BEIJING (AP) — Chinese are heading to temples and fairs to wish for an auspicious start to the Lunar New Year.
Thousands gathered at Beijing’s major temples on Saturday, the first day of the Year of the Rooster. Wearing heavy winter coats, they lit incense sticks and bowed as they prayed for good fortune and health. As many as 80,000 people were expected at the Lama Temple in central Beijing, state television reported.
Beijing’s sprawling spring festival temple fair opened at Ditan Park, where empty tree branches were festooned with red lanterns and traditional goods and foods were for sale. Read the rest of this entry »
In honor of the holiday for the Year of the Rooster, the resort is presenting a spectacular series of entertainment programs, seasonal food and beverage offerings, lucky bags and holiday-themed shopping experiences, it said.
The Chinese Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, falls on Jan. 28. Chinese have a weeklong holiday for the most important festival of the year.
Throughout the Spring Festival season, the highlight in Shanghai Disneyland will be the nightly program, “Ignite the Dream: A Nighttime Spectacular of Magic and Light” followed by a special event featuring new year wishes from tourists. Read the rest of this entry »
Ruan Hailin, a craftsman from Jiangsu Province, used paint brush to draw roosters on chicken eggs to welcome the upcoming Chinese lunar New Year, which will falls on January 28 this year. Along with the roosters in different postures, Ruan also inscribed some wishes on the eggs to signify an auspicious year. In Chinese culture, there are 12 zodiac animals to represent a year periodically, and 2017 is the Year of the Rooster.
Hot Chili Peppers, War, and Sichuan Cuisine
The first mention of the chili pepper in the Chinese historical record appears in 1591, although historians have yet to arrive at a consensus as to exactly how it arrived in the Middle Kingdom.
Andrew Leonard writes: In 1932, the Soviet Union sent one of its best agents to China, a former schoolteacher and counter-espionage expert from Germany named Otto Braun. His mission was to serve as a military adviser to the Chinese Communists, who were engaged in a desperate battle for survival against Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists.
“Eating chili peppers is like riding a roller coaster. It delivers a rush of danger and pleasure.”
The full story of Braun’s misadventures in China’s Communist revolution is packed with enough twists and turns for a Hollywood thriller. But in the domain of culinary history, one anecdote from Braun’s autobiography stands out. Braun recalls his first impressions of Mao Zedong, the man who would go on to become China’s paramount leader.
“The Sichuanese are fiery. They fight fast and love fast and they like their food to be like them—hot.”
The shrewd peasant organizer had a mean, even “spiteful” streak. “For example, for a long time I could not accustom myself to the strongly spiced food, such as hot fried peppers, which is traditional to southern China, especially in Hunan, Mao’s birthplace.” The Soviet agent’s tender taste buds invited Mao’s mockery. “The food of the true revolutionary is the red pepper,” declared Mao. “And he who cannot endure red peppers is also unable to fight.’ ”
Maoist revolution is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when your tongue is burning from a mouthful of Kung Pao chicken or Mapo Tofu at your favorite Chinese restaurant. But the unlikely connection underscores the remarkable history of the chili pepper.
For years culinary detectives have been on the chili pepper’s trail, trying to figure out how a New World import became so firmly rooted in Sichuan, a landlocked province on the southwestern frontier of China. “It’s an extraordinary puzzle,” says Paul Rozin, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist, who has studied the cultural evolution and psychological impact of foods, including the chili pepper.
Food historians have pointed to the province’s hot and humid climate, the principles of Chinese medicine, the constraints of geography, and the exigencies of economics. Most recently neuropsychologists have uncovered a link between the chili pepper and risk-taking. The research is provocative because the Sichuan people have long been notorious for their rebellious spirit; some of the momentous events in modern Chinese political history can be traced back to Sichuan’s hot temper.
As Wu Dan, the manager of a hotpot restaurant in Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital, told a reporter: “The Sichuanese are fiery. They fight fast and love fast and they like their food to be like them—hot.”
The chili pepper, genus capsicum, is indigenous to the tropics, where archaeological records indicate it has been cultivated and consumed perhaps as far back as 5000 B.C. Typically a perennial shrub bearing red or green fruit, it can be grown as an annual in regions where temperatures reach freezing in the winter. There are five domesticated species, but most of the chili peppers consumed in the world belong to just two, Capsicum annuum and Capsicum frutescens.
“The food of the true revolutionary is the red pepper. And he who cannot endure red peppers is also unable to fight.”
— Mao Zedong
The active ingredient in chili peppers is a compound called capsaicin. When ingested, capsaicin triggers pain receptors whose normal evolutionary purpose is to alert the body to dangerous physical heat. The prevailing theory is the chili pepper’s burn is a trick to dissuade mammals from eating it, because the mammalian digestive process normally destroys chili pepper seeds, preventing further propagation. Birds—which do not destroy chili pepper seeds during digestion—have no analogous receptors. When a bird eats a chili pepper, it doesn’t feel a thing, excretes the seeds, and spreads the plant.
The word “chili” comes from the Nahuatl family of languages, spoken, most famously, by the Aztecs. (One early Spanish translation of the word was “el miembro viril”—tantalizing early evidence of the chili pepper’s inherent machismo.) Botanists believe the chili pepper originated in southwest Brazil or south central Bolivia, but by the 15th century, birds and humans had spread it throughout South and Central America.
Enter Christopher Columbus. On Jan. 1, 1493, the great explorer recorded in his diary his discovery, on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, that “the pepper which the local Indians used as spice is more abundant and more valuable than either black or melegueta pepper [an African spice from the ginger family].”
In the 15th century, Spain and Portugal were obsessed with finding sea routes to the spice markets of Asia that would allow them to break the monopoly wielded by Arab traders over access to hot commodities like black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger. Although Columbus was utterly wrong in his belief that he had sailed to India, he still succeeded in locating precisely what he had been seeking. Read the rest of this entry »
‘The chaotic propagation of grandiose, West-worshipping, weird architecture.’
Josh Chin reports: A new blueprint for the future of China’s sprawling cities promises to demolish two towering symbols of the country’s runaway growth: eye-catching architecture and gated housing complexes.
About the latter at least, Chinese urbanites appear none too pleased.
“You have to get public safety fixed first. Get rid of thieves, advertisers and scam artists, then you can open up the residential compounds.”
— From the comments under the Sina survey
The guidelines for development of China’s cities, released over the weekend, are the outcome of a high-level government confab held in December to address the challenges of managing the rapid, at times haphazard urbanization that is one of the most visible expressions of the country’s economic transformation over the past 35 years.
“Whoever came up with this idea is a pig brain.”
— Another comment from the Sina survey
The last time such a meeting was convened, in 1978, less than a fifth of the country’s citizens lived in cities, according to a report by the official Xinhua news agency (in Chinese). Now more than half do. The breakneck pace of urbanization has produced a variety of problems the guidelines seek to address. According to a copy posted to Xinhua’s website (in Chinese), key aims include reducing construction waste, improving traffic flows and raising air quality.
“The document is a wake-up call for those places where there’s has been a one-sided pursuit of architectural form over function, where cultural orientation has been compromised by an excessive desire to show off.”
Then there’s the problem of “the chaotic propagation of grandiose, West-worshipping, weird architecture.” The proliferation of fanciful, and sometimes downright bizarre, buildings has captured attention at the highest levels in Beijing. The vertiginous boxer-shorts tower designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas to serve as the headquarters for China Central Television in Beijing is the most frequently cited example, but others abound.
In 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a speech on the arts in which he called for an end to “weird” architecture. The new guidelines take that sentiment a step further, saying designs should match the urban landscape, reflect local geographical characteristics and embody China’s national character. Read the rest of this entry »
Given the recent volume of deals, it would appear that the Chinese government is supportive of the foreign-buying spree.
Portia Crowe reports: Here’s a story you’ll be hearing about a lot this year.
Chinese companies have been buying up foreign businesses, including American ones, at a record rate, and it’s freaking
There is General Electric’s sale of its appliance business to Qingdao-based Haier, Zoomlion’s bid for the heavy-lifting-equipment maker Terex Corp., and ChemChina’s record-breaking deal for the Swiss seeds and pesticides group Syngenta, valued at $48 billion.
Most recently, a unit of the Chinese conglomerate HNA Group said it would buy the technology distributor Ingram Micro for $6 billion.
And the most contentious deal so far might be the Chinese-led investor group Chongqing Casin Enterprise’s bid for the Chicago Stock Exchange.
A deal spree
To date, there have been 102 Chinese outbound mergers-and-acquisitions deals announced this year, amounting to $81.6 billion in value, according to Dealogic. That’s up from 72 deals worth $11 billion in the same period last year.
And they’re not expected to let up anytime soon. Slow economic growth in China and cheap prices abroad due to the stock market’s recent sell-off suggest the opposite.
“With the slowdown of the economy, Chinese corporates are increasingly looking to inorganic avenues to supplement their growth,” Vikas Seth, head of emerging markets in the investment-banking and capital-markets department at Credit Suisse, told Business Insider earlier this month.
China’s economic growth in 2015 was its slowest in 25 years.
The law firm O’Melveny & Myers recently surveyed their mainly China-based clients and found that the economic growth potential in the US was the main factor making it an attractive investment destination.
Nearly half of respondents agreed that the US was the most attractive market for investment, but 47% felt that US laws and regulations were a major barrier. They’d be right about that.
A major barrier
Forty-five members of Congress this week signed a letter to the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, or CFIUS, urging it to conduct a “full and rigorous investigation” of the Chicago Stock Exchange acquisition.
“This proposed acquisition would be the first time a Chinese-owned, possibly state-influenced, firm maintained direct access into the $22 trillion US equity marketplace,” the letter reads. Read the rest of this entry »
“We have listened to every opinion but when people go as far as ringing our staff, constantly, calling them murderers and death threats we class this as harassment and also inhumane to humans on the vegans behalf, and completely disgusting and unacceptable.”
The chef at Kings Arms at Fleggburgh opted out of serving the decadent dish during Valentine’s Day dinner this weekend after being subjected to “harassment” by activists who threatened to protest the menu, the Guardian reports. Foie gras is traditionally made by force feeding geese until their liver becomes enlarged.
“To stop this unfair behaviour on our staff we have decided to remove the Foie Gras from the menu and apologise to all of our customers who enjoy our parfait dish.”
Mark Dixon, an award winning chef, posted the Valentine’s Day menu on Facebook in January. For 50 pounds per person, diners could indulge in a specialty tasting menu that included vodka cured salmon and grilled halibut. Also on the menu, foie gras and chicken liver parfait which drew the ire of activists….(read more)
Beijing Assails Student Democrats as Revolutionaries
China’s Communist Party frequently rails against “splittists,” with the usual targets being the freedom- and independence-minded people of Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang. Now China’s parliament is adding Hong Kong to its enemies list, using the pretext of last year’s pro-democracy marches.
“In his annual Policy Address in January, Mr. Leung attacked his critics for harboring secessionist sentiments, citing as evidence the undergraduate magazine of Hong Kong University, which published an article on ‘Hong Kong people deciding their own fate’ and a book called ‘Hong Kong Nationalism.'”
“The movement and the expression for independence of Hong Kong will not be tolerated,” third-ranked leader Zhang Dejiang declared last week in the Great Hall of the People. Days before, General Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the general staff, told a state magazine that last year’s street protests were “a Hong Kong version of a color revolution,” akin to the popular movements that toppled several post-Soviet governments a decade ago.
“Mr. Leung was widely ridiculed for the feebleness of the charge, yet now top leaders in Beijing are echoing it.”
These aren’t the first time such charges have been leveled. In October, during the first weeks of Hong Kong’s 75-day demonstrations, a commentary in the official People’s Daily argued that the protesters’ true aim was independence, while senior Politburo member Wang Yang warned of “color revolution.” But Beijing then muted such claims—at least until Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying revived them. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Flying Over Beijing: What Does it Look Like When Most of the Population of a Vast Metropolis Sets Off Fireworks at Once?Posted: February 28, 2015
What does it look like when most of the population of a vast metropolis sets off fireworks at once? YouTube contributor Parelius was flying into Beijing at midnight last week on Chinese New Year and captured this awesome footage of his view through his window on the plane: fireworks, both large and small, going off all over the city. It’s such a dazzling sight, we feel like we should be holding sparklers while watching.
Driven by the Spring Festival period, one of the golden times for Chinese productions, China’s domestic movies are gaining more momentum
The Chinese New Year is approaching an end, but the country’s movie industry boom seems to have just begun, thanks to record high box-office sales during the New Year holiday.
Statistics show that across the country there were over nine million Chinese going to the movies during that period. On the first day of the Spring Festival, there was a record high intake of 356 million yuan or about $57 million at the box office. That’s about 44 percent up on the same day last year.
Even on New Year’s Eve, a time traditionally devoted to family reunions, home banquets and the grand CCTV gala, Chinese moviegoers still spent 21 million yuan ($3.5 mln) in the country’s cinemas.
By Sunday, box offices for the Spring Festival holiday reached 924 million yuan ($154 mln), a 42.15% increase from last year. Industry experts say that China’s movie market is expected to gross nearly 2 billion yuan ($300 mln) during the period.
There were 7 new movies released on the first day of the Chinese New Year, which could be one reason for the high sales.
The costume action movie “Dragon Blade” starring Chinese Kungfu star Jackie Chan leads the box office charts, creating about one third of the total income. It’s followed by Chow Yun-Fat’s family comedy “The Man from Macao II” and fantasy adventure “Zhongkui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal”.
Rao Shuguang, the secretary-general of the China Film Association, says the recorded growth is also partly to do with the increased number of screens across the country, now at over 24,900.
Driven by the Spring Festival period, one of the golden times for Chinese productions, China’s domestic movies are gaining more momentum. Last year, Chinese domestic box-office revenue hit $4.7 billion, ranking the second largest in the world. Made-in-China movies accounted for 55 percent of the total. Read the rest of this entry »
Sales Increase for Pricey Undergarments as Government Discourages Conspicuous Consumption
Laurie Burkitt and Alyssa Abkowitz report: Call it inconspicuous consumption. Lingerie stores in China are seeing strong sales of $300 bras and other pricey skivvies, defying a broad drop in luxury sales in the vast Chinese market. Italian lingerie maker La Perla—which once struggled to sell $2,000 strapless bustiers and other high-end undergarments in the region—saw sales at its 14 stores in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan jump 42% last year. Last month, La Perla opened a Shanghai men’s boutique, selling $200 silk boxers and $3,000 silk robes.
“I don’t want to overdress. But I don’t mind spending more than 1,000 yuan for a bra.”
— Ms. Zu, who works in pharmaceutical sourcing
Agent Provocateur, a London high-end lingerie company, said sales at the company’s four China boutiques are at least 25% above expectations. An Agent Provocateur saleswoman in a high-end Beijing mall said best sellers include a sheer bra with white-scallop details priced at 1,475 yuan, or about $240, and a 1,940 yuan lacy black bra.
Consumers like Zu Yujing, a 30-year-old from the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, say spending on luxury clothing for the office or leisure is too ostentatious. But Ms. Zu splurges on custom-made pieces at a Beijing-based lingerie shop called Pillowbook, where she spent about 4,000 yuan on her last shopping spree.
“I don’t want to overdress,” said Ms. Zu, who works in pharmaceutical sourcing. “But I don’t mind spending more than 1,000 yuan for a bra.”
Chinese consumers—famous for their appetite for designer bags and gold-plated iPhone cases—are now shying away from flashy logos and displays of wealth as a government austerity campaign shames officials who buy them. Sales of luxury goods, which include glitzy jewelry and couture, were down 1% last year in China, according to consulting firm Bain & Co.
But many Chinese appear to be flaunting their wealth under their clothes. Read the rest of this entry »
Officials in Hong Kong and Beijing fear that the unfettered freedom to discuss such topics in Hong Kong’s classrooms has helped breed a generation of unruly and unpatriotic youths
HONG KONG—Isabella Steger writes: High-school students in this city’s mandatory liberal studies class tackle issues that are strictly taboo in mainland Chinese schools—press freedom, civil disobedience and the rule of law.
“The biggest impact of liberal studies is that it encourages students to be much more aware of current affairs,” said Lo Yat-ko, a 30-year-old liberal studies teacher.
“In Hong Kong, we teach critical thinking, not like in China where they teach by indoctrination and memorizing”
— Ng Shun-wing, Hong Kong Institute of Education
That has become a big problem for some officials in Hong Kong and Beijing, who fear that the unfettered freedom to discuss such topics in Hong Kong’s classrooms has helped breed a generation of unruly and unpatriotic youths, and helped inspire the so-called Occupy pro-democracy protests that shook this semiautonomous Chinese city for 10 weeks late last year.
Excerpt: Lessons in Liberal Studies
In the aftermath of those student-led protests, an education debate is once again brewing in Hong Kong. In November, the city’s Education Bureau launched a three-month review of the city’s school curriculum, the results of which will be announced in July.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in his annual policy address last month that the government would change the current high-school curriculum, with an aim to “reinforce students’ interest in and understanding of Chinese history and culture.” Mr. Leung said the government will also subsidize students to participate in exchange programs with schools on the mainland.
His comments come two years after the Hong Kong government, at Beijing’s behest, attempted to introduce mandatory patriotic education in the city’s schools, drawing accusations of indoctrination and sparking widespread demonstrations that forced the government to back down.
The latest curriculum review risks reigniting a new round of protests, but the government’s resolve for an overhaul appears to have deepened. Hong Kong and Beijing officials have grown more outspoken over school subjects, such as liberal studies, that address controversial topics and emphasize critical analysis.
Excerpt 2: Lessons in Liberal Studies
Such topics and teaching methods are off-limits in mainland Chinese schools, which place a more traditional emphasis on rote learning and shun current events that are sensitive to the Communist Party.
Chen Zuoer, former deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said last month that Hong Kong youth needed to have their thinking “repaired” as they have been “brainwashed.”
The problems in Hong Kong’s education system “have now become the seeds of bitter melons and poisonous beans,” said Mr. Chen at a seminar held by a think tank in Beijing, adding that some protesters who were “babies during the handover were…waving the British flag.”
Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and has since operated under a separate political system that grants residents far greater freedoms than their mainland counterparts. But some people in the city worry that those freedoms are eroding. Read the rest of this entry »
Cho’s behavior, dubbed ‘nut rage’, caused an uproar in South Korea. The incident touched a nerve in a country where the economy is dominated by family-run conglomerates known as chaebol that often act above the law.
(SEOUL) — A Seoul court on Thursday sentenced a former Korean Air executive to a year in prison for aviation law violations that stemmed from her inflight tantrum over how she was served macadamia nuts.
“I know my faults and I’m very sorry.”
— Cho said in her letter
The court said Cho Hyun-ah was guilty of forcing a flight to change its route and two other charges.
Cho, the daughter of Korean Air’s chairman, achieved worldwide notoriety after she ordered the chief flight attendant off a Dec. 5 flight, forcing it to return to the gate at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
She was angered she had been offered macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a dish and had a heated confrontation with members of the cabin crew.
The court also found Cho guilty of obstructing the flight’s captain in the performance of his duties and forcing a crew member off a plane. It found her not guilty of interfering with a transport ministry investigation into the incident. Read the rest of this entry »
Greetings from Hong Kong Fong! Continuing in my new role of China Deputy Bureau Chief and Hong Kong Photo Editor for Pundit From Another Planet, and following my inaugural PFAP post, The Visual Feast of Hong Kong: Through the Lens of Hong Kong Fong, Part 1, I now share with you Part 2.
This week, over 200 million people have begun traveling home to celebrate the spring festival, chunjie, or Chinese New Year, part of the world’s biggest annual mass migration which invariably strains the country’s transportation system with days-long traffic jams, flight delays, and near-riots over sold-out train tickets.
This year should be especially bad. Transportation officials estimate that China’s 1.3 billion people will take an average of three trips each by rail, air, and road over the 40 day period that marks the holiday, for a record total of 3.62 billion trips (link in Chinese). That’s 200 million more trips than last year.
Rent-A-Boyfriend: Single Chinese Women under pressure to find Suitable Partner turn to web for by-the-hour BF Rental ServicePosted: November 12, 2013
Chinese website offers men by the hour to women ashamed of their single status
- Rent-a-boyfriends can advertise their wares on Taobao.com
- Increasingly popular with women under parental pressure to marry
- Services include dinners and cinema visits. Hand-holding is free
Ruth Styles reports: Meeting someone new isn’t always the easiest of tasks, so spare a thought for China’s young women who face intense parental pressure to find the right man.
As a result, women terrified of returning home without a handsome other half resort to hiring ‘boyfriends’ for the duration of their visit.
Now a shopping website, Taobao, has launched a new rent-a-boyfriend service which allows would-be fake other halves to advertise their services – complete with price lists.
Mutineers turned on each other, split into regional gangs on fishing vessel far from home
SHIDAO, China – Frightened for their lives, four Chinese fishermen caught on a boat gone mad with mutiny dropped a home-made raft in the Pacific 1,000 miles from Japan. Read the rest of this entry »