterprising readers (or Zhuhai experts) may be quick to point out a variety of information about Beishan Village online such as here or here. I would simply point out that those pages are about a Beishan Village in Zhuhai far away (map) from where I was (map). Especially for its rich historical architecture and its art & jazz festivals, the other Beishan Village is an occasional destination for tourists, especially those from Hong Kong, Macau, and Guangdong (article in Traditional Chinese). What most surprises me is its location in Zhuhai -- within easy walking distance from where I explored in Nanping Town after another random bus ride earlier this year. Just goes to show there is always more to find...

I hope I have the opportunity to visit the more famous Beishan someday. Nonetheless, I feel lucky to have found the other Beishan. I probably enjoyed roaming its small lanes and alleys all the more because of its relative anonymity. Like before, I will share photos mostly of the older buildings I saw, though some will include more modern buildings to provide a hint of how things are slowly changing.

older building in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

older building in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

traditional style building in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

traditional Chinese style building in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

religious items in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

baby in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

clothes hanging in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

older and newer buildings in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

newer apartment buildings in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

older building in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

close up of older building in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

older buildings and cement ping pong tables in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

older building in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

older building in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

stone lane and older building in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

stone lane in Beishan Village, Zhuhai, China

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hetoupu Villiage in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province

Hetoupu (河头埔) was the first village I came across during my walk after a recent random bus ride that took me to northern Zhuhai. As far as I can tell, Hetoupu has not received much attention. In fact, this may be the first blog post in English to ever mention it.

On that Saturday afternoon I did not see many people about -- possibly due to the hot weather and intense sun. Although a small spiritual offering, a pair of friendly locals, a large spider, and one of the neighborhood dogs are included in the following photos, most capture disappearing styles of architecture that now coexist with more modern (and some would say more mundane) buildings. I have no idea how much longer the older buildings may last and wish I could provide some commentary on their history. The least I can do is to "preserve" and share some of them here.

details of older buildling in Hetoupu, Zhuhai, China

older building in Hetoupu, Zhuhai, China

alley in Hetoupu, Zhuhai, China

older building and newer apartment complex in Hetoupu, Zhuhai, China

dog in Hetoupu, Zhuhai, China

older building in Hetoupu, Zhuhai, China

religious offering in Hetoupu, Zhuhai, China

building in a tropical setting in Hetoupu, Zhuhai, China

spider on brick wall in Hetoupu, Zhuhai, China

older building in Hetoupu, Zhuhai, China

alley with motorbikes in Hetoupu, Zhuhai, China

detailes around a door in Hetoupu, Zhuhai, China

Monday, September 10, 2012

Another Random Bus Ride in Zhuhai

It had been a while since my previous random bus ride, so I decided to take another one during a more recent stay in Zhuhai, Guangdong province.

On a bus for line 10 in Zhuhai

Once again, I did not know where the bus was headed. This time I decided to stay on the bus until its final stop, which happened to be about an hour away:

Bus station in northern Zhuhai near the border with the city of Zhongshan

Although bus stations can have their own wonders, a few villages the bus had earlier passed seemed to hold more promise. So I headed back down the road by foot:

Provincial Road 111 in Zhuhai

As I began, a pedestrian overpass helped me better appreciate a nearby highway:

On the left is the Zhuhai Branch of the Guang'ao Expressway

Soon, the road I was walking on veered off in a different direction from the highway. In several upcoming posts I will share some of what I saw at two villages I explored later that day. Yet again, taking a random trip proved to be rather rewarding.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Some S&M While Shopping in Shenzhen

At Shenzhen's Dongmen shopping area I saw a variety of people. Some of those people particularly caught my attention, whether because of how they were cutting metal or selling cucumber slicers. However, most did not receive any second glances from other passersby. But one person I saw definitely caused a number of second (and third) glances:

芙蓉面姐 dressed in S&M style at Dongmen in Shenzhen

I have seen many things in China, but I had never before seen someone strolling around a shopping area while apparently advocating sadomasochism -- as evidenced by his outfit and the letters shaved out of his hair. The attention he received seemed to be exactly what he was hoping for:

芙蓉面姐 dressed in S&M style with a sign on his back at Dongmen in Shenzhen

The prominent sign on his back includes the name 芙蓉面姐 along with what is presumably his number on QQ, a popular online service in China for social networking and more.

Several of my Chinese friends did not recognize him. But after a quick online search I am confident there is a story worth telling. Much is still fuzzy to me, though, so I will just mention that he seems to have made appearances elsewhere, whether at a sex culture festival in nearby Foshan or at another shopping district in far-away Shenyang. Also, his name's similarity to an earlier Internet sensation in China, 芙蓉姐姐 (Sister Lotus), is hard not to notice.

For now, that is all. I may share more later if I hear from anyone who has anything to add about this intriguing example of individual expression in China.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Android Shirts and Samsung Sales at a Store in Shenzhen

One day at Shenzhen's Dongmen shopping area two young men walked by with shirts I could not help noticing:

two employees wearing Android shirts in Shenzhen, China

Their blue shirts reminded me of the shirts worn by employees at Apple Stores, except the Apple logo was replaced with Android logos. I wondered if it was possible they worked at a store that might rival the Android store I found in nearby Zhuhai. After a brief chat, they happily pointed me in the right direction to find it.

Although the store proved to be ordinary (for China) in most respects and sold a variety of phones, I was mildly surprised to see that not everyone was wearing an Android shirt. Some of the employees wore similar shirts with an Apple logo similar (if not identical) to those seen at Apple Stores -- not the first time I have seen that in China.

I proceeded to have a in-depth conversation with one of the store managers who opened up on a variety of topics. One issue I found notable was that this manager thought some of the Nokia phones they were selling, such as the N9, ran Windows Phone 8. However, the N9 and the other Nokias available at the store ran other operating systems. I suspect his confusion is a sign of deeper issues, but I will refrain from saying more at this point.

I also found it interesting to hear his account of the store's sales and why he thought various models sold better than others. The biggest nugget in it all was that their best seller was Samsung smartphones running Android. Given what I had recently seen elsewhere in China and reports of Samsung's current strength in China, this did not come as a surprise.

So, the store seems to be another sign of good news for Google in China's dynamic mobile phone market. And like the Android store in Zhuhai, maybe the shirts can provide some inspiration as well. Though Google might prefer a different color.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Luxury Shopping in Shenzhen at the MixC

The MixC is Shenzhen's largest shopping mall and includes a number of stores for well-known luxury brands. It also includes Shenzhen's largest movie theater, an Olympic sized indoor ice skating rink, and a high-end supermarket with a variety of international foods. Unlike the Dongmen shopping area, what the MixC offers is nowhere near what the vast majority of people in China see or can afford when they go shopping. Nevertheless, the MixC and several other malls in Shenzhen represent the recent growth in the demand for luxury goods in a number of cities in China.

A visit to the MixC provides a different perspective from what is often found in reports of China's failed malls, in particular the world's largest but mostly empty mall in nearby Dongguan. I have seen my fair share of malls in China with floors of empty retail space, and I later I will share my thoughts on what they may and may not represent. For now, I will share some photos I took at the MixC, most during a quiet Monday afternoon. Like many malls in China, it is far from empty.

A small portion of the MixC which overpasses a road

Some of the mall's 6 levels

A Calvin Klein Jeans store at the MixC in Shenzhen
Despite appearances, you can buy shirts here.

The Olympic-sized ice skating rink and a nearby McDonald's

Dior store at the MixC in Shenzhen, China
If you like Dior for yourself...

children clothes for sale at the MixC in Shenzhen, China can consider Baby Dior and similar brands for your children.

Rolls Royce displayed at the MixC in Shenzhen, China
In case purchasing a Rolls Royce is a possibility for you, one is conveniently on display.

Entrance to Shenzhen's largest movie theater

A window display at Louis Vuitton

two levels of stores at the MixC in Shenzhen, China
And when you need a break from shopping...

...there are numerous restaurants to choose from.
This is the simplylife Café Bakery. I can recommend the thin crust pizzas and the chocolate truffle cake.