Understanding Chinese culture

Category
Environmental Conservation in Chengdu
Chengdu Blogs, Discover Chinese culture, Food, Learn about China, Understanding Chinese culture

Environmental Conservation in Chengdu

My previous blog outlined some of the environmental challenges that China faces, the aspects in which it is becoming more sustainable and what you can do during your internship to make a difference. In this blog, I am turning to the companies that InternChina work with and what they are doing to help the environment and community in and around Chengdu. I spoke to three companies that offer internships with InternChina in Chengdu: Chengdu Urban Rivers Association, Swild and Dragon Yunhe. They outlined their aims, how environmental protection has improved in China in recent years, challenges to their work and what the future holds for them.

Chengdu Urban Rivers Association (CURA) 成都城市河流研究会

CURA is an NGO focussed on river conservation and sustainable development, specifically tackling the problem of water pollution in and around Chengdu. Since their establishment in 2003, their main focus has been on long-term projects in two villages, Anlong Village in Pidu District and Lingshi Village in Tangyuan Town which are located near streams and rivers that are the main source of drinking water for Chengdu.

CURA aims to build safe areas near rivers to reduce water pollution and develop facilities to help villagers reduce pollution in their daily life, including building toilets and pipes which separate waste. They organise workshops and training for villagers about eco-agriculture and the harms of using pesticides and chemical fertilisers, as well as garbage classification and how to discard of toxic waste. They also hold activities in urban areas to highlight the problems of water pollution, the importance of eco-products and living in a sustainable way.

An education session hosted by CURA with the local community  (credit: CURA)

Improvements

Both the villages that CURA work with have developed a better understanding of eco-agriculture and one villager who adopted eco-agricultural methods now has over 85 customers that he delivers to twice a week. Villagers have also started to organise activities to clean garbage from nearby rivers and streams. CURA’s work has had knock-on effects: people from Yongan Village have seen the work of the neighbouring Lingshi Village and have set up a team of 30 people to help clean their local stream. Furthermore, after learning from CURA about a government policy which exchanges the deposit of toxic waste for a small financial return, villagers have started to collect and separate toxic waste from other rubbish.  This has benefitted local wildlife, soil quality and water sources, as well as resulting in a more beautiful natural environment due to the reduction of visible garbage.

Challenges

One of the main challenges for CURA is sourcing funding. As CURA is a NGO, it is unable to raise money itself and, therefore, has to rely on donations and partnerships with organisations. Foundations are the main source of funding for many NGOs but CURA has found that it is often difficult to align the goals of CURA with foundations’ own missions. While some foundations are keen to focus on cleaning urban rivers, there are fewer who are willing to concentrate on the sources of drinking water.  Due to CURA’s nature as a small organisation, it lacks a strong mandate to force action on a wider scale and struggles to get its agenda adopted by larger organisations and the government.

A litter-picking activity with a school  (credit: CURA)Future

CURA want to use the knowledge gained from their experience in Anlong and Lingshi villages to make proposals more quickly for other villages in the future. They aim to develop a model which can be extended throughout Sichuan and sell it to organisations to implement. The revenue will be used to fund further research and investment into the problem of water pollution and solutions, and improve their marketing strategy.

Mingming is hopeful about progress in terms of the environment in China as more NGOs and individuals are trying to push environmental laws and changes.

Swild (西南山地)

Swild uses photographs, videos, articles and documentaries as a means to educate about biodiversity within southwest China which they promote through their wide social media following on both Western and Chinese channels. Their aim is to show people the beauty of nature and by doing so encourage people to conserve and protect the environment. Their photography and documentaries show footage of a vast variety of animals, birds, plants and land types, as well as rare wild species and protected areas within Southwest China. They also cooperate with other conservation organisations within China to promote sustainability.

A leopard in the wild captured by a Swild photographer (credit: Swild)

Improvements

Since Swild registered as a company in 2015, they have noticed more and more people paying attention to environmental issues within China, including those with no previous interest in, or knowledge of, the environment attending their events. There have been more events held in Chengdu to raise awareness about environmental conservation and protection, such as a recent talk from primatologist Dr Jane Goodall and a ‘zero-waste’ event organised by Roots and Shoots which included a clothes swap, documentary screening and information about reducing individual’s ecological footprint.

Shuting and Yu Dengli think that the most effective recent change in China has been the introduction of recycling classifications which was piloted in Shanghai and has spread across China, including to Chengdu. They believe that the use of government sanctions can make environmental protection more effective; this is gradually being rolled out for those who don’t recycle or recycle incorrectly.

Challenges

Swild noted three main challenges to the environment that they experience while documenting wildlife: pollution, waste and a loss of natural habitats due to population and urban expansion. Shuting and Yu Dengli think that to make environmental conservation more effective in China, further education is needed in all sectors of society.

Future

Swild are continuing to expand their resources that document the natural environments and wildlife in southwest China, including into more remote areas. At the beginning of 2020, they are launching two new documentaries, Kula Riwo Life and The Secret World of Wanglang.

Some of the resources Swild produces

Dragon Yunhe 登龍雲和

Dragon Yunhe is a social enterprise that promotes community and environmental sustainability through a business model approach. It focuses on the environment in remote areas, especially in conservation areas where ecosystems are fragile.

Their initial project in 2015 was establishing the Yunhe Centre located in Ganze Tibetan Autonomous Region. Since then, Dragon Yunhe has adopted a multifaceted approach to building an eco-tourist model in the village which involves: developing local industry; community training about eco-agricultural skills and techniques, food safety and local crafts; and establishing education programs about local culture, traditions and nature. It also runs community projects and outdoor expeditions for domestic and international partners, especially schools and universities.

Improvements

The Yunhe Centre has provided a livelihood for many people who live nearby and has given the local community the resources to find a solution to the problems that rural areas face and to manage natural resources themselves. In addition, Dragon Yunhe has collaborated with specialists to develop cultural and environmental education programs which over 500 participants have taken part in.

Within China more generally, Xiaomei has seen improvements in the conservation of national parks as authorities are acknowledging and taking the responsibility to improve environmental protection within these areas.

Challenges

Xiaomei believes that the current understanding of eco-tourism within China is one of the biggest challenges to increasing the scale of eco-tourism nationally. In China, eco-tourism is often understood as under-developed areas which lack services and so Dragon Yunhe is promoted in China as an educational tourism or responsible tourism company. She believes that, for the eco-tourism industry to develop, people need to understand the core principles behind eco-tourism. The difficulty of gaining sufficient funds for rural communities also inhibits the development of this type of project on a wider scale.

Future

The Yunhe centre has been rented for 30 years with the hope that within this timeframe the centre will be 100% self-financed and self-run by local people. Many rural areas face, or will soon face, a situation where there is nobody to look after natural resources because of depopulation due to urban migration and overdevelopment. Dragon Yunhe believe that working with the local community to find a sustainable livelihood for them is the key to the protection of these rural environments.

Dragon Yunhe plan to develop a model for eco-tourism based on their experience at the Yunhe Centre. Their aim is to gather more resources so that they can link different stakeholders including the private sector and decision makers and encourage this model to be implemented by investors and the government on a larger-scale. They also plan to continue to educate about the importance of responsible tourism.

An intern at the Yunhe Centre (credit: Dragon Yunhe)

CURA, Swild and Dragon Yunhe are three of the many organisations in Chengdu taking positive steps to tackle environmental problems and support local communities. For many environmental organisations, continuing and expanding their work in the future relies on the availability of funding which is restricted by China’s NGO laws.

A huge thank you to Mingming from CURA, Shuting and Yu Dengli from Swild and Xiaomei from Dragon Yunhe for taking the time to talk to me and sharing their experiences.

Climate Crisis in China
Chengdu Blogs, Discover Chinese culture, Food, Learn about China, Understanding Chinese culture

Addressing the climate crisis in China

The current lack of environmentally friendly practices is one of the aspects that I find most frustrating about living in China. A lot of Chinese life is about convenience from Alipay to takeaway but, unfortunately, this often comes at the cost of the environment. Living in China it is all too easy to abandon the more sustainable life habits that you are well versed to back at home because they are not the norm and often require more effort. Yet, one of the simplest ways to be environmentally friendly in China is to persevere and continue your habits from home. This blog outlines some of the challenges China still faces in regards to the environment, aspects in which it is improving and ways in which you can make a positive impact along with some useful vocabulary!

Shopping 购物

The demand for shopping is huge in China as is evident by the huge number of shopping streets and malls in China selling everything from discounted fakes to Louis Vuitton. China also has a massive online retail market of 855 million digital consumers with online sales expected to reach $1.5 trillion in value in 2019.[1]

You won’t last very long in China without hearing about Alibaba’s Taobao 淘宝, an online retail market selling pretty much everything you could imagine, similar to a combination of eBay and Amazon. On Taobao, an order of multiple items will normally come in individual deliveries because the products are sourced from different sellers across China, producing huge amounts of unnecessary packaging.

Shopping and discount festivals have also become more popular among retailers in recent years, such as Singles’ Day (November 11), a day of discounts launched by Alibaba in 2009 which regularly surpasses the sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined; Alibaba made 268.4 billion RMB (£29.4 billion) in 24 hours in 2019.[2]

Environmental organisations claim that China’s online retail industry used 9.4 million tonnes of packaging materials in 2018 with estimates that over 250,000 tonnes were produced from Singles’ Day sales alone.[3] As of 2017, Chinese people threw away around 26 million tons of clothing annually, with less than 1% of it being reused.[4] While some retailers are taking some small steps to encourage recycling or use more recyclable materials, it seems that more substantial changes will rely on environmental regulation of the industry.

What you can do?

Try to reduce your consumption, especially of products with extensive packaging, and recycle items wherever possible. When buying presents for your family and friends back home, consider what kind of souvenirs you are buying and opt for locally produced and more ethical options. For example, Blue Sheep in Chengdu is a social enterprise which sells locally made craft items and the profits are used to help economically disadvantaged people, particularly those affected by disease, disability or poverty.

Charity shops are non-existent in China and second-hand clothes shops are extremely rare due to a cultural stigma attached to second-hand items in China. However, expats are constantly moving in and out of all major Chinese cities and so expat groups on WeChat and Facebook are a good place to find and pass on used clothes, furniture, utensils and food. You can also talk with interns who are moving out before you or staying longer than you to see if you can transfer items between yourselves.

The WeChat account Fei Ma Yi 飞蚂蚁 (WeChat ID: feimayi90) also accepts all clothes, shoes and bags regardless of the condition they are in. You just need to enter your details, choose an approximate weight of items that you are donating and arrange a time for them to collect it from your apartment. They will sort the items and send the better quality ones to charity and the rest to be recycled.

Takeaway 外卖

Takeaway in China is very cheap and there is a vast range of options on websites such as Eleme 饿了么 and Meituan 美团外卖 . The Chinese takeaway market has expanded massively in recent years and a survey from the National Business Daily shows that 23% of respondents order takeaway daily.[5] However, the growth in takeout is amounting to huge environmental damage: it is estimated that China’s takeaway industry in 2017 produced 1.6 millions tons of packaging waste which included 1.2 million tons of plastic containers, 175,000 tons of disposable chopsticks, 164,000 tons of plastic bags and 44,000 tons of plastic spoons.[6] Delivery containers and utensils are generally not recycled because people don’t wash them out adequately and the materials used in them take over 30 years to disintegrate if they are discarded in landfill sites.

What you can do?

While everyone has those days where they return from work and don’t want to leave the house again, try and avoid getting regular takeaways. The reality in China is that you’re never more than two minutes walk from a restaurant, so why not just go out to eat and save the waste of containers, plastic bags and single-use chopsticks? If you do decide to order takeaway, you can choose the option not to receive disposable tableware (不要餐具 bù yào cān jù) or write it in special requests.

Recycling 回收

There are huge environmental problems resulting from the management of China’s plastic waste: it is often sent to poorly managed landfills or discarded in the open which can lead to it entering the sea. As a result, a quarter of all plastic waste that is discarded in the open is done in China, causing it be the home of the world’s first, third and fourth most polluted rivers.[7]

A new recycling system was launched in Shanghai in July 2019 which has now spread to major cities and is gradually being introduced throughout China. Bins in public areas have divisions between regular waste and recycling, with more categories for domestic waste. As recycling is fairly new, many locals are still unfamiliar with how to recycle but education campaigns have been launched and the government is introducing fines for individuals and businesses who don’t recycle.

Newly introduced recycling bins

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/277391/number-of-online-buyers-in-china/ (accessed 24/12/2019)

[2] https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/10/tech/singles-day-sales-alibaba/index.html (accessed 24/12/2019)

[3] https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3037168/waste-chinas-e-commerce-deliveries-could-quadruple-413-million 23/12 (accessed 23/12/2019)

[4] https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1000777/why-china-is-bursting-at-the-seams-with-discarded-clothes (accessed 30/12/2019)

[5] http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1165893.shtml (accessed 23/12/2019)

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/28/technology/china-food-delivery-trash.html (accessed 23/12/2019)

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/28/technology/china-food-delivery-trash.html (accessed 23/12/2019)What you can do?

Recycling systems vary throughout China so this advice is based on my experience of living in Chengdu. Bins for your apartment are normally located on the ground floor of your apartment block and are generally divided into regular waste, recyclable waste, food waste and hazardous waste. The best method is to create a system within your apartment for recycling so it is easier to take it down to the relevant bin. You should tie up bags of waste, especially food waste, so that if the rubbish does get mixed during collection, food will not contaminate the recycling and can be separated at a later stage. Try and also avoid using extensive single use plastic: where you can, avoid taking plastic bags and using single-use tableware; and invest in tote bags, tupperware, metal straws, metal chopsticks and reusable cups. You may experience confusion when you say that you don’t need a plastic bag/ straw etc or if you offer your own but be insistent and use the phrases below to help you.

Useful vocab

Recycle – Huíshōu 回收

Recyclable waste – Kě huí shōu wù 可回收物

Food waste – Cān chú lèsè 餐厨垃圾

Harmful waste – Yǒu hài lè sè 有害垃圾

Plastic – Sù liào塑料

I don’t want a plastic bag – Wǒ bùyào dàizi我不要袋子

I don’t want a straw – Wǒ bùyào xīguǎn 我不要吸管

I don’t want chopsticks – Wǒ bùyào kuàizi 我不要筷子

Pollution 污染

China is notorious for its pollution, such as photos of Beijing’s famous sites hardly visible through the smog. However, the Chinese government has taken moves to reduce pollution which are leading to results – particle pollution fell by an average of 30% in the 62 Chinese cities investigated by the World Health Organization between 2013 and 2016 with Beijing no longer being included in the world’s 200 most polluted cities.[1] The Chinese government has introduced ambitious targets to reduce pollution levels; reduced the use of steel and coal-fired electricity for production replacing them with cleaner alternatives; banned agricultural burning; and introduced regulation for higher quality diesel for vehicles. This action has largely been a result of public pressure and concern about the health effects of pollution, and has led to the government putting more of an emphasis on trying to balance its rapid economic development with environmental concerns.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/14/pollutionwatch-china-shows-how-political-will-can-take-on-air-pollution (accessed 26/12/2019)Xi’an on a polluted day

 

Many cities have also reduced the number of cars in the city centre by placing restrictions on which days cars can enter the city based on what number their number plates ends in; however wealthy families have combatted this by buying multiples cars with different number plates. China is also leading the way in electric transportation and Shenzhen introduced an all-electric public transport system in 2018 to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

That’s not to say that pollution is no longer a problem in China; it still reaches above World Health Organization recommended levels in many Chinese cities, especially during winter, and has also worsened in some rural areas and towns.

What you can do?

Pollution levels in Qingdao, Zhuhai and Chengdu generally remain below the Air Quality Indicator (AQI) level of 150, which is classified as unhealthy, but stay aware of pollution levels by using AQI tracking apps, such as Air Matters, or WeChat mini programs, such as 空气质量指数查询. If the AQI does reach an unhealthy level, listen to local advice and take particular caution if you have health problems, such as asthma. Face masks are also widely available at convenience shops and department stores throughout China.

Where you can, avoid getting a taxi or Didi as one person – you can ride share using the 拼车 function on the Didi app. Cycling is a great way to get around in Chinese cities because share bikes can be found everywhere and dropped off anywhere. Cycling is not only the best option for the environment but is also often quicker than taking a Didi due to traffic jams, especially at rush hour. Share bikes are also extremely cheap and Hellobikes can be used through an Alipay account for around 12 RMB (£1.30) for a month with unlimited use.

Taking trains is the most environmentally friendly way to travel in China and it is a great way to see parts of China you would not usually visit! You can choose high speed trains (高铁 gāotiě) or regular trains which are mainly sleeper trains and can often take 1-2 days. Due to the huge distances in China, taking a plane is often the most convenient way to travel if you have limited time but the lack of budget airlines means that internal flights can be expensive.

Food 食物

As income levels have increased in China so has consumption of meat and seafood. If Chinese consumers’ demand for meat grows as predicted, then China will produce an additional gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the current amount produced by the aviation industry globally.[1] China also has insufficient land for food production to keep up with the growing population and consumption and so fertilizer has been used to increase crop yields but this has caused extensive environmental damage, such as soil degradation, air pollution and water contamination.

Food waste is a serious issue in China, especially in restaurants, because in Chinese culture it is the norm to order excess food to show generosity and respect to your guests. Estimates suggest that 17-18 million tonnes of food were wasted in China in 2015, an amount which could feed 30 to 50 million people for a year.[2] However, less of the animal is wasted compared to Western countries as nearly all parts are eaten, from gizzards to brains to chicken feet.

What you can do?

The easiest way to combat the problem of food waste in China is simply to order less and bring a Tupperware with you to takeaway leftovers when you’re eating at a restaurant.

Vegetarianism has not become a mainstream diet as it has in the West and less than 2% of China’s population is vegetarian (predominantly Buddhists).[3] This means that vegetarianism and veganism are not always fully understood in China and you may sometimes find that a plate of vegetables comes with a meat garnish or that it is cooked using fish oil. However, most restaurants have vegetarian options and large Chinese cities have an increasing number of specialist vegetarian/ vegan restaurants as well as Western restaurants catering to differing dietary requirements. Buddhist temples often have a vegetarian restaurant or buffet attached. While being vegan is by no means impossible, it is slightly more tricky if you are wanting to take part in shared meals with Chinese friends or colleagues. The InternChina WeChat accounts list vegetarian restaurants in each of the cities we offer programmes.

Useful vocab

I am vegetarian Wǒ shì sùshí zhě – 我是素食者

I don’t eat any meat and fish – Wǒ bù chī suǒyǒu de ròu hé yú 我不吃所有的肉和鱼

I don’t eat any dairy products – Wǒ bù chī niúnǎi zhìpǐn我不吃牛奶制品

I want to takeaway leftovers – Wǒ yào dǎbāo 我要打包

Large amounts of food waste is common after Chinese celebratory meals

 

[1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/will-chinas-growing-appetite-for-meat-undermind-its-efforts-to-fight-climate-change-180969789/ (accessed 30/12/2019)

[2] https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201803/27/WS5ab9a0c4a3105cdcf65147d8.html (accessed 30/12/2019)

[3] https://www.economist.com/china/2019/10/17/the-planet-needs-china-to-curb-its-appetite-for-meat (accessed 30/12/2019)

While China certainly has not been struck by the Greta Thunberg and youth climate strike movement, and it doesn’t look to anytime soon, there are some gradual steps being taken to protect and conserve the environment. The rolling out of a recycling system last year was a massive step in the right direction but the impact will depend on how seriously it is implemented across China and on the accompanying education campaign. One of the main issues in China currently is a lack of education on how severe the global climate crisis is, rather than an unwillingness to conserve and recycle resources. So, during your stay in China, make sure you stay alert to how you can be environmentally friendly and talk to your colleagues/ friends/ homestay families about the environment and encourage them to change their habits!

Charity, Cultural, Understanding Chinese culture, Zhuhai Blogs

CPAZ – Charity Promotion Association of Zhuhai

Charity Promotion Association of Zhuhai

We are delighted to be partnered with an organisation that is passionate about what they do. The Charity Promotion Association of Zhuhai, also known as CPAZ,  work with vulnerable sectors of the community by promoting social activism and public welfare. This is seen across many different projects they operate, including the annual Come Together fundraiser.

InternChina visits CPaz

CPAZ is an official civil society organisation, and they are currently working on providing sponsorship for students in the local area. This sponsorship helps to provide students who have lost their parents and are struggling to stay in education, with tuition fees, books, and uniforms- all the necessary equipment required for basic education.

CPaz logo

The organisation was established in 2005 and legalised as a registered charity in 2010. The charity has both a local and global vision for the future, and now has over 2000 registered volunteers, 250 members, and over 20 member units. With each project, they envision better development of public and social welfare throughout China, which includes assisting the establishment of social equality in Zhuhai.

What InternChina Do

Every year, InternChina help raise money for CPAZ by hosting a bar at the annual Come Together festival. We are partners in the CTC community, and the ultimate goal is to bring people together from all cultures and walks of life to celebrate music! We raise money for great charities with 100% transparency, and we are very proud to be involved with such a brilliant cause!

 

InternChina at CTC

 

Internship Experience, Learn about China, Qingdao Blogs, Understanding Business in China, Understanding Chinese culture

A search for Innovation in Qingdao!

Hello! I’m Tamara 叶清影, the new business development intern in the Qingdao Office. I am very excited for this opportunity to experience innovation in Qingdao and to establish Guanxi.

Guanxithe system of social networks and influential relationships which facilitate business and other dealings. 

I am a Product Design graduate from Loughborough University who is fascinated by Chinese Culture and their ambition to grow and innovate. As the term ‘innovation’ was constantly drilled into me at university, it seemed logical to go to China, a country that has been in the spotlight in the global innovation system for many years.

Although I have been intrigued by China and its unique culture, the only knowledge I had was taken from a few history lessons and books. Therefore, I prepared myself with an open mind, low expectations and ni hao!

Without a doubt Qingdao is beautiful! There is so much to explore, the beaches, the mountains, the culture and food and beer! If you are a sport lover, then this is the place to be! The air quality here is much cleaner compared to the rest of China, which make it’s a great place to exercise.  There are also many spectacle routes to run along the sea promenade, around the university tracks and up Fushan.

Qingdao has the most laid-back vibe; the Chinese seem quite content with life and are very welcoming to foreigners. On occasion, I have been invited to birthday celebrations where the whole family have taken turns to take pictures with me!

Innovation

With regards to its innovation, Qingdao is still evolving. Although, the start-up culture isn’t as pronounced as in Zhuhai and Chengdu, there are huge developments occurring in Qingdao’s International Economic Cooperation Zone.  Work has begun on a Sino-German Ecopark and a China-Britain Innovation Industry Park. The latter consequent of a collaboration between the city of Liverpool and Qingdao. Not only will this further strengthen Sino-UK relations but will open-up vast opportunities for British firms. When in Qingdao I would also recommend checking out the Creative100 park, the Robotic Centre and Graphene Innovation Centre.

Sino-UK Innovation Talks
Sino-UK Innovation Talks

The thing that struck me the most with China, considering its size, is its efficiency, especially with its transport. In just 15 years China had drawn up and built a high-speed railway network covering 14,000 miles. (Bear in mind it has taken 8 years for the UK Government just to agree on HS2). With respect to innovative technology, I believe that en masse, China is winning. For example, the app WeChat not only allows you to chat, but you can also transfer money, contact and follow people.

The Internship

Working at InternChina, has both been busy and rewarding right from the start! There is never a dull moment in the office! From graphic design, to networking, to organising activities and trips for the interns.

Hopefully, during my time here, I will try to master the basics of Mandarin and build friendships in this wonderful, rapidly evolving, innovative country!

If you want to experience China and establish your Guanxi, then apply now!

Chinese Traditions, Cultural, Discover Chinese culture, Food, Learn about China, Qingdao Blogs, Understanding Chinese culture

HAISHEN – A PORTRAIT OF QINGDAO’S MOST TREASURED SEA CREATURE

Hello hello!
So one thing that has caught my attention in the two weeks I have been living in the beautiful city of Qingdao are the large numbers of shops selling 海参 haishen – or sea cucumbers. Their English name is somewhat misleading, since sea cucumbers are certainly not cucumbers, let alone plants! In fact, they are animals that live in the Deep Seas and spend most of their day making their way slowly across the sea floor. So why are they so sought after here, and why would anyone pay up to 400RMB (around 60 Euros) for one single haishen?

Filled with curiosity, I recently ventured into one of the many shops specialised in selling haishen and was fortunate enough to meet Ms Qin, a sea cucumber expert who works at a store called “Di Yi Ming” (帝一铭). She was so kind as to enlighten me on several fascinating facts regarding haishen and also gave me the permission to take photos of the store and its products.

“Di Yi Ming” – which cleverly sounds like the expression for “number one” in Chinese, but is written with different characters – is located on Ningxia Lu in the southern part of Qingdao. Beautifully furnished with carved wooden shelves and a large Chinese style tea table in the middle of the room, it altogether feels more like a jewellery boutique than a shop selling sea cucumbers. But that is because here in Qingdao, sea cucumbers are regarded as treasures, with prices starting from 1800RMB (around 250 Euros) per jin (1 Chinese jin equals 500g) for the least expensive, and up to 11’800RMB (around 1600 Euros) for 1 jin of the most costly haishen.

Put differently, for the crème-de-la-crème, the price for one single haishen can go up to 400RMB (around 60 Euros). However, it is possible to get ones starting from a mere 10RMB per haishen. The price depends on which type of species the haishen in question is, and whether it was caught in the ocean or came from a farm.

The high wooden shelves are all filled with large glass jars – which in turn are all filled to the brim with dried haishen, waiting to be sold. Their appearance is somewhat underwhelming, at first sight it may be rather hard to understand why these small, dry, dark little knobbly sausages are in such high demand around here. However, after learning about the wide range of benefits that eating haishen can bring, I realized that they are not to be scoffed at. In fact, the medical benefits of haishen are mentioned in the Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China (中华人民共和国药典), an official compendium of drugs that covers Traditional Chinese and western medicines, as well as in the Chinese Journal of Marine Drugs (中国海洋药物).

 

Here is just a small selection of the health benefits that eating haishen can provide:

  1. Enhances immunity, prevent colds, helps staying in good shape and not become tired easily
  2. Helps heal wounds quickly
  3. Helps with all kinds of stomach problems
  4. Helps lower high blood pressure
  5. Is good for the skin, as it helps keep it smooth and prevents wrinkles
  6. Enables better sleep
  7. Relieves back problems
  8. Keeps brain cells active and enhances faculty of memory

 

Ms Qin told me that she recommends her customers to eat one haishen per day and that on average, customers buy 1-2 jin (500g-1kg) of haishen per purchase. I asked her whether the store sells live sea cucumbers, but she told me that all haishen sold here are dried, because this way, their nutrition value is fully preserved, and they can be kept for a much longer time than if they were not dried. In fact, according to Ms Qin, in this dried state, the haishen can be kept for 3-5 years! A dry sea cucumber is approximately the size of your thumb, but before it is caught, it is actually rather large, about the size of your hand. When buying dried sea cucumbers, one needs to first let them soak in water for about 3-5 days before preparing them for eating.

 

Finally, I asked Ms Qin for her favourite haishen-recipes.

  • Sea cucumber porridge (海参粥)
    Sea cucumber porridge is a very nutritious breakfast. First, boil the rice until it is cooked, then add chopped sea cucumber into the porridge. According to your personal taste add a small amount of salt and sugar, also add a little ginger, then boil for 5 minutes. This way, the nutrition of the sea cucumber is retained, and the porridge is easy to digest.
  • Honey sea cucumber (蜂蜜海参)
    Sea cucumber dipped in honey is a very popular recipe because it is very easy, and best of all, the sea cucumbers nutritional value is very well preserved. Simply steam the sea cucumber and dip it into honey.

 

So, in case you want to experience the taste and health benefits of haishen for yourself, you now know how!

 

PS. Check out “Di Yi Ming” online: www.chinadiyiming.com (totally worth it!)

 

Cultural, Discover Chinese culture, Learn about China, Understanding Chinese culture

MY TOP 10 ALL-TIME FAVOURITE CHINESE CHARACTERS!

Hi everyone,

I’m Madelaine and I just started my internship in Business Development and Marketing at the InternChina Office in Qingdao! I did my Bachelors and my Masters in Chinese Studies because… China is just my favourite place on earth!

One reason I love it here so much (but there are thousands of other reasons, but I don’t want to write a novel!) is the INCREDIBLE LANGUAGE that is spoken by the people here. What is commonly known as “Chinese” outside of China, usually refers to Mandarin Chinese. “Chinese” is a bit misleading because it gives the impression that it is one sole language, but really there are many ‘Chineses’.

Ok ok, but I am getting carried away, aren’t I! I’m here to talk about my all-time favourite characters, so here we go!

Number 1: 串 chuàn

How cool is this one!!?! This is a character that you can see all over the place, denotes something really yummy and…. is possible to understand even if you’ve not learned any Chinese at all! Can you guess? A hint:

The pronunciation is chuàn but people usually call them chuàrrrr with that nice Beijing rrroll 🙂

Number 2: 竄 cuàn

This character is really cute. It is kind of two-in-one, since it is made up of two separate characters. The one on top is this one: 穴 (xué) and means hole. The second character underneath it means mouse (鼠, shǔ). So, if the mouse is disappearing into the hole at top speed, what is the mouse doing? Well, it is fleeing, isn’t it! And that’s just what 竄 means!

If I were a mouse I would flee too!

Number 3: 森林 sēnlín

Hehe, this one is awesome too. 木 (pronounced mù) means tree. So if there are many many many mus, what do you get? A forest of course! 🙂

Number 4: 家 jiā

This character means family or home and is pronounced jiā. It is made up of the radical for roof (宀, pronounced mián) and豕 (shǐ), which means pig. Hmm, a pig under a roof, how does that constitute family/home?! Ah, for that we must dig a bit in history! Traditionally in China, families would keep their domesticated animals in their home, so having a pig under the roof indicated that this was a place where people also lived, hence the meaning home/family.

Number 5: 嬲 niǎo

男(nán) means guy and 女 (nǚ) means girl. Now, imagine two 男男in a club or a bar, and in their midst a pretty girl. What are they doing? Flirting, I suppose! And exactly that is the meaning of嬲 (pronounced niǎo).

Number 6: 焚  fén

If you have already learned some Chinese, maybe you will know that林 (lín) means forest and 火 (huǒ) means fire. So, if we put the two together, where will that get us? Well, surely somewhere that’s on fiiiiiire! Ruuun!

Number 7: 众 zhòng

人 is a character you’ve probably seen before, am I right? This character is pronounced rén and means person. Now, what do you get if there are many réns人人人all milling around together? A crowd, I dare say! And exactly that is the meaning of众 zhòng!

Number 8: 口 kǒu

This seemingly simple character is trickier than meets the eye! It has many meanings, but most commonly it is used to describe a mouth or an opening of some kind. Maybe you have seen this sign before?

出口 is read chūkǒu and means exit. The kǒu looks like a little door, doesn’t it? Another fun character made up of three mouths 口+口+口= 品, pronounced pǐn. It means to savour something. Makes sense, right? 🙂

Number 9: biáng

Just look at this one!!! Biangbiang noodles are a famous dish from Shaanxi province and are known as one of the “Ten Strange Wonders of Shaanxi” (陕西十大怪 Shǎnxī shí dà guài). This AMAZING character is made up of no less than 58 strokes and is therefore the most complex Chinese character that exists. However, I have heard rumours that this character was invented by a clever restaurant owner who wanted to attract customers, so he simply dreamed up this crazy character. A friend of mine once compared it to naming a dish LKSIGNSIRKGSNGSLO (just random letters that don’t mean anything at all) (only it doesn’t look half as cool as in English). Well, anyways the trick seems to have worked its magic, because today, Biangbiang noodles are known and loved all over China!

I will never forget the first time I ordered Biangbiang noodles. A huge bowl was placed down in front of me, filled to the brim with thick noodles covered in a spicy red sauce. When I lifted up one of the noodles with my chopsticks, I realized that in fact, there was just ONE noodle in that bowl! But it was so long and thick that it filled the whole thing! My Mum was very surprised to hear that I had had ONE noodle for dinner and felt really full after it!

 

Number 10: 傘 sǎn

This adorable character is pronounced sǎn. As you can see, there are four people squeezed together under a cover…. What might this be? A tip: Usually this character can be found after the character for rain (雨, yǔ), forming the word 雨傘 yǔsǎn. I will leave it to your imagination what it might mean!

Well folks, now you know all about my top 10 all-time favourite Chinese characters! Hope you enjoyed reading about them! Some of you may have noticed that some of these ten characters I just talked about are traditional ones (used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao), while the some of them are simplified characters (used in the PRC (People’s Republic of China), Singapore and Malaysia). I will write a blog soon on the differences between simplified and traditional characters, be sure to check it out!

Bye for now!

China Business Blogs, Cultural, Internship Experience, Learn about China, Qingdao Blogs, Travel, Understanding Chinese culture

Das erste Mal China: Erste Eindrücke

Hi!
Mein Name ist Büsra, 22, Studentin und gebürtige Augsburgerin.

Vor paar Monaten habe ich die Entscheidung getroffen mich raus aus meiner Komfortzone und direkt ins Abenteuer zu stürzen. Und welches Land wäre da interessanter als China? Das Land über das mehr Gerüchte kursieren als Fakten.

Trotz zahlreicher Zweifel von Familienmitgliedern, Verwandten und Freunden („China? Wieso China?“, „Du sprichst doch gar kein Chinesisch?“, „Was willst du da essen?!“, „Sind Chinesen nicht rassistisch/ islamfeindlich/ türkenfeindlich/ kommunistisch…?“ etc.), bin ich vor drei Tagen aufgebrochen, um mein Praktikum in InternChina in Qingdao zu starten. Mein Praktikum wird sechs Monate dauern und ist der letzte Schritt um mein Bachelorstudium in International Business abzuschließen.

Mein Flug dauerte mehr als 14 Stunden und ging über München (MUC), Frankfurt (FRA) bis (endlich!) Qingdao (TAO).

InternChina – Destination: Qingdao

Meinen ersten Oh-oh-Moment hatte ich, als der nette Immigrationspolizist am Flughafen mir auf Chinesisch eine Frage stellte. Als Antwort guckte ich nur leicht benebelt und flüsterte entschuldigend auf Englisch, dass ich kein Chinesisch spreche. Gott sei Dank lachte der Polizist nur und winkte mich durch. Der zweite Oh-oh-Moment ließ nur paar Minuten auf sich warten, als ich am Gepäckband stand, mich umsah und mir dämmerte, dass ich nichts, WIRKLICH NICHTS, hier lesen kann. Natürlich war mir klar, dass in China Schriftzeichen verwendet werden, aber es dann tatsächlich am eigenen Leib zu spüren… Dass man etwas, was man seit dem man das erste Mal Lesen lernte als selbstverständlich annahm, von Schildern bis zu Menüs, nicht mehr kann, war doch etwas schockierend. (Später habe ich erfahren, dass in den meisten Restaurants die Menüs bebildert sind. Also kein Grund zur Panik. Ich muss nicht verhungern. :‘) )

InternChina – Lanzhou Lamian Menu

Clare, die InternChina Branchmanagerin in Qingdao, holte mich vom Flughafen ab, brachte mich in meine WG und begleitete mich anschließend ins Simkartengeschäft, um mich mit einer funktionierenden Handyverbindung und Internet (HALLELUJAH!!) zu versorgen.

Die Menschen in Qingdao sind sehr freundlich und hilfsbereit und sie starren dich an und zwar nicht besonders unauffällig. Aber wenn ich bedenke, dass ich in den letzten drei Tagen, abgesehen von meiner Mitbewohnerin und meinen Kollegen nur drei andere „Ausländer“ gesehen habe, ist das verständlich. Auch ist ihr Blick nicht feindselig, sondern meist nur interessiert. Gleich an meinem zweiten Tag hier, rannte ein etwa zehnjähriger chinesischer Junge uns nach, holte auf, stellte sich vor uns hin und fragte „Where are you from?“. Nach meiner leicht verwirrten Antwort „eeeeh… Germany.“, überlegte er kurz sagte „XieXie!“ (=Danke) und rannte wieder davon. Ich vermute, dass ich hier öfter als Englischübungspartner verwendet werde. 😉

Die Stadt ist überhaupt nicht überbevölkert, was ich als leichte Klaustrophobin befürchtet hatte. Allerdings habe ich auch gehört, dass Qingdao im Sommer viel voller ist und es ist momentan Januar. Es fahren jedoch sehr viele Autos auf der Straße und sie fahren etwas wilder, als aus Deutschland gewohnt. Müsste ich die Fahrweise in zwei Wörtern beschreiben, wäre es „no chill“. Dabei dachte ich, ich hätte schon alles an verrückten Fahrstilen in Istanbul gesehen. Außerdem kann man sich den Parkstil in China wie ein Tetrisspiel vorstellen. Man quetscht sich an jede mögliche freie Stelle und berücksichtigt dabei nicht, ob man eventuell jemandem vom wieder herausfahren abhält.

Die Luftqualität und das Wetter waren, wider meine Erwartungen und zu meinem Glück in den letzten Tagen ganz gut. Wir nutzten das gute Wetter aus um entlang des Meers zu spazieren und paar Fotos zu schießen. Das Meer in Qingdao ist einfach wunderschön. Es ist schon länger mein Traum gewesen in einer Stadt am Meer zu wohnen und endlich ist es soweit.

InternChina – Yellow Sea
InternChina – Qingdao Seaside
InternChina – Cakes and Happiness

And last but not least: Das Essen. Traumhaft. Jeder der etwas länger Zeit mit mir verbracht hat, weiß wie wichtig mir gutes Essen ist und hier gibt es mehr als genug davon! Vergisst die Nudelbox mit oder ohne Hühnerfleisch und die Frühlingsrollen! Chinesisches Essen ist so viel mehr! Vor allem ist es so günstig. Eine mehr als sättigende Portion kostet um die 14 RMB (=1,91€) und das sind weniger als zwei Euro. Adieu, Diätpläne… Ich habe vor wirklich jede Chance zu nutzen, alle (nicht allzu verrückten) Arten von chinesischen Gerichten zu probieren.

Generell sollte man so wenig Erwartungen an China haben, wie nur möglich und eigentlich alles, was man je über das Land gehört hat nicht so ernst nehmen. Jeder macht unterschiedliche Erfahrungen, aber ich denke es ist es auf jeden Fall wert das Land mal selber zu sehen und eigene Eindrücke zu sammeln.

Falls du auch Lust hast mal aus deiner Komfortzone rauszukommen und in ein Abenteuer zu stürzen, informiere dich hier!

 

Cultural, Internship Experience, Travel, Understanding Chinese culture

Returning Home: Culture Shock Again?

Let’s paint the picture. You arrived in China, it was all a bit overwhelming at first, but once you’d had chance to settle in, you had the time of your life! Two, three months on, it’s time to pack your bags and head back home, but you’re not ready, and you suddenly hit a low back in your home country.
InternChina - Reverse culture shock

Sometimes, heading back to your home country after several months overseas can be just as difficult, or possibly more difficult than initially moving away from home.  After the initial excitement of seeing your friends and family, eating all your home comforts, and going in your favourite shops, it can wear off and you can find yourself pining after China, feeling quite lonely and bored and not feeling like you are ‘home’ as such. You may not expect to experience reverse culture shock, you might not have even heard of it, so when it hits it could be very unexpected. Like all things you will find a way through it, but it’s good to know what to expect and how possibly to deal with it.

china-map
InternChina – Returning Home

“When In China…”

You will no doubt come back from China wanting to tell every man and their dog about your amazing experiences on the other side of the world; you will probably find yourself saying “In China, it’s like this” or “When I was in China…..…..happened”. People might listen to begin with, but you may never be able to fully get your point across, or even start to feel like no one wants to listen. I’ve always found it difficult to get across to friends and family what China really is like; that it’s not like how the media portrays it, and that it is one of the most beautiful and welcoming places I’ve been.

Record your memories: There will be people out there eager to hear about your adventures. Perhaps start up a blog, write articles about what you saw, ate, heard, did. Try make mini projects for yourself related to your trip. Choose your favourite pictures to put up in your room, put together a scrapbook of your trip try or just try jot down your memories in one way or another, rather than keeping them in your head to slowly fade away.

travellogkandco
InternChina – Travel Blog

Keeping it local: Another possibility is to try find some Chinese friends back home; they’d love to hear about your time exploring their country. Go to your local Chinese restaurant, try find some of the new dishes you tried whilst you were away, practice your newly acquired Chinese with the staff; they will probably be super impressed! Keep in touch with your new-found friends on the other side of the world, and try keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the city, news wise or if there are any new developments.

bigstock-chinese-takeaway-food-793143
InternChina – Chinese Takeaway

Pass on your knowledge: Perhaps join a city-related forum so that you can give advice and help to other foreigners who might be heading to that part of the world. I always love sharing advice about places I’ve been with other people; giving them tips on places go, recommending restaurants that are a good hit, or even telling them about what are local hidden secrets that you probably wouldn’t know about if it wasn’t for word-of-mouth.

help-key
InternChina – Advice Forums

Just like culture shock; reverse culture shock also falls in a U-Shape. You start high at the excitement of returning home, hit a low when you experience the ‘home sickness’ of your past home, and then you push through to the other side and create many positives out of reverse culture shock. I’ve spent so much time in Asia in the past five or six years, Asia has definitely become my home from home – I experienced reverse culture shock hard for the first time this year, but by finding ways to treasure my memories and use my knowledge to help out others, the experience has moved from a ‘low point’ to very much a ‘high point’.

 

  • 1
  • 2
  • 6