If you are interested in China, your friends may have asked you all kinds of strange questions but without fail the conversation always turns to “Do they eat dogs and cats?”.
The answer is: Eating dogs and cats is becoming unpopular.
Having the second largest economy and some of the most developed cities; in China people are starting to prefer to keep cats and dogs as pets. There may be some restaurants selling dog meat, but if you ask local Chinese people where to get dog meat, they may be surprised or offended.
The Chinese government and also several animal rights activists as well as animal rescue teams are trying to ban the dog meat festival held in China.
I’ve often heard about foreigners who were, so to say, pressured by their Chinese host family, coworkers or friends to eat a lot and to try lots of different dishes.
BUT what you need to know about Chinese culture is…
No matter how much they may be eager to accept food, drink or gifts, proper Chinese etiquette prevents them from doing anything that makes them appear greedy or overly eager to receive them, so if you should politely refuse a couple of times before taking it. The same goes for compliments.
The next step is to never drink alcohol without offering a toast! This not only shows your gratitude toward the host and your regard for the other guests, but it also prevents you from drinking too much too quickly. If someone toasts you with a Ganbei be sure to watch out, Chinese know how to put a foreigner under the table in no time.
Also don’t worry about accessing your favourite websites here in China, as you can always rely on a VPN to surf the net.
When you arrive at the airport in China, don’t be surprised because you won’t necessarily be the tallest person in the room. Chinese people are getting quite tall these days, due to diet and advances in nutrition.
And last but not least: Do you REALLY think every Chinese person do these sorts of Kung Fu moves?
Trust me, this kind of thing does not happen (often).
But I’m sure you will enjoy your stay in China as much as I am!!!
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Pi Ying Xi is one of the oldest kinds of drama in China, and is said to have its roots in the Han Dynasty. The leather puppets are painted with various colors and their designs follow the traditional moral evaluation and aesthetics coming from historical theaters, legends, stories of classical books or myths. Some are kind or wicked, beautiful or ugly. The positive figure has long narrow eyes, and a small mouth while the negative one has small eyes, a big forehead and droopy mouth. All the leather puppets are sculptures highly precise, simply shaped with decorative patterns. In Gansu province, the play is accompanied by Daoqing music, while in Jilin, Huanglong music forms some of the basis of modern opera.
About its origin; it is said that the Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty was deeply in love with one of his concubines Lady Li, but the good times didn’t last long and she fell sick afterwards. As the Emperor visited her, she covered her face and refused his request of taking a last look at her. She wanted to stay beautiful in his mind so that he’ll remember her forever, because she was afraid that all he favoured was her appearance after all.
After she died of illness, the Emperor missed her so much that he lost his desire to reign.
To help him get over the sadness, an occultist ordered by the minister, sculptured a wooden figure in the likeness of Lady Li and projected its shadow on a curtain, bringing him consolation with the belief that it was her spirit. Her joints were animated using 11 separate pieces of leather, and adorned with painted clothes. Using an oil lamp they made her shadow move, bringing her back to life. This story recorded in ancient books is believed to be the origin of the shadow play.
Shadow play is popular in various cultures and currently there are more than 20 countries known to have shadow puppet shows . Shadow play is an old tradition especially in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and India. It is a popular form of entertainment for both children and adults!
Every culture has its own unique superstitions (迷信 – mí xìn), and China is no different. Chinese people appear so westernised and modernised at first glance, but they will still seek help from a soothsayer, choose auspicious numbers, or hire a feng shui expert. Well, let’s take a look at some of these, and how they will bring you either good luck or bad luck.When it comes to good luck, the magic number in China is eight. So run into the number eight as much as you can. Business will boom and the cash will roll in! Eight sounds similar to the word for prosperity/wealth (八/發). Do you remember the Beijing Olympics and its grand opening ceremony? It’s no coincidence that the games commenced at 8:08 PM on August 8th, 2008. Starting the games at this time was meant to bring good luck. When people choose telephone numbers, mobile numbers, house numbers, car identification numbers and important dates, 8 is usually the first choice.
As far as good luck goes, it doesn’t get much better than the colour red in China. It represents happiness and is the colour of the national flag. During weddings or festivals, you’ll see the colour red everywhere you go.
In comparison the number four is extremely unlucky. It sounds similar to the Chinese word for death (四 – sì/ 死 – sǐ). Therefore, many people choose to avoid the number four. It will bring misfortune to you. It’s not uncommon to see 4th floor buttons in elevators skipped.
When giving gifts in China, never give someone a clock. This is due to the fact that “giving a clock” sounds similar to “ to bid farewell to someone on their deathbed”. So giving someone a clock basically means you’re sending them off to the great beyond.
If you should find yourself eating in a Chinese restaurant, and you get too full, don’t you dare stick your chopsticks into your rice straight down. It resembles the incense that family members burn to mourn a dead relative.
When it comes to ancient Chinese beliefs and superstitions, we can’t forget about feng shui. Chinese take it very seriously, and one’s home or office needs to be arranged in the correct manner to gain happiness and success in life.
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While living in China you will unknowingly pick up some of their habits and customs. The first thing I want to mention is you should be aware of how you can count using your fingers. I think it’s very convenient to use the Chinese way of counting. For example when showing the number 6: It feels much easier to make a telephone shape with one’s hand, than to use both hands for just one number. Once, I wanted to buy two bottles of water and because I was used to counting ”western style”, I ended up with 8 bottles!
One other funny thing is that Chinese people like to hang their bed sheets outside in the sun, on a dirty handrail right above a busy road! At first I thought they were drying them out, but since then I’ve learned that they believe you can smell the sun on the bed sheets; that it smells fabulous even if its hung by a dirty street. And they’re right!
And don’t forget the Bus Station Running Race! When it’s time to get home after work I usually take the bus. But it’s not like you can relax on your way home. First you have to run after your bus because you don’t really know where it will stop. While you are running in one direction with your many rivals, other people will bump into you, only to find out your bust just stopped behind you. After a few chases I learned approximately where my bus is going to stop and I wait there patiently while Chinese people run back and forth.
And when you finally made it and the bus stops, that’s when the elbowing starts. Chinese people don’t usually stand in line, so you have to “fight” your way into the bus, not letting anyone rush before you. At the beginning I felt like I was being pushed left and right and I had to try and balance myself to get into the bus. But after a short while you will get used to it. The Chinese habit of ignoring strangers around you can be really convenient some times.
The strangest thing is, I really like that you can sleep everywhere you want! It might be on the train, bus, street, car, fence, anywhere is fine! Nobody cares and it’s quite normal to see. You’ll get used to it in no time and you’ll learn to doze off while standing inside the train or bus.
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Qingdao has a history of more than 120 years, and the museum is as a great place to learn more about the history of the city. As last week’s InternChina event, we decided to visit Qingdao Municipal Museum.
The museum has exhibitions about several different aspects of Qingdao, and the themes of these exhibition includes Qingdao local history, ancient coins, ceramics in Ming and Qing dynasties and Qingdao local folk customs.
We started with the history of Qingdao exhibition. Although Qingdao city has only existed for about 120 years, there were some people who lived in this area around 6000 years ago. Unearthed vessels and tools were exhibited to display how ancient people lived their lives. There are some collections of models that shows the historical stories vividly, for example, the wars that occurred in Qingdao and the scenery in Qingdao hundreds of years ago.
Afterwards, we continued our visit with the coins and ceramics exhibitions. The oldest ‘coin’ on the exhibition looked like a knife with a hole at one end, people used the hole to collect and carry the coins on strings. Also, there were lots of ceramics there. They were made in different dynasties, and therefore styles and techniques used were totally different.
After that, we experienced a traditional folk custom called woodcut painting. This kind of painting is mainly made for Chinese New Year celebration. Traditionally, the paintings are about characters in Chinese myths. They are believed to be able to protect or attract fortunes for the family. To make this kind of painting, the wood should be cut into moulds according to the picture you want to paint. The mould is then coloured and used to print the picture onto paper. In the museum, they had some moulds already and we just did the painting part by ourselves. We followed the steps taught by the ‘teacher’ in the museum; eventually, we made our own pictures successfully.
We experienced lots of ancient Chinese stuff during this visit and it was a great opportunity to get ‘closer’ to Qingdao.
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Last Friday, for our weekly event, interns in Qingdao watched Peking Opera at the Qingdao Grand Theatre. Actually, for me, although a Chinese from Qingdao, it was my first time to watch live Peking Opera, and it was special.
Peking Opera, also known as Beijing Opera, is called 京剧(jing ju) in Chinese. It is a traditional Chinese theatre and has a history of more than 200 years. It is an art form that combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. The works of Peking Opera are mainly based on Chinese history and folklore.
The performance we watched that night was called ‘遇皇后打龙袍’, literally meaning meeting the queen and hitting the dragon robe. The story is from a Chinese classic literature. Bao Zheng is one of the most well-known ancient Chinese government offical in the history, and he met an old lady on his way back to Beijing. The old lady claimed herself as the mother of the emperor and had been set up by others. After verifying the old lady was the queen, Bao helped her to get back to Beijing and she blamed the emperor for all the misery she suffered. She ordered Bao to punish the emperor and Bao hit the dragon robe instead of hiting the emperor to save himself from being punished.
When the opera started, we were amazed by the unique sound made by the musical instruments, as they are quite different from what we heard from an orchestra. The songs have much more variations with stronger beats. They were in perfect cooperation with the singing of the players. Also the costumes the players wore were gorgeous as they have several colours and pattern on each one of them. The players also ‘told’ the story by their movement, for example, a walk around the stage would mean they took a long trip to somewhere. Even though it was kind of hard for us to get used to the music and to follow the story, we are glad that we decided to join the event!
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When you live in Qingdao, you may find the people, especially some senior citizens, speak a ‘different language’ from Mandarin, and that is the dialect of Qingdao. For example, when you go out for dinner with your friend who is a Qingdaoren, he or she would make a toast with the word ‘哈 (ha)’. Well, it means ‘drink’ in Qingdao, different from the word ‘喝 (he)’ in Mandarin.
Dialect in Qingdao is relatively complicated, as it is a mixture of several dialects around Qingdao. Meanwhile, there are even some differences between districts that are close to each other. However, people here can still communicate without difficulties.
Here are some words that are only used in Qingdao and you can use them in your daily life.
In Mandarin, boys and girls are called 小男孩 (xiao nan hai) and 小女孩 (xiao nü hai) respectively. While boys are called ‘小扫儿 (xiao sao er)’ and girls are called ‘小嫚儿 (xiao man er)’ in Qingdao dialect. The word ‘小嫚儿’ was introduced from German word ‘dame’, which means lady, as Qingdao has a close relationship with Germany. Another word from German is 古力 (gu li), “Gulli” in German, which is the word for drain cover.
When something is broken, in Mandarin it is 损坏(sun huai), but in Qingdao you can say it is 踢蹬 (ti deng) What is more, if you want to have it repaired, you can say I want it 修理 (xiu li) in Mandarin, or 扎箍 (zha gu) in Qingdao dialect instead. So next time, if you have something broken in your apartment and want to get someone repair it, you can try using these two words.
Another phrase of dialect that may interest you would be 哈啤酒, 吃嘎啦 (ha pi jiu, chi ga la). In Mandarin it is 喝啤酒, 吃蛤蜊 (he pi jiu, chi ge li), and it means drinking beer and eating clam. Qingdao is famous for Tsingtao beer and the seafood clam. You can see lots of people drink beer and eat seafood in the restaurant, especially in the summer. When going to restaurant in Qingdao, you would hear the phrase all around. Now you can give it a try to order it in perfect Qingdao dialect during your time in China.
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