Friday, April 29, 2016

Assorted Links: People's Daily's YouTube Rant, Taiwan's Principles, Delhi's Pollution, and Composer Chou Wen-chung

Some links for today:

1. China's People's Daily is upset about its YouTube account. No, People's Daily isn't advocating for YouTube to be unblocked in China. It is mad because thousands of its YouTube subscribers suddenly disappeared, and it is letting people know about it:
On Wednesday, Ren Jianmin, managing director of People’s Daily Online USA, penned an English-language online column about the paper’s YouTube channel losing thousands of subscribers in two days. Mr. Ren, who also oversees the newspaper’s social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and other foreign sites, concluded that “YouTube did not show a bit of respect to our 3,552 subscribers by removing them from our channel without any reasons.” . . . .

Naturally, the People’s Daily took to another blocked social media network, Twitter, to voice its indignation.
As explained, one possible innocuous explanation for the disappearance is that they were simply accounts for artificial users. There was no word on Ren's thoughts about this. The article ends with a question one can only hope Ren will also address.

2. I am in Taiwan at the moment. And Taiwan's status is an especially fascinating topic. So here is some recent news:
Taiwan President-elect Tsai Ing-wen said she will maintain the status quo in the island's relationship with China, but that her policy will be based on democratic principles and transcend party politics, a nuance likely to be lost on Communist Party leaders in Beijing.

3. An article titled "What It’s Like to Live in the World’s Most Polluted Place" isn't about any city in China. Instead, it is about Delhi, the capital of India. But the two sets of photos featured reminded me of similarly polluted scenes I have seen in China. The caption for the tenth photo in the first set especially caught my attention:
A dairy farm sits between a massive construction project and a garbage dump. Livestock are regularly in contact with waste, increasing the risk of contaminated dairy products
I thought back to some questions I recently had after seeing fresh goat milk sold and a goat eating outside in Jieyang, Guangdong.

4. Finally, a story about a composer whose teachers included Edgard Varèse and Bohuslav Martinu shares how 91-year-old Chou Wen-chung doesn't identify himself as a "Chinese composer" even though he grew up in China. Yet he doesn't deny his experiences there have had an influence:
But the sternest teacher of all was war, which swept over Mr. Chou’s native China in 1937, and which, over the next eight years, forced him to flee from one town to the next and often brought him face to face with death. In Shanghai, he practiced Bach and Mozart on the violin to the sound of artillery fire. Later, he trained his hearing as a university student in Guilin, where he learned to identify the flight path of Japanese warplanes by their sound. During a recent interview in his West Village townhouse, Mr. Chou recounted many harrowing war stories.

“This is the kind of thing we don’t want to experience,” he said after describing a traumatic escape from Guilin in 1944, moments before Japanese forces entered the city. “But if you do experience it, use that. We have to learn from life.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Night Work at a Hole in Tainan

three workers looking into a utility hole at night next to the Sacrificial Rites Martial Temple (祀典武廟) in Tainan, Taiwan
A few hours ago at an intersection next to the Sacrificial Rites Martial Temple (祀典武廟) in Tainan, Taiwan

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Life Amidst Construction in Tainan

Call it coincidence. Call it fate. But I can't call it planned. After posting yesterday about the intermixing of everyday life and a construction site in Shangqiu, today I saw a similar mix at Zhengxing Street in Tainan, Taiwan. Today's construction was both far smaller in scale and far briefer, but like in Shangqiu, there weren't hard borders between the roadwork and life on the rest of the street. Below are some photos capturing a few different stages of the work by the Taiwan Water Corporation, passersby, people standing in line at a popular milk tea stall, and a woman who decided to move some potted plants which were next to the area being dug up.

woman carrying a baby past construction work by the Taiwan Water Corporation at Zhengxing Street in Tainan

people walking by construction work by the Taiwan Water Corporation at Zhengxing Street in Tainan

people standing in line next to construction work by the Taiwan Water Corporation at Zhengxing Street in Tainan

woman carrying a potted plant away from construction work by the Taiwan Water Corporation at Zhengxing Street in Tainan

young couple walking by a sign for construction work by the Taiwan Water Corporation at Zhengxing Street in Tainan

Monday, April 25, 2016

Life Amidst Construction in the Shangqiu Ancient City

When I visited the Shangqiu Ancient City in Henan province in late 2010, road construction made the central Zhongshan Main Street difficult to navigate, especially if you wanted to cross from one side to the other.

road construction at the Zhongshan Main Street in the Shangqiu Ancient City (商丘古城)

There were few barriers around the construction site, and it was easy for people to enter, whether accidentally or on purpose. The border of the construction site was often fuzzy and in places materials obstructed sidewalk space.

large concrete tools on the sidewalk next to a road construction site at the Zhongshan Main Street in the Shangqiu Ancient City (商丘古城)

So like in many other parts of China, seemingly ordinary construction had become remarkably intwined with the lives of many people, including playing children. And people continued with their daily lives whether on it . . .

woman holding a child who is standing on a large concrete tube at the Zhongshan Main Street in the Shangqiu Ancient City (商丘古城)

next to it . . .

woman selling tubers next to a road construction site at the Shangqiu Ancient City

or over it.

woman pushing her bike towards an informally made bridge over large concrete tubes at a road construction site at the Shangqiu Ancient City (商丘古城)

The road is in far better shape now, but change doesn't stop, even in an ancient city. And sometimes life can't blend in as easily. I will share a more recent example from Shangqiu later.

Update: See here for the more recent example.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Strategy and Luck: A Game of Banqi in Tainan

As I approached a group of men surrounding a small table yesterday in Tainan, Taiwan, I wondered if I was seeing yet another outdoor game of xiangqi, otherwise known as Chinese chess. But the xiangqi board was rotated from its usual position by 90 degrees, only half the board was covered with xiangqi pieces, and some of the pieces were upside down. So instead of a photo of an outdoor game of xiangqi, here is a photo of an outdoor game of banqi:

men playing and watching a game of banqi outside in Tainan, Taiwan

As indicated in an unsourced but detailed Wikipedia entry, multiple versions of banqi, which also goes by several other names, exist, yet all, unlike xiangqi, involve a significant element of chance. A how-to-play guide on a blog by Woody Thrower, whose most recent post on the same blog is "Ubuntu 12.04 initramfs dependency nonsense", provides a brief look at the game and so does a fast-paced how-to-play video using alternative pieces by Joseph Larson, whose most recent post is "3D Printing with Ninjaflex". To my great joy, after finding these two guides and the two other posts, I finished watching the tail end of the video and discovered Thrower and Larson are indeed friends.

Presumably the men I saw in Tainan were playing the Taiwanese version of the game. Or perhaps like Thrower and Larson, they selected rules so the "balance of luck and strategy" better matched their tastes. Whatever rules they use, I wonder if they would agree with Larson that:
The combination of luck and strategy means that nobody really loses. If you lose you go 'eh, it was just bad luck'. But if you win you get to go 'aha, isn't my strategy incredible".

Friday, April 22, 2016

Guarding in Red in Tainan

Today's guardian lion, courtesy of the Anping Kaitai Matsu Temple in Tainan, Taiwan:

guardian lion with red ribbon bows at the Anping Kaitai Matsu Temple in Tainan, Taiwan

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Road Construction Fun in Shangqiu

Shangqiu, a prefecture-level city in Henan, China, recently came to my attention, and I was inspired to write a related post. I won't finish the post today, so for now I will share a photo I took in November 2010 of some boys who were playing in the middle of a road construction site in the walled Shangqiu Ancient City.

five boys standing in the middle of a road construction site in Shangqiu, China

More on the construction theme later. And then a bit about some more recent destruction in the historic area.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Fire, Blood, and Prayer at Taipei's Chang Qing Temple

Despite having "over 210 years of history", the Chang Qing Temple (長慶廟) isn't one of Taipei's most famous temples, but like many small temples in Taiwan it has plenty of spirit nonetheless. As I walked nearby last night some loud sounds compelled me to take a closer look. I believe I caught the end of a special ceremony where statues of gods are taken out of the temple and later returned, often with a great amount of fanfare. Although I didn't witness any massive parades like I recently saw for similar events in Jieyang, last night's ceremony stood out for the bloody wounds a tattooed man inflicted upon himself and the intense music.

Some photos below capture the man who was at the center of the ceremony's conclusion. He received a warm round of applause for his dedicated efforts.

ceremony at the Chang Qing Temple (長慶廟) in Taipei

ceremony at the Chang Qing Temple (長慶廟) in Taipei

man holding a flail and another lighting a fire for a ceremony at the Chang Qing Temple (長慶廟) in Taipei

man holding swords and standing between several fires for a ceremony at the Chang Qing Temple (長慶廟) in Taipei

man next to a fire in a ceremony at the Chang Qing Temple (長慶廟) in Taipei

man with a bleeding back in a ceremony at the Chang Qing Temple (長慶廟) in Taipei

man sticking a sword into ashes for a ceremony at the Chang Qing Temple (長慶廟) in Taipei

ceremony at the Chang Qing Temple (長慶廟) in Taipei

Top-front of the Chang Qing Temple (長慶廟) in Taipei

Friday, April 15, 2016

Smelling Kinmen

When I posted "Watching Kinmen" I hadn't planned to start a series based on the five traditional human senses. But after "Touching Kinmen", "Tasting Kinmen", and "Hearing Kinmen" happened, a "Smelling Kinmen" post seemed in order to bring things to a close. I looked through my photos from Kinmen several times, and this may be the best I can do:

horse eating some greenery near some flowers in Kinmen

The horse may have been more focused on eating than smelling but, hey, flowers.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hearing Kinmen

Beishan Broadcasting Wall (北山播音牆) in Kinmen

Only a few miles across the water from mainland China, the Beishan Broadcasting Wall (北山播音牆) in non-communist-controlled Kinmen County:
. . . stands on a cliff right by the sea. The concrete wall boasts 48 speakers, each with a reported range of 25km, that used to crank out propaganda like 'Our steamed buns are bigger than your pillows!' to the communists. These days, the speakers prefer the more mellow numbers of the late Teresa Tang, Taiwan’s best-loved songbird.
Unfortunately, they didn't turn on the three-stories of speakers to broadcast Teresa Teng's message and songs at a non-deafening volume during my visit to the wall.

The following two minute video offers additional information about the structure's capabilities, perspective on its size, and a translation of Teng's message:

Another video offers a purer form of Teng's message and singing without anyone speaking over it:

On the side, I have yet to see a steamed bun the size of a pillow.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Magical Proposal in Taipei

Yesterday afternoon while working on a project outside at the Xinyi Shoppping District in Taipei, Taiwan, I saw a magician perform for a young couple.

magician doing a magic trick for a young man while his girlfriend watches and person video records

I had seen the magician in the same plaza earlier when he appeared to be waiting for someone or something. I considered why the magician chose this particular couple and why two people were capturing it all on video. The videographers were at times clearly interested in making sure the female stayed in the scene even when the magician was focused on her partner.

After several magic tricks, the magician covered the young woman's eyes with an eye mask for the next trick. I figured it was time for me to move on. But then I saw a person rolling out a red carpet, and I began to wonder if there was something more taking place than I had at first assumed. Immediately after that I saw somebody holding flowers. Oh . . .

young woman wearing a blindfold next to a magician while a red carpet is rolled out and a woman carries a bouquet of flowers.

Flower petals were spread on the carpet. If this was just a trick, it was really going over the top.

woman spreads petals on a red carpet

While these preparations quietly occurred, the magician kept the woman occupied.

magician speaks to a young woman wearing an eye mask

With the young man holding a bouquet of roses while briefly biting his lower lip and others holding "Would you marry me" signs behind him, it was clear a bit more than a magic act was about to occur.

young man standing at the end of a red carpet with people behind him holding up the signs "Would", "You", "Marry", "Me"

Soon all was ready for the reveal, and the young woman was told to take off the mask. At first, she had an ordinary smile.

young woman taking off an eye mask

And then it grew.

woman smiling

But she appeared unsure and began to search for something. Soon, she had what she needed — a pair of glasses.

woman putting on eyeglasses.

I don't know what was going through the young woman's mind, but she was reserved in her expressions. She may have been wondering if this could somehow be part of a magic act. But then her boyfriend began a long speech.

young man holding roses and professing his love

If she had any doubts, they melted away.

young woman covering her mouth with her hands

still covering the lower part of her face

man professing his love to a woman in Taipei

As I watched, I realized online videos of public marriage proposals gone awry have left their mark on me. No worries here though. What followed went well.

man proposing to a woman in Taipei

putting on the engagement ring

newly engaged couple kissing

Soon the newly engaged couple walked off to sit on a nearby bench together, and the efficient cleanup began.

man folding up the red carpet

They even picked up the flower petals, so Taiwan.

woman picking up flower petals

Later, the couple took advantage of having a photographer around and posed for some photos. The young woman looked far more relaxed. For me, this was the moment where I erased any question whether the young woman's "yes" might have only been a polite face-saving public reaction.

newly engaged couple embracing each other as they pose for photos

Best wishes to the newly engaged couple. Even for me, the luck involved in witnessing their special moment seemed like a bit of magic. Perhaps I should have expected it. About half an hour earlier I had noticed a statue overlooking the same plaza.

The small statue of a mythical god is titled "Cupido".

statue of Cupid with a bow and arrow hiding behind a column

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tasting Kinmen

Woman making fresh oyster fritters (蚵嗲) at E Dia Zhi Jia (蚵嗲之家) in Kinmen
Making fresh oyster fritters (蚵嗲) at E Dia Zhi Jia (蚵嗲之家) in Kinmen

finished fresh oyster fritters (蚵嗲) at E Dia Zhi Jia (蚵嗲之家)
Nearly-finished oyster fritters

Customers in a slow-moving line at the popular snack stall

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Ad Takes On the Idea of "Leftover Women" in China

"Finally, an ad that celebrates single, independent Chinese women." ~ Leta Hong Fincher

In many different regions of China before I have seen marriage markets and have listened to women tell personal stories which are similar to those in the ad Fincher referenced. But I had not before seen a similar response to the use of the term "leftover women". Watch the video (on YouTube):

Two Mythical Qilins on Display in Kinmen

I have been unexpectedly occupied since praising Yeh's Fermented Eggs. So for today, I will keep it simple and share four photos of artistic creations on display at the Historical Folk Museum in Kinmen.

The qilin (麒麟) sculptures made during the time of the Xuande Emperor, who ruled from 1425 to 1435, were two of my favorites at the museum.

qilin sculpture at the Historical Folk Museum in Kinmen
Sculpture of a qilin ridden by a "golden boy": 七寶銅麒麟 - 金童

qilin sculpture at the Historical Folk Museum in Kinmen
Sculpture of a qilin ridden by a fairy: 七寶銅麒麟 - 仙女

Another set of sculptures at the museum, these made recently by children, provided an unexpected variation on the imaginary creature theme.

small sculpture of creatures made by a child on display at the Historical Folk Museum in Kinmen

small sculpture of creatures made by a child on display at the Historical Folk Museum in Kinmen

Perhaps in 600 years they too will be displayed as examples of ancient art.