Monday, August 31, 2015

A Mix of Old, New, and Inexpensive: Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng Electronics Market

Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng (上海音像城) offers a shopping experience which feels like a cross of a flea market and a large electronics store. I haven't seen any official names in English, but instead of the previous transliteration the name could be translated as Shanghai Audio & Visual City. And at least one online site refers to it as the Qiujiang Lu Electronics Market, though that doesn't reflect its prominently displayed Chinese name. Whatever the case, it is easy to find the market just east of Shanghai's Baoshan Road metro station — part of the complex sits underneath the elevated metro tracks. It may not be where to go if you want something like the latest models of popular mobile phone brands, but it offers an wide array of electronics for sale not seen in many other electronics stores in Shanghai.

Below are a few photos I took there. They only provide a quick look at the market and don't capture many of the second-hand classics available. Like the Bu Ye Cheng (Long Xiao) Communications Market near the Shanghai Railway Station, a visit can be eye-opening even if you aren't interested in buying anything.

More scenes from markets elsewhere in China later. I will also have more to say about mobile phones like those which appear below.

front of Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng on Baoshan Road

Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng entrance on Qiujiang Road

Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng with metro tracks above

outdoor portion of Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

karaoke televisions and other electronics for sale at the Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

laptops for sale at the Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

inexpensive mobile phones and flip phones with various designs for sale at the Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

inexpensive mobile phones with keypads labeled as for "elderly people" for sale at Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

an aisle inside Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

stall counters inside the Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

branching aisle inside the Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Running for Red Star: A Near Miss on an Old Street in Nanping

Yesterday while I stood in a narrow old road in Nanping Town, Zhuhai, a boy quickly ran by. As I tried to the capture the moment, something surprised both of us — an incoming man riding a scooter. The boy deftly responded.

boy jumping out of the way of a man riding a scooter

Nobody was hurt, and life went on. I didn't expect to see the boy again, yet he soon returned running with a focused expression on his face. For a brief moment when I glanced down, I noticed the small bottle of Red Star erguotou he now carried. Presumably he had purchased it at a nearby small store for someone older, perhaps his father or grandfather, who would have more interest in strong alcohol than a typical boy. I would have asked, but clearly this was a boy on an urgent mission.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Assorted Links: Agriculture Spying, Child Brides, Exploding Ducks, and China's Democracy

For today, here are links without much introduction to some unrelated pieces which caught my eye:

1. An engrossing story, much of it set in Iowa, emphasizes how trade secrets about agricultural products can matter in ways similar to those about military weapons for the U.S. and China.
“These are actually very serious offenses,” Lin says.

“They could treat us as spies!” Ye interjects.

Lin, exasperated, responds: “That is what we’ve been doing!”
2. Thought-provoking examples offer some light on child marriage in Bangladesh.
“When I asked both girls if they were happy they seemed almost confused by the question,” Joyce said. “They both replied along the lines of ‘Well this is my fate, I didn’t have any say in it. This is my life now.”
3. Roasted duck is a part of Hong Kong culture. Blowing them up with bombs is not. Yet two men in Hong Kong are accused of doing just that in a country park. Their stated goal was to kill wild boars. No word on whether exploded roasted duck would also be on the menu. Hopefully the passerby who was injured had a speedy recovery.

4. And finally, a brief point about a peculiar Global Times editorial which claimed China is the world's largest democracy.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Another Outdoor Meal in a Familiar Place

Last night I didn't eat a meal on a train. Instead, I ate a late dinner in more spacious conditions.

four people eating dinner at a table outside in an alley

It felt good to be back in Zhuhai, a city where I have enjoyed many late night meals before, some in this same alley, and where I once saw a giant inflatable Vivo-Android robot.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tofu, Bud, and a Wobbly Doll: Killing Time on an Overnight Train in China

Not long ago, I felt inspired to make a long trip by overnight train instead of taking a plane. To pass some time during the evening portion of the ride, I decided to buy one of no-frills meals for sale from a passing cart. When I asked if there was a chicken option, the man pushing the cart looked at me like I was crazy. So like the last time I rode an overnight train, I paid 25 RMB (about U.S. $4) for the only option available. I also noticed beer in the cart. Although it was far from my favorite, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to buy a can of the unexpected brand for 10 RMB.

The meal was more substantial than my earlier overnight train meal, and the fried fish tasted just like the fish sticks I commonly ate as a kid. The tofu-like object tasted like tofu. The other stuff had flavors. And the beer had just as little taste as I expected, so I ordered a second one to wash down the first one. Overall I give the meal and the beer a passing grade, as they proved successful in helping me kill some time in a cramped space.

After sleeping, or finishing trying to sleep, the next day dragged on more than expected since the train arrived two hours late. But fortunately a friendly four-year-old girl provided some entertainment.

girl in pink hat smiling at an egg doll made out of two ping pong balls

Better than the beer.

Needless to say, I am not in Shanghai at the moment. And I am not even sure where I will be tomorrow night. But I will be somewhere, and I will be moving forward with the various posts mentioned earlier, plus other posts, including one about a wonderful item I found in Shanghai for the first time which surprised me far more than finding American Budweiser as the sole beer for sale on a Chinese train.

can of American Budweiser next to a prepared meal purchased on a train in China

Monday, August 24, 2015

Bu Ye Cheng (Long Xiao) Communications Market in Shanghai

About 300 meters (1000 ft) to the east of a pedestrian bridge near the Shanghai Railway Station is a market which fills the majority of a large building. The market's name is written, translated and transliterated in numerous ways. A map inside the market, the sign of a complaints office for the market, and a sign by the market's management, all indicate a name which includes the Chinese "龙晓通信市场" which I'll translate as "Long Xiao Communications Market"*. But names more closely resembling "Bu Ye Cheng Communications Market" — "Bu Ye Cheng", sometimes spelled as a single word, comes from the name of the entire building — appear to be more commonly used. Whatever you call the market, fortunately the gold-tinged building with a large digital billboard at the intersection of Tianmu West Road and Meiyuan Road is easy to spot.

Bu Ye Cheng (Long Xiao) Communications Market in Shanghai

If you so desire, you can collect business cards from the hundreds of stalls and marvel at the different names they give the market. But of more interest to me are the various mobile phones and related products that mostly fill its six dense levels.

Inside the Bu Ye Cheng (Long Xiao) Communications Market in Shanghai

I think it offers the closest experience in Shanghai to some of the markets in Shenzhen's immense Huaqiangbei electronics commercial area. I recommend taking a look, especially if you are interested in mobile phones and won't be in Shenzhen. I will refrain from sharing more details about what I saw there, since a closer look is in store for some similar markets in Shanghai and elsewhere in China.

*Two of the signs used the slightly longer name "上海龙晓通信产品市场".

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Greener View from a Pedestrian Bridge in Shanghai

Although they all included trees, for readers who were hoping for something even greener than the five photos taken from a pedestrian bridge in Shanghai, here is yet another view from the bridge:

a large butterfly made out of plants standing in a grassy circle

The man walking his dog is an added bonus.

Just another Shanghai scene . . .

Friday, August 21, 2015

Views from a Pedestrian Bridge Near the Shanghai Railway Station

Recently I shared a brief story about some people I met on a pedestrian bridge while taking photos near the Shanghai Railway Station. To offer a few more everyday Shanghai scenes, below are views from the bridge, which surrounds an entire intersection, presented in a counter-clockwise order.

Hengfeng Road looking southeast
Hengfeng Road looking southeast

Tianmu West Road looking east
Tianmu West Road looking east

Pedestrian area leading towards the Shanghai Railway Station
Pedestrian area leading towards the Shanghai Railway Station

Hengfeng Road looking northwest
Hengfeng Road looking northwest

Tianmu West Road looking west
Tianmu West Road looking west

The second photo includes a sliver of a gold-tinted building with a large number of mobile phones for sale. More about that building later . . .

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Beads of Light in Zhongshan

A view of an artistic structure near an apartment complex in Zhongshan, Guangdong:

"光立忘" art installation in Zhongshan, Guangdong

A sign nearby identified it as "光立忘". I am hesitant to translate titles of art, but for purposes here I will go with "Light Immediately Forgotten". Happy to hear other suggestions.  I share the photo because it made me think of a more obviously personal installation work by Hwang Buh-Ching I saw in Taipei.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Photographic Moment in Shanghai with a Man from Shangqiu

While taking some photos from a pedestrian bridge near the Shanghai Railway Station, a man asked if he could haven his photo taken with me. I said "sure" and he handed his Coolpad mobile phone to one of the two boys with him. After the photos were taken, I asked if I could take their photo.

a man and two boys posing for a photograph while on a pedestrian bridge in Shanghai

Although I have received many similar requests in the past and once discussed the phenomena while sharing 10 photos of people who requested to have a photo taken with me during just two days in Zhanjiang, it happens far less often in Shanghai, with some touristy areas being occasional exceptions.

The man told me he is from Shangqiu, a prefecture-level city in Henan province about 740 km (460 miles) away to the northwest. I mentioned I had visited there and neighboring Kaifeng. He spoke of Kaifeng's well-known old town, so I mentioned that Shangqiu has an interesting small old town as well. He agreed yet appeared surprised. I interpreted his reaction as "oh, you really have been to Shangqiu". Based on what people there told me and people's reactions to seeing me, few foreigners come to the city.

Several especially memorable experiences I had there now come to mind — stories for future posts. For now I will just say I really enjoyed my time in Shangqiu and appreciate the unexpected opportunity in Shanghai to briefly meet someone from there.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Watering an Overpass in Hengyang

As I walked underneath an overpass one day in Hengyang, Hunan, I barely escaped an unexpected shower. These things happen.

a water truck being used to water the plants alongside an overpass in Hengyang

I was then lucky enough to witness a water truck being used to water the flora alongside the road above me. These things happen too.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Another Scene of the Mobile Phone Brand Vivo in Hengyang

To show that the Vivo-related photos I took last year in Hengyang didn't capture something fleeting, here is a promotion for the mobile phone brand I saw in the same area this year:

An outdoor promotion for Vivo in Hengyang, Hunan

And I saw it on the very first day I returned to Hengyang. They weren't overrun with people when I passed by on a Sunday afternoon, but in general the area seemed rather quiet.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Apple on Windows Above Apple in Shanghai

Above the Nanjing East Road Apple Store in Shanghai, a mall's digital billboard displayed an advertisement for the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch advertisement on large video screen above an Apple Store in Shanghai

And like what I saw at a mall in Haikou, I discovered the digital billboard runs on Windows.

Apple Watch advertisement on large video screen with an open Windows folder visible above an Apple Store in Shanghai

This case just included an added touch of irony.

Perhaps-not-needed-but-would-rather-error-on-the-side-of-openness-disclosure: I previously worked as a user experience researcher at Microsoft China. I didn't work on any projects directly related to digital billboards, partly because they are difficult to carry around.

Variations on British and American Themes: More Motorbikes in Shanghai

I previously noted that the Union Jack designs common on motorbikes in Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Changsha show varying degrees of faithfulness to the flag of the U.K. For example, the front of one motorbike I saw in Shanghai was missing about half of the blue coloring normally found on the flag.

motorbike with a design similar to the U.K. flag

Sometimes the design takes an even greater leap.

motorbike with a design appearing to be a creative variant of the U.K. flag

The prevalence of the Union Jack design on motorbikes likely increases the chance someone would appreciate the resemblance. And the Union Jack sticker on the front of the motorbike especially suggests it isn't a coincidence.

Another motorbike I saw displayed a design which was more subtly reminiscent of the flag of the U.S. than other designs.

motorbike with a red, white, and blue design with white stars and the word "FOREVER"

Whatever the degree of similarity, questions can be asked about the designers' and owners' intents and how the designs are perceived. I will later touch on these questions in regards to a similar trend in clothing, where I have seen an even greater range of designs possibly inspired by the flags of the U.K. and the U.S.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Scenes of the Mobile Phone Brand Vivo in Hengyang

large Vivo advertisement in Hengyang, Hunan

An advertisement I saw in Xiangtan, Hunan, is a small but relevant piece of data about Vivo's presence in China. To provide a bit more color, particularly of the blueish variety, and context about a mobile phone brand not familiar to many outside of China, this post includes some Vivo-related photos I took last year in Hengyang, Hunan. The signs, promotional events, and young people handing out printed ads all come from an area east of Lianhu Square densely packed with a large number of mobile phone stores — the same area where I saw people marching with Vivo and Oppo signs. I could have taken many more photos in the same spirit. Although Vivo is just one of many brands available there, it would be hard to miss.

young people promoting Vivo in Hengyang, Hunan

a store sign with logos for both Apple and Vivo

mobile phone store with Vivo signs in Hengyang, Hunan

boxes promoting the Vivo X3 in Hengyang, Hunan

Vivo signs at a mobile phone store in Hengyang, Hunan

tents and umbrellas for an outdoor Vivo promotion in Hengyang, Hunan

Vivo signs at an Apple authorized retail store in Hengyang, Hunan

two young women promoting Vivo in Hengyang, Hunan

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sign of Things to Come: An Advertisement for Mobile Phones in Xiangtan

billboard in Xiangtan, Hunan, for a mobile phone store

A few months ago I took the above photo of a billboard from a bridge in Xiangtan, Hunan province. The advertisement for a mobile phone store featured five brands: Apple, Vivo, Xiaomi, Samsung, and Huawei. One of those in particular, Vivo, receives relatively little attention outside of China, yet, as the sign suggests, it is rather visible in some parts of China. More on that topic, tech in general, and other themes soon.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Shanghai Follow-Ups: G+, Patriotic Motorbikes, Best Buy, and a Cat

During my recent time in Shanghai, I have seen several things which aren't especially related to one another except that they all continue themes from earlier posts and don't require extended commentary. So I will share them together in a single post.

1. Last year I wrote about a restaurant chain with a logo remarkably similar to one used for Google+. The location in Shanghai featured in the post was still under construction at the time. It is now open.

G+ The Urban Harvest restaurant in Xujiahui, Shanghai

Since I have yet to eat at the restaurant, I am unable to say whether I would give it a +1.

2. Motorbikes in Shanghai with a Stars & Stripes theme covering much their surface have caught my attention. I also saw a motorbike with a less flamboyant design but which features a fearless bald eagle.

motorbike in Shanghai with a plate feature the U.S. flag and a bald eagle

This gives me hope it is just a matter of time until I see a U.S. flag decorated motorbike with a large bald eagle sculpture affixed to its front.

3. At the end of last year, I shared thoughts about Best Buy's experience in China and asked why the lights remained on at Best Buy's location in Xujiahui despite its last stores in China closing in 2011. Not much has changed. The storefront sign still turns on as evening approaches.

Long-closed Best Buy store in Shanghai with its sign turned on

And I still am not sure why.

4. Finally, yesterday I shared photos of cats in Changsha, Hunan. I often see cats in a small independently-owned stores, though it depends on which city I am in. Today in Shanghai, I also happened to see a cat. More remarkable, the cat resided at the store of a popular mid-sized grocery chain.

cat meowing inside a supermarket in Shanghai

Although it may appear to be signaling its intent to bring about my demise in the photo, my impression was that the talkative cat merely hoped for a head scratch. The results of a test supported my hypothesis. And a later conversation with store workers supported another hypothesis. The friendly cat is valued as a rodent catcher.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

In Memory of a Big Black Cat: Eight Felines Living in Changsha, China

I have seen some treated better than most humans, some regarded only as low maintenance mouse catchers, and some sold next to vegetables and chickens in street markets. Born on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, one of these creatures lucked out and found himself in a home with plenty of attention and food, though Howie wouldn't have minded another treat. A few people feared him, sometimes to comedic effect, but one would never know why from only watching this big black cat with his human mother. I fortunately fared rather well with Howie, including when I gave him an airplane ride in my hands as my sister watched in astonishment. A few days ago my sister chose to bring Howie's long life to a more gentle end than cancer would have otherwise allowed. Undoubtedly, he has earned his place in our family's Pantheon of pets.

A couple of months ago in Changsha, Hunan, I saw a number of Howie's extremely distant Chinese cousins, often at small convenience stores or shops. Comparing what I know of their lives to Howie's reminds me of the immense similarities and differences between China and the U.S. and how much life varies within in each. Below are photos of eight cats in a land far away from Howie's. I suspect all of them would appreciate a treat.

cat walking down an alley in Changsha, Hunan, China

cat sleeping in Changsha, Hunan, China

cat standing in front of a chair in Changsha, Hunan, China

cat meowing in Changsha, Hunan, China

black cat in front of a basket and box of fruit in Changsha, Hunan, China

cat sitting inside a shop in Changsha, Hunan, China

white cat on a wooden chair in Changsha, Hunan, China

tiny black kitten crossing an alley in Changsha, Hunan, China