Monday, March 14, 2016

Let it Styrofoam: A Christmas Club Party with a Frozen Theme in Xiamen

A nativity scene with Olaf wasn't the only mix of Christmas and the movie Frozen I saw a few months ago in Xiamen. I also saw an advertisement for a Frozen-themed Christmas party at the Royal No. 1 Club (皇家壹号).

promotion for a Christmas party at the Royal No. 1 Club (皇家壹号) in Xiamen

Using large broken pieces of styrofoam for snow was a special touch.

promotion for a Christmas party at the Royal No. 1 Club (皇家壹号) in Xiamen with Olaf and crushed styrofoam for snow

Sadly, I must report that I didn't go to the party and couldn't find any photos of it after a brief online search. So instead I will share a link to the first set of photos and video I found for another night at the club. They may push the boundary of "safe for work", though China's censors haven't been bothered (a defense HR would surely appreciate). I will share here one hopefully safe-for-work photo from the set which includes a couple of "mobile moments" — not everybody seemed captivated by the live entertainment.

young woman uses a mobile phone while four dancers pose at the promotion for a Christmas party at the Royal No. 1 Club (皇家壹号) in Xiamen

Just imagine a similar scene with Frozen characters and crushed styrofoam. Perhaps that will be close to what the Christmas party was like.

Promoting a New Ceramics Center in Xiamen with a Snowman and a Ghost

I previously didn't offer any explanation for a nativity scene in Xiamen which included a snowy Disney character. But, as usual, context matters, so now I will share some.

There were two related displays at the Zhongshan Road Pedestrian Street. Neither had a similar Christian theme.

promotional display for the Shunmei Ceramic Cultural Center at the Zhongshan Road Pedestrian Street in Xiamen

promotional display for the Shunmei Ceramic Cultural Center at the Zhongshan Road Pedestrian Street in Xiamen

Long story short, they were all part of a promotion for the grand opening of the Shunmei Ceramic Cultural Center.

According to the Shunmei Group's website, the company has passed a "factory audit of Disney". The website currently features some Frozen-themed items.

Disney Frozen items displayed on Shunmei Group website

Olaf's presence in the nativity scene now seems less mysterious — same with the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves' and even the non-Disney minion's presence in the first photo above.

A Shunmei post in Chinese provides some examples of the items which would be available for purchase at the Shunmei Ceramic Cultural Center. It also has an advertisement for the grand opening which includes part of an iconic scene from the movie Ghost.

ad with a photo from the movie Ghost for the grand openning of the Shunmei Ceramic Cultural Center in Xiamen

This raises obvious questions such as "Where is Olaf?" and "Are they making a ceramic minion?"

This is yet another example where digging deeper raised more questions than it answered. But at least some were answered. Maybe.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Brother Photo Request: Chinese Jesus

In a desire to mix things up and present myself a challenge, today for the first time ever I told my younger brother "you can pick the photo for today's post". The instructions were vague, but I figured he would understand what I was after.

Of course, he didn't, and after expressing excitement he sent me an image from The Oatmeal. Brothers . . .

I began to regret my offer and pointed out it wasn't a photo. My brother proposed it may have been a photo taken in a cartoon world with a cartoon camera.

This is why we didn't have better things growing up.

He soon made another attempt, though, and asked, "Do you have a picture of a Chinese Jesus?"

I didn't see that coming at all, and it raised several intriguing issues.

As I searched my mind for something relevant I have come across, he added, "I've seen Korean Jesus and Vietnamese Jesus, but I don't think I've seen a Chinese Jesus."

And if I was lacking motive, my brother provided one: "Jesus always brings in the pageviews."

Ok then.

One possible connection was Hong Xiuquan, a leader of the Taiping Rebellion and "self-proclaimed brother of Jesus Christ" — quite a story there. But I have not visited the Hong Xiuquan Memorial in Guangzhou, so I didn't see much potential there.

The best I could come up with was a nativity scene I saw a few months ago at the Zhongshan Road Pedestrian Street in Xiamen. Not only did it include Jesus (unsure of ethnicity but probably not Chinese), it also included something connecting to my brother's earlier cartoon theme — Olaf (snowperson), a character from Disney's animated movie Frozen.

nativity scene with Olaf at the Zhongshan Road Pedestrian Street in Xiamen

Olaf's sign said "Warm Wishes".

As with my brother's request, I am not going to even try to explain the display. But I will add that it was popular for selfies.

two young females taking a selfie in front of a nativity scene with Olaf at the Zhongshan Road Pedestrian Street in Xiamen

Like a dog in Taiwan, my brother took me in unexpected directions. And in both cases there were religious destinations. What a world.

Update: More context and a bit of an explanation for the display here.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Four Views of the Chongqing People's Liberation Monument in Jiefangbei

In an earlier post about International Women's Day in China, I mentioned I recognized the location of a photo shared by Xinhua News. One clue in the photo was a portion of the People's Liberation Monument, hard to miss at Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street's central square in Chongqing despite the many much higher structures nearby.

Below are four photos I took of the square on an overcast and smoggy day in January last year. The first photo was taken approximately facing southwest, similar to the Xinhua News photo but farther away from the monument. The following three in order approximately face southeast, northeast, and northwest. A dense commercial district with a wide range of eating and shopping options, including a number of luxury brands, surrounds the square. In the background of the last photo, the Apple Store which opened last year can be seen when the entrance was covered with a tarp before some special art was revealed. Even if food or shopping isn't on your mind, the area is great for people watching as it is frequented by many locals and Chinese tourists who visit Chongqing.

view of the Chongqing People's Liberation Monument and the Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street's central square facing southwest

view of the Chongqing People's Liberation Monumentand the Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street's central square facing southeast

view of the Chongqing People's Liberation Monumentand the Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street's central square facing northeast

view of the Chongqing People's Liberation Monumentand the Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street's central square facing northwest

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Laundry Detergent and Fashion: Women's Day in China

Today is a special day in much of the world, and, as reported by China Change, this year China spared no effort in its preparations:
Just before International Women’s Day on March 8, the Feminist Five activists in China, as well as their defense counsel, have been spoken to and put under pressure by police, according to friends and lawyers of the activists, communicating via social media.

On March 3, Internal Security police, the branch of the Public Security Bureau focused on internal political threats, sought out the defense lawyers of the feminist activists.
In Zhongshan on International Women's Day last year, I didn't see anything of note except a promotion for female lip hair removal. Several days later, I saw a Women's Day sale at the military-themed clothing store War Ground. Similarly, this year in Jieyang the only signs of Women's Day I noticed were sales at some small stores.

Women's Day sale at Cosmo Lady in Jieyang

Women's Day sale at Kekafu in Jieyang

Women's Day sale at Anta in Jieyang

Women's Day sale at Ray Li Lady in Jieyang

Women's Day sale at Living Store in Jieyang featuring laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid

Women's Day sale at Art CNW in Jieyang featuring laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid

Remarkably, two of the Women's Day sales featured laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid.

Perhaps also in the spirit of the holiday, Xinhua News on blocked-in-China Twitter today reported "Nearly 5 million Chinese women received micro-financing worth $38.1 bln in 2015". The tweet also included a photo.

women wearing qipaos posing for a photo in China

I recognize the location as the Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street in Chongqing. After that, I must admit I have a few questions.

So I will end this piece simply by recommending Julie Makinen's story "How does China mark Women's Day? Hold the feminism, bring on the fashion show".

Monday, March 7, 2016

Pizza Hut Introduces Its Own Durian Pizza in China

Last month I tried an unusual and odoriferous pizza at La César in Shenzhen. One half had a black mushroom topping, and the other half, more notably, had durian — a strong-smelling fruit people often describe as either glorious or revolting. Although I would be happier with just plain durian, my first experience with durian pizza was mostly a success, especially when eating the leftovers for breakfast.

About a week ago in Jieyang, I noticed Pizza Hut is getting into the durian pizza craze too for a limited time.

advertisement board for the durian pizza at Pizza Hut in Jieyang, China
Tempted by this durian pizza?

Normally in a city such as Jieyang I would want to immerse myself in the local food offerings as much as possible. But I have been here long enough that I found it reasonable to sacrifice a meal to give Pizza Hut's durian pizza a try. So I stopped by for lunch today.

image of a durian on the window of a Pizza Hut in Jieyang, China
Partially-opened durian sans pizza

The menu included a special for a half and half pizza. I went with the durian and "New Orleans style" toppings.

option in Pizza Hut menu for a split pizza with one half durian
Can't say I found the photo enticing

I took a seat on the second floor, which offered a great perch to watch the flow of traffic at the adjacent street intersection. Happily, no accidents occurred, and soon my pizza arrived.

half New Orleans style and half durian pizza at Pizza Hut in Jieyang, China
As expected, a bit different from the photo

It was smaller than the La César pizza I ordered, not surprising given the lower cost, and the durian appeared to be distributed in larger chunks.

Like before, I started with the less sweet non-durian side. Also like before, one drawback to the split pizza was the strong durian smell somewhat interfered with enjoying the other side. Disappointingly, the New Orleans toppings reminded me far less of the American city than the New Orleans roasted chicken street food I ate last year in Hunan. Unlike most food in New Orleans, the pizza tasted rather bland. After just one bite I made a dash for Tabasco sauce. It didn't help that much. The durian side was also rather unspectacular, though the large chunks of durian on two of the slices were appreciated. I didn't consider adding any Tabasco sauce to it. One positive is all of the pizza had plenty of cheese.

This is an easy call. I don't expect to order the pizza again. Both halves of the pizza I had at La César were far superior in taste and texture. In all fairness to Pizza Hut's durian pizza, I am not a big fan of their style of pizza in general. There are other places for pizza I prefer in cities such as Shanghai, Hong Kong, or even Zhongshan. I am not familiar with Jieyang's pizza world, though, and could imagine Pizza Hut is one of the better options here.

So if you like Pizza Hut and also durian, their durian pizza may still be worth a try. But if I develop cravings for a durian pizza, I will hold out for somewhere else. And for dinner tonight, I will be returning to Jieyang's local delicacies.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Taking the Dog for a Scooter Ride in Jieyang

As I wrote several days ago, seeing dogs on motorbikes isn't an unusual event for me. The example I shared then involved a motorcycle. More often I see dogs on scooters, though, like I did today in Jieyang.

dog on a motor scooter with two people in Jieyang

Readers familiar with Chinese customs or firecrackers may recognize the red colored paper on the ground. It represents a bit of what brought me to this part of Jieyang. More about that another day.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Riding with the Kids in Jieyang

No dog. No sleeping. Just a man and two children riding a bicycle on a festive day in Jieyang's Xiangpan Village.

man riding a bicycle with children in seats in the front and back in Jieyang

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Small Survey in Jieyang, China, on the U.S. Presidential Candidates

This morning I felt inspired (not sure that's the right word) to watch the Fox News GOP Debate. I tuned in after the "hands moment" but was able to watch most of the debate on the live stream both with and without using a VPN (useful for jumping China's Great Firewall to reach blocked sites). The only exception was towards the end when I could only watch it without the VPN, I suspect due to increased local internet traffic.

This afternoon I looked for a place in Jieyang, Guangdong, to do a small survey, and Monkey Noodles seemed like a good choice. There I presented three people in their 20s photos of the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates still participating in the televised debates. In short, nobody recognized Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, or Bernie Sanders. Two people recognized Hillary Clinton and one of them recognized Donald Trump as well. I didn't hope to draw broader conclusions from this small sample, but the results mapped reasonably well with what I would expect for a larger similar sample.

The person who recognized two candidates described Trump as a man who became rich through real estate. His first comment about Clinton was he thought she was very pretty. When I asked which would make a better president for the U.S., he immediately said Clinton. He felt she had stronger management skills. He described Trump as extremely egotistical and having strange ideas.

I didn't ask about hands.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Taking the Dog for a Ride in Jieyang

I didn't see anybody asleep on a moving motorbike today, but I did see one especially awake rider.

dog with a front seat view rides a motorbike with a man in Jieyang, China.

It reminded me of a dog riding on a different pair of wheels two years ago in Hengyang. I don't see dogs on motorbikes every day, but I wouldn't call it an unusual event. More rare is successfully capturing the fleeting moment.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Leaving an Ephemeral Mark: Another Lesson from Jieyang

Yesterday two lessons came to mind after unexpectedly making an impression at a Jieyang shopping center.

Today at the same location, a related lesson came to mind: even when an impression you make appears to be nearly set in stone, it can quickly disappear.

a flat unmarked patch of dried cement

On the side, I wonder what was going through the mind of the bank security guard as he watched me take a few photographs of this patch of ground. I may have made a longer lasting impression that way.