版权所有 - 中国日报�(ChinaDaily) China Daily <![CDATA[Building dreams amid nature]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/22/content_37533082.htm An island getaway, a home in the country, your own private paradise, is a dream too far for most people. But architect Mu Wei has laid the foundations, literally, for such a dream for his family and himself on an island on the outskirts of Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province.

"Everything was dreamy here when I first saw it, with weeds, a tree and a vast spread of water," says Mu, 38, who was born and bred in North China's Hebei province.

The island covers an area of 20 hectares and was rented by a friend of Mu's more than a decade ago, mainly for sustainable agriculture development.

"It was great to find a place like this near the city to allow my children and myself to escape from urban life for a change," he says.

Mu began to build houses on the island with some of his friends in 2017. The whole project took a year, and now four houses, each with particular features, stand testament to his vision.

Mu's own house covers an area of 60 square meters and resembles a big "X".

"It was built of logs and bolts, at low cost, and blends into the natural landscape," he says.

The house was built to have a life span of at least 40 years. Mu explains that usually the land lease can be renewed after the old one expires.

Because of the shape of Mu's house, the many corners present a different vista of the water-and-mountain scenes. The glass frontage gives the house a reflective mirror-like quality so you see the surroundings even with your back turned to them as you approach the building.

"I tried to make it as something that's one with nature," Mu says.

The idea is to let the house blend into its surroundings. One surprising feature is that the house doesn't have designated bedrooms which means the multipurpose rooms can be adapted at a moment's notice.

"My children can roll around on the floor, barefoot," Mu says.

The weekend hideaway, with plentiful fishing on offer, rabbits frolicking and pheasants dropping in, is just 90 minutes from downtown.

Mu says he wanted his 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son to sample the wonders of nature up close and personal.

Mu first considered a country life in 2005, the last year of his architecture studies at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan. He joined a program hosted by celebrated Taiwan architect Hsieh Ying-chun, along with more than 40 architecture students, to build cheap housing for the disadvantaged.

Mu worked with other volunteers to carry steel joists, reinforcement bars and bags of cement for the project in rural Hebei.

The experience provided a valuable lesson in how to turn abstract ideas into brick-and-mortar buildings. He realized the beauty of working the soil for the foundation and turning architectural drawings into something, well, concrete.

"It suddenly dawned on me what architecture is and what architecture I want to do," Mu says.

After graduation, Mu went to work at architectural firms in Spain and Norway to enhance his talent and to gain valuable experience in cultures different from his own. The European experience gave him a taste of nature.

He enjoyed living in a wood cabin, nestled by the sea, in Norway. "Seagulls flapped around before my window, waking me up every morning."

He also got insights into human interaction with nature from an unlikely source.

"All Norwegian kindergartens, even in the depths of winter, have their lunch break outdoors," Mu says. "They value the formative powers of the natural environment, and do not fear the cold or heat."

He was particularly impressed by how children under 5 years of age would sleep next to one another in the fields in freezing weather. He also admired how the children were taken on long hikes in the forest and learned how to set up tents, light fires and make furniture out of branches. It also reminded him of the beauty of his own childhood, when he enjoyed hunting with his father and diving into the sea.

He returned to China in 2010 and was determined that nature would play a role in his career.

In 2013, Mu launched his first project at Wuhan's Tangxun Lake, where more than 30 families have since established homes.

Mu drew sketches, made models and discussed possible plans with them, and then called up parents to actually help construct the homes.

Children got to learn about architecture while giving free rein to their imagination in the process, and parents realized the benefits of hard labor, Mu says.

"We found more parents, especially fathers who wanted to get involved and bond with their children."

Mu launched similar programs over the years. He showed people how to build houses with ropes in forests near Wuhan and held art camps for children during a Sino-French architectural festival.

Mu's activities have attracted increasing attention and admiration and he then got the opportunity to build a theme park, Wiki Tribe, with Sunac China and other institutions. The purpose of the project in Zhejiang province's Huzhou is to allow children and parents from the city and countryside to design and build public buildings.

Mu believes his appreciation of the benefits of nature is making inroads.

"Nature is a very important destination for us, so it should be an integral part of architecture," Mu adds.

He says he hopes his practice can help return architecture from machines to everyone's own bare hands again.


Youngsters team up to construct houses in the Wiki Tribe theme park in Huzhou, Zhejiang province. CHINA DAILY



Families work on new houses by the Tangxun Lake in Wuhan, Hubei province, in 2013. CHINA DAILY



Architect Mu Wei built close-to-nature houses on an island on the outskirts of Wuhan along with some of his friends in 2017. CHINA DAILY



More than 30 families establish their homes by Wuhan's Tangxun Lake during Mu's first project in 2013. CHINA DAILY








2020-01-22 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Program offers natural response to office stress]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/22/content_37533129.htm Three numbers entered the online lexicon of workers last year. They denote stress, tension and overwork and are often, but not solely, in the so-called creative industries. You don't have to be a psychologist to know that a lack of sleep impairs creativity. The online phrase "996" refers to the common 12-hour work schedule in the technology industry from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week.

The expression has aroused controversy and widespread discussion among Chinese youth in cyberspace. It can be summed up by the question: Do I have to pick between living a life or working too hard?

Mounting living pressure on residents in the metropolises, especially people born in the 1980s and 1990s, has unleashed an avalanche of complaints. But help is at hand. Say Hello to Life, a reality show, which first aired on China Central Television in December, may help inspire people to reevaluate their work lives.

The 37-year-old host, from the Uygur ethnic group, Negmat Rehman, also known by his English name Ethan, has made a mark as producer and director.

"This is an era in China that calls for people to work hard," Negmat says. "However, how many of us have seriously thought: What am I working hard for?

"Life deserves our love."

In the 12-episode series, a new one every week, the host leads a group of celebrities touring around China and experiencing a period of leisure time as they stay in home inns and get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

They take on different tasks, far removed from their offices. They try their hand as market vendors, hikers, mountaineers and horse riders.

They sometimes embrace nature and just gaze at the starry sky.

They may be masters in their respective fields, but when faced with a garden, these urban residents realize they cannot tell the different varieties of plants.

"In the adult world, many things become invisible, and few people care about questions like 'What is the most beautiful flower in the world?'" says Sa Beining, a TV host who is a guest in the program.

According to Sa, you may get defined by numbers when people keep asking you questions such as about your monthly salary.

"If the world is just materialized, people's mentality will lack appreciation. Pursuit of happiness is beyond making money," Sa adds.

Many viewers left comments, describing Sa as "the Little Prince", the romantic figure from the French novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

And sometimes the guests just sit around dining tables to enjoy good but plain food and chat about their life, as if with a close friend.

Their concerns and ambitions, childhood dreams, romance, difficulties faced when they first came to big cities resemble those of the viewers.

They talk of the hard work and persistence needed to pursue their careers, and discuss how to take care of their aging parents.

All this strikes an emotional resonance among young people.

Negmat says in the show that everyone can leave cities like Beijing or Shanghai for smaller cities as lifestyle choices evolve, but escaping in itself is not enough, he adds.

"I would leave when I choose another way of life."

Talking about romance, Sun Yizhou, a leading actor from popular sitcom Apartment of Love, says healthy relationships require give-and-take and understanding.

As seen in the program, the guests reveal that hometown thoughts can strike unexpectedly, such as when they eat a piece of food that brings back memories. This then leads to what propelled them to start pursuing their ideals in the first place.

Consequently, the show can seem like an arthouse film full of dialogue, which changes from one scenario to the next and occasionally gets philosophical, like US director Richard Linklater's highly praised production Before Sunrise.

"The show aims to talk with young Chinese people," Negmat says. "We sit down together to solve the puzzles brought by life. No one can be fed a so-called right answer because there is no blueprint in life.

"When people share their stories from different perspectives, we can explore more possibilities.

"No one is entitled to tell you: That is how a good life is like, and you just follow it.

"For someone who has taken their life seriously, the best life is not full of grand pictures, but the one highlighting inner peace …and only when you take life seriously, can you become the unique one."


In the show, Say Hello to Life, the host Negmat Rehman (second from left) and his friends sample a relaxing life together. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-22 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Young actors take center stage]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/22/content_37533109.htm In the best possible sense, the 9-year-old was caught in a trap-a Von Trapp to be precise. For Ai Liya, now a stage veteran, it all started when the hills came alive with The Sound of Music.

She went to see the premiere of the famous Broadway musical's Chinese remake at Beijing's Poly Theatre in 2016. On stage, the strict Maria Rainer was teaching the music scale to a couple of children of the Von Trapp family. The rest, as they say, is history and known the world over-When you read you begin with "A-B-C", when you sing you begin with "Do-Re-Mi"…

At that moment, the idea of joining the cast grabbed Liya and didn't let go.

She turned to her father and said: "I want to play a part in the show one day."

The story of how Rainer becomes a governess in the home of a widowed naval captain with seven children had captured her heart.

After attending intensive sessions of singing, dancing and acting-and enduring several failed auditions in the following three years-she finally got to star as one of the Von Trapps. She has performed in the show around 20 times.

Liya's father, Ai Changjiu, found out that immersion in the musical world has not only allowed his daughter to sparkle onstage, but also boosted her personality and given her a confident and optimistic outlook on life.

To give more youngsters a creative immersive experience, a winter camp centered around musicals is to be held for nine days in Beijing. It is organized by Seven Ages Investment, a company specializing in the production of Chinese remakes of top musicals.

Some 120 children have applied to take part in the camp, according to Fan Weijian, the education department director of the company.

Musicals are a team effort that require particular individual skills and a large dose of determination. Liya's father recalls that one day, after she failed an audition, instead of seeking comfort from others and wallowing in self-pity, she told her family with steely resolve that she wouldn't give up. She was convinced that no matter how old she was, she could always find a suitable role to play in the musical as it involves characters from varied age groups.

"I suppose some of the credit for her persistence and positive attitude to life should go to the values of honesty, kindness and decency upheld by the musicals she learns from and enjoys, including Les Choristes and Man of La Mancha," says her father.

Ai himself is also a frequent theatergoer. To him, what's special about musicals is that they are a fusion of multiple art forms that allow each individual performer to leverage their own strengths onstage through the expressive power of words, music and gestures, which in turn helps build up their confidence.

He mentions that Liya's younger sister, also an aspiring actress, who has been learning gymnastics, once wowed an audience by doing somersaults in a musical.

"Although she's not the best singer or dancer in the cast, she still got a chance to display what she's adept at on the stage," says Ai.

Ai realizes that every single character which the children portray requires them to develop the ability to understand human behavior, which is excellent for their future development.

Liya adds that she relishes throwing herself into the character she plays.

"When tackling different roles, I am also encouraged to explore more about life's possibilities and find out more about myself," she says.

As if, well, on cue, enter stage right, Liu Lesi is another young actress setting the stage for success.

The Grade 8 student at the Canadian International School of Beijing gave an outstanding performance two months ago, and the rapturous applause after the staging of a musical-comedy at the school on Nov 23 was well-merited.

The 13-year-old starred in the usually male lead role of Buddy, a human who is adopted and raised by Santa's elves. The story-adapted from the hit film Elf-is about how Buddy goes on an adventure to meet his biological father while also spreading Christmas cheer in a world of cynics.

Lesi says she feels extremely proud but was quick to point out the esprit de corps of stage life and the moments of humor.

"I know that if I mess up, there's always somebody to back me up. Somebody needs to help you work through mistakes so that none of the audience would even notice," Lesi says. "I also like the little funny moments that we've shared together, such as the insider jokes we come up with during practice and rehearsal."

Besides, she thinks that as a member of the group, especially in the main role, she has a lot of responsibilities to support her colleagues and ensure, as best she can, a high-quality performance.

CISB has a drama club called Stage Cats which regularly organizes dramatic activities for students to take part in and produces several stage shows every semester.

Li Jiayi, a Grade 7 student who joined the club last year, says that the time she and her schoolmates spent together was actually lots of fun and again stresses the team element.

"The key for a good show is to have energy!" says the 11-year-old, who adds that she and her friends memorize lines together, and they prepare set pieces, design costumes, and do transitions to set the stage for each new act. All this has helped them build good friendships and a great team spirit.

Although more and more international schools and public schools in China have begun to use theater and stage performances to help students develop a wide range of abilities and skills, musical-related education is still in its early stages.

Seven Ages Investment has been exploring approaches to cultivate musical performers via courses and immersion camps since 2017. It has by now offered musical classes to about 3,000 children, according to Fan.

Fan says the company has also helped kindergartens, primary, middle and high schools in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and other major cities in China to set up musical clubs and musical-related curricula.

He points out that China's musical education providers should figure out a well-rounded curriculum featuring solid course content. They also have to overcome barriers like lack of musical teachers and platforms to display children's talents while staging musical works.

"We hope that more Chinese parents and their children will get to know musicals and develop an emotional attachment to the art form," Fan says.


Liu Lesi (front left) and her schoolmates from the Canadian International School of Beijing perform a junior version of the musical Elf in Beijing on Nov 23. CHINA DAILY



Ai Liya, a 12-year-old musical enthusiast, sings during a rehearsal with other young performers in Beijing. CHINA DAILY



A group of kids stage a musical at Shanghai Culture Square in September 2019. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-22 00:00:00
<![CDATA[A contest where intelligence is the real winner]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/22/content_37533110.htm For almost half of her life Wang Yuchen lived in a land where the solemn ritual is to proudly stand for the Stars and Stripes, but now the ensign that flutters high above her head is the Five-Starred Red Flag.

On Jan 12, as if to confirm her allegiance to that flag, Wang became an unofficial ambassador for her country, as one of the five champions at the Miss World China Finals in Foshan, Guangdong province.

"I'm not here for the title but for a chance to make a contribution to building my country's soft power," Wang, 23, says in an interview with China Daily after her win, which means she may be chosen, from the five champions, to represent China in the Miss World contest in Thailand in October.

Wang, who is now back studying in China, was among 81 young women from 21 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, many of them college students, who qualified for the Foshan finals.

Wang left China at age 12 and studied in a private school in Boston before graduating with a degree in international political economy from George Washington University in 2019, and came back to study at Tsinghua University. Her academic specialty is the link between sea surface temperatures and salinity and El Nino and La Nina.

Her time overseas gave her a profound insight into how others see China, a grounding that may serve her well in her duties as an unofficial ambassador.

"In my 11 years overseas I encountered some ridiculous, irritating misinterpretations of China, but I didn't know how to change them other than by doing well in my studies," Wang says. "I became aware of how critical it is to have a say in global dialogue. The older I get the more connected I feel to my country. I'm still passionate about changing cultural stereotypes."

Not long after she came back to China she was selected to take part in the National Day parade with 3,513 other students and teachers of Tsinghua University.

"For the first time in my life I stood on the earth of my motherland with so many of my compatriots and was overwhelmed by a strong sense of belonging that brought me to tears."

In contrast, she had never felt any connections with the Miss China contest before, she says, until she learned it is the only official national contest that sends representatives to the Miss World contest.

"This world stage calls for a Chinese face who truly understands different cultures to represent the image of a modern China. I have a competitive edge here, and I should live up to it. I grew up between Chinese and Western cultures, and I regard this as my mission."

Another mission for her is the combat against climate change and the fight to protect the environment. In 2018 she, with a team of 30 others, sailed 4,400 kilometers from Tahiti to Hawaii, crossing the equator, the focus being nautical science and oceanography. The trip brought home to her the urgency of tackling global warming.

In November, as a postgraduate representative of the Global Alliance of Universities on Climate, she gave a speech on how youth can contribute to sustainable development.

"I regard Miss China as a representative of the spirit and sense of responsibility of Chinese youth," Wang says. "The contest is about much more than being tall and beautiful. With or without makeup I am the same person. ... I hope I can make a difference by combining the mission of Miss China with mine."

Another contestant in Foshan intent on breaking stereotypes was Zhao Yulin, 28, of Hubei province, a PhD student in astrophysics at Peking University, who conducts research on supermassive black holes and their host galaxies of quasars.

"The contest slogan 'Beauty with a purpose' touched me," she says. "Many people think women with a PhD are charmless nerds, and I want to prove them wrong."

Challenging social conventions "is a habit". She has a second-degree black belt in karate and once hitchhiked 1,500 kilometers from Rome to Berlin. She also teaches in charity education programs for children of migrant workers supported by the Institute of Physics. During the early rounds of the event in Beijing, she found that this was "not just another beauty pageant". Zhao says: "A lot of importance was attached to my talents and my charity experience, and as I grew in confidence I behaved better in training and became more and more content with my inner self."

Su Wenbin, chairman of the event's organizing committee and executive director and general manager of the New Silk Road (Beijing) Model Management Co Ltd, says: "A lot of bewildering beauty pageants may have left people with the impression that appearance is all that matters in these contests. But for us, cultural confidence is important.

"We gauge contestants on talent, intelligence, team spirit and other things, through various tasks, such as movie shooting, striding down catwalks and group dancing, and endeavor to improve their artistic aesthetic taste. We are looking for representatives of China's youth."

The runner-up in this year's contest, Chi Lihan, 23, who studies accounting for a master's degree at Northeast Agricultural University in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, says: "The contest is going to be a turning point in my life. I found what I'm good at and passionate about, and saw other possibilities for my career."

Chi did a one-year part-time course in model training when she was 16, and was once keen on becoming a professional model, something her parents opposed. After obtaining a bachelor's degree in social work, she worked as a volunteer teacher in Altay, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, and set up a course aimed at helping middle school students improve their bearing and gain a greater appreciation of aesthetic taste.

"In the future I want to do more charity work creatively with my passion for the fashion industry," she says.

Another of the finalists, Chen Xin, 19, who studies at Beijing Sport University, says: "I could never have gained so much confidence and friendship other than in this contest."

There were many surprises in this year's contestants, Su says. "It is not the contest that defines them, but they who decide exactly what Miss China means."

He Ying, a member of the Academic Advisory Committee of Tsinghua University's Institute for Cultural Economy, says: "As China's economic strength grows, soft power needs to keep abreast of it. Strengthening Chinese cultural confidence calls for these students to step forward. They epitomize China's modern young women and the power of China's youth."


Wang Yuchen (center) wins the East Champion award and the Most Popular Contestant title at the Miss World China Finals held in Foshan, Guangdong province, on Jan 12. CHINA DAILY



A group of finalists of the Miss World China Finals at the National Arts Studios in Foshan, Guangdong province. CHINA DAILY



Zhao Yulin (front), a PhD student in astrophysics at Peking University, in rehearsal before the final contest. CHINA DAILY



Wang Yuchen hosts a seminar on China's energy policies at Tsinghua University on Nov 17. CHINA DAILY



Chi Lihan, runner-up at the Miss World China Finals and a student from Northeast Agricultural University, performs a dance in the contest. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-22 00:00:00
<![CDATA[TikTok trend tantalizes teens in Uruguay]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/22/content_37533121.htm MONTEVIDEO-According to the profile of the average Uruguayan internet user, which Radar consultancy prepares each year, young people's attention span for social media content is 1.7 seconds. It's hard to attract and keep their attention, but a Chinese application has managed to win over young people in Uruguay.

TikTok, a short-form video platform for smartphones, is no longer a well-kept secret among teenagers in Uruguay, as greater numbers of adolescents take to the user-friendly tool.

"I think that in 2020 it will take off in Uruguay," says Diego Barcia, manager in Uruguay and Chile of strategic social media communication agency Nicestream. "Some important brands in the world of football and entertainment are asking us for it."

Launched in 2016 in China as Douyin, TikTok allows users to create and share short videos with background music and edit them with time effects and filters-features that made it stand out worldwide.

"It's a super cool app that lets you share ephemeral content. That's what is attracting youth the most," Barcia says.

Among those interested in incorporating TikTok into their social media strategies is the Uruguayan Football Association, Barcia says. "We have a team at Nicestream working on it," he says. "We are looking at what type of strategy can have the most traction, because we are all new to the app.

"The struggle to retain users watching your content is great. It's quite the challenge for social networks and it's evident (that) TikTok is doing that well, because it is making progress in a fish tank full of sharks."

In October, Uruguay's national soccer team partnered with TikTok. Without promotion and with little content, the team succeeded in gaining 11,000 followers in just a few months, which is an "auspicious beginning", says Martin Sarthou, communications manager of the team. "We are not exploiting it yet and there is a very good base."

The team has so far produced little "native language" content on the platform, Sarthou says, but that should change this year with the incorporation of a platform specialist, who is also a "fan" that understands the team.

Noel Nuez, general director of TikTok for Spain and South America, described the incorporation of the national team as "a great opportunity to connect Uruguayan football with a global audience on the platform", which reaches around 150 markets in 75 languages.

Claudio Facelli, 26, is Uruguay's top user on the platform, with about half a million followers, and promotes a group called Urutokers that gathers popular local users of the app. Facelli is also known online as Claudinio.

The group has become more active, Facelli says, and "lots of things have started happening and brands are approaching us", proving the power of the popular social platform.


2020-01-22 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Near feeling of distant space]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/21/content_37533002.htm An immersive exhibition inspired by the Three-Body trilogy, China's best-selling science-fiction novels, and seen as "rendering for audiences the true feeling of being surrounded in the re-created scenarios in the books" by Hugo Award-winning author Liu Cixin, made its global debut in Shanghai on Jan 10.

Shi Fei, board chairman of Shanghai Zun'an Tongheng Cultural and Creative Development, the exhibition's organizer, says the show is dedicated to re-creating some scenes from the books with the help of technology following a year's preparation with 27 curators and artists from different countries.

"We strove to present the fabulous experience that the magic and magnificence of the trilogy renders for its readers in a spiritual world, with multidimensional senses-combining visual, audio and video interactions," Shi adds.

The exhibition replicated six iconic scenes in the trilogy, the first book of which, The Three-Body Problem, won the Hugo Award in 2015. The trilogy presents an extraordinary story, describing a vast universe where civilizations rise and fall and also present infinite possibilities.

"It was very exciting to experience the exhibition, and it was like browsing through the trilogy spanning 18.9 million years within minutes," says Shi.

Unlike exhibitions related to paintings or sculptures, the Shanghai show is an attempt to turn pure imagination into something physical and arouse people's emotional resonance through a creative atmosphere, says Xu Chuan, one of the curators.

Liu, the books' author, is impressed by the scenarios presented at the show, including water drips, planets, severe winter and distant space, saying they are close to what he had in his mind while writing the novels.

"I am also impressed by the curators' creative, interactive and diverse ways of presenting the words from the books. I feel the words have come alive, empowered by technology and art," he adds.

There are various ways words from the books are presented in the exhibition. For example, when visitors stand in front of a large screen that looks like the books' pages, they can turn the "pages" by swinging their arms. And in front of another screen, a signature sentence from a book flows to the ground, character by character, in its original Chinese, like a running stream.

The trilogy has been published in at least 25 languages and has sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Celebrity fans include former US president Barack Obama and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Yang Yuanfei, a woman born in the 1990s, who visited the exhibition, says the trilogy "provided a utopia beyond real life on Earth".

"Someone said that any book could be turned into a movie, except the Three-Body trilogy, the first masterpiece in Chinese science fictions to attain international acclaim. It also seemed hard to reveal the vast outlook in the books through an exhibition, so I really looked forward to it," she adds.

The exhibition covers an area of nearly 2,000 square meters, spanning three floors of Shanghai Tower, the world's second-tallest and China's tallest building, situated in the Lujiazui Finance Area of the metropolis.

"The 132-story Shanghai Tower also shows magic of engineering. Its size is equivalent to the waterfront buildings along the Bund (in Shanghai), and it's a vertical city that has the capacity to accommodate 35,000 people," says Gu Jianping, general manager of Shanghai Tower Construction and Development.

The exhibition will run through February 2021. Other Chinese cities, such as Beijing, Shenzhen, Taiyuan, Xi'an, Wuhan, Shenyang and Ningbo, as well as Tokyo and Osaka in Japan, have approached the organizers to invite the exhibition to tour their cities, Shi says.

"The popularity of the novels shows people's common interest in exploring the infinities of space and time through our lives. I encourage people to look at our lives, the past and the future from a higher perspective," Liu says. "As a science-fiction novelist, I keep reminding myself to not get trapped by pressures of trivial, daily life and to maintain curiosity about things from afar."


A pyramid-like display in the exhibition depicts the "three-body game", which is based on common laws of the survival and development of civilizations throughout history, from Liu Cixin's book, Three-body Problem. CHINA DAILY



Visitors stand in an interactive zone in the exhibition that depicts "at the end of time" from Liu Cixin's book, Three-body Problem. CHINA DAILY



Writer Liu Cixin visits the Shanghai show. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-21 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Artist draws heartfelt lessons from the world]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/21/content_37533058.htm In a world facing increasing conflict and instability, a Chinese Canadian is sending messages of love and peace through his artwork.

William Ho, 60, who arrived in Canada from Hong Kong 42 years ago, teaches Chinese brush painting at his art gallery in Unionville, Markham, a suburb of Toronto.

He is known as a goodwill ambassador of love and hope, and founder of One Heart Beat, a global initiative to help needy people and vulnerable children through art, culture and relief work.

The United Nations invited Ho to exhibit his art and his masterpiece, also called One Heart Beat, at its headquarters in New York in 2006, and he then became a global partner of the UN.

"This one heartbeat that all humanity shares has been demonstrated by a single stroke in Chinese ink, symbolizing the simple truth that we, as one global family, are all interconnected by the common heartbeat," he illustrates.

His one-stroke painting One Heart Beat is currently on display at the UN headquarters, the Canadian National Museum of Civilization, Beijing University and cities across the world.

Ho has been doing Chinese art and Chinese brush painting for more than 50 years and teaching for more than 30. He has over 3,000 students from around the world.

"I actually started with Western art when I was younger, working on pencil drawing, oil painting and water color. However, after I encountered Chinese brush painting a couple of years later, my eyes and mind were enlightened," Ho recalls.

Chinese brush painting has utilized almost all the colors going back at least 2,000 years. In many instances, Ho says that it is Western painting and artists learning through or being influenced by Chinese painting. Monet and his Water Lilies series is one good example, Ho says.

Chinese and Western artists should respect, appreciate and learn from each other, Ho says. "Self respect and mutual respect are the keys for real cultural exchange and global harmony."

Ho's artworks embody his philosophy that every life is non-replaceable and precious; people of different races, religious affiliations and beliefs should all be respected, as global harmony is rooted in global and local mutual respect.

That is a reason he emphasizes that "lives can be the most beautiful masterpieces of art, and art can be living".

Ho says one of his passions and missions is to bring Chinese culture "back" to the center stage of the world, as it had been for thousands of years.

"Being of Chinese descent, on one hand, we're very proud of our 5,000 years of history and civilization. On the other hand, we have a painful history marked by weaknesses and humiliation more than a century ago," Ho says.

A principle of ancient Chinese wisdom has been: "Don't overstate ourselves; don't understate ourselves".

"Non-Chinese people, particularly Western people, often misunderstand other cultures, particularly Chinese culture," Ho says. "They prefer to self-believe and they think they understand when, in fact, they have half-knowledge or half-understanding."

One of the themes in Ho's speeches delivered at the UN headquarters, the Canadian parliament and Beijing University was "position well China, and position well the world".

Ho says that some countries demand special treatment from the world or the international court in the name of democracy and freedom.

"This mentality is sick, selfish and bad. The people of the world and Mother Nature are saying no to the greedy. In fact, the whole world cannot afford these types of demands. We as a global family wouldn't allow this to happen.

"The double standard behavior may violate basic human rights, human standards, equality, democracy and freedom. The truth is everyone in this world is born equal and should be treated equally, fairly and with mutual respect," Ho says.

Contrary to greed, Chinese culture believes that "less is more".

"We create paintings not only through the expression of the look or form of the subjects, but more importantly, through the void, emptiness and nothingness-spaces of imagination," he says.

From his perspective, there are three pillars of Chinese culture: Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, with Confucian thinking predominant. But in Chinese brush painting, Taoism has more influence.

"We respect, treasure and learn from nature as our teacher. Nature, in general, includes human lives, landscape, animals and plants, (which) have been our traditional subject matter in art and painting," he observes.

Ho believes that a true Chinese outlook consists of wisdom, principles, freedom, romance and creativity.


William Ho and his masterpiece of One Heart Beat exhibited at the United Nations. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-21 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in US city]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/21/content_37533034.htm CHICAGO-Chicago will celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year citywide from Friday to Feb 9 with cultural performances, colorful parades and special events to usher in the Year of the Rat, according to organizers.

The celebrations will start with an opening event at the Chicago Cultural Center on Friday.

Following the Chinese New Year Concert that will debut at the Chicago Symphony Center on Sunday, jointly presented by the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra and the Zhejiang Shaoju Opera Theater, the Aon Grand Ballroom in Navy Pier will be turned into a festive marketplace featuring decor, costumes, music and dance performances, and traditional Chinese food and crafts. Two parades will be held in Chinatown and the Uptown neighborhood, when marching bands, colorful floats and lion dances will convey the festive mood of Lunar New Year to local residents.

The Art Institute of Chicago will host a multigenerational event to celebrate the Year of the Rat, featuring creation, music, games, an art demonstration, a performance about the animals of the Chinese zodiac, and gallery talks in English and Mandarin.

The Chinese Fine Arts Society will host a lantern procession through Millennium Park to Maggie Daley Park, followed by more activities, such as a lion dance, art creation and ice skating.

The Chicago Blackhawks will join the Chicago Bulls to celebrate Lunar New Year during its game with the Winnipeg Jets this year. Traditional Chinese lion and dragon dances will be staged during the game. Throughout the citywide celebrations, visitors to Fashion Outlets of Chicago and The Shops at North Bridge in downtown will receive red envelopes containing exclusive Lunar New Year offers from participating stores.

"Chinese New Year is the most important traditional festival for the Chinese people, embodying our cultural traditions and aesthetic values," says Chinese consul general in Chicago Zhao Jian.

Zhao says shows by Chinese art groups that have visited and performed in Chicago for Lunar New Year celebrations in previous years not only brought the opportunity to enjoy the glamour of Chinese culture but also "enhanced the mutual understanding and friendship between our two peoples".

"Chinese New Year is always a cultural highlight for the city of Chicago," says David Whitaker, Choose Chicago's president and CEO. "The festivities and celebrations that mark the Chinese New Year holiday are a great way to showcase the artistic excellence of the participating cultural institutions and celebrate our special relationship with both Chinese visitors and our local Chinese community that calls Chicago home."

Mark Kelly, commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events of Chicago's city government, says: "Chicago's Chinatown is one of the largest in North America. Chicago is a proud home of such a vibrant Chinese community that celebrates its rich culture (and) traditions with gusto."

2020 will be the seventh year in a row for the third-largest city in the United States to celebrate Lunar New Year, which falls on Saturday this year.


A visitor views artworks at a recent exhibition as part of a 2020"Happy Chinese New Year" program in San Francisco. XINHUA



Models present hanfu, or traditional Chinese attire, to audiences in San Francisco to celebrate the upcoming Lunar New Year. XINHUA



2020-01-21 00:00:00
<![CDATA[An Italian exchange]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/21/content_37533018.htm China and Italy will join hands to launch more than 100 programs during their bilateral culture and tourism year of 2020.

The programs will cover performances and visual art, cultural heritage, tourism and creative design. It'll kick off in Rome on Tuesday and conclude in Beijing by the end of this year.

Top Chinese artists and symphony orchestras will give performances in Italy, and a China-Italy world heritage photography exhibition will be held to mark the opening of the culture and tourism year.

An important part of the yearlong program, the China-Italy tourism forum, will be held on Tuesday. More than 400 high-level government officials, international tourism organizations, educational institutions and think tanks will discuss tourism cooperation and management.

The Palace Museum and the National Museum of China will host exhibitions from Italy, while Chinese Terracotta Warriors will march to Italy.

Other highlights include a Chinese paper-art exhibition at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in the historical center of Naples, which will run until the middle of February, and a China pavilion at the Venice architecture biennale between May and November.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The yearlong event was jointly announced by President Xi Jinping and Italian President Sergio Mattarella during Xi's visit to Italy in March 2019.

The culture and tourism year aims to boost bilateral cultural exchanges, cooperation and people-to-people relations, paving the way for the further development of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Italy, says Zheng Hao, a senior official of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China.

The two countries have made important strides in cultural exchanges and cooperation over the years, including long-term exhibitions at each other's national museums and the twinning of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

"It all reflects the high-level and groundbreaking cultural cooperation between China and Italy," Zheng says, adding that it has injected impetus into the development of bilateral relations.

The two countries both abound in profound cultural heritage and tourism resources, including 55 UNESCO World Heritage sites each.

Now, several sites in both China and Italy are discussing the potential for making films and hosting exhibitions.

The twinning of World Heritage sites on both sides will be a main attraction, because it will mean more tourists and will boost cultural tourism, says Luca Ferrari, Italian ambassador to China.

There will also be a series of Italian concerts and exhibitions in China, he adds.

Ferrari believes there are many fields where China and Italy can work together.

"From the cultural point of view, I think there's an enormous amount of space in modern and contemporary art," Ferrari says.

He believes the new cooperation will be among talented young Chinese and Italian artists.

Ferrari says a lot can be done to increase bilateral tourism in both countries.

Italy has increased its capacity for issuing visas, flights and providing attractions for Chinese.

In 2019, the number of visas granted to Chinese tourists increased by 20 percent, and the country received more than 3 million Chinese travelers.

"Italy has become, as of the end of 2019, the No 1 tourist attraction in Europe to Chinese tourists," Ferrari says, adding that Chinese love Italy for its art and culture, friendly people and culinary delights.

The two countries' aviation bodies have also agreed to increase the number of weekly flights between China and Italy from 56 to 164, connecting China with more relatively smaller cities, including Venice, Bologna and Pisa, in addition to Milan and Rome.

Italy is working on attracting Chinese visitors outside the normal tourism seasons and to areas beyond the major art cities.

"We have a lot of resorts, and we have the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. There are plenty of attractions for Chinese tourism," Ferrari says.

The head of the China Tourism Academy, Dai Bin, believes the two countries have a lot to share and learn from each other.

"China and Italy are both ancient civilizations with the highest volume of the world's cultural heritage sites," Dai says.

"Italy has a lot to teach other countries in the field of cultural-heritage protection, inheritance and use."

China can draw on Italy's experience to protect its cultural heritage, such as the Palace Museum, the Great Wall and the Grand Canal, while better integrating culture and tourism, Dai says.

At the same time, China has successful experience in fast tourism development to share.

The country's digital and smart-tourism development, featuring big data, mobile internet and well-known online travel-service providers, such as Ctrip and Mafengwo, has drastically changed travelers' habits and consumption, Dai says.


Clockwise from top: Dubbed the "floating city", Venice consists of 118 small islands connected by canals and bridges. The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch in Rome built to commemorate Constantine I's victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312. Rome draws numerous tourists from home and abroad with its culture, history and UNESCO World Heritage sites. XU LIN/CHINA DAILY




2020-01-21 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Homecoming can be a journey of discovery]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/21/content_37533031.htm The lure of the hometown remains strong for those who left, seeking opportunity amid pastures new. Visiting a place that we left can bring a kaleidoscope of emotions.

After staying in the capital as a beipiao (Beijing drifter), a term used for those struggling at the periphery, for nine years, singer Qin Hao announced on his Sina Weibo account on Dec 25 that he had moved back to his hometown in Southwest China's Chongqing city.

Like many who took the same journey, the 34-year-old has mixed feelings toward his hometown. He was once impatient to leave and applied to study, at 19, at Jilin Animation Institute in North China's Jilin province, far away from his hometown. He drifted in Beijing for nearly a decade.

In 2017, Qin went back to his hometown for a month to explore the relationship between himself and where he grew up. He put down his feelings on paper and took scores of photos, which are collected in a recently published book Dear Passersby.

In 2010, Qin who had tried various jobs, like illustrator, photographer and art teacher in several cities after graduating in 2009, organized a folk music band called Good Meimei with Zhang Xiaohou who worked as an engineer at that time. They then gave up their jobs and went full time into making the band a success. Their first album Spring Time, which cost only 2,000 yuan ($291) to make, sold 5,000 copies in 2012.

The songs of Good Meimei are melodious, soft and warm, a far cry from his upbringing.

"Qin sometimes recalls his childhood in an amusing tone, but nobody knows how many tears he shed and the sense of helplessness in his early life," says online message board Zhihu user Miao'er, a fervent fan. "I want to have a time travel and embrace the lonely boy."

He grew up with his grandparents in Chongqing before attending university. His parents got divorced when he was quite young. Then they formed other families and had more children, leaving them little time to take care of Qin. His mother passed away when he was 11.

His childhood memory in Chongqing is linked to uncomfortable physical feelings. "Being carsick and allergic were my abiding memories, and I always found things outdated there, which made me feel tired of the place."

The dislike may explain his unwillingness to speak in the local dialect. "Most Chongqing people are used to speaking in their dialect instead of Mandarin, but I was the one who insisted on speaking Mandarin at school and was often laughed at by others," says Qin.

After he chose to study in Jilin, his grandparents moved to Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province, where Qin's aunt lived. Qin went there to spend summer and winter vacations with them every year.

Unfortunately, his grandfather died in a traffic accident in Xi'an when Qin was a sophomore. His grandmother sold their house and bought another one in Xi'an to help her recover from the grief.

In 2015, Qin's band played in the capital's Workers' Stadium, attracting 40,000 people. It marked a huge stride in the band's development. "Since the concert, I began to seriously make music my career," says Qin.

The band went from strength to strength after the concert.

Qin could then afford to rent a larger house in Beijing, and his grandmother came to live with him.

During the 2017 Chongqing trip, Qin found his view of his hometown had developed. "Although I didn't like and left it at a young age, now I find it prosperous and beautiful. After drifting for 13 years, I suddenly want to be close to it."

He also finds traces of hometown in himself, like the choice of food or a habit of speaking fast.

He is willing to give it another go. "I try to gain a sense of ownership through having my own house there, a space of my own that can nurture my spirit. I cannot afford a satisfying one in Beijing. And my grandmother says she wants to return."

After the tour, Qin gained a new understanding of his relationship with his hometown. "We may not belong to a place forever, but we can become a regular visitor of the place. I was rebellious when I was young and left it, but now I feel grateful for its influence on me."

Qin's move to Chongqing marked a new starting point in his life. His band is also welcoming a beginning with its new song Primordial Color.

"Stepping into 2020, our band has now been established for 10 years. This song opens a new chapter in our development, and we will try to make songs with new styles," says Qin.


Singer Qin Hao, a member of Good Meimei band. CHINA DAILY



Dear Passersby, a book written by Qin Hao to explore his relationship with his hometown, Chongqing. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-21 00:00:00
<![CDATA[The plum blossom, our greatest 'friend' of the winter]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/21/content_37533030.htm If anyone had ever told me as a child growing up in the United States that a flower could flourish in the coldest days of winter, a flower that bloomed straight from the bare branches of a tree, I would have thought they had a vivid imagination or a penchant for spinning tall tales.

Yet years ago in late February, while strolling the eastern shores of the West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, with my husband, Jun, I encountered a spray of brilliant pink petals cascading over tree branches, which looked as artfully windswept as a bonsai. That striking shade, more typical of spring and summer flowers, seemed utterly defiant against the melancholy gray of the overcast sky and the mournful silhouettes of other trees, their leafless limbs stretched upward as if praying for an end to the chill of the season.

I almost didn't believe my eyes at first. Surely flowers couldn't bloom like that, direct from the branch, without the usual green leaves? And how could they thrive in this weather, where temperatures that hovered just above freezing had led us to don our warmest down jackets and even hats?

After my astonishment, I felt a certain appreciation for this ethereal beauty before me, painting the otherwise dreary February landscape into such a gloriously hopeful hue, promising better times just around the corner.

That is the power of the plum blossom, one of the most distinctive and cherished flowers in China.

My initial encounter with the plum blossom would lead me to seek it out in subsequent winters in Hangzhou, longing for the heartening sight of its flowers in the deepest cold of the season in January and February. On one trail through Xixi wetlands just after snowfall, my husband and I encountered a grove of trees adorned with rows of creamy yellow plum blossoms. While not as splendid in color as those I first viewed beside the West Lake, these flowers perfumed the air in a beguiling fragrance full of optimism, even amid the bleak white scene all around us. I inhaled the scent with greedy breaths, knowing that these flowers would only remain a short time and the first blooms of spring still wouldn't emerge for weeks if not months.

In China, people have long known plum blossoms as one of the "three friends of winter", or sui han san you, along with the evergreen pine trees and bamboo. These "friends "retain a certain vitality easily forgotten in this most trying season of the year. Among the three, the plum blossom stands out as my favorite. There's a Chinese saying: The fragrance of the plum blossom comes from the bitterness of winter. Is there any more marvelous symbol for resilience than a flower that unfurls its aromatic petals despite the frigid temperatures and the snow? I have found great inspiration in remembering the spirit of the plum blossom-that even in the "winter" of life's challenges, we can find the strength to bloom and grow, displaying our own beauty to the world despite the hardships.

January and February bring with them the bluster of winter, which can overwhelm even the best of us at times and dampen our cheer. But nature has endowed the Earth with a trio of winter wonders that light our way through this season, and that includes the plum blossom. A tree, bereft of any signs of life on its branches, can still produce such a dazzling array of sweet-scented flowers as frost threatens the world around it, standing as a miracle and one of the greatest "friends" of winter.


Jocelyn Eikenburg



Online Scan the code to hear an audio version.



2020-01-21 00:00:00
<![CDATA[An Italian exchange]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/21/content_37533028.htm China and Italy will join hands to launch more than 100 programs during their bilateral culture and tourism year of 2020.

The programs will cover performances and visual art, cultural heritage, tourism and creative design. It'll kick off in Rome on Tuesday and conclude in Beijing by the end of this year.

Top Chinese artists and symphony orchestras will give performances in Italy, and a China-Italy world heritage photography exhibition will be held to mark the opening of the culture and tourism year.

An important part of the yearlong program, the China-Italy tourism forum, will be held on Tuesday. More than 400 high-level government officials, international tourism organizations, educational institutions and think tanks will discuss tourism cooperation and management.

The Palace Museum and the National Museum of China will host exhibitions from Italy, while Chinese Terracotta Warriors will march to Italy.

Other highlights include a Chinese paper-art exhibition at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in the historical center of Naples, which will run until the middle of February, and a China pavilion at the Venice architecture biennale between May and November.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The yearlong event was jointly announced by President Xi Jinping and Italian President Sergio Mattarella during Xi's visit to Italy in March 2019.

The culture and tourism year aims to boost bilateral cultural exchanges, cooperation and people-to-people relations, paving the way for the further development of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Italy, says Zheng Hao, a senior official of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China.

The two countries have made important strides in cultural exchanges and cooperation over the years, including long-term exhibitions at each other's national museums and the twinning of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

"It all reflects the high-level and groundbreaking cultural cooperation between China and Italy," Zheng says, adding that it has injected impetus into the development of bilateral relations.

The two countries both abound in profound cultural heritage and tourism resources, including 55 UNESCO World Heritage sites each.

Now, several sites in both China and Italy are discussing the potential for making films and hosting exhibitions.

The twinning of World Heritage sites on both sides will be a main attraction, because it will mean more tourists and will boost cultural tourism, says Luca Ferrari, Italian ambassador to China.

There will also be a series of Italian concerts and exhibitions in China, he adds.

Ferrari believes there are many fields where China and Italy can work together.

"From the cultural point of view, I think there's an enormous amount of space in modern and contemporary art," Ferrari says.

He believes the new cooperation will be among talented young Chinese and Italian artists.

Ferrari says a lot can be done to increase bilateral tourism in both countries.

Italy has increased its capacity for issuing visas, flights and providing attractions for Chinese.

In 2019, the number of visas granted to Chinese tourists increased by 20 percent, and the country received more than 3 million Chinese travelers.

"Italy has become, as of the end of 2019, the No 1 tourist attraction in Europe to Chinese tourists," Ferrari says, adding that Chinese love Italy for its art and culture, friendly people and culinary delights.

The two countries' aviation bodies have also agreed to increase the number of weekly flights between China and Italy from 56 to 164, connecting China with more relatively smaller cities, including Venice, Bologna and Pisa, in addition to Milan and Rome.

Italy is working on attracting Chinese visitors outside the normal tourism seasons and to areas beyond the major art cities.

"We have a lot of resorts, and we have the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. There are plenty of attractions for Chinese tourism," Ferrari says.

The head of the China Tourism Academy, Dai Bin, believes the two countries have a lot to share and learn from each other.

"China and Italy are both ancient civilizations with the highest volume of the world's cultural heritage sites," Dai says.

"Italy has a lot to teach other countries in the field of cultural-heritage protection, inheritance and use."

China can draw on Italy's experience to protect its cultural heritage, such as the Palace Museum, the Great Wall and the Grand Canal, while better integrating culture and tourism, Dai says.

At the same time, China has successful experience in fast tourism development to share.

The country's digital and smart-tourism development, featuring big data, mobile internet and well-known online travel-service providers, such as Ctrip and Mafengwo, has drastically changed travelers' habits and consumption, Dai says.


Clockwise from top: Dubbed the "floating city", Venice consists of 118 small islands connected by canals and bridges. The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch in Rome built to commemorate Constantine I's victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312. Rome draws numerous tourists from home and abroad with its culture, history and UNESCO World Heritage sites. XU LIN/CHINA DAILY




2020-01-21 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Chunyun bears witness to the changing tides in travel]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/21/content_37533032.htm As an ancient Chinese poem says: "On festive occasions more than ever one thinks of one's dear ones far away." And this is especially true during chunyun-the Spring Festival travel period.

This traditionally busy season sees millions of Chinese travel across the country amid congested traffic to attend family reunions during the holiday, which runs from Jan 24 to 30 this year.

However, for some young people like Zhou Xiaoli, the weeklong holiday is a rare opportunity to take a long trip on her own to relax after a year's hard work.

"While traveling on my own, I enjoy the freedom to arrange my itinerary as I like. I often stay in hostels and chat with young people from all over the world," says the 30-year-old office worker from Beijing.

Since February 2016, she has traveled to Japan on several occasions and plans to visit Xi'an, Shaanxi province, and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region later this year.

She takes her annual leave over the Spring Festival holiday so she can enjoy a two-week vacation, her only long break of the year since she works during the National Day holidays.

As a gourmet, she often visits food markets to observe the local dining habits and finds tips on where to sample the most authentic dishes.

"It's important to rub shoulders with other people, locals and tourists alike. It helps to break stereotypes about each other's countries and cultures," she says.

"The people I meet are part of my travel experience. I like to make friends and keep in touch with them on social media."

She once joined a matcha (powdered green tea) ceremony in Japan, where she made friends with a young local man who spoke Chinese. The two met up the next time she traveled to Japan and visited Uji, a city famous for matcha, and visited local matcha masters to learn about the industry.

"For me, the most essential ritual is to eat dumplings during Lunar New Year when I'm traveling. I also send greetings to my family and video chat with them," Zhou says.

People like Zhou tend to travel alone since it's not easy to find a travel companion during Spring Festival holiday. Most of her friends still spend the holiday with their families.

As a sign of filial piety, the younger generations would traditionally return home to be with their grandparents during Spring Festival. But things are changing, and if their older relatives have died, younger people are free to make other arrangements for the period.

For the past seven years, Shen Huilin has traveled on her own during Spring Festival, visiting countries like Japan and the United Kingdom.

"Since my grandparents passed away, my relatives now spend the holidays with their children separately. My parents come to stay with me in Beijing from time to time through the year," she says.

"During my childhood, I enjoyed the rituals of Spring Festival, such as getting new clothes and receiving 'lucky money.' But as a grown-up, these are now just fond memories."

As living standards continue to improve for many Chinese people, more options are available. Her parents have gradually accepted her new way of enjoying the holiday, and intend to travel to Hainan Island to avoid the colder weather.

It's also a way for Shen to ease the pressure to marry. Unwed daughters often remain the subject of talk among relatives-and these "concerns" make her uncomfortable.

During the first week of January, searches for Spring Festival holiday destinations tripled on the travel platform Mafengwo over the last week of December, while searches about solo travel doubled, especially among people younger than 30.

The most popular destinations were Bangkok, Osaka, Tokyo and Macao.

As diplomatic relations continue to grow with Russia, so has interest in travel there. With the country's geographic proximity and marvelous winter scenery, cities like Murmansk, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok and Moscow are the most popular destinations.

"The tradition of family reunions during Spring Festival … has weakened over the years," says Ma Yiliang from the China Tourism Academy.

"The needs and motivations of young people have changed-they are more focused on the holiday as an opportunity to enjoy themselves. And the older generations are becoming more open-minded toward this."

According to him, the options are endless. Some choose to enjoy beautiful winter landscapes or seasonal sports such as skiing, while others enjoy cultural activities like temple fairs. Others travel to warmer climes in Southeast Asia to enjoy beaches and nice hotels.

For individual travelers looking for more immersive experiences, Ma suggests safety should remain the priority, especially for female travelers, and people should choose destinations with good public order.


Zhou Xiaoli spends her 2019 Spring Festival holiday in Thailand. She takes the annual holiday as a rare opportunity to travel on her own to relax after a year's hard work. CHINA DAILY



Tourists enjoy winter sports and snow views in Hohhot, capital of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region. XU LIN/CHINA DAILY



2020-01-21 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Bookstores hope to turn a new page]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/20/content_37532841.htm Bookshops are facing a new challenge from the online market. This is highlighted by statistics, released earlier this month, from Centrin Ecloud, a big data platform for China's publishing industry. The data shows that, in 2019, the average discount for books sold offline was 91.39 percent, while the online equivalent was 63.79 percent. Consequently, books sold online are much cheaper than offline, and online orders are a clear and present danger to the development and existence of bookstores.

"Since the development of physical bookstores continues to be influenced by large discounts offered by online bookstores, physical bookstores have to be innovative," said Zhang Lei, an expert in publishing, while speaking at the 2020 China Bookstore Conference held in Beijing on Jan 8.

The conference, sponsored by the Books and Periodicals Distribution Association of China, Bookdao New Publishing Institute and Time Publishing and Media, was held to explore how to better develop physical bookstores and acknowledge the contribution made by distinctive bookstores.

The conference has been held for three consecutive years. The previous two focused on energizing future bookstores and bookstore brands respectively. This time it focused on the renewal of bookstores.

"The renewal of bookstores requires people in this business to make changes in the overall function, ways of management and business format integration of bookstores to better suit modern retailing and customers' needs,"Zhang says.

The 2019-2020 China Bookstore Industrial Report was released during the conference. The report listed the major events last year in the bookstore business. Opinions on the future development of bookstores and key statistics were covered in the report.

Experts talked about their experience and offered suggestions for bookstores during the conference.

Chen Xiaoming, CEO of Jihe Bookstore, highlighted the importance of building a suitable environment in bookstores to offer customers a sense of belonging and input and thus make them likely to linger in bookstores. For example, at the seven Jihe branch stores in China, arch walkways, resembling bridges, provide a sense of serenity to visitors and readers.

"The arch shape is beautiful and powerful, it can give people a sense of peace," said Chen.

Each store has a unique design reflecting and paying homage to its location. For example, the first Jihe Bookstore in Xining, Northwest China's Qinghai province, was built with the features of a snowy plateau, including the architectural style and local intangible cultural heritage, to make customers appreciate the natural splendor of the location.

Xu Zhiming, an advisor for Bookdao New Publishing Institute, suggested bookstores should also provide customers with an environment to study. "With the development of technology, many jobs will be replaced by robots and AI.As a result, people are forced to master ever more technology to ensure they do not lag behind.

"The need to learn has grown dramatically. Lifelong learning has become a must for nearly all people," said Xu.

"Traditional physical bookstores sold books for readers to improve themselves, but since online bookstores rob this function, physical bookstores can satisfy the need to study in other ways, like providing training courses, and a discussion space," Xu added.

Though there are numerous training courses online, Xu said some cannot be done just on the internet, like courses for tasting wine and children's handiwork. These, however, can be done in bookstores.

"Besides, people have a need for social intercourse, and it can be combined with their need of learning in bookstores where they are able to study together," he added.

Awards covering the most beautiful bookstores, rural bookstores of the year and community bookstores of the year were announced during the conference.

Shenzhen became the third "capital of bookstores" in 2019, following Chengdu and Xi'an. It recognizes its front-runner status in the number of bookstores, provincial reading rates and policy support.


People read in Qujiang Bookstore in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi province, which was selected as one of the most beautiful bookstores in 2018. CHINA DAILY





]]> 2020-01-20 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Taipei collective stages Peking Opera to keep tradition alive]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/20/content_37532825.htm TAIPEI-The 30-square-meter room, situated on the first floor of a residential building in Taipei, looks like an old teahouse that has its curtains drawn and doors closed.

The clients in the room are old, some of them in their 90s. And, their chosen form of entertainment is centuries older. The tunes played on string instruments and drums and the slow singing, mixed with calls of "Bravo" and ripples of applause, are carefully managed to not disturb the neighbors.

Xiangyan, which means "feast of sound" in Chinese, is the only Peking Opera fan club that opens every day in Taipei.

It has long been a tradition since the heyday of Peking Opera that fans not only watch actors play in theaters but also perform themselves, sometimes in full costume and stage makeup but just as often in plain clothes. Fan clubs, or piaofang in Chinese, are where they rehearse, perform and socialize.

"During the 1950s and '60s, we had about 200 fan clubs in Taipei. Peking Opera was a respectable form of entertainment for people with taste," says Lee Yi-ching, a loyal fan and renowned amateur actor of Peking Opera in Taipei.

The 93-year-old former serviceman specializes in a type of character in Peking Opera that few play now, nandan-or men who play female roles.

"I started to learn Peking Opera at the age of 11, and since then Peking Opera has been my lifelong calling,"Lee says.

Having left the Chinese mainland for Taiwan in 1949, Lee carried on the hobby and even performed with a local Peking Opera troupe for several years in his early 30s.

"It is because of Peking Opera that I'm still so healthy at this age," he says.

Lee is not the oldest member of Xiangyan.

"The oldest member is 104 years old. The majority of our members are over 80," says Hsu Chun-chiu, the host of the club. "When the fan club was first founded in 2004, there were around 120 members, but there are only around 60 now as more elderly members have passed away."

As far as Hsu knows, the number of Peking Opera fan clubs in Taipei that regularly meet once a week is now less than 20.

At its peak, Xiangyan welcomed 66 members on a busy afternoon, and 36 of them performed, Hsu recalls."Now we regard it as a busy day when a dozen people show up.

"Fewer and fewer young people understand Peking Opera. It is too complicated and takes a long time for them to learn, let alone become fans," says Hsu, who is in her late sixties.

Another reason is that cultural institutions in Taiwan devote fewer resources to promoting Peking Opera compared with traditional operas sung in the Minnan dialect, Lee says.

Tense cross-Straits relations have also affected this club.

"I do not go to Xiangyan as often as I did three years ago. It is not because I am too old to sing, but because the club does not always have good jinghu (two-stringed fiddle) musicians. A good band, led by the jinghu player, really improves amateur performances," Lee says."When cross-Strait ties were warmer, many jinghu masters from the Chinese mainland would come to our club. These days, fewer of them visit, which is very sad."

Having paid several visits to Peking Opera fan clubs on the Chinese mainland, Hsu says she envies her counterparts across the Straits and the government funding they receive to rent venues and pay for bands.

Despite the humble conditions and the cost, Xiangyan still has its loyal followers.

"This is where we meet our peers and carry on our love for Peking Opera," Hsu says.


2020-01-20 00:00:00
<![CDATA[ROBOTIC RECRUITER]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/18/content_37532753.htm If you've ever wondered about your interview techniques in front of others, or the psychology at play between you and the HR or middle manager, then imagine the next-gen dynamic that's already happening in Sweden: firms trialling an in-person interview robot. It makes HAL 9000 in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey all seem a bit, well, turn of the century.

Stockholm-based recruitment firm TNG, one of Sweden's largest, is using a robot called Tengai to conduct interviews with potential job candidates, which consists of a head that sits or projects from a table, facing the interviewee at eye-level.

Tengai measures 41 centimeters high and weighs 3.5 kg. It also has something of a human-like face, so it isn't entirely manufactured but something closer to androidal. Its glowing face can tilt from side to side, and it blinks and smiles, thus mimicking not just our subtle facial expressions but also the way we speak.

Tengai is the brainchild of Furhat Robotics, an artificial intelligence and social robotics company forged out of a research project that began at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

The creators of Tengai insist that rather than robbing an interview of genuine person-to-person interaction, the android offers interviews that can be free from unconscious biases often exhibited by human interaction.

According to research conducted last year, TNG estimates that 73 percent of job applicants in Sweden believe they have been discriminated against while applying for a job, based on factors including their age, gender, ethnicity, handicap, sexual preference, appearance, weight or health.

"It typically takes about seven seconds for someone to make a first impression, and about five to 15 minutes for a recruiter to make a decision," says TNG's chief innovation officer, Elin Öberg Mårtenzon. "We want to challenge that."

For now, you'll have to be a Swedish speaker to interact and interview with Tengai. Recruiters and developers are diving into an English-language version that's expected to hit companies and boardrooms by early 2020. Meet Tengai; it's AI-and your new HR.




Meet your interviewer, Tengai CHINA DAILY



The many faces of the robot CHINA DAILY



Hard at work in the Furhat studio CHINA DAILY



Changing out one of the masks CHINA DAILY



Can you pass the Tengai test? CHINA DAILY



2020-01-18 00:00:00
<![CDATA[A mountain, a lake and sheer beauty you can breathe]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/18/content_37532776.htm In ancient times the city of Changshu had a poetic name, Qinchuan, meaning guqin stream, the guqin being regarded by Chinese as the most elegant of all their musical instruments, producing delicate music from seven strings. Later guqin would come to denote elegance.

Qinchuan originates from the river running through the north and south of Changshu, with seven lateral tributaries resembling the seven strings on the ancient instrument. The canal that crosses the city for more than 1 kilometer is thus called the Qinchuan River, also known as Changshu's Mother River.

Strolling in the alley along the Qinchuan, visitors can enjoy a view of Jiangnan-style houses with white walls and gray tiles, and small bridges connected to the road every other section. Changshu used to have fewer roads. Farmers often paddled boats to hawk along the river and those living in houses by the river often dropped bamboo baskets from windows and used them to buy things.

In 758 during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Jiangnan East prefecture was abolished and was divided into Zhejiang East prefecture, Zhejiang West prefecture, and Fujian prefecture. Among them, Zhejiang West prefecture was under the jurisdiction of present-day southern Jiangsu, northern Zhejiang, Shanghai, and Huizhou in Anhui province. This area is roughly equivalent to what today is Jiangnan (south of Yangtze River). Its wealth in resources and human development accumulated after the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420) when northern China was run by non-Hans, and the Han aristocrats fled and settled in Jiangnan. From then on the region became synonymous with prosperity and poetry.

Many poets have written of the region's scenic beauty, Yushan Mountain perhaps being the jewel in the crown. Yushan, the only mountain in the Changshu urban area, was originally called Wumu.

At the end of the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th century-11th century BC), the leader of the Zhou clan, Duke Danfu, regarded his grandson Ji Chang, son to his third son Ji Li, as the apple of his eye. The duke intended to pass the throne to Ji Li so his grandson would eventually reign. Aware of their father's wish, the duke's eldest son Tai Bo and his second son, Yu Zhong, moved from their capital to what today is Changshu. When Yu Zhong died he was buried on Wumu Mountain, and in honor of the sage who brought advanced farming culture here the name of the mountain was changed to Yushan.

Among the ruins on the foothill, along stone steps surrounded by green trees and through the neat and clean stone archway, visitors will spot a tomb dedicated to Yu Zhong. Next to this is Yushan Park, which was built in 1931. After numerous renovations, the park attracts many visitors eager to enjoy its carpet of lush green grass and its elegant pavilions and bridges. The Lake Center Pavilion, Jiuqu Bridge and the Yu Zhong Tomb have been fixtures in the minds of generations of Changshu people.

In the middle of Yushan's bamboo forests hide exquisitely manicured tea gardens. Climbing to Jianmen Gate, which is more than 200 meters above sea level, visitors can see rows of buildings in the green shadows spread along the foot of the mountain, and further away are checkerboard-like green fields and rice fields cut for the Shanghu Lake waterway. Further away is Shanghu Lake and its buildings. For thousands of years people of the area have had an intimate relationship with this mountain. It is not the preserve of hikers but of anyone who can eat, drink, swim and indeed simply breathe.

The locals usually start a day with a bowl of xunyou (mushroom oil) noodles and a cup of Yushan green tea. Xun is a collective name for the fungi produced around Yushan Mountain. Every year during the mushroom collection season, people who live nearby get up early and use flashlights to look for mushrooms in the mountains. Picking fresh mushrooms, refining them with rapeseed oil, and adding some simple condiments such as salt and soybean sauce are good enough to highlight its delicate flavor.

It has become the most characteristic topping for local noodles. At 7 o'clock in the morning, people gather in pairs at tea houses, drinking tea and eating mushroom oil noodles, a simple set menu unlike the Cantonese style morning tea breakfast, which involves drinking black tea and eating a variety of small bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets or on a small plate.

You can never talk about Yushan without mentioning Shanghu Lake. It is said to have been named after Jiang Shang, a Chinese noble who helped king Wu of Zhou overthrow the Shang Dynasty. He once led the life of a recluse here. Because the lake is at Yushan's base it is also called Piedmont Lake.

If you happen to take to the lake on a boat in drizzly rain, chances are that you will be treated to the delightful sight of a lake surface that looks like a splash of ink on a grand landscape painting. Another fine sight to savor from the lake is Yushan, grass and trees along the lake's shores and a three-hole stone bridge that connects a lakeside path.

Cultural relics are everywhere to be found in Changshu. As you walk along a path in Yushan Park, a piece of Taihu Lake stone you come across just maybe the Qin Xue (snow exuding) stone that Zhao Mengfu, one of the greatest painters and calligraphers of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), collected.

Jiangnan began to prosper during the Eastern Jin Dynasty when it accepted a large number of northern immigrants with an open mind and open arms. After more than 270 years of growth the Jiangnan region became China's economic center during the Tang and Song dynasties. It was also during this period that the proverb "When Suzhou and Huzhou have a harvest, the whole country is full" became well known.

In the eyes of the pragmatic people of Changshu, its profound wealth derives not only from the scenery south of the Yangtze River, in the shape of its beautiful lakes and mountains, but also from the material foundation of economic and cultural prosperity in the city.


Checkerboard-like green fields cut for the Shanghu Lake and Yushan Mountain from afar. CHINA DAILY



Shanghu Lake in misty rain. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-18 00:00:00
<![CDATA[HONORED BY ROSEWOOD AND THE PRINTED PAGE]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/18/content_37532771.htm In early spring of 2015 woodcarving craftsmen on both sides of the Taiwan Straits joined forces to start working on the finest rosewood. More than 20 of them adopted different woodcarving methods, including transparent and hollowed-out engravings, to reproduce Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, one of the most famous traditional Chinese landscape paintings, in a very special way.

For centuries Chinese academics and historians have regarded the painting by Huang Gongwang (1269-1354) of the mountains in Zhejiang province as a master specimen of traditional landscape painting. Today it is often referred to as one of the top 10 masterpieces of Chinese art.

In the painting the essence of the terrain and landforms on both sides of the Fuchun River are distilled in fine detail. The depiction is dynamic and wild, partly reflecting some of the painting's tumultuous history, one episode of which resulted in its being set on fire by one of its owners intent on taking it with him into the afterlife.

That attempt was thwarted and the painting was saved, but in two pieces. Eventually one half ended up in the Zhejiang Provincial Museum and the other in the Taipei Palace Museum. In June 2011, 360 years after the two pieces went their separate ways, the two scrolls, Remains of Mountains and Fellow Apprentice Wuyong, were reunited in the Taipei Palace Museum for an exhibition that lasted two months.

Though the reunion was transient, it spurred the imagination of at least one person to contemplate on how the two parts of the painting could be brought together permanently.

That person was Yao Xiangdong, director of the Oriental Rosewood Furniture Art Museum in Changshu, Jiangsu province, a county-level city under the jurisdiction of Suzhou. For Yao the best medium by which the estranged halves could be remarried was rosewood, not only because his city is known as the hometown of rosewood but also the fact that Suzhou-style woodwork has become a symbol of elegance.

"Restoring the painting in the form of a wood carving is perhaps the best name card for Changshu," he said.

Yao's idea in turn spawned an annual cross-Straits creative design competition whose central figure is Huang Gongwang, and which has now been held three times. In the many award-winning artworks, traditional Chinese cultural elements have been brought to life by young talent on both sides of the Straits, with an emphasis on the modern perspective.

It is part of drive by Changshu to draw on its cultural resources to promote the city's growth, using talent from home and abroad, and at the same time promoting the city's cultural heritage.

On Dec 21 the first Changshu Elite Entrepreneurship Alliance Conference hosted by the Changshu Municipal Committee and the People's Government was held, with the theme "gathering wisdom and building Changshu".

The purpose of the alliance is to pool kinship, nostalgia, and friendship, and to gather talent, wisdom, and capital to build Changshu. The alliance consists of eight zones, three domestic-Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen-and five international-the Belt and Road countries, Japan and South Korea, Europe, the Americas and Australia-each of them headed by a convener.

The alliance will work hand in hand with the city government, and a conference will be held annually at which knowledge and expertise that can help promote Changshu will be pooled.

"Cultural change accounts for a big part of the city's talent project," said Chen Meilou, vice-president of Jiangsu World Overseas Chinese Entrepreneurs Association.

"Changshu can flourish with sustained commitment to more than just a healthy and friendly economic and investment environment. An effort to understand what motivates talent to stay should be carefully planned to align cultural goals too."

The opening ceremony of the Dai Yi Academic Museum was held in the south square of Changshu Library at the end of October. Dai Yi, 93, director of the National Qing Dynasty History Compilation Committee, hopes to establish a Qing history academic research base there, and Changshu, his hometown, seems to have heard his voice.

Liu Mengxi, a lifelong researcher at the China Academy of Art, said Changshu is a place of culture. The completion of the museum has added a new cultural edge to the city that will play an important role in the development of Changshu's cultural research and the spread of historical culture.

Cao Peigen, a research librarian and researcher on the culture and history of book collecting at Changshu Institute of Technology, said that during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties more than 300 book collectors resided in Changshu, representing more than a tenth of the collectors across the country. Ye Dehui, an expert on the Qing Dynasty, paid tribute to the city in a preface to the book Changshu Gu Family Stone House Bibliography, saying: "A town's achievement in book collecting put it at the summit of the nation."

Anecdotes on collecting books, passed on through families and to others, abound in Changshu. One legend has it that a particular species of bookworm winds its way through the forest of books it inhabits looking for fairies. If it finds and devours fairies three times it gains qi (energy) and is possessed of maiwang, or grand outlook.

In the Ming Dynasty, a man named Zhao Qimei, of Changshu, had a special liking for the word maiwang, so he changed the name of his father's library "Songshi (pine and stone) Room" to "Maiwang Pavilion" to express his passion and love for books.

Today Maiwang Pavilion continues to bear remnants from the Ming Dynasty. This three-entry wooden building in Zhao Alley, southwest of Changshu, was listed in the sixth batch of national key cultural relics protection units in 2006.

Another noteworthy book collection relic is the Tieqintongjian (iron guqin, a seven-stringed plucked instrument, and copper sword) Building, in the town of Guli, which has survived 200 years intact.

The owner, the Qu family, collected books and spared little expense in doing so. They also read books, proofread ancient volumes and edited bibliographies allowing knowledge of history and many other things, as well as wisdom, to flourish and to be propagated.

When the Qing army was besieged during the Taiping Rebellion in Changshu in 1862 and searches were conducted house to house, the Qus put their lives at risk to safeguard the books. After New China was founded in 1949 the family, respecting their ancestors' legacy, donated all of their collections to the nation.

Dai Yi says he often overlooks the rapid changes taking place in his hometown. One of the main reasons for the economic growth of Changshu is its rich cultural fabric, the popularity of education and the improvement of civilization, he says.

Changshu's recent library rediscovery event encourages public readers to pay attention to libraries and book distribution points around the city where bibliophiles can borrow books.

Yuyue Study Room in Huancheng East Road is an urban public reading space that locals have nicknamed the "library next door". Sun Yangqing, a reader, says: "I was once sitting inside, with dense trees outside the large glass floor. In the study room, rows and rows of books sat safely between sofas, and with soft music wafting through the air you could only feel blessed to be part of this priceless serenity."

Chen of Jiangsu World Overseas Chinese Entrepreneurs Association says: "Innovation and inheritance are not mutually exclusive, which means respecting inheritance does not mean you have to be conservative. Changshu people are well versed in the principle of opening up their minds with the rules of the ancients."

In recent years Changshu has increased investment in public services, and the focus on education has become clear. Thirty-three students from the United World Colleges Changshu have been admitted to Ivy League universities in the past three years, and Kang Chiao International School, Suzhou Education Investment Group, Suzhou Foreign Language School, the First Affiliated Hospital of Suzhou University and other world-class establishments now have a presence in the city.

"We have turned Changshu into a hub that is integrated into the Yangtze River Delta," says the city's Party Secretary, Zhou Qindi.

"Revering culture is the foundation of our city. The skills and talent of Changshu and its people are its greatest wealth, and they represent its future."


1. Shanghu Lake in Changshu is said to have been named after Jiang Shang, a Chinese noble who helped king Wu of Zhou overthrow the Shang Dynasty. CHINA DAILY



2. Aerial views of Changshu's downtown. CHINA DAILY



3. Maiwang Pavilion is a three-entry wooden building in Zhao Alley, southwest of Changshu, and was listed in the sixth batch of national key cultural relics protection units in 2006. CHINA DAILY



4. Aerial views of Changshu's downtown. CHINA DAILY



5. Aerial views of Changshu's downtown. CHINA DAILY



6. Kuncheng Lake is one of the key freshwater lakes of Changshu. CHINA DAILY



7. Aerial views of Changshu's downtown. CHINA DAILY



8. Shanghu Lake in Changshu is said to have been named after Jiang Shang, a Chinese noble who helped king Wu of Zhou overthrow the Shang Dynasty. CHINA DAILY



9. The Yushan Gate on the Yushan Mountain. CHINA DAILY





Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains on rosewood by artisans on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. CHINA DAILY



The first Changshu Elite Entrepreneurship Alliance Conference is hosted by the Changshu Municipal Committee and the People's Government. CHINA DAILY





For centuries Chinese academics and historians have regarded the painting Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains by Huang Gongwang (1269-1354) of the mountains in Zhejiang province as a master specimen of traditional landscape painting. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-18 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Frequently asked questions]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/18/content_37532758.htm Some people feel that talking to a robot is creepy. So far, how have candidates reacted to Tengai?

We've conducted some 80 interviews to date, and the vast majority of candidates describe Tengai as warm, friendly and easy-going. Most are surprised by how natural the meeting feels-despite talking to a robot. Perhaps it's the unusual situation: sitting down with and engaging in an intelligent dialogue with a robot. You might even feel that the robot is a little too human, because it's so adept at social codes. It can feel pretty surreal.

Are there only yes and no answers?

How advanced is the communication?

There's a lot of focus on providing and gathering information in recruitment, and this also applies to Tengai. It shares information in a dialogue form about the interview and how it will be conducted, and then gathers the answers. As it collects information, it understands what the candidate is saying, regardless of the number of words and sentences used. So yes, it can handle open questions and open-ended answers.

What happens when Tengai doesn't obtain a satisfactory answer? Does it understand?

If that happens, the robot informs the candidate, asks follow-up questions, and subsequently attempts to continue the conversation and the interview.

What is the greatest advantage with Tengai?

In addition to getting a more objective and structured process, we avoid the unconscious bias we all have. By doing this in the early-selection stage, we shift the subjectivity further along the process, where it is less damaging. Additionally, we're able to invite more candidates to participate in the recruitment processes' early stages, allowing for greater diversity by ensuring a better and broader selection of talent. What we can risk losing is the detail and personalization that can give a complete picture of a candidate's suitability for a position. On the other hand, Tengai is designed to be used at the beginning of a selection process, where it's advantageous to be objective and skill-focused to find the competencies needed for the job. In-depth assessment by an experienced recruiter, trained in unbiased recruitment, of a candidate's experience, potential and motivation is conducted with the talent who progress further in the process.

An unbiased robot-is it possible? How do you ensure that the robot's information-gathering is unbiased?

Tengai only records candidates' speech, which it converts into text in real time. No other variables are involved, such as a person's accent or the pitch of their voice, their looks or gender. Furthermore, we don't let Tengai know anything about the candidates; the only thing we have access to are the candidates' names and email addresses-and we don't use this information for the purpose of identifying specific candidates. That way we keep biases out of the interview. But we do plenty more, too.

What do you teach the robot? Why is it needed? And what is the human recruiter's role in this?

The robot has been developed for many years by the company Furhat Robotics. What we are doing is developing HR-tech application software, built together with Furhat on their existing OS. What we teach it is how to conduct situation-and skill-based interviews as close as possible to a human recruiter. This includes anything we do as a recruiter-like how we hum, nod our heads and ask follow-up questions. This project started in August 2018. We then established a question tree and all the social skills associated with it. In recent months, we've adjusted some of the dialogue in Swedish so it feels as natural as possible.

This is certainly a new way to recruit. How has it affected you as recruitment professionals?

We've really had to look at ourselves to understand how we conduct interviews-which movements, facial expressions, and words we use to confirm talent as humans and as candidates. We've gone to great lengths to analyze the questions that the robot should ask. It has been very important that the questions are as clear and as concrete as possible. Tengai struggles with ambiguity, so the less vagueness there is in a candidate's answer, the better Tengai is to evaluate and validate the skill sets.

You have said that it would be good for all recruiters to partake in this work. Why?

All recruiters work old-school-and old-school skills need to be questioned in a world where the tech development gets faster by the day. It's useful to evaluate yourself, the way you work on a daily basis and your interview techniques. Even if we tend to think that we do a great job for our clients and candidates, there are always things that can be better. You just need to dare to challenge yourself. We need lifelong learning, even in the recruitment industry. As we've taught Tengai social codes, we've become aware of how we behave in similar situations with people, both that we know and don't know.

How does a series of questions asked by Tengai differ from one by a human?

There's no capacity for extra words or narrative that isn't directly linked to a question that Tengai has asked. All questions are asked in exactly the same way, in the same tone and typically in the same order. That way, it's a more fair and objective interview. A hiring manager would deviate from this formula, adjusting to the candidates' responses and thereby extracting more from them, which makes the process unfair. Additionally, as a human, they are also influenced and affected by unconscious bias about the candidates, and subject to their own preconceptions and subjective interpretations. With Tengai, this is avoided.


2020-01-18 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Italy to lure Chinese with cultural heritage delights]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/18/content_37532768.htm ROME-Italy's National Tourism Agency, known as ENIT, on Thursday presented its annual marketing plan to promote the Mediterranean peninsula as a travel destination, with a focus on China.

"Rapidly growing markets such as Asia, especially China, and the targeting of high-net-worth young people are at the center of the new campaigns for the kind of tourism that can keep money flowing throughout the year," ENIT said in a statement.

According to ENIT figures, tourists spent 40 billion euros ($45 billion) in Italy between January and October 2019.

As part of its strategy to market itself on the Chinese market, ENIT said it plans to take a series of measures. These include opening new offices in Shanghai and Guangzhou, launching a campaign to promote Italy on WeChat, a major Chinese social media platform, and encouraging more direct flights between the two countries. It also plans to take part in several trade fairs in China to promote tourism.

"In the world there are only two cities that have two UNESCO World Heritage sites," said ENIT President Giorgio Palmucci. "One is Beijing and the other is Tivoli-and very few people know about it."

One of the two sites in Tivoli, a town near Rome in the central Lazio region, is Hadrian's Villa. The complex of classical buildings incorporates the architectural traditions of Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. It was created in the second century AD by Roman Emperor Hadrian.

The other site is the 16th-century Villa d'Este. Its palace and gardens constitute "one of the most remarkable and comprehensive illustrations of Renaissance culture at its most refined," according to UNESCO.

The presentation took place in Rome in collaboration with the Italian Ministry for Culture and Tourism. They sent Tourism Undersecretary Lorenza Bonaccorsi to speak.

"Tourism is an economic asset of primary importance for our country," Bonaccorsi said. According to estimates by the Bank of Italy and by European Union statistics agency Eurostat, the tourism sector employs 4.2 million people and contributes 13 percent of Italian GDP, she added.

The year 2019 was "very favorable" for the Italian tourism industry. Spending by international tourists was up by 6.6 percent, international arrivals in airports jumped 5.8 percent and overnight stays were up 4.4 percent compared to 2018, Bonaccorsi said.

The objectives of the new plan rest on three pillars: innovation, accessibility and sustainability.

Accessibility means generating new routes for tourist to travel to Italy, while sustainability means a kind of tourism that respects the territories, according to Bonaccorsi.

The plan coincides with the China-Italy Year of Culture and Tourism 2020, which is scheduled to kick off on Jan 21 in Rome.

More than 100 events will be held during the year. They include performing arts, visual arts, cultural heritage, tourism and creative design, according to China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The China-Italy Year of Culture and Tourism 2020 is the first time for the countries to hold a large-scale activity on the integration of culture and tourism, said an official with the ministry.

Hadrian's Villa, built in Tivoli, Italy during the second century, incorporates the architectural traditions of Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. WANG QINGQIN/XINHUA

Villa d'Este built during the 16th century is another UNESCO World Heritage site in Tivoli. REUTERS

]]> 2020-01-18 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Festival feasts]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/18/content_37532767.htm The Westin Bund Center, Shanghai's Crystal Garden Chinese restaurant is hosting Spring Festival feasts featuring two set dinner menus incorporating signature dishes and can't-miss local gastronomic experiences, from Lunar New Year's Eve, which will fall on Jan 24, to Jan 31. Live performances and lucky draw prizes will add fun to the family get-togethers.

The Stage, another restaurant at the hotel, is hosting a Lunar New Year's Eve buffet dinner on Jan 24, with more than 100 dishes and a variety of live performances, including lion dances and a lucky draw. The buffet will bring gastronomic experiences from around the globe to local diners' tables.

Crowne Plaza Beijing Sun Palace is launching a selection of Lunar New Year's Eve dinner menus to celebrate the traditional festival, at prices starting from 1,288 yuan ($190). Its Jun Chinese restaurant will focus on Jiangnan cuisine, which mostly prevails in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces and Shanghai. Rainbow Yunnan Restaurant at the hotel will feature gastronomic dishes using traditional cooking methods originating from ethnic groups in Yunnan province in Southwest China.

The Ritz-Carlton, Beijing is launching a Chinese New Year dinner at its Yu restaurant. Offered from Jan 28 to Feb 8, the dinner is created by the hotel's culinary team using select, fresh seasonal ingredients. It will include traditional and innovative dishes that represent best wishes for the New Year.

The Ritz-Carlton Beijing, Financial Street is hosting its Chinese New Year Reunion Feast at its award-winning Chinese restaurant Qi, during the upcoming Spring Festival holiday. Chinese Executive Chef Leon Leung from Shunde, Guangdong province, has tailor made three types of menus combining taste, nutrition and auspicious wishes for the new year.

Keng Seng Mak, executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou, is serving a collection of cake and desserts with seasonal berries and fresh fruits at Dolcetto, immersing guests in a twist of classic and creative sweet flavors.

]]> 2020-01-18 00:00:00 <![CDATA[FOOTPRINTS IN THE SNOW]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/18/content_37532770.htm On Jan 8, the staff of the Xiluoqi maintenance team in Tahe county, Heilongjiang province, carried out work at the 497 kilometer junction of the Nenjiang-Greater Khingan Forest Railway.

Affiliated to China Raiway Harbin Group's Jiagedaqi construction section, the Xiluoqi team is responsible for some of the toughest maintenance work deep inside the most frigid reaches of the Greater Khingan Mountains, where winter temperatures hover below minus 30 C. This remote section of the line can only be reached by train, and no traces of human habitation can be seen for as far as the eye can see.

The 10 staff members here are in charge of maintaining 11.2 kilometers of railway, including a 1,160-meter-long railway tunnel to the "Arctic" Mohe, Xiluoqi Ridge No 2 Tunnel, which is the entrance to the Nenjiang-Greater Khingan Forest Railway thoroughfare.

The living and working conditions here are so harsh that the team can only reach their points on foot, carrying all the tools they need-hammers, shovels, pickaxes and wrenches-to clear snow banks and tunnels and to repair frost damage. Over the course of four hours, they make several trips delivering equipment and cover nearly 13 kilometers by following their own footprints in the snow beside the railway tracks. There is no mobile phone signal in the mountains. The staff have to use a railway phone in the maintenance zone to communicate with the outside world.

There are no fixed meal breaks, but instead the team grab a bite of hot food after they return to their bunks-perhaps the warmest moment of the day. In the face of steep mountains, bitter cold and heavy snow, the Xiluoqi maintenance team tenaciously guard the access to and safety of this remote stretch of rail line.




Xiluoqi maintenance crew write on the snow-covered ground "safe trip" in Chinese characters WANG YUGUO/CAI YANG/XINHUA



Maintenance work at the 501 kilometer junction of the railway WANG YUGUO/CAI YANG/XINHUA






Xiluoqi Ridge No 2 Tunnel. WANG YUGUO/CAI YANG/XINHUA



Maintenance work at the 497 kilometer junction of the Nenjiang-Greater Khingan Forest Railway WANG YUGUO/CAI YANG/XINHUA



Workers wait for a train to pass WANG YUGUO/CAI YANG/XINHUA



De-icing operation in the tunnel WANG YUGUO/CAI YANG/XINHUA



A short break in the snow. WANG YUGUO/CAI YANG/XINHUA



2020-01-18 00:00:00
<![CDATA[The Hunting Month]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/17/content_37532602.htm The last month of the lunar calendar used to be called the Hunting Month, or La Yue, in more rustic times. That was when traps were set in the wild to catch pheasants, rabbits, deer and wild boar in preparation for the rounds of feasting during Spring Festival, just a week away from now.

In spite of the urban spread of China's population, the year-end tradition of preserving meat is still very popular, where a variety of birds, cuts of beef, mutton, pork and fish can be seen strung up in backyards and balconies alike to catch the winter north wind and sun.

Sausages are made from hand-cut pork belly and marinated in salt, sugar and yellow rice wine, which has a characteristic red tinge.

This is also the time when fresh duck or goose livers are marinated in spices, sugar and wine and stuffed into intestines. Unlike the meat sausages, these seasonal delicacies are only available for a limited time.

One regional specialty is whole pig liver, hollowed out and stuffed with a piece of pork fat. Surprisingly, they are not hard to eat. The liver turns firm during the curing process, while the fat turns crisp and transparent. The Cantonese cook steams, then cuts these liver sausages into very thin slivers, serving them on slices of steamed arrowhead or yam.

More familiar are whole ducks which are spatchcocked, spiced and salted. The intensely savory birds will be a highlight on reunion tables on Lunar New Year's Eve. Surprisingly, chickens are cooked fresh and seldom cured in the southern regions.

Further north, in Yunnan and Sichuan, various cuts of meat are heavily seasoned and hung up to dry, ending up in stir-fries, or simply steamed. Here, the meats are pickled with lots of chilli and Sichuan peppercorns.

In Ningbo, Zhejiang province, a favorite new year delicacy is a type of ham, featuring chopped pork stuffed into a pig's stomach and then cured in brine.

In Hubei, where there are plenty of lakes and ponds, preparations for spring start with fishing for carp. Whole carp are salted and then hung up to dehydrate but a good cured carp stays soft and supple for the Lunar New Year meals.

The Hunting Month may have slowly evolved into the curing month, yet it is still part of a culinary tradition that is a prelude to the most important celebration of the entire lunar year-Spring Festival.

Another major indicator is on the eighth day of the last lunar month, which fell on Jan 2 this year. This is the day when every household will serve a porridge of mixed grains-laba porridge. It is the last bookmark of the previous year's harvest of cereals, pulses and brans.

The colorful mixed grains are cooked together with brown sugar and served to family and visitors. With the eating of laba porridge, the countdown to Spring Festival begins.


A woman in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, hangs up cured meat to dry in the last month of the lunar calendar. CAI KUANYUAN/FOR CHINA DAILY





2020-01-17 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Recipes]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/17/content_37532654.htm Cured meat

1 kg belly pork

1 cup soy sauce

1 cup sugar

1 cup Chinese rice liquor

2 tablespoons white liquor (baijiu)

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns

2 pods star anise

Clean the pork belly and scrape off any gristle from the skin. Dry and cut into thick strips about 3 cm wide.

Place the marinade ingredients together and mix well. Add the pork strips and allow them to soak for an hour or so. Thread or tie a length of kitchen string around one end of each strip.

Hang the meat up in a cool place where it can be air-dried. It will be ready to eat in a week to 10 days.

The same marinade can be used for spatchcocked ducks or chicken, but the drying process would be longer, according to weight.

Cured pork hock

1 small pork hock (upper part of the leg)

1 kg preserving salt (rough sea salt)

2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns

First, you need a covered container that will contain both the salt and pork hock.

Clean the pork, scraping off any gristle from the skin. Wash, drain and set aside.

Using a dry pan, toast the Sichuan peppercorns till you can smell the aroma rising. Mix into the salt.

Place a layer of salt in the container to cushion the pork, then rub the rest of the salt all over the entire hock. Comb the meat with the rest of the salt.

Close the container and place in the fridge. Turn the pork hock around every few days. After three weeks or more, the cured hock will be ready.


2020-01-17 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Stage set for recovery of green peacock]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/17/content_37532610.htm Little did Xi Zhinong, the founder of Wild China Film, a private organization dedicated to documentation and protection of China's endangered wildlife, realize that the photos he took of the green peacock in Yunnan province 20 years ago were actually images of an endangered species and that soon they would face an unprecedented survival crisis.

Today, the green peacock is, officially, an endangered species. According to a survey by the Kunming Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, their population is estimated to be less than 500, and it has now become one of China's most endangered wildlife species, even rarer than the giant panda.

In an attempt to raise awareness, and foster a deeper understanding of the green peacock, Wild China Film teamed up with college students in Beijing to present a stage play at Star Theaters on Tuesday. The play, not surprisingly, is themed on the peacock.

The play, Peacock on the Tip of the Heart, brings together for the first time on the stage volunteers who are passionate about animal protection in Beijing's universities.

Hong Ziqian, producer of the play, who studies at the Drama Education Department of the Central Academy of Drama, says she hopes the play can get its crucial message across.

Hong volunteered at the Tianjin Raptor Rescue Station and the Beijing Raptor Rescue Center, and carried out field investigations in Gaoligong Mountain in Yunnan province and Xianghai in Jilin province. She co-founded the Animal Protection Association of the Central Academy of Drama, and launched the Beijing University Ecological Protection Public Welfare Alliance in 2019.

"What we want to achieve through the play is the core function of theatrical drama in exploring human nature in depth, and the preservation of the green peacock relates to this goal," she says.

The plot centers on Lu Yiming, a researcher on the protection of green peacocks, who treks deep into the animal's habitat in the upper reaches of the Red River in Yunnan.

Lu meets villagers who hunt green peacocks. With the help of volunteers, he manages to establish a community-themed protection mechanism, allowing villagers to participate in conservation, and inspire more people to protect the green peacock.

Meng Haowei, director of the play, who once led theatrical directing at Beijing No 15 High School's drama club, highlights the role of two characters as the pillar of the plot.

In the play, Zhao Sihan, a girl who always wants to be the focus of attention, comes to protect the green peacock without knowing much about it at first, but uses it as an internet publicity gimmick. In observing Lu's dedication, Zhao gradually realizes the urgency of protecting the green peacock, and evolves into a qualified animal protection volunteer.

Another role-changing character is a local villager who at first is shown to loathe the peacock and hunt them ruthlessly out of the despair he felt at losing his mother. He unfairly blamed peacock protection efforts for the loss of his mother. But in the end he too protects the bird and helps villagers pursue sustainable agriculture.

The casting was completed two months ago, and rehearsals went smoothly.

Meng says the play presents a feast of special effects and set designs. "We have five sliding canvases on track, with each featuring a peacock in different postures in traditional Chinese painting to showcase Yunnan's ethnic traits and marking the transition of each scene. Chinese bamboo flute and the chirping sound effect of the birds are employed to hint at the plot twist."

The hero of the play, Lu Yiming, is loosely based on the research work of Gu Bojian, a postgraduate student who worked at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In March 2017, Gu heard a high-pitched chirp of the green peacock in the dry and hot valley of the Red River in Yunnan. The open floodplains and beaches at the bottom of the river valley had become their habitat. Later, Gu discovered that on the Gasa River, the main tributary of the Red River, work on a hydropower project, the Jiasha River First Stage Power Station, had begun. The station threatens the green peacock's habitat.

Gu posted the situation on his WeChat's friend circle, but saw little feedback. Xi Zhinong from Wild China Film contacted him and led a team to conduct a special survey in the Red River Basin. He took an important picture of the green peacock drinking water in the Xiaojiang River Valley.

Environmental protection organizations Wild China, Friends of Nature and the Shanshui Nature Conservation Center jointly issued an urgent letter to the former Ministry of Environmental Protection (now the Ministry of Ecology and Environment), calling for an immediate stop of the station's construction, and for authorities to reevaluate the local ecology, especially the impact on protected species such as green peacocks and their habitats.

In August 2017, construction of the hydropower project was suspended after Friends of Nature filed a public interest lawsuit.

Shi Lihong, another founder of Wild China Film, who has worked to produce the play based on peacock protection, says all the actors and actresses have volunteered without any pay simply out of their compassion for wildlife.

Shi says the theatrical drama can ignite an infectious enthusiasm compared with more traditional methods such as photography. She calls for more enterprises to join and provide sponsorship for their performance to help the play to reach a larger audience.


Peacock on the Tip of the Heart, a play to raise awareness about the protection of green peacock in Yunnan province, is presented by college volunteers in Beijing on Tuesday. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-17 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Balloons give scientist high research hopes]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/17/content_37532638.htm More than any other object, balloons symbolize and epitomize fun. But more advanced versions, those not seen and popped in birthday parties, can play a vital role for humans as they soar into the atmosphere to provide scientific data.

As a post-doctoral researcher from the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences at Fudan University, Zhang Peng, 33, knows the value of such balloons.

He uses them to record atmospheric measurements.

Established nearly four years ago, the institute researches polar regions, specifically how they affect the global and regional environment, ecology, weather and climate.

While radiosonde balloons are not new-they have been used by scientists since the 19th century to gather information required for weather forecast and climate research-what Zhang is also doing with them is.

In September, on his maiden journey to the Arctic, Zhang released 150 radiosonde balloons that he says will be integral to helping scientists learn more about storms in the region and how they might be related to severe weather conditions in other parts of the world.

"It was only three years ago that scientists first released radiosonde balloons in the Arctic. It's too early to talk about the significance of such work as we are still working on the data collected during the 53-day expedition," says Zhang.

On one occasion, a balloon managed to record data from a storm it was caught in. Zhang says it is rare for a balloon to manage to capture information from inside a storm above the Arctic.

During this expedition as a guest researcher with the Korean Polar Research Institute, Zhang was responsible for releasing a radiosonde balloon every six hours. This task is not as straightforward as it sounds because severe weather conditions played havoc with the timetable. There were times when he had to delay the balloon release by an hour or more so that the winds were favorable.

"I often had to walk from one end of the icebreaker to the other to find the best opportunity to release the balloons. There was nobody on deck at midnight and the ship was bouncing up and down because of the strong waves. There was a chance that nobody would know if I fell into the sea. It was a very scary experience," he says.

"But I repeatedly reminded myself that I had to conquer my fears in the name of scientific research."

They also faced other problems during their scientific endeavor. On one occasion, scientists had to search for several days before finally coming across an ideal location to deploy three ocean buoys. Just a week later, the researchers discovered that the buoys were damaged by polar bears.

"It was fairly difficult to collect pieces of data in such untraversed places and every tiny breakthrough in theory originates from progress in observation," he says.

According to Zhang, there were more than 30 foreign researchers like himself on the icebreaker, with two-an American and a South Korean-working on research that is similar to his.

The other researchers, who hailed from Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Croatia and India, were looking at areas such as Arctic atmospheric conditions, the marine environment and chemistry.

"International collaboration is vital in scientific research as it allows scientists from different countries to gather various resources and reach a shared goal that benefits mankind," says Zhang, adding that his fellow researchers who worked with radiosondes also shared their findings from the expedition.

Besides being a fruitful scientific undertaking, the expedition was also an eye-opening experience for Zhang, who got to witness the severity of the decline of the Arctic sea ice due to global warming.

"Seeing the situation with my own eyes reaffirmed my belief in the mission of our jobs as scientists," he says.


Zhang Peng, a post-doctoral researcher from the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences at Fudan University in Shanghai, releases a radiosonde balloon. CHINA DAILY



A group photo of Zhang and more than 30 foreign researchers who participated in a polar expedition organized by the Korean Polar Research Institute in September. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-17 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Technology can help but a sense of direction is vital]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/17/content_37532637.htm I had an "eventful" start to the new year. A day after we rang in the new year, I was taken for a ride.

No, I wasn't conned by anyone.

To put it in simple words, I took myself for a ride.

Still not clear? Well, I took a Didi cab to reach a restaurant in Beijing, which was a few minutes' walk, or about 500 meters away, for two reasons: ignorance, and I was technologically challenged.

Let me explain. A new year lunch was planned by my colleagues at an Italian restaurant down the road.

I had received on WeChat the location map of the place well in advance from a colleague.

I clicked on the map, and another icon that resembled a compass. The needle turned a little to the right and a little to the left, and I couldn't make any sense of it.

That was the "turning point".

I decided to do the next best thing: ask. I texted as well as called another colleague to ask for directions. There was no response.

Time was running out, and I was getting restless. I called another colleague, but drew a blank. He didn't know where the restaurant was located.

I decided to leave early and was about to take the elevator down when I bumped into another colleague. He didn't know the place either.

He suggested that I take a cab since the weather was harsh, a condition not ideal for a long walk. A valid point, though.

Besides, when we book a Didi, we would know how much to pay, from which we can gauge the approximate distance.

The colleague accompanied me up to the apartment gate, waiting till the cab came to pick me up.

As I hopped onto the cab and was adjusting the seat belt, the driver gave a weird look and said something in Chinese, which I could not understand. I just nodded, as if to convey I understood him.

"OK," he said, and drove on, joining the main road (about 100 meters), crossing the signal, and after a few hundred meters, he brought the vehicle to a halt.

"It's so near," I told myself, as I got off the car and started walking toward the pavement.

I hadn't found the restaurant yet. I walked a few meters, but since I couldn't find it, I asked a few passersby. One of them walked me for 15 meters and pointed at the restaurant, whose name was written in big, bold letters at the entrance.

As I walked in, I found my colleagues had already arrived. They were amused when I recounted my story. Obviously.

The party was good, so was the food. The restaurant was another addition to a short lineup of restaurants for a vegetarian to visit and relish.

The return walk took about 12 minutes. And no sweat.

Besides, I didn't have to spend 15 yuan ($2.2)(that was the amount I spent for the onward journey) for a short ride.

Moral of the story: there is no age limit to learning.

On the other hand, too much reliance on technology, or blindly following technology, can also be counterproductive.

Take, for example, the truck that got stuck between two buildings in a county in the United Kingdom a few years ago. Such incidents have increased of late.

The driver, who was not familiar with the area, blindly followed his sat-nav, a satellite navigation system, instead of his sense of sight, and landed in this peculiar situation.

Now, it's illegal to hold a phone or sat-nav while driving or riding a motorcycle in the UK.


Manjunath R Setty



2020-01-17 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Ahead of Spring Festival, the Kitchen God knows all]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/17/content_37532639.htm Zao Jun, the Kitchen God, is a fair-faced celestial who spends only a few days in the heavenly court of the Jade Emperor. For most of the year, he presides over the heart and hearth of earthly households, guarding the livestock, servants, and most of all the cooking stove.

He is privy to the darkest secrets, and he sees all.

He listens to the back room gossip, the quarrels among the womenfolk. He witnesses the trickery of malingering servants, the secret stashes of food hidden for a stolen feast, the cutting of corners in the making of a complicated dish, the whispered rumors, the scandalous truths.

For those reasons, when it is time for him to ascend to make his annual report at the end of the lunar year, the whole household is suddenly alerted to his imminent departure and he is showered with food offerings to put him in the best of moods.

Yes, even the gods must be bribed. In this case, the Kitchen God is sent off with an appropriate feast, all of which will include a final offering that is very sticky, and very sweet.

These sticky sweets, the foolish humans hope, will seal his lips or sweeten his tongue and he will return in the new year with the appropriate bountiful blessings from heaven after making a positive assessment of their merits.

In kitchens large and small all across China, the preparations are starting as Zao Jun travels to report to his boss on the 23rd day of the last lunar month, which falls on Friday this year.

He has been doing this every year for the longest time, as far back as the Xia Dynasty more than 2,000 years even before Christ was born. The Xia was only the first dynasty recorded in Chinese history, so it is likely Zao Jun has been around even longer than that.

Basically, the Kitchen God has been guardian of the stove ever since the Chinese started cooking indoors.

The day of his departure also signals the start of a flurry of preparations for the official arrival of spring a week away. His portrait, probably smoky from standing over the stove for an entire year, will be taken down, smeared with honey and reverently burnt to send him on his way.

In the new year, a brand new portrait will go up on the wall.

Meanwhile, the kitchen and its inhabitants will be pretty busy. There is even a folk rhyme to guide you through it all:

Twenty-third, pumpkin candies,

twenty-fourth, spring cleaning.

Twenty-fifth, tofu time,

twenty-sixth, make meat stew.

Twenty-seventh, kill the rooster,

twenty-eighth, rise the dough.

Twenty-ninth, steam the buns,

New Year's Eve, stay up late,

New Year's Day, celebrate!

Once Zao Jun leaves, replete with sticky pumpkin-shaped candies, the mops and dusters come out the next day and every dustball and each cobweb is industriously swept up and removed.

The more nimble among the girls will start creating beautiful paper-cuts from auspicious red paper. Fruits and flowers, the Chinese characters for happiness and spring, images of deer and bats and other lucky icons-all these will be pasted on windows and walls.

Those with good calligraphy skills will be called upon to write couplets of good wishes that will go across lintels and door frames, all on red paper.

In the meantime, an enormous amount of cooking will be done-starting with the slaughter of the chickens, ducks, pigs and goats to the soaking of soy beans for the making of tofu.

Another important task is the bun making. Steamed buns are very much part of the daily diet all year round, but the buns for the Lunar New Year will be decorated with dates and shaped into impressive works of art.

In my own household, the ayi (housekeeper) and I will be creating flower buns cut from strips of dough artfully twisted into blossoms. Our ayi comes from Henan, where the ladies are really good at turning dough into masterpieces of miniature architecture.

In the southern regions of China, a sticky rice cake called nian gao is also prepared. The basic recipe is golden syrup and glutinous rice flour. Occasionally, red beans and coconut milk are added and the mixture is poured into containers lined with bamboo or coconut leaves. These days, elaborate jelly molds are used to shape the cakes, with fish-shaped molds being the most popular since "fish" is a homophone of "overflowing abundance".

At this time of the year, rituals and symbolic foods become part of the celebrations and even though some may seem to be based simply on superstitions, they are still oddly comforting and very much part of the festivities that make a new lunar year special.

As for the Kitchen God, I'm pretty sure he enjoys the attention he gets every year and he never fails to return for another year listening in on the household secrets.


A girl from Shandong province holds a sticky pumpkin-shaped candy, an offering to the Kitchen God. ZHAO YUGUO/FOR CHINA DAILY



2020-01-17 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Bay Area screens film on prominent local community leader]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/16/content_37532430.htm SAN FRANCISCO-A documentary about a San Francisco Chinese community leader was screened at a public library in the city and has inspired Chinese-American children to become "ambassadors" who will work for closer China-US ties, according to an organizer.

The short film about Florence Fang, who is a Chinese-American publisher and a prominent Chinese community leader in the San Francisco Bay Area, allowed children from many Chinese-American families to learn about Fang who has been promoting China-US friendship for over 80 years, Betty Yuan, an organizer of the US nonprofit, Bridge Road International Foundation, says.

Fang was invited to attend the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China after she left the Chinese mainland seven decades ago, Yuan adds.

"I hope Fang's story will encourage our next generation of overseas Chinese to see her as their model, to continue her endeavor of carrying forward cultural exchanges between Chinese and American people," Yuan says.

Fang is the former owner of the San Francisco Examiner, an English-language newspaper in the Bay Area that served as a platform for Chinese Americans to be heard in mainstream US society.

She is also the founder of the World War II Pacific War Memorial Hall in San Francisco Chinatown, the first private overseas commemorative facility that keeps an extensive record of those who fought Japanese aggression in Asia, including China, during WWII.

Chang-Lynn Tan, a 14-year-old student of Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, East Bay, says it was "really interesting to see how Florence Fang was able to preserve her Chinese heritage and combine it with American culture".

"By establishing the WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall, she was able to establish a statement where the two countries could work together peacefully to achieve something greater," Tan adds.

As a Chinese American, it is empowering to see how Fang has achieved her dreams through hard work and determination, Tan says.

The screening at the San Francisco Public Library was hosted by Bridge Road International Foundation along with Hanlin Education Foundation of America.


2020-01-16 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Stage all set for popular festival play]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/16/content_37532465.htm As most people wind down for the Spring Festival holiday, performers at one Beijing theater are setting the stage to entertain over the festive period.

During a recent Saturday afternoon, actors and actresses from Beijing People's Art Theater gathered at a rehearsal room to prepare for the Chinese play, titled Family Reunion, which opened on Tuesday and will run for 14 shows through Jan 30.

Adapted from Chinese writer Ye Guangqin's novel of the same title, the play tells a family's story spanning five decades. Living in a traditional courtyard in a hutong (narrow alley) in downtown Beijing, the Wang family has traditionally worked on the maintenance and repair of historic buildings. However, with society changing over time, the Wang family goes through ups and downs. The family's loyalty to the same career of its members is also challenged with the younger generation spurning tradition.

The play is part of the ongoing 20th Meet in Beijing International Arts Festival, which brings over 700 artists from 12 countries and regions to the capital through Feb 4.

Since the play premiered in 2005, it has become one of the most popular plays of Beijing People's Art Theater's repertories. Founded in 1952 with Chinese playwright Cao Yu as its first president, the theater is known for its productions, including Teahouse, Thunderstorm and Sunrise.

Directed by Ren Ming, Family Reunion features veteran theater actors, including Feng Yuanzheng, Liang Danni and Wang Changli.

"Last year, we staged 14 shows of the play during the Spring Festival. The performances were warmly received by the audience. The show is about family and that's why people love it during the holiday, when families get together," says actor Feng, who plays the leading role of Wang Mantang, who devotes his whole life into repairing and preserving ancient buildings.

For Feng, who joined the theater in 1985 and rose to fame with his performances in movies, TV dramas and theatrical productions, acting on stage is a great way to celebrate Spring Festival.

"We worried about having empty seats since many people travel and celebrate the holiday with families and friends at home. But we were surprised to see that our shows sold out fast," Feng says.

Feng's wife, actress Liang, also performs in the play, in which she plays Wang's neighbor, Chunxiu, a straightforward and warm-hearted woman.

"We've played the roles for 15 years. We have revised them and designed new elements for our roles every time we present them onstage," says Liang, who also appears in movies and TV dramas.

She married Feng in 1993. Liang learned to dance yangge, a popular rural folk dance, for the play.

Besides veteran actors, young actors are also on stage, including Zhu Shaopeng playing the role of Wang Mantang's younger son, as well as 15 newly recruited young performers from Beijing People's Art Theater's training class.


Scenes from Family Reunion, a play by Beijing People's Art Theater, which will run for 14 shows through Jan 30. CHINA DAILY




]]> 2020-01-16 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Life can change as fast as the weather]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/16/content_37532464.htm It was early October or mid-to-late September in 2010, and I was looking for a job. I lived in San Diego, California, a southern city on the Pacific coast known for its year-round sunny skies and temperate climate.

San Diego is such a pleasant place to be that the cost of living there soars beyond imagination-the locals call it the "luxury tax", and the luxury, of course, is living there under whatever circumstances you can afford.

The source of all that luxury in San Diego is the weather. Temperatures rarely fall below 7 C nor climb above 30 C-and if they do, the sea breeze intervenes-but generally hover in the daytime around 25.

I had to laugh about the newspaper I had been working at for having a weather reporter. What was there to report? Almost every day was warm and sunny.

But that newspaper, like most in the United States, was drastically downsizing, and I was among the many who had to leave.

So in early autumn 2010, I applied for a job at China Daily in Beijing, and I was fortunate enough to get a letter back with a job offer.

It would be hard to leave San Diego, but I was excited at the opportunity to live in Beijing, and, particularly, to raise my boys there, to introduce them to a new culture. When I told them about it, I remember the younger of the two objecting, "But Dad, it's halfway around the world!"

I made light of it, answering, "You know, that's what they say about us too", but I knew it would be an unimaginably huge transition for them.

We looked at photos online, read about the customs, the country, the food, trying to learn whatever we could.

One thing we talked about, because the boys had lived mostly in warm climates, was what winter would be like. I told them about how much fun I had in the winters 0f my childhood in Massachusetts-making snowmen, building snow forts and having snowball fights, sledding and ice-skating.

I expected winters in Beijing to be like those I remembered from growing up in the outskirts of Boston.

I arrived in China in November, and my wife followed with the boys in December, plenty of time before Spring Festival to see what winter was like.

My expectations about winter only partially panned out. No snow to speak of, certainly not the repeated 15 to 30 centimeter snowfalls I remembered. So the snowmen, snow forts and snowballs were definitely out.

But our first two winters here were sunny and cold, so cold, in fact, that the body of water behind the nearby Bird's Nest National Stadium froze over.

It was a fantastic scene. People were skating, walking around on the ice, even sitting on little ice sleds pushing themselves forward with handheld rods. I had never seen those anywhere except in 17th-century Dutch paintings.

We had a great time those first two winters, and the fun we had on the ice went a long way toward helping the boys adjust.

What happened, though? Winter has lost much of its charm in Beijing. Sure, there might be a sudden cold snap for a few days with bright sunny skies. But for the most part, the weather is gray, somewhat smoggy and well above freezing.

Were those first two years a fluke, and this is the norm?

You never can tell with the weather. Last week, I read that a storm dumped up to 90 centimeters of snow just 225 kilometers north of San Diego in the town of Mountain High.


John Lydon



2020-01-16 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Oscar nod for Parasite shows the lowering of movie language barriers]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/16/content_37532431.htm SEOUL-Parasite director Bong Joon-ho says he was surprised and overjoyed when the film won six Oscar nominations on Monday, a historic first for the South Korean film industry and a sign that language is no longer a barrier to global success.

Parasite, a dark comedy about the vast gap between the rich and poor in South Korea, snagged a coveted best picture nomination, best director for Bong, and best screenplay in addition to its best international feature nomination.

"Every time they announced the new nominations, it was so thrilling, because we didn't really anticipate any of this," Bong says in an interview in California.

Bong had previously discussed the challenges of international films breaking the "language barrier" around the world, but says the nominations suggest those barriers may now be falling.

"We can say that thanks to the internet, social media and these streaming services, the whole of society is experiencing less of these language barriers and perhaps Parasite benefited from that global trend," he adds.

In a video shared online by film distributor Neon, one of the show's stars, Song Kang-ho, manages to not spill a cup of coffee as he and others in the room excitedly celebrate.

"The sign you're a global superstar: You don't spill your coffee when your film is nominated for best picture," according to the company.

Kwak Shin-ae, the CEO of the production company, Barunson E&A, says she is delighted by the first Oscar best picture nomination for a South Korean film but disappointed Song did not get a nod for an acting category considering the crucial role he played in the film.

"Being nominated for more than just the foreign language film category is meaningful because it means the film transcended language and nationality to communicate through the universal language of cinema," she says.

South Koreans, many of whom have watched the movie more than once, are also proud to share the honor.

"I was so happy to hear that in the morning Parasite was nominated in many categories for the Academy Awards and I hope the film will do well," Bae Young-sil, 62, says.

A high school student, Kang Jin-gu, 18, says: "It plainly reflected the dark side of our society," referring to the movie's portrayal of the social disparity that has pitted the rich and the poor in Asia's fourth-largest economy.


A poster of the South Korean film Parasite, which won six Oscar nominations on Monday. CHINA DAILY




2020-01-16 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Hook, line and sinker]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/16/content_37532454.htm When Dante Lam saw a six-minute clip of a documentary about marine rescue and salvage in 2014, the Hong Kong director-best known for his action blockbusters-was instantly hooked.

In the footage produced by China Rescue and Salvage, a national force administrated by the Ministry of Transport, Lam saw three rescuers descending down a steel rope hanging out of a helicopter hovering over the raging sea.

Facing off against turbulent waves, the rescuers risked their lives to save the screaming passengers and crew trapped on the hull of a sinking cargo ship, two-thirds of which was already submerged underwater.

"I watched the clip over and over again. It was extremely dangerous and I really admired the courage of the rescuers. It felt so thrilling to see the destructive power of nature, which I realized I could easily paint as the ultimate 'villain' in a movie," Lam says in an interview with China Daily.

His previous directorial forays, 2016's Operation Mekong and 2018's Operation Red Sea, yielded box office hauls of 1.19 billion yuan ($172 million) and 3.65 billion yuan, respectively, with the latter reaching the top of the box office charts. Lam is, to date, the highest-grossing Hong Kong director in Chinese-language cinema.

Yet, he was inspired to make a feature about marine rescue long before he signed up to make the two blockbusters, which made him one of the most sought-after Hong Kong filmmakers on the Chinese mainland.

The night before the interview, Lam had just finished the final edit of his latest action blockbuster, The Rescue, marking the culmination of a five-year-long aspiration.

As one of the most widely-anticipated releases and a likely box-office pillar for the upcoming Spring Festival holiday, The Rescue will open on Jan 25, the first day of Lunar New Year.

With a budget stretching to some 700 million yuan, the movie starring actor Eddie Peng and actress Xin Zhilei follows an elite team from China Rescue and Salvage tasked with saving survivors trapped in disaster situations and accidents, ranging from an oil rig that catches on fire and a natural gas explosion, to rescue efforts in a mountainous region hit by an earthquake.

As the largest-scale Chinese film to feature marine rescue and salvage operations, the crew built a vast film set on the beach in Xiamen, Fujian province, and traveled over 12,500 kilometers to shoot the main water scenes at Mexico's Baja Studios.

Originally constructed for James Cameron's epic Titanic, Baja Studios has some of the world's largest stages and filming tanks, and are famous for contributing to the cinematography of several water-dominated hit movies, including Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor and Peter Weir's Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

All the studio's tanks-the largest of which is 640,000 cubic meters and takes 54 hours to fill-were used during the shooting of The Rescue, which also saw the production team purchase and transport a retired Airbus 320 airliner from Las Vegas to Mexico.

"When I am determined to do something, I always use all my strength to pursue excellence. Once the scale and budget of the film was decided, I knew I had to provide the audience with a visual feast that they would surpass anything seen in previous Chinese productions," says Lam.

Unlike most of his peers who rely on CGI and indoor soundstages to digitally create disaster epics, Lam opted to shoot scenes on real-life sets to help the actors become immersed in their characters. He also demanded that the cast take part in rigorous training regimes to ensure they acted on screen just like the professionals do in real life.

This also earned the 54-year-old director the teasing nickname of "devil director" from Peng, who has worked with Lam on three previous occasions in Unbeatable, To the Fore, and Operation Mekong.

In an earlier interview, Peng-an A-list actor followed by around 33 million fans on Sina Weibo-recalls that he was required to join a team from China Rescue and Salvage for an entire month to receive his training, which was mostly underwater.

Peng also wore a suit made of heat-protective clothing to perform on a specially-constructed set to shoot the fire scenes, where temperatures reached as high as 600 C.

"Disasters occurring in water or fire are perhaps the most difficult to shoot. I insisted that these scenes were shot on real sets, as I wanted the reactions from the actors to come across as real and instinctive," explains Lam.

Talking about how Chinese disaster movies are still rare compared to Hollywood, he reveals that to shoot The Rescue he had to assemble special-effects veterans from five countries-the United States, Canada, South Korea, Germany and China-to design the stunts and handle the postproduction content.

"Speaking honestly, most of the talent from Hollywood are graduates of engineering. They can make precise calculations to guarantee the safety of the cast and crew. With its talent shortage, the Chinese film industry has yet to form a mature sector in this field," Lam says, extolling the skills of his multinational crew.

As well as the mind-blowing action sequences, the new film also aims to explore the complexity of humanity, says Lam, who assigned his scriptwriters to interview rescuers and document their words.

"One of my most impressive tales was from a rescuer who had to go out on a mission on the day that his father passed away. He was in shock from grief, but he said it was his duty to hurry to the scene to help people in need," recalls the emotional director.

"For me, it's interesting to discover that a hero who battles nature could also be the sort of ordinary person who lives next door. He could be a caring father or a concerned husband, but in a minute, he has the ability to transform himself into a fearless hero," says Lam.

A native who entered Hong Kong cinema during its golden era in the 1980s, Lam shot to fame from alongside Gordon Chan for codirecting the award-winning Beast Cop (1998), and he grew his reputation on the Chinese mainland with the success of Beast Stalker in 2008.

Now considered as a master of action films, Lam has shot epics set in the air, on the ocean and underwater. When asked what kind of place would spawn his next adventure, the director smiles. "I don't dare to think. I'm afraid that I wouldn't get (the go-ahead) to shoot such a film even if I had a great idea.

"For people like me, we just love cinema, and the process of shooting a film is enjoyable in itself," says Lam.


Scenes from the upcoming film The Rescue, which opens in Chinese cinemas on Jan 25, the first day of Lunar New Year. The movie centers around an elite team of operatives from China Rescue and Salvage. CHINA DAILY








]]> 2020-01-16 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Starring partners]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/16/content_37532433.htm How do you learn about Chinese civilization from cultural relics you see in museums? How can you recognize the echoes of traditional culture in modern Chinese life?

Luckily for many viewers in China, they will have the chance to appreciate the links between the traditions of modern life and those from the country's ancient civilization through a documentary coproduced by Chinese and British companies.

The dual-language documentary series, China's Greatest Treasures was produced by the Center of Film, TV Drama and Documentary of the China Media Group, and jointly created by CCTV Documentary International Media Co Ltd, BBC World News and Mustang Films.

The Chinese and British teams traveled 7,000 kilometers to film at eight museums in eight cities across China, five world-class cultural heritage sites and over 20 other locations housing some of China's most precious artifacts-all within the space of a year.

By retracing the traditions conveyed by these unique cultural relics, the series makes strong connections and comparisons between modern China and the history of ancient eras.

China's Greatest Treasures is a six-part series, with each 25-minute episode covering different aspects of modern Chinese life, such as family, art, manufacturing, technology and food. Alastair Sooke, a British art presenter, guides the audience on their voyage of discovery.

In this adventure, he meets Chinese people from all walks of lives, and listens to their stories. Being fascinated by Chinese history, Sooke says he is "amazed by her beauty and the depth of thousands of years of civilization. … You can't understand the country today without learning first about its past".

The presenter notes this has been the most amazing filming experience of his career. "China is never short of great artifacts. It is unusual to enjoy a production of such breadth and depth in your professional career."

China's Greatest Treasures started to air daily on CCTV-9 at 8 pm from Friday, presenting both traditional and modern China to audiences.

At its launch ceremony, Zhuang Dianjun, head of China Media Group's Center of Film, TV Drama and Documentary said CCTV and the BBC were natural partners to work together as two of the world's leading broadcasters, and the product of their mutual cooperation had created content and programming that would appeal to audiences the world over.

The collaboration between the two leading broadcasters was so promising that they intend to work together in the future. The documentary reflects the growing trend by the China Media Group's Center of Film, TV Drama and Documentary for collaborating on international projects. Since the latest rebranding of the Documentary Channel, the channel's weekly ranking entered the Top 20 among its Chinese peers in the same time slot, with a growing international exposure.

He says the center will seek more joint ventures in 2020, produce more documentaries with an international flavor, as it moves to raise its international brand awareness through producing content aimed at younger audiences.

Katy Xu, vice-president of China and North Asia for BBC Global News, says the collaboration between BBC World News and the China Media Group's Center of Film, TV Drama and Documentary has been successful. The accessible documentary series has already generated much interest in ancient and modern China.

"We are excited to know that the English version has already been broadcast by the BBC, and we are now looking forward to the Chinese audiences' support for the Chinese version."

China's Greatest Treasures premiered on BBC World in October, showcasing the cultural riches of China on a channel with a reach of over 465 million households across 200 countries and regions.

Ren Wanping, deputy director of the Palace Museum, says China's Greatest Treasures has translated the rich cultural wealth and academic resources into an extraordinary series with international impact.

And thanks to the interesting and appealing stories, the presenter managed to bring the collections of artifacts to life for audiences. To mark the 600th anniversary of the Forbidden City, and the 95th anniversary of the Palace Museum, part of the same compound, Ren says the museum aims to promote traditional Chinese culture and collaborate with all Chinese museums, and continue working with the media to create high-quality cultural works.


British art presenter Alastair Sooke pays a close look at the Terracotta Warriors at the Mausoleum of Qinshihuang in Xi'an, Shaanxi province. CHINA DAILY







]]> 2020-01-16 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Landmark opera house to open in Malaysia]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/16/content_37532432.htm The first theater abroad to be run directly by China Performing Arts Agency Theaters, the national performing arts theater chain, is set to open.

The Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House, the first in the city of Johor Bahru, in the southern Malaysian state of Johor, will open on Sunday.

Two galas will be held on Sunday and Monday to celebrate the event with a variety of shows, including singing, dancing, acrobatics, classical music and ballet, gathering performers from both China and Malaysia. Headliners include Malaysian pianist Claudia Yang, Chinese tenor Ding Yi and Chinese percussionist Tian Yuan.

According to Wang Long, deputy general manager of CPAA Theaters, the opera house project started in early 2016 and the building was completed in October 2019. It is already a city landmark. With a capacity of about 600 seats, the opera house occupies nearly 8,000 square meters.

Since Singapore is only one kilometer away from Johor Bahru, the opera house will attract Singaporean audiences during weekends.

"We will launch art festivals and performing seasons in 2020 with over 70 performances, including traditional Chinese operas like Peking Opera and Kunqu Opera, dance dramas, operas and chamber music," says Wang, adding that 2020 is the Year of Culture and Tourism between China and Malaysia and the opera house will serve as a cultural bridge between the two countries.

Under the China Arts and Entertainment Group Ltd, CPAA has 15 directly managed theaters and 70 member theaters across China. By January 2019, CPAA held over 5,000 shows every year, which attracted audiences of more than 5 million.

In October 2016, CPAA launched the Silk Road International League of Theaters, which serves as a platform for performing arts to promote cultural exchanges between China and other countries. Now, the league has 124 members from 42 countries.

According to Wang, two Malaysian theaters joined the league: the Damansara Performing Arts Centre and the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre.

From Monday to Thursday, the league will bring the Hong Kong String Orchestra and its founder and artistic director, violinist Yao Jue, to the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House, warming up for the official opening.

On Dec 15, Peking Opera master Wang Rongrong appeared at the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House and gave a lecture. Besides sharing her four-decade-long experience as a Peking Opera actress, she also displayed the skills of the 200-year-old ancient art form, along with four young Peking Opera actors.

"With the opening of the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House, we could bring Peking Opera to more audiences and display the beauty of the old art form," Wang said.


Peking Opera master Wang Rongrong (left) gives a lecture about the art form at the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House on Dec 15. CHINA DAILY





]]> 2020-01-16 00:00:00 <![CDATA[WeChat report unveils personality of users]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/16/content_37532463.htm Staying warm and cozy at home, ordering food delivery services and shopping online is an ordinary weekend for many people, according to an annual report released by WeChat.

Released at WeChat Open Class PRO 2020 last week in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, the report sheds some light on the app's users' interests and their content consumption behaviors.

As well as being a social network, it also allows users to make friends, count steps, shop online, share moments, book taxis, make restaurant reservations, read articles, play games and order food through its mobile payment system.

With more than 1.15 billion monthly users as of September, up 6 percent year-on-year, WeChat is one of the most popular messaging apps.

On the network, nearly 1 million users have friends' number up to 5,000, which is the limit for a user.

The active peak period of the app is before lunch and after work. After 8 pm is the active peak for online games, while after 9 pm is for reading.

The average number of steps per day on WeChat sports is 6,932, the report shows.

However, the number of steps for about 12 million accounts dropped to less than 100 in the weekends, which means that besides going to the toilet, these users stuck to their bed all day. About 64 percent of such users are female.

Delivery food services and online shopping are frequently used at the weekend for these users.

In the retail realm, people used WeChat Pay 5.8 times per month on average for purchases last year.

In the WeChat emoji ranking, face palm, open smile, snicker, thumb up and rose are among the top five.

In WeChat Moments where users can share their lifestream with friends, male users prefer to share things related to work or games, while female users share food or life.

The top domestic cities of WeChat Moments check-ins are Guangzhou, Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Chengdu. And, the top five foreign cities are Seoul, Osaka, Jeju, Bangkok and Singapore.

WeChat mini program is a built-in app aggregator, which has more than 1 million such apps across over 200 industries. It saw transactions reach 800 billion yuan ($116 billion) last year.

The app users open their mini program four times per day on average. The daily active user number of mini program reached 300 million.

Women, younger than 29, prefer online shopping programs, and those aged 29 and above prefer entertainment ones.

This year, WeChat mini program will focus on empowering business ecosystems and opening up more capabilities for developers including livestreaming.

WeChat was launched in 2011 by internet giant Tencent. In 2014, WeChat Pay was unveiled and in 2017, the app launched its mini program.


2020-01-16 00:00:00
<![CDATA[San Francisco students celebrate 'graduation' from culture camp]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/15/content_37532339.htm SAN FRANCISCO-More than 300 students from overseas Chinese families celebrated this month the completion of their training at a Chinese culture winter camp with new skills and knowledge about China.

The mostly English-speaking students from the San Francisco-based Central Chinese High School in America took to the stage to showcase their newly-acquired skills in traditional Chinese culture, such as paper-cutting, clay modeling, knot-making, ethnic group dancing, and recitation of ancient poems in Mandarin.

The two-week camp provided them with convenient access to education about Chinese culture under the direct instruction of 12 Chinese teachers selected from 10 schools in East China's Jiangsu province.

Ju Hua, chief of the Chinese teachers' delegation, says: "In about 11 days, the Chinese teachers taught more than 300 kids from overseas Chinese families to learn how to make traditional handicrafts unique to China, including paper-cutting, the playing of traditional Chinese musical instruments and Chinese kung fu."

Ju says that the training at the 2019 Winter Camp of Chinese Culture Wonderland, co-organized by China's Jiangsu province and the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in San Francisco, provided the students with a good opportunity to experience in person the profoundness and charm of traditional Chinese culture, which will help them eventually become "ambassadors" of friendly exchanges between China and the United States.

Cai Bingle, headmaster of the Central Chinese High School in America, says the winter camp was a valuable platform for the students of Chinese descent, who were mostly born in the US, to learn traditional Chinese culture "at a very close distance" by engaging directly with teachers from China.

"The two-week-long camp, though short in length, was a fruitful training session for the kids, who previously had little knowledge about Chinese culture, but acquired new information about the country where their parents came from," Cai says. "I believe they will have a better idea about Chinese culture after their training at the camp and develop new identities and connections with China."

Grace Ou, a student from the school, says that she had little knowledge about Chinese culture before, but the winter camp gave her a deeper insight into Chinese culture that goes back thousands of years. She says she also feels honored to be of Chinese heritage.

"We learned the culture of our Chinese heritage, and with that we will become ambassadors to help carry on both Chinese culture and the friendship between China and the United States," she says.


2020-01-15 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Company helps poverty relief drive in Sri Lanka]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/15/content_37532400.htm COLOMBO-Shantha Jayasiri lives in Pannila, a remote village in western Sri Lanka, about 59 kilometers from Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital. Jayasiri is one of the several villagers there in the district of Kalutara, whose income is not sufficient to meet life's basic needs. In the past, when his daughter, Vishmi Sadeesha, started a new school year every January, Jayasiri had to go around and borrow money from other people to buy stationery and other school materials.

It was not an easy task, because almost everyone else in Pannila is as poor as Jayasiri, with little or no extra money to help others in need.

However, fate has been smiling on the people in the village since it has been included in the China Merchants Silk Road Hope Village plan, sponsored by the China Merchants Group.

The project aims to transform poor villages in Sri Lanka, and put them on the road to sustainable development.

Jayasiri and other villagers no longer have to worry about their children's school supplies. The elderly too will be looked after under the plan.

China Merchants Group staff at the Colombo International Container Terminal Co Ltd visited Pannila at the turn of the year and distributed school bags and stationery to about 300 students, who began a new school year this month.

In addition, 119 elderly people over the age of 70 also received gift packages comprising daily necessities, nutritional and health products.

At the gift-awarding ceremony held in the village, H.A. Gunathilake, president of the Pannila Village Development Committee, expressed his appreciation on behalf of the nearly 2,000 villagers, saying that Chinese companies truly understand the needs of poor Sri Lankan villagers.

Jayasiri's daughter, Vishmi, was beaming with happiness. Vishmi said: "I am very glad to have received new stationery and a school bag, which makes me look forward to the new semester. All my classmates have received gifts from Chinese companies."

One of the elderly beneficiaries of the charity event, 73-year-old Roselin Abeywickrema, expressed her appreciation to the Chinese people for their care and concern toward the elderly in the village.

Mu Nan, chief financial officer of Colombo International Container Terminal, said: "Education at the primary and middle school levels helps villagers achieve their dreams and develop their village."

According to reports, Pannila is the group's first targeted poverty alleviation village in Sri Lanka. Mu thanked the elderly for their contribution to the development of the village and local society, and said that the group will pay special attention to improving the living standards of the elderly and caring for their health.




2020-01-15 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Revealing characters]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/15/content_37532351.htm A character-forming display of elegance and style has seen Wu Dichen, 29, garner more than 1 million fans as her soft smile belies the depth of her expertise and her exquisite style.

Wu has won over numerous fans on Chinese social media platforms since she released her first video on sharing platform TikTok in May 2018. But in this case the modern technology is used to highlight a traditional skill far from the usual fare of cooking, singing or plain publicity seeking. Wu's fame is due to her delicate and fascinating writing of Chinese characters.

One of the videos Wu released on the platform in December 2018 saw the number of her fans surge by about 60,000 overnight as she brought the ancient craft to a new generation of admirers.

"She is pretty. Her handwriting technique and style are beautiful too," said a fan commenting on Wu's video. Another fan said: "I rely too much on my mobile phone and I often forget how to write (Chinese characters). Her videos encourage me to write again."

Wu is delighted that her videos have inspired more young Chinese people to pick up the brush to learn calligraphy.

"I didn't expect that my videos would have received so much attention and that afterward the viewers were more interested in calligraphy, an important ancient Chinese art form," says Wu in a phone interview with China Daily. "Chinese characters carry on Chinese culture and history."

Wu was born and raised in Gaotang county, Liaocheng city in Shandong province, which is also home to Li Kuchan (1899-1983), a famous Chinese painter, calligrapher and art educator. Gaotang county is renowned as a center of art and calligraphy.

Wu's grandparents were both teachers and her grandfather practiced calligraphy at home. This inspired Wu to learn the art as a child. She had a close bond with her grandfather, she says, who suggested her name at birth. Dichen literally means washing away the dust, to have a "pure soul". Wu recalls that during childhood she loved playing a writing game with her fingers in the air, mimicking the style and strokes of Chinese characters she saw on the streets and on TV.

About four years ago, Wu attended a calligraphy class, catering to adult learners. She learned how to write in the style of xingshu (running script) and kaishu (regular script). Wu, who worked in a local internet company, practiced calligraphy for about four hours every day after work.

"The more I practiced, the more I loved calligraphy," Wu says. Besides using ink and brush, Wu also uses a pen to write.

"The process of writing helps me to focus my thoughts and relax my mind. Usually I write Chinese poems, which is a great way to learn about traditional culture."

Unlike many of her peers, who are "addicted" to their mobile phones for playing video games or watching TV shows, Wu is self-disciplined and focuses on her calligraphic writing. She also loves reading books about calligraphy and drawing with colored pencils.

She has created more than 1,000 calligraphic works. Some followers pay her to write Chinese characters, and through this she earns about 30,000 yuan ($4,363) every month. However, Wu has not decided to take the art form as a full-time career.

With Spring Festival around the corner, Wu has written hundreds of chunlian, or spring couplets, two lines of poetry which usually express best wishes for the coming year. She writes them mainly for her fans, family and friends.

"All my spare time is taken up with handwriting. I am still learning and practicing. Since I started to learn calligraphy, I have been introduced to the world of Chinese culture, which I am fascinated with. I hope more young people will become interested in it after watching my videos," Wu says.

One of the best known Chinese calligraphers is Wang Xizhi of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420), who wrote kaishu, xingshu as well as caoshu (cursive script). Many Chinese calligraphers imitated his style, but no one ever bettered him for artistic transformation. One of his most famous works is Lanting Xu (Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion), considered one of the best-known calligraphic works in Chinese history.

"It is true that calligraphy belongs to ancient times since we no longer use the ink and brush as writing tools. However, calligraphy is part of traditional Chinese aesthetics and philosophy," says calligrapher Xu Kangyan, 52, who learned the art as a child with his uncle.

Living in Beijing, Xu has been researching Wang's calligraphy for more than two decades and has been teaching young people calligraphy classes since 2010.

"Learning calligraphy requires an in-depth knowledge about its cultural background, which cannot be gained overnight," says Xu, adding that in Chinese, calligraphy is shufa, with shu meaning "writing" while fa meaning "the laws" or "methods".

"The way of holding your brush, moving your arm and hand, and arranging the strokes, all are based on rules, which take time to practice," says Xu.

Speaking of his own experience of learning and practicing calligraphy, Xu says that he feels at peace once he dips his brush into the ink.

"Each character you write reflects your mood at that moment. It also shows your personality and aesthetic," says Xu, who has more than 60 students from all walks of life, ranging from college students to retirees.

In ancient China, youngsters started compulsory, extensive training in calligraphy with ink, brush and paper even before they reached their teens. Today, with ubiquitous modern technology, few write with a pen, let alone calligraphically. But there are signs that the discipline is attracting a new generation of fans.

In his hometown, Haicheng, Liaoning province, Xu says, there are more than 100 calligraphy training centers. "Our small city has only about 2 million people, but young people learning calligraphy has become a growing phenomenon in society," Xu says.


A work by Wu Dichen, a copy of the famous piece Lanting Xu (Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion) made by Wang Xizhi during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420). CHINA DAILY



Xu Kangyan practices the art of handwriting every day in his study in Beijing. He tutors more than 60 adult students from all walks of life to learn Chinese calligraphy. WANG JING/CHINA DAILY



A work from Xu's collection, a piece of Buddhist scripture written in Tang Dynasty (618-907). WANG JING/CHINA DAILY








2020-01-15 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Physical education becomes major subject in Yunnan middle schools]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/15/content_37532371.htm KUNMING-The newly released reforms of the high school entrance exams in Southwest China's Yunnan province has caused heated discussions after the total score allocated to physical education was raised from 50 points to 100 points, equal to the so-called "three major subjects" of Chinese, mathematics and English.

The reforms will be implemented from the fall semester of 2020. Students will take PE tests once a year during their three-year middle school education, and the proportion of each year's test has been tentatively set to 20 percent, 40 percent and 40 percent.

The exams include two parts: a physical examination and a skill test. The former, accounting for 60 points, will be conducted according to the national standards of students' physical health while the latter, accounting for 40 points, will be a test of sports skills.

Xu Zhongxiang, an official with the Yunnan Provincial Department of Education, says: "The Ministry of Education requires students to master at least one or two sports skills. Students can choose from various sports for the skill test, including soccer, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, badminton, tennis, track and field, swimming, martial arts, boxing or aerobics."

Detailed rules, plans and related documents are still under discussion and will be released soon.

Zhang Chunhua, deputy director of Yunnan Provincial Department of Education, explains the purpose of the reform as boosting students' well-rounded development and alleviating their study pressure.

Xu says: "Middle school is a critical period for the development of students' physical and mental health. Regular exercise is needed to promote students' health."

Wang Dengfeng, a senior official with the Ministry of Education, says: "We hope that after several years of hard work, physical education can truly become a major subject."




2020-01-15 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Last year's net gains]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/15/content_37532373.htm Chinese Lunar New Year is around the corner. A time to reflect, reminisce and consider what has gone. The last 12 months saw an increasing number of wanghong, or "internet celebrities" of all shapes and sizes, young and old, male and female, go viral as they attracted followers with their charisma, unique content, outlook and personal style. The following are 10 internet celebrities that hit the headlines, for various reasons, last year.

Literary wanderer

Clips of a tramp brightened our March days. But appearances can be deceptive. This was a tramp who knew his literature. With his matted hair and ragged clothes, he went viral on Douyin, or TikTok, a short-video platform in China. The tramp, named Shen Wei, talks about current affairs using proverbs and allusions from Chinese classic books, including Zuo Zhuan (Chronicles of Zuo) and Shang Shu (the Book of Documents).

Viewers were surprised that he could be so articulate and obviously well-read. Soon, in a bid to meet him, visitors began to arrive in their droves at the street-near a subway station in Shanghai's Pudong district-where Shen often films his soliloquies.

They asked about Shen's reflections on The Analects of Confucius, Thomas More's Utopia, Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and other renowned books. Dozens of phones and cameras were held aloft, ready to record his thoughts.

As the mysterious man attracted wider publicity and more attention from the media, his past was gradually revealed.

The 52-year-old Shanghai native was once a civil servant at the Xuhui district audit office. However, due to his "abnormal behavior", including collecting waste paper from rubbish bins and trash cans in the office building and sorting recyclable garbage, he was shunned by colleagues and was asked to retire early in 1993. He was sent to a mental hospital twice by his family. They later broke off contact with him. Shen then became a homeless man who used his meager income to buy books as he is a voracious reader, and has been since childhood.

After being dubbed the Vagrant Master, he was persuaded to, literally, clean up his act. The restorative powers of a shower, haircut and mustache trim, coupled with some clean clothes, became evident. He even opened his own channel on short-video platform Kuaishou which has garnered more than 1.4 million followers.

Over the past several months, he has toured many historical sites across the country, sponsored mainly by his fans, and vividly illustrated the background stories of these attractions via livestreaming sessions.

Fairy tales

Seven Dong women from Gaibao village in the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture in Guizhou province became online sensations after promoting their ethnic culture and agricultural products via livestreaming and short videos.

Their media work reportedly yielded a profit of at least 1 million yuan ($145,000) for the village.

Wu Yusheng, Party secretary of Gaibao village, suggested the idea in 2018, in a bid to connect the remote village with the outside world.

"The culture of the Dong ethnic group is well preserved here. I found all these online video platforms could publicize us very well at a very low cost," says Wu, who then organized a group of young women to open a channel titled Seven Dong Fairies on Kuaishou.

Wearing traditional garments of the ethnic group, these Dong women showed how to fish in the river, design embroidery, make a type of sticky rice cake called ciba, and other details of a Dong villager's life, all of which helped earn more than 300,000 followers on the platform and attract attention from mainstream media.

The beautiful scenery of Gaibao village, with green mountains, clear water, and traditional Dong-style stilted architecture, is also displayed in the videos, attracting many tourists to travel to the area for a taste of its unique culture.

Tumbling beauty

In November, the video clips of a 23-year-old woman tumbling like a roly-poly toy in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi province, attracted more than 1 billion viewers on Douyin.

Dressed in Tang Dynasty-style clothing, the performer, Feng Jiachen, rotates freely on a round iron base in the shape of a bowl. She appears to defy gravity while greeting audiences with movements so elegant that they seem effortless. However, they are far from it.

Feng's lower body is tied with a T-shaped frame fixed to the bottom of the bowl. Her weight-no more than 50 kilograms-ensures she always ends upright.

She has to control the base using lower-body strength, and her knees are always bruised after each performance.

Feng started to learn dance when she was 4 years old.

Two years ago, the preschool education and teaching major joined a cast that stage theatrical plays at the Great Tang All Day Mall in Xi'an, Shaanxi province.

In July, she auditioned for the roly-poly role, beating 100 other candidates with her skill and technique.

After her video clips went viral online, visitors from across the country came to the square where Feng performs, in the hope of catching a glimpse of her graceful technique.

"I will stay grounded and keep improving the quality of my performance," she says.

"My hometown is a city steeped in history and full of cultural treasure. I hope our performance will draw public attention to the city and traditional Chinese culture."

A rural idol

Li Ziqi, 29, became one of the most popular Chinese vloggers on video-sharing platform YouTube, with more than 8 million users subscribing to her channel by the end of last year.

It was in 2016 that she first decided to film videos to record her idyllic rural life and portray traditional Chinese aesthetics. In her videos, Li, wearing traditional dress, shows the charm of Chinese cuisine and folk craftsmanship by doing everything from scratch, and displaying each step clearly, one after another.

In the videos, she uses natural ingredients to cook various dishes, harvests grapes to dye cloth, embroiders flowers and creatures on cloth, and makes furniture with planks and bamboo. She has also spent two years making paper from tree barks, brushes out of rabbit hair and crafting other stationery from natural materials.

The picturesque countryside scenery displayed in the videos and Li's ability to live a self-sufficient and slow-paced lifestyle have impressed a large number of domestic and international viewers.

Flights of fancy

In October 2018, a 26-year-old female IT engineer won the jackpot in a lottery launched by Alipay on China's major social media platform Sina Weibo. She became an overnight web sensation.

The prizes included shoes, clothes, phones and cosmetic products, as well as free luxury accommodation and flight tickets to countries in Asia, North America, Africa and Europe, most of which would be invalid if not claimed within a year.

The official account of Alipay released a Sina Weibo post to announce the prize list and all online users who reposted the post had a chance to win.

This resulted in it being reposted by more than 3 million participants. The winner, known online as Xinxiaodai, was the lucky one in late 2018.

Her excitement was evident in a post after being named as the winner. "Should I stop going to work for the rest of my life?" Her post attracted many hundreds of thousands of fellow users to comment.

She quickly decided to quit her job at a State-owned enterprise and claimed as many prizes as she could within the year.

Before that, she had never been abroad. She soon made up for it as she visited Japan, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand and recorded her experiences via video blogs, which drew more than 1.3 million followers on Sina Weibo.

However, she only managed to claim half of the travel-related prizes and she spent a lot of her own savings on the foreign trips. She also found out the intensive itinerary was exhausting, had taken a toll on her health, and public interest in her posts was waning. What could she do after a year of jet-setting? Her life has changed but to what extent, we are yet to see.

Rustic style

In March, Lu Kaigang, a 20-year-old villager from Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region's Nanning city posted a video on Douyin, in which he struts like a model wearing a dress made from fishnets.

He then filmed dozens of similar videos showing how he channels his "inner diva", moving in tempo under a stone bridge, across a narrow alley, in a derelict factory, down mossy steps and through the ridges and furrows of fields.

He turned the countryside into his runway and made fashionable outfits and accessories from readily available materials, including bamboo sticks, reeds and plastic bags.

Although he never had professional training, Lu Xianren, as he is also known, nailed the supermodel walk from studying models as a child, by watching fashion shows on TV.

His countryside homage to the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show gained him more than 3 million followers on Douyin.

Lu, a former employee at a local food manufacturer, used to ask his co-workers to help him film videos after work. Now he has talent agents to support him to plan for a future career as a rising model. He started to pose for magazines, meet media outlets and grace real runways alongside professional models at domestic and overseas fashion shows.

On Dec 18, he was invited to the 16th Esquire Man at His Best Award ceremony held by Esquire magazine in Beijing. He says one of the most exciting parts of attending the event was that he got to meet his idol He Sui, a renowned Chinese supermodel.

'Useless Edison'

On Dec 31, 2019, Geng Shuai, better known as Shougonggeng, posted a clip on Kuaishou which shows him converting a diesel engine into a stylish stereo that also functions as a humidifier. It received more than 114,500 likes from viewers.

In his small workshop in Hebei province's Yangcun village, the 31-year-old handicraft expert has created hundreds of quirky contraptions over the past two years, including a sword-shaped skateboard, a hollow steel hammer which can be used as a bag, a soybean grinder rotated by riding a stationary exercise bicycle, an automatic hair-washing machine which requires the user to hang upside down by their feet, and an earthquake-proof noodle bowl that allows the diner to continue munching through a seismic shock.

In one video he made a cage, the bottom of which is a wide treadmill belt for people to walk or run on. But there's a catch. Only when users reach the exercise target they set beforehand can they get out from the cage, otherwise they will be locked in. Geng says that the cage treadmill will force people to run and keep fit.

Online users found his not-so-practical inventions hilarious and started to dub him as "a useless Edison".

The former welder became a social media star who boasts nearly 3.5 million fans on Kuaishou and 1.8 million followers on Sina Weibo, and has started to get an income from holding livestreaming shows, selling his handicrafts online and cooperating with enterprises for advertising revenue.

Being "internet famous" means he has to come up with a new invention every week, and his father and brother, former migrant workers, have now come back home to support his work.

A woman's routine

Yu Zhaohe, a 27-year-old male vlogger, has been tickling funny bones with clips he posted on Douyin. Yu portrays in vivid and humorous detail the everyday lives and challenges of young women in Guiyang, Guizhou province.

Yu usually dons an orange wig and garish dress to play a female persona, Maomaojie, in his video. Speaking Mandarin with the accent of Guiyang and using dramatic body language, he comically shows how women think and act when facing situations such as blind dating, shopping, dieting, meeting friends and breaking up with a boyfriend.

Yu used to observe people around him and dig out the funny parts of their daily behavior.

"I would crack up at the many trivial details in everyday life, especially when I went shopping with my mother or some female friends," says Yu.

In one video, Maomaojie is determined to buy an eyebrow pencil. Nothing more, nothing less. However, she actually brings back a bag full of makeup products, because of flattery from the salesmen and labels claiming "limited edition". Millions of online users could relate to it.

His ability to accurately capture the private emotions shared by women and use his sense of humor to carry out a performance interpretation of feminine experiences has made him one of the most popular cross-dressers on Douyin. By the end of 2019, subscribers to Yu's channel, titled Duoyu and Maomaojie, passed 33 million.

Yu, who once worked for a local newspaper in Guiyang, is now an online influencer, attending cultural and commercial events at home and abroad, and appearing at entertainment events with other big-name celebrities.

The lip-service man

Li Jiaqi was arguably the most sensational livestreaming anchorman in China last year.

The 27-year-old, hailed as the No 1 lipstick salesman, once sold 15,000 lipsticks in five minutes during a one-on-one selling competition where he faced off against Alibaba founder Jack Ma during a Singles Day shopping gala in 2018.

Li, once a salesman at an offline makeup store, has taken his sales prowess far beyond the realm of cosmetic products to almost all aspects of people's daily lives.

On Nov 11, 2019, the salesman attracted more than 37 million consumers to his livestreaming show and reportedly captured product sales totaling 1 billion yuan.

Like all good performers he has a catchphrase: "Oh my God, ladies, buy it, buy it, buy it".

However, he also became a controversial figure after he recommended and tested a nonstick pan. One small problem, the eggs stuck to the pan during a demonstration. A month later, he was accused of misrepresenting the origin of crabs he promoted.

A violence reaction

He Yuhong, better known as Yuya, is a vlogger who used to impress viewers with her uncanny step-by-step transformation into celebrities, including Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr. and Lily Collins.

On Nov 25, a video she posted on Sina Weibo was widely discussed by online users. However, this time, the focus was not on her consummate makeup skills, but on her courage in revealing the fact that she was a victim of domestic violence.

In the video, she recounts how her boyfriend allegedly abused her, with tears streaming down her cheeks. The accused abuser once, allegedly, punched her face so violently that she could not even wear makeup, vital for her online work, for a whole week.

A clip recorded by the security camera shows the man grasping her foot to drag her off an elevator in their apartment building. The man's two ex-wives, who allegedly also suffered violent abuse, are interviewed in the video. The video has gained more than 400,000 reposts.

Shortly afterward, the alleged abuser was detained by the police.

The three women hope that their speaking out will encourage other victims, or potential victims, of domestic violence to tell someone, seek help and protect themselves from physical and mental harm.


Online sensation Feng Jiachen performs at the square of the Great Tang All Day Mall in Xi'an, Shaanxi province. Many tourists come from afar to meet and interact with her. HUO YAN/CHINA DAILY



Serene, idyllic rural life has been highlighted by many young people in their shared videos. Among them are the Seven Dong women (top and middle left and right) from Gaibao village in Guizhou province, who promote their ethnic culture and agricultural products such as rice and ginger, and Li Ziqi (above), one of the most popular vloggers who introduces step-by-step tutorials on Chinese cuisine and traditional aesthetics in her videos. CHINA DAILY











Lu Kaigang from a village in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, who's also known as Lu Xianren, became an online sensation after posting a video in which he struts like a model wearing a dress made from fishnets. The former employee of a local food manufacturer, who turned the countryside into his runway, is now a model in real life. CHINA DAILY



Xinxiaodai quit her job as an IT engineer to collect the various prizes when she hit the jackpot on an Alibaba lottery event. CHINA DAILY





2020-01-15 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Exhibition shows how a modern master let nature nurture his art]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/14/content_37532201.htm Learning from and copying the style of the masters has always been a normal and legitimate undertaking by art students as they try to see the bigger picture, literally, and hone their style and construction. But this approach does have its drawbacks, not least because it may see students trap themselves in a style they are not comfortable with at a cost to their own originality.

Technique, of course, is important but so is the message a student's art should portray. One artist who understood the pitfalls of this approach, but was determined to evolve, was Li Xiongcai (1910-2001). At the tender age of 16, Li joined the studio of Gao Jianfu, the founder of the Lingnan (Canton) School of Painting, in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, to improve his classic ink art.

It is said that every day, Li was asked by Gao to climb up into an attic where he would copy ancient Chinese paintings for hours. Gao would then remove the ladder to the attic so that Li could focus entirely on his work. Under Gao's instruction, Li copied hundreds of famous paintings produced over the centuries.

But Gao knew that technical mastery was only part of the process Li needed to go through to become a true artist. Gao also wanted his talented student to open his eyes and mind to new ideas.

Gao often took Li to the outskirts of Guangzhou and other parts of Guangdong province to make sketches, to work free from academic restraints. And he also provided financial support to Li to further his studies in Japan where decades earlier, Gao himself had also lived and broadened his vision.

Gao hoped these arrangements could boost Li's career to carry on the rejuvenation of Chinese artistic traditions.

Years later, Li did fulfill his mentor's wish to become a second-generation leader of the Lingnan school of painting, which emerged and prevailed in Guangdong in the 20th century.

His accomplishments in reviving the classic ink paintings, especially in the way he observed, sketched and learned from nature, are being revisited at Restudy the Nature, an exhibition at the Art Museum of Beijing Fine Art Academy through to Feb 23.

The exhibition highlights Li's versatility in handling different subjects, including landscapes, figures and the flower-and-bird genre.

At its heart, it navigates through Li's career of utilizing sketches to revise the genre of ink painting and to express social concerns.

Li, who taught at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts for decades, is best known for a body of work in the 1950s and '60s which depicted panoramic views of industrial projects against a backdrop of magnificent natural scenery. He journeyed to the construction sites of shipyards, flood-control dams and reservoirs in Hubei and Henan provinces, and produced ink and color paintings back home.

The exhibition will place the spotlight on the sketches Li made at the places he visited, showing his techniques and shrewd observations.

Two of Li's most famous paintings are A Picture of Flood Prevention Works in Wuhan, a copy of which is on show, and Construction of Sanmenxia Dam, which is also on display.

Viewers can picture how Li recreated the bustling scenes of two major projects of New China in his studio by referring to the many preliminary drawings he made. These, too, are also on show.

In these ink sketches Li portrays workers carrying heavy loads, trucks busily transporting materials and villagers reinforcing breakwaters. With technical refinement, he celebrated the will, wisdom and energy of ordinary people confronting natural barriers.

"Li's brushwork shows a desire to keep pace with the times," says An Yuanyuan, deputy director of the National Art Museum of China, where A Picture of Flood Prevention Works in Wuhan is housed.

"More importantly, he portrayed those working people with great compassion," she adds.

The exhibition traces Li's accumulated sketching skills and keen sense of observation to his three years at the Tokyo Fine Arts School (which later became the Tokyo University of the Arts) in the 1930s.

Xue Liang, the exhibition's curator, says the years in Japan widened Li's vision, and he was introduced to the technical precision of Western oil painting and developed an interest in natural history.

He says dozens of the sketches on show depict a variety of insects Li painted with delicate brushwork reflect these influences, and also embody Li's understanding of the idea of "drawing the spirit and atmosphere" central to classic Chinese painting.

Before Li was able to complete epic works of a grand historic narrative such as A Picture of Flood Prevention Works in Wuhan, he traveled extensively across the country from the 1940s to the '50s to sketch.

He took several trips between 1940 and 1948 in Sichuan and Gansu provinces, as well as the Xinjiang Uygur and Inner Mongolia autonomous regions. He produced hundreds of drawings of the distinctive scenery and folk customs of West China, a selection of which are on show.

Xue says being embraced by nature motivated Li to produce more powerful, diverse strokes to render an intensity to his works, which also laid a foundation for artistic maturity he achieved a decade later.

In the 1950s and '60s, Li often traveled to the provinces of Central and South China, during which he made a large number of sketches of rural landscapes and farmers toiling in the fields. These works, some of which are also on show, presented his love for changing dawn scenes, veils of mist, night rain and winter snow.

Li Jingkun, chairman of the Guangdong Artists Association, says sketching served not only as a method of practice for Li Xiongcai but also, "an album of his travelogues and the vicissitude of life over the years by which he conveyed a humanistic spirit".

Li Jingkun says sketching allowed Li Xiongcai to evolve to become a painter "who created monumental works and raised the Lingnan school of painting and Chinese painting alike to new heights".


Construction of Sanmenxia Dam, an epic work by Li Xiongcai, is on show at the Art Museum of Beijing Fine Art Academy through to Feb 23. CHINA DAILY




]]> 2020-01-14 00:00:00 <![CDATA[When the big freeze hits Beijing, head south]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/14/content_37532250.htm I struggle with bearing the frigid winter temperatures, and I know I'm not the only one.

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan and felt I had "paid my dues" with enough six-month seasons of sub-zero temperatures in my youth. So at age 23, I moved out to the hot, cozy Las Vegas desert, only to find myself back in the brutal winter climate of Beijing seven years later.

But that's what makes the large size and varying climates of China so unique. If I'm savvy enough, I don't have to endure the Beijing cold in its entirety. A variety of planes, trains and buses make seeing warmer parts of China an accessible and convenient reality during weekends.

Take Shenzhen, in southern China's Guangdong province, for example. During a chilly December weekend in which Beijing temperatures fell under 5 C, I enjoyed a morning road race in perfect 22 C conditions. The day before, I toured a beautiful park and ate outstanding local food. And while I had to return to Beijing for work on Monday, my friends with me on the trip spent an extra night on the beach and exploring the city's popular Nanshan district. Transportation for the trip cost some 2,000 yuan ($290) round trip and our hotels about 500 yuan per night. Not too bad for a weekend getaway.

Closer to Beijing, there's Shanghai, where trains and flights are even cheaper than southern China. For as little as a 1,000 yuan round trip, travelers can trade the capital's frigid weather for Shanghai's mild 13 C temperatures. Even better, it takes less than three hours by plane and under five hours by high-speed train.

Other places still on my winter-getaway wishlist include Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macao, Hainan province, Yunnan province and Chongqing. I'm pretty sure all of them are accessible at some point by flights costing under 2,000 yuan.

Each of the above destinations offer their own slice of culture, history, tourism and hospitality. I'm not going to pretend to know in detail all of the attractions in each respective city yet, but I can say any experience this time of year would trump the weather most people will experience in Beijing for the next three months.

So many places, so little time. I'll follow up in future columns with my travels when I make each trip this winter. As the cold here in Beijing persists, I'm sure I'll grow increasingly anxious to seek sun and warm temperatures over the weekends. First on the list is Macao, then Taiwan and Sanya, Hainan. Everything else this winter is a bonus.

If there's any other perks of Beijing's cold weather, it gives motivation to stay indoors and catch up on work. The city's myriad fitness centers are usually cozy enough for some exercise, too, so you're not stuck running or biking in freezing temperatures.

As I'm writing this, the Beijing weather has hit-7 C. It's not even that cold in Detroit right now. But next time you hear someone complain about Beijing's cold, just remind them they have plenty of options to not just survive here, but enjoy the warmer and equally beautiful parts of China, too.


Chris Kudialis



2020-01-14 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Exploring the ruins of China's Korean kingdom]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/14/content_37532229.htm Jilin province's Ji'an city hosts a Korean legacy in China.

The settlement on the border with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was the capital of the ancient Gaogouli kingdom-known as Koguryo to Westerners-and the mausoleum relics showcase the unique culture and civilization of the northern ethnic tribe from roughly 2,000 years ago.

After 425 years of dominance, the ancient kingdom was relocated to what is today Pyongyang. However, its culture and traditions have persevered and a number of relics from its heyday remain. The kingdom's ruins were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.

Visitors to the small city can enjoy boat trips on the Yalu River that denotes the border, and enjoy local liquor and cuisine, in addition to exploring the ruins.

The Koguryo kingdom is recognized as beginning in 37 BC, although a tribal state may have been in place a couple of centuries before. It was the largest of ancient Korea's three kingdoms-the others were the Paekche and the Silla-during the period. It's said to have been overcome by an alliance of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and the Silla in 668.

The area still hosts pyramidal tombs in which kings, generals and nobles were buried.

These provide rich accounts of history literally written in stone. The tablet in the tomb of king Gwanggaeto (AD 414), aka Tande, erected by his son, Jangsu, details his exploits. A total of 1,590 out of 1,775 ancient Chinese characters are still legible.

The tombstone is behind glass today but survived with little more than a pagoda to protect it until recently. The structure once even had a second story so visitors could read the upper part.

Nearby, Tande's pyramid stands in good condition.

It's arranged as a dwelling for the afterlife. The discovery of ceramic roof tiles shows that buildings were erected atop the pyramids.

The nearby Yushan Noble Cemetery reveals the lives, customs and beliefs of its inhabitants, especially through the murals that adorn the tombs' walls.

A few kilometers away stands the Wandu mountain town. It was originally a fortress built to defend the nearby capital of Guonei before it itself became the capital.

The valley hosts a plethora of stone and earth pyramids, while the mountains were home to the city of the living. The peaks contain the remains of the palace, watchtowers and fountains.

A 6-kilometer-long wall envelops the city, which has largely been reclaimed by nature.

Travelers can follow the wall by hiking up the eastern slope. But it takes five or six hours to circumnavigate the entire barricade. However, they're rewarded with incredible views of hundreds of pyramids on the plains below.

Indeed, visitors to Ji'an can discover how the Koguryo kingdom shaped Northeast Asian civilization and explore a chapter of Korean heritage on Chinese soil. Even today, a large proportion of the local population hails from the Korean ethnic group.

And the peaceful coexistence of these peoples with different yet shared histories can be seen and help to make the trip to Ji'an all the more worthwhile.


Ruins of the imperial tombs of the ancient Koguryo kingdom in Ji'an, Jilin province. RAINER FELDBACHER/FOR CHINA DAILY



2020-01-14 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Lhasa to see during winter]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/14/content_37532230.htm Many travelers deem Lhasa to be only a summer resort, but the local government has rolled out a series of favorable tourism policies to publicize its unique winter charms.

Many scenic spots in the capital of the Tibet autonomous region offer free or discounted tickets during the winter period, including the Potala Palace and Norbulingka Summer Palace.

Costs for all "star-rated" international and boutique hotels in Tibet, along with various flights to the region, will fall by at least half compared to those during peak tourism seasons.

Businesses organizing group tours to Tibet via chartered flights and special tourism trains will be rewarded with monetary incentives.

The policies will be in effect until March 15, according to Tibet's tourism development department.

This is the third year since Lhasa kicked off its winter-tourism policy.

The region received 2.46 million domestic and overseas tourists from Nov 1, 2018, to March 15, 2019, an increase of 84.2 percent year-on-year.

Income from tourism reached nearly 2.62 billion yuan ($370 million), up 41 percent year-on-year, during the period, according to the department.

Lhasa enjoys sunny days and starry nights in winter, when snowcapped mountains and more than 130 bird species can be observed. Several major folk festivals and Buddhist celebrations also take place during the colder months, adding spice to travelers' experience.

The local government has launched a "tourism loop" that covers folk traditions, customs and natural landscapes to enable travelers to experience all that Lhasa has to offer.

China Daily takes a look at the highlights.

Shongba Lhachu Temple-Nyethang Giant Buddha-Drolma Lhakhang Temple-Dakdong village

Visitors can spend the first morning visiting three historical sites near Lhasa's downtown.

Many locals walk around the holy fountain at the Shongba Lhachu Temple in Doilungdechen district. They use the holy water at a park outside the temple to wash their heads and faces to rid themselves of disease and wash away their sins.

About 12 kilometers away in Chushul county sits the Nyethang Giant Buddha, which was carved into the mountainside by Atisa, an 11th-century Indian Buddhist.

From there, visitors can explore the Drolma Lhakhang Temple, which is about 10 minutes' drive away and was built to commemorate Atisa. The delicate wooden engravings are breathtaking.

Dakdong village is a half-hour drive from downtown Lhasa. It has become a popular hot spring resort. Travelers can enjoy dozens of pools of various shapes and sizes, as well as leisure activities, such as mahjong.

Shukseb Temple-Junba village-Nyemo county-Thonmi Sambhota's former residence

Shukseb Temple is about 27 km from Dakdong village and is the biggest nunnery in Lhasa. It sits 4,400 meters above sea level and offers close contact with Tibetan eared pheasants, which live mainly in the forests, bushes and tundra on the mountain.

Visitors can see cattlehide boats at Junba village. A boat usually needs four to five whole yak skins and 15 days to finish. The older the skin, the better. Cattlehide boats have been used by local fishing villages since ancient times and can carry loads up to 1,500 kilograms.

Travelers can then appreciate the charm of distinctive Tibetan paper, incense and carvings at Nyemo county, a 40-minute drive away. Thonmi Sambhota's former residence in the county's Thonba township gives visitors a taste of the life led by the creator of the Tibetan script, as well as access to murals that date back more than 1,300 years. The black-and-gold murals on the right wall of the entrance are particularly rare.

Jomo Gangkar-Yangbajan

Lhasa's second-highest snowcapped peak, Jomo Gangkar, is visible from the Jomo Gangri scenic spot, 60 km from Nyemo county. The peak is more than 7,000 meters above sea level, and only a dozen meters lower than the city's highest mountain, Nyenchen Tanglha. An hour further on awaits the rich hot springs in Yangbajan county town, which are famous for their abundant geothermic heat. The place is best seen in the morning when palls of mist rise from the lake. Various springs offer views of the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountain, and all of them are believed to have medicinal benefits.

Ngare Wetland

The vast Ngare Wetland is around 80 km away from Yangbajan. It turns green every year in late April. Black-necked cranes make it their home and hatch their babies there.

Namtso Lake

Namtso Lake is one of the region's three biggest sacred lakes. It's 60 km from the county town, and most travelers in the region visit.

Many prefer to observe the lake during summer, where yak rides along the shores are popular.

As the region seeks to promote winter tourism by offering various discounts, visitors during the colder months will enjoy a frozen winter wonderland.

Lhundrub Radreng Forest Park

The Radreng Forest Park is in the northern part of Lhundrub county, and about 100 km from Damshung county town.

With an elevation of 4,200 meters, the park is famous for ancient juniper bushes. It is listed a cultural-relics preservation area by the regional government.

The most charming part of the site is the Redreng Monastery. Originally built in 1057 and hidden among the junipers, the monastery was founded by Dromtonba, the main Tibetan disciple and lineage holder of Atisha. It's now a monastery of Tibetan Buddhism's Geluk School.

Lhundrub Black-necked Crane Reserve

The distance between the Lhundrub Redreng Forest Park and the Lhundrub Black-necked Crane Reserve is about 130 km. The reserve is one of the region's best locations for observing migratory birds.

The best sites are located in the county's Changkar and Khatse townships.

With an elevation of 3,800 meters, the area is the center of the region's protection zone for black-necked cranes, an endangered species that is legally protected.


Namtso Lake attracts visitors, who come to enjoy its picturesque views. SHEN JIE/FOR CHINA DAILY






]]> 2020-01-14 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Technology helps readers turn a new page online]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/14/content_37532249.htm A page is being turned on reading habits as technology opens a new chapter for books with people aged 35 and below taking the lead in digital reading, a recent report shows.

Last year, Chinese people read an average of eight books, including more than three e-books, according to figures released on Jan 6 by BigData-Research in Beijing.

The number of e-book readers has grown from 300 million in 2015 to 740 million last year, data shows. More than 86 percent of the readers are younger than 35. Half of them have a monthly income of less than 5,000 yuan ($724).

Meanwhile, the e-book market has been developing rapidly in China in recent years with its market value estimated at more than 20 billion yuan last year, up 21 percent year-on-year. There were 460 million readers of online literature by the end of last year, about 8.3 percent more than the number for the previous year.

Men, who make up more than 55 percent of online readers, prefer to do so using mobile screens, according to the survey.

Romance, fantasy and time-travel are listed as the most popular genres.

To meet demand, various e-book reading services have emerged. Tencent's China Literature, iReader and Alibaba's Shuqi Novels are three of the most popular platforms.

All three provide subscription-based services and allow access to numerous books.

With a 25.2 percent market share, China Literature led the market last year, followed by iReader with 20.6 percent, and Shuqi Novels accounted for 20.4 percent.

Audio books also experienced strong growth last year.

Mobile reading platform Midu Reader, which was released in May 2018, occupied a market share of 9.6 percent, ranked fourth in the e-book service list.

The rising popularity of online literature in China is creating new growth opportunities for businesses in culture and entertainment, according to BigData-Research.

A complete industrial chain, based on the licensing of popular online literature, which consists of its publication and adaptation to films, TV series, games and animated works, has been formed, the institute says.

More than 70 percent of online readers will pay for films and TV series that have been adapted from online novels, the survey says.

In recent years, an increasing number of online novels have been adapted into films, TV series and video games and have enjoyed resounding commercial success. The phenomenal hit web series The Longest Day in Chang'an, adapted from Ma Boyong's online novel, raked in 1 billion yuan last year. Taking viewers to the heyday of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the series claimed a count of more than 5.2 billion views.

Qing Yunian, also known as Joy of Life in English, based on an internet novel dabbling in martial arts and fantasy themes, is one of the latest TV series to be adapted from an online novel and premiered on Nov 26. The view count for the series hit 6 billion, as of Jan 9.

Royal Nirvana, a 60-episode drama, has been streamed in more than 200 countries. Loosely inspired from real events of Song Dynasty (420-479) royal families, the tale chronicles the life of a fictional crown prince.

A report by China Audio-video and Digital Publishing Association estimates that the total revenue from copyright licensing of the country's major online reading platforms hit 1.77 billion yuan in 2018, almost double the number in 2017 of 840 million yuan.


2020-01-14 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Met has 'big commitment' to Chinese art, says curator]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/13/content_37532146.htm NEW YORK-As one of the most visited museums in the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also called the Met, has "a very big commitment" to giving people "a real sense of the glories of Chinese art", according to a senior curator of the museum.

"We have more space devoted to Chinese art than any other museum outside of China," says Maxwell K. Hearn, Douglas Dillon Chairman of the Department of Asian Art at the Met.

The museum hopes to make visitors from China, which tops its list of international visitors, feel proud of their history and culture through the way the exhibits are displayed, he adds.

The Met began collecting Chinese art in 1879 by purchasing around 1,000 Chinese works of ceramics, as many Americans collecting European art then wanted to have Qing ceramics alongside their old master paintings to decorate their homes with, says Hearn, 69, who joined the Met in 1971.

After a century of development, especially after a substantial expansion of the Asian Art Department in the 1970s, today's Chinese art collection at the Met is composed of more than 14,000 jade, bronze, lacquer, textile and ceramic pieces, and works in other media, dating back from the third millennium BC to the present day.

"This was possible because of the generosity of New York patrons and collectors," says Hearn, who witnessed this growth, adding that 80 to 90 percent of the Met's collections came as gifts.

One of the major patrons of Hearn's department is Brooke Astor, a member of New York's prominent Astor family, who spent much of her childhood in China. A donation of $9.6 million from her family foundation led to one of the most attractive spots in the museum-the Astor Court, which was modeled after a 17 century Suzhou courtyard-which opened to the public in 1981.

Since 1980, the Met started to hold special exhibitions featuring Chinese art, and over 100 pieces of bronze dating back over 3,000 years were borrowed from museums across China to form the Great Bronze Age of China exhibition that year, which turned out to be a sensation.

In the past decades, bilateral exchanges have facilitated a number of successful exhibitions on both sides. In 2017, the Age of Empires: Chinese Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 BC-AD 220) featuring Terracotta Warriors and other types of rare objects from 32 museums in China welcomed over 355,000 visitors in 100 days, according to the Met.

"I think it was the 18th exhibition that we've done with China, and we are very proud of the fact that we have this long tradition of working with Chinese museums," says the department head. "Our colleagues in Chinese museums are very supportive of what we try to do."

In recent years, the museum has also tried creative approaches in curating China-themed exhibitions. China: Through the Looking Glasses, a 2015 cross-department exhibition featuring 140 pieces of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear clothes exhibited alongside Chinese art, explored the impact of traditional Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion instead of directly showing Chinese art.

"It was to showcase how China as an idea, and bits and pieces of Chinese culture have had a profound impact on (Western) cinema, costume and culture," he adds.

For example, a dress designed by Yves Saint Laurent was put next to an Eastern Zhou vessel with similar details "to show that here's a modern artist looking at something that's 2,500 years old but still making something new with it," Hearn says.

The show has attracted over 810,000 visitors, making it one of the most visited exhibitions in Met's history, according to the museum.

"People come to art with an open mind. I think if they're fascinated by a work of art, then they want to learn more about the artist. They want to understand the context in which the artist lived. They want to learn about China.

"For us, to be able to show Chinese art from Neolithic times down to the present day is a way of introducing people to the longest surviving culture in the world," Hearn says.

He hopes that Chinese visitors will come to the museum "with a critical eye" and believes that the Met is showing their culture in a responsible way, so that people of non-Chinese origin can understand the significance of Chinese culture through the exhibits.


A visitor looks at Han Dynasty (221 BC-AD 220) pottery figurines at a media preview of the Exhibition of Civilization of the Qin and Han Dynasties in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on March 27, 2017. LIAO PAN/CHINA NEWS SERVICE



2020-01-13 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Tech guru turns spotlight on accessibility]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/13/content_37532120.htm After 11 years of running his own business in the field of technology, 45-year-old entrepreneur Cao Jun has complex feelings about being a role model to the visually impaired.

Among the many blind people he knows, few are doing business other than in the field of massage. The few who tried to branch out unfortunately failed with their small businesses or startups and returned to the massage industry.

"Do you consider yourself a role model?"

"Actually, yes! I think I've done a great job, because my company has managed to survive since 2008," Cao said during the tech conference GeekPark IF X, which was held in Beijing from Dec 20 to 22.

He tried to persuade some visually impaired friends to challenge themselves in a new career, even if it was running an online retail store, but it was hard to make a stable profit. The average level of education in the group is quite low, which adds to the risk.

"Just registering the company and handling all the accounting and tax issues is enough to hold us back," he says.

Cao used to be a successful masseur who owned a chain of eight massage salons. It was a typical inspirational story back then, but that was not enough for him.

In 2008, after learning that his clients were using smartphones to surf the internet and chat using instant messaging apps like QQ, he closed his massage business and started a software company.

His aim was to enable the visually impaired to use the same apps and technology as everybody else.

His company has developed screen-reader apps on both Android-based phones and computers to help blind people gain access to frequently used car-hailing, take-away, payment and reading apps, among others.

They also developed a smart cash register system which has been applied at around 7,000 massage therapy centers around the country to remove barriers for their blind employees to identifying notes of different denominations.

Before this new technology changed their lifestyles, many visually impaired people were virtually trapped at home-it was difficult for them to get out and about, let alone keep up with the latest news and developments.

Despite having their own social circles, visually impaired people lead somewhat scattered lives, and it's difficult for people to reach and help them with the smaller, more detailed problems in life that public resources often barely cover.

From Cao's perspective, improving accessibility doesn't necessarily mean developing special applications for the disabled. Sometimes it just requires small modifications like adding text tags to the code of app icons and virtual buttons to make them readable by screen-readers.

So far, there are no domestic laws or regulations specifically tailored to information accessibility.

The Internet Society of China issued a design code for accessibility for web-based information in 2018, largely based on the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 and the 2012 national standard for accessibility in web design. The guidelines are as yet not legally binding, however.

Data from the China Association of the Blind shows that the country has 17.31 million people who are visually impaired.

These people, and those with cognitive impairment, are very likely to meet obstacles in accessing information. In fact, an earlier report from news site jiemian.com points out that anyone could benefit from building an information environment through accessibility.

"The versatility and convenience of products will be enhanced when tech companies optimize them with fully-accessible functions. It will also broaden their user groups," says Zhang Kun, a leading expert at the Shenzhen-based Accessibility Research Association, in a video promoting the concept of web accessibility on the group's website.

"Many people think information accessibility is a public welfare issue, but for us, it's all about equality-everyone has the same right to acquire information," he says.

A large part of Cao's work over the past decade has been aimed at convincing technology companies like Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu and Didi to optimize their code and settings, to provide an interface-or adopt the latest image recognition technology-to assist visually impaired users to gain access to more non-visual information.

In 2019, the association signed up to a tie-in with Huawei, where newly released smartphones produced by the tech giant come with their screen-reading application already installed.

However, the rapid turnover of employees and product offerings of tech companies adds to the uncertainty of the process, Cao says.

In 2007, when smartphone maker Motorola launched a program to develop a type of phone made especially for blind people in China, Cao contributed to the design.

As one of them, he knows very well how blind people operate smartphones, understanding their needs and the logic behind their gestures as they use the device. He later played the role as an agent and sold around 20,000 phones.

It was during this period that he sniffed a fresh opportunity in the field of related technology, which finally led to him setting up his current business.

The enterprise has, however, been hit by controversy because their screen-reading app for smartphones is not being offered for free-people often take it for granted that things related to the disabled are simply for public welfare and should therefore be noncommercial.

"The problem is, we need to pay for our programmers' salaries and the marketing costs. We also need staff to teach our customers-especially those living in rural areas-how to use the app, as well as providing customized after-sale services. All these things cost money," Cao explains, acknowledging that it might be difficult for his customers to initially accept a product that costs over 200 yuan ($29).

A survey conducted by the company suggests visually impaired people in Beijing earn less than 3,000 yuan a month on average, according to Cao.

In the grand scheme of things, it's hard to accomplish an undertaking for the disabled without sustainable, self-perpetuating organizations. Cao has witnessed the failure of his peers and the disappearance of other social enterprises along the way.

"As long as you are providing services that are able to change the lifestyles of a certain disadvantaged group, and create job opportunities for them, it's entirely rational to have a sustainable revenue stream," Cao says.

As an enterprise that is supported by the Beijing Disabled Persons' Federation, Cao's company-Baoyi Interactive Technology Development Co-enjoys rent exemption and reduced tax.

He says their annual profits have grown at a rate of about 20 percent since 2013. The majority of their revenue is driven by the efforts of the government and charity groups. Only 35 percent of their income is driven by retail sales.

The company is now putting a lot of effort into software that supports smart home appliances, mainly based on the products developed by electronics giant Xiaomi.

More than 25 of the company's 43 employees are visually impaired or completely blind, including the programmers and testers. They mainly write in JavaScript and devote their time to developing mini programs on WeChat and other support tools like audio clocks.

However, it can take the visually impaired more than a week to finish a workload that sighted programmers-by far the majority in the coding industry-would normally complete in a day.

The company also employs visually impaired customer service agents in phone support. Cao regards the levels of concentration and the ability to express themselves that blind employees possess as a distinct advantage.

Nevertheless, a story from GQ Report, a WeChat public account run by GQ China, says the salary for these positions consist of a basic monthly wage of around 3,000 yuan before sales commissions.

Cao confirms that sighted employees generally earn more, and the difference in their basic salaries derive from the divergence between the job market of sighted people and the disabled.

But he remains doubtful whether there is any difference in their ability to sell products.

Furthermore, the report illustrates a diverse range of attitudes toward being a customer service agent at Cao's company.

Xiao Wen (a pseudonym), a well-educated visually impaired woman, is not satisfied with her salary and complains that her job is repetitive and unchallenging, while Zheng Ting, a worker from rural Hubei province who has to commute 4 hours every day, regards her job as well-paid.

"I have finally moved on from massage, which I have been doing for 10 years," Zheng says.

In Cao's opinion, blind people can manage both routine jobs such as that of a salesperson or customer service agent, as well as emerging jobs, like a webcast anchor or a new media copywriter or editor.

"I would encourage visually impaired people to start their own businesses, but remind them that they have to work out a business plan in a formalized, systematic way," he says.

As the deputy-director of the Beijing Association of the Blind, Cao calls for better educational opportunities and a more inclusive environment for the disabled.

Speaking of his ultimate goal, Cao says: "We just want equal opportunities and a better chance to integrate into society."


Visually impaired customer service agents work at blind entrepreneur Cao Jun's company, Baoyi Interactive Technology Development Co, in Beijing. WANG ZHUANGFEI/CHINA DAILY



]]> 2020-01-13 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Retail venture has partners seeing eye to eye]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/11/content_37532036.htm You might expect eyewear brands to stick to what they do best, but South Korea's Gentle Monster is breaking the mold in a bid to widen its customer base with a range of new products featuring space-age designs.

To celebrate the launch of the new south tower at the SKP mall in Beijing, Gentle Monster presented a large-scale artwork designed by the innovative brand recently.

Under the theme of a "Digital-Simulative Future", the canvas depicts a futuristic image of humans living on Mars thanks to the development of technology.

On the first floor of the new tower, SKP South, mechanical sheep flock to the Future Farm installation, while images of the landscapes of Mars adorn the second and third floors.

The eyewear brand grabbed the opportunity to launch its new store at the mall-their second retail space in Beijing, and the tenth one to open in China.

The design of the new store features an futuristic tableau of people traveling between Mars and Earth via wormholes. Quirky sculptures pepper the retail space, with some staring out from the entrance to greet passing shoppers.

Gentle Monster's diverse new approach was marked by the opening of a new artisan dessert shop named Nudake next to its eyewear shop, presenting quirky sweet treats in the shape of mushrooms and ducks.

Running for eight years, Gentle Monster now has 22 flagship stores worldwide and more than 200 offline distribution points, as well as 10 online platforms.

"Even though Gentle Monster is an eyewear brand, our core DNA is creative thinking, so together with SKP, we started planning an alternative vision of traditional luxury department store," says founder and CEO of the eyewear brand, Kim Hankook.

Vice-general manager of SKP, Xie Dan, says, "Some consider technology to be something that they can use every day, like a smartphone, while others consider art as something locked in the white cube. We want to blend technology with art to bring it into people's daily lives by offering them an exciting consumer experience."

Fashion bloggers, including Xu Fengli and Fli Xiaobai, speak highly of its environment.

"I've shopped all over the world, but I'm still very proud of our local SKP South. Shopping is more than making purchases, it's also about the experience," says Fli.

"All the details presented, the materials applied, the lighting arrangements, and the mechanical components and artistic installations on display help to create an otherworldly image of the universe," Xu says.

The brand entered the Chinese market in May of 2016. In the past three years, it has opened over ten flagship stores in seven different cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Kim's aim is to expand his brand's reach to other second and third tier cities in China this year, and double the number of their stores around the world in three to four years.

An artwork themed on digital-simulative future.
2020-01-11 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Up close with Helen]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/11/content_37532038.htm Paper, paper and more paper-that is what greeted An Wei's eyes as the 40-year-old researcher from China stepped into the 1752 house of Helen Foster Snow in Madison, Connecticut, in September 1982. "From floor to ceiling in every single room were manuscripts-papers that were heaped, one big pile on top of another," said An, founder of the Edgar and Helen Snow Studies Center in China. "Most of the papers were put into simple file-holders she had cut out of grocery boxes from the local supermarket."

Last month An, 77, was in Cedar City, Utah, where Helen, author of Inside Red China and former wife of the renowned journalist Edgar Snow, was born on Sept 21, 1907.

Inside the quaint New England house-the town itself was among the first towns in America-Helen had kept typing for more than 40 years on the same typewriter that she took from the United States to China in 1931.

Four years before An's visit in 1982, the two had met for the first time in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, where An worked for the provincial foreign affairs office.

"Helen came in with a three-men film crew and stayed for about seven weeks, retracing her footsteps during her nine-year stay in China between 1931 and 1940," An said.

Assigned to Helen as her interpreter, An blew her away within a few hours of their meeting, by suggesting that the team go to the Xijing Guesthouse.

On April 29, 1937, Helen, under close surveillance by the Nationalist Government, jumped out of a hotel window in the middle of the night to flee to Yan'an, 350 kilometers to the north, where Communist soldiers had just gathered, having barely survived the encirclement of the Nationalists.

An was familiar with the minutest detail of Helen's dramatic escape.

"Before that night, she had planned to meet, just outside of the hotel gate, a fellow sympathetic American who would send the signal for her to come out by blowing cigarette smoke rings into the cool night air. But a sudden citywide curfew changed all that. The man was unable to get near the hotel, and Helen, realizing that he was not coming, went ahead on her own."

Out on the street, Helen jumped into the first rickshaw she spotted, asking to be taken to a "courtyard home with a big red gate".

"Just then, she saw, in the murkiness of the night, a man riding a bicycle," An said. "Who would be doing so at this hour if it was not for a reason? She called out, and found herself face to face with her co-planner."

The two stayed in their hiding place until the wee hours of the next day, when they got into a pre-arranged car and drove out of the just-opened city gate, Helen wearing sunglasses and a man's suit, posing as the diseased son of an American missionary.

A boat ride followed, at the end of which Snow found herself in the territory of the Communists.

But it took another bumpy day on a truck before she arrived in Yan'an late on May 2, 1937.

Early the next day, Helen, fazed and fatigued, awoke to the news that Mao Zedong and Zhu De, who would become the chairman and vice-chairman of the People's Republic of China in 1949, wanted to see her.

"Helen evoked that experience in her book Inside Red China," said An, an English major who as a young man yearned for English books. "I encountered her book, together with Edgar's Red Star Over China, in the small library at the Yan'an History Museum, where I worked in the early '70s." He read both voraciously.

So when Helen visited in 1978, An felt the heroine had finally stepped out of the pages. "At my mentioning of the hotel, Helen turned to my boss and said, 'This young gentleman has got to sit in my car'," said An, who had no idea at the time that the trajectory of his life, like those of many who crossed paths with Helen, was about to change.

"She was the star who pulled us into her orbit," An said.

In 1931, when Helen, then 24, had arrived in China and worked in the US consulate in Shanghai, she became the belle of the foreign concessions.

Yet she was not going to spend the following years twirling on the dance floor, as many of her fellow expatriates did.

Edgar, who had arrived in China three years earlier, took her to the world outside the walls of her residential enclave, a world wracked by war, and famine.

The two married on Nov 25, 1932, and moved to Beijing, where they became involved in student movements that were about to sweep across the country, in reaction to Japan's growing territorial ambitions in China.

With Edgar teaching journalism at Yenching University, the couple turned their home into a gathering place for student activists. Among them was Huang Hua, who would be appointed the People's Republic of China's first permanent representative to the United Nations in 1971.

In June 1936, Edgar left Beijing for the Communists' base in the Northwest, where he would become the first Western journalist to interview Mao, leader of the Red Army. A picture he took of Mao in army fatigues would become the defining image of Mao for Western audiences for many years to come. And he would come back to write Red Star Over China, published in 1937, which gave the world its first glimpse into "the mysterious guerrillas that no one had written about", as An put it.

Helen's contribution was immense.

"Little was known that in September 1936, three months after Edgar left, Helen made her own first attempt to reach the Communists. For various reasons, she stopped in Xi'an, where she interviewed the Nationalist general Chang Hsueh-Liang, the 'Young Marshal' who was a secret sympathizer of the Communists," An said.

Helen listened while Chang talked about his thinly veiled desire to work with the Communists and fight the invading Japanese. Because her report could not be sent out from the Nationalists-controlled Xi'an, Helen sneaked back to Beijing to file her story for the Daily Herald in Britain.

That was a little more than two months before Chang seized the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek in a military coup known today as the Xi'an Incident, forcing him to form a coalition with the Communists.

Not entirely satisfied with her first trip, Helen, mesmerized by what Edgar had to tell about the "Reds", embarked alone on her second journey, made all the more dangerous by the attention generated by her husband's previous trip. This time she made it.

She stayed in Yan'an for nearly five months, documenting the lives of not only the army leaders including Mao and Zhu, but also the wives, children and the common soldiers. A large chunk of those interviews and observations went into Edgar's book, to which Helen also contributed half of the pictures.

"They were always working as a team," An said."After Edgar left for Xi'an in 1936, he wrote to Helen asking for an interpreter. Helen sent Huang, who went and stayed with the Red Army from then on."

Despite all that, for many decades Helen remained-and many believe still remains-in the long shadow Edgar had cast, although they divorced in May 1949, and Edgar married the actress Lois Wheeler (1920-2018) soon after.

Helen's eclipse was so complete that when the actor and writer Tim Considine read about Edgar's story in the mid-1970s and wanted to make a feature film about him (Edgar died in 1972), his first reaction was to contact the "Mrs Snow living in New York".

"I called and we discussed the issue," Considine said. "Mrs. Snow wanted a particularly high level of control over the proposed film, so I dropped the idea and kind of forgot about it."

That was until one day when Considine's then-girlfriend, who worked at Warner Brothers Studio, presented him with some unpublished diaries and manuscripts that had landed on the desk of the studio chairman.

"They were penned by Helen," Considine said. "Only then did I realize that I had been talking to the second wife, that there was another Mrs Snow who had gone through it all with Edgar. I didn't know that; no one in America knew."

He immediately found Helen's address and called and persuaded her that they should meet at her home, where she had led the life of a hermit since 1941.

"I just was charmed by her. ... We talked all day long and I eventually missed the last train and stayed for the night," said Considine, to whom Helen later made frequent phone calls and sent "volumes of letters", in which "she told and retold stories from the '30s".

One of those phone calls was made in 1977, when Helen told Considine that "Huang Hua was coming to New York and there will be a reception for him, but I'm not going".

"You must go," Considine remembers himself saying.

So at the New York reception one month later, Considine found himself sitting on a foot stool between Helen and Huang, who had shut themselves in a quiet room to have a proper talk where they sat on "two big overstuffed chairs". Considine tentatively proposed to Huang the idea of making in China a documentary about Helen.

In September 1978 the team, consisting of Helen, Considine, a videographer and an Academy Award-winning soundman, was in Shanghai, just in time to celebrate Helen's 71st birthday.

"She came to life in China," said Considine, whom Helen took everywhere from the historic hotel in the old concession area in Shanghai to the couple's courtyard residence in Beijing. But the highlight was the Northwest, where Helen met An.

"Helen talked in a super fast pace and was always with her notebook," An said. "She was too old to climb the mountains she once climbed. But we went to see the little rammed-earth house she slept in in Yan'an, where dirt used to fall off every time a mouse scurried along the ceiling.

In Xi'an, Considine filmed Helen standing right on one side of a trestle bridge with a train roaring by, an apt metaphor for the flying of time. The bridge looked down to the north gate of the city through which the car carrying Helen, dressed as a man, traveled on that early morning in April 1937.

After Helen returned to the US, she immediately wrote about her 1978 trip and sent the manuscripts to An, who translated a section of it before having it published in a Chinese literary magazine.

"Upon receiving a copy of the magazine, Helen asked a Yale University professor from Taiwan to translate my article back into English so that she could compare the two versions," An said. "I got to know this only years later. But what I did know was that she called to see if I was interested in translating more of her works."

Meanwhile in her hometown, Helen had found another dedicated helper in Sharon Crain, who majored in Chinese studies at Duke University and who first went to China in 1977. Crain had read about Helen when Deng Xiaoping, then China's vice-premier, visited the US in early 1979 to formalize diplomatic relations between the two countries.

"While Helen was invited to the reception in Washington, my husband and I were sitting in our home in Connecticut reading about her," Crain said. "In 1937, upon her departure from Yan'an, Mao wrote Helen a letter for her to take to Deng, in which Mao asked Deng to assist Helen and offer her protection and convenience during her interviews on the war front. Unable to meet Deng due to a change of events back then, Helen was able to present Mao's letter to Deng at the reception, calling him'a hard man to find'."

Crain was fascinated before she arrived at the very last sentence of that New York Times article, which reads: "Helen Snow now resides in the small town of Madison." "I couldn't believe it: an important China hand lived three miles from my house and I had absolutely no idea about it," she said.

Crain telephoned her, but Helen's reaction was "one of fear". "She had been through the McCarthy era when anyone in America who had connections with China became objects of suspicion, interrogation and hate," Crain said. (Against that backdrop, Edgar left the US for Switzerland in 1959, where he died.)

But Crain was persistent, and Helen, who never learned to drive, needed someone to send her materials to the printers from time to time. That was the beginning of another lasting friendship.

"Huang Hua would always come to visit her at great effort when he was at the UN," Crain said."And the day before, Helen would call me and say: 'When they come, go out and buy fast food.' Helen wanted to save every minute for what she called the food for thought."

When Crain visited China again in 1981, she met An at the insistence of Helen. The three would meet regularly at Helen's home while An was a visiting professor to Trinity College in Hartford between the summers of 1985 and 1986.

"I would ride the Sunday train to Helen's place, where, despite my willingness to help with household chores, she often insisted that I sit down and listen to her story," An said. "I tape-recorded her talks; there were about 70 hours in total."

Those tapes, together with her fountain pen and hemp shoes from the Yan'an period, are now in Xi'an, part of the collection of a former Communist army office-turned memorial museum, where Helen spent one night on her way back to Beijing in 1937.

An also took Helen's typewriter from the 1930s, after buying her another one from a local antique store. "Helen stuck to manual typewriters throughout her life," An said.

Helen was like that in many ways. Considine described her as "frozen in the '30s in her time", a description tinged with melancholy, even sadness. But at the same time, those around her were invariably impressed by the insatiable intellectual curiosity and daring soul of a true pioneer.

"It was she who originally came up with the proposal of industrial cooperatives, where people shared material and labor, as a way to continue manufacturing and providing much-needed support to the Chinese Army during the Japanese invasion," said Crain, pointing to the wide adoption of the idea by wartime China and India, where she is known as the Mother of Gung-Ho, gung-ho being the Chinese pronunciation of an abbreviation for industrial cooperative.

"At their peak in 1940, there were about 50,000 industrial co-ops operating in China, each with members ranging between five or six and a couple dozen," An said.

Later, the term gung-ho was picked up by the US Marine Corps Major Evans Carlson, who turned it into a rallying cry for his own boys in the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, from where it spread throughout the entire Marine Corps.

Casey Williams, 65, born in Cedar City, grew up running along the streets with fellow teenage boys shouting "gung-ho"."We had no idea where it came from. For us, it just meant 'Go do it and do it well!'" the film director said.

Last month Williams, with members of Helen's extended family (Helen herself remained single after her divorce from Edgar and had no children), joined An, Considine and Crain in Cedar City to look into a life as remarkable as it was often obscure.

"I never met Helen," Williams said. "I drove by her house many times knowing that there was a legendary woman living inside. But as a young boy, my father took me to see the epic 1957 World War II film The Bridge on the River Kwai, set against that background of the Allies' construction of the Burma Road. That's when I knew that Helen's story had to be told, because it's just that epic."

"When you read Helen's writings about her life, it is so cinematic and the character arc so clear. One has to look at where she had come from to truly understand her compassion and empathy toward the Chinese Communists, as well as her courage and fortitude."

Helen, born into a Mormon family, had great-great grandparents who set foot on the shore of Massachusetts, having sailed from Europe, grandparents and parents who, partly escaping local antagonism and persecution the Mormons faced, migrated from Massachusetts to Chicago, and then to Missouri and finally to Utah, where they labored with fellow members of the church to build cities and towns on rusty red earth.

Things must have looked familiar once the young Helen entered the "red" land of the Communists, whom she called "my type of people".

"That pioneer heritage made her more aware of the hardship, suffering and the sacrifices that had to be made for things to happen," Williams said. "She understood that these men had gone through a crucible and had been tested in a fiery furnace, struggles that I myself cannot understand.

"The Mormon migration to the West was just a minute sampling of what the Chinese leadership went through in the Long March."

Reflecting on the legacy of Helen and Edgar, Crain said that while Edgar, who studied journalism at the University of Missouri, produced highly compelling reading, Helen, whose suffragette mother taught her to interview relatives and gave her the camera to take to China, cared more about documenting and recording every single piece of truth for future generations.

"Helen often said to me: 'I don't care if it's published now. Some day it will be'," Crain said. It is believed that when Edgar was writing up his interview with Mao, it was Helen who persuaded him to add more details that eventually turned it into a whole chapter.

In Edgar's 1958 autobiography Journey to the Beginning: A Memoir, he wrote: "I should at least give some account of my life with the very unusual woman who was to be my frequently tormenting, often stimulating, and always energetically creative and faithful co-worker, consort and critic."

Helen said in 1991, when she was 84: "I call my life 'bridging'. All my writing and thinking provides a 'bridge to the future', as I call it. It is a body of writing that bridges over, not between extremes of any kind, to find the valid thesis for building the best future."

Of all her more than 60 books, only seven were published in the US, including the 1984 autobiography My China Years: A Memoir. Loads of unpublished manuscripts and thousands of pictures and letters are now at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, as well as the Hoover Institution Library & Archives at Stanford University in California.

The"12 miles of 16-millimeter color film" that Considine had shot of Helen in China in 1978 were still in his keeping. There had been several ill-fated attempts to edit the film into a documentary or TV series, said the director, who still wants to see through "what Helen and I wanted to do first".

Some family members became involved along the way, including Helen's niece Sheril Foster Bischoff, who remembers gazing at Helen's picture as a little girl, enchanted by her effortless glamour.

One year before Helen died, Bischoff and her husband spent five weekend days, 13 hours a day, going through all the materials at her aunt's house in Madison, eventually condensing the 600 boxes to 200.

"We visited Helen for the last time in 1996, to deliver to her the handwritten letter given to us by Huang Hua during our trip to China in June that year," she said. Calling her "Dear Peg", Huang, who died in 2010, wrote: "Now 60 years later, looking back to that dangerous and challenging moment of history, I felt that we lived up to the expectations of our peoples."

These days, An, who has translated four of Helen's works, acted as a de facto consultant for both Bischoff and Adam Foster, Helen's grandnephew who helped set up the Helen Foster Snow Foundation last year and is now its president.

"In her final years, Helen lived a very frugal life-shopping for food about to exceed its shelf life and eating two meals a day," said An, who visited Helen for the last time in August 1995.

"A lot of friends from China offered financial help but she never accepted it, fearing that doing so might jeopardize her reputation as a journalist. She wanted every word she ever typed to carry the weight of a passionate yet objective observer. She's a patriot who loved her country fervently, as she did China.

"She was extremely thin and weak. I asked her to rest, but she insisted that I turn on the recorder. When she was young, Helen dreamed of writing a great American story. All she did was to turn herself into one."

Helen Foster Snow died on Jan 11, 1997. In China, memorial services were held in Xi'an and Beijing. And since the land was frozen at the time, the coffin was laid into the ground on May 3-60 years to the day that Helen had first met Mao in Yan'an.

A week before her death, Crain, who has taught China-US relations at Shaanxi Normal University since 1981 and has been a long-time trustee of the China Institute in New York, went to see her in the nursing home.

"She said to me, 'Sharon, I want to write some letters, and I want you to write them down and send them out for me'," Crain said."For the 20 years that I knew her, Helen was not a person who would say thank you. You just did things because you loved her. You did things because they were important.

"But then she started to dictate two letters, one for Huang Hua and one for An Wei, to say thank you."

On one of those occasions the three were together, Helen took An and Crain to a cemetery in North Madison.

"This is where I'm going to rest forever," Helen said.

"If I were to come here to see you one day, what would you like me to bring?" An asked her.

Without hesitation, Helen replied:"A yellow rose and a piece of good news from China."

Helen Foster Snow welcomed by locals during her visit to the northwest, highlight of her 1978 trip to China. TIM CONSIDINE (From left) Helen Snow, He Liliang, Huang Hua's wife, Sharon Crain and Huang himself at Helen's home in Connecticut in 1983. TIM CONSIDINE The lives she affected (from left): An Wei, Sheril Bischoff, Tim Considine and Sharon Crain, each holding a yellow rose in front of a bronze statue of Helen Snow in Cedar City, Utah. ZHANG YUAN/CHINA DAILY Helen greeted people who waited outside her hotel while she re-visited northwestern China in 1978. TIM CONSIDINE/CHINA DAILY An Wei (second from right) with Helen in Xi'an in 1978. TIM CONSIDINE/CHINA DAILY Edgar Snow's Red Star Over China and Helen's Inside Red China. For most of her writings, Helen used the pen-name Nym Wales, "Nym" being Greek for name while Wales pointing to her origin. TIM CONSIDINE/CHINA DAILY Helen with Zhu De, who later became the vice-chairman of the People's Republic of China in 1949, in Yan'an in 1937. TIM CONSIDINE/CHINA DAILY ]]>
2020-01-11 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Shangri-La connects children with Guilin]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/11/content_37532053.htm Shangri-La Hotel Guilin in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region launched its annual winter program for children earlier this month promoting local culture and providing fun activities for the family.

During the program, families will enjoy a two-night stay at the hotel where children can dress in local traditional Zhuang ethnic clothing and experience bamboo pole dancing-an activity that involves jumping over different sized bamboo poles as they are moved about. They will also learn traditional cooking skills and make various handicrafts.

The children will learn about culture as well as tourism as they develop their confidence, potential and independence, according to representatives from Shangri-La Hotel Guilin.

Within the hotel's grounds, a 370-square-meter zoo has been set up as well as a playground with slides, trampolines and climbing walls. The pool within the grounds has bumper boats and pedalos that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

As well as connecting children with local culture and nature, there is an area of intelligent equipment where guests can try their hand at a number of fun high-tech games and challenges.

For families taking part in the winter program, special rooms have been made up featuring the cartoon character Lulu, that has been created inspired by the cormorant, a bird common in Guangxi, and a symbol of agility, diligence and loyalty.

Children will have a great time in the rooms, thanks to the Lulu-themed toys, tents and toiletries, according to the hotel.

Two types of rooms are provided for program guests-executive and deluxe rooms. Executive rooms feature spacious outdoor terrace tables and comfortable chairs. The deluxe rooms, located on the higher floors, provide splendid views of the Lijiang River and mountains.

"Guests will easily slip into a blissful mood with the picturesque scenery right outside the large floor-to-ceiling windows," said a staff member of the hotel.

The hotel's respect for local culture is evident in its interior design, which has been given a "Guilin twist" wherever possible to improve its connection with the city.

To top off this year's winter program, performers will stage local folk dances for guests.

Li Ziyu contributed to this story.

Cartoon-decorated facilities are designed to help pique children's interest in exploring the nature. CHINA DAILY

]]> 2020-01-11 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Cancelling Christmas would be a perfect and timely gift]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/10/content_37531929.htm There are many benefits to living in Beijing, one of them being you forget it's Christmastime. In the West, the festive season is promoted in every form imaginable from late September. There is no escape as every advertising hoarding, publication, TV and radio channel is plastered with messages urging you to spend money on presents, wrapping paper, cards, decorations and food.

What always amuses me is the deep-seated hatred many people have for Christmas despite its happy theme. I count myself among them.

Families are complicated things at the best of times and throwing members together against their will does not bode well. Especially when you add financial strain and alcohol to the mix.

The consumerism that has overtaken the original Christian holiday has long been fodder for satire. People are never more stressed or miserable than they are at this period of enforced happiness. If I were a Christian, I'd be hacked off with how an ancient tradition had been hijacked by private enterprise as a vehicle for excessive consumer spending.

Before this, perhaps Christmas was more enjoyable. Nowadays the season has turned into a grotesque contest of ego and excess.

Despite being marketed as a tradition, Christmas has changed its appearance and rites over the years. First, there's the decorated tree in your house. This was made trendy by the Saxe-Coburg, sorry, Windsor royal family in Victorian times.

Then there's the food. Most people eat turkey when a side of beef would have been traditional. The similarity to America's Thanksgiving is not lost on me.

The biggest grievance I and many hold against the season is the pressure to spend more money than one can afford. Christmas? I call it Stressmass.

I attempted to stem the rage by focusing on the youngest family members. It helped for a while, but my niece is now an adult. Attempting to bring some joy to children is one of the few positives about Christmas. But I fear this is being lost as more learn at an earlier age that Santa Claus does not exist. The glut of presents they can receive also makes it harder for them to be appreciative.

I shall save the best till last: the music. The godforsaken, schmaltzy, saccharine music. Many artists have produced Christmas songs over the decades. But for some reason, radio stations and shops stick to the same dozen played on a loop.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday by Wizzard has to be the worst. If hell exists, then that's what it would be. Imagine an eternity of finding yourself trapped indoors by freezing weather. Your day is spent attempting to navigate your way around argumentative relatives, anxiety and disappointment over gifts, then climaxing with a food frenzy. By early evening, you and the others pass out in an alcoholic stupor on the sofa. As you drift off, the audio of a TV festive special is punctuated by group flatulence. The horror.

Amid it all, there are the true believers. Those who claim to love Christmas and try to enforce this view on everyone else. Anyone who disagrees with them is labeled a Scrooge no matter their argument. These people are the most terrifying of extremists. I hope they're on a watch list.

What a relief it's all over. Safely ensconced in the Middle Kingdom, I'm no longer hounded by carolers, dazzled by fairy lights or forced to grin at poorly chosen presents. But now it's your turn: I would like to wish all readers of China Daily a happy Spring Festival!




]]> 2020-01-10 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Macedonian Seagull swoops into Beijing]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/10/content_37531975.htm When Russian writer Anton Chekhov's play, The Seagull, premiered on Oct 17, 1896, at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, it was more of a lame duck than the soar away success its creator had hoped it would be.

A total failure, the response left Chekhov disappointed. However, two years later in 1898-under the directorial eye of the great Konstantin Stanislavski-Moscow Art Theatre produced the play again to wide acclaim. This success led to adaptations of the writer's subsequent three plays, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard, and finally gain Chekhov the onstage recognition he deserved.

For Chinese audiences, The Seagull is arguably the best known of the writer's works. It was adapted by the Beijing People's Art Theater in 1991 with a translation by Chinese scholar Tong Daoming. Gathering a venerable cast of veteran Chinese actors, including Pu Cunxin, Xu Fan and Yang Lixin, the play was directed by Oleg Efremov, the chief director of Moscow Art Theatre. It was so well received that it is still being staged to this day.

On Jan 21, a production of The Seagull by the Macedonian National Theatre-which was founded in 1945 and is the country's oldest and largest theater institution-will make its debut at Beijing's Poly Theater.

Directed by the promising young Macedonian director, Nina Nikolikj, it premiered at the Macedonian National Theatre on Dec 18, 2018. All of the original cast members will perform in Beijing, including Zvezdana Angelovska, Nikola Ristanovski and Petre Arsovski.

The performance will be one of the highlights of the ongoing 20th Meet in Beijing Arts Festival, which runs from Jan 6 to Feb 4, which sees over 700 artists from 11 countries gather in the capital.

In the Macedonian National Theatre's version, The Seagull dramatizes the romantic and artistic conflicts of four characters: the famous middlebrow story writer Boris Trigorin, the ingenue Nina, the fading actress Irina Arkadina, and her son, the ambitious playwright Konstantin Treplev. Set in the Russian countryside at the end of the 19th century, the characters are dissatisfied with their lives. The director tells the story in a contemporary way, attempting to convey to the audience that, despite being created more than 120 years ago, the characters are not much different from people today.

"Chekhov's plays are about life, which is pure, cruel and concentrated. It happens everywhere, in all languages and at any time," says director Nikolikj. "Some critics view The Seagull as a tragic play about eternally unhappy people. However, others see it as a humorous, albeit bitter, satire that pokes fun at human folly."

"Some consider The Seagull as a guide book that provides information about what kind of theater productions we should make. Great authors do not feel the egoistic need to change the world. Instead, they only write down their own views. Life is what they want to teach us. That is why Chekhov is present always and everywhere," wrote the dramaturge, Dragana Lukan Nikoloski, on Dec 4, 2018, before the production's premiere.

Rather intriguingly, the premiere of The Seagull by the Macedonian National Theatre happened to take place on the same date as that Stanislavski adaptation by Moscow Art Theatre in 1898-something Nikoloski insists was completely unplanned and purely coincidental. That may well be, but given the production's warm reception so far, it has certainly proved auspicious.


The Macedonian National Theatre will stage a production of The Seagull on Jan 21 as part of the ongoing 20th Meet in Beijing Arts Festival. CHINA DAILY




2020-01-10 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Yanxi venture]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/10/content_37531931.htm In the summer of 2018, many viewers were fascinated by the Story of Yanxi Palace, a series that garnered more than 18 billion clicks to top all online Chinese dramas that year.

Now, Yanxi Palace: Princess Adventures, a six-episode spinoff of the 2018 series, has been streaming on Netflix since Dec 31. Its producer and scriptwriter Yu Zheng tells China Daily the latest period drama has subtitles in 23 foreign languages, including English, Thai and Hindi, and is the first such Chinese series to be streamed on a foreign platform before being released in China.

The new tale takes place around 15 years after the end of the first one, which unfolds through 70 episodes to chronicle the rise of Wei Yingluo, a low-born royal maid who overcomes palace intrigue to be crowned the "imperial noble consort" to Emperor Qianlong (1711-99) during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

As the hostess of the Forbidden City, China's imperial palace, and the most powerful woman in the king's harem, Wei-a role reprised by actress Wu Jinyan-is seen encountering a new crisis in the latest series: Her princess daughter is urged by a Mongolian prince to cancel their engagement, as he believes the rumor that the young woman is spoiled and willful.

To clear her reputation and win back her love, the princess sneaks out of the palace to embark on an adventure, discovering that the situation is more complicated than she first imagined.

"I have had the Princess Adventures story in my mind for a long time. It's sort of a tale that is more relatable to modern youngsters. The title's protagonist is an adorable and straightforward woman. When she falls for someone, she takes action without hesitation," says Yu, 41.

Statistics from broadcasting tracker CSM Media Research show that the Chinese TV drama ran for 42 episodes per series in 2018 on average.

Considering that dramas on Netflix are much shorter, Princess Adventures recounts "a comparatively simple story" to be told in just six episodes, Yu adds.

"Most domestic production companies are still exploring how to better sell Chinese stories abroad. I hope this drama demonstrates the beauty of Chinese culture to foreign audiences," Yu says.

Yu, who shot to fame after penning the 2005 TV series Yanhua Sanyue (The Spring of March), has since written and produced more than 20 period dramas featuring lavish sets and exquisite costumes.

A production highlight of the Story of Yanxi Palace is that ahead of filming the 2018 series the props team had invited artisans to make replicas of, or seek inspiration from, the jewelry and outfits once worn by the queens and concubines of the Qing Dynasty that are now displayed at the Palace Museum (Forbidden City) in Beijing.

"We used the same department to design the costumes and makeup for Princess Adventures with the aim of recreating the royal lifestyle of the Qing era as realistically as possible," says Yu.

Yu says he enjoyed the atmosphere, "which felt like traveling back in time" during the shooting of Princess Adventures in Hengdian, the country's largest studio base for TV and film in Zhejiang province, where sets replicating imperial architecture have been built.

"When the camera starts to roll, it feels like you are jumping into another world. You can see 'ancient figures' walk and speak, ... and the kind of scenery that has always captivated me and given me the impetus to keep on writing," he adds.

A key ingredient in making period dramas popular, Yu says, is character development.

"The audience wants to see someone special, but you also need to make the character convincing and relatable," he adds.

Before Princess Adventures, other period dramas that have won recognition in overseas markets include The Legend of Luzhen (2013) and The Legend of Haolan (2019), contributing to an increase in foreign audience's curiosity about Chinese history and culture.

TV series can do more than entertain, Yu says.

"They can create an interest in the legacy of Chinese culture and encourage more people to join the preservation and passing on of traditional craftsmanship."




The spinoff features reprising actor Nie Yuan (left) as Emperor Qianlong as his character's most loved consort. CHINA DAILY





]]> 2020-01-10 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Cultural trends under the spotlight as experts look to the future]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/10/content_37531954.htm An international cultural industries forum in Beijing, gathering policy makers and researchers, examined future trends and the vitality of the ever-growing sector.

The annual forum was hosted by Peking University last weekend, and experts discussed the future development for China's cultural sector.

Themed as "New Mission: Culture and Creative Development in the Well-off Society of China", it featured a dozen sessions, panel discussions and academic seminars.

The forum gives policy makers, researchers and practitioners from home and abroad the opportunity to discuss the high-quality development of China's creative cultural sector in the new era, vice-president of Peking University Wang Bo said in his opening speech.

Mei Song, director of the Beijing Cultural and Creative Industry Promotion Center, spoke from a policy-making perspective: "Among the recurring keywords of cultural policies in recent years, we found that the most frequently used are 'intellectual property'. Without the protection of intellectual property, cultural and creative industries cannot make progress."

Therefore, the next step to promote China's cultural industries, Mei said, is to work on cultural legislation and innovation to stimulate the vitality of the industries.

Researchers and professors at the forum also view education as an important factor to boost cultural creativity.

Dean of Shenzhen University's Institute for Cultural Industries, Li Fengliang, said that he always advocates sending students on exchanges to other Chinese or overseas universities.

"The cultivation of creative cultural talent should not take place in the classroom only. They should also practice in enterprises and industries," Li said.

Fan Zhou, dean of the School of Cultural Industries Management, Communication University of China, said that with hundreds of thousands of international students now studying in China, they are the best medium for promoting Chinese culture and telling true China stories.

In tandem with the forum, Peking University's Institute for Cultural Industries, in conjunction with the National Research Base for Cultural Industries Innovation and Development, also released a preview of their yearly report on China's cultural industries.

The report, comprising 5 sections, analyzes 14 cultural and creative sectors, cultural industries by regions, and listed the major industrial trends and phenomena.

The preview published 10 keywords and 10 features for China's cultural industries in 2019, and predicted the trends for 2020.

According to the report, the top 3 keywords for 2019 are the integration of culture and tourism, digital cultural industries, and "5G plus culture", referring to the innovation brought by 5G technology in promoting culture.

The report holds a positive outlook for the new year, predicting that cultural legislation will continue to advance, the cultural market system will strengthen, and public cultural services will steadily improve.

The cultural industry is also predicted by the report to become an important factor for rural revitalization and, echoing the viewpoints of Mei, copyright will become a focus of the cultural industries.



2020-01-10 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Artist's creative journey highlighted]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/10/content_37531971.htm A major exhibition may go some way to highlighting the talent and vision of an extraordinary artist who, for too long, has been in the shadow of other luminaries. Hsiung Ping-ming (1922-2002) was born in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, and lived in France for 55 years until his death. His name deserves to be uttered in the same breath as his peers who were also trained in China and France, such as Wu Guanzhong, Zao Wou-ki, Chu Teh-chun and Sanyu (Chang Yu).

Hsiung, unlike them, was not a career artist, although he exhibited a great deal. He taught Chinese culture, philosophy and calligraphy at the Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations of the New Sorbonne University (Paris III), for nearly 30 years until his retirement in 1989.

Despite his teaching commitments, Hsiung never relinquished a chance to draw, paint or sculpt. His artworks display the influence of art movements then prevalent in Europe, such as formalism, cubism and expressionism. They also reveal the scope and depth of the studies he undertook on Chinese literature, philosophy and calligraphy, which added a philosophical hue to his work.

Yang Zhenning, the Nobel Prizewinning theoretical physicist and a friend of Hsiung since childhood, acknowledges Hsiung as "a man of versatility, an artist and also a literati".

Yang says Hsiung's body of work reflects "tenacity and the Chinese spirit of sacrifice".

In remembrance of Hsiung's perseverance in integrating East and West, the National Art Museum of China in Beijing is showing a selection of Hsiung's works in its collection The Journey of Defining Yourself through Jan 14. Several pieces donated by Yang and his wife Weng Fan are also displayed.

Hsiung's paintings, drawings, sculptures and calligraphic works, through which he sought to express his cultural identity at the crossroads of Eastern and Western cultures, helped define the Chinese cultural spirit.

Hsiung's father was Xiong Qinglai, a noted mathematician who studied in France for years. He headed the mathematics department of Tsinghua University in the late 1920s, where he met Yang Wuzhi, also a mathematician and father of Yang Zhenning. The two boys forged a friendship that spanned the decades and continents.

Hsiung's youth epitomizes the experience of his peers at home: Growing up in a time when his motherland was engulfed by poverty, social crisis and invasions. Hsiung chose economics when he enrolled to National Southwestern Associated University in 1939.

But Hsiung soon realized economics was not his cup of tea and transferred to study philosophy in his sophomore year. After graduation he joined the army to fight in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-45), and later became a translator for US military officers.

In 1947, Hsiung passed examinations to study in France on a government scholarship. Wu Guanzhong was another scholarship winner.

After a year of studying aesthetics at the University of Paris' philosophy department, Hsiung again transferred to the Ecole nationale superieure des Beaux-Arts to become Wu's schoolmate. He studied in the studios of several modern sculptors, including Marcel Gimond.

Hsiung also attended La Grande Chaumiere, the art school known for encouraging its students to be free from strict academic rules.

Hsiung's exploration with art advanced shoulder to shoulder with his accumulation of Chinese cultural traditions. He once said,"Philosophy is in the pursuit of the meaning of existence, while making sculptures is to visualize the meaning by creating an image out of it".

Wu Weishan, director of the National Art Museum, says Hsiung's creations show a pursuit of scientific precision and meticulousness that Hsiung learned in Europe.

Wu exchanged correspondence with Hsiung and sculpted his bust when he visited Nanjing in 2002.

"His works also transmit a charisma of tenderness and modesty and the open mind of Chinese scholars he was born with," Wu says.

Hsiung notably depicted and sculpted cows, as they represented the hard work, integrity and unpretentiousness of Chinese culture.

His Kneeling Cow was unveiled in March 2002 at Nanjing University to mark its centennial anniversary. It bears an inscription by Yang Zhenning, which says Hsiung summarized in the sculpture the self-definition of several generations of Chinese intellectuals.

Hsiung himself said of the work that, "a benevolent man sees (in the cow sculpture) an ultimate devotion, a brave man sees an unyielding gesture, and a wise man sees it is ready to kneel down to let the cowboy climb up and together, they march to the soil to be cultivated... It is a cow to represent the spirit of Chinese nation, enduring a heavy load and embarking upon a long journey."

Hsiung died just months later after suffering a stroke.

Wu said of his friend that, "Pingming was always seduced by new territories. He did not look forward to becoming a noted figure in certain areas. Often, he was too committed to venturing into the new territories to find the way back."




]]> 2020-01-10 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Lucky winner discovers a world of opportunity, challenge from travel]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/09/content_37531795.htm A new world of opportunities has arrived out of the blue for a lucky woman in Beijing, but travel to exotic destinations is also ushering in an era of self-discovery for the 27-year-old who had never been overseas before.

She was the sole winner of a competition organized by fintech company Alipay. Incredibly, her name was announced on Oct 7, 2018, out of 3 million participants.

The prizes on offer made up an astonishingly long list of items that included accessories, cosmetic products, as well as free deluxe accommodation and trips to countries in Asia, North America, Africa and Europe.

Indeed, the list of the prizes would take more than three minutes to completely read. The value of the goods on offer was estimated to be worth more than 5 million yuan ($720,600). The deadline to claim and cash in the prizes was the end of 2019.

The former IT engineer, known as Xinxiaodai on Weibo, wrote with obvious excitement on social media, "Am I free from work for the rest of my life?"

The short answer is yes but with the win came a new set of challenges as she became an overnight internet sensation and now has more than 1.3 million followers online.

Netizens quickly gave her the sobriquet "Chinese koi", a fish that represents luck and fortune in Chinese culture.

One month after her win, she quit her job of three years at a State-owned enterprise in the capital and became a travel blogger with a friend.

Her travel blog features travel tips, packing guides, videos and photography from around the world.

She has diligently kept flight ticket stubs as mementoes of her trips to six countries-Thailand in January, Canada in May, the Maldives in June, Australia in September, Japan in October and New Zealand in November.

She also went to Taiwan in March, Yangzhou, Jiangsu province in April, Chongqing in July, Chengdu, Sichuan province in August, Xiamen, Fujian province in November and Harbin, Heilongjiang province in December.

By the end of the year, she had still only cashed in half of the awards.

From having up-close encounters with elephants in Phuket in Thailand, whale watching in Juneau, Alaska, spotting kangaroos in Australia and snorkeling in Maldives, she has memories to last a lifetime.

"For me, travel means exploring a fascinating world and to find my inner self," Xinxiaodai wrote on Weibo.

However, she also discovered that being a frequent flyer has its drawbacks.

"It seems that I have more freedom, but actually there is less time that belongs to me," she told GQ magazine.

Her life on the road, dominated by departure and arrival times, terminals, making connections, hotel check-ins and just the sheer helter skelter meant that she sometimes reflected on more stable things such as deep winter, when the snow is so heavy that people can't get out of the door, and stay in the house alone reading books and watching movies.

For the past year, she has been hurrying here and there and worrying about money, which influenced her both psychologically and physically.

The Alipay awards often only covered a part of a trip such as a one-night accommodation or a cruise ticket for an outward voyage, which means that sometimes she had to pay out of her own pocket.

She soon found that she spent more than 200,000 yuan during her trips, according to GQ. When her adventure began, her savings were about 60,000 yuan. She maxed out her credit card during her Alaska cruise in May.

To make ends meet during trips, Xinxiaodai promoted certain items on social media. She also managed her own travel blog.

"Now travel is my job," Xinxiaodai said.

She has also suffered from frequent jet lag and a lack of sleep. This exacted a toll on her health and in the first half of last year, she said, she visited hospitals on more occasions than in the previous 26 years combined.

"I couldn't fall asleep sometimes, because there were too many things to plan and worry about before and during the trips," she said.

Some netizens commented that the marketing stunt was "a consumerism trap", which encourages the winner to spend even more. Others questioned her decision to quit her job, saying that "people have to choose what they really want. She really didn't need to cash in all those rewards".

But whatever the drawbacks, Xinxiaodai is making choices.

"Nothing is perfect, but it really feels good to share true feelings and get everything under control," Xinxiaodai said in her summary last year.

"Perhaps my trips will continue this year," she added.






2020-01-09 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Journeys to the past]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/09/content_37531843.htm In the early 1920s, modern archaeological practices only began to emerge in China after Swedish geologist Johan Gunnar Andersson introduced Western methodologies and led key excavations across Central and West China.

Yangshao Culture, which dates back to between 5000 and 3000 BC and is best known for its colorful pottery vessels, is undoubtedly one of his most important discoveries, one that unveiled China's rich Neolithic heritage.

But because similar patterns were discovered emblazoned on the contemporary ceramics of Cucuteni culture in what today is Romania, Andersson made an arbitrary deduction: Chinese civilization was not original. Instead, he believed, it was introduced from the West via the Eurasian grasslands. This theory influenced academia for decades.

Although Andersson's speculation was later disproved by subsequent archaeological findings in China that reflected the spontaneous roots of Chinese pottery culture, Cucuteni remained a mesmerizing name for generations of Chinese archaeologists: Where did the similarities arise?

In July, four archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences set off on a two-month trip to explore Cucuteni Culture in Romania, on what was the first phase of excavations in the village of Dobrovat, near the city of Iasi in that country's northeast.

"Andersson's archaeological findings and mindset have their limitations," Wen Chenghao, an archaeologist working on the project, tells China Daily. "However, he left a lasting legacy for us. It was necessary for us to gain a comprehensive overview of our own for comparison."

Test of hypothesis

A 6-hectare heritage site in Dobrovat, dating back to around 4300 BC in the early stages of Cucuteni culture, was the focus of their research. The remains of nine houses had been discovered and the earth, which was used to construct them, was found to be scorched.

Charred earth was also found at sites dating back to the Yangshao period in China, and were widely assumed to be a type of consolidated building material.

According to Wen, however, in Dobrovat, the condition of the 20-centimeter-thick blocks of earth-some of them vitrified at a temperature of over 1,000 C-instead suggested that these dwellings had been deliberately burned to the ground.

"It's likely that these intense fires were not accidentally caused by war or looting," he says. "This may reveal that certain religious rituals took place when people abandoned their homes. This inspired our future studies into similar phenomenon in China."

Since no Cucuteni culture graveyards have yet been discovered, Wen further speculated that Cucuteni burial customs may have dictated that people were burned together with their houses after they had died.

"After being inhabited for years, the houses were no longer treated as wood and earth," Wen says. "Instead, they were thought to be 'alive'-and something spiritual."

He says he has learned a lot from his Romanian colleagues.

"When we conducted careful and detailed analysis of these earth structures, just like examining and rebuilding the broken pottery discovered there, they helped us reconstruct the original appearance of these dwellings and reveal an abundance of easily overlooked historical information."

Chinese archaeologists will also help to solve problems at the site.

Since two-thirds of the Dobrovat site is covered by thick forest, most electronic detectors don't work there. Wen says they will take a "Luoyang spade"-a traditional tube-shaped testing tool widely used by Chinese archaeologists to examine the layers of soil to locate possible underground relics-to Dobrovat for the second phase of excavations later this year.

Although two months seemed too short a time to completely answer the questions raised by Andersson a century ago, Wen says the hypothesis of communication between the Cucuteni and Yangshao cultures, separated by 7,000 kilometers, seems improbable.

"It was our romantic imagination before we did field research in Dobrovat," he says. "However, despite the similar patterns on the colorful pottery, other unearthed objects from the two cultures appear markedly different.

"Nevertheless, their apparent 'similarities'-even the patterns of colorful potteries-seem to reflect that people in different regions shared paths in social development carried over from Neolithic times to the Bronze Age. Comparative cross-cultural studies require an insight into historical precedents rather than by simply examining scattered signals."

In Africa

Thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese archaeologists now have more opportunity to conduct joint archaeological research around the world owning to recent intergovernmental agreements. According to statistics of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, Chinese archaeologists participated in 38 archaeological projects overseas in 2019, cooperating with around 20 countries.

In Kenya, Chinese archaeologists from the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology and Shandong University conducted a joint research project into the origins of modern humans-a hot topic in global academia.

They began excavations in September at a site on Lake Bogoria dating back to the mid-Paleolithic period, which in Africa refers to an era between 250,000 and 40,000 years ago.

"Fundamental methodologies of Paleolithic archaeology are basically the same all over the world," Zhao Qingpo, an archaeologist from the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology, says. "Consequently, it is really convenient for us to have exchanges with overseas scholars in this field."

Sparse vegetation and continuous rainfall have led to many relics being discovered lying on the open ground. However, it is still not easy to spot them in an area of around 16 square kilometers.

"We can only walk all around the area," Zhao says, recalling the tough but exciting days spent working in the field. "If we traveled in a vehicle, important findings could be easily overlooked."

Zhao and his colleagues identified 14 key excavation sites by Lake Bogoria, where 5,000 pieces of stone tools-choppers, scrapers, adzes and pickaxes, among others-were unearthed. On a 2-square-meter spot alone, over 700 relics were found within a 15-centimeter-deep layer of earth.

"There is no doubt that the site used to be a workshop," he says. "The adoption of the Levallois technique (a distinctive type of stone knapping) to create these highly standardized stone objects was apparent, where it functioned much like a modern assembly line. The ancient humans who used this process had a strong cognitive ability."

The site at Lake Bogoria was accidentally unearthed by a local villager who was a guide for the Leakey family, a group of renowned British archaeologists credited with many key findings on early-stage humans.

Standing in a local museum, surrounded by a myriad of relics dating back more than 2 million years, Zhao realizes how difficult it is to catch up with Western scholars, who have been studying the origins of humans for over a century.

Nevertheless, for Zhao, traveling to Kenya has not only been an academic pilgrimage. He says through the ongoing project, and following key findings in China in the recent years, Chinese scholars can also have their voices better heard in the study of modern humans-which is thought to have begun some 200,000 years ago.

According to current Sino-Kenyan agreement, the research on Lake Bogoria site will last for four years, but Zhao expects that to be extended.

"The Leakey family were stationed in Africa for decades," he says. "We need to adopt a similar attitude and focus on one place for a long time. Harvests only follow persistence."

New terrain

After lengthy preparations in 2018, China's first archaeological excavation in Egypt formally kicked off in November. In Luxor, local archaeologists welcomed four Chinese scholars from the Institute of Archaeology, CASS, as part of a joint research project at a key site of the New Kingdom period (16th century-11th century BC).

Academics from the two countries are working together to unveil the splendor of the Temple of Montu, which was dedicated to the Egyptian falcon-god 3,300 years ago, using 3D modeling technology alongside the excavation of the architectural ruins.

French archaeologists worked there in the 1940s and 1950s, but their efforts were curtailed by war and social turmoil, and old findings litter the abandoned site covered by thick grass.

"The stones relics suffer from severe weathering, and many previously recorded inscriptions have disappeared-but luckily most areas remain untouched by archaeologists," says researcher Li Xinwei. "We hope our excavations will help to figure out how this temple was constructed and its status during the New Kingdom period."

He adds that preservation work is involved at every step of their studies. A new warehouse and a workshop for this program had been constructed ahead of the excavation.

For Chinese archaeology, fieldwork in neighboring countries can also help with research back home.

At the Gol Mod No 2 graveyard site in Mongolia, for instance, scholars from the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology and Ulaanbaatar State University joined forces last year to unearth the tombs of Xiongnu nobles-the powerful nomadic ethnic group appearing in ancient Chinese historical records, speculated to be the predecessor of the Hun.

Many exquisite cultural relics were found in two tombs dating to the period of China's Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24), including a pair of gilded silver dragons, jade belt hooks and jewels.

The American Journal of Archaeology listed the finding as one of the "top 10 discoveries" of 2019.

Going further north, a team of Chinese archaeologists from the Changchun-based Jilin University worked with their Russian counterparts at Pinchuka-6, a large-scale grave site dating back to between the 4th and 6th centuries that was discovered deep in the Siberian forest.

The Chinese team leader Quan Qiankun says the burial rituals and unearthed bronzeware pieces at the site share similarities with ancient nomadic ethnic groups in northern China.

"It indicates that even people living in the north of Siberia had a connection with North China at that time," Quan says. "A lot of focus is placed on the study of ancient ethnic groups to the north of Chinese border, but a clear picture of what life was like in Siberia remains a mystery to most Chinese archaeologists. It is essential for us to have this program and explore the sphere of influence of East Asian cultures."

"Today's international steps by Chinese archaeologists would have been unimaginable even five years ago," says Bai Yunxiang, a senior researcher from the Institute of Archaeology, CASS. "Frankly speaking, Chinese archaeologists' understanding of foreign sites is still insufficient. More projects will help us join the dots and eventually build a systematic map of knowledge about the culture of other countries."

He also expects Chinese archaeologists to have a growing influence in global academia.

"Archaeologists' broader world view shows their open mind and cultural inclusiveness," says Song Xinchao, deputy director of the National Cultural Heritage Administration. "They'll also help people to better understand today's global issues from a historical perspective."


Zhao Qingpo (center), an archaeologist from the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology, is engaged in excavation work at the Lake Bogoria site in Kenya, studying the origin of modern humans. CHINA DAILY



]]> 2020-01-09 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Moving market]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/09/content_37531809.htm Young people in China are showing a preference for domestic brands. Other than being cost-effective, Chinese brands are becoming stylish and innovative, with improvement in the quality of products. Contributing to this is a stronger cultural confidence among young Chinese.

About half of the interviewees from a total 4,109, aged from 10 to 19, told a survey in November conducted by Tencent Marketing Insight that they accepted or preferred Chinese brands compared with foreign when choosing a commodity. The TMI report, based on 26,815 questionnaires across 60 primary and middle schools in nine cities, was recently released.

Luo Shuyuan, 18, a student in Shanghai, says most of her skincare products are Chinese. "They are reliable, free of irritating ingredients, cheaper and suitable for young people."

In terms of apparel, Luo tends to pay 200 yuan ($28.4) to 300 yuan each time for made-in-China clothes. "Their quality and design are no worse than foreign big-fashion brands."

She gets 400 to 500 yuan per month as pocket money, and most of her clothes are Chinese-made, because of the "quality, price and fitness".

Wu Weicheng, 17, a high school student in Shanghai, says most of his classmates use Chinese phone brands, such as Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo.

"Its (Huawei phone's) technology and functions, such as the camera, are almost as advanced as that of Apple. But the price is cheaper," he says.

A fan of apparel brand Li Ning, Wu says the Chinese brand impresses him with the bright colors of its clothes, offline stores, as well as the logo in the original form of Chinese characters, which is "very special". "You can tell it's a Chinese brand from the first sight."

He spends two-thirds of his pocket money-500 to 600 yuan monthly-on shopping, 90 percent of which is used in Chinese brands.

Fang Ying, 16, a high school student in Shanghai, says Chinese products are cheaper, practical and have a long service life. She says she has used a Xiaomi phone for two years. "It's running smoothly and can take high-definition photos."

She says she prefers Chinese milk brands, such as Mengniu and Guangming, although overseas dairy products are known as being more nutritious. "I like them because they often bring back my childhood memory of watching the ads on TV and seeing the products on store shelves."

She says domestic brands are innovating, so young consumers have become more confident in them, and the products are more recognized by the public today.

The post-2000 generation gives themselves 9.4 points out of 10 in terms of "a sense of national pride", ranking top among all generations, the TMI report says quoting May data from the Social Survey Center of China Youth Daily.

According to the TMI report, the post-2000 generation grew up with the economic development of China and the rise of its global influence. They also witnessed major events, such as China's first manned space flight in 2003, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai Expo in 2010.

Domestic animation and TV shows have also developed. And, traditional cultural elements, such as the Palace Museum and Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu province, have given the youth a sense of self-confidence, Zhang Jing, deputy general manager of key accounts at Tencent Marketing Solution, tells China Daily.

"Buying, using and showing off Chinese products have become a fashion," Zhang says.

The consumption habit of youngsters have formed amid rising domestic brands, according to the report.

Wu says he learned from his school and the Chinese media that Chinese automobiles have gone global, and that Chinese companies are building bridges, subways and other infrastructure in Africa. He also found about China's first homegrown aircraft the C919 and Fuxing bullet trains.

Xu Feifei, an associate partner at global consultancy Prophet, says the rising popularity of domestic brands among young consumers reflects their demand for uniqueness and practicality.

"They are no longer blindly chasing big foreign brands. Instead, they are willing to learn about commodities through their own trials and share the experience with friends," she says, adding that the 1960s and '70s generations favor and are more loyal to foreign brands than younger people.

Li Ning was named top 50"most relevant brands for Chinese consumers" in 2019 by Prophet in September, and has become a typical example of a Chinese brand. Its success, according to the report, was because it interpreted traditional Chinese culture in a modern and fashionable way to attract young consumers.

Chinese consumers think domestic brands, compared to international, are better at meeting their demands and establishing emotional links, according to Prophet's top 50 brands' list.

"With the rise of production and better quality control, made-in-China has shaken off the stereotype of 'poor quality'. Many foreign brands produce their products in China," Xu says.

Shi Saifei, the sales director for consumer goods at Tencent Advertising and Marketing Service, says Chinese commodities have turned from competing for low prices to seeking higher quality and differentiation. The homegrown technologies and special Chinese cultural elements also make them unique, which meets such demand of young people, Shi adds.

Xu says the rise of Chinese brands is at the initial stage, with few getting noticed globally, because many Chinese companies don't attach enough importance to brand construction. Consumers in China now care more about practicality, price and appearance design, so both homegrown and international brands need to invest in research and development, learn about target consumers and provide products, services and consumer experiences, Xu adds.

Ji Wei, a founding managing partner of Meridian Capital, says that amid the wave of globalization, the boundary between foreign and Chinese brands has become vague. "What really matters is whether the products can meet the specific demands of consumers."

With China's success in e-commerce and mobile payment, Chinese consumers are trying out new things, while the marketing and selling channels on the supply side enjoy lower costs and higher efficiency, which has created more space for new brands, she says.

Since the post-2000 generation has less economic pressure compared to older Chinese and are more familiar with the online world, Chinese brands should emphasize being different, adapt products to young people's tastes and enhance the emotional resonance, Ji says.







2020-01-09 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Chance encounters in China show it's a small world after all]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/09/content_37531831.htm I couldn't believe it when I asked their addresses.

Turns out, they lived just down the street from me in Mount Pleasant, Michigan in the United States.

But I'd just met them in Beijing.

I'd just arrived in China in 2005 to intern for China Daily.

I was assigned to cover an interpretive dance performance created to honor American missionary Minnie Vautrin (1886-1941), who risked her life to save 10,000 Chinese women during the Nanjing Massacre.

The show's organizers had invited some of her living relatives to attend the rehearsal.

I ended my interview with them by confirming their cities of residence. They not only lived a few houses down from me in Mount Pleasant but also worked as administrators at the university I was attending.

We were astounded by the coincidence. We agreed to meet up in Michigan but never got around to it.

I'd never heard of Vautrin before arriving in China. But I immediately came to understand why she's hailed as a hero in China.

The missionary and educator, who's known in China as the "Goddess of Mercy", first arrived in China in 1912 and later became dean of the Nanking Jinling Women's College. She repelled Japanese invaders from the school in 1937, during the six-week siege in which 300,000 unarmed Chinese were killed and more than 20,000 women were raped.

Vautrin personally patrolled the school to fend off any attempts to attack the women inside.

She declared: "Whoever wants to go through this gate will have to do so over my dead body." And she meant it.

However, largely because of the horror she experienced during that time, she committed suicide soon after returning to the US following a nervous breakdown.

It turns out that she was also buried in the same county in which I lived and attended university. I also planned to visit her grave but, again, never got around to it.

These incredible coincidences indeed seemed to point to the truth of the old adage, "It's a small world after all".

That said, I was again absolutely shocked by another unlikely encounter about two weeks after I returned to Beijing in 2006.

I was sitting outside a bar on the main street of the capital's Sanlitun area when I heard a conspicuously surprised voice say, "Erik?"

I turned around and was astonished to see a fellow member of my high school newspaper's editorial board.

I hadn't seen Brady in about half a decade, since I'd moved away from Midland, Michigan, which borders Mount Pleasant.

And I had to study his face for some time to make sure I really was looking at who I thought I was looking at. I was.

It happened that Brady was doing a short study-abroad program at the university across from my workplace.

I didn't have Facebook back then. But we've since connected on the platform.

Indeed, it's not only a small world after all, but it's also getting smaller, especially as such connecting technologies as social media advance.

Through Facebook, I came to learn I have distant relatives from Sweden who live in Shanghai. I've considered contacting them but haven't yet.

We've all heard of the theory of "six degrees of separation", also known as "six handshakes", which suggests every human is linked by six or fewer social connections. That is, friends of friends of friends…

However, this concept, which began in academia and later leaked into popular culture, is largely regarded as an urban legend. Empirical studies supporting the idea have been conducted but also criticized for their methodologies.

Either way, as the world shrinks and China's prominence continues to rise, I expect to encounter more unlikely encounters, especially in Beijing.



]]> 2020-01-09 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Clayderman still in tune with his audience]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/09/content_37531842.htm When he first performed in China with five concerts in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong in 1992, French pianist Richard Clayderman and his team seemed out of tune with their surroundings and were not, initially, confident about the tour. You could say they were feeling off-key.

"The country was quite different compared with what it is today. There were no huge buildings and people dressed only in blue or gray. They looked curiously at us," the pianist recalls. "However, once I stepped on stage in Beijing, there came a huge applause from an audience of nearly 20,000. They gave me the confidence to start a new career in this country."

China is now the country where Clayderman performs the most. Since 1992, Clayderman, with his trademark blond hair and blue eyes, has held nearly 500 concerts in the country in nearly 100 cities. Every year, he gives about 50 concerts in China.

On Jan 18, the 66-year-old pianist will return to Beijing with a recital at the Great Hall of the People with some of his best known pieces, including Ballad for Adeline, A Comme Amour and Lyphard Melody. The recital is part of the ongoing 20th Meet in Beijing Arts Festival, one of the largest annual art festivals held in the capital from Jan 6 to Feb 4.

Clayderman will also perform adaptations of Chinese songs as well as interpreting some famous hits, both classical pieces and film themes, such as Star Wars and Les Choristes.

"I travel a great deal every year. One of my hobbies is to collect different kinds of music. In my repertoire, you can find music from every corner of the world, including my adaptations of Chinese songs," he says.

Before his first trip to China, the pianist listened to several Chinese songs, and they had an immediate impact.

Butterfly Lovers, one of China's most celebrated violin concertos, was one of Clayderman's favorites and, naturally, he will perform the piece during his upcoming recital. He has performed it not only in China but also in other countries, including Australia, Canada and the United States.

Clayderman's music can still be widely heard in China today, in shopping malls, restaurants and hotel lobbies.

Recently, he reached a younger audience by performing Hedwig's Theme, composed by John Williams for the Harry Potter film series, during the year-end gala broadcast on Chinese live streaming platform Bilibili on New Year's Eve. It received a warm feedback.

Born in Paris, where he still lives, Clayderman learned to play piano with his father, an accordion teacher, at the age of 5. At 12, he was enrolled to study at the Conservatoire de Paris and graduated in 1969.

In his 40-year career, Clayderman has sold more than 60 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling French musicians in history. Clayderman has 70 platinum discs to his name.

When he first toured China, the country was transforming with economic reforms and opening-up. Besides live performances, his music has been frequently broadcast on radio and television. Classical music was still in its infancy in the country when he first toured here and piano was considered a symbolic instrument of classical music then.

"I was impressed by his posters and the pictures on the cover of his albums. He looked very gentle and handsome," recalls Chinese pianist Yuan Fang, who was born in Shenzhen in 1982, started learning piano at the age of 4. She moved to Beijing to join the middle school affiliated with the Central Conservatory of Music in 1993, a year after Clayderman's debut in the capital.

"The melodies of Clayderman are easy to understand, delightful and beautiful. Some of my classmates learned to play his pieces," Yuan says. "We grew up with his music."

Yuan, who studied with German pianist Gerhard Oppitz while majoring in piano and chamber music at Munich's University of Music and Performing Arts, notes that one of Clayderman's major contributions is that "he inspired many Chinese people to get to know, and learn to play, the piano".

Clayderman fondly recalls his earliest interactions with Chinese audiences and his success in the country. "There were numerous moments which moved me, for instance, thousands of concert goers standing in the rain during open shows, young kids and their parents waiting in the cold wind outside theaters just to say hello to me. I feel grateful to all of them and love to perform for them. I was the lucky one chosen by history."

Having witnessed the fast development of China over the past 30 years, Clayderman, with his enduring popularity, also has cooperated with some Chinese classical musicians and is involved in music education in China.

He still practices for two hours every day, even during his tours.

"When I meet problems, I keep on practicing. I may fail in the first practice, and also in the second and third, but after 10 or 20 days, I will succeed. This is the experience I want to share with youngsters," he says.


French pianist Richard Clayderman performing at one of his concerts in China. He has held around 500 concerts in nearly 100 cities in the country since 1992. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-09 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Students face US doubts]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/08/content_37531596.htm An increasing number of Chinese students have learned a harsh lesson regarding visas for the United States and are looking at new destinations to fulfill their overseas study needs, specialists say.

US visa obstacles and climbing tuition fees mean students are examining options for other countries for higher education, as well as institutions at home, industry professionals claim.

"Chinese students' enthusiasm for American higher education has been dampened by the US administration's visa policy, which has delayed or denied entry to many of them, especially those aiming for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees," says Annabelle Ding, admission representative at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies, in a recent interview with Xinhua.

According to the nonpartisan think tank Migration Policy Institute, international student enrollment at US colleges and universities dropped for the third year in a row, and the number of student visas issued to Chinese applicants went down by 54 percent in 2018 from 2015.

"Recent US policies have affected its image and reputation, obstructed exchanges with other countries, and undermined its own interests," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in November.

"Today, it is all the more important for us to create positive conditions for the exchange of students as well as people-to-people ties with an open and inclusive attitude," Geng said.

Clear omen

After working in Wall Street as a financial executive following her studies in New York and Beijing, Lindsay Zou founded offerbang.io to provide career guidance for international students and professionals.

"I've met Chinese students hurt by visa delays or denials. Seeing the hardship of studying and finding jobs in the US, they'd rather stay in China for higher education," she says.

Yang Lan just got his master's degree in computer science at Pace University, New York, and found a job. Some of his Chinese friends and classmates were not as lucky.

"As I know, you have to wait longer to get your student visa, which worries not only the students themselves, but their parents too. The conclusion is that America is unfriendly toward Chinese students," he says.

Rachel Banks, director of Public Policy at NAFSA, an association of international educators, was recently quoted by The China Press as saying that the US administration's visa policy was the prime factor curtailing the number of international students.

US President Donald Trump and White House officials have denied such accusations.

Caroline Casagrande, deputy assistant secretary for academic programs in the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, told Xinhua at the end of November that "our visa policy is matching our discussion, which is coming from the highest office in the land. The president recently said out of the Oval Office (that) we welcome Chinese students into our universities".

What Casagrande was referring to was Trump's remarks on Oct 11 in the White House. "Our universities are available. The world comes in. They use our universities. We have the greatest system in the world, and China is not going to be treated any differently," Trump told reporters.

However, US universities and education organizations picked up a different tone.

"We want the pathway (of coming to the United States) to be very clear and very transparent and very predictable. And what we're hearing from Chinese students is that it is not always the case," Brad Farnsworth, vice-president of American Council on Education, told Xinhua.

Months earlier, top universities like Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale, Harvard and University of California Berkeley voiced their concern that their government's visa policy created a "toxic atmosphere" and ran counter to their doctrine of openness and transparency. Chinese students were always welcomed by US universities, they added.


China remained the largest source of international students in the US in 2018/19, the 10th consecutive year, with 369,548 students in undergraduate, graduate, non-degree, and optional practical training programs, a 1.7 percent increase from the previous year, according to a report by the Institute of International Education.

International students, making up 55 percent of the total US higher education population, contributed44.7 billion to the country's economy in 2018, an increase of 5.5 percent from the previous year, according to the latest data from the US Department of Commerce.

Meanwhile, according to NAFSA's recent statistics, the consecutive slump of new international students since 2016 has led to a loss of11.8 billion to the US economy.

"To be frank, it is no longer the ultimate choice for Chinese students to seek enrollment at an American university, but just one of many options. I recommend that they have at least two options for their higher education: maybe one is to come to the US and the other to somewhere else, including China itself," says Ding.

Canada, Australia and China have been catching up in attracting international students, says a report issued by the Center for China and Globalization at a summit on the internationalization of higher education, jointly hosted by the CCG, World Innovation Summit for Education and the Institute of International Education in Beijing last December.

China now accounts for 10 percent of the world's international students, ranking No 3 on the global charts in this category, and plans to host 500,000 international students in all academic levels by 2020, it adds.


2020-01-08 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Blogger-author opens new chapter on marine biology]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/08/content_37531641.htm You could say it comes naturally to Zhang Chenliang. Indeed, his moniker is "the man of natural history", or Bowu Jun in Chinese. This is no idle boast as the popular science blogger has 11 million followers on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

His latest work-a two-minute video about the "myth" of crabs-was on the "hot search" list of the micro-blogging site on Dec 17.

According to legend, male crustaceans are romantic and reliable "husbands". When danger comes, it is said, the male box crab will carry its "wife" with its claws and flee to a safe place where the female will shed its shell.

Yet, Zhang's video unveils the truth about these marine creatures. Calappa crabs, as they are called, live alone most of their life and only get together for mating, which is the same for all kinds of crabs. Also, the male Calappa stays with the female Calappa while she's shedding its shell-which marks sexual maturity-not to protect her but to make sure he's close by at this time.

Netizens were quick to comment that they were disappointed that crabs did not have such a romantic life.

The video is just an example of how Zhang shares his knowledge with netizens.

The 31-year-old Beijing native, with a master's degree in agricultural entomology and pest control from the China Agricultural University, is a project director at Chinese magazine Natural History. He's in charge of the operation of the magazine's account on Sina Weibo.

Most of his daily schedule involves answering questions raised by readers online. These can encompass entomology, zoology, botany and geography.

Zhang likes to use humor to get his message across.

Journey of discovery

Over the past five years, besides answering thousands of questions on Sina Weibo, Zhang has been devoted to researching marine animals in China and writing a series of books titled Hai Cuo Tu Biji (Notes on Illustrated Handbook of Marine Animals). The third book of the series was published recently by China Citic Press Group and Chinese National Geography Books.

Zhang says the series is inspired by an old illustrated book, titled Hai Cuo Tu, by Nie Huang.

Nie lived in the early years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). As a passionate traveler, his journeys took him from North China's Hebei province to the eastern coastal areas.

Nie painted more than 300 marine creatures he had seen or heard about during his trips over the decades and finally finished the book in 1698. The book was then introduced to the imperial court in 1726 and was admired by the emperors.

Nie's book includes four volumes-the first three are now in the Palace Museum in Beijing and the fourth one in the Taipei Palace Museum.

Zhang got his first glimpse of the fascinating book during a visit to the Beijing museum when he was in middle school.

Hai Cuo Tu, featuring the first three volumes of Nie's book, was published by the Palace Museum in 2014, and Zhang read it avidly.

A year later, Zhang decided to write a book to verify some of the creatures in Nie's book. "Nie not only wrote down what he knew or heard, but also left some questions which he hoped descendants could answer for him."

Zhang tried to answer most of the questions with his knowledge and research. He traveled to China's coastal areas and also to Japan and Thailand, visiting local markets and scholars, and read old books or theses to find the answers.

"I think Nie would be happy to read my books," he says.

Zhang published his first book in 2016, verifying 38 creatures featured in Nie's Hai Cuo Tu, and a year later, a second book was published, verifying 40 more. Both books won praise from readers, selling 260,000 and 160,000 copies respectively.

In 2017, the Taipei Palace Museum made the images of the fourth volume of Nie's Hai Cuo Tu open to the public for free, and Zhang got to verify some species from it for his third book. "I'm trying to let the marine creatures across the Taiwan Straits unite."

The third book, including 20 articles and featuring 63 marine animals, took Zhang two years to finish.

"It took longer because for the first two books, I selected the easier creatures to verify, which I already had some knowledge of and are more common," Zhang explains. "For the third book, I had to look into the creatures that were not easy to verify. Some of the creatures are only based on other people's descriptions, and may look quite different in reality."

Science education

Zhang's experience in researching insects helps him when verifying marine creatures. "Even though they are not related, the scientific ways of researching are the same."

Besides the elaborate paintings from Nie, Zhang also invites several illustrators to draw pictures for him to pair with his articles so that the readers can understand the content more easily.

Zhang says he writes each article in logical order following questions that a reader would ask.

"If I write about a pearl, besides saying that people in the Qing Dynasty started to breed pearls, I will also answer questions like 'what's the difference between a pearl in fresh water and in seawater'," he says.

"I don't want my readers to have more questions after reading my articles."

In his books, Zhang explains how some of the creatures were quite common in Nie's time but have become rare or endangered nowadays-because of overfishing or environmental destruction.

It's his way of popularizing public science education and educating the readers to protect the environment.

He is planning a fourth book.

He's also running an account on video-sharing app Douyin, known outside China as TikTok, to interact with fans.

The growing use of social media, he says, offers more opportunities to spread knowledge of nature and science.

Yet, it's important to understand how different platforms work, he adds, and present tailor-made content for each in either words or videos.

Zhang Jie, a researcher at the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, comments that Zhang Chenliang has brought the seas to life by describing major categories of marine creatures, and their characteristics, behavior and breeding.

"After reading the book, you must feel closer to the oceans," she says.











]]> 2020-01-08 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Modern technology a class act for distant schools]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/08/content_37531640.htm Computers and the internet are opening up a world of online opportunities for students in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Students from the 104 Regiment Primary School of the 12th Division of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps in Urumqi come every week to a high-tech classroom. Two screens are placed on the wall, as well as four cameras and six microphones on the ceiling. This modern environment, and net access, allows them to have an online class with teachers from Qingdao Zaoshan Primary School in Shandong province. With real-time connectivity they can hear and communicate with each other.

Since the project was launched in March, 11 schools in the division have joined, according to Feng Tianxiao, deputy director of the education bureau for the 12th Division of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

"To balance education access for eastern and western China, teachers were sent to western provinces every year, which cost a lot in both financial and human resources. However, sometimes teachers who come west do not really meet the needs, thus, making it a waste of resources. To solve this problem, we introduced the online system," Feng adds.

Before a semester begins, teachers on each side will have online meetings to decide which classes can be shared with schools in Xinjiang and then set the schedule.

"The shared classes should begin at around 10 am, a time suitable for both sides," explains Hu Wenjiang, the headmaster of 104 Regiment Primary School.

During the class, teachers in Shandong can ask questions to students in Xinjiang and one or two local teachers will be present to help it run smoothly.

"To achieve continuous educational improvement, it is necessary to enhance local teachers' abilities," says Hu.

Sang Na, a Chinese teacher in the Urumqi school, says once a teacher in Qingdao Zaoshan Primary School used a Chinese shadow puppet in class. This inspired her a great deal as she realized the importance of creativity.

"Introducing traditional puppets in class not only makes the class more interesting, but also creates a chance to bring students closer to traditional culture," she says.

Sun Jiani, a fifth-grade student from the Urumqi school who takes part in the online class, relishes the experience. She especially likes the three-minute speeches delivered by her peers in Qingdao, saying that sharing has broadened her horizons and helped her to understand life in eastern China.

The project has now expanded from Urumqi to Hami.

According to Jiang Zongjun, director of the education bureau of the 13th Division in Hami, 12 schools in the division are scattered over an area of nearly 10,000 square kilometers.

In some rural places, a lack of teachers is always a problem. While this is being addressed, the internet is helpful, Jiang says.

"In the past, some of our teachers had to teach several subjects, but with the help of interactive online classes, they can focus on their own subject," says Jiang.

Yet, challenges remain. Li Zhiying, a teacher in Hongshan Farm School, says it took her some time to get used to the interactive system.

Usually, there are about 40 students in one class. But adding those online, teachers have to face nearly 500 students at the same time.

She recalls that at first, she rarely asked questions to students on the screen in front of her. Later, with guidance from other teachers, she had more interactions with students in other classrooms and could handle all the students at the same time.


Online classes offer new learning experiences for students in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. CHINA DAILY




2020-01-08 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Riding a wave of success]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/08/content_37531597.htm Flanked by swaying coconut trees, the secluded beach at Riyue Bay in Hainan province is an idyllic and usually tranquil setting. But all that changed when the beach in Wanning city hosted the Hainan Surfing Open in early December amid, quite literally, waves of excitement.

Spectators gathered, watched and cheered as surfers paddled out to the sea, waited for the right moment, harnessed their adrenaline and rode a fast-moving and unpredictable wall of water.

Rows of stalls selling surfing gear, snacks and handmade crafts sat alongside tattoo booths, adding to the atmosphere as visitors got to sample a little beach life.

Now in its 11th year, the event epitomizes surf culture in China.

It all started with someone's dream. His name was Brendan Sheridan, a California-born surf enthusiast who was attracted by the unspoiled coves and powerful waves of the island province of Hainan. He actually moved to the tropical island in 2006 and launched the surfing contest two years later.

Back then, just two surfers out of the 40 participants were Chinese. However, this year, supported by eight surf clubs from across the country and various corporate sponsors, 81 contestants, mostly Chinese, took part.

"So much has changed since the first competition," says Sheridan. "I'm proud to have this competition as a way of measuring how much surfing in China has progressed."

Since the creator of the event planned to return to his home country, he passed on the baton, or more appropriately the surfboard, to the future organizer, Li Jing, in 2015.

A flair for organizing

Li, 32, a Shenzhen-based office worker, initially tried the sport during a one-week trip to Riyue Bay in 2013. She was bitten by the bug and attracted by the simple, freewheeling lifestyle led by surfers.

She quit her job and started doing marketing and communications for the Jalenboo Surf Club.

"I helped Sheridan with the Surfing Open for two years and discovered that I was good at organizing and running promotional activities," recalls Li. "I have been organizing the annual event ever since his departure."

Li knows that as the oldest surfing competition in China, the event should be a fine example for other nongovernmental competition organizers to learn from.

She has traveled to Indonesia and several other countries to learn more about how to run events.

"We continuously try to meet the needs of the embryonic and developing surfing industry," she says.

In 2015, a contest for novices was added to the event, engaging a larger group of surf lovers.

The next year, national and provincial surf teams were set up after the sport was included in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Subsequently, various surf competitions sprang up in other coastal cities. And every sport needs officials, judges and referees to make the difficult decisions.

Li and her colleagues decided to initiate training sessions for referees and offer internship opportunities for referee candidates at the open in 2016.

"It is worth mentioning that all the referees and photographers are volunteers," says Li.

Various beachside activities, such as exhibitions and concerts, were also held to keep spectators entertained.

Yang Ruijia, 30, a former member of China's national surfing team, volunteered to work as a judge.

She says she noticed that the event is growing into a more diversified festival of surf where visitors can enjoy music, food and the arts.

A more open platform

Yang, a former professional surfer, points out that the event maintains a relaxed atmosphere because most of its participants are amateurs.

"Every year, they come to compete for fun and meet up with old friends," says Yang.

Xu Jingsen, another participant at the event, agrees and adds that these informal surf contests offer an open platform for amateur surfers to strut their skills and get to know people who share the same passion.

Xu, a graduate from the Ocean University of China in Shandong province's Qingdao city, became obsessed with the water sport in 2011.

He practiced the skills needed to conquer the waves at surfing spots in the coastal city. Mastering how to spot a wave and paddle to the right spot quickly, honing the best body stance and learning how to guide the board with the minimum of energy took hard work and dedication.

It was also a good way to escape the everyday concerns of life and rejuvenate his mind and body, says the 30-year-old.

To connect with more surf lovers, he opened surf clubs and ran competitions in Qingdao.

"I hope I can contribute to enlarging the surf community and spread surfer culture in Qingdao," he says, adding that he plans to launch his own surfboard brand.

Flora Christin, 28, a top Indonesian female longboard surfer, made her debut at the Riyue Bay event this year.

She lives in the right spot-Canggu, on the island of Bali-a perfect setting for surfers. Compared to Riyue Bay, she says, Canggu has a long-established surfing culture, attracting people from all over the world.

"Hainan could be very big if you promote it worldwide through social media, hold more surf events and festivals, and invite surfers from outside of China," she says.

It's also important, she adds, for Chinese surfers to compete in international events.


Surfers ride high to catch the perfect wave during the Hainan Surfing Open in December in Wanning, Hainan province. CHINA DAILY





]]> 2020-01-08 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Tutorial system works but could be improved, undergraduates say]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/08/content_37531621.htm A tutorial system for undergraduate students has received mixed reviews after it was launched by the University of Science and Technology Beijing in October 2018.

It engaged 1,360 faculty members, including four academicians from either the Chinese Academy of Engineering or the Chinese Academy of Sciences in tutoring more than 10,600 students, most of whom are freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

A symposium was held in November by the university to review how the program has progressed and what has been achieved in its first year of operation.

Song Bo, provost of the university, notes that the pass rate for compulsory subjects has risen among freshmen from eight out of the total 13 undergraduate schools last year.

And over the same period of time, undergraduates' participation in academic competitions or innovation and entrepreneurship events grew remarkably. For example, the number of participants in the Student Research Training Program, which encourages and sponsors innovative research conducted by undergraduate students, has increased from 2,631 to 3,595, with nearly half of their projects being instructed by their tutors.

Qin Zijie, a sophomore from the school of metallurgy and ecological engineering, says he benefited a great deal from frequent meetings with his tutor Feng Kai who pushed him to attend class regularly and on time, finish assignments independently and actively pursue extracurricular activities.

Under Feng's academic instruction, Qin participated in an exchange program between Japan's Tohoku University and the USTB in March where he presented his research report on computer simulation in manufacturing at steel mills.

"Feng also shares his personal experience with me to show how he improved learning efficiency and planning for a future career, which I found very helpful for coping with difficulties I faced in both study and in life," says Qin.

However, he also noticed some shortcomings in the tutorial system.

"Generally, we undergraduates have to put many courses on our schedules and the tutors also live under the stress of both teaching and carrying out scientific research. Hence, it's hard to fix a time when we can meet the tutors," he says, adding that some students might be held back at the end of class to talk with their tutors.

"To solve that problem, I think we could ask some schoolmates who have actively communicated with tutors to share their experience online. This might motivate their peers to take advantage of the program," Qin adds.

Sun Zhihui, an associate professor at the school of mechanical engineering, is now tutoring 11 undergraduate students.

From his perspective, different approaches should be used for students at different stages of their university journey.

"The teachers should help freshmen fit into campus life at the USTB by introducing them to the key subjects of their majors and urging them to build up a strong ability for self-study and make a clear plan for the future," he says.

For sophomores, according to Sun, the emphasis of tutoring lies in encouraging them to participate in various innovative and competitive events and coaching the students who failed certain tests in the previous semester.

"I also hold academic salons or sports activities where my senior and junior students can come to play and communicate with their younger peers. That creates an atmosphere full of solidarity and fraternity for the group of students I am mentoring," says Sun.

The tutorial program is obviously not a new thing in China as, in recent years, it has hit the campuses of many universities across the country, including Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Ningbo University, Shandong University and University of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Yang Renshu, president of the USTB, highlights that implementation of the program should be thorough instead of formulaic to finally attain its goals, including improving the students' pass rate, increasing their eagerness to pursue further education, helping them grow into well-rounded people as well as achieving social satisfaction for the university.





2020-01-08 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Beach events prove a global draw]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/08/content_37531613.htm The surfing industry in China has witnessed a boom in popularity in the last few years.

The first Hainan Wanning Riyue Bay International Surfing Festival kicked off on Nov 6, 2010. This was the first real step toward making the then relatively unknown surfing destination grow into what has now become the surfing capital of China.

The SWATCH Girls Pro China, part of the Association of Surfing Professionals (now known as the World Surf League) Women's World Longboard Tour, brought the world's best female longboard surfers to Riyue Bay in October 2011, placing the venue in the international spotlight.

The International Surfing Association hosted the 2014 ISA China Cup in Riyue Bay, attracting surfers from Australia, Argentina, Brazil and many other countries to showcase their skills on the waves. This was also the first time that China entered a surf team in an international competition.

Surfing competitions have boomed ever since, hitting beaches in Guangdong province's Shenzhen and Shandong province's Qingdao.

On Nov 19, the first "China Sports Lottery" Asian Surfing Championship kicked off in Guangdong's Shantou city. This attracted more than 400 surfers from Singapore, Sri Lanka, Japan, Iran, Afghanistan, China and other Asian countries.


2020-01-08 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Tutorial system works but could be improved, undergraduates say]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/08/content_37531612.htm A tutorial system for undergraduate students has received mixed reviews after it was launched by the University of Science and Technology Beijing in October 2018.

It engaged 1,360 faculty members, including four academicians from either the Chinese Academy of Engineering or the Chinese Academy of Sciences in tutoring more than 10,600 students, most of whom are freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

A symposium was held in November by the university to review how the program has progressed and what has been achieved in its first year of operation.

Song Bo, provost of the university, notes that the pass rate for compulsory subjects has risen among freshmen from eight out of the total 13 undergraduate schools last year.

And over the same period of time, undergraduates' participation in academic competitions or innovation and entrepreneurship events grew remarkably. For example, the number of participants in the Student Research Training Program, which encourages and sponsors innovative research conducted by undergraduate students, has increased from 2,631 to 3,595, with nearly half of their projects being instructed by their tutors.

Qin Zijie, a sophomore from the school of metallurgy and ecological engineering, says he benefited a great deal from frequent meetings with his tutor Feng Kai who pushed him to attend class regularly and on time, finish assignments independently and actively pursue extracurricular activities.

Under Feng's academic instruction, Qin participated in an exchange program between Japan's Tohoku University and the USTB in March where he presented his research report on computer simulation in manufacturing at steel mills.

"Feng also shares his personal experience with me to show how he improved learning efficiency and planning for a future career, which I found very helpful for coping with difficulties I faced in both study and in life," says Qin.

However, he also noticed some shortcomings in the tutorial system.

"Generally, we undergraduates have to put many courses on our schedules and the tutors also live under the stress of both teaching and carrying out scientific research. Hence, it's hard to fix a time when we can meet the tutors," he says, adding that some students might be held back at the end of class to talk with their tutors.

"To solve that problem, I think we could ask some schoolmates who have actively communicated with tutors to share their experience online. This might motivate their peers to take advantage of the program," Qin adds.

Sun Zhihui, an associate professor at the school of mechanical engineering, is now tutoring 11 undergraduate students.

From his perspective, different approaches should be used for students at different stages of their university journey.

"The teachers should help freshmen fit into campus life at the USTB by introducing them to the key subjects of their majors and urging them to build up a strong ability for self-study and make a clear plan for the future," he says.

For sophomores, according to Sun, the emphasis of tutoring lies in encouraging them to participate in various innovative and competitive events and coaching the students who failed certain tests in the previous semester.

"I also hold academic salons or sports activities where my senior and junior students can come to play and communicate with their younger peers. That creates an atmosphere full of solidarity and fraternity for the group of students I am mentoring," says Sun.

The tutorial program is obviously not a new thing in China as, in recent years, it has hit the campuses of many universities across the country, including Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Ningbo University, Shandong University and University of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Yang Renshu, president of the USTB, highlights that implementation of the program should be thorough instead of formulaic to finally attain its goals, including improving the students' pass rate, increasing their eagerness to pursue further education, helping them grow into well-rounded people as well as achieving social satisfaction for the university.





2020-01-08 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Winter sports in schools get Olympic boost]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/08/content_37531639.htm SHIJIAZHUANG-With the 2022 Olympics just around the corner, winter sports are becoming more popular among public schools in Tangshan, Hebei province, with added programs such as curling and hockey, along with the establishment of varsity sports teams.

Jianggezhuang Middle School is one such institution. Located in the outskirts of Laoting, it has more than 1,000 students. In October, it built a 230-square-meter ice stadium for curling. The school's principal, Fu Yongguo, says that building the stadium was only the beginning. He says he wants students from the school to benefit from having a curling program.

"Students used to stay inside all the time during winter," says Duo Jin, head coach of the school's curling team, as he demonstrates how to deliver a stone. "But it's not the case anymore. They are very excited to check out the new stadium."

Yanjing Elementary School in Tangshan city is another example. It's among the first schools to have developed a winter sports program, and now it has a hockey and a speed skating team. At a recent provincial winter sports meet, Yanjing Elementary's hockey team came a creditable second.

So far, eight schools in Tangshan offer such programs.

Besides constructing new stadiums and developing athletic programs, schools in Tangshan are providing their teachers with lessons to become licensed winter sports instructors.

There has also been an increase in the number of winter sports meets. More than 2,100 students are now able to participate in curling matches, ice skating, hockey games and other sports.

On July 31, 2015, Beijing was awarded the 24th Winter Olympics. A total of 102 events across 15 sports will take place in Beijing and Zhangjiakou in Hebei between Feb 4 and Feb 20, 2022.



2020-01-08 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Airbnb names its favorite homes away from home]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/07/content_37531429.htm Home-sharing platform Airbnb recently released a report about the demographics of its host community in China and bestowed the 2019 Belo Awards in the categories of listing design, hospitality, contribution to community and pioneering spirit to outstanding Chinese hosts.

A report by the State Information Center reveals that the trade size of home-sharing listings in China reached about 16.5 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) in 2018, a 37.5 percent increase over 2017.

Airbnb's average monthly active users ranked first among home-sharing platforms in China between January and October in 2019, according to Beijing-based data research firm Questmobile.

"We will continue to work hard on our branding, products, quality, security and community to create authentic travel experiences for customers," says Airbnb China's CEO Peng Tao, who summarized the company's 2019 achievements at the event.

Airbnb recently announced an agreement with the International Olympic Committee that new Airbnb hosts will provide accommodation and experiences through 2028, including during the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in China.

The company says it seeks to build a community of hosts and guests.

Since 2017, Airbnb has organized more than 330 face-to-face training sessions for hosts who want to increase their orders and enhance their online reputation via user recommendations.

An Airbnb report shows the number of "superhosts" in China increased by 2.6 times in 2019, when the number of hosts who operate at least six listings doubled.

Superhosts are veteran hosts who provide extraordinary experiences for their guests. In the past five years, over 1.4 million people worldwide have been awarded a superhost badge for their website listing.

The ratios of hosts from second-and third-tier cities and resort cities are increasing. Rural listings already cover over half of China's counties, and home-sharing is becoming a key sector in rural tourism.

Chinese hosts range in age from 18 to 76, and are 33 years old on average.

About 70 percent were born in the 1980s and '90s, and 87 percent hold a bachelor's degree or higher. About 62 percent are women.

Over 90 percent are "slashers", meaning they have jobs besides operating their listings. About one in five work in innovation-related industries, which is a higher percentage than in other countries.

About 87 percent introduce local culture to guests. And 95 percent offer their guests environmentally friendly services, such as providing large bottles of shampoo and smart cards for public transport.

The top five source markets for overseas guests are the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, France and Germany.

Chinese hosts cite their main motivations as earning extra income, making use of vacant accommodation and enjoyment.

Wei Xiaoxiang, who won the 2019 Belo Award for best listing design, is the host of a century-old two-story building in a village inhabited by the Bai ethnic group in Dali, Yunnan province.

"The biggest challenge is to find suitable old buildings because it's rare to find many that have been well preserved over the years," he says.

"The space is decorated with local elements, such as Bai-style tie-dye, to showcase the area's intangible cultural heritage. Many guests are interested in learning tie-dyeing from inheritors in the village."

His team spent 10 months redesigning and renovating the house before it opened to guests in February 2019. They bought old tiles to repair the building, which was constructed out of wood using exquisite traditional mortise-and-tenon work to retain its quaint charm.

"It's the human kindness that makes home-sharing listings different from hotels," he says.

"It's also what I try my best to present to guests."


Wei Xiaoxiang's Airbnb listing is a century-old two-story building in a village inhabited by the Bai ethnic group in Dali, Yunnan province. The host won the 2019 Belo Award for best listing design. CHINA DAILY





]]> 2020-01-07 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Helping others can be beneficial, study says]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/07/content_37531481.htm As the old saying goes, "one good turn deserves another", and scientists have proved that good deeds really improve health.

Researchers from Peking University found altruistic behavior-defined as putting the well-being of others before our own without expecting anything in return-can relieve physical pain. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Dec 30.

Volunteering, for example, has been shown to reduce stress and ease depression. It can reduce the risk of cognitive impairment. It means that the areas of the brain that respond to pain are deactivated by altruistic acts, according to the studies.

The researchers asked 287 people to participate in various scenarios in which they performed good deeds under certain conditions.

One group donated blood after an earthquake, while another helped revise a handbook for the children of migrant workers.

Those who volunteered to give blood felt less pain during the donation process compared to those participants who just underwent a routine blood donation. The group who volunteered to help with the handbook also felt a reduction in pain and discomfort, especially in cold temperatures. Even cancer patients suffering from chronic pain experienced a reduction in pain when they volunteered their time to others in need.

In another study, participants were asked if they would donate money to orphans and then underwent magnetic resonance imaging scans while receiving a painful shock to their hands. The scan results showed that the brains of those who agreed to donate reacted less to the electric shock.

Wang Yilu, the lead author of the studies, writes: "We find consistent behavioral and neural evidence that in physically threatening situations, acting altruistically can relieve painful feelings in human performers.

"Acting altruistically relieved not only acutely induced physical pain among healthy adults but also chronic pain among cancer patients."

These findings shed light on the psychological and biological mechanisms underlying human pro-social behavior and provide practical insights into pain management. The researchers recommend more studies be done on how altruism can be incorporated into behavioral therapies to treat pain.

In your New Year's resolutions, performing good deeds may well benefit not just the recipient but the doer.


2020-01-07 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Archaeological discovery selection launched]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/07/content_37531480.htm BEIJING-China made public 36 candidates for the annual selection of the top 10 archaeological discoveries and launched the first round of voting on Friday.

The candidates were proposed by units that are qualified for archaeological excavation and a total of 20 nominated candidates will enter the final selection, according to the official website of the National Cultural Heritage Administration.

The list, covering a wide range of historical remains scattered across the country, includes a sunken ship of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) discovered in the sea off the coast of Yangjiang city in South China's Guangdong province, subordinate tombs of the imperial mausoleum of Emperor Qinshihuang of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) and historic remains from the Neolithic Age in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province.

The shipwreck from the Song Dynasty, called Nanhai No 1 (Nanhai refers to the South China Sea), was salvaged in the South China Sea in 2007, and 143,000 relics from the sunken cargo ship were excavated by archaeologists in March. The diverse treasures found within the vessel include porcelain products, gold, silver, copper and iron relics and copper coins.

The subordinate tombs in Northwest China's Shaanxi province, found by archaeologists of Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum, are located to the west of the imperial mausoleum of Qinshihuang.

The selection is organized by a professional archaeological newspaper and the Society for Chinese Archaeology, to choose discoveries that are "of historic, artistic and scientific significance while providing fresh knowledge and understanding" to archaeological studies.




]]> 2020-01-07 00:00:00 <![CDATA['Mounsey' takes a traditionally inspired trend by the tail]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/07/content_37531430.htm China, traditionally home to manufacturers, e-commerce platforms and service providers, is not usually a place where people expect to find homegrown fashion with international appeal, with much less room for appreciative fans.

Things are gradually changing though. With more young Chinese consumers buying clothes from domestic brands in recent years, 3ge3 project, a creative lifestyle brand and an artist collaboration platform in Shanghai, partnered with Youada, a Hangzhou-based artist to launch the Mounsey 2020 range of fashion products to mark the Chinese Year of the Rat, which starts on Jan 25.

In Chinese, the word for both "rat" and "mouse" is laoshu, so interpretations of the creature in the Chinese zodiac can vary between the two animals.

In this instance, unlike traditional images of a mouse, the character created by Youada for the 3ge3 project is not timid, but comes from the prairie, is strong and overbearing and is named Mounsey, which is a combination of "money" and "mouse". The artist says it symbolizes the meaning of the phrase "fortune brought by laoshu" in traditional Chinese culture.

In his interpretation, the artist has overturned the image of the zodiac sign with an anti-mainstream concept, and announced to the public that his muscle-bound mouse is the protagonist of the Year of the Rat with his bold imagination and deconstruction.

Each lunar year is linked to one of 12 animals, and their traits are attributed to people born during that year. Those born in the Year of the Rat are said to be intelligent, adaptable and optimistic.

This is the first collaboration between Youada and 3ge3 project. In this series, the visual elements such as exaggerated muscles, thick gold chains, and sports shorts in Youada's previous works are passed on to Mounsey.

Among his designs, the ripped rodent is seen walking with a yellow cat on a leash, as well as besting the feline in a basketball game, showing that the usual balance of power has been completely subverted by Youada's brush.

Other zodiac elements, such as red-crowned cranes, phoenixes, as well as clouds, Suzhou-style gardens and the architectural elements of chinoiserie, have become more prevalent in consumer goods like clothes, cosmetics and food products, spurring a niche business with tremendous growth opportunities.

Chinoiserie (pronounced shinwah-zay-ree), which started as an 18th-century decorative style employing Chinese motifs and techniques in art, architecture and furniture design, is now so dear to young Chinese consumers that they prefer to buy products that embody the style, says Youada, adding they believe such products make a statement about their personality.

"Previously, many fashion trends in China, such as jackets and T-shirts printed with English letters, came from abroad. In recent years, however, Chinese consumers, have begun to recognize their own culture more," he notes. "I think a T-shirt or sweater printed with Chinese characters with meaningful content is very attractive and good-looking as well."

The 33-year-old artist says that crossover branding is now a hot term for many sectors. Brand collaboration arouses consumers' curiosity, giving them a new reason to spend. It usually generates unexpected market feedback. As well as promoting the brand's image, it can also be used to boost sales.

According to 3ge3 project, Chinese shoppers have become more rational, and they do not blindly follow the crowd and imitate others. They want products with both commercial culture and consumer appeal.

Amid the ongoing consumption upgrade, 3ge3 project believes young shoppers are pursuing more exquisite and quality lifestyles. This requires brands to provide more value-added elements like attractive designs, personalized content and unique cultural aspects.

Established in 2011, 3ge3 project, now an independent brand, originated from Meishier, owned by Zuczug, a Shanghai-based multibrand platform based on a new lifestyle, which has been partnering with domestic and global artists to launch clothing products with zodiac-inspired elements for a number of years.

Zhang Qinghui, chairman of the China Fashion Association, says the re-emergence of chinoiserie as a hot fashion trend, is inevitable, given the nation's fast economic growth, and its attendant national pride.

"The phenomenon shows the cultural consciousness of young Chinese consumers and their recognition of local cultural elements. It also indicates their diversified and individualized spending preferences," Zhang says.






2020-01-07 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Hamlet resurrected for a second soliloquy]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/07/content_37531455.htm For Chinese director Li Liuyi, the attempt to adapt the classics for the stage started with his interest in literature. In his latest take on William Shakespeare's revenge-tragedy Hamlet, Li, who worked with a group of veteran Chinese actors, including Pu Cunxin, Hu Jun and Lu Fang, broke with tradition while still keeping the richness of the original story.

Premiering on Nov 28, 2018 at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, the Chinese play, titled The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, has toured not just in China, but also abroad, including with shows in Singapore and London.

On March 12, the play will launch a second round of performances, with four shows at Beijing's Poly Theater and then visits to Sichuan, Chengdu province, Chongqing and Guangzhou of Guangdong province and Shanghai.

"When we started working on adapting Shakespeare's plays, we kept asking questions, all kinds of questions that could help us to understand the playwright's intention. His ways of telling stories, portraying characters and the conversations all make his work timeless," says the director.

Actor Pu is known for interpreting the title role in Chinese director Lin Zhaohua's pioneering version of the play in 1990. In Li's adaptation, however, Pu plays the role of Claudius and the ghost of King Hamlet.

In 1990, actor Hu, who was a student of the Central Academy of Drama, played the role of gravedigger while in Li's version, he plays the lead.

"Of all the works of Shakespeare that have graced the theaters in China, Hamlet is arguably the most famous among Chinese audiences. It has been adapted many times in China," says Li in Beijing. "It's like a tradition being passed down from one generation to another."

"For young people, they share similar feelings about being lost, confused and disappointed about their lives. As director Lin said, 'everyone is Hamlet'," says Pu, 66, who retired from the Beijing People's Art Theater last year.

With Li's version, he hopes audiences get involved.

"When I created this play in the rehearsal room with the actors, it's about 'our' Hamlet, but when it's staged in theaters in front of the audience, it becomes 'their' Hamlet," says Li, who also works with the Beijing People's Art Theater and whose work covers traditional Chinese operas, avant-garde plays, Western operas and ballet.

In 2017, Li directed the Chinese version of Shakespeare's King Lear by working with the NCPA.

The story of Hamlet was first translated into Chinese in 1921 by Tian Han (1898-1968) and since then, many Chinese scholars have attempted to translate the work of Shakespeare.

For his version, Li used the translation of Hamlet made by a female translator, Li Jianming, which is easy to comprehend and very colloquial. The script is part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's ambitious Shakespeare Folio Translation Project, which is designed to produce new Chinese translations of Shakespeare's plays for theaters, actors and audiences. The long-term project will result in a new folio edition of Chinese translations that will celebrate the upcoming 400th anniversary of the publication in 1623 of the First Folio-the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays.

Hu rarely performs in theaters. Instead, he has made a name with roles in movies and TV dramas, such as the blockbuster action films Red Cliff (2008) and Bodyguards and Assassins (2009). His real-world wife, Lu, plays both Ophelia and Hamlet's mother Queen Gertrude, now married to Claudius, in the play.

"The stage set is very abstract and conceptual-just a giant ball, a bunch of flowers, two swords and a skeleton-so it relies on solid acting skills to tell the story," says Hu. "What excited me the most was breaking my acting habits that were shaped by my experience of starring in movies and TV dramas. I was inspired by the director and other actors to imagine and express wildly."

Li says when he announced that the roles of both Ophelia and Hamlet's mother Queen Gertrude would be performed by the same actress, many people were doubtful about whether the idea would work.

But Lu, who offers no obvious cues to distinguish between the two characters-neither costume changes, nor a changing of her voice-still manages to convince audiences that the two are different purely through her acting technique, even if she is simply walking across the stage from one side to the other.

The creative team also includes costume designer William Cheung Suk-Ping, Chinese composer Zhou Juan from the Central Conservatory of Music and German set designer Michael Simon.




]]> 2020-01-07 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Just off the speedin' track]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/07/content_37531454.htm The recent launch of a high-speed rail service has stirred up the wanderlust of Chinese travellers looking for seasonal thrills.

China's biggest online travel agency, Ctrip, reports that searches for winter tourism products along the route covered by the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed train have more than quintupled since the service began running on Dec 30. The 174-kilometer high-speed railway track has reduced the travel time between the two host cities of the 2022 Winter Olympics from more than three hours to around an hour.

Approximately 30,000 passengers used the service on its first day of running, according to the Beijing Railway Bureau.

At the same time, two services connecting Zhangjiakou with Datong in Shanxi province and Hohhot, capital of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, also began operating on the same day, bringing the rich tourism resources of the country's northern regions within two hours' reach of Beijing.

There are many natural and historical attractions worth exploring along all of the routes, so let China Daily be your guide to what's on offer.


Changping Station

For rail passengers boarding the Beijing-Zhangjiakou service, historical sites await less than 30 minutes away from downtown Beijing. Travellers can explore an ancient impregnable pass and frontier garrison, as well as mausoleums from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Experience the natural military defense system at the Juyongguan section of the Great Wall and take in the overlapping mountain ranges, deep gorges, lush vegetation and flowing streams in the distance. Then, a 20-minute drive away sits the Ming Tombs, featuring red walls, yellow tiles and upturned eaves. Visitors can get a taste of the solemnity and harmony of traditional Chinese tomb culture, as well as enjoying the serene mountain-river setting.

Badaling Station

The Great Wall and the grand gorge give visitors the full measure of man's power and nature's force. The Badaling Great Wall has parts that were built and reinforced during the Ming Dynasty to defend Beijing against the Mongolians. It is one of the best preserved of all the sections of China's Great Wall. The northern part of Badaling is steeper and offers better views. More information about the Great Wall is available at the nearby Great Wall Museum and Great Wall National Theater. The Longqing Gorge is 10 km northeast of Yanqing district and covers 119 square km and is spanned by a massive concrete dam that is more than 70 meters high. Depending on the season, visitors will see a waterfall or, in winter, an icefall-as if it were frozen in time. There is the option to take a boat along a river flanked by cliffs, and enjoy imposing views of the mountains along the way. Many winter art festivals have been held at the gorge, where visitors can also pay tributes at the surrounding temples, scattered and hidden in a grove of trees in the mountains. A Guinness World Record-holding 258-meter elevator shaped like a dragon takes visitors to the top of the dam, while the journey from the mountain top to the bottom of the gorge is also a thrilling experience.


Huailai Station

Here travellers can disembark to explore and enjoy activities that cater to a range of tastes, from visiting the national desert and wetland parks to learning about ancient postal culture and sampling gourmet wine. Tianmo stands out as a boundary from the surrounding farmland, mountains and reservoir and boasts distinctive natural beauty. Many famous Chinese movies and series have been shot in the small desert. Nearby sits the Guanting Reservoir, an ideal place for fishing and boating, or simply just to meander along the shore. The reservoir area harbors many wetlands, replete with lotus ponds, verdant reed marshes and swaying willows. In the spring, it's a good place to observe migrant birds. A wetland museum offers visitors greater insight regarding the local natural landscape. Should naturalists feel inspired and want to write home about the area's charm, they can head to Crowing (Jiming) Post House and learn about the ancient postal service. Built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and serving as a transport hub and a military garrison for the region, it can boast being among the best preserved examples of its kind. Many beautiful murals can be spotted on the buildings in the neighborhood, featuring Taoist goddesses, flowers, birds and other auspicious animals. The ancient masonry technique of brick carving can also be widely seen. Wrap up the visit at the nearby Chateau SunGod Greatwall, where wine tasting and grape picking activities are available for visitors as they learn about the process of winemaking and storage in the chateau's underground cellar.

Taizicheng Station

All roads from the station lead to Chongli county, which is a paradise for skiing. The 2022 venues for the cross-country skiing, biathlon and ski jumping events are all within short reach by public transport. Local winter resorts have never failed to attract visitors from far and wide for their perfect skiing conditions and stunning scenery. The Wanlong, Genting, Thaiwoo and Changchengling ski resorts are among the best of their kind in the area.

North Xuanhua Station

This is the gateway to Xuanhua Ancient City, which was founded during the Ming Dynasty and boasts a history of over 600 years. It used to play a crucial role in defending the capital and consists of three main towers. The Gongji Tower sits at the southern end of the central axis and, in the old days, was used as the main gateway to the city. It was built on tall, solid walls and features exquisite carvings. At the other end of the central axis stand the Zhenshuo and Qingyuan towers. An ancient bell hangs in one, and its sound is said to be heard as far as 20 kilometers away. Over the years, an annual bell ringing ceremony has been held during the first lunar month. Visitors can catch a glimpse of what life was like here in the past by dropping in at the Liao Dynasty (916-1125) tombs, located in the nearby Xiabali village. A total of 11 tombs have been uncovered, featuring more than 90 murals depicting scenes such as tea ceremonies, travel, dining and chess-playing. It's also a good spot to see Chinese traditional constellations and Western zodiac elements in the night sky.

For those with the time to explore further, about an hour away from Zhangjiakou, Hohhot is home to the magnificent natural beauty of the Mongolian grasslands and distinctive traditions, art and food, while Datong abounds in historical relics and natural beauty, including the Yungang Grottoes, Hengshan Mountain and the famous, precipitously-placed wooden Hanging Monastery.


The 174-km high-speed railway track has reduced the travel time between Beijing and Zhangjiakou, two host cities of the 2022 Winter Olympics, from more than three hours to an hour. TANG ZHE/FOR CHINA DAILY



The new high-speed train has put the Badaling Great Wall within easy reach of downtown Beijing, with the journey taking only half an hour. FAN JIASHAN/FOR CHINA DAILY



The Longqing Gorge in Beijing's Yanqing district hosts an annual ice lantern and snow festival. LI WENMING/FOR CHINA DAILY



Winter resorts in Zhangjiakou attract visitors for their perfect skiing conditions and scenery. WANG WENKANG/FOR CHINA DAILY



2020-01-07 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Depth of characters]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/07/content_37531431.htm Visitors to Tianjin Museum in early December were delighted to meet Richard Sears, the popular researcher of Chinese characters, nicknamed "Uncle Hanzi".

A group of Yueyang Road Primary School students were happy to talk with the US researcher during their visit to an exhibition to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the discovery of the oracle bone characters, on Dec 7.

Sears, 69, shared his knowledge, including the origin of meng, or dream, and the insights and sources of the Chinese characters found on many of the exhibits, with the students.

Sears is the founder of hanziyuan.net, an online resource for studying and learning the etymology of Chinese characters, the first website of its kind.

He is renowned in China for his self-sponsored study of Chinese characters. In 2012, he sold his house in the US and moved to China to intensify his research.

His first port of call was Tianjin, before moving to other cities including Beijing and Nanjing-all of which have, at some point in the nation's history, served as the Chinese capital.

Garnering nationwide praise, the website contained Sears' research of up to 31,000 characters etched on oracle bones, in excess of 24,000 found on bronzeware and more than 11,000 characters engraved on seals. Additionally there is the study of over 38,000 characters found in the Liushutong, which was published in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and documented "the rules of six types of Chinese characters" in calligraphy.

New focus

In a dialogue with researchers and local journalists, Sears said he is currently researching the connections between Chinese characters and science and has been building a scientific outlook toward the characters.

"I have deconstructed up to 15,000 Chinese characters into 960-1,000 different parts," he explains. "And from the parts, I'm trying to trace every character's story and development path.

"Many of the characters are associated with astronomy, some are even intertwined with the knowledge of textile processing," he says.

His assistant notes that Sears, who now lives in the suburbs of Nanjing, the capital of East China's Jiangsu province, frequently visited the Yunjin Museum, which showcases Yun Brocade-a type of fabric with a history dating back to 417-to verify his assumptions and research on certain characters and their connection with the ancient Chinese textile making process.

"Because I majored in physics, I have a profound interest in the scientific meaning of Chinese characters, many theories of which are proven to be true and many of which need to be further verified," he says.

Oracle bone character

Since oracle bone characters are among the world's earliest examples of a written language system and are the roots of Chinese culture and its characters, Sears has devoted much of his effort to studying them.

Qian Ling, deputy curator of Tianjin Museum, revealed some of the history of oracle bone studies in Tianjin during a dialogue with Sears.

"It was widely known that the oracle bones were unearthed in Central China's Henan province, but few people knew that the first researcher who discovered the value of the oracle bones was Wang Xiang from Tianjin," she says.

Sears noted the bones' connection with Tianjin through its research heritage is hardly a coincidence, because the city's rich history and rapid commercial development in the early 20th century laid the foundation for that research.

Qian said the world's archaeology and character research circles have shown an increasing interest in the oracle bone characters and Sears is a prime example.

During the event, Sears shared some of his research results pertaining to simplified Chinese, things even many ordinary Chinese people might not know.

Qian verified Sears' understanding and lauded it as being "of great significance".

Local researchers and educators agreed with some of his comments, including his criticism of erroneous explanations of the origins of Chinese characters he witnessed during visits to some local primary schools, which inspired his scientific study of the ancient characters.

Sears' efforts were appreciated by many locals.

He apparently paid less than 2,000 yuan ($284) a month for his rented Tianjin apartment in 2012, and he is believed to be enjoying a favorable rate for his current apartment in Nanjing.

His willingness to self-finance his research struck a chord with some local Chinese entrepreneurs, and a number of them donated money and resources so that he can continue his efforts. Contact the writer at


Richard Sears is renowned in China for his self-sponsored study of Chinese characters. CHINA DAILY





]]> 2020-01-07 00:00:00 <![CDATA[A hot, dry country caught between fire and a coal face]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/07/content_37531472.htm "Mom, mom, look at the moon," a small boy, tugging at his mother's skirt, exclaimed at Beijing's Lama Temple one murky fall afternoon in the early 2000s.

The dull red orb he was pointing out was actually the sun.

While the air pollution situation in the Chinese capital has improved markedly in recent years, smog levels are still occasionally rated hazardous.

That's something Australians have been getting a taste of in recent months, with smoke from bushfires blanketing Sydney-where it has obscured expensive harbor views-and other cities, including Canberra, the national capital. Beijing residents have even been asked for advice on the best masks to wear.

Bushfires are part of Australia's ecosystem but the current bushfire season has been exceptionally destructive, with record high temperatures following a record dry spell.

In its submission to a 2009 Senate inquiry into bushfires in Australia, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization said an average of 500,000 square kilometers of the country goes up in flames each year, with about 80 percent of that in sparsely populated northern savanna regions.

Since the mid-1800s, notable fires have included Black Sunday in 1926, Black Monday in 1863, Black Tuesday in 1967, Black Thursday in 1851, Black Friday in 1939 and Black Saturday in 2009. Throw in Ash Wednesday in 1983 and you've got the week covered.

There's now been a Black November and December, with more land burned in the state of New South Wales than there is in the whole country of Wales, and January and February are likely to be added to the list.

Last month, in its Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook, the country's Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Center said the southern half of the continent experienced its driest January to November period ever last year, in records dating back to 1900, while daytime temperatures nationwide were the warmest since records began in 1910.

"The tendency for fire seasons to become more intense and fire danger to occur earlier in the season is a clear trend in Australia's climate," it warned.

The only solace offered was that hot, dry conditions were likely to curb the growth of vegetation, meaning there could be less to burn when future fires do break out.

Australia is also the world's biggest exporter of metallurgical coal, used to make steel, and its secondbiggest exporter of thermal coal, which is burned to generate electricity, with China its second-biggest market for both.

When that exported coal is burned it will contribute to global warming, and that leaves a hot, dry country caught between a fire and a coal face.

Australia's fossil fuel exports contribute 3.6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions each year-with coal exports responsible for 2.9 percent in 2017-according to a report released in July by Climate Analytics, a think tank based in Berlin. Add that to the 1.4 percent of global emissions from the country's domestic use of fossil fuel and you have a country with a population of 25.5 million-less than Beijing's when migrants from other parts of China are included-that is responsible for about 5 percent of global emissions.

Figures in last month's edition of the Australian government's Resources and Energy Quarterly suggest Australia's coal exports will rise by 5.6 percent in the next two years to 415 million metric tons.

Climate Analytics says that on a per capita basis, Australia's carbon footprint already exceeds China's by a factor of nine, the United States' by a factor of four and India's by a factor of 37.

It goes on to say "if current government and industry projections for fossil fuel exports are realized", Australia could be responsible for about 13 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions in 2030, with the largest growth coming from coal exports.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently conceded that climate change is making the country's bushfire situation worse but warned that reining in coal mining would be "reckless" and destroy jobs.

But as Australia burns and another big coal exporter, Indonesia, tries to keep its capital from flooding, a lack of regard for the consequences of global warming is coming home to roost.




]]> 2020-01-07 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Xunlei's ThunderChain addresses trust, security challenges in internet era]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/06/content_37531329.htm China's government has shown great resolve in embracing blockchain, promoting the technology as a new frontier of innovation in industries such as finance, manufacturing and energy.

Following the government's determination, Nasdaq-listed digital services provider Xunlei is using its expertise in blockchain technology to inject new impetus to China's industrial upgrading.

In October, China's leadership announced more efforts should be made to quicken the development of blockchain technology, highlighting its important role in new rounds of technological innovation and industrial transformation.

The remark fueled a significant surge in the stocks of related companies and reinforced blockchain as a key buzzword in China.

In November, a number of government policies were released in support of blockchain as well as 57 new blockchain application projects. Among them, most apply to e-governance and finance sectors, according to information platform Interchain Pulse, based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

"Blockchain creates a permanent, unchangeable and transparent record of exchanges to keep track of every piece of information. It can bring order, trust and cryptography rules to the internet world," said Chen Lei, CEO of Xunlei and its subsidiary Shenzhen Onething Technologies.


Xunlei has invested in the potential of blockchain technology since 2016 to address challenges in areas such as finance, e-governance and law. ThunderChain, a high-performance blockchain platform developed by Onething Technologies and rolled out in April 2018, is capable of concurrently conducting 1 million transactions per second.

Based on Xunlei's independently developed proprietary homogeneous multi-chain framework, ThunderChain is capable of realizing confirmation and interaction among homogeneous chains and enables multiple transactions to be executed on different chains in parallel, according to the company.

Xunlei has made great strides in promoting the application of ThunderChain. As part of its efforts, it developed a traceable privacy solution which allows multi-level permissions to meet both privacy and traceability requirements and ensure both data protection and regulation. The technology, introduced by Xunlei in July, has credible, decentralized network architecture; meanwhile, it encrypts and hides data by encryption algorithms such as ring signature and zero-knowledge proof to protect user privacy, according to Xunlei.

In addition, a cryptographic approach is used for risk mitigation at the maximum and protection of users' lawful rights to meet the needs of organizations or faculties with information control authority. A recent report discussing the application of the technology was compiled by the Chinese Association for Cryptologic Research, according to Xunlei.

Currently, Xunlei has introduced 16 products covering six industries of finance, social welfare, law, healthcare, e-governance and manufacturing over the year to serve different real-life scenarios, the company said.

"Blockchain technology should be adopted more in real-life scenarios rather than just being studied in laboratories, as the problems encountered during practical use can help improve blockchain technology and contribute toward new breakthroughs," Chen said.

ThunderChain was adopted by more than 100 enterprises and organizations and used in more than 50 projects in 2019. Xunlei's partners included the Copyright Protection Center of China, the Shenzhen Copyright Society, digital marketing service provider Hylink and Naresuan University Hospital in Thailand, the report said.

Real world application

In November, Xunlei provided technical support for Guangzhou Financial Blockchain Credit Platform.

According to Xunlei, records on the platform, collected from reliable organizations, are accurate, traceable, and resistant to modification, and break information asymmetry among businesses and financial organizations. The platform can help banks better manage bad debt risks and judge the solvency of a business efficiently and accurately. It will further help to solve problems such as financing difficulties for small and medium-sized enterprises and government agency supervision.

ThunderChain is also applicable in supporting data sharing and strengthening cooperation among government departments.

Xunlei has developed a Thunder-Chain-powered government service platform, through which users from different government departments can quickly access reliable and unified data. The platform reduces government working procedures, enhances government work efficiency and supports governments' missions of streamlining services for businesses and individuals, according to Xunlei.

ThunderChain is also helpful in collecting and storing electronic evidence.

According to the company, without blockchain technology, many problems exist in electronic evidence generation such as loss of evidence, forgery and falsification of evidence stored on hardware.

In dealing with these problems, Xunlei uses the ThunderChain File System, based on the company's proprietary distributed technology and millions of shared computing nodes, to ensure data storage security and authorized access.

ThunderChain is also used by foreign partners in the healthcare sector. In 2019, Xunlei won the contract for a Thailand academic institution to build blockchain infrastructure for its affiliated healthcare facilities. The system offers interconnection and traceability in addition to the protection of patient privacy, facilitating the implementation of a comprehensive health information system in Thailand.

Looking ahead, Xunlei plans to share its independently developed blockchain achievements with its peers and make ThunderChain an open-source system to support more applications of blockchain technologies in China.

"The movement will help create a more open and reliable blockchain ecosystem," Chen said. "It will also speed up China's progress in the development of core blockchain technologies and support development across a variety of sectors."





2020-01-06 00:00:00
<![CDATA[AI drama thinks inside the box]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/06/content_37531283.htm At the 2017 Beijing Fringe Festival, young director Chen Ran entered a theater competition where she was asked to plan a short play within the space of 48 hours.

She had just gone through a phase of sleeping at friends' places as her own flat was unliveable due to construction work. For a week, she slept on a "really comfortable" sofa at a friend's studio.

"That week, I barely even left the sofa apart from going to the bathroom. I sat there watching TV and working on my laptop," Chen says.

"Then I found that at 3 o'clock every afternoon, a robot vacuum would turn up and clean the floor. So it presented an interesting scene, with a motionless human and a hardworking robot. The scenario is unforgettable."

When the competition presented her with an image of a girl embracing her own reflection in the mirror, she thought of the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence, which inspired her to write Dee& D-1, a 25-minute monodrama.

In the 2019 edition of the festival, joined by several theater practitioners, including writer Zhang Hang, actor Ma Zhuojun and scenographer Wang Di, she extended the short play into a full-length theater production, Approximation: Dee & D-1, which premiered at the National Theater of China on Nov 15.

Within the confined living space, the play charts the relationship between the protagonist Dee and her home AI hub, D-1. As the story unfolds, the two seem to almost redefine each other-Dee customizes D-1 to become more domesticated and help her in almost every aspect of her life.

The stage is designed as a simple room with a sloping floor, where the protagonist is depicted writhing on the floor in ennui and unease.

Although the AI hub is intangible, the role of D-1 is ubiquitously present throughout the play, and its lines are continually projected onto the walls behind Dee.

"I knew that when the dialogue spoken by the AI unit was presented as subtitles, the audience wouldn't be able to absorb all the lines at once. But I really wanted to create the feeling that the two characters were in different dimensions," Chen says.

The tilted angle of the stage was designed in a way to create an optical illusion, or at least offer a sense of illusion, according to Wang, the set designer.

Wang says the stage design was intended to present the relationship between Dee and D-1: "The entire space is D-1, in which the AI hub has conversations with Dee. We could say that Dee is continuously trapped in the cocoon of a room dominated by advanced technology."

For the first half of the play, Dee and D-1 are prevented from communicating with each other due to technical hitches, and the dialogue is presented as two interweaving monologues. In the second half of the play, they begin to converse with each other, discussing a range of everyday issues.

Chen says the play is mainly built on two theories, Marshall McLuhan's theory of understanding media as an extension of humans and Jacques Lacan's theory of the "mirror stage".

"McLuhan's theory has had a profound impact on me. In my theater works, I often deal with different kinds of digital media, the influences on people exerted by the media, and the different relationships between the media and people. This is the life we are living today.

"Lacan's statement of how infants discover who they are for the first time in the mirror seems to be very similar to how modern people are confronted with technology and digital media," she says.

There is also a feminist side to the play, where both socks and high heels are used as key forms of imagery. In one scene, the protagonist is shown to dance in one high heel, while in another, she tries to put on the precarious shoes on top of layers and layers of socks.

"It seems to me that high heels symbolize a kind of discipline imposed on women by society, and this discipline may sometimes be internalized by women themselves," Chen says.

"Socks and high heels obviously don't go together. The more socks you put on, the more difficult it is to wear those shoes. How people wrap themselves up in ever more layers is also how I imagine future society-as technology helps us to do more things, people will live more independently and need others less."




2020-01-06 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Armenian orchestra embarks on its maiden tour of China]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/05/content_37531236.htm The Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra is making its debut tour in China by performing 10 concerts in nine Chinese cities.

The tour, which started with shows on Dec 27 and 28 at Shanghai Grand Theater will end on Jan 9 at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

Under the baton of artistic director, Eduard Topchjan, the orchestra will play repertories that include pieces from Russian composers, excerpts of The Nutcracker, the classic ballet composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Night on the Bald Mountain by Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky and excerpts of Sergei Prokofiev's ballet work, Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64.

The orchestra will also play Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian's Masquerade Suite and Spartacus ballet suites.

"Khachaturian is considered to be one of the leading composers in Armenia. We included his works during the tour of China to enable Chinese audiences to experience the long history of Armenia through the composer's music, which has distinctive Armenian cultural elements," says Arman Padaryan, the general producer of the Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra.

During the ongoing China tour, the orchestra is cooperating with young Chinese clarinetist, Shen Tianyi, to play Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A Major at the concerts being performed in Wuxi, Changzhou and Changshu in Jiangsu province, Lishui in Zhejiang province and Beijing.

The 22-year-old Shen, who was born into a musical family and started to learn piano at the age of 3, graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music. Shen was introduced to clarinet by his grandfather, the famous clarinetist Wang Zhijian, and started to play the musical instrument at 13 years old. The young musician has performed with maestros and world famous orchestras, such as Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

"I listened to lots of Armenian folk music to learn about the country's profound culture. The country's people are full of passion and the musicians are both influenced by their own folk music tradition and classical music," says Shen. "It is an influential orchestra in Eastern Europe with a distinctive style and strong personality. I am very honored to join the orchestra's first China tour."

The Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1925 and has served as an ambassador for Armenian arts and culture worldwide. According to the Armenian ambassador to China, Sergey Manassarian, the China tour will pave the way for more cultural exchange programs between China and Armenia in the future.

"During the five years of the Belt and Road Initiative, the exchange and cooperation between the two countries not only involved investment projects in economy and trade, but also cooperation in energy, security, culture and other fields," says the ambassador. "The Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra will come back to China again and again, expanding the geography of tours, attracting larger audiences and establishing stronger bonds."

Wray Armstrong, the founder and chairman of Armstrong International Music& Arts Enterprises Ltd, which organized this first China tour of Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra, says that during the past few years, the company has brought many musicians from the countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative to China, such as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, and the Russia National Orchestra, to promote cultural exchanges.


The Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1925. CHINA DAILY



The Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1925. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-05 14:37:13
<![CDATA[Springs bring Turkey flows of global visitors]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/05/content_37531224.htm ANKARA-Around 1,500 thermal springs in western Anatolia, Turkey, generated some $1 billion in tourism revenue in 2019.

According to the Thermal Health and Tourism Association, also known as TESTUD, 750,000 overseas travelers visited Turkey's thermal and spa facilities last year, mostly from China, Germany, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

"Our country should focus on thermal tourism besides the sea, sand and sun tourism," said Yavuz Yillik, head of TESTUD, adding that enjoying thermal springs is not a new trend or fashion.

The Romans, who once occupied most of Anatolia, built the ancient city of Hieropolis close to the mineral waters of Pamukkale, renowned for its white limestone terraces shaped by the calcium-rich hot springs and healing waters.

In 2019, Pamukkale, which dates back more than 2,000 years, was the fourth-most visited site in Turkey by foreign tourists seeking respite and cures in the thermal waters, according to official data from the Turkish tourism ministry.

Tourism professionals have hailed the Turkish government's efforts to diversify the country's tourism resources in the last decade, indicating that there is still great potential to invest in spa, thermal and health tourism. Turkey aims to rank in the top two globally in terms of health tourism by 2023.

"Only some thermal springs in western Turkey are used for tourism purposes-there is really a great potential in this sector as awareness and interest in geothermal facilities are growing in the world," said Alp Serin, a tourism professional.

"We can easily triple the revenues that we had for 2019 if we play the game right as we accommodate visitors from all over the planet who want to receive treatment for wellbeing in spring waters, and Turkey offers cheaper options than other thermal-rich countries," Serin said.

He emphasized the need for better cooperation and collaboration between spa and health sectors to offer effective and low-cost treatment packages.

Serin described the provinces of Afyon, Mugla, Denizli, Bursa and Antalya as the preferred tourism locations for foreign visitors who can also visit nearby historical sites.

Turkey is slowly recovering from a recession that hit all sectors of its economy but relatively spared the tourism sector.

The currency crisis of 2018, which caused a drop in the value of Turkish lira by one-third, has boosted the tourism sector, as deals became cheaper for foreign visitors.

Serin said he expected Chinese tourists to rise in the following years as Turkey promotes itself in the Chinese market.

Among Turkey's efforts to draw more Chinese visitors was the recent announcement that Chinese actor Zhu Yawen was named Turkey's tourism envoy in Beijing.

]]> 2020-01-05 14:37:13 <![CDATA[Broadcaster's book opens a new chapter]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/05/content_37531134.htm After years of broadcasting news on China Central Television, Kang Hui has become an item of newsworthy interest himself. Despite his fame, he prefers to keep a low profile but he has actually become popular on the internet with his penetrating judgments and his vlog introducing China's diplomacy.

"I never expected that I would become popular online, but I'm willing to take that responsibility, and will do a good job. People can get information from various channels and I would like to try to pass on information from different channels to them, especially young people."

Kang's surge in popularity is due in no small part to his new book Average Score (Ping Jun Fen). Published by Changjiang Literature and Arts Publishing House, the book records Kang's life story from childhood. It scored highly, with 7.1 points out of 10, on China's popular review platform Douban.

At the book launch on Nov 30 in Beijing, Kang said he had originally rejected the idea about writing a book on himself.

"I always believe I am someone who has few stories to tell since I didn't experience many ups and downs. I have just led an ordinary life," he says.

But a publisher changed his mind when he told him not to underestimate his experiences.

"He said you just put down what you have experienced. Even if only one sentence would touch a reader, and make him or her resonate with you, the book is meaningful," recalls Kang when he explained how he was persuaded to put pen to paper.

Kang says, modestly, that the title means he is very ordinary in terms of talent. "I have to strive continuously so that I can achieve an average score. I cannot gain an edge over others without huge effort in any area."

After anchoring Xinwen Lianbo, one of the world's most-watched news programs produced by CCTV, for more than a decade, Kang's name is now closely linked to this program. Kang intertwined his story in the book with the program and its changes over the years.

Xinwen Lianbo is a highly demanding live program and Kang freely admits to the pressure in anchoring it. "Every word I say carries huge weight, every second I stay in the studio is a political task, and every day is like an exam for me. Even after anchoring it for more than a decade, I still feel tense every time I sit in the chair."

As a journalist and anchorman at CCTV, he has also witnessed many important events in Chinese history and recorded some of them, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. For example, when he reported on the expo, he was required to make introductory videos about different pavilions to attract greater public interest. He and his colleagues battled the crowds and joined the queues to enter the pavilions. Dealing with the influx of so many visitors added to the problems of filming, picking the right shots and angles. After several weeks, it took a toll on his voice which nearly played havoc with his live broadcasts.

A Douban user, Caomeicaomeidexigua, says: "I can feel Kang's frankness from this book, the parts about his family life attracted me the most. And his letter to his mother moves me to tears."

Besides his work experiences, Kang also talks about his family life, including stories of his parents, sister, wife and two cats. "We should always remind ourselves to express love to those we hold dear," Kang points out at the book launch.

Douban user Lulu says: "I can imagine his character and his ways of dealing with things after reading the book. I have similar characteristics, but he is much more strict with himself. I should learn from him."

Kang, ever the professional, is critical about his writing. "The time was quite limited for me to write this book, and I always feel my writing is very tense."

Kang says readers may not know everything about him after reading the book, "but if some points can hit the target and make them smile, I guess that would be the best interaction between us".


Kang Hui, an anchorman on Xinwen Lianbo, a news program produced by CCTV. CHINA DAILY



Kang's recently-published book Average Score records his life, starting from his childhood. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-05 14:37:13
<![CDATA[Relics from seven dynasties discovered]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/05/content_37531097.htm SHIJIAZHUANG-Archaeologists have unearthed artifacts from seven dynasties, shedding new light on living conditions and lifestyles.

More than 6,700 cultural relics from a site in North China's Hebei province were recovered, according to local authorities.

The site is located in the south square of Kaiyuan Temple, Zhengding county.

Archaeologists spent five years excavating an area of more than 3,000 square meters, the provincial institute of cultural relics said.

The seven dynasties were the Tang (618-907), Five Dynasties (907-960), Northern Song (960-1127), Jin (1115-1234), Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911).

Chen Wei, an associate researcher at the institute, said that based on the artifacts and the lifestyles of the different eras, the texture and color of the findings varied from each other.

Chen also said the ruins of the temple, a city wall defense system, houses, streets and alleys were uncovered during the excavation.

Zhengding is a famous historical and cultural towns in China. It was dubbed one of the three towns of particular importance in northern China in ancient times, along with Beijing and Baoding.

The new findings will give people a new understanding of the layout, functional changes and daily lives of the inhabitants of Zhengding since the Tang Dynasty, which aids the study of the culture and ancient cities of northern China, Chen said.


2020-01-05 14:37:13
<![CDATA[The beauty of the land and the people in China's villages]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/05/content_37531087.htm China is a big land, with a huge variety of cultures, landscapes, cities, towns and villages. One of the pleasures of living here is getting to see a bit of it.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days in a small village of about 60 families in the mountainous rain forest in the far south of Yunnan province, about 40 kilometers from the city of Mohan, on the border with Laos.

The people of Hebian village in Mengla county of Yunnan, who are mostly from the Yao ethnic group, have greatly improved their lives over the past few years, through their own efforts and with the help of government programs, charities, and experts from China Agricultural University.

Just five or so years ago, Hebian had only 8 km of unpaved road for access. Villagers lived off subsistence farming, often depending on food found in the forest to supplement their diets. Children had to walk half a day to go to school.

Today, Hebian is a gorgeous venue for tourists who want to see the rainforest and for international conferences. The villagers have built, with the assistance of CAU, new houses, each with a guest room. The houses are architecturally interesting and comfortable-providing both a good place to live and a source of income for the villagers.

The land surrounding the village is a wonderland for hikers. Small roads and trails take you into stunning mountains and the fascinating rainforest. I wish I knew enough to recognize the hundreds of unique species of plants found in the forest. The village borders a highly-protected national forest and is in the national elephant protection zone, so protecting the environment is a key part of the village's ongoing business strategy.

Hebian has come a long way. Several older men told me that the village had a terrible problem with illegal opium in the 1970s. Many families did not have enough to eat because addicts did not work enough. One older man said that his education had to stop in the fourth grade because his parents were drug addicts. But, with government help, the village was able to help its citizens escape drugs in the 1980s. Today, there is nothing like that.

A national program to build all-weather roads has improved the lives of villagers throughout these mountains. People in Hebian say that other villages in the area have also seen sharp improvements in their living standards after all-weather roads were built to them.

Since 2012, almost 100 million rural people in China, including the people of Hebian, have escaped deep poverty. Seeing Hebian today has helped me understand the real people behind this statistic.

Most foreign tourists who visit China usually see Beijing and Shanghai, sometimes Xi'an, and then think they've seen China. Even Chinese city-dwellers often only visit a handful of well-known beauty spots, which are usually crowded with visitors.

Many rural villages have built guesthouses and restaurants so that visitors can have an opportunity to enjoy rural life and get away from the cities. Of course, not all villages can attract tourists, but this is a good business model for many. This tourism has been made possible by the rising incomes in the country.

I'm not quite selfish enough to want to keep information about Hebian to myself, even though it was great not to be swamped by other visitors.

The village is a truly beautiful and interesting place with welcoming people. Hebian is an especially great place for meetings or events, such as academic conferences and summer camps for children. Like similar villages throughout China, the people of Hebian are using tourism to get out of poverty while maintaining the viability of rural life and protecting the environment.


David Blair



Online Scan the code to hear an audio version



2020-01-05 14:37:13
<![CDATA[Eat beat]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/05/content_37531082.htm Zijin Mansion's star attraction

Chef Chan Chak-keong from Macao, holder of two Michelin stars, has been invited to Beijing to present a feast of Sichuan and Cantonese cuisine at Zijin Mansion from Jan 8-11. With 25 years of culinary experience, Chan has a meticulous approach to fine food. The feast will start with shredded chicken in spicy sesame sauce, a typical Sichuan cold dish combining numbing, hot, sweet, sour, fresh, salty and savory seasonings. His braised sea cucumber is delicately cooked using the Sichuan culinary method, a nourishing cuisine with equally amazing flavors.

No 5-15 Jinyu hutong, Dongcheng district, Beijing. 010-8520-8989.

Oh man go, for the menu Italiano

Via Roma at the Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center has released a new menu which features authentic Italian family recipes for wood-fired pizzas, scrumptious pastas, pork ribs and rib eye steaks, just like mama used to make. Expect even more homemade antipasti, sun-dried tomato and cheese-rich starters, as well as all kinds of seasoned meats and seafood inspired by the various regions of Italy.

1F, No 50 Liangmaqiao Lu, Chaoyang district, Beijing. 010-6465-3388.

Scarborough Fair deals on fine fare

Hello Mart celebrated its oneyear anniversary at the end of December under the theme "Return of the Scarborough Fair". The 7,000-square-meter store is a one-stop shopping venue to pick up premium food and drinks, fresh fruit and vegetables in the city. The food court at Hello Mart stocks different cuisines from across China and around the world. From Beijing's traditional roast duck to handmade dumplings, or oysters to beef steak, a variety of choices are available.

No 48 Liangmaqiao Road, Chaoyang district, Beijing. 010-5382-2114.

Beefed-up Sichuan street food

Sichuan hotpot chain Banhua Chuanchuanxiang recently opened a new branch in the Sanlitun area of Beijing. Chuanchuan used to be street food where ingredients are placed on a skewer and boiled in soup. At Banhua, however, different flavors of beef skewer are the highlight-the beef is paired with many other ingredients on the skewer, including bamboo shoots, pickled cabbage, coriander and pickled chili.

No 21 Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang district, Beijing, 010-5801-0366.










2020-01-05 14:37:13
<![CDATA[From Abruzzo to Chinese capital, a chef cooks up a storm]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/04/content_37531228.htm When Niko Romito and his sister Cristiana inherited their father's restaurant in Italy in 2000 he knew nothing about cooking and just as little about business.

Nine years later he would be the proud bearer of two of the world's most coveted culinary awards, Michelin stars for his restaurant in Rivisondoli, in the Abruzzo region, and in 2013, after relocating the restaurant into a monastery 14 kilometers away, another Michelin star fell into his lap and that of his cooking and management team.

Now, six years on, five stars shine in the Romito firmament, the latest two appearing as a result of the Italian's accomplishments in China.

"The dining concept brought to you by the renowned Milanese chef Niko Romito epitomizes Italian luxe," the recently published Beijing Michelin Guide says. "Classic recipes are given a subtle modern twist that adds sophistication, depth and bold flavors."

The guide's comments relate to Il Ristorante-Niko Romito at the Bvlgari Hotel in Chaoyang district of Beijing, awarded one star, just a few months after the Michelin Guide awarded the Shanghai version of the restaurant a star.

"The Michelin star for Il Ristorante-Niko Romito in Shanghai together with the one that shines on Il Ristorante-Niko Romito in Beijing is testimony that Italian cuisine fascinates and surprises at all latitudes," Romito, 45, says. "This is my greatest satisfaction, and I say this as a man and as a cook who is profoundly Italian."

Simplicity is the essence of his cooking, he says.

"My food is often described as simple. This is very true, in the sense that it is not complicated, which is not to say that it is without significant complexity. In cooking, complexity can be advantageous; complication never."

Romito's cuisine is based on intense research, he says, his inspiration mainly drawn by observing daily life, but also from the ingredients' structure, tradition and its possible evolution.

"I only use a few ingredients, but in fact the process is quite complicated. Every element I use is encouraged to express itself to the full-I layer the ingredients, concentrate the flavors and use a wide variety of techniques like cooking at controlled temperatures, maceration and extraction."

He never decides whether he wants to cook a pasta dish, a main course or a dessert, he says. To him creating a dish is always a process of research; he lets the gradual transformation of the ingredients lead him to the dish.

"My dishes come from the ingredients, and what I do is try to awaken their intrinsic power rather than add it. I don't want the ingredient to get lost, but rather explode on the palate with all its vitality."

Romito started his culinary journey with no professional training, and he says that if he had been trained in the traditional way he probably would never have done this type of cuisine, which derives from the fact that he started from zero and making a lot of mistakes and doing just as many foolhardy things.

At the beginning he took inspiration from the culinary tradition of Abruzzo, trying to update the local cuisine with early dishes that were at the same time contemporary and reassuring.

Then he started on his own path, consisting of research, solitary experimentation in the kitchen and a lot of trial and error and cooking attempts that went wrong.

"This has been a great advantage for me because I have let my creativity and philosophy grow autonomously, leading me toward new and innovative concepts. It's been a very personal and independent growth from a little trattoria to Michelin-starred cuisine."

At Il Ristorante-Niko Romito in Beijing, Romito updates the menu in accordance with the season. He and his team change the menu three times a year and create specials for all festivities such as Christmas and New Year.

In the cooking laboratories in Italy where everything started, together with the Bvlgari team, over a year Romito created a protocol, a database of recipes listing set ingredients, weights, temperatures and times that would need to be meticulously applied in every kitchen of Il Ristorante-Niko Romito.

After having been awarded three stars for his restaurant in Italy, Romito thinks "every star is an important acknowledgment but when you achieve the maximum award of three stars, you know full well the expectations are high. …But more than anything, the third star to me is about content, not just on the plate but in the overall hospitality experience."

"The work I do with my team is not aimed at gaining stars but at satisfying the diner."


Chef Niko Romito (fourth left) and his team. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-04 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Reversal of fortunes]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/04/content_37531252.htm Huichang county in Jiangxi province has been singled out for national-level poverty alleviation relief and development measures, with the Luoxiao Mountain region having an exceptionally high number of poverty-stricken counties in particular.

Li Fashun, 44, is a local villager in Nantian village, Gaopai township. Coming from a low income family, he applied for a poverty alleviation loan under the guidance and assistance of the village's poverty alleviation officials, which allowed his family to plant navel oranges.

Seeing an improvement in his income, Li set up a fruit cooperative with several of his fellow villagers in 2018. Besides planting navel oranges himself, he bought navel oranges grown by other villagers to sell externally, helping to lift the villagers out of poverty.

There are still a lot of fruit farmers like him who rely on planting to escape poverty in Huichang. At present, the planting area of navel oranges and orange pomelos in the county is more than 13,333 hectares, of which 11,667 hectares are oranges and 1,667 hectares pomelos.

The annual yield of navel oranges is 150,000 tons compared to 10,000 tons of orange pomelo. The local government has issued special policies to support villagers in areas such as industrial development and promotional marketing.

Relying on the cultivation of special agricultural products, Huichang has achieved remarkable results in fighting poverty.

By the end of 2018, the population of people living in poverty in Huichang dropped to 3,274, compared with 62,485 at the end of 2014. The incidence of poverty slipped to 0.73 percent, and it was 14.02 percent at the end of 2014. All 88 poverty-stricken villages had their "poverty hats" removed.

Through the vigorous development of navel orange and orange pomelo plantations in recent years and other measures to combat poverty, the Jiangxi provincial government on April 28 formally approved Huichang county to withdraw from the ranks of poverty stricken counties.

Photos by Chen Zebing

China Daily




Li Fashun, a local villager in Nantian village, Gaopai township, heads to an orchard CHEN ZEBING/CHINA DAILY



Li shows in his phone the old adobe house where he used to live CHEN ZEBING/CHINA DAILY



Li checks the growth of the navel oranges. CHEN ZEBING/CHINA DAILY



Women workers collect navel orange on an automatic sorting line CHEN ZEBING/CHINA DAILY



Farmers transfer freshly picked orange pomelos CHEN ZEBING/CHINA DAILY



The logistics staff move the packed navel oranges into the trucks and prepare to send them all over the country CHEN ZEBING/CHINA DAILY



A fruit merchant prepares for the transshipment of the navel oranges CHEN ZEBING/CHINA DAILY



Li Fashun (left) and his colleagues move the navel oranges into the warehouse. CHEN ZEBING/CHINA DAILY



2020-01-04 00:00:00
<![CDATA[The wheel deal: Aston Martin's first motorbike is a conceptual masterpiece]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/04/content_37531235.htm British marque Aston Martin has been increasingly pushing the creative design portfolio of late. Having recently announced a luxury submarine with Triton and a hybrid-electric Volante Vision concept vehicle that takes off vertically, the luxury carmaker has revealed plans for the AMB 001-its first motorcycle, designed in collaboration with iconic British performance-engineering motorcycle brand Brough Superior. If James Bond swaps his Aston for two wheels, expect the AMB 001 to be 007's preferred ride.

"This is what we believe a cutting-edge design motorcycle should be and we are very proud to see the Aston Martin wings on a motorcycle for the first time," says Aston Martin chief creative officer and executive vice-president Marek Reichman of the vehicle, which is presented in the official Aston Martin racing colors of stirling green and lime essence, and which features matte-black wheels. "The finished product is truly a beautiful motorcycle-a design and engineering work of art."

The AMB 001 displays a level of elegance not ordinarily found on racing bikes. Beauty and power are the order of the day for this track-only racer composed of carbon fiber, titanium and billet aluminum. With a 977cc V-twin engine and a turbocharged output of 180hp, the bike boasts a strong, sculptural body form accentuated by its carbon fiber fin-a design inspired by the side strake on Aston Martin cars-that runs along the full length of the stirling green tank, passing under the saddle and out onto the rear, creating a "flowing form" along the top.

"Aston Martin may be 106 years old, but the forward momentum of this company is inspiring," says Reichman. "The same people who work on the design of our cars have worked on the AMB 001. Unlike at other car companies, our designers have the full breadth of experience and I think this is showcased in this aspirational bike."

Hand-assembled in the Brough Superior factory in Toulouse, France, only 100 models of the AMB 001 will be made. Expect to pay a little more than HK$1 million, with 20 percent value-added tax. Deliveries will begin around this time next year.














2020-01-04 00:00:00
<![CDATA[MARS: The new Earth]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/04/content_37531243.htm Mars has never been hotter as a subject (ironically, the cold planet would benefit from the same global warming that is killing Earth) and the global fixation of the world's powers to get there first has become this century's moon-landing equivalent. Yet, despite conditions on Mars being deeply hostile to humans, we still appear determined to go.

"In the long run, the human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket-or on one planet," wrote the late scientist Stephen Hawking. "If we're to survive, I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth." British stadium cosmologist Brian Cox agrees: "There will be Martians if we are to have a future. At some point, we will be the Martians, because we can't stay here forever." And then there's Elon Musk. The serial entrepreneur with plans for humans to colonize Mars via his private SpaceX program famously declared: "Being a multi-planet species beats the hell out of being a single-planet species."

Nasa, the European Space Agency, SpaceX and China are all in the race to "multi-planet" humanity. China will launch its Mars probe in 2020 and earlier last month tested a potential landing procedure in northern Hebei province. What differentiates the country's ambition is its expectation to complete orbiting, landing and roving in one mission. "Though it has been preceded by other countries' Mars missions, ours will produce better performance in terms of technological level and engineering capability," says Ye Peijian, a leading space exploration researcher at Beijing's China Academy of Space Technology.

But any attempt to go as far as Mars requires a whole new approach to lifestyle. All of which makes London's Design Museum exhibition Moving to Mars about as trending as it gets. Until Feb 23, 2020, the exhibition invites visitors to discover the role that design will play in humanity's journey to the Red Planet. Every detail of this extraordinary venture must be designed-from the journey (around seven months) to considering what we will wear, eat and live in when we get there and beyond.

"On the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, we are entering a new space age, with Mars once again capturing the popular imagination," says the museum's chief curator, Justin McGuirk. "As a museum interested in emergent futures, we are keen to explore how designing for space can help us design for Earth."

There is something otherworldly and compelling about experiencing this show, given its topicality and futurism.

Within 40 minutes of arriving, we had all but stepped on Mars, having witnessed a huge panoramic immersive installation On Mars Today, featuring high-resolution imagery from the surface of the planet that has never been shown in public before; we saw what farming will look like, a major challenge given the planet's total lack of any discernible life, tiny amounts of water, limited carbon dioxide and constant specter of radiation given the planet's thin atmosphere. There's also a full-scale prototype of the ExoMars rover, which will be launched into space next March.

And there's the journey. It ranges from food trays by Nasa to Galina Balashova's designs for Russian space interiors from 1964 to 1980, and from Raymond Loewy's design work for space stations to (exhibited for the first time) the NDX-1 spacesuit, designed specifically for the surface of Mars by the University of North Dakota. The challenges of dining are addressed in a newly commissioned spacecraft table by German industrial designer Konstantin Grcic, inspired by the constraints imposed by zero gravity.

Don't forget the living. There's a full-scale Mars habitat designed by London-based architecture firm Hassell as part of Nasa's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The living space is equipped with clothing from Raeburn's spring/summer 2020 New Horizon collection, including pieces that are made from materials such as solar blankets and parachutes, taking inspiration from the makedo-and-mend approach on Mars. It's here that you also see hydroponic farming kits and Spirulina-growing systems.

The China National Space Administration says the country's first Martian probe will conduct scientific investigations of the soil, explore the planet's geological structure and environment, and search for the possible existence of water.

In typically prescient style, China already has a Mars Base No. 1 in its Gobi Desert in the province of Gansu, where fruit and vegetables are grown, all of it in a soilless culture. Visitors are taught how to live on Mars. The base has nine cabins and a biocabin, which mimics the visionary simulation aspects on Mars-should we ever go, that is.

That's the question the final part of the Design Museum show posits: whether we should even venture to Mars, let alone design for it. In an installation modeling an alternative scenario running over a million years, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg uses a gaming engine to simulate a Mars colonized only by plants (terraforming through planetary engineering to give Mars an Earth-like environment) and not humans.

All of which leaves the eeriest feeling upon leaving. Was Mars, once, home to life of some kind? Was it, pre-Earth, inhabited and subsequently destroyed over time, as is the fate that many believe Earth is facing now? In going to Mars, are we voyaging as a new multi-planet species, or revisiting a place where life, in whatever form, previously flourished and then found its escape route to Earth? Once upon a time…

Read more: cdlifestylepremium.com










Mars Habitat by Hassell with 3D-printed furniture by Nagami, with thanks to Oxygen Model Management ED REEVE/FELIX SPELLER FOR THE DESIGN MUSEUM






2020-01-04 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Stars that shine over the capital]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/04/content_37531240.htm The fat man arrived in the Chinese capital a little late, but in a way just on time, 135 years after his birth in France and as the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China reached its end.

When Andre and Edouard Michelin gave Bibendum, later to become known as Michelin Man or Michelin Tyre Man, to the world in Lyons in 1884 he was accompanied by the Latin motto "Nunc est bibendum", now is the time to drink. Since then there has been plenty of drinking, but it is primarily to eating-and generally very fine eating and dining-that the name Michelin has attached itself. That and tyres of course, many of which were running on the roads of Beijing before the culinary incarnation of Michelin Man finally arrived in November.

In its early years the Michelin Guide covered restaurants mainly in Europe and North Africa, and it was not until 2005 that establishments in the United States got a look in. Michelin in 2008 began casting its eye over Asia when a guide on Hong Kong and Macao was published and finally in 2016 the mainland got into the mix when a guide on Shanghai was published, and in 2018 a guide on Guangzhou, Guangdong province, was published.

In the Beijing guide, three years in the baking, stars have been given to 23 restaurants, one with three stars, two with two and the rest with one.

"Chefs and restaurant operators here have not only inherited the true essence of Beijing taste, but also created an amazing diversity," says Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides.

"Beijing is under the spotlight of the global gastronomic community with many world-famous chefs branching out their businesses here. The booming industry is a demonstration of an ancient yet vibrant city glittering with a combination of classic and modern."

The first edition of the Michelin Guide Beijing includes 100 restaurants, so the 20 percent star-rated ones represents a high proportion of the entries, Poullennec says.

He hopes that with this new Michelin Guide, more connoisseurs will come to appreciate Beijing's abundant food culture and experience the wonderful flavors it has to offer, he says.

As with the Shanghai and Guangzhou guides, the Beijing one has not been without controversy, even if it is a little more muted this time.

The 2020 Shanghai guide was published three months ago, and not one restaurant offering Chinese cuisine was able to attain three stars. The Nanyanglu outlet of the Xin Rong Ji chain was awarded two stars and its Nanjingxilu outlet one star.

In the Michelin Guide Beijing, the Xinyuan South Road outlet of the same chain became the only three-Michelin-star Chinese cuisine restaurant on the mainland.

It impressed the Michelin inspectors with what they said was its uncompromising perfection. From strictly selected ingredients to impeccable cooking skills and exemplary service, every detail is top notch, the guide's critics say.

The menu, focuses on Taizhou cooking with fish from the East China Sea, the guide says, it offers a complete and enjoyable dining experience made possible by "comprehensive orchestration" and "thoughtful arrangement".

Xin Rong Ji won more accolades as its outlets in Jianguomenwai Street and Jinrong Street, Xicheng district received one star each. That brings Xin Rong Ji's haul of stars nationally to eight, something unmatched by any other establishment on the mainland.

Howard's Gourmet's founder and chef Howard Cai thinks even though the Xinyuan South Road branch is a new restaurant, but from tableware to wine set and from the whole design to the atmosphere, Xinyuan South branch is an elevated one in Xin Rong Ji's chain.

The two restaurants in the Beijing guide that snaffle two stars are King's Joy and Shanghai Cuisine. King's Joy, in a classic courtyard house next to Yonghe Temple in Chaoyang district, serves vegetarian fare with organic vegetables from local farms and wild mushrooms from Yunnan.

In Shanghai Cuisine, in Sanlitun, the Shanghainese chef Zhu Haifeng reinterprets classic Shanghai cuisine with a contemporary perspective. Its braised winter melon looks simple yet delivers deep, lingering flavors, and the stuffed field snails are highly recommended.

Poullennec says it is unusual for a vegetarian restaurant to be awarded two stars, so it is a great achievement for King's Joy.

"I feel the number of vegetarian restaurants will definitely grow in the coming years. I see that as a deep trend that the quality of vegetarian restaurant is being pulled up by more and more demanding clients."

Cai says the lack of controversy over the Beijing guide suggests that since the Michelin Guide's entry to China its authors have begun "to mature and are beginning to understand Chinese culture and food culture".

Peking duck, perhaps not surprisingly, is the brightest star in the Beijing guide. Of all the Michelin-starred restaurants and restaurants awarded with Big Gourmand and Plate, 31 restaurants serve roast duck, and 12 of the 23 starred restaurants offer the dish.

The Michelin Guide Beijing has highlighted a Peking duck selection for readers to discern the most outstanding ones.

Among them, Sheng Yong Xing (Chaoyang), Da Dong (Gongti East Road) and Da Dong (Dongsi 10th Alley) each receive one Michelin star.

Jing Yaa Tang, hidden in a quiet hotel in the bustling Sanlitun area, provides an understated luxurious place for dining and the Peking ducks there are prepared in the wood-fired oven.

Among all the restaurants awarded one star, Beijing cuisine is one of the main elements. Family Li Imperial Cuisine (Xicheng) is now run by the fourth generation, who continue faithfully to replicate imperial recipes. Only set menus at set prices are available, and preordering is required.

A wide range of Chinese cuisine styles flourish in Beijing, and more than 30 styles are selected for the first Beijing Michelin Guide. This diversity is reflected in the one-star selection, in which there are Cantonese restaurants such as The Beijing Kitchen, Seventh Son and Lei Garden (Jinbao Tower). In Love (Gongti East Road) serves Hunan dishes and Huaiyang Fu, in Andingmen, Huaiyang food, while Cui Hua Lou, in Chongwenmen, is one of the best restaurants in the city that offers Shandong cuisine.

In the selection list, Chinese restaurants hold the dominant position, while eateries providing exquisite European dishes also receive star recognition. Three European restaurants are awarded one star: Il Ristorante-Niko Romito, in Xinyuan South Road, and Mio, in Liangmaqiao Road, for their Italian cuisine, and The Georg, in Di'anmen, for its European cuisine.

Ten days before the Beijing Michelin Guide was published the Bib Gourmand selection was revealed, with 15 restaurants receiving the award.

The Bib Gourmand distinction was established in 1997 with the aim of allowing consumers to enjoy good food on the move. In China the distinction recognizes restaurants that feature high-quality dishes for less than 200 yuan ($29) for a full meal.

Most of the Bib Gourmand's restaurants feature Beijing snacks such as douzhi, fermented mung bean milk, luzhu, braised pork intestines or blanched tripes.

Rong Cuisine, considered a budget friendly spinoff of the decidedly upmarket Xin Rong Ji, is also included in the selection.

Keaami, in Chaoyang North Road, is the only Thai cuisine restaurant in the guide. That seems odd, given that its average price is more than 200 yuan and that it is included in the Bib Gourmand list together with other Beijing snacks.

Founder and chef of Da Dong, Dong Zhenxiang says in a long comment on the Bib Gourmand list that fermented and smelly snacks can be an establishment's signature offerings, but even though Beijingers may love them, that does not mean there is a wider appreciation for them.

"There are many other fine dishes in Beijing that should be recommended to the world as a way of presenting Chinese cuisine.… The Michelin Guide seems to reflect food of Beijing in bygone days, but the capital's culinary culture has moved on.

"I hope Michelin's inspectors can get a deeper understanding of the places they inspect, and dispense with biased, preconceived ideas so that we can share our love for pure delicacy."

Poullennec is aware of the debate about the Bib Gourmand list, and says it is likely to take more time to be fully understood in Beijing.

The Michelin inspectors spent three years looking at Beijing, he says, and that "we never compromise in the quality of what we select".

Michelin restaurants' five rating criteria are quality of products, mastery of flavor and cooking techniques, the personality of the chef represented in the dining experience, harmony of the flavors and consistency between inspectors' visits.

Poullennec thinks they are universal principles that match all cultures.

A Michelin inspector need to be open-minded and show no favor, he says.

"When you wake up as an inspector in the morning, you may say 'Perhaps today I'll have the best meal in my life, one I've never had, one I've always looked forward to having.'

"Eating at a restaurant twice a day is something you should be really passionate about. We need people with very good skills but also a professional background in the industry."

Michelin inspectors are of more than 20 different nationalities and speak 25 languages, and they all reach their decisions together, he says. Among them are Chinese who inspect Chinese-cuisine restaurants not only in China but also worldwide.

Beijing has all the elements to make great progress in the restaurant world, from quality ingredients to many skills, and from talented chefs to very demanding customers, both local and international.

"Beijing's cuisine, with its well-chosen ingredients and rich seasonings, is a jewel in the crown of Chinese and global cuisine."





Michelin launches its first Beijing edition, featuring 23 starred restaurants and 77 other recommendations. CHINA DAILY



Frozen red crab CHINA DAILY



Pan-fried chicken with wild ginger CHINA DAILY



Jing Yaa Tang roast duck CHINA DAILY



Catfish roe with crispy lumpfish. CHINA DAILY





Chilled mango pudding topped with sago cream and pomelo



Chinese red pepper fish



Panfried Australian Wagyu ribeye with volcanic salt.



2020-01-04 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Festival to include more tourism]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/04/content_37531244.htm Chinese tourists are expected to make 450 million domestic trips during the upcoming Spring Festival holiday, according to a report released by Trip.com, the country's major online travel agency, on Tuesday.

Spring Festival is a traditional occasion for a family get-together, when grown-up children working in other regions elbow their way for a train or air ticket, or drive all the way back to their hometown. But the new trend of spending the festival traveling for tourism purposes reflects consumption upgrades, industry insiders said.

A total of 415 million trips were made across China during the Spring Festival holiday in 2019, up 7.6 percent from a year earlier. The trips brought an increase of 8.2 percent year-on-year in tourism revenue to 513.9 billion yuan ($73.76 billion).

About 4.6 billion domestic trips were made in the first three quarters of last year, up 8.8 percent year-on-year.

"The rapid growth will continue during the weeklong holiday beginning Jan 24," Peng Liang, a tourist data researcher with Trip.com Group, told Xinhua News Agency.

Of tourists that placed their orders on tourism platform Trip, 54 percent will travel with their children for the festival, and 7 percent of them will opt to tour alone. More than 30 percent of tourists will set off their journey before Lunar New Year's Eve.

Warm southern cities and northern snow and ice destinations are the most popular choices among both group visitors and independent travelers.

Of the top 10 destinations to group tourists, Beijing ranks No 1, followed by a string of southern cities such as Kunming, Guangzhou and Lijiang, a city in Yunnan province known for ethnic culture.

After a scheduled high-speed rail service linking Beijing and Zhangjiakou, co-hosts of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, began on Monday, tourism routes including the two cities have proved popular on the platform.

Harbin, capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, ranks sixth on the list as one of the only three from the region to the north of the Yangtze River. The other two are Beijing and Xi'an.

As a traditional ice and snow sports destination, Harbin is also famous for its display of ice sculptures, thus gaining popularity especially among tourists from southern China.

Sanya, a city in tropical island Hainan province, takes first position on the list of destinations to individual travelers, as it provides an escape from the seasonal chill.

According to the report, Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou are the top three sources of tourists during the Spring Festival holiday. Residents from Nanjing, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Wuhan also like to celebrate the festival on journeys, rather than at home.

As more Chinese travel during holidays, the world will also benefit, Peng said. So far, Chinese tourists have booked outbound trips to more than 1,000 destinations in 102 countries and regions on Trip.com.




The Palace Museum in Beijing is blanketed in snow in December. The city is forecast to stand among top tourist destinations during the upcoming Spring Festival holiday. SHEN BOHAN/XINHUA



2020-01-04 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Shore to find great flavors]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/03/content_37531098.htm Long renowned for being salty and heavily-sauced, Lu cuisine from Shandong province is one of the eight main cooking styles found in China. But one restaurant in Beijing, the aptly-named Lu Style, is now giving the time-honored culinary genre a fresh twist with a dash of modern fine-dining.

Born and raised in Qufu, Shandong province, executive chef Zhang Xiangdong believes that the origins of Lu cuisine derive from the complex dishes developed by private chefs hired to work in the mansions of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) officials combined with the seafood dishes found on the Jiaodong Peninsula.

"The food is not always dark in color. Lu cuisine actually highlights the flavors of the ingredients and requires a lot of sophisticated cooking skills," Zhang says.

All the dishes at Lu Style typically capture the essence of the culinary style of Northeast China-and Yimeng pancake with six sauces is just one example.

The six types of sauces are specialties from six regions of Shandong province-fried shrimp from Rizhao; a sauce made from the tender leaves of Chinese toon from Linyi; Spanish mackerel sauce from Weihai; chili sauce from Heze; minced salt and sesame sauce from Zaozhuang; and sliced pickles from Jining.

According to Zhang, the pancake is made using a mix of five different grains, before being cut into squares and plated up.

"I hope from this one dish, diners are able to sample the flavors of the different regions of Shandong," Zhang says.

Since seafood is the highlight of Lu cuisine, Lu Style offers a variety of different types to choose from-eight from Weihai alongside eight from the Jiaodong Peninsula.

The former includes sea cucumber, abalone and oyster, while the latter covers mostly shell fish such as whelks, snails and clams.

"Seafood is common on dinner tables in the Jiaodong region. We often braise the larger, more expensive seafood to highlight its original flavor, while for smaller fare, frying them in a spicy sauce is a more common way of cooking them-and one that pairs well with beer," Zhang explains.

Salt-coated peled is inspired by a traditional fish dish found in Lu cuisine and a regional method of making bread. A type of white freshwater fish, the peled are shipped in from Sailimu Lake in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, and have a tender and delicate texture and flavor like tofu.

The fish is simply coated with salt before it's baked. When it's served, the salty coating cracks open to reveal the fresh, juicy meat of the fish.

Sea cucumber is a dish that is nourishing, but one that's also difficult to cook. At Lu Style, sea cucumber soup and braised sea cucumber with leeks are both signature dishes.

All the sea cucumbers served at Lu Style are sourced from the wild and are over three years old. According to Zhang, they harvested at a depth of 20 meters and are plump with strong spines.

Only salt is added to the sea cucumber soup as seasoning, so the umami of the soup comes purely from the sea cucumber. The deep green color of the soup comes from the seaweed that sea cucumber eats, its only source of sustenance.

Donkey meat is not a common ingredient in Chinese cooking, but something of a regional delicacy in Shandong. Lu Style sources the meat from animals culled at the age of around 2 years old.

"The donkey's skin, meat and milk are all nutritious, and donkey meat is one of the main ingredients found in Lu cuisine," Zhang says.

Donkey gelatin soup with fermented black garlic is a typical winter treat. The first step in creating the sweet and salty soup is to boil the donkey meat and gelatin for 12 hours at a low heat, before the black garlic is added and then cooked for a further four hours.

All the flavors of the meat, gelatin and black garlic infuse in the glutinous soup base to create a distinctively warming dish-and one for which Lu Style has applied for a national patent.

Donkey hoofs are another specialty of the restaurant that have rich nutritional value, as does their signature yogurt dish, which is made from donkey milk.

Zhang and his team take a lot of effort to source the best ingredients. From the mushrooms from Jilin province and the potatoes from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region to the clams from South Korea and scallops from Japan, each ingredient is carefully selected.

There are four ingredients that are considered the freshest in rural China-the tender leaves of the deciduous Chinese toon tree, the first batch of Chinese chives, cucumbers with the flower left on and lotus roots picked after their flowers drop off.

To find the best first batch of Chinese chives, chefs from Lu Style visited seven provinces before finally sourcing the freshest ones grown in Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang province.

"The Chinese chives there grow in black soil with an 80 percent humidity, and they are planted around 15 centimeters apart to maximize their exposure to the sun," says Zhang.

Just as culinary staples are a highlight of Lu cuisine, they also feature prominently at Lu Style. Pot-braised noodle soup is another must-try.

"It looks like a simple dish but the timing of when to add the water is crucial and tests the skill of the chef," he says. "The leeks must be fried in hot oil until they just start to burn, and then water and the noodles are added to the pot. If it's done too early, the aroma of the leeks will not shine through, and if it's too late the leeks will simply burn."

All the noodles are handmade by the restaurant's pastry chef. According to Zhang, the pastry chef cuts each noodle to exactly the same width. "Sometimes, I have to ask the chef not to cut them so precisely as it makes the noodles look like they were made using a machine," he says.

There are two other dishes that are well worth trying: dumplings with a sea urchin filling, and steamed buns with dried green beans, fresh scallop and diced black pork.

The restaurant was awarded with a Michelin Plate in November, one of just three Lu cuisine restaurants listed in the Michelin Guide Beijing 2020.

The logo of Lu Style hanging above the entrance is also eye-catching. Created by Hong Kong designer Hon Bing-wah, the logo is based on the Chinese character lu-an abbreviation of "Shandong province"-which looks like a sail on the sea, passing the sun.

A twisting pine tree greets the guests, representing the warmth and hospitality of the people of Shandong.

From the names on the private dining rooms to the interior decor, the design of the restaurant has been clearly inspired by the ancient Chinese classic, The Book of Songs.

The book unites the two floors of the interior space-the ceiling is made from poems in the book, while each of the steps is made of book spines.

Zeng Hui, deputy director of Beijing Design Week's organizing committee, was the design consultant for Lu Style. He published a book, The Life Aesthetics of Lu Style, in December 2018.

"Lu Style, a museum of life aesthetics in catering, is shortening the distance between food and art," Zeng wrote in the book. "Even though each cuisine has its own beauty, the beauty of Lu Style is that it combines all the flavors found in Chinese cuisine."


Braised sea cucumber with leek. CHINA DAILY



Marinated garlic with scallop. CHINA DAILY



Braised prawn with cabbage. CHINA DAILY



Yimeng pancake with six sauces. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-03 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Restaurant shells out to celebrate oyster season]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/03/content_37531117.htm At 6 o'clock in the morning, a fishing boat sets sail from the seashore in Jiangkou county, Putian city, Fujian province.

Half an hour later, it drops anchor amid a flotilla of plastic barrels.

Each barrel houses a rope of oysters, waiting to be gathered by the fishermen, and the sea air is rich with the scent of the mature mollusks-fresh and salty, with a hint of sweetness. For more than 300 days, the oysters have been nurtured by perfect conditions, and now is the right time to reap the harvest, a season that will last until March.

It's noon when the fishermen return to shore with their boat fully loaded. A dozen middle-aged women line the beach to greet them as they land-or perhaps more precisely, wait for the oysters.

With a small knife in one hand and a thick glove on the other, each woman can shuck two to three oysters a second. Over the course of an afternoon, a single one of these industrious women can shuck hundreds of kilograms of oysters that are then put into small barrels and sent across China to the branches of Putien restaurant, some of which will arrive in Beijing the next day.

Until the end of the season, every branch of Putien will be highlighting six oyster dishes using the extricated mollusks.

"It's the third year that we are hosting a Putian oyster season at our restaurants," says Yu Jing, brand director of the restaurant chain. "In 2018, we consumed 78 metric tons of fresh oysters."

According to Yu, there are many coastal areas breeding oysters in China, but Fujian has become, regionally, the largest domestic producer because of its long coastline and ideal climate.

"The salinity of the seawater in Putian is in line with the global average, while the temperature is between 23 C and 28 C, allowing for the cultivation of oysters with a less fishy smell and a sweeter flavor," she says.

"What's magic about breeding oysters is that they don't need to be fed. They grow by themselves by absorbing the bacteria and other forms of nutrition from the sea," Yu says.

In most cases, baby oysters are attached to the rope and lowered into the sea around April and May. They are usually ready for harvest after 180 days, but Putien only collects the oysters that have been cultivated for more than 300 days.

According to chef Li Wenbo, who was born and raised in Putian, the six special oyster season dishes are a mixture of traditional Putian dishes and creative, contemporary concoctions developed by the chefs at Putien.

"Oysters are a typical ingredient of Putian, and they're much smaller, but fresher and sweeter than their French counterparts," Li says.

The most traditional preparation is oyster egg pancakes-the oyster is pan-fried with the egg pancake mix for five minutes until the edge of the pancake is crisp and the oyster inside is cooked.

"The pot must be hot and the oil must be cold when it's added. That's the trick to making the pancake," Li says.

To pair with the pancake, Li whips up a special chili sauce, which is an in-house recipe featuring dozens of spices.

Oyster soup is another traditional dish that Li's family would make at home each winter. A spoonful of white vinegar and ground pepper is the magic ingredient that gives the soup a pop of flavor.

Nori and rice noodle are also signature ingredients of Putian. Adding nori to fried oyster egg pancake makes the dish softer and fresher. This year, Putien launches a new dish: Oyster rice noodle and egg pancake-adding the rice noodle, which is as thin as hair, gives the pancake an appealing toothsome texture.

"I grew up eating these dishes and now I'm proud to be able to share the flavors of my youth with others," he says.


Oyster soup is a traditional dish of Putian city in Fujian province. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-03 00:00:00
<![CDATA[More Terracotta Warriors emerge from the trenches]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/03/content_37531133.htm XI'AN-Archaeologists have unearthed another army of Terracotta Warriors in their campaign to shed light on history. About 200 more Terracotta Warriors and a large number of weapons from the No 1 Pit of the Mausoleum of Emperor Qinshihuang were revealed in the latest round of excavation.

The Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum said on Monday that during the third dig, launched between 2009 and 2019, an area of 400 square meters in the No 1 Pit has been excavated.

No 1 Pit is the largest among three pits that surround the tomb of the nation's first emperor in northwest China's Shaanxi province.

Discoveries also included 12 clay horses, traces of two chariots and some building sites. Weapons contained in storage boxes included colored shields, bronze swords and bows.

Shen Maosheng, who leads the excavation, said that based on the different gestures, most of the newly discovered terracotta figures can be divided into two categories. One is warriors holding weapons, bending their right arms with half clenched fists; the other is warriors carrying bows, with their right arms hanging naturally.

Versions of these figures were arranged in different positions in the pit, indicating their individual tasks in the army, while their armor and costume signify the warriors' ranks, Shen said.

The excavation expanded the study of the military system and equipment of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), and also provided new insight into the artistic style, characteristics and manufacturing techniques of figurines of the period, Shen added.

With a length of 230 meters, a width of 62 meters and a depth of 5 meters, archaeologists have estimated that there are more than 6,000 clay figures and horses in the 14,260-square-meter pit.


Visitors take photos at the Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum in Xi'an in July 2018. LIU LIANFEN/XINHUA





2020-01-03 00:00:00
<![CDATA[China and Vietnam hold joint contest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/02/content_37530962.htm HANOI-"Just like nightingales, we want to bring our songs to" Vietnam, China and other countries, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Ha, the Vietnamese winner of the China-Vietnam Friendship Singing Contest 2019, said on Saturday.

Outperforming other contestants from China and Vietnam at the annual singing contest in Hanoi, Ha, a student of the vocal music department at the Vietnam National Academy of Music, bagged the first prize along with Chinese singer Cao Yang. In the final contest, singers from both countries needed to sing one song in Chinese and the other in Vietnamese.

"Learning to sing in Vietnamese is both challenging and enjoyable. I want to thank my Vietnamese tutors, who made great efforts correcting my pronunciation, and I hope to have more exchanges and cooperation with Vietnamese singers," says Cao, who won applause by singing the popular Vietnamese song, Dau Mua (Traces of Rain).

Ha says the contest is significant as it gives young people a chance to make friends with young artists from both countries, and to learn singing and performing techniques from each other.

Ha, who won over the judges and audience with her powerful vocals, dramatic stage performances and Chinese-speaking skills, reveals her secret of singing fluently in Chinese.

"I have been using a popular Chinese-music app to listen to Chinese songs online and sing along," she explains.

Calling the contest a people's diplomatic activity, Nguyen Quang Vinh, acting director of the Department of Performing Arts at the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, says that, "many young singers, both Vietnamese and Chinese, have reaped successes", through the event.

The annual singing contest, initiated by the Chinese side in 2005, has been held alternately in China and Vietnam since.


Performers receive awards at the recent China-Vietnam singing contest in Hanoi, Vietnam. WANG DI/XINHUA



2020-01-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Loss, grief prompts artist's return to hometown values]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/02/content_37531011.htm In October 2015, when Chinese artist Ai Jing's mother died at the age of 65, she returned from Beijing to her hometown of Shenyang, Liaoning province, to take care of her father.

"I was lost and my heart sank when I realized I had lost her forever. I left my hometown at the age of 17 and I didn't spend much time with my mother or my family, which made me feel frustrated," recalls Ai, who found herself visiting a supermarket her mother used to frequent every day and sleeping on her mother's bed in order to get closer to her on her return.

One day, a friend took Ai to visit the Industrial Museum of China in Shenyang's Tiexi district. The smell of engine oil lingering in the air stirred Ai's heart and brought back a flood of childhood memories. Since her family and neighbors all worked in local factories, Ai was transported back to her parents during their youth, her two sisters, and the community's attachment to the factories.

These moments inspired her to spend three years working on an art exhibition, My Mother and My Hometown, which ran from Oct 27, 2018 to Jan 27, 2019 at the museum. The show featured a wide range of mediums, from installations and sculptures to photographs and videos, many of which were created especially for the exhibition.

To complement the exhibition, she published a book of the same name that she discussed at a public event held in Beijing on Dec 21.

The new book features many of the artworks on display at the exhibition, including an aromatic installation entitled Mother's Fragrance. It features a giant ball of yarn, which was placed next to a sculpture of her mother, who sits knitting in a chair, in the exhibition. Under her feet is a tapestry with the word "love" inscribed on it, measuring 6 meters wide by 16 meters long, stretching out over grass.

In September 2015, before her mother's death, Ai traveled with her parents to Europe to see her solo exhibition, Dialogue, at the Ambrosiana Art Gallery at the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana in the Italian city of Milan. Ai went on to celebrate her 47th birthday in Paris with her parents.

During a quiet afternoon, Ai and her parents visited a hair salon in Paris, and the hair conditioner they used on her mother had an especially fragrant scent that Ai liked-prompting her to buy a few bottles for her mother.

"After my mother died, I was instantly reminded of her every time I opened the bottle of the hair conditioner. I missed her so much that I decided to create an artwork featuring the aroma," Ai says.

Ai included an old photo of her mother in the exhibition, which also appears in the new book. The photo shows her mother with long braids carrying Ai's chubby sister in her arms. Ai is standing next to her mother, laughing. Inspired by the old photo, she created an installation, Girl and Swing, featuring a little girl smiling on a swing. Ai also included pieces of yarn collected by her mother and some of her unfinished knitting works in the exhibition and accompanying book.

In the section dedicated to oil paintings, the artist presents a series of works under the title Time Zone, which described her feelings during Spring Festival in 2016. This was the first Spring Festival that Ai had spent without her mother. Shunning her usual palette of bright colors, Ai applied darker tones to express the depths of her sorrow over losing her mother.

"The exhibition is very special to me because for the first time, it made me think seriously about my hometown, my parents and my childhood life in Shenyang. I used to be ambitious and wanted to explore the outside world, but now I realize that my hometown is my whole world," says Ai.

During her early 20s, Ai rose to fame in China in 1995 with her song, My 1997, a semi-autobiographical ballad about a woman looking forward to joining her lover in Hong Kong after the territory's return to China in 1997. The guitar-driven song not only won her a large fan base on the mainland but also in Japan, prompting her to sign on Sony Music Entertainment Japan at that time. Ai had been interested in music from a young age and received vocal training from the age of 9. Her father plays several folk instruments, including the erhu, and her mother was also an accomplished singer.

After releasing her album, Made in China, in 1999, Ai took up painting and studied with contemporary artist Zhang Xiaogang. In 2002, she moved to New York.

In 2012, she staged her solo exhibition, I Love Ai Jing, at the National Museum of China in Beijing. She also launched solo exhibitions in Milan in 2015 and the Marlborough Gallery in New York in 2016.

Using the word "love" as a visual metaphor, Ai created installations using a variety of media, including disposable chopsticks, vintage doors and newspapers, as well as producing oil paintings and sculptures.

"Her artworks are full of softness and femininity. She also showed her stronger side when she decided to exhibit her artworks at the Industrial Museum of China," says writer Wang Jiaming, who wrote preface for Ai's new book. "The subjects of her expressions are grounded in her personal sensibilities, but the artworks also demonstrate a much broader perspective."


Artworks in singer-turned-artist Ai Jing's exhibition My Mother and My Hometown are also featured in her new book of the same name published recently. CHINA DAILY








2020-01-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Rare revue]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/02/content_37531010.htm When Fubuki Takane talks with China Daily on the phone, her voice sounds nothing like when she sings onstage. But why would it?

Takarazuka-the Japanese art form in which Takane specializes-is different because women are cast in leading male roles. Takarazuka Revue also distinguishes itself from other opera troupes in that the cast consists of unmarried women. Once a member marries, she graduates, becoming a member of Takarazuka OG, meaning "old generation".

The revue, founded in Hyogo, 70 kilometers west of Kobe, in 1914, has developed a strict system of training and promoting the casts. Before joining Takarazuka and performing on the stage, apprentices need to be admitted via the Takarazuka Music School, a stone's throw from the Takarazuka Grand Theater on the banks of the Muko River that flows into Osaka Bay.

During the two-year course, they learn acting, singing, dancing and makeup. Before graduating they need to pass a series of tests and successfully perform various pieces onstage.

The leading graduates become candidates for male roles, or otokoyaku. There are five sub-troupes in Takarazuka-hana (flower), tsugi (moon), yuki (snow), hoshi (star) and sora (cosmos). Each has a leader, who usually stars in a male role.

"It is difficult for women to play male roles," Takane, 54, says. "I had to learn how to walk, talk, dance and sing like a man. At the same time, we need to stay elegant and graceful."

Takane enrolled in Takarazuka when she was 15. It took her 16 years to reach the top of yuki-gumi, the snow troupe, from 1996 to 1997.

Takarazuka is recognized as Japan's top opera troupe. But its appeal is not largely recognized outside the country because of its limited variety of scripts, the fact that they are in Japanese, and the peculiar costumes and makeup. Still, it exudes a glamour that in some ways would not seem out of place if you were watching the show in Las Vegas.

Takane says she has visited China previously, but from Jan 10 through 12 will be her first time performing in the country when her show will be staged at the Tianqiao Performing Arts Center in Beijing. During that time, 23 members of Takarazuka OG will perform the classic, Sword and Love-Women in Love with Napoleon. The play recounts the story of Bonaparte's life from his campaign in Egypt to his exile on the island of Elba, and his relationships with empress Josephine de Beauharnais and Polish countess Marie Walewska.

The storyline and musical pieces are mostly from The Rose of Versailles and Elisabeth, both of which are Takarazuka Revue classics, says Yumyo Okabe, the plays' scriptwriter and director. The most spectacular moments of the show are the war scenes and a duet, she adds.

A script about the classical Chinese novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, is in preparation to attract more Chinese audiences to Takarazuka Revue.

"We didn't have enough time to get it ready for this visit to Beijing, but I do hope we can come back some time and deliver the Takarazuka version of Romance of the Three Kingdoms to a Chinese audience," Okabe says.

The leading performers in Sword and Love-Women in Love with Napoleon are Hiroka Tsubaki, as Napoleon, Kayo Asano, as Josephine, and Rira Maikaze, as Marie.

"As many years have passed by, the deepest impression I have of Takarazuka is how really hard I work there," Takane says. "I hope that younger people who join the troupe not only pay attention to etiquette and manners but enrich their knowledge and improve their acting skills as well."

In the weeks leading up to the Takarazuka performances in Beijing, worries about its lack of fame in China seem to have been dispelled, going by the number of people buying tickets for the shows.

"What drew me to this was the makeup of the cast that I saw on a poster. It looked bizarre and, at the same time, alluring. Upon seeing a performance, I was stunned by how these women can play male roles with such power and grace, and with such wonderfully soothing voices," says a Chinese fan Zhang Xinyi.

"It's not just the voices but also the beautiful lines they deliver. And no matter how old the actors are, they seem to be able to create a dream world for the audience. That's the magic of Takarazuka."

In November, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Japanese Foreign Minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, in Tokyo. This year, the two countries plan to improve bilateral relations, especially in the fields of sports and culture.

In that regard, Takarazuka Revue's appearance in Beijing is set to be a curtain raiser.

Fubuki Takane (right) and members of Takarazuka OG will bring their Japanese art show to Beijing. CHINA DAILY





2020-01-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Domestic cinema plots success of Chinese films]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/02/content_37530963.htm In a remarkable rise from last year, Chinese films secured eight places in the rankings of the top 10 highest-grossing movies.

Despite being a generally lackluster year, the domestic film industry staged a turnaround.

As the world's second-largest movie market, China's nearly 70,000 screens earned a stunning box office total of 64.3 billion yuan ($9.23 billion), rising 5.4 percent from the 61 billion yuan recorded last year, according to latest figures from China Film Administration.

Domestic films earned 41.2 billion yuan, up 8.65 percent year-on-year. Admission numbers for urban cinemas reached 1.73 billion, and 2019 saw 9,708 new screens built in China. A total of 1,037 films were produced in 2019; 850 dramas, 51 animated films, 74 science and education films, 47 documentaries and 15 special films. In total, 88 films saw their box office takings cross 100 million yuan, among which 47 were made by China.

With a whooping box office taking of up to 5 billion yuan, Ne Zha became the highest-grossing film of the year.

For most industry analysts, the animated feature retelling the tale of the Chinese mythological figure has renewed interest in traditional culture in an appealing and modern value-driven way.

Aside from Ne Zha, three blockbusters-My People, My Country, The Captain and The Climbers-led to unprecedented takings for the National Day holiday box office season.

The Wandering Earth, the second-highest grossing film this year, is credited with potentially starting a new chapter for domestic sci-fi movies.

"China's film market is breaking records and bringing surprises every day, every minute and even every second, showing the great potential of this industry," Rao Shuguang, president of the China Film Critics Association, says.

"It's widely agreed that the Chinese film industry is undergoing a reshuffling, providing the potential to have more quality movies," he adds.




2020-01-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[A blockbuster year]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/02/content_37530998.htm The past 12 months saw China's film industry reach a major milestone, as eight of the mainland's top 10 highest-grossing films at the box office in 2019 were homegrown.

Mainland box-office takings also hit an all-time high, reporting a total income of 63.7 billion yuan ($9.1 billion) as of Sunday. It remains a difficult task, however, for Chinese films to appeal to North American moviegoers and achieve similar success beyond national borders.

There is, however, reason to be hopeful. Two major Chinese-language film distributors in North America have fared much better last year than in 2018.

CMC Pictures successfully released 11 Chinese films in North American theaters, raking in $10.66 million as of Saturday. That includes China's first homemade sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth, which became the highest-grossing Chinese film in North America of the last five years, posting a total of $5.87 million. It's a great leap for CMC Pictures, which released only five Chinese films in North America in 2018, garnering a total box-office gross of $727,000.

Another distributor, Well Go USA Entertainment-which released just nine Chinese language films in 2018-released 14 movies in 2019, doubling its North American box-office return from 2018's $4.01 million to $9.84 million.

The Chinese animation megahit, Ne Zha, was released by Well Go USA in North America, achieving $3.67 million. It's the top-grossing animated film ever made by China and No 2 on the box-office chart for all films ever screened on the Chinese mainland. The surprise hit has grossed more than $700 million worldwide.

Relatability is key

Over the last two decades, as China's film industry has grown to its current size, Chinese filmmakers have been flooding top US film schools in a bid to learn the secret to Hollywood's domination of the motion picture industry for the past 100 years.

Such Western-style filmmaking skills have translated into astonishing success in China's domestic market, but, to date, only around 7 percent of Chinese box-office revenues come from overseas sales. In contrast, Hollywood films boast a rise in foreign revenues from 30 percent of sales 20 years ago, to nearly 70 percent of box-office revenues today.

The North American box office revenues for The Wandering Earth and Ne Zha account for just 0.8 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively, of their global totals.

It's worth noting that overseas Chinese moviegoers still account for the majority of North American box-office revenues for such films.

Chinese films have long faced an uphill, cross-cultural struggle to attract international interest. Criticism most often ranges from "too difficult to identify with", "too long, rambling and confusing", or simply "too Chinese".

The difference in the stories, and the storytelling style, is significant, because Chinese films usually differ in format and pace compared with Hollywood's more popular three-act linear format. Also, stories that are unique to China are unfamiliar in the West.

Hollywood producer Jeff Most says, "China has thousands of years of legends, folk tales and myths that the West knows nothing about.

"These are rich cultural traditions that China wants to share, but they need to be introduced to Western audiences in a way that everyone can relate to, rather than the more nuanced cultural references that are impenetrable or confusing to Westerners."

Echoing the sentiment, Richard Yu, Cinema Escapist's Asia editor, says, "For Western audiences, it's important for the main characters in stories to have serious and relatable struggles for them to experience a human connection."

Taste of success

"I've long thought that there are a set of particular stigmas placed on Asian cinema, both by the Western critical establishment and by general audiences ... and these stigmas affect the potential of an Asian film's box office," says Sam C. Mac, a film critic for Slant Magazine, adding that some moviegoers still live with the legacy of old martial arts movies and Hong Kong gangster films.

"While it won't always be a winning formula, I think films that are earnest and honest in their expression of Chinese culture have a better chance at critical and audience acceptance than those that try to emulate Western formulas for cinema, and consider cultural identifiers as merely an afterthought," Mac says.

"To some extent, Chinese capital being more involved will help increase the understanding of global cinematic tastes and the improvement of technical skills in production. Reaching global appeal for Chinese movies will require filmmakers to tell diverse stories with universal appeal," Anthony Kao, editor-in-chief of Cinema Escapist, says.

"While joint productions with Hollywood and other global players will help the Chinese film industry better understand global audience tastes, investment alone is not the answer," he adds.

Some Hollywood insiders believe with the rise of China's domestic market, there is less incentive for homegrown filmmakers to gamble millions on an attempt to appease an unfamiliar and poorly-understood international market when they can recoup hundreds of millions of dollars with a single hit film in China.

Andre Morgan, co-founder of Ruddy Morgan Films, says: "The truth is that China has not focused on the American market, yet. Historically, the Chinese industry over the past 20 years has been very focused on building its domestic market and production capabilities.

"They do not really make films for international consumption, but that will change as China consolidates its domestic market and looks for new horizons."


Ne Zha, top-grossing animated film ever made by China, is released by Well Go USA in North America. CHINA DAILY



China's first homemade sci-fi blockbuster, The Wandering Earth, becomes the highest-grossing Chinese film in North America in the last five years. CHINA DAILY



Zhang Ping (second right), the Chinese consul general in Los Angeles, speaks at the 15th Chinese American Film Festival and Chinese American Television Festival on Nov 5. LU WEI/CHINA NEWS SERVICE



2020-01-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Role model plant expert is a master in his field]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/02/content_37530965.htm Seeing Zhu Youyong work in the fields, in mud-spattered camouflage fatigues and carrying a hoe on his shoulder, you would never guess that he is a globally renowned plant pathologist in action.

"The worker" has been the honorary president of Yunnan Agricultural University since 2004, and an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering since 2011.

Despite countless awards and honors, at the age of 60, he decided to live among the villagers at the Lancang Lahu autonomous county in Yunnan province and help them tackle poverty using advances in agricultural technology.

Because of his contributions, Zhu was conferred the title "Role Model of the Times" on Dec 2 by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

Zhu stresses repeatedly, and modestly, that despite the acclaim he is held in, he is simply a farm laborer: "After all, I am just a farmer who knows how to grow crops, so my research subjects are all based on the farmers' needs."

Observing from childhood that farmers worked very hard, but had to rely on sometimes unpredictable crops, Zhu enrolled at the Yunnan Agricultural University in 1977 and then went to the University of Sydney, to study rice blast, a devastating fungal disease.

Coming back to Yunnan province, he went on research trips to 62 counties and studied the gene resistance of more than 2,000 rice varieties, and finally made a breakthrough in using heterogeneity, or diversity, to combat rice blast.

His research resulted in Genetic Diversity and Disease Control in Rice and was published as a cover story on the journal Nature on Aug 17, 2000. Then in 2004, Zhu won first prize in the International Year of Rice Global Scientific Contest held by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.

Academic achievements alone are not enough. Zhu wants to see his research results actually help farmers live a better life.

In 2015, the Chinese Academy of Engineering decided to help poverty-stricken Lancang county, and Zhu volunteered to take up the task.

When he first went to the county's Yunshan village during a field trip, he was appalled by the austere living conditions: "It is because we did not truly do something for the people. It is the negligence of an academician that people cannot benefit from our research results."

For the past four years, he has spent more than 100 days every year living and working in the mountains.

"Poverty alleviation is so much harder than publishing research papers in Science Citation Index journals," Zhu says, noting that poverty alleviation requires the cooperation of the locals, and this is not always easy to achieve.

In order to communicate with the local people, Zhu started learning the Lahu language from scratch; to change the mindset of the locals, he went from door to door to promote scientific farming methods and went into the fields to demonstrate them.

He then rented a piece of land in the village and started growing potatoes with his research team. The quantity and quality of the potatoes they harvested after three months amazed the villagers, and helped Zhu recruit villagers to join his training course on winter potato farming.

Now, of the total 33 households in the village, 31 follow his methods.

Apart from potatoes, Zhu's research into agricultural biodiversity has also been applied to other crops. His method for planting panax notoginseng in the forest was the subject of a 1 billion yuan ($144 million) offer by a company, but Zhu refused it and instead taught the method to the locals for free.

He has so far opened 24 training courses teaching skills in crop and animal husbandry, all offering free board and lodgings, and 1,500 locals have attended the courses.

His courses also offer camouflage fatigues to the students, because Zhu wants them to pluck up the spirit to fight against poverty.

Huang Huichuan, associate professor from the university's College of Plant Protection, has been working in Zhu's team for over 10 years.

He recollects his first field trip as a master's student to a rural county with Zhu, who was then already the president of the university.

"When we arrived at the terraced fields, the president immediately took off his shoes, rolled up his trousers, and walked into the fields. It shocked us," Huang says.

"As time went on, we found that it was not for show. Everyone could see his genuine, heart-felt passion for the land and agriculture. From watching him holding the soil, checking the lesions on a rice plant, or observing the roots of a plant, you could see from these details that he was truly enthusiastic."

According to Huang, the team began their research by putting plants into production and analyzing the core issues waiting to be addressed in the industry.

"He influenced me the most with his passion for agriculture, for research, for the farmers. In his work, this passion drove him to constantly think about how he could help the farmers and improve their means of production and their living conditions," Huang says.

Since November, Zhu has also been working with e-commerce platform Pinduoduo to provide an e-commerce course to help the locals expand their sales and sell the agricultural products directly to consumers.

"Seeing my research findings actually put to use in the households of farmers has given me much more satisfaction than winning top awards and publishing research articles," Zhu says.


Zhu Youyong (right), an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, works in a field to help villagers tackle poverty in Lancang Lahu autonomous county, Yunnan province. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Forget New Year's resolutions, focus on spring renewal instead]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/02/content_37530964.htm Read more. Spend more time with family. Lose weight. Save money. Quit smoking. Learn something new. Drink less. Exercise more. Eat healthily ... you get the picture.

Yes, it's that time of the year again, when many people make New Year's resolutions and then spend weeks wrestling with their consciences before giving up on them entirely.

There has been a lot of talk circulating on social media recently about how doctors around the world are now warning their patients against making hollow promises this year.

Contrary to previous medical advice, this more holistic approach this time round seems to center on preserving mental health rather than placing the focus on physical well-being.

It seems the psychological impact of setting ourselves up to fail every year has been taking its toll, and is an unwanted stress at a time of year we all traditionally like to wind down.

And this new approach appears to be best summed up by Tim Bono, an expert on mental well-being at Washington University in St. Louis in the United States, who argues that "January is the hardest month of the year to change behaviors".

"We need to disabuse ourselves of the idea that Jan 1 is the best time to make resolutions," Bono adds. "The optimal time for resolutions is spring or summer."

The winter weather in the northern hemisphere can also mean people are more likely to stay at home, missing out on the social support systems that help them stay on top of their goals.

Bono suggests that since we don't usually have much planned in the early months of the year, there's less to look forward to, and our spirits and levels of motivation are generally lower.

The main drawback to seeing through resolutions may in fact be due to the short winter days themselves, as many studies examining the affects of sunlight on mood suggest.

"We tend to underestimate just how much sunlight has an impact on us," Bono adds. "The early days of January are among the shortest of the entire year."

So why then do we add to the blight of harsh weather, a lack of sunlight and seasonal illness-when they are all clearly forces working against even the most motivated among us?

On the other hand, spring has always been the perfect time for self-renewal, as hibernating animals awaken, the earth thaws and fresh rains trigger new growth in the natural world.

So why don't we set our aspirations in time with the seasons, and set some more attainable goals at a time of the year that's naturally more suited to making major life changes?

Both New Year and Spring Festival are traditionally a time to eat, drink and be merry, so why burden the festive season with the baggage of hollow statements and unattainable goals?

And here in China, this new approach may be all the more welcome with Chinese New Year falling in late January in 2020 rather than in early February as it did last year.

So I for one will be happy to follow the doctor's orders and look forward to celebrating two New Years within the space of a month-it's an enjoyable quirk of living in China, after all.


Calum Gordon



2020-01-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Relics exhibition marks the Year of the Rat]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/02/content_37531008.htm CHONGQING-An exhibition about relics and artifacts related to the rat, the first of the Chinese zodiac animals, has opened in Chongqing to greet the upcoming Chinese New Year.

The exhibition displays more than 90 rat-themed cultural items in the Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum. Highlights include rat-shaped jade accessories and clothes, made years ago, of rat fur.

An exhibit made of green jade has drawn the most attention. The small item in the shape of a lychee features a carved rat appearing to hold the fruit to indicate prosperity.

The museum is also holding rat-themed riddle activities for visitors.

The event will last until March 29.

In accordance with the Chinese zodiac cycle, the Year of the Rat will start on Jan 25 and last until Feb 11, 2021, when the Year of the Ox begins.

Twelve animals, namely the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig, are used to represent the Chinese zodiac to record the years and reflect people's attributes.

According to the story of the Chinese zodiac, in a competition held by the Jade Emperor to choose the zodiac animals, the quick-witted rat asked the diligent ox to let him ride on its back as it crossed a river, and jumped down before the ox crossed the finish line, winning the race and becoming the first of the zodiac animals.


An exhibition at the Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum showcases relics and artifacts about the rat to greet the upcoming Chinese New Year. ZHAO YINGZHAO/CHONGQING DAILY



2020-01-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Beijing's nighttime economy picking up]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/01/content_37530902.htm Beijing is attracting more and more visitors who want to experience Chinese culture through traditional and modern ways in the city both during the day and at night.

The municipal government is rolling out measures to provide more choices to consumers.

Li Yihui, a bank clerk working in Beijing, used to go to nightclubs in Sanlitun area after 9 pm, which seemed to be one among the few places that helped her to kill time after work.

"I'm not a party animal and sometimes I dislike the noise in nightclubs, but there was nowhere else to go," she said. "Now, it's totally different. I can go to bookstores, which are open 24 hours, the food courts and shopping malls that offer service until late, and some museums that are quiet and informative."

The consumption demand from people living in this megacity has grown rapidly in recent years as they have become richer.

"Beijing is experiencing a third-generation consumption upgrade at present, which has given people in this city numerous choices related to shopping, cultural events and entertainment," said Sun Yao, deputy head of the city's commerce bureau, at a forum recently.

The first two consumption upgrades happened from the beginning of China's reform and opening-up in late 1978 until the early 1990s, Sun added.

"Different from the previous two consumption upgrades, the third one focuses on service consumption growth, which is much faster than the commodities unit," he said.

For the first 10 months, Beijing's total social retail volume was around 994 billion yuan ($142 billion), up 5 percent year-on-year while the service consumption volume reached 1.28 trillion yuan, up 10 percent year-on-year, according to the bureau. The consumption volume in the service unit has contributed 71 percent of the city's total number during the same period.

Since summer, residents have found many streets providing beer and shows near their residential compounds. Near Beijing Exhibition Center in Xicheng district, for example, people can enjoy small-scale concerts by singers from Moscow while drinking Russian beer and eating roasted sausages till late.

"Our restaurants are still popular with many guests, until 2 am," said Lin Hong, a waiter of a beer bar.

In addition to catering, including at restaurants and bars, bookstores are also attracting young people who prefer a quiet place to read at night with hot coffee in hand.

Xinhua bookstore in Xihuashidajie street, Dongcheng district, started to stay open for 24 hours in 2017. The bookstore, which has a 47-year history, is a must-go-to place among young people now.

Li Li, manager of the bookstore, said they want to create an atmosphere where books are always there whenever readers need them.

"The nighttime labor cost is 30 percent higher than it is during the day, but the income during the night only accounts for 5 percent of the total revenue, which pushed us to think of new ways to increase income at night, such as selling creative cultural products," she said. "The government subsidy is a need for operators like us."

With government support, the operators have more incentive to develop the night economy, she added.

Supporting measures

The government came out with a series of measures to boost the night economy, among which subsidy is the most attractive for business owners.

According to Beijing commerce authorities, the night food blocks can get up to 5 million yuan worth of subsidies and each individual restaurant cannot ask for more than 500,000 yuan.

The definition of the night food block is that it should provide service until midnight and include 24-hour stores in the area. The block should be located in a busy commercial area with its own characteristics. The length of the block should be less than 100 meters and the number of restaurants should be more than 20.

Feng Yonglin, a college student in Haidian district, often goes to Shibaojie street for various snack stands in the evening.

Liu Chang, a young homemaker in Chaoyang district, said she sometimes goes to Hopson One to enjoy a small concert or crosstalk show after her kid goes to bed.

Dong Chen, a single salesman in Dongcheng district, often goes to Ghost Street, or Guijie, to have hot pot and drink with friends.

It seems that people of different ages, with various jobs and social status, can all find a place to spend their nighttime when they don't want to stay at home.

Remaining challenges

The nighttime economy has extended consumption duration, serving as a new breakthrough point in consumption growth. However, problems still exist.

Sun, the deputy director, said a big problem is that the opening time is not stable. Some businesses open this week at night and close up next week, which can mislead consumers, adding difficulties to manage their time.

"It should be more systemized and regulated," he said.

Another problem is that temperatures can fall at night in Beijing, especially in winter, so the businesses have to think up new ideas to attract customers despite the cold.

According to a newly released consumption guide, many shopping malls in the city have opened winter sports-related facilities indoors to attract the public.

Li Zhiqi, vice-chairman of the Association of Industry and Commerce of Beijing, said the night economy should not be only focused on food. New areas such as sports, education, fashion and bookstores should be more developed to raise the quality of the night economy.

"The future of the nighttime economy is promising, but the range of businesses should be widened with more innovation."


Pictures taken in late 2019 in and outside Chaoyang Hopson One, a shopping mall in Beijing. CHINA DAILY



Pictures taken in late 2019 in and outside Chaoyang Hopson One, a shopping mall in Beijing. CHINA DAILY



Pictures taken in late 2019 in and outside Chaoyang Hopson One, a shopping mall in Beijing. CHINA DAILY



Pictures taken in late 2019 in and outside Chaoyang Hopson One, a shopping mall in Beijing. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-01 00:00:00
<![CDATA[In conversation with Ermenegildo Zegna's Alessandro Sartori]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/01/content_37530918.htm More than 80 percent of men said that they cannot express themselves openly in society while half said that they feel pressured to be masculine, according to a global survey about modern masculinity released on International Men's Day on Nov 19.

Titled "What Makes a Man", the survey was initiated by Italian luxury menswear house Ermenegildo Zegna and conducted by consultancy firm Kantar. The respondents included 3,000 men and 750 women from five metropolises including Shanghai, London, and New York.

"Vulnerability", "insecurity" and "conformism" were the three qualities that men around the world most fear to be labeled with. Two thirds of male interviewees were fine with having a skincare regime. One out of every two men interviewed also indicated that pink and skinny jeans were deemed to be "uncool".

With regard to the question of women being paid more than men, Chinese men were more accepting than their counterparts from Britain and the United States.

In an exclusive interview with China Daily, Alessandro Sartori, creative director of Ermenegildo Zegna, explains what has inspired the century-old brand to commission the survey and how the findings may influence the company, one of the world's largest in luxury menswear sector.

Singled out by the Business of Fashion as one of the most influential figures of the $2.4-trillion fashion industry, the 53-year-old Italian has worked with Zegna since he graduated from design school in 1990. He once led LVMHowned menswear brand Berluti before returning to Zegna in 2016 as its artistic helmsman.

Why did Zegna commission this survey?

At Zegna, we take care of men before dressing them, trying to figuring out how they think and live. As a designer, unsurprisingly, the most commonly asked question I get from people is "What should I wear or shop for this season or day?" I found that I could reply such questions by taking a few steps back, learning about what the person feels, or how he wants to look. The garment one wears should reflect who the person is. It's quite a simple but important and often neglected thing.

Gender is one of the first things that define a person. Over time, the social definition of gender could change and evolve. It matters more what you think about your gender, and we want to figure out what most of you think.

What do you find to be the most surprising finding from the survey?

The fact that so many men, regardless of age, nationality and other factors, feel pressured and unable to express themselves.

What do you think is the reason behind this?

It's coming from the past, from conventions and the desire to not appear different. In many parts of the world, men still need to look strong in order to look perfect.

What is the significance and purpose of discussing masculinity?

We think the most important thing at the moment is to start a conversation to show that there are diversified and different opinions. The goal of starting this conversation is more to ask questions and initiate discussions than to seek answers. If there is anything purposeful to be expected from the conversation, it's that we want to deliver the message to people that it's totally okay to be different. We don't judge one class or the other. We dress multiple generations. The shows, the images and campaigns Zegna have been doing are always about different characters and the beauty behind them. I always tell our casting team that I want a strong group of people with different characters, faces from different background.

But "strong" is a subjective notion. How would you define it?

For me, being strong is about having a personality. It doesn't matter whether you are 28 or 85.

How would this conversation influence your creative work?

There are different layers in fashion design. First, it always should be based on beauty and quality. But as designers, we also try to create things that can withstand the test of time, and that's when you need to know more about the people you are dressing. We want to create new things only when necessary, as an expression of today's style and spirit.

Does it mean people might be encouraged to buy less?

Yes. It's about buying less but buying better. We don't believe the business will suffer because of this. We believe that by offering people better, they would be aspired to keep pursuing what's better than the better.

This approach is also a respect for our time, efforts and the money of our customers. It's also in our company's DNA to think long term, like investing in innovative materials. The idea of fashion is changing. It can be and has to be sustainable.

How has the dynamics of men's fashion evolved?

Men used to buy purely for functional purposes. Today, they are also buying based on their emotions, just like women do. Men may still go to a shop for a coat, but they may leave with a coat made from really nice fabric or fitting because it touches them emotionally.

Fashion photography for men is also evolving. Before, the image of men in fashion photography is always a handsome man standing next to a fancy car or sexy lady. But now, it is changing and incorporating images of crying and sad men.


Alessandro Sartori, creative director of Ermenegildo Zegna. CHINA DAILY



2020-01-01 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Pork in 2020 holidays expected to be abundant]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/01/content_37530907.htm Pork, a staple in China, will continue to be one of the major delicacies on the dining tables of Chinese consumers for the New Year 2020 and the upcoming Spring Festival.

Increasing supplies have helped to trim pork prices and fulfill the high demand during the booming festive period.

China has been the world's largest consumer of pork, accounting for more than 60 percent of the nation's meat consumption.

The year 2019 was the year of the pig in the Chinese zodiac. Yet, the year witnessed a dramatic price hike in pork. An outbreak of African swine fever has resulted in a shortage of more than 10 million metric tons of pork or at least 20 percent of China's total pork output in 2019.

Industry experts said it would take at least six months for a full recovery in pig production capacity and the breeding of new pigs.

On Dec 27, the average wholesale price of pork nationwide was 42.89 yuan ($6.14) per kilogram, down 18.15 percent from the average price on Nov 1, but still about 140 percent higher from the year ago level, the Ministry of Agriculture said.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, starting December, the government began introducing 140,000 tons of reserved frozen pork in three batches into the market, to increase supplies and stabilize prices during the festive period.

"The central government has significantly increased its supply of frozen pork in the market, and the support is expected to last until Spring Festival. This time, the volume was much higher than the volume of reserved frozen pork that exited the warehouses in September," said Zhu Zengyong, a pork analyst at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Ahead of the National Day holiday in 2019, the government released a total of 30,000 tons of reserved frozen pork into the market on Sept 19, 26 and 29 to expand supplies and curb rising pork prices.

"Some local governments have also started to put their own reserved frozen pork in the market. This indicates a positive signal that meat supply, including pork, will be abundant during the festive period, and prices are foreseen to remain stable," Zhu said.

"In the first half of 2020, pork prices are expected to remain at a high level. In the second half of the year, pork prices will return to a reasonable level with the recovery of production, and it will enter a new round of the price cycle," he explained.

He added that in the next few years, the safety level of pig breeding, production and management would get promoted. The meat consumption structure of Chinese will be optimized, and the consumption proportion of poultry is likely to increase significantly.

With a diversification of tastes and the increasing income of Chinese consumers, their consumption volume of pork nationwide dropped to 54.89 million tons in 2019 from 57.19 million tons in 2014.

But the pork consumed in China still makes up half of the global consumption volume.

Except for some inland areas where people eat more beef and mutton in those areas because of religious beliefs and local customs, people who live in most other provinces eat pork as their major source of meat.

When Chinese prepare special goods for their most important holiday in Spring Festival, many of the people, especially those who live in southern China, like to buy marinated pork, sausages and cured meat, or cook it themselves.

For residents living in northern China, they have a custom of cooking dumplings or steamed stuffed buns for the festival, and pork acts as a necessary ingredient. The Spring Festival falls on Jan 25 in 2020.

Daoxiangcun, a time-honored food brand that has been a favorite of Beijing residents, sells various freshly made seasonal delicacies and pastries. A consumer surnamed Zhang intended to buy a small portion of sweet and sour spare ribs in cold dishes at a Daoxiangcun store. But it costs 70 yuan per 500g. The consumer said it was still too expensive, and she would not buy much at this time.

In comparison, beef is the favorite meat of Americans, consumed either through burgers or steaks. Beef accounts for 60 percent of the total meat consumption in the United States and pork's share is less than 40 percent.

The China unit of US supermarket chain Walmart said it has made full preparations to ensure the supply of fresh and safe pork to meet the strong demand from Chinese consumers during the New Year and the Spring Festival holiday period.

"We have become a strategic partner with a few major domestic pork retailers such as Henan Shuanghui Investment and Development Co and Jinluo Group to ensure the stable supply of pork in China. Besides, we have increased the portion of imported pork to China, utilizing our global supply resources," said the China unit of the world's largest chain retailer.

In May, Walmart sent a team to visit pig-breeding farms in Denmark. Since then, it started to import a large volume of Denmark pork to its supermarkets in China, in addition to introducing more kinds of imported poultry, mutton and beef.

In November, Walmart launched a hotpot promotional event at its stores in China, and the event has helped to drive nearly 40 percent of sales growth of its hotpot-related food ingredients.

Sales of poultry surged almost 50 percent year-on-year, and sales of pork and beef netted double-digit growth year-on-year, the company said. The company did not disclose specific numbers though.

Major domestic pork breeders have been increasing their production of pork. The government will further increase the financial support of related projects from the central budget, the National Development and Reform Commission said in late December.

Producers should continue to increase the production volume of other kinds of meat, and the substitution of pork by poultry and seafood has jumped sharply. In addition, China will further boost its import of pork and other meats like beef to increase the supply during the festive period, the NDRC said.

China imported 1.58 million tons of pork from global markets in the first 10 months of 2019, mainly from European countries such as Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, along with South America and the United States, data from the Ministry of Commerce showed.

The NDRC said the central government will also urge local governments to launch relevant linkage mechanisms based on price changes, and distribute enough subsidies to impoverished residents.


Residents shop for pork at Lianyun district at Lianyungang city in Jiangsu province on Dec 3, 2019. WANG CHUN/FOR CHINA DAILY



A farmer feeds hogs at Xianju county of Zhejiang province on Nov 21, 2019. WANG HUABIN/FOR CHINA DAILY





2020-01-01 00:00:00
<![CDATA[CHALLENGING THE NORMS of MASCULINITY]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/01/content_37530910.htm For the past few years, award-winning Chinese designer Chen Xuzhi has been flying the Chinese flag high on the global fashion scene, wowing audiences and critics with his exquisite womenswear that is characterized by fringes, ruffles as well as soft and light textiles.

Earlier this year, these signature elements were incorporated into his new menswear collection which features items such as silk hoodies and pleated satin suits. Many of these new offerings were also popular with his female customers.

"I was inspired to introduce a menswear brand because I found male customers coming to the stores and secretly trying out our women's wear as they are attracted by the color, fabrics and silhouettes," said Chen, a graduate of Central Saint Martins in London, where he started his womenswear brand in 2015.

"The original idea was to create something for someone who is confident of his masculinity and comfortable with being soft, romantic and vulnerable."

The 27-year-old, who described himself as "not that masculine in a traditional sense", said that he is happy to embrace his softer, more sensitive side.

"Men can like beautiful things, too. And if that is in conflict with the traditional concept of masculinity, then maybe it's time to change the tradition," he added.

According to market research company Euromonitor, social media has resulted in men becoming more concerned with their appearances-something that was typically associated with women-and this has in turn driven sales of menswear in recent years. In fact, the growth in the sales of menswear has consistently outpaced womenswear since 2016 and this trend is expected to continue till at least 2021.

Euromonitor also noted that men are spending more on apparel and footwear than ever before, and estimated that menswear will contribute close to $40 billion in sales to the global apparel market by the end of 2019.

Fashion labels around the world have been quick to capitalize on the trend. In 2016, US fashion designer Emily Bode founded Bode, which specializes in upcycling vintage quilts, linens and tablecloths into menswear with a feminine touch. In Sept 2017, French fashion house Isabel Marant, which had previously only sold womenswear, debuted its men's collection during Paris Fashion Week.

Apparel brands aren't the only ones jumping on the bandwagon. In August, US luxury jeweler Tiffany& Co rolled out its maiden men's collection which comprises 100 items ranging from rings to bracelets and necklaces.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Reed Krakoff, the brand's chief artistic director who developed the collection, said that the motivation behind this collection was that "men all over the world are wearing jewelry and more accessories as part of a wardrobe".

Shi Yongqiang, a former media publisher who once helped to localize some of the most famous Western fashion magazines in China, argued that too much emphasis has been placed on what men should or should not wear, while the core values of manhood have been left neglected.

"We are still living in a world where most of the important decisions are made by men. Before we can change that completely, I think it's important that boys are properly taught how to make these decisions with honor, integrity and a sense of duty," said Shi.

"These characteristics are essential to both men and women throughout history. But with the changing roles of females in society, there are new layers of meanings to be passed on to the boys before they become men."

Driven by this belief, Shi sent his son to The McCallie School, an all-male college preparatory school based in the US state of Tennessee. Lee Burns, the headmaster of The McCallie School who was in Shanghai recently to meet with potential students and their parents, also weighed in on this matter.

"Healthy manhood is not limited to certain activities, interests, styles or colors, nor outer achievements like grades, salaries and achievements in their professions," he said, noting that strength of character and a sense of purpose should form the fundamental base for boys to develop their identity and confidence.

"Boys should be taught that being a strong man means they can ask for help and be authentic in talking about their feelings and emotions. They need to understand the importance of treating women with respect, equality and dignity," he added.


Model dressed in pieces from the menswear collection by Chen Xuzhi. The clothes features fabric, colors and designs which are typical in womenswear. CHINA DAILY



Model dressed in pieces from the menswear collection by Chen Xuzhi. The clothes features fabric, colors and designs which are typical in womenswear. CHINA DAILY



Green Book actor Mahershala Ali partners with Zegna to showcase his view of 21st century masculinity. CHINA DAILY





2020-01-01 00:00:00
<![CDATA[City's shopping hub welcomes visitors until late on weekdays]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/01/content_37530909.htm Chaoyang Hopson One, which owns shopping, dining and entertainment spaces in Beijing under the name, 21 Blocks, announced in December that it would roll out more measures to upgrade its services.

It has signed cooperation agreements with 20 other Chinese companies, including Huayi Brothers Media Group, a film producer, and Oppo, a mobile phone manufacturer, to jointly provide better services to visitors.

Opened in October 2017, Chaoyang Hopson One, the second-largest shopping center in the city, with an area of 190,000 square meters, welcomes around 150,000 people daily to enjoy food, culture, shows and shopping experiences provided by dozens of shops, restaurants and theaters there.

Compared with many other malls that have visitors, mostly on the weekends, the company hosts performances during weekdays, even late into the night.

"We have been making efforts on providing better experience to consumers," said Zhang Xi, chief branding officer of Hopson Commercial Properties, owner of Chaoyang Hopson One. "At this point, we can ignore the cost."

While the Beijing municipal government has been promoting the city's night economy by starting subsidies this year, Chaoyang Hopson One has been working on this valuable period for businesses since last year.

"At first, we wanted to offer a place for consumers, especially young people, to hang out after work. At 21 Blocks, we not only have restaurants with various flavors but also theaters, sports and live-house activities, photo studios and many shops, which stay open until midnight," she said.

Theme events such as basketball games, small-scale concerts are also held from time to time, which attract people with different interests.

"I always hang out with my friends in Hopson, since it has provided a huge space that's more than enough for me--dining, karaoke, shows, dancing, yoga, nail care," Li Lin, a bank clerk in Beijing, said. "The only problem is finding parking space as the mall is getting popular. So, I come here by public transport."

The Chaoyang district authorities rolled out policies in May to upgrade consumption in the area and develop a 24-hour convenience store, in order to add to the city's consumption growth.

In 2018, the total retail sales in Chaoyang reached 280 billion yuan ($40 billion), accounting for around one-quarter of the capital's overall number.

Chaoyang Hopson One is located at a transportation hub in Beijing's eastern area, linking two subway lines and more than 10 bus routes. Many residential communities and commercial buildings are located nearby, which has helped the center to cover a big number of potential consumers.

According to local authorities, there are 620,000 permanent residents and 400,000 white-collar workers and college students nearby who have supported Hopson's business.

"Hopson has seen the opportunities and provided various choices for consumers, which helped the city's night economy to develop," Zhang said. "We will continue to work with our shops to bring more creative service for the public."

Hopson Commercial Properties opened another 21 Blocks facility in Wangjing community in northern Beijing in October, where bars serve until 2 am.

Zhang said the "block" will serve as a bridge to connect not only shops but also different businesses with consumers. People, for sure, will get more from there.


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2020-01-01 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Nation explores diversifying protein sources on the dining table]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/01/content_37530917.htm Li Weili, 66, has grown new interest in looking for recipes on her mobile apps to draw inspiration to innovate her meals.

Li, a Beijing-based retiree who has used pork as her main meat at the dinner table for years, has learned how to add beef, chicken, and eggs on the menu to diversify the sources of protein in her family.

"We have come to a common understanding at home that consuming more kinds of meat is healthier and tastier," said Li, who frequents the Sam's Club, a high-end membership store of Walmart Inc.

"The wide selection of top quality beef, mutton, seafood and chicken at supermarkets has been overwhelming. You are never too old to try a new steak from Australia or raw black tiger shrimp from Thailand."

Li is among many Chinese consumers who have diversified their sources of meat by gradually switching from pork to other protein products like chicken, eggs, seafood, beef and mutton after pork supplies became short last year.

Zhao Ping, director of the international trade research department at the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Academy, said diversity of meat consumption is a result of changing food consumption and rising awareness in healthy dietary habits. The ratio of chicken in meat consumption is expected to continue to rise in the years to come.

While beef and mutton take up 12.5 percent of meat consumption, pork sits at 62.9 percent while chicken clocks in at 24.6 percent in 2018, Zhao said.

However, pork is the preferred meat in Chinese cuisine and cannot be replaced on large scale over the long term, she said.

Pork production in the country has been seriously hit by the outbreak of African swine fever since August in 2018. Shortages in supply have resulted in soaring pork prices since the beginning of last year. The price of pork has more than doubled in many places.

Pork prices began declining recently because of increased supply.

Markets nationwide have consequently responded with more supplies of non-pork meat products.

The General Administration of Customs said meat imports other than pork have been on the rise. In September, beef imports reached 152,100 metric tons, up 52.5 percent year-on-year. Total imported beef in the first three quarters of 2019 has reached 1.13 million metric tons, a surge of 53.4 per cent year-on-year.

Kunlun Health Insurance chief researcher Zhang Wei told the Beijing Times that after the pork price increase, some consumers began to buy pork substitutes. As a result, the growth in demand for beef and mutton has also boosted meat prices in general.

Separately, egg prices have dropped significantly in November and early December at the Xinfadi market in Beijing after the price of eggs hit a peak early last year. Egg prices have risen because consumers also used them as a pork substitute.

Xinfadi is a wholesale market for agricultural products in Beijing.

In November alone, eggs were priced 4.33 yuan ($0.61) per 500 grams in the wholesale market, which is down 24 percent from the beginning of the month.

Egg prices have been hovering near the peak since April last year, boosting the profits of many chicken farms and resulting in an oversupply of eggs.

The decline in pork prices since the start of November of around 27 percent at the Xinfadi market has served to take the steam out of lofty egg prices.

During this time, chicken prices have also fluctuated greatly.

"When pork prices go up, chicken is up too. Now that the pork price is down, so is chicken," said Liu Tong, director of statistics at the Xinfadi market in Beijing.

Prices of pork substitutes such as chicken, eggs, beef, and mutton are expected to stay stable despite small fluctuations during the holiday season.

Demand for beef and mutton have increased and their prices did not significantly go down, Liu said.

In recent months, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has taken measures to restore pork production. These included methods to ensure sufficient pork supplies during New Year's Day and the seven-day Chinese New Year holiday in late January.

The government has also issued guidelines to reinforce the production of pork substitutes, which include chicken, beef, mutton and seafood.


Consumers pick eggs at a supermarket in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, in June, 2019. ZHANG YUN/CHINA NEWS





2020-01-01 00:00:00
<![CDATA[On our Sina Weibo]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/31/content_37530819.htm Pay with your hand system possible soon

Amazon is trying to create a new kind of technology for helping shoppers. A filing submitted last year shows that Amazon is trying to patent a technology for identifying people by scanning their hands. The technology would analyze characteristics such as wrinkles and creases along with deeper structures including veins, bones and soft tissue. It would then upload the image to a database, and use that image to identify a person by hand. In September, Amazon developed a payment system for the grocery chain Whole Foods, which would let customers pay by simply swiping their hand under a scanner, rather than using a card.

Visa-free entry lures more Chinese to Malaysia

The Malaysian Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry has announced a 15-day visa-free entry for Chinese visitors to Malaysia for a one-year period from Wednesday. Malaysia has set a 30-million-tourist-arrival target for Visit Malaysia Year 2020 which begins on Jan 1 in a bid to make the country the destination of choice for leisure and business. Chinese tourists who have been the key growth driver across Southeast Asia over the past decade will continue to support Malaysia's tourism growth, said Malaysian research house Maybank Kim Eng. Although Malaysia's overall tourist arrivals dipped 0.4 percent year-on-year to 25.83 million last year, Chinese tourists surged 29 percent to 2.94 million. Meanwhile Malaysia's tourism receipts rose 2.44 percent year-on-year to $20.3 billion, Chinese tourist expenditure surged 35.9 percent to $3 billion.




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2019-12-31 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Widening its areas of influence]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/31/content_37530864.htm Photographer Chen Yuefei spent about a month on the Greek island of Corfu trying to trace the steps of his favorite British author and naturalist, the late Gerald Durrell, whose books famously recount his childhood adventures there.

Durrell was fond of the island's wildlife and became a zookeeper later.

However, thanks in part to popularity of other Greek islands as holiday destinations, and Corfu's distance from those islands, it attracts fewer tourists and remains almost as pristine as it was during Durrell's formative years.

Chen was eager to see the "strawberry-pink villa" in which Durrell once lived and mentioned in his books. Located on a cliff behind a forest, the villa is a private property that's not open to visitors.

He learned to operate a motor boat just so he could see the villa from afar, as the locals were reluctant to take him in because of the island's proximity to disputed territory with Albania.

"The remote island is picturesque, with a varied array of flora and fauna. Visitors there are able to enjoy its tranquillity and good ecology," says Chen, from Beijing. He believes the best thing about travel is that it allows him to present destinations in an unbiased way through his work.

Illustrator Liu Huan from Shenyang, Liaoning province, draws cute cartoon characters on landscape photos that she takes during her trips, as a way to share her travel experience and the stories of locals she meets.

She has been exploring the South Pacific in recent years to prepare a travel book about the culture of the small island nations that populate the region.

In Vanuatu, she gazed in awe at the smoking crater of the active Yasur volcano, and talked with a member of a tribe that once practiced cannibalism.

On the island of Niue, with its population of just over 1,600 people, she hiked in a forest, explored caves and swam with dolphins.

"The more I learn about these island countries, the more curious I become, so, I often try to rub shoulders with the locals to learn as much about them as I can," Liu says.

Chen and Liu are both full-time "travel influencers", who share their notes online with fans. They are both listed among 2019's Top 50 Travelers compiled by tourism website Qyer, recently released in Chongqing alongside the site's marketing campaigns for 2020.

"The annual ceremony where we name our top 50 travelers illustrates the latest trends in tourism and encourages influencers to improve their professional competence, inspiring more travelers to explore the world," says Xiao Yi, Qyer's CEO, who founded the website in 2004.

According to Qyer's vice-president Cui Li, the criteria used to select the annual top 50 travelers is mainly the quality of their content. Those that make it on the list are adept in one of six areas, such as writing travel tips or finding delicious food.

"Independent Chinese travelers, especially the younger generations, are choosing their destinations and plan their trips based on their interests, and they prefer a personalized journey," Cui says.

"The travel influencers are the hipsters who showcase to our users what's cool and how to have the most fun while traveling, and each one has their own unique perspective and expertise, ranging from museums to the arts."

During the event, Qyer signed memorandums of understanding with the United States headquartered car rental company Hertz, Qatar National Tourism Council and Honor smartphones under Huawei Group to cooperate closely in delivering travel content created by the influencers.

The website regularly invites six influencers at a time, along with an editor and a photographer from the website, to visit a destination and enjoy an in-depth travel experience. The influencers will then post good quality travel content on Qyer, such as articles, photos and vlogs, and Qyer's staff will also produce an official travel column and video.

Cui says Qyer will continue to work with their partners to host more of these marketing campaigns with the influencers and the website will provide the top 50 travelers greater exposure to increase views of their content and achieve a better marketing effect.

In 2019 alone, Qyer has cooperated with more than 500 influencers, who have traveled to over 50 cities in 30 countries, with support from over a hundred brands, across various fields, such as hotels and airlines.

According to Cui, in their ecosystem-the travel content tree, as it is called-good content, big data and technology algorithms work together to empower their product, bringing greater benefit to the user. For example, their app will promote content that may appeal to specific users based on those algorithms.

In December 2018, Qyer's mobile app unveiled its new function, "Biu", which allows users to share their travel experience via photos, audio and short videos. Over the past year, about half of the content is either audio clips or short videos, and nearly one third pertains to domestic travel.

"In the mobile internet era, our time is being fragmented and we are used to absorbing small amounts of information more regularly, like microblogs," Cui says.

"The younger generations who embrace new media are the major generators of the content on 'Biu'. These are short and practical travel tips of good quality, which will guide independent travelers in ways to enjoy their trips, covering aspects like accommodation, entertainment and dining."

As a prelude to the Singles Day shopping festival in November, Qyer and online travel agency Fliggy held a three-hour livestream which garnered over six million views. Travel influencers promoted tourism products from home and abroad, including a cruise trip to the Antarctic.

"While watching a livestream that promotes fast-moving consumer goods, Chinese shoppers may make an order instantly, or engage in impulsive buying. However, the situation is different when it comes to tourism products, because it takes time for people to make up their mind about planning a trip," Cui says.

"The essence of travel is the experience itself, which is valued by visitors the most. Travelers will know what to expect in advance of their trip by watching the livestreams, which provide them with insights about their destination," she says.

With the growing implementation of 5G technology in China, Cui is confident about livestreaming's role in the promotion of tourism products and believes it will encourage the continuous evolution of the travel packages on offer.


Chinese tourist Chen Yuefei visits the Greek island of Corfu to trace the steps of his favorite British author and naturalist, the late Gerald Durrell. CHEN YUEFEI/FOR CHINA DAILY



Winners of 2019's Top 50 Travelers compiled by tourism website Qyer, gather at the Dazu Rock Carvings site in Chongqing, China. CHINA DAILY



A tourist makes a rubbing from a stone carving at the Dazu Rock Carvings site in Chongqing. CHINA DAILY



Liu Huan draws a cartoon character of herself on a photo that she takes during her trip to Fiji. LIU HUAN/FOR CHINA DAILY







2019-12-31 00:00:00
<![CDATA[To his art's content]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/31/content_37530858.htm "Art is my religion," declares Wu Ningya, an architect and artist from Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan province, on Dec 18 at the opening of Melting Objects.

Running through Jan 8 at Xi Space in the Debi Cultural and Creative Industry Park in Beijing's Dongcheng district, the show is the second installment of his debut solo exhibition, Menina.

Melting Objects builds on the success of the event held at the Today Art Museum in April, a large-scale multidisciplinary show centered around Diego Velazquez's painting Las Meninas.

"It was my childhood dream to become an artist. The desire to create timeless art has always been hidden in the depths of my heart," says Wu, 56. "Now that I have obtained financial freedom, I would like to pursue inner freedom through art."

But when Wu abruptly declared his decision to "embrace art wholeheartedly" at his 50th birthday party on April 6, 2013, his colleagues, friends and family were a little shocked-prompting some to think it was simply a moment of madness.

The veteran architect told them that he would quit all his business undertakings and devote the rest of his life to artistic creation.

"It was not a hasty decision. I thought about it over and again." Wu says, adding that he "had been preparing for that day for years".

Wu was born in a family of intellectuals in Luoyang, Henan province, on April 6, 1963, three years before the beginning of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), a chaotic period when his family suffered as the offspring of wealthy landlords.

To survive the suffocating social circumstances, the Wu family had covertly sought consolation from literature and art.

Wu's parents and grandparents, all avid readers of the classics and enthusiasts of the traditional arts, taught him about poetry, myths and legends, as well as calligraphy and ink painting.

"Their passion for refined and artistic living, even in hard times, exerted an indelible impact on me," recalls Wu, who collects artifacts from ancient Greece, prehistoric fossils and Gandhara Buddhist artworks, and owns a private library boasting over 30,000 rare books.

Yet in his younger years, Wu could not find enough books to satisfy his insatiable thirst for knowledge.

He was so curious and eager to understand the world around that he "almost grabbed anything with printed characters to read". He developed an exceptional capacity for memorizing all the texts in the Xinhua Zidian, a popular dictionary for generations of Chinese primary school students.

Although Wu was widely considered as an outstanding student, he failed to enroll at university for reasons he has never really figured out. He instead ended up studying stage design for Peking Opera troupes at a local training school. Upon graduation, he landed a job at the Henan Provincial Peking Opera Theater.

But Wu refused to give up on his childhood dream. He soon quit his job at the state-run art institution and joined an advertising company as a designer. While working there, Wu recalls, he was keen to learn a broad range of painting methods and techniques with a view to developing his future artistic creations.

Later on, Wu worked in the lucrative real estate sector as an architect. From 1989 to 2013, he set up many businesses-from advertising, architecture, interior design and fashion design, to running a private club, an art gallery and other hospitality and catering operations.

Wu frequently travels from Henan to other parts of the country and abroad.

Despite his hectic work schedule, Wu devoted most of his spare time and energy visiting art exhibitions and biennials and attending art auctions, making case studies of prominent artists, and exposing himself extensively to diverse art genres, styles and trends, he says.

When the globe-trotter first saw Las Meninas, the 1656 masterpiece by Diego Velazquez, a leading exponent of the Spanish Golden Age (1521-1643), at Prado Museum in Madrid in 2008, he was enthralled.

In the following years, Wu paid more visits to the museum, reading up on Spanish art from that era.

He found that Las Meninas was one of the most widely analyzed and imitated works in Western painting. Its complex and enigmatic composition raises questions about reality and illusion, and creates an uneasy relationship between the viewer and the figures depicted.

"Quite a few big shots, including Picasso and Dali, had created artworks of various types, imitating or reinterpreting Velazquez's Las Meninas," says Wu, who felt an itch to create something of his own.

But it would not be until late 2015 before he started the work, after delving through piles of books, magazines, and catalogs on history, the arts, culture, sociology, anthropology, philosophy and science, in the "hope of laying a solid theoretical foundation for artistic creation".

Wu holds that unlike a craftsman, a serious artist must have a superb command of human knowledge, especially philosophy, and develop a clear, systematic world view besides mastering the techniques, methods and skills for original and ingenious works.

Taking Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) as a role model, Wu has nourished an ambition for self-attainment: ultimately becoming an all-round or crossover artist, a thinker, scholar and writer, "publishing at least one book a year".

The bulk of work for the Menina exhibition took Wu four years to materialize. And the art project also came at a huge personal cost, Wu admits. He sold some houses to buy materials for his installations.

But Wu kept Menina under wraps until late 2018, when he met Gao Peng, the director and curator of the Today Art Museum in Beijing.

Calling him "the artist who impressed me the most in 2018-knowledgeable, passionate and full of energy", at an academic seminar on Wu's Menina on April 26, Gao invited Wu to hold his first solo show in the Chinese capital.

Wu turned down the request at first, thinking his creations were still immature. But Gao insisted it was the right time for Wu to "stand out as a vanguard artist", prompting Wu to finally agree.

At the opening of Menina, the first installment of Wu's Beijing solo exhibition on April 20 at the Today Art Museum, Wu recalls being "extremely nervous and excited".

"I was unsure how the average viewer or the wider art community would respond to my maiden exhibition," Wu tells China Daily in Beijing.

Occupying the spacious, two-story Exhibition Hall No 3 of the museum, the large-scale exhibition highlighted the artist's in-depth and multidimensional investigation and interpretation of Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas, with a myriad of gigantic oil paintings, sketches, sculptures, installations and new media pieces.

Staged from April to July at the Today Art Museum, Menina turned out to be an artistic and social phenomenon, attracting immense academic interest and public attention.

Around 30,000 visitors paid 20 yuan per ticket to savor the artistic creations by a greenhorn "from out of nowhere".

More than 200 newspapers, magazines, websites and social media influencers published photo stories, reviews about the exhibition and profiles of the little-known artist.

"A newcomer to the contemporary Chinese art scene, Wu has shown an amazing ability to construct a set of artistic languages with a distinctive personal trait," commented Wang Meng, a researcher with the National Art Museum of China, at the seminar on Menina.

"With this heavyweight solo exhibition, Wu has managed to put a piece of classic Western art into the dynamic context of contemporary China, evoking memories about history and raising questions about the direction of China's vanguard art movement," according to Phoenix Art, an art media company in Beijing.

More importantly, "Wu's site-specific art project has successfully torn down the boundaries, making it possible for viewers to look at an iconic artwork from multiple perspectives, and to interact with artworks in an immersive way. This is an unprecedented phenomenon," said Yang Wei, a Changsha-based critic at the seminar on Menina.

The well-received exhibition gave a huge boost to Wu's self-confidence as an artist who, in his own words, "then rushed back to my home city of Zhengzhou to prepare for the second installment of the Beijing solo exhibition."

Wu was eager to place another bulk of his artistic work, created in secrecy at a 6,000 square meter studio in suburban Zhengzhou between 2014 and 2019, under academic and public scrutiny, "like a primary schoolboy waiting impatiently for the teacher's words about his newly completed homework".

While the Today Art Museum exhibition focused on Wu's endeavors to participate in cross-cultural dialogue, the second installment offers audiences the chance to examine the artist's exploration of Chinese cultural heritage and ancient philosophy, explains Zhang Quan, art connoisseur and curator of the Melting Objects show.

Arguably the most eye-catching and thought-provoking works are Wu's Oracle Bones series, the Taihu Rock series and the traditional Chinese medicine series, which Wu has been working on continuously since 2014.

To casual viewers, the Oracle Bones series look like the fossil bones of some unknown prehistoric creatures.

"They are a duplicated version of the oracle bones, first found in Anyang, Henan, in 1899-enlarged in size, inscribed with Chinese characters, and patched with fragmented pages from ancient books-imitations of course," Wu says.

The Taihu Rock series is much like the decorative rocks, produced in the area surrounding Taihu Lake in East China's Jiangsu province, long favored by ancient scholars who usually placed them in their studios alongside hanging scrolls and potted plants. Actually, Wu meticulously carved them out of camphor wood and coated them with gradations of colors.

The most challenging works are for the TCM series, ones which Wu has been constantly developing and improving since 2015.

The basic idea behind the TCM series is to represent cultural motifs and totems through iconic images from civilizations from around the world, by filling pre-coated stainless steel frames with over 300 traditional Chinese medicines-from minerals and herbs to the remains of animals. And then, the newly-coined images are solidified with synthetic crystals.

The second installment of Wu's first debut show has also received positive responses.

"Each artwork approaches human civilizations from differing dimensions: evolution and mutation; culture and nature; the past, present and the future; the living, the dead and the eternal. Together, they construct a grand, historical narrative about the human condition," says Peng Feng, an art researcher with Peking University.

"Wu's art touches upon the Chinese heritage of oracle bones, the Taoist philosophy of the oneness of man and nature, and new possibilities of cross-cultural dialogue," comments Zhang Jianxing, a viewer who is also the managing publisher of a local newspaper. "His attempt to deconstruct traditional culture and transform it into new culture, successful or not, is commendable in that it opens up our hearts and minds to an alternative future."

So what's next for the artist? Like a high school student who has just passed the gaokao, China's national college entrance exam, Wu says, he is looking to widen his audience on the international art scene.


A visitor takes a photo at artist Wu Ningya's solo show Melting Objects at Xi Space in the Debi Cultural and Creative Industry Park in Beijing, which runs through Jan 8. ZHU LINYONG/CHINA DAILY



An artwork from Wu's Taihu Rock series at Xi Space. ZHU LINYONG/CHINA DAILY



An exhibit from Wu's TCM series features a unicorn, a popular motif in Western culture. CHINA DAILY



Wu Ningya's Oracle Bones series is among the most eye-catching showpieces of his ongoing solo exhibition in Beijing. ZHU LINYONG/CHINA DAILY



A royal maiden, inspired by Spanish master painter Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas, from Wu's solo exhibition Menina, staged at the Today Art Museum in Beijing from April-July. CHINA DAILY



Architect-turned-artist Wu Ningya. CHEN XINYU/CHINA DAILY





2019-12-31 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Year of earthly thoughts but less action on climate change]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/31/content_37530856.htm The environment dominated global conversations this year.

"Climate emergency" was the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year. Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg became Time "person of the year". The 16-year-old is the voice of change at a time when governments are failing to act fast, illustrated most recently by the lack of a breakthrough at the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid.

When they met in Spain's capital earlier this month, officials from some 200 countries deliberated for long hours but could not come up with a consensus on key aspects of the 2015 Paris accord such as the international carbon market mechanism.

The results of the COP25(Conference of the Parties, signatories to the UN climate change framework of 1992) meeting were "below our expectations", Zhao Yingmin, China's vice-minister of ecology and the environment, said in Madrid.

He added the developing countries were disappointed that developed countries "did not answer their demand for finance", according to Xinhua News Agency.

Goals are simpler to identify on a collective level but tougher to meet individually as countries, especially in regions with population pressure or poverty issues.

A huge energy demand or a slowing economy can make it harder to cut coal consumption in the developing world, because alternative cleaner fuels cost more and newer technology is needed. But there are ways to fund sustainable development and innovative research in the field.

China is using both coal and renewable energy. While some call it a contradiction, others see it as a practical response.

The United States has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement. The European Union is working on its own green deal. The developed world has the benefit of hindsight vision on the environmental mess created by industrialization. Poorer countries do not have to take the same high-carbon route if local policymaking is effective.

I had trekked to Mingyong glacier in Yunnan province in 2017 to write a report on the effects of climate change in China. The country's lowest-lying glacier has been in a state of retreat and thinning since the past 40 years. In Deqen county, a middle-aged rural resident told me about the glacier's better health in her childhood. Local government officials said the area's permafrost will be affected, and yaks and other animals that live in high altitudes will find their natural habitats changing adversely.

A study by the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, suggested environmental awareness has risen in China over the past decade.

Worldwide investments in clean energy projects have hit a six-year low, according to The Economist.

Those who have read Liu Cixin's The Three-Body Problem will be able to easily imagine a scenario of mass dehydration on Earth from a very hot sun. Although the author used it in a different context in the novel, the analogy is probably apt while describing the crisis human civilization faces from the environmental degradation.

The environment will likely become a political issue in many countries in future. Governments around the world can no longer afford to ignore such concerns.


Satarupa Bhattacharjya



2019-12-31 00:00:00
<![CDATA[On chinadaily.com.cn]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/31/content_37530820.htm Culture: Show looks at past celebrations

A talk show, in which experts and celebrities discuss how the Spring Festival was celebrated in the Forbidden City, will be aired on Wednesday. The five-episode show features topics ranging from emperors' New Year receptions to family gatherings, royal rituals, imperial gifts and entertainment during the Chinese New Year, according to the Palace Museum. The program is coproduced by the Palace Museum and Tencent.

Biz: 34,500 tons of Moutai to hit market

Liquor producer Kweichow Moutai Group will put 34,500 metric tons of its premier Moutai liquor on the market next year, including 2,000 metric tons for the overseas market. Moutai is China's top brand of baijiu. The liquor is considered a luxury item and has long been a popular gift. Kweichow Moutai's sales revenue jumped 16.64 percent year-on-year to more than 60.93 billion yuan ($8.7 billion) in the first three quarters this year. Kweichow Moutai said the company will establish its own e-commerce platform next year and further promote overseas sales of its products.

People: Silicon Valley honors Chinese painter

A 103-year-old Chinese painter's life story has been preserved and presented to the public thanks to the efforts of a museum in Silicon Valley, California. Los Altos History Museum recently interviewed Hou Beiren, a renowned contemporary Chinese painter in California, for an oral-history program that aspires to preserve the artist's history and raise awareness of cultural diversity in the United States. Born in 1917 in Liaoning province, Hou spent much of his life away from his native land. After extensive travel and relocation, he moved from Hong Kong to the United States in 1956 and settled in Los Altos, California, where he embraced the "splash ink and color" style under the influence of Chinese painting master Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), who lived in California for nine years in the 1960s and 1970s. Splash ink and color is a technique of working with splashy, colorful washes to create an abstract, expressive style. The style was never dominant in Chinese art history until the emergence of Zhang. Visit our website to find out more about his story.

Society: First subway line opens in Hohhot

The Inner Mongolia autonomous region opened its first-ever subway line in Hohhot on Sunday. The 21.72-kilometer-long metro line of 20 stations offers services to the four main urban districts of Hohhot with a maximum capacity of 2,062 passengers and a top speed of 80 km per hour. Hohhot Metro said another line is under construction and will start trial operations in June. The city has a population of more than 3 million residents. The country's first subway was built in Beijing in 1969. China now has more than 30 cities with metro systems, and that figure is projected to reach 50 next year as more cities accelerate the construction of urban rail projects.




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2019-12-31 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Exhibits show China's efforts to get back lost cultural items]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/31/content_37530832.htm In the early 1950s, when the newly founded People's Republic of China just began to recover from social upheaval and was still a poor country, a costly cultural mission was made a priority.

The endeavor was to rescue many national treasures from getting lost overseas.

Now, an exhibition at the National Library of China is displaying letters, notes and telegraph messages exchanged between Zheng Zhenduo, the first director of the National Cultural Heritage Administration after New China's founding in 1949, and a group of unsung heroes in Hong Kong.

A succession of wars resulted in cultural relics going from the mainland to Hong Kong, which was ruled by the United Kingdom at the time, attracting the attention of foreign collectors.

In 1951, following then-premier Zhou Enlai's guidance, Mid-Autumn Festival and Letter to Boyuan, dating back to the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420), among the most important paper-based works in Chinese fine art history, were bought from a private collector. The two calligraphy pieces cost 500,000 HK dollars (then $87,500), roughly 0.2 percent of China's total foreign exchange reserve at that time. The artworks returned to the Forbidden City-now the Palace Museum-in Beijing, where they were previously kept by Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) emperors.

Zheng led a rescue campaign from 1952 to 1958 to buy more treasures-paintings, calligraphy works and antique books, among others-in a well-planned manner by contacting Xu Bojiao, a patriotic banker in Hong Kong, and other influential figures in art collecting circles.

"Zheng was an outstanding representative among founders of New China's cultural heritage program," Liu Yuzhu, director of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, says at the opening ceremony of the exhibition. "He was devoted to protecting the country's culture in his lifetime."

Zheng's exhibited letters show the paintings and calligraphy works taken from the royal palace by China's last emperor Puyi were the most important targets of the collection campaign. Thanks to Zheng's effort, artistic hallmarks, such as the ancient painted masterpieces Night Revel of Han Xizai and Five Oxen were returned to the Palace Museum.

"There are few things that can be achieved without difficulty," he wrote in a letter. "The more challenging a thing is, the greater an opportunity we have to hone our ability to do it and build our self-confidence."

Coincidentally or not, the letters returned to Beijing a similar way to other rescued treasures.

In September, 166 letters and handwritten documents reflecting the 1950s' campaign appeared in an auction catalog in Hong Kong. Showing the country's will to collect the historical items, the National Cultural Heritage Administration contacted China Guardian Auctions, which had organized the sale.

To avoid the letters from going overseas, Guardian Auctions successfully bid for them at their own auction and donated them to the administration. They were transferred to the national library's permanent collection on Thursday when the exhibition started.

"These letters are priceless treasures that are a grand page of history," Chen Dongsheng, founder of Guardian Auctions, says. "The process of their return went smoothly. It was best that they were handed back to the country."

Guan Qiang, deputy director of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, says the letters will also provide key references for their upcoming work.

"The letters make our understanding of the historic rescue clearer," Guan says. "With further study, they can inspire the repatriation of more lost Chinese cultural relics from overseas."

This year marked a milestone in terms of bringing lost treasures back. Through negotiation and international judicial cooperation, 1,167 Chinese artifacts were returned from the United States, Italy and Japan, among other countries.

The process perhaps just echoes a Zheng slogan: "As long as it is a national treasure, we have to make our best effort."

The exhibition at the National Library of China runs through Feb 26.


A letter by Zheng Zhenduo to Hong Kong banker Xu Bojiao in the early 1950s is on show at the National Library of China. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-31 00:00:00
<![CDATA[What's on]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/31/content_37530831.htm My Bucket List

When: Dec 31 to Jan 4, 7:30 pm; Jan 1 and 4, 2 pm

Where: Shanghai Culture Square

The Chinese version of the musical My Bucket List tells the story of two young men during their last few days of life.

Rather than receiving treatment, 19-year-old Liu Bao chooses to complete his bucket list by doing things like giving a concert, marrying his idol and designing his own funeral.

He hires a rebellious teenager, Yang Xiaoyu, who has previously attempted suicide, to help him. While keeping the general structure of the original South Korean version, many Chinese jokes are carefully mixed into this version.

It's a story of laughter instead of tears.


When: Jan 12 and 13, 7:30 pm

Where: Changsha Meixihu Poly Grand Theater

Composed by Giuseppe Verdi with librettist Antonio Ghislanzoni, Aida was commissioned for the opening of the Khedivial Opera House in Cairo and was first performed in 1871.

Along with La Traviata and Il Trovatore, Aida cemented Verdi as one of the most talented composers in history, with his repertoire still regularly performed to captivated crowds across the globe.

Split into four acts, the opera is a story of heartbreak and betrayal. Set in the midst of a war between Egypt and Ethiopia, this moving and timelessly tragic love story centers on the ill-fated and forbidden romance of Aida and Radames.

From Aida, the Egyptian princess and soprano, to Radames, the great warrior and lead tenor, scenes are dramatic, moving and evocative.

The Chinese New Year

When: Jan 17-19, 7:30 pm

Where: National Center for the Performing Arts, Beijing

With its dazzling hybrid of Western ballet and Chinese culture, the National Ballet of China has won a distinguished reputation for performing cherished works and original creations. It will delight audiences with The Chinese New Year, the localized version of The Nutcracker before the Spring Festival, which falls on Jan 25.

Premiering in 2001 and revised in 2010, the ballet presents a long scroll of Chinese festival customs.

In the ballet, Yuanyuan is a girl living in a hutong (alley) in Beijing. In her dream on New Year's Eve, she meets with the legendary monster Nian and embarks on a mystical journey in a world of Chinese folklore.

Looking West to Chang'an

When: Feb 13-23, time varies

Where: National Center for the Performing Arts, Beijing

Looking West to Chang'an is a five-act satire comedy authored by the writer Lao She on the basis of the first political fraud case of the new China in 1956.

The comedy tells an absurd and thought-provoking tale.

Li Wancheng, in the leading role, forges his personal details and CV to get official posts. People trust him and help him garner fame and fortune.

Some victims even help the deceiver get married. When a few vigilant comrades become aware of his deception, the public security organ launches an investigation.

In vivid and humorous style, Lao She depicts a dozen figures with distinctive characters. The whole drama demonstrates strong irony and practical significance.

Lisa Ono Romance

When: Feb 14, 7:30 pm

Where: Shanghai Jing'an Sports Center

Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Lisa Ono moved to Tokyo at the age of 10. At 15, she began singing and playing, making her professional debut as a bossa nova singer in 1989. Her voice and rhythmic guitar brought huge success and helped popularize bossa nova in Japan.

She has performed with many top musicians, including Antonio Carlos Jobim and jazz samba giant Joao Donato, and has played in New York, Brazil and across Asia.

Ono's album Dream, released in 1999, sold more than 200,000 copies in Japan, and she has since established a prime position in the country's bossa nova scene.

The Tragedy of Hamlet,Prince of Denmark

When: March 12-15, 7:30 pm

Where: Beijing Poly Theater

Of all the works of William Shakespeare that have graced the theaters in China, Hamlet is arguably the most famous.

The latest version of the play, entitled The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, directed by Li Liuyi, will soon hit Beijing Poly Theater.

Veteran actors Hu Jun, Pu Cunxi and Lu Fang will play the leading roles.

Before The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Li directed the Chinese version of Shakespeare's King Lear.

The National Center for the Performing Arts has been working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, a theater organization based in the Bard's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, on the Shakespeare Folio Project.

This aims to make the playwright's work more accessible to Chinese speakers.

Papa's Bed

When: March 17-29. 7:30 pm

Where: Tianjin Guanghua Theater

Never once do the father and the daughter in this performance actually meet each other. They only make phone calls, during which both talk, discuss, argue or resort to silence. The conversation always wanders around a theme that both seem to know and are comfortable with, including the weather.

A husband who lost his wife. A daughter who lost her mother. Yet grief and sorrow never reach the other side of the telephone line.

The father remarried three months after the mother's death. He has to put away old furniture and photos, because his partner wants new air in the space. In stark contrast, the daughter's memories linger in the house that becomes ever more strange.




2019-12-31 00:00:00
<![CDATA[This Day, That Year]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/31/content_37530829.htm Editor's note: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China.

On Dec 31, 1984, a foundation stone-laying ceremony was held for China's first Antarctic research base-the Great Wall station.

In February 1985, the station was built as seen in the item from China Daily.

Located on King George Island, it has a peak summer population reaching 80 and a winter population of about 40.

In 1989, Zhongshan station, the country's second base, was opened on Larsemann Hills in Prydz Bay, East Antarctica.

It can accommodate 25 people in winter and 60 in summer.

In 2009, China's first inland base, Kunlun station, was built on a site about 4,087 meters above sea level and 7.3 kilometers southwest of Dome A, an ice dome on the Antarctic Plateau.

Taishan summer field camp, the country's fourth Antarctic base, was built in 2014, at Princess Elizabeth Land, 2,621 meters above sea level with a population of up to 20.

The construction work for the fifth one at Victoria Land on the Ross Sea is underway during the ongoing 36th Antarctic expedition. It is expected to be put into service around 2022.

So far, the country has dispatched 36 Antarctic expeditions.

China launched its latest Antarctic expedition in October, with 413 scientists, researchers and support staff.

This voyage saw China's first domestically built research icebreaker, Xuelong 2, embarking on its maiden journey.

It is the country's second icebreaker after China purchased its first polar research icebreaker from Ukraine in 1993.

Besides the ship, China has enhanced its air logistical capacity.

The country has selected a location for its first airfield in Antarctica.

The airfield will be near the Zhongshan station and will be equipped with navigation equipment, refueling facilities and a waiting area.




2019-12-31 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Year rolls over to Beethoven]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/31/content_37530821.htm Symphony No 9 is the last complete symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, finished in 1824 when the composer had turned completely deaf. The work is performed by orchestras around the world and is widely considered a symbol of hope, unity and fellowship.

During the opening concert of the 20th Meet in Beijing Arts Festival, the capital's largest annual festival of dance, music, drama and art, the masterpiece will be performed by the Tokyo Opera Singers and the Beijing Symphony Orchestra at the National Center for the Performing Arts on Jan 6.

Under the baton of Japanese conductor Michiyoshi Inoue, Chinese tenor Shi Yijie, Chinese mezzo-soprano Zhu Huiling, Japanese baritone Takaoki Onishi and Japanese soprano Eri Takahashi will join in the concert to perform the choral finale.

From Jan 6 to Feb 4, the Meet in Beijing Arts Festival, which has named Japan as its guest country of honor, will see more than 700 artists from 11 countries gather in the capital.

"In 2020, the world will celebrate Beethoven's 250th birthday, and Symphony No 9 is a work that is important to people all over the world," says Tan Ziqiang, director of special events at the China Performing Arts Agency, the organizer of the festival. "We have Chinese and Japanese artists performing together in a concert that pays tribute to the great composer, celebrates friendship and welcomes in the new year."

Tan adds that the concert will also showcase another piece, Olympic Fanfare and Theme, composed by John Williams. The work, which has become a classic, was commissioned by the Los Angeles Olympic Committee from the composer in 1994. The piece won a Grammy for Williams and became one of the most well-known musical themes in the history of the Olympic Games.

"From 2020 to 2022, the Meet in Beijing Arts Festival will have an Olympic theme, since Tokyo will host the Olympic Games in 2020 and the Olympic Winter Games will take place in Beijing in 2022," says Tan. "This piece reminds you of the spirit of the Olympics."

"It will be my first time performing with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra," says Inoue, 73, who is also a pianist. "I have many Chinese friends who introduced me to this great country. I am looking forward to performing at the concert with this legendary piece, which offers a message of peace and love."

Like the conductor, the Tokyo Opera Singers is also making its China debut and performing with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra for the first time. The Japanese choir came into being after conductor Seiji Ozawa requested a "world-class chorus" for the occasion of the 1992 production of Richard Wagner's opera Der Fliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman) directed by Yukio Ninagawa. Since 1993, the choir has been performing regularly across Japan. For the opening ceremony of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, the choir represented Japan and sang the choral finale from Beethoven's Symphony No 9 with musicians from six other countries. In 1999, they made their appearance at the Edinburgh Music Festival, performing in a Tokyu Bunkamura production of Turandot.

Chinese tenor Shi Yijie is no stranger to Beethoven's Symphony No 9. The Shanghai-born tenor graduated from the Toho College of Music in Tokyo and has performed with many Japanese orchestras and choirs, from the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra to the Tokyo Opera Singers.

"When I studied in Japan, I performed Beethoven's Symphony No 9 as a member of the choir of the Toho College of Music. Last year, I performed the piece again in Shanghai," says Shi. "Tokyo Opera Singers is one of the best choirs in Japan and they perform Beethoven's Symphony No 9 every year."


The Beijing Symphony Orchestra will join the Tokyo Opera Singers to perform the opening concert of the 20th Meet in Beijing Arts Festival at the National Center for the Performing Arts on Jan 6. CHINA DAILY



Clockwise from top left: Chinese mezzo-soprano Zhu Huiling, Japanese baritone Takaoki Onishi, Japanese soprano Eri Takahashi and Chinese tenor Shi Yijie will perform the choral finale of Beethoven's Symphony No 9 at the upcoming Meet in Beijing Arts Festival. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-31 00:00:00
<![CDATA[New hotel encapsulates Milan's tourist renaissance]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/31/content_37530833.htm Milan-Cheap and cheerful capsule hotels are forever expanding from their Japanese cradle, including now in Milan where the tiny, stacked rooms are helping the Italian city cope with exploding tourist numbers.

With no-fuss convenience for both the city and transport links, digital connectivity and a social side among their chief selling points, the capsule hotels target the Generation-Y crowd.

Some people, though, just stay out of sheer curiosity.

Croatian tourist Dragan Kupresanin, 31, says he wanted to try the room because "it looked like something new, futuristic style ... those kind of boxes that you sleep in".

After sleeping like a log at Ostelzzz, down a quiet street in the center of Italy's economic capital, he's ready for more.

"I really liked it. This kind of hotel should be developed. Many people avoid youth hostels because of the privacy problem with bunk beds, etc. But here you have it," he says.

In the size of one standard hotel room, eight capsules-each measuring 1.45 by 1.45 by 2 meters-are stacked on top of each other, four above and four below, with an enclosed toilet space in the room and showers down the corridor.

Inside the capsule is a mattress with duvet and pillow, two charging plugs for mobile phones or laptops, a lockable cupboard for luggage and a bedside table.

All this for between 19 euros ($21) a night, including breakfast, and 150 euros during Milan's Design Week.

Japanese origin

The first capsule hotels were born in Osaka, Japan in 1979, travel blogger Agnese Sabatini says.

The tiny rooms took off thanks to commuters who had drunk too much or just missed the last train home.

Since then, the concept has taken off around the world, first in airports, from Paris to Moscow and Bangkok, and then in cities like Singapore, Seoul or Mumbai.

Nevertheless, in Europe, capsule hotels are rare outside of airports.

There is, for example, the City Hub in Amsterdam and the Lucerne capsule hotel that opened in Switzerland at the end of 2018.

Milan is the first Italian city to have a capsule hotel, but the company behind it, ZZZleepandGo, is expanding.

Capsule hotels will open at six airports, including those in Milan and Warsaw, by year-end, with Vienna and four in Brazil to swiftly follow, making ZZZleepandGo the biggest such company in the world, says CEO Gianmaria Leto.

On top of adding five or six airports a year, "our objective is to create one or two (capsule) hotels a year over the next five years in main European cities," Leto says.

The Italian company says it expects its annual turnover to grow to 10 million euros ($11 million) in five years, compared to 1 million in 2019.

Closed in

"The only negative aspect of a capsule hotel is the feeling of being closed in, of claustrophobia, that some people get," Sabatini says.

Otherwise, it's a win-win-win, offering, "privacy, low cost and all within reach of the city", says the writer of the "I'll B right back" blog.

"Small spaces aren't a problem for young people," she says.

"What they want is technology, like automated check-in, sockets to charge their electronics", but also communal areas to meet new people, she adds.

Milan has seen a tourist boom since the city's Expo 2015, thanks to its fashion and design weeks, as well as its Duomo (cathedral), museums and vibrant nightlife.

The city went from 4.2 million visitors in 2011 to 6.8 million in 2018, 65 percent of which were foreigners.

Last September saw 700,000 visitors, up 18 percent year-on-year. Many were young.

"Four years ago, there were just three youth hostels. Now, there are 26. There's exceptional growth," says ZZZleepandGo's chief operating officer, Fabio Rocchetti.

The hotel, which can also be booked via the Airbnb website, attracts a varied clientele, and not just visitors to the city.

About a quarter are workers or students like Monica Vici, who is living at the Ostelzzz capsule hotel while searching for an apartment.

Before and after her classes, the 22-year-old sits at her laptop in the sleek, stylized communal area, while, nearby, people come and go to the hotel's 24-hour bar.

"You have privacy in the bedroom, but there's also a kitchen. You meet lots of people," she says.

The staff, all under 40, are "very attentive", says the Rome native.

Not all guests are millennials.

The hotel had an 86-year-old guest, and boasts a family room with four interconnected capsules.

English-language teacher Patricia Ann Wells stays there three nights a week and is equally smitten.

"I like it here because of the friendly environment. It's like being at home," the 48-year-old says.


Milan now has a capsule hotel, as tourist numbers explode in the Italian city. MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP



2019-12-31 00:00:00
<![CDATA[On our Sina Weibo]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/30/content_37530695.htm School with one teacher and two students

A primary school in a village in Sichuan province has just two students and one teacher. Besides English, Long Qiyun, 52, teaches Chinese, math, science, physical education and music. When he first came to the school in 2006, there were about 100 students. But after 2009, when a road was built, most students went to the county school. This year, only two-7-year-old Zhang Zhihong and 6-year-old Jia Mengjie-stayed. "Even if there is one student, I won't leave," Long said.

Amazon pledges to fight fake reviews

E-commerce giant Amazon has pledged to target the fake reviews that are accused of littering its online store and duping millions of customers into buying shoddy products. The retailer has said it is taking legal action after it was uncovered that four-and five-star reviews are being sold on the platform. An investigation by the Daily Mail claimed rogue marketing firms were selling positive reviews for about $17 each. One German company claimed to have 3,000 testers in the United Kingdom who were paid to publish glowing reviews to the site. The testers are paid for the review and refunded the cost of buying the product, the report said, with purchases necessary in order for a review to be classified as verified by Amazon.




Online Scan to read more on our Weibo page



2019-12-30 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Trickle-down effect works best when you go with the flow]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/30/content_37530745.htm It was all going swimmingly until we reached Membrane Processing, then came perilously close to the jagged rocks at Dosing Coagulants before the rapids engulfed us at the Flocculation Reaction stage. My guide, all wide-eyed enthusiasm and with expressive hands as quick as her feet, was as much in her element as I was out of it. I was getting the low-down on water filtration, in high-volume Mandarin.

I didn't know what to expect at the Beijing Waterworks Museum, but let's just say it's more complicated than a brewery tour, where everything becomes clear in the end-with those free samples of a wet substance. The complications begin with finding the place. After leaving Dongzhimen subway station, you may spot the first of the small signs for "Funny Water Works"; follow them and the laughs are at your expense.

Coming to my rescue in a fast-paced shuffle was a force of nature swaddled in winter layers, and with those eyes beaming out from under a pink woolen cap. I hadn't been looking for a guide, just the right path on a wind-swept Dongzhimen North Road. But she took charge, accosting her fellow senior citizens who had gathered for exercises and seemingly challenging them on why airy hand movements behind them was the best they could come up with. A tug at my elbow had me trailing after her to a guard post and the first of several uniformed types she quizzed in the hunt for a mysterious shrine dedicated to the foundation of life.

In the middle of a housing estate, we ran up against locked gates-another Beijing mystery to me, along with the ubiquitous pavement barricades. Through the bars of one gate, security guards pointed out a circuitous route to the museum, and that it was closed. They were half right. I soon had a ticket in my hand and found myself in a bright space under a vaulted ceiling that was only a few sofas short of being a hotel lobby. Alas, no hard hat and wellies required.

I also found myself alone. The woman who made all this possible had declined my offer of a ticket (5 yuan, or 72 cents, but it's the thought that counts). As I was fumbling with the English-audio guide, I felt that tug on my elbow again. She was back. My neighborhood guardian pulled at the gray hairs from under her cap to indicate she had landed a seniors freebie (mental note made for future reference).

And with that, she led me on pinball-like, random encounters with the exhibits, reading from the display panels-all in Chinese-and with a theatrical flair. I had begun cursing my Chinese textbooks for the lack of hydrology-themed dialogues by the time we barreled into Flocculation Reaction. I confess my mind wandered during my guide's explanation and she may well have told me that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is working on a cure.

You could call it a thirst for knowledge that led me to leave the museum with my guide and exchange cheery goodbyes, and then sneak back in. The audio guide was a little quirky but I nodded along when told that flocculation is a process in which fine particulates clump together into a floc. If you don't know what a floc is, I can point you in the direction of a 75-year-old woman in Dongzhimen North Road.

There's also a certain Mr Water Man who appears in video panels. Our androgynous hero is rather spotty before undergoing filtration and emerging clear-faced and chipper at the end. There are takeaways for your 5 yuan. We're told that we'll each drink up to 200 tons of water before we raise our last glass. Fall well short of the advised two to three liters a day and you risk dehydration. Dry lips, wrinkles and a haggard face are the telltale signs, and "you may fall into a trance". I instinctively reached behind me for a seat. And I had thought it was the rapid-fire Mandarin that induced the state I was just emerging from.

If you visit Dongzhimen's best-kept secret, walk around the corner and check out Beijing's first waterworks from 1908-from behind more metal. They no longer simply toss in bleaching powder. Be thankful of that if you wake up on the first day of 2020 looking haggard and in need of hydration.


Anthony Perry



2019-12-30 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Homecoming queen]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/30/content_37530728.htm Soprano He Hui had a hectic schedule in 2019. She traveled around the world to perform several challenging roles, including the Cio-Cio-San in the Metropolitan Opera's production of Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly, the title role of Francesco Cilea's opera, Adriana Lecouvreur, at the Salzburg Festival and making her debut as Mimi in Puccini's La Boheme at the Puccini Opera Festival in Italy.

On Saturday, the soprano will return to her home country to give a solo recital Night of Opera Arias at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing accompanied by pianist Roberto Corliano. She will perform many classic arias, including Liebestod (Love Death) from opera Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner and Tacea La Notte Placida (The Night Was Still and Quiet) from Giuseppe Verdi's Il Trovatore.

"All the arias I've chosen are personal favorites that I've performed over the past two decades," says He in a phone interview with China Daily. "It's like a review of my career in 2019, which has been a year full of memories."

Ever since she won second place at Placido Domingo's Operalia, a world opera competition launched by the legendary singer in 2000, and first prize at the Concorso Internazionale Voci Verdiane in Verdi's hometown of Busseto in 2001, the soprano has performed in every leading theater in the world, including the Vienna Staatsoper and the Opera Bastille in Paris. She is best known for her roles as Aida or Madama Butterfly, both of which she has performed on more than 150 occasions.

Since 2005, she has been singing at the ancient Roman amphitheater, Arena di Verona, which enabled her to become the first female singer in history to have sung on that stage for 15 years nonstop.

"The only method of transcending cultural differences and convincing Western audiences is through my voice and my acting," He says.

During her upcoming recital in Beijing, the soprano will also perform two arias from Puccini's opera Turandot: Tu che di gel sei cinta (You Who Are Girdled With Ice) and In questa reggia (In This Palace).

On Dec 13, she sang the title role in Turandot at the Shanghai Grand Theater, which was the first time that the 47-year-old soprano had performed the role in front of a Chinese audience, after her successful debut in the role earlier this year at the Dubai Opera House.

She has received several invitations to play the title character of the Chinese princess. However, she says she was initially cautious about it and didn't take up the offer until recently, now that both her voice and technique have reached their finest condition.

"I think deep inside she is a little girl hungry for love, but is scared of it at the same time," she tells the media before the premiere at the Shanghai Grand Theater. "Eventually love melts the cold ice, and the yearning for love is awakened by Prince Calaf, and Liu, who eventually sacrifices her own life for love.

"I try to present a Turandot with tenderness in the heart, based on my understanding of Chinese culture," she says. "After all, the Chinese princess is a multifaceted character."

The soprano adds that many of the roles she performed are female, who are loyal and hungry for love. She fell in love with these roles because she is "also very romantic and full of love in her heart".

Born in Ankang, Shaanxi province, He heard a CD of La Boheme for the first time at the age of 18, which prompted her to become a singer, even though she couldn't understand Italian. She graduated from the Xi'an Conservatory of Music and made her debut as Aida in a 1998 production marking the opening of the Shanghai Grand Theater.

For He, being a soprano offers her the chance to use both her vocal and acting abilities.

"Every note expresses the character's mood, personality and attitude. I try to understand the background of each of the character I play and portray them using my imagination," she says.

Now living in Verona, Italy, and touring worldwide, He returns to China every year to hold recitals and master classes, hoping to introduce the Western art form to a wider Chinese audience and cultivate the next generation of Chinese singers.

Last year, she toured six Chinese cities with a solo recital to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her music career.

She says there are many talented young Chinese singers out there, but suggests that some need to improve the versatility in their portrayal of the characters through the use of their voices. She says aspiring young musicians should "love the art instead of the honors, flowers and the applause that comes with it".

As a Chinese musician performing opera, a Western art form, she says she has to overcome all kinds of obstacles in language and culture.

"A beautiful voice alone is not enough," she adds.


He dresses up to perform the title role in Turandot at the Shanghai Grand Theater on Dec 13, the first time she played the princess in front of a Chinese audience. CHINA DAILY



Soprano He Hui has chosen personal favorites to perform at the recital in Beijing on Saturday. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-30 00:00:00
<![CDATA[What's on]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/30/content_37530696.htm The Phantom of the Opera

When: Dec 31, 7:15 pm

Where: Shanghai Oriental Art Center

The Phantom of the Opera is a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Charles Hart. Richard Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber composed the musical together. Stilgoe also provided additional lyrics.

Based on the French novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux, its central plot revolves around a beautiful soprano, Christine Daae, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius living in the subterranean labyrinth beneath the Paris Opera House.

As Christine's star rises, and a handsome suitor from her past enters the picture, the Phantom grows mad, terrorizing the opera house owners and company with his murderous ways. Still, Christine finds herself drawn to the mystery man.

The Cuban National Ballet will perform the dances.


When: Jan 4 and 5, 7:30 pm

Where: Shanxi Poly Grand Theater

Ghetto is a play by Israeli playwright Joshua Sobol about the experiences of Jews in the Vilna Ghetto during Nazi occupation in World War II.

It is inspired by an actual theater which operated in the ghetto from 1941 to 1943. It tells the story of the ghetto theater during the Lithuania occupation.

The theater responded to despair with song, satire and criticism of the Nazi regime, proving that theater can provide courage and hope even amid a time of atrocities.

Gu Wenchang

When: Feb 21-23, 7:30 pm

Where: National Center for the Performing Arts, Beijing

Gu Wenchang, by the National Theater of China, is about the life of Gu Wenchang, the first official who advocated the fight against desertification by planting trees since the 1950s.


When: Jan 21, 7:30 pm

Where: Changsha Meixihu International Culture and Art Center, Hunan province

The play narrates a story that occurs on the eve of Spring Festival. It is a tradition to stay up late or all night on the evening to welcome the first day of the Chinese New Year.

It focuses on the gathering of the family's three generations, including the grandmother, the mother and the daughter. The grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, confuses memories from the past and present. The fragments of her memory form a candid picture of the family down the years.

Ksenija Sidorova

When: Feb 16, 2:30 pm

Where: Guangzhou Opera House

Ksenija Sidorova is a genre-crossing player described as "the princess of the accordion".

The Latvian-born musician was encouraged to take up the instrument by her grandmother and continued her education in Britain, where she became a prizewinning undergraduate at the Royal Academy of Music.

Her debut album is an ambitious re-creation of Carmen for the accordion in 2016, incorporating Latin, Asian, European and North American musical styles, which is driven by her identification with French composer Georges Bizet's free-spirited femme fatale.

He Had Two Pistols with White and Black Eyes

When: Feb 18-22, 7:30 pm; Feb 22 and 23, 2:30 pm

Where: Beijing Citycomb Theater

Dario Fo (1926-2016) was an Italian actor-playwright, comedian, singer, theater director, stage designer, songwriter, painter and political campaigner of the Italian left-wing. He also won the 1997 Nobel Prize in literature. The Chinese version of Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist has become a signature work for avant-garde theater director Meng Jinghui. He Had Two Pistols with White and Black Eyes is Meng's second adaptation from the Italian playwright.

The play starts in a psychiatric institution, where a patient with amnesia is accused of desertion during war. However, a woman named Luisa comes to claim him as her lover, Giovanni, and brings him back home. But then the real Giovanni, a rogue and doppelganger to the patient, comes back from the battlefield and continues his life of crime-while scheming to blame his misdeeds on the amnesiac.

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

When: March 12-15, 7:30 pm

Where: Beijing Poly Theater

Of all the works of William Shakespeare that have graced the theaters in China, Hamlet is arguably the most famous.

The latest version of the play, entitled The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, directed by Li Liuyi, will soon hit Beijing Poly Theater.

Veteran Chinese actors Hu Jun, Pu Cunxi and Lu Fang will play the leading roles.

Before The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Li directed the Chinese version of Shakespeare's King Lear.

The National Center for the Performing Arts has been working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, a theater organization based in the Bard's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, on the Shakespeare Folio Project. This aims to make the playwright's work more accessible to Chinese speakers.

Papa's Bed

When: March 17-29. 7:30 pm

Where: Tianjin Guanghua Theater

Never once do the father and the daughter in this performance truly meet each other. They only make phone calls, during which both talk, discuss, argue or resort to silence. The conversation always wanders around a theme that both seem to know, including the weather.

A husband who lost his wife. A daughter who lost her mother. Yet grief and sorrow could never reach the other side of the telephone wire. The father remarried three months after the mother's death. He has to put away old furniture and photos, because his partner wants new air in the space. On the contrary, the daughter's memories linger in the house.


2019-12-30 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Heroic tale of tragic lovers retold through dance]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/30/content_37530711.htm Around a century ago during the age of upheaval in China, a pair of revolutionary martyrs exchanged their vows, accompanied by a macabre rifle salute.

In 2002, this true story was adapted into a heart-wrenching dance drama entitled Cottonwood Tree in Stormy Days, winning the Wenhua Award, a top national award for the performing arts, in 2004.

After more than a decade, Guangdong Song and Dance Ensemble decided to stage the production once again, bringing it to Beijing's Erqi Theater for two performances on Dec 12 and 13.

The story took place during the Guangzhou Uprising of 1927 in South China's Guangdong province, where Communists attempted to wrest control of the city from Kuomintang forces.

Zhou Wenyong and Chen Tiejun, both leading members of the uprising, pretended to be a married couple in order to avoid drawing attention to their undercover work, but over time developed a real affection for one another.

After the uprising failed, they were betrayed, arrested and sentenced to death. Zhou asked for a photo with Chen as his final wish, and Chen made a speech, announcing to the public their love for each other.

Director of the dance drama, Wen Zhenya, says this reproduction is not a duplication of earlier versions of the show. He wanted the story to be historically accurate while keeping up with modern aesthetics.

In keeping with the story, the production incorporates iconic elements from Guangdong, including qilou, a streetside architectural form prevalent in the region, and kapok flowers, Guangzhou's floral emblem.

Using innovative stage design, the show aims to send audiences back in time.

"We present the stage as old, faded black-and-white photographs," Wen says. "Advanced technology today is able to produce rich colors on stage, but I want to go back and present the audiences with simplicity that evokes a sense of nostalgia."

While the stage, props and costumes are mainly in monochrome, it is contrasted with the bright redness of certain objects, creating a striking visual effect.

For example, as the female protagonist Chen Tiejun runs away from an arranged marriage at the beginning of the story, a red wedding ribbon is shown to bind her to the feudal marriage system.

Xiao Suhua, a professor from Beijing Dance Academy, says: "Its structure is a breath of fresh air. The scenes are smoothly connected and the performance is reserved yet expressive."

The martyrs Zhou and Chen were aged 23 and 24 respectively, when they were executed. To faithfully present their story, Wen chose dancers in their 20s to perform the roles.

"For the first production, the protagonists were designed to be senior Communists in their 30s; but for this new production, they are young adults, full of vigor and idealism," Wen says.

Young dancers from the ensemble, Jin Chao and Wang Minrui, took up the roles of the male and female protagonists, respectively.

The dancers say despite being set in a different era, the story resonates with them personally.

"I cannot truly feel what it is like living in that tumultuous era, but I understand their passion and aspiration. It is essentially a story about young people striving to make their dreams come true," Wang says.

Jin adds that since the production debuted in Guangzhou this September, he has gradually developed a deeper understanding of the character: "They are both aspirational, knowledgeable young people, who devote their lives to revolution. Even for today's young people, this story is stimulating and inspirational.

"In the final scene where their wedding takes place prior to their execution, the fact they could face death like that is both touching and romantic."

The ensemble decided to restage the dance drama to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China-and also the 70th anniversary of the ensemble's establishment this year.

"I believe that today's young people need the spirit of patriotism. Our life today is built on the sacrifice of countless young people like Chen and Zhou. We need to remember our heroes," Wen says.


Dance drama Cottonwood Tree in Stormy Days is staged in Beijing's Erqi Theater over Dec 12-13. CHINA DAILY



Dancers in their 20s, Jin Chao and Wang Minrui (center), perform the male and female protagonists in the drama. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-30 00:00:00
<![CDATA[On chinadaily.com.cn]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/30/content_37530709.htm People: Boy, 8, makes $26m online a year

Eight-year-old Ryan Kaji earned $26 million this year on video-streaming site YouTube, making him the highest-paid "creator" on the platform, according to a list by Forbes magazine. Kaji, whose real name is Ryan Guan, was also the video platform's highest earner last year, with $22 million, according to Forbes. His channel "Ryan's World", launched in 2015 by Ryan's parents, is only 3 years old but has 22.9 million subscribers. Initially called "Ryan ToysReview," the channel mostly consisted of "unboxing" videos-videos of the young star opening boxes of toys and playing with them. Several of the videos have racked up more than 1 billion views, and the channel has received almost 35 billion views since its creation.

Culture: Ne Zha studio launches new film

Animated feature Mr Miao is set to hit domestic theaters on Tuesday. The film is produced by leading studio Enlight Media's animation subsidiary Coloroom Pictures, whose most successful blockbuster is Ne Zha, China's all-time highest-grossing animated film. Mr Miao features a dark tone that explores the complexity of morality, and is self-rated PG-13, suggesting that the movie may not be suitable for viewers under 13. The feature introduces a fictional golden flower, which possesses the magical ability to debauch humans who get too close to it. As the flower only chooses kindhearted people as hosts, a group of martial artists who want to eradicate the plants face a dilemma: Should one kill good people for rescuing men from sin?

Society: Major equestrian center to roll out in 2022

Construction of the Shanghai Juss International Equestrian Center kicked off on Wednesday and the venue is expected to be completed by April 2022. Located at the Expo Park in the Pudong New Area, the center is expected to become China's first permanent professional equestrian competition venue of its kind hosting top international events. It will replace a temporary venue near the China Art Museum and host the annual Global Champions Tour show-jumping event in the future. With an investment of near 1.25 billion yuan ($179 million), the center covers 3.32 hectares, with 5,000 seats for spectators. There will also be training and practice spaces, as well as high-grade stables.




Online Scan to read more on chinadaily.com.cn



2019-12-30 00:00:00
<![CDATA[This Day, That Year]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/30/content_37530723.htm Editor's note: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China.

In late December 1959, the National Ballet of China was founded as the Experimental Ballet Company of the Beijing Dance School.

The Beijing Dance School (now the Beijing Dance Academy) was the country's first institute of dance, which opened in 1954.

Before the Beijing Dance School formally opened, then-Soviet ballerina Elena Oleg Alexandrovna helped to establish a regime based on the Bolshoi Academy in Moscow.

During the 1950s and 1960s, ballet entered a period of rapid development. The graduates of the school's ballet major became the first members of the troupe.

From then on, the first generation of ballet teachers, choreographers and dancers gradually emerged, and ballet teaching, creation and performance systems were basically formed in China.

In 1958, the school successfully performed Swan Lake, featuring Bai Shuxiang as the white swan.

An item from Jan 6, 1982, from China Daily showed Bai in Swan Lake.

From 1959 to 1961, under the instruction of Russian experts, the National Ballet of China staged Le Corsaire and Giselle.

In 1964, China's first original ballet production, Red Detachment of Women, by the National Ballet of China, premiered in Beijing.

It is best known in the West as the ballet performed for former US president Richard Nixon during his visit to China in 1972. Since then, the company has produced many classic ballet performances, both adaptations of Western ballets and original Chinese pieces.

Thanks to the reform and opening-up policy, Chinese ballet recorded swift development again in the 1980s, when the country had far greater communication with foreign ballet artists and troupes from the United States and Europe.

Nowadays, foreign choreographers are invited to China, and Chinese choreographers also help foreign ballets create dances.

In 2006, the Royal Danish Ballet invited Wang Yuanyuan, director of the Beijing Contemporary Dance Theater, to choreograph The Color of Love.

It was the first time a foreign theater had commissioned such work from a Chinese choreographer.




2019-12-30 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Top brand uses art to get creative juices flowing]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/29/content_37530674.htm Pullman Fuzhou Tahoe recently offered a rare treat for art lovers by giving them access to the artwork the brand commissioned from renowned Chinese artist Long Di.

Following a lively art workshop, the hotel in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province, provided an immersive "Pullman Art Trip" tea break featuring a selection of bites with artistic thrills.

"The comfort level is not the only criterion on which to judge a hotel in this era when people have a mobile life and travel a lot," said Gao Xiao, Pullman Fuzhou Tahoe's director of marketing. "Hotels like us provide an added bonus of bringing immersive experiences to guests." This event was the latest showcase of the Art at Play initiative, from Accor's upbeat contemporary brand Pullman.

The initiative aims to connect guests with contemporary art and encourage them to interact and play with art through their journey with a vibrant yet subtle touch.

According to the hotel, this partnership is a manifestation of Pullman's Art at Play concept, reflecting the Pullman brand and its philosophy of "Our World is Your Playground".

From this month, The Wandering Modernity: Flaneur Collection of Long's paintings, which was officially unveiled on Nov 22 at Pullman Suzhou Zhonghui, is rotating among Pullman properties across China.

A story is told through five of Long's paintings, each of which interprets a unique contemporary social scene embodying the features and promises of the Pullman brand.

For example, Early Bird is an energetic slice of a busy morning as guests rush about, grabbing and going before their busy schedule commences armed with a cup of coffee or tea. Engaged Art captures the atmosphere of an art class, underscoring Pullman's offer of workshops and classes.

Separately, at Pullman Shanghai South, parents and children can follow experienced art instructors step by step in the path to creating their own art pieces during the Art Weekend Lunch.

And Pullman Nanjing Lukou Airport in Jiangsu province launched the program with a cocktail party on Tuesday, followed by exhibition of Long's art piece in the Le Ciel Lobby Lounge.

At Pullman Baotou in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, guests can enjoy in-room amenities inspired by Long's art pieces.

"At Pullman, our world is your playground and we hope that we can support you in your journey to be at your creative best," a hotel executive said.

A young participant is immersed in painting at Pullman Fuzhou Tahoe in Fujian province. CHINA DAILY
2019-12-29 12:11:44
<![CDATA[Service with distinction]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/29/content_37530642.htm The 1.9-meter-tall Zhao Ben, 41, wearing a black suit with two golden crossed keys on both his lapels, stands in the lobby of the St. Regis Beijing.

The instant regulars spot the keys, they know that Zhao is one of an elite fraternity and a reliable local expert due to his experience and knowledge.

As the hotel's head of concierge, Zhao earned his right to wear the golden keys through comprehensive testing, proving his ability to deliver the highest quality service.

The keys are granted by Les Clefs d'Or (The Golden Keys) and Golden Keys China. Officially founded in France in 1952, Les Clefs d'Or is a professional association of hotel concierges with members working all over the world.

Golden Keys China recently awarded Zhao with the Medal of Loyalty, which is granted to those who have worked as a concierge for over a decade with outstanding achievements. He is the only one in China to have won the special honor.

"I won the medal because of my persistence, diligence and hard work," says Zhao, who has worked at the hotel since graduation in 1997. "My intention as a fresh graduate was to work as a concierge, and I never give up in the face of difficulties. But I could not have attained the honor without the support of the St. Regis Beijing."

"A concierge has to be versatile and driven to setting new standards for guest service. It's challenging but interesting, as you meet different people and deal with different things every day," the Beijing native says.

"It's more than looking after luggage for and sending messages to guests. We offer personalized services and fulfill their requirements, from the everyday to the extraordinary," he says.

Hotel concierges never refuse to help guests, and always do their best as a team to resolve knotty issues. Sometimes they ask their counterparts within the hotel group or in Beijing's hotel circles for help.

A common issue is that when a guest is about to board a plane, and finds that some important documents are left at the hotel. Then the concierge has to deliver the items as soon as possible.

Some years ago, a foreign guest dropped her airline ticket in the room's dustbin and called Zhao for help from the airport. Zhao had to find the ticket in the trash, and finally hurried to the airport to hand over the ticket.

"Our service concept is to offer guests satisfaction and pleasant surprises. I feel a sense of accomplishment when my guests are happy," he says. "Tackling a thorny issue is like resolving a mathematical problem. I feel relieved the instant I figure out the correct solution."

Speaking about how the job has evolved over the past two decades, he says that a concierge is now more professional and the internet offers him more ways to resolve a problem.

"I often feel like an ambassador of traditional Chinese culture, as guests are very interested in it and ask me about it. It also encourages me to learn more," he said.

He has designed a bilingual downtown map with popular scenic areas and restaurants, based on commonly asked questions. He also pays attention to ongoing events in Beijing such as exhibitions so he can recommend them to guests.

Speaking about Zhao and his team, Chen Hui, deputy general manager of the hotel, says: "They are indispensable to the hotel, and Zhao's professionalism and care is key to creating excellent experiences for our guests."

Over years, the St. Regis Beijing has hosted many foreign political heavyweights, including former presidents of the United States Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and the current President Donald Trump.

Zhao says: "Only those who really love being a concierge will stay in the occupation. My advice (for those wanting to be a concierge) is that you need to be innovative and adept at multitasking."

2019-12-29 12:11:44
<![CDATA[Aerotel offers travelers a place to rest between flights at Daxing]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/29/content_37530641.htm If you have an early morning flight in the morning or have just landed from a red-eye, an in-terminal airport hotel where you can get refreshed and ready for the next stop is an appealing choice for a weary traveler.

Aerotel, a hotel brand owned by Hong Kong-based Plaza Premium Group, opened in Beijing's Daxing International Airport in October.

Aerotel Beijing is located at Beijing Daxing International Airport's Northeast pier and is less than a five-minute walk to the nearest domestic check-in counters or the airport's Arrival Hall.

The two-story hotel, covering more than 9,000 square meters, is the only in-terminal hotel in the airport. It is the largest in-terminal hotel in China, according to Song Haixi, CEO of Plaza Premium Group.

"Its opening marks the group's expansion has hit a crucial stage," Song said. "We are honored to provide comfortable and pleasant experiences for passengers at Beijing Daxing International Airport."

Walking into Aerotel Beijing, guests will notice murals of Beijing's architectural heritage in the reception. Aerotel always integrates local culture into its interior design to enhance connections with destination cities, according to the hotel.

Compared to conventional hotels, which charge on a daily basis, Aerotel Beijing offers flexible booking rates based on blocks of hours.

"We provide more options to meet travelers' different needs," Song said. "No matter whether they are in longtime transit or experiencing flight delays, all kinds of travelers can find a cozy space in Aerotel."

A sound sleep is a luxury for most airline travelers. Aerotel Beijing offers a selection of 215 rooms of various sizes with all rooms equipped with quality bedding, pillow menu and soft lighting to ensure guests get the best rest before their new journey, according to the hotel. The Library Lounge on the first floor serves a selection of set meals, buffet and a la carte menu, the hotel said.

More than just a place where passengers can rest, the hotel also boasts three multifunctional rooms featuring audiovisual systems, ideal for meetings and other events.

2019-12-29 12:11:44
<![CDATA[AN UNUSUAL SEASONING]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/29/content_37530640.htm Only in China can you taste dishes that are seasoned with intensely flavored cubes of fermented bean curd and these are delicious with both meat and vegetables.

My first taste of the little cubes of pure flavor was at my grandfather's dining table when I was a child. We were having plain white congee, but there was nothing simple about the spread of side dishes that had the table groaning.

In front of every place were little dishes of fried peanuts, salted sweet radish strips and a tiny saucer with a cube of cream-colored curd, speckled with pretty red chili flakes and topped with a heaping teaspoon of sugar.

It was the sugar that attracted my childish palate, of course, but I soon grew addicted to the sharp tangy saltiness of the furu. It went perfectly with the blandness of the rice congee and made it easy to gobble up several bowls between little chopstick pinches of the salted bean curd.

Later, I also discovered the red variety, the nanru or southern bean curd.

This is a much feistier version with a deep maroon skin that comes from the addition of red wine yeast. My grandmother used this lovely red seasoning to make a vegetarian dish called luohan zhai, or Arhat's Vegetarian Special, and served it during Spring Festival. I remember loving the sauce because it turned my bowl of rice such a lovely pale pink.

Basically, both bean curd cheeses are made by fermenting little tofu squares and then soaking them in concentrated brine, chili flakes and sesame oil for the white variety or red wine dregs and salt for the red version.

As a result of the pickling, the soy protein hardens into a "cheese-like" state, earning both furu and nanru the nickname "Chinese cheese".

Unlike cheese, however, these are pure blocks of intense flavoring. The Chinese are known for their great love for economy, and a 2-cm cube of either nanru or furu will happily accompany many bowls of rice at the dinner table.

There are also countless recipes taking advantage of the lovely pungency of these "cheeses".

And with the prevalent trend toward vegetarian and micro-biotic diets, tofu and tofu products, such as these, have stolen the limelight.

My grandfather would have been pleased to know that recent studies show that the peptides in the fermented bean curds have lots of amino acids. Japanese research also shows they have antioxidants and enzymes useful for preventing hypertension.

For me, the main attraction is still the flavor. Nowhere else in the world have I tasted such delicious pungency, and even the best cheese pales in comparison to these fermented tofu cubes. No respectable Chinese housewife would be caught without a bottle or two in her pantry.

Either white or red pickled bean curd will be an instant marinade for meat, and anyone familiar with the stir-fried water morning glory shoots or kangkong so popular in South China would remember the taste.

Chefs are always looking for new ways to use these as seasoning. But, best of all, just a little cube placed on a saucer and sprinkled with a dash of sugar or sesame oil is enough to make a meal. You cannot get better than that.

Here are some very standard fermented bean curd recipes for you to try. You can find these little gems on most supermarket shelves, but depending on where in China you are, you may have to look for either jiangdoufu, nanru or furu.



]]> 2019-12-29 12:11:44 <![CDATA[Cantonese to please]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/29/content_37530555.htm The meticulous preparation of every top-notch ingredient is the reason cited for awarding one Michelin star to chef Li Qiang's Cai Yi Xuan restaurant at the inaugural Michelin Guide Beijing. Li's is one of five Cantonese eateries among Beijing's 23 Michelin-starred restaurants.

The 46-year-old Tianjin native studied transportation at a technical secondary school. The factory in which he worked closed when he was 20 years old. So, he applied to become a cook at a Cantonese restaurant. He learned from a Hong Kong chef for over a decade before becoming a chef at Cai Yi Xuan when it opened in 2012.

Li has over 20 years of experience in the various cooking styles found all over China, including Cantonese, Beijing, Tianjin and Chaoshan cuisines.

Seafood is one of his specialties, and especially abalone. He has mastered braised whole South African abalone, double-boiled fresh abalone-chicken soup in coconut, poached abalone in rice soup with minced pickled Chinese cabbage and oven-baked whole abalone puffs with diced chicken.

The abalone for the puff is stewed for three hours before it's added to the diced chicken. The puff is then baked until it's crisp and topped with a spoonful of abalone sauce.

His signature dish is stewed pork belly with abalone and truffle. Pork belly is prepared differently throughout China. For instance, it's spicy in Hunan province and sweet in Shanghai.

Li believes the key is to select the right slices with three layers of fat and two layers of lean meat. It's fatty but not greasy when cooked.

Li uses a spray gun to remove the villi and then blanches the cuts to make the meat more compact and tastier. The pork is steamed for half an hour.

The live abalone from Dalian are cleaned and boiled in warm water for two minutes. Li then makes an abalone sauce, which is the key to his signature dish.

The pork belly is cut into 50-gram cubes and deep-fried before it's boiled again with yellow liquor, soy sauce and rock sugar for an hour.

Finally, abalone sauce and abalone are added to the pork belly. It's soft and sweet with a strong truffle flavor.

"Abalone is seafood, and truffles are fungus. And both match well with pork belly," Li says.

Spotted grouper is prepared in various ways. Li steams it whole, deep-fries the bones and wok-fries the fillets.

Li's signature spotted grouper dish is a seafood soup ideal for winter.

The chef also experiments with ingredient combinations to give traditional pairings a new twist-for instance, foie gras with Chinese chives and wok-fried prawns with fermented black garlic.

He doesn't waste anything. Ginger, for instance, is served in slices or strips, or is minced into different dishes. So, Li asks his team to slice the ginger first and then cut it further if needed.

"Cantonese cuisine values the freshness of its ingredients, and the flavors change a little according to the season. Summer dishes are lighter, while winter dishes are heavier," he explains.

When Li returns to Tianjin on weekends, he gets up early and cycles to a local market to learn about seasonal ingredients and buy what he needs to prepare a large meal for his family.

"You can learn about the times to harvest and enjoy the ingredients because farmers understand this better than chefs," he says.

Li is continually developing seasonal menus.

He creates Cantonese dishes using hairy crab in winter. He serves them steamed in his crabmeat balls and in bald-butter soup rice dishes.

His grapefruit, sea urchin and crabmeat jelly with sturgeon caviar and his deep-fried crabmeat, roe and shrimp meatballs coated with almond slices feature the flavor of umami.

Li's innovative approach to the classic drunken hairy crab dish swaps the traditional Shaoxing yellow liquor for a plum spirit to make it sweeter and fruitier.

Li is preparing a festive menu for the Spring Festival family-reunion period.

"For Spring Festival dinner, we must have Cantonese dishes as well as dumplings, which is a must for northern culture," he says.

Li heads up two different teams preparing northern and Cantonese food, respectively.

"Each cuisine has its own specialty. Even the pots and scoops they use to fry the dishes are different," he explains.

"We offer high-end Cantonese cuisine. But since our customers come from all over the world, I want them to get a taste of Beijing during their visit. So, I added some northern-style dishes."



Li Qiang's signature dishes include lobster. CHINA DAILY





]]> 2019-12-29 12:11:44 <![CDATA[Italian, Japanese chefs serve up best of both worlds]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/29/content_37530554.htm For the first time in its six-year history, Opera Bombana invited a two-Michelin-starred Japanese chef to join his Italian counterpart in Beijing to create a unique fusion-dining event-all accompanied by a specially created sake menu and sake-themed cocktail list.

From Dec 5 to 7, the restaurant hosted an East-meets-West dining experience, bringing together Japanese Michelin-starred chef Kazuo Takagi and Opera Bombana's executive chef, Eugenio Iraci, working alongside sake sommelier Ueno Toshio and professional mixologist Jonny Amir.

It was the perfect escape from the cold winter winds outside as diners settled in for a meal featuring outstanding ingredients from around the world paired with warming, mellow sake.

The meal started with a selection of welcome snacks created by Iraci, including a taco-like black-olive wafer with pizza flavors, a cannoli of potato filled with Jerusalem artichoke cream, and a tonnato sauce in red-pepper jelly, each combining traditional Italian flavors with modern presentation and culinary techniques.

Both the amuse-bouche and first course were created by Takagi, demonstrating his unique presentation style and attention to detail. The steamed monkfish liver in the amuse-bouche is an ingredient rarely seen in Beijing.

The first course of Ora King New Zealand salmon used an ingredient in the sake-making process-shio koji-to tie into the theme of the menu. The salmon was paired with egg-yolk vinegar, green asparagus, grilled shiitake mushrooms, and yuzu essence and juice.

To honor Italian cuisine, Takagi uses tomatoes in his main beef course. It looks like a Western dish at first glance, but instead carries authentic Japanese flavors.

A duo of desserts showcased the chef's differing takes on ice cream. Opera's pre-dessert dish created by chef Filippo Mazzanti featured a traditional Italian gelato infused with toasted rice, while Takagi's dessert featured an ice cream made with sake lees paired with a grilled sake zabaglione.

It's the second time that Takagi has been invited to Beijing to collaborate with an Italian chef. Takagi thinks the differences between Italian and Japanese cuisines celebrate their distinctive cultures.

"But we both love eating, and the similarity is that we respect the ingredients, and the basic cooking principles are the same. So, for me, this kind of event is fun," he says.

The techniques he used at the event were mostly Japanese, while the presentation was based on Western styles. He enjoys these kinds of experimental events that entertain diners as they eat and offer a sense of theater.

Takagi usually spends half of the year traveling the world to learn about new ingredients, and discover new techniques and new philosophies, which have a huge influence on his cooking.

He says he can't really describe his cuisine because his dishes are always influenced by his trips. This visit to China will be no different and will influence his dishes in the future.

He likes to link art and food through his cooking. In his mind, art has a more intellectual and emotional effect on people, but food has a much deeper, more tangible impact. "Because you are not going to take a piece of art to put in your mouth and swallow, that's a physical action-art will never be able to replicate that experience," he says.

In Iraci's opinion, Italian and Japanese cuisines both rely on the quality of the ingredients.

"When you talk about Italian food, 80 or even 90 percent of its outcomes depend on the caliber of the products you are using," he says.

"Every region and every recipe have specific ingredients that have to be the most genuine and most authentic, and the approach of Japanese chefs toward the ingredients has the same respect, the same importance."

He is a firm believer that everything starts with the ingredients, and the ingredients themselves tell the chef what to do-and what not to do.

As for the differences between the two cuisines, Iraci thinks it's all about technique. He believes what is most interesting about Japanese cuisine is that it's like a treasure trove of techniques.

"A lot of people are aware of the techniques in Italian cuisine, but when you look at Japanese food, some of the techniques behind them are a complete mystery to the customers," he says.

He thinks the techniques used in Japanese cuisine are like spells.

"It's something that refreshes your approach toward a certain ingredient," he says.

"Also, one of the words people hear about Japanese cuisine is 'umami', but it's not usual to see it in Italian food, too."


Japanese Michelin-starred chef Kazuo Takagi (right) is invited by Italian chef Eugenio Iraci (second from right) to throw a collaborative dining event in Beijing. WANG DONGMEI/FOR CHINA DAILY


2019-12-29 12:11:44
<![CDATA[Potatoes & pork in red sauce]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/28/content_37530654.htm ・ 400 g potatoes

・ 400 g belly pork

・ 4 cloves garlic

・ 1 red chili

・ 2 cubes fermented red bean curd

・ 1 tbsp Chinese wine

・ Salt, sugar, sesame oil to taste

Peel the potatoes, and cut into thick slices. Rinse in lightly salted water.

Rinse the whole piece of belly pork and blanch in boiling water for five minutes. Remove and cool, then cut into slices as thick as the potatoes.

Break up two cubes of fermented red bean curd. Add sugar, wine and sesame oil to make a paste.

Mince garlic and cut the chili into strips.

Deep-fry potatoes in medium hot oil until they are lightly golden. Drain on kitchen towels to absorb excess fat.

Brown garlic and bean curd paste. Add the potatoes and pork belly pieces. Add enough stock or water to cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the liquid is reduced and thickened, and both meat and potatoes are tender.

Plate and garnish with chili strips and coriander.




2019-12-28 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Naughty or nice]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/28/content_37530672.htm All around the world at Christmas time, children gleefully await the arrival of Santa Claus and a windfall of presents under the Christmas tree. Of course, that's all well and good if you've been nice-but what if you were a naughty boy or girl this year? In the regions of Alpine Austria and southern Bavaria, that adds up to a terrifying visit from Krampus, the half-goat, half-demon sidekick to Saint Nick whose mission is to punish the misbehaved.

Krampus-whose name is derived from the Old High German word krampen, which means "claw"-is said to be the son of Hel, the god of the underworld in Norse mythology. Emerging from European pagan traditions, Krampus is a figure you'd be right to be scared of-no matter your age. With his flaming-coal eyes, matted fur, cloven hooves, snarled horns, long pointed tongue and jagged fangs, this "Evil Santa" appears on Krampusnacht, occurring the night before the Feast of Saint Nicholas.

Looks aren't everything, of course. Krampus carries a basket or a sack, a set of shackles, a whip and a bundle of branches for the purpose of swatting naughty children. Sometimes alongside Saint Nick and sometimes solo, Krampus visits the local homes and businesses, handing out lumps of coal and birch bundles-a sobering reminder of the dire results of being naughty.

What's that ominous basket for, you may ask? Why, it's for carrying the bad children back to the pits of hell for all manner of torture. Adults, you'd be right to be scared out of your wits, too-in those particularly egregious cases of naughtiness, parent-napping is included in his repertoire as well.

Krampus has recently spread his reach around the world. He's a frightening reminder to children everywhere that they'd better be on their best behavior, no matter the season-because you never know when he's going to show up on your doorstep. So which list are you on this year? Better check it twice…




Images of Krampus, the half-goat, half-demon sidekick to Saint Nick. He carries a basket to carry away misbehaving children.



2019-12-28 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Chinese language study grows popular in Togo]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/28/content_37530670.htm LOME-Togo's University of Lome in collaboration with the Confucius Institute at the university has launched the Faculty of Chinese Language Studies that will allow students to receive official bachelor's degrees after successfully completing their Chinese language courses.

This cooperative arrangement between the Confucius Institute and the UL begins from this semester that opened earlier last month.

The university said the launch of the faculty in collaboration with the Confucius Institute was due to the institute's proven track record which saw it having trained thousands of Chinese language students over the past decade. Most of these students have since worked as interpreters or translators in Togo and the neighboring countries where they are in high demand.

In an interview with Xinhua, UL's Senior Vice-President Komlan Batawila said the state-owned university will issue the official degree diploma to students who complete six semesters of Chinese language studies.

Batawila also welcomed the cooperation between the UL, China's Sichuan International Studies University, and the Confucius Institute Headquarters, which enabled the opening of the Togolese branch of the Confucius Institute in the UL in 2009.

In another interview, UL's Second Vice-President Kafui Kpegba told Xinhua that the establishment of the Faculty of Chinese Language Studies "ushers in a new era" between the UL and the Confucius Institute which has now become "a fully-fledged entity" of the public university of Togo.

The official diploma in Chinese language comes at a time when China-Togo cooperation is deepening, especially in economic cooperation which is marked by the presence of Chinese firms which create jobs to Chinese-speaking young Togolese people, she explained.

"The issue of employability of the students we train in our university led to the idea of creating the official diploma in Chinese studies. I believe that we will be proven right," Kpegba said.

In the same direction, 22-year-old Tchakou Roland, a first-year student of the just launched Faculty of Chinese Language Studies, said he is passionate about China and has enrolled for the studies as he is in search of what will help him stand out in the job market. He said China is a land of opportunities where he also intends to pursue studies for master's degree, either in computer science or in interpreting.

Professor Koutchoukalo Tchassim, the Togolese director of the Confucius Institute at UL, said the quality of the Chinese language education in the institute sparked a massive enrollment since 2012. About 600 students have registered for the first semester of this academic year in the institute, up from 300 enrollments five years earlier.

"This already poses a problem of infrastructure for the institute," Tchassim lamented, enjoying nevertheless the enthusiasm of Togolese people to learn the Chinese language.

"Our ambition is to be able to expand the Confucius Institute by creating branches in schools. In the schools that we visited, we saw pupils very interested in Chinese language," Tchassim said.

The Confucius Institute at UL has so far opened a local branch in the University of Kara, about 440 km north to the capital Lome, in a bid to offer learning courses to students interested in Chinese language and culture.




2019-12-28 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Red phoenix wings]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/28/content_37530669.htm Serves 4:

・ 20 mid-joint chicken wings (about 800 g)

・ 2 tomatoes, sliced

・ 2 eggs, lightly beaten

・ 2 cubes fermented red bean curd

・ 1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine (or sherry)

・ 1 tbsp sugar

・ 50 g corn flour

・ 50 g plain flour

・ Oil for deep frying

Wash the chicken wings. Remove any stray down or feathers and pat dry

Break up the bean curd cubes, adding the sugar and wine to form a thick sauce. Marinate the chicken wings in this mixture and leave in the fridge for four hours, at least.

Lightly beat the eggs.

Heat up enough oil for deep-frying to about medium high heat.

Dip the chicken wings into the egg mixture and dredge in the flour/corn flour mixture.

Deep-fry until a light golden brown.

Serve with tomato slices on the side.




2019-12-28 00:00:00
<![CDATA[CULTIVATING A TASTE FOR FARMING]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/28/content_37530656.htm China's largest rice planting project in Africa, Wanbao Mozambique rice farm, is located in Xai-Xai, the capital of Gaza province, Mozambique. Benefiting from its vast land mass, a suitable climate, an abundance of water sources for irrigation and support from China, the project aims to develop some 20,000 hectares of land. Through cooperative planting methods, it will help the local farmers to develop successful rice plantations. Thanks to the technical support of Wanbao Mozambique rice farm, the local grain yield has increased significantly. At the same time, the income of farmers participating in the cooperative planting project is also increasing, prompting a renewed enthusiasm for farming. The expansion in the rice cultivation in Mozambique has also greatly helped to alleviate food shortages in the country.


Farmers work in Wanbao Mozambique rice farm ZHANG YU/XINHUA



A Chinese agricultural expert (second right) instructs local workers to use a drone to spray herbicides. ZHANG YU/XINHUA



Farmers celebrate their rice harvest by singing and dancing. ZHANG YU/XINHUA



A Chinese agricultural expert (left) and a local agricultural technician inspect the rice fields ZHANG YU/XINHUA



Joana Roberto Muianga, 55, trims grass growing alongside the rice field ZHANG YU/XINHUA



A harvester is busy gathering ripe crops from the fields ZHANG YU/XINHUA



Freshly harvested rice grains are loaded into a tractor and ready to be shipped to a warehouse. ZHANG YU/XINHUA



2019-12-28 00:00:00
<![CDATA[IN THE CARDS]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/28/content_37530664.htm During the Christmas and holiday season, beyond the act of giving gifts, a simple, heartfelt card can also express your gratitude and love. Though we now live in an electronic age, handwritten cards are still irreplaceable.

The history of sending Christmas cards can be traced back to 1843 in the UK, when Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the precursor to the famed Victoria and Albert Museum, came up with the card idea with a friend, painter John Callcott Horsley. Back then, they were sold for one shilling each-due to their rarity, those originals fetch handsome prices nowadays. Since the 1860s, Christmas cards rose in popularity as the printing technology improved. By the early 1900s, they had spread all over Europe and were especially popular in Germany.

In the United States, Christmas cards have circulated since the late 1840s. Louis Prang, a printer who was originally from Germany and had previously lived in the UK, was devoted to mass-producing cards in the US in the 1870s; he used chromolithography technology to lower production costs. In celebration of Prang's contribution, he is now crowned the "father of American Christmas cards". As time marched on, the card industry became lucrative-and competitive. In the 1920s, it's estimated that there were more than 40 factories and 5,000 workers in the industry. Every year, each company would hire artists to design cards, with fierce competition between each other as they clawed for a piece of the market.

In modern times, many people put their received cards on the most noticeable place in their living room, such as the fireplace mantel or on ropes hung from the wall. In 2004, former US president George W Bush and his wife sent more than two million Christmas cards, breaking a record for the most cards sent. Even with the rise of the internet, this cherished tradition is still going strong.



The very first Christmas card, Sir Henry Cole, 1843 2016 All RIGHTS RESERVED



One of the earliest American Christmas cards (Philadelphia, circa 1849-53) 2016 All RIGHTS RESERVED



A Victorian Christmas card 2016 All RIGHTS RESERVED



Christmas card by Louis Prang showing a group of anthropomorphized frogs parading with banner and band 2016 All RIGHTS RESERVED



Christmas owls postcard by Louis Prang, 1881. 2016 All RIGHTS RESERVED



2019-12-28 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Santa's got a brand new bag]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/28/content_37530663.htm Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way… As the familiar song rings throughout every public space once again, it's obvious Christmas time. Can you still remember what gift you wanted most from Santa Claus when you were a kid? The man who brings happiness and warmth is often depicted in a red suit with fluffy, white beard and a big bag full of presents. However, the jolly old fellow hasn't always appeared the way we envision him today.

It is said that Santa's clothes were initially green in the early 17th century, as the color was thought to have the power to defeat the cold. Setting the stage for the modern-day depiction, in the 1860s, cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for Harper's Weekly, the famed American political magazine based in New York City, as part of a larger illustration whose title was A Christmas Furlough. In his work, Santa Claus was drawn complete with reindeer, a sleigh and many more of the iconic associations today.

However, for a long time, the well-known red suit was not the default version. In the 1864 edition of American writer Clement Clarke Moore's poem A Visit from St Nicholas (also known as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas), Santa Claus was depicted in yellow.

The most significant turning point came in the 1920s, when the Coca-Cola Company began its Christmas advertising. It is said that Santa's red coat appeared because of the predominant color of Coca-Cola's logo; however, the red clothes had already existed long before illustrator Haddon Sundblom painted him for the campaign. Due to the magical powers of advertising, the famous slogan "The Pause That Refreshes" impressed people, together with the kindly, grandfatherly man with round, rosy cheeks and a scarlet outfit. Some of Sundblom's works depicting Santa Claus have also become valuable art pieces that have been exhibited in famous museums, such as the Louvre and the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Coca-Cola solidified the image in our minds-and the marketing machine is largely responsible for our association with Santa in his big red suit.






2019-12-28 00:00:00
<![CDATA[IT'S A RAP]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/28/content_37530662.htm Nawukere is in a good mood. He is taking a few days off with his family in Sanya, a coastal city of Hainan province.

"I am currently sitting in a room facing the sea. I had a good day with my family at a water park. I also bought a Lego Batmobile, which I am still working on," says the rapper from Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

What's also making him excited is his brand new full-length album, on which he has written and performed 12 original songs. He also composed and recorded four instrumental pieces, making the whole album sound like a movie of his life. Entitled Who Am I, the new album features songs about his love for his family, respect for his rap scene peers in Xinjiang and his responses to online bullying.

Last summer, Nawukere came second in the hugely popular The Rap of China, an online reality show which helped propel hip-hop music into China's mainstream. Ever since he took the stage, the round-faced, ambitious young man wasted no time in throwing down the gauntlet to his rivals, immediately giving a full-faith, full-throated presentation of his music. He raps in Mandarin, English and the Uygur language, stunning the audience with his freestyle and creativity.

Through the exposure offered by the show Nawukere was able to enjoy more opportunities to perform around the country, but he also was confronted with doubts and even criticism. Online, some questioned his performances during the show while the others simply just posted rude comments about his music.

The rapper opens up about the online bullying with songs, such as Fool and All Eyes on Me, in which he expresses his attitude and his life changes after the show propelled him to fame.

"All eyes on me; the darkness around me and I fight among the chaos; which is like cholera spreading so fast," he sings.

"The surface seems like glorious; but it's in fact falling into an abyss. The eyes are blinded; which is the core of the problem," he raps in the song Fool.

"I had a hectic schedule after the show. I just stayed at home once a week and was flying the rest of the time. I was angry about the bullying, but I knew the best way to fight back is through my music," says Nawukere, who has nearly 3 million followers on Sina Weibo, a popular social media platform.

So, in August and September, he stopped performing for two months and focused on the new album. "I spent 24 hours in the recording studio and it was very enjoyable, the process of making the new album," he says.

As a father of a 2-year-old boy, a husband and a son, he also wrote the songs Papa and Love Story to dedicate to his family, showing a softer side to the rapper.

On Dec 6, he launched the album with a live concert, which attracted not only fans, but also his longtime friends, including Ma Jun, a rapper from Xinjiang, who also stood out on The Rap of China.

DK, another veteran rapper from Xinjiang, was featured in the song Western Noise, which is also the name of the record label launched by Nawukere and DK.

On Dec 7, Nawukere hosted a party with his friend, marking his 30th birthday on Dec 8 and celebrating the 12th anniversary with his wife.

"Part of me is the same as the 18-year-old Nawukere, while part of me takes more responsibility for my family and my music," the rapper says. "The reality show enabled many of my rapper brothers from Xinjiang to reach the limelight, so we want to work together to develop the label. Now my dream is not just about making myself successful, but also bringing the label up to a new level."

Born and raised in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, he showed a talent for music and dance when he was a child. He learned street dance when the Western art form was introduced to Xinjiang, and he later went on to make waves in the hip-hop scene in both Xinjiang and Beijing. In 2005 he moved to Shanghai to attend high school and, four years later, was enrolled to study at Beijing International Studies University.

During his first year at the university he took part in a singing competition and won, becoming an instant star on campus. In his third year, he held a solo concert on campus, and when he graduated, he released his debut album, Musape.

Though his parents didn't understand the music he was making then, they supported him and even rented a small basement apartment in Xinjiang for Nawukere to use as a music studio. He lived on a tight budget, spending all his savings on recording equipment, however, Nawukere persevered in pursuing his hip-hop music dream, gradually forming his own sound and style of rap.

Before appearing on The Rap of China he had performed on the Zhejiang Satellite TV show, Sound of My Dream, and in a Chinese musical, A Moment of Remembrance, composed by the singer-songwriter Han Hong and directed by the dramatist Tian Qinxin.

Now living in Beijing, Nawukere only returns to his home in Xinjiang in the summer to visit his parents. On Dec 14, he met his fans in Korla city, Xinjiang, where he admits to feeling touched by the response of the local people.

"In the past, only about 20 people came to watch my hip-hop shows in Xinjiang but this time, I saw a big crowd waiting for me to perform, which made me feel proud and excited," Nawukere says, adding that a young man wearing a basketball shirt came up to him and asked for an autograph.

"Since my childhood, my dream was to become a basketball player. It was a special moment for me to sign his shirt," the rapper says. He also recalls that some young rappers from Xinjiang came to the event, "they were very friendly, but told me that, one day, they would surpass. We shook hands, laughed and I said 'I am looking forward to that day'," Nawukere recalls with a smile.










Nawukere has written 12 original songs for his brand new full-length album, Who Am I. The rapper held a concert in Beijing to promote his new album on Dec 6. CHINA DAILY






2019-12-28 00:00:00
<![CDATA[SUN, FUN, SURF AND WHAT NEPTUNE TEACHES]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/28/content_37530665.htm Every day tanned gods and goddesses-the male of the species bronzed, athletic and sporting swimming trunks, the female bronzed, athletic and wearing a bikini-emerge from wooden clubhouses carrying colorful surfboards. From there they saunter across a palm tree-lined paved road, pass by a gigantic blue bowl that acts as a skating training ground on which surfers can improve their balance, and cross a stone bridge before reaching their playground: the golden sands and clean, warm water of Riyue Bay.

We are about 100 kilometers from the tourist resort of Sanya in Hainan province, in an outlying and relatively little known village on the east coast of the tropical island, a utopia for Chinese surfers, and not only them.

The swells and occasional barrel waves are powerful enough to attract surfers from around the world all year round, and the high respect in which the bay is held is reflected in its having been chosen for championship events run by organizations such as the World Surf League and the International Surfing Association championship in recent years.

That in turn is gradually adding to Riyue Bay's mystique as the birthplace of Chinese surfing and producing everything attached to that, including a laid-back culture whose background music is the crashing of ocean waves and the theme of whose chatter seems to be the surf, tidal movements and "Did you catch any big ones today?"

Huang Wen, 34, a Riyue Bay native, is part of the country's embryonic surfing industry and a witness to how his hometown has caught the wave of a sport that itself came on a wave all the way from Polynesia.

Both Huang's father and grandfather made a living from fishing, and Huang began helping the family fish or collect conch shells on the beach from a very young age, at the same time building up a robust constitution and outstanding swimming stamina.

He was 13 when he first saw someone who was not Chinese riding the waves on a board in the bay, bouncing about and playing with the hydrodynamic forces, but it would not be until nine years later that he decided to give it a go himself.

"That day I came across several Japanese surfers on the secluded beach, and one asked me to come over and have a try."

To their surprise, after Huang paddled into the waves he managed to pop up on the board at his first try with his knees bent, arms extended and torso leaning forward.

"Keeping balance on the board is a lot like standing on a small fishing boat, so it was not as difficult as I had imagined."

The Japanese, suitably impressed, gave Huang a board as a gift when they left the bay. Over the 12 intervening years he has spent hundreds of hours honing his surfing techniques, turning from a novice into a seasoned expert.

In the early days Huang's mother ran a seaside seafood restaurant that was popular among visitors who traveled to the place to surf.

"Other local restaurants did not welcome these people because they usually wore sopping wet suits covered with sand," Huang says. "So naturally after we had been surfing I would take them to my mother's restaurant."

He thus forged good relationships with these non-local surfers, and when they left they would often give him their wet suits and surfboards as a token of thanks for his help.

In 2008 he put surfing gear on display in the restaurant and opened a surfing rental shop. Three years later he launched the first surf club in the area but it drew little interest.

"The sport was then not familiar enough to Chinese to try it out," Huang says. "And the village was a virtually unknown destination for tourists."

Eventually he decided to put aside spear fishing and concentrate more on competitive professional surfing. These competitions have taken him to many places including Shenzhen and Shantou in Guangdong province, Bali in Indonesia, Jeju in South Korea and Tokyo Bay in Japan. One of his highlights was winning the Jeju Open event in June 2017.

"I used to just be a fisherman, but my surfboard has taken me to a bigger stage and I have made friends with surfing lovers from all over the world. I hope that as Chinese surfers take part in international events and start to win them it will promote the sport in the country and result in government support, including starting programs and building infrastructure that will help turn Riyue Bay into a well-developed surfing resort."

In October he opened a new surf club on the beach of Riyue Bay that offers board rental, surfing training and food. In the first four weeks after it opened it had attracted more than 100 customers, he says, much more compared with the number of the customers Huang's first club had over a similar period in 2011.

Surfing will make its debut as an Olympic sport in the Games in Tokyo next year, and that exposure is likely to result in many more Chinese wanting to try the sport.

By the end of last year surfing spots in Hainan, Shenzhen, Qingdao in Shandong province and Fuzhou in Fujian province had two dozen surf clubs, with more than 1,000 surfers living near them as members.

Zhang Xiaoxiao, 24, chose to move to Hainan, mainly because of her fascination with surfing, after she graduated from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, Hubei province, in 2017.

During the summer holidays in 2015 Zhang, who studied architecture, visited Riyue Bay for the first time and volunteered to draw graffiti for a surf club.

"I found the tranquil place was very different to the hustle and bustle of well-known coastal resorts I had been to in Xiamen and Qingdao. When you look out over the ocean, anything that's bothering you simply disappears."

During her one-month stay in the surf club she practiced paddling on a board and the procedure by which the surfer manages to stand up.

At first she could barely get a thrill out of trying to ride because she was slender and lacked the strength to control the board, she says. Nevertheless, learning to surf was enjoyable because its relaxing nature helped put her in contact with nature.

"Doing all of this I realized how important it is to keep fit and remain a high degree of physical vigor," says Zhang, who later began to do regular physical workouts and tried other sports such as free diving, climbing and skateboarding, and yoga.

"Surfing opened a door for me to the overwhelming happiness of challenging myself."

She thus built a well-proportioned body and after graduating became a freelance model, allowing her to travel to seaside destinations frequently and enjoy the waves.

In addition, sporty images and messages on positive attitudes to living that she has posted on Sina Weibo have gained her more than 100,000 followers, encouraging her to continue telling others about what she does, using photos and videos, in the hope that one day she can be an online influencer.

Zhang says surfing has helped her form her own beauty standard and she does not blindly follow the precept that says that for women slim figures and white skin are the ideal.

"I'm so proud of my nice suntan and body shape now."

Guo Shujuan, 33, China's top-class female surfer, is sure that the sport can improve one's personality.

"Regular surfing keeps you fit, lifts your confidence and awakens your spirit of adventure, and that helps people, especially females, to grow."

This year she initiated female surf camps in which women immerse themselves in local surfing culture in countries such as the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

"I could never get bored seeing the smiles plastered across women's faces as a wave propels them forward and think of how the experience will change them physically and mentally."

Guo, the first Chinese surfer to win an international women's long-board surfing competition, says surfers should think not only about how to master the board but also about the life philosophy they can learn from the sport.

Even veteran surfers have to wait in the water for a long time before they find a wave they can ride, she says, and even when a good wave appears the surfer needs to be well placed to be able to paddle out to catch it; otherwise the chance can be lost.

"You have to decide on which technique you will use on the board, depending on the movement of the waves. At this point, too, you have to remain calm and patient before the suitable waves roll toward you."

For her the best time to surf is at dawn.

"I sit on my surfboard alone and watch the glowing sphere slowly rise from below the horizon into the dull morning sky, and the colors of the water change as time passes by. That beautiful scene soothes my mind."

A friend of Guo, Liu Dan, 38, who was also a professional surfer, agrees, adding that surfing enables her to isolate her from others and to talk to her inner self.

She has also found that the sport has got her closer to the sea, wildlife and nature as a whole, reducing her desire for material wealth, she says.

The Hubei native is now living in Houhai village, Sanya, where she runs a vegan restaurant, enjoys a Spartan and eco-friendly lifestyle and regularly organizes litter cleanups of the beach.

Most of those who take up surfing become ardent environmentalists because they are eager to surf in clean water, she says.

"When you ride waves you feel as though you are communicating with the sea, and before you can forge a harmonious relationship with the ocean you need to learn more about it and the animals that live in it."

With that aim in mind she has done scuba diving courses and learned a lot about marine creatures, and from 2015 she worked for a Malaysian film production company that was making ocean-protection-themed videos and having Chinese subtitles added to them.

"It would be great if more Chinese people see these videos and become aware of the importance of protecting the ocean and living a sustainable life," she says.




A typical surfing class of the female surf camp initiated by surfer Guo Shujuan in Sri Lanka. CHINA DAILY



Huang Wen, 34, a Riyue Bay native, is part of China's embryonic surfing industry and a witness to how his hometown has turned into a utopia for Chinese surfers. CHINA DAILY



Guo Shujuan (first right on top of the car), 33, China's top-class female surfer, helps her trainees immerse themselves in local surfing culture in Sri Lanka. CHINA DAILY







Huang Wen says that keeping balance on the board is a lot like standing on a small fishing boat. CHINA DAILY



Riyue Bay is deemed the birthplace of Chinese surfing and produces everything attached to that, including a laid-back culture. CHINA DAILY



Liu Dan (in black T-shirt) and some children get their feet in the sand at a beach cleanup event. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-28 00:00:00
<![CDATA[On our Sina Weibo]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/27/content_37530561.htm Life Is Beautiful to hit Chinese theaters

Oscar-winning Italian comedy-drama Life Is Beautiful is set to hit Chinese theaters on Jan 3. Directed by and starring Roberto Benigni, who also co-wrote the story, the film revolves around a Jewish Italian bookshop owner who employs his fertile imagination to shield his son from the horrors of internment in a Nazi concentration camp. The film won numerous awards, including the 1999 Oscar for best actor, best foreign-language film and best original score.

Researchers link weight gain to car ownership

Researchers from the University of California, Renmin University of China and the Beijing Transport Institute found substantial evidence that vehicle ownership in Beijing appears to lead to weight gain and a long-term decline in physical activity. Using sampling data from the Beijing Transportation Research Center, the team analyzed 937 individuals. Of these, 180 people were awarded vehicle permits and about 91 percent of those winners bought cars. They found that within five years, adults of all ages took approximately three fewer rides on public transit each week, with reductions in daily walking and bicycling of about 24 minutes. Meanwhile, weight gain among lottery winners under 50 years old was insignificant, but in those over 50, it was nearly 10 kilograms.




Online Scan to read more on our weibo page



2019-12-27 00:00:00
<![CDATA[On chinadaily.com.cn]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/27/content_37530562.htm Health: 'Doctor Dog' warms lonely hearts

The Yuexiu elderly care center in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, has welcomed four special guests-therapy dogs. These dogs have passed "Doctor Dog" examinations to become canine consultants. They are trained to provide affection and comfort to people. Launched by the Animal Asia Foundation in China in 2004, the program has recruited more than 100 dogs in Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. The program does not only provide comfort and a furry friend for those in need, it is also challenging beliefs and changing lives for animals. These dogs will visit hospitals, homes for the elderly and orphanages.

Culture: Museum launches puzzle book

Puzzle lovers have a chance to rediscover the Forbidden City, as the Palace Museum in Beijing has rolled out its second puzzle book with interactive games that are artistically integrated with the museum's cultural relics and historical archives. The book presents puzzles based on true stories from China's past. With a more immersive reading experience, readers can learn about the Forbidden City while solving the puzzles.

Photos: Six cygnets at Old Summer Palace

A black swan family at the Old Summer Palace in Beijing has welcomed six babies. Two cygnets were born on Saturday, and the rest were born on Sunday, which marked the Winter Solstice (dongzhi). The cute babies have attracted many visitors to the park. Visit our website to view more.

Travel: Park for Winter Games set to open

A forest park for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games will be built in the capital's Yanqing district in December next year. Located in northern Beijing, more than 70 percent of the district is mountainous. It will host Alpine skiing, bobsleigh and luge competitions during the Games. With a planned area of about 100 hectares, the park's construction started in April. According to the plan, the park will be integrated into the local landscape, mainly displaying the culture of the Winter Olympics and providing a recreation area for residents and tourists. To better protect the trees, experts from the Beijing Forestry University conducted an ecological background survey on the area and worked out a protective transplanting plan.




Online Scan to read more on chinadaily.com.cn



2019-12-27 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Star-studded lineup for festive season]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/27/content_37530590.htm From Christmas carols to New Year concerts and a Chinese edition of The Nutcracker, Shanghai Oriental Art Center's festive season comprises 56 productions taking place through Feb 16.

Among the most anticipated of productions is the Jan 11 recital by Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais, who will be performing in China for the first time.

Born in 1979, the renowned Opolais has performed at the Metropolitan Opera New York, Wiener Staatsoper in Austria, Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin and Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

During her trip to Shanghai, the Latvian will present highlights from operas such as La Rondine and Madame Butterfly, as well as art songs by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov.

"She will give this one and only concert during this China tour, so this is a very rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of the diva," says Gu Shengyin, a spokesperson with SHOAC.

On New Year's Eve at SHOAC, the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra will present two concerts at 7:30 pm and 10:30 pm conducted by Laszlo Kovacs. On the two following nights, Berliner Symphonikier will play under the baton of Lior Shambadal. Aside from festive favorites such as Waltz and Polka by Richard and Johann Strauss II, the orchestra will also play Chinese compositions such as the Dragon Boat Ballad, adapted from a traditional Chinese folk song.

Chinese tenors Wei Song, Shi Yijie, Han Peng and Yu Haolei will then present a recital on the evening of New Year's Day. The quartet of artists, who have been active in the opera scene home and abroad for many years, will present a concert of beloved arias from the operas by Verdi, Puccini and Rossini, as well as a medley of Chinese art songs and folk songs.

To celebrate Christmas and New Year, SHOAC will host a localized production of The Nutcracker by the National Ballet of China from Jan 8 to 9. Premiered in 2001 and revised in 2010, the ballet presents a "long scroll of Chinese festive customs" in the classical music of The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky, according to Feng Ying, director of the National Ballet of China.

In the localized version of The Nutcracker, the protagonist is a girl named Clara who lives in a hutong in Beijing. In a dream on New Year's Eve, she meets with a legendary monster named Nian and embarks on a mystical journey through the world of Chinese folklore.

From Feb 15 to 16, conductor Andris Nelsons will lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra on a tour in China, presenting two concerts at SHOAC that feature pianist Yefim Bronfman.


Conductor Andris Nelsons will lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra to perform at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center from Feb 15 to 16. CHINA DAILY



Soprano Kristine Opolais will stage a recital at the venue on Jan 11. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-27 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Meditations on aviation and 8,000-meter-high haute cuisine]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/27/content_37530591.htm The golden era of ancient Chinese poetry just missed overlapping with the age of human flight, but only by a millennium, or two.

Therefore, the closest one can get to getting in the flying mood is an appreciation for things audobon-named after US ornithologist, naturalist and painter John Audubon (1785-1851).

A flock of birds is flying high in the distance/

A lonely cloud drifts idly on its own.

We gaze at each other, neither growing tired/

There is only Jingting Mountain.

-Sitting Alone on Jingting Mountain by Li Bai (701-762)

Chinese poet Li had the distinct honor of being acclaimed "prehumously", and even beyond the life spans of the Wright brothers. Li contemporary, Du Fu (712-770), was also Li's close friend, and the two bards are perhaps the best known wordsmiths in the flourishing of poetry during the Tang Dynasty (618-907)-considered the "Golden Age of Chinese Poetry".

Some of the most famous artistic contemporaries in other cultural hot spots of the world were not so lovey-dovey.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was the bane of Antonio Salieri's (1750-1825) existence, mainly as the Austrian and Italian composers, respectively, rubbed shoulders in the metropole that was Habsburg Vienna.

What if the two put their heads together for a joint opus maximus rather than still-unproven stories that Salieri may have poisoned his rival?

One might also wonder if playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and contemporary Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) had gotten along better-or if the latter hadn't succumbed to a bar brawl months shy of his 30th birthday-if the two literary geniuses could have collaborated instead of competed, they could have made the Elizabethan era (1558-1603) the undisputed golden era of English written art?

Then again, perhaps it was their not-so-friendly rivalry that spurred them to soar to greater heights in the first place?

It reminds me of an interview snippet I once read where a business reporter asked the CEO of Coca-Cola to what he attributed the soft drink's stunning global success.

"Pepsi," was the executive's one-word reply.

Speaking of soaring to greater heights, flying has come a long way since Icarus, legendary Greek son of master craftsman Daedalus (architect of the Labyrinth), took a bold leap of faith off a seaside cliff in Crete to escape his pursuers.

Perhaps Icarus would have benefited from a bit more helicoptering from his father as he ignored dad's instructions not to fly too close to the sun, melting his waxen wings and plunging him to his demise.

I will also be pulling an Icarus soon as I head back home on annual leave to see the parents and siblings.

I will be neither booking a helicopter nor flattening out candles for a cape.

I will be flying coach, perhaps lucky enough to sit beside Lang Ping (women's volleyball national team coach) or Jose Mourinho, who stepped down as coach of Manchester United a year ago.

But more likely I will be sandwiched between a 20-stone Smirnoff-swigging stentorian snorer and an unaccompanied toddler with thunderous teething issues.

The back seat trivia games are a fun diversion, perhaps for the first hour out of the Capital International Airport.

But the catch-22 is if you don't do well, everyone wants to play against you to improve their success rate, while you basically get the gargoyle-on-the-wing treatment if you're a bit too clever.

So for the nearly 24 hours I'll be above the clouds next month, I plan to do lots of calf calisthenics, foodie experimentation and memorization of national capitals. And if my calves overdo it, I hope the kicked seat in front of me isn't filled with the coach of the Thai men's kick-boxing team.


A. Thomas Pasek



2019-12-27 00:00:00
<![CDATA[On our Sina Weibo]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530324.htm New trailer for film on women's volleyball team

Leap, a film on the Chinese women's volleyball team, released a new trailer on Tuesday, which has gone viral. The trailer reproduces the moment of their quarterfinal victory against Brazil at the 2016 Rio Games. Volleyball players, including Zhu Ting, Hui Ruoqi, Xu Yunli, Ding Xia, Zhang Changning and Yuan Xinyue appeared in the trailer and star in the movie. The film is set to hit the big screen on Jan 25, the first day of the Chinese New Year, according to the China Film Distribution and Exhibition Association. Directed by Hong Kong director Peter Ho-sun Chan, it stars actress Gong Li as coach Lang Ping, The film follows several generations of women's volleyball players as they attempt to win glory for the country.

Annular solar eclipse to occur across Asia

The world is set to witness an annular solar eclipse. The rare phenomenon occurs on Thursday when the moon will entirely cover the sun creating a ring of fire from its edges. The eclipse is going to be visible from most parts of China from the morning to afternoon. The central track of the eclipse is going to pass through the Arabian peninsula, southern India, Sumatra, Borneo, the Philippines and Guam. To safely observe the sun or watch an eclipse, you need protective eyewear or eclipse glasses.




Online Scan to read more on our Weibo page



2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[A new approach is needed to make Star Wars a 'force' in China]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530384.htm BEIJING-Jedi mind tricks don't work on China.

While Star Wars fans from around the world waited in line for days to catch The Rise of Skywalker, the sci-fi series has struggled to woo filmgoers in the increasingly important Chinese market.

Special previews of the long-awaited Star Wars film in Beijing this week drew just a handful of fans.

Chen Tao is a rare superfan in a country where Friday's opening day presales were just 12 million yuan ($1.71 million), Xinhua News Agency said, a fraction of the 218 million yuan taken recently on release by a Chinese-made crime drama, according to China Central Television.

The 35-year-old Shanghai resident only became curious about the space saga by accident after stumbling across a pre-installed Star Wars video game on his first computer.

Chen now runs one of China's biggest online Star Wars fan groups, debating lightsaber physics on the online message board Zhihu and managing a Weibo account with 30,000 followers.

He loves the Star Wars world for its vast scale and rich detail that fans can piece together through movies, books and games.

"Its world is like a jigsaw-puzzle... which feels very magical to me, and inspires a desire to explore this universe," he says.

But Chen and his fellow fans are rare in China, where cinemagoers instead flock to see Marvel superheroes and domestic films.

The Last Jedi ranked number 47 at the box office in China in 2018, far behind Marvel's superhero film Avengers: Infinity War at number six, according to Box Office Mojo.

Since buying Star Wars studio Lucasfilm in 2012, Disney has stepped up efforts to gain fans in the world's fastest-growing movie market.

In October, Disney and Tencent-owned e-book company China Literature announced they would be publishing the first-ever Star Wars novel written specifically for Chinese audiences featuring "Chinese-style expression".

"We will introduce interpersonal relations and other concepts from Chinese custom into Star Wars," a China Literature representative said, without providing further details.

Empty screening

The made-for-China Star Wars novel will have to overcome significant obstacles.

A Beijing bar hosted a screening on Dec 17 of previous Star Wars films ahead of Friday's China release-but the special room was mostly empty.

The indifference could be explained by the fact that Chinese audiences were introduced to the series in 1999 with the prequel Episode 1: The Phantom Menace-a disappointment to original fans and panned by critics.

"When Star Wars was released worldwide in 1977, it was a real film revolution," says Steffi Noel, an analyst from Shanghai-based market research firm Daxue Consulting.

"Each new episode of Star Wars is linked to a craze, a nostalgia," Noel says.

But most Chinese viewers never formed this nostalgic bond with the movies.

In 1977, as foreign audiences were introduced to George Lucas' Skywalker saga, China had little access to Western popular culture.

The three original films were only finally shown at a Shanghai film festival in 2015.

'Old technology'

By the time Chinese audiences were introduced to the franchise, "the technology seemed old", Fan Yunxin, from a Beijing-based science fiction reading group, says.

"Space opera isn't really something Chinese people related to," Fan says, adding while she likes the films, she didn't know of any "hardcore" fans.

Alex Hu, a 24-year-old science fiction fan, says he was unimpressed with the visual effects.

"I would say a lot of fight scenes in Star Wars are similar," he says.

Chen says Chinese sci-fi fans tend to prefer "hard" science fiction that focuses on scientific theory and have high demands for a story's logical consistency, but Star Wars was more like a "Roman empire tale that had been moved into space".

When he first watched one of the films, he was amazed by how casually alien and human characters coexisted in the Star Wars universe, something he had never encountered before in a science fiction film.

Noel believes that Disney needs to rebrand Star Wars to sell the franchise in China.

"What they need to sell it now is a new story," she says.

"It's not enough to include Chinese-style drawings or architecture."

Agence France-Presse

From left: A scene from the film Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker features Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn. AP



2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[On chinadaily.com.cn]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530382.htm Culture: Royal jewels come to Shenzhen

An exhibition titled Awaken: Royal Jewelry Arts from the Renaissance to the 20th Century opened at the Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning in Guangdong province, on Sunday. More than 160 pieces of royal treasure collected from 20 countries and regions and spanning four centuries are on display. The exhibits include necklaces, pendants, pocket watches, crowns, snuff bottles and other luxury items from Europe. More than 100 treasures are on display for the first time. The exhibition will run to March 1.

Travel: Chinese visitor surge to Finland

The rising number of Chinese visitors has contributed to the growth of Finnish tourism, according to the national broadcaster. Citing booking numbers from Visit Finland, the report said a total of 140,000 Chinese tourists will visit Finland from December to February, up 16 percent from last winter. Direct flights from China to Finland are the driving force for the tourist growth. China's Juneyao Air, Tibet Airlines and Sichuan Airlines all started flights to Helsinki in 2019. Finland's national carrier Finnair also started to offer thrice weekly flights to Beijing Daxing International Airport this year. Among popular attractions for Chinese tourists are Lapland, Finland's northernmost region, and the Paljakka ski resort in Puolanka, a town in central Finland with 2,600 residents.

Film: Ip Man 4 leads box office this week

Ip Man 4, the latest installment in the martial arts film franchise Ip Man based on the life of a legendary Wing Chun (a form of kung fu) master, led the Chinese box office this week, according to the China Movie Data Information Network. Set in the 1960s, the film sees Donnie Yen reprising the title role as the kung fu master who travels to the United States to work with Bruce Lee after the latter decides to open a Wing Chun school.

Society: Metro app to cover 10 cities

Metro passengers are able to scan a QR code on the Metro Daduhui app this week to pay their fare in 10 cities in the Yangtze River Delta, said Shanghai Shentong Metro Group. Shanghai, Hangzhou and Ningbo were the first three cities in the region to adopt the method in December last year. Since then, seven other cities have joined the network. Changzhou in Jiangsu province was the final piece in the jigsaw. Shengtong Metro said more than 3 million people have used the app.




Online Scan to read more on chinadaily.com.cn



2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Young entrepreneurs revive traditional Dong textile-making skills]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530361.htm GUIYANG-Having given up making traditional Dong cloth for nearly 20 years, Wang Yangying, 76, is considering returning to her old job, after being inspired by a group of young ethnic Dong people.

"Many Dong people learned how to weave and dye traditional cloth from an early age," Wang says.

"I used to make clothes myself. However, machine-made products quickly replaced handmade cloth. Besides, we had to do farm work every day, so most of us gave up the tradition."

Wang never expected she would be dusting off these old techniques until she met Yang Chenglan, a young woman who'd returned home to Zaima town in Rongjiang county in the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture to develop a startup making and selling traditional Dong cloth.

"She even exports the cloth overseas, which gave me the idea of starting to make Dong cloth again and to promote this ancient craft to out-of-towners," Wang adds.

Yang worked for schools and training institutions for over seven years after graduating from university in Guizhou province in 2009. The 33-year-old decided to return to her hometown out of concern for the large number of "leftover" elderly and child residents there and the need to keep the local traditional culture alive.

"I wanted to protect traditional Dong weaving skills so that outsiders can appreciate our culture and learn more about homespun Dong cloth," she says.

Yang returned to the town in 2016 where she rented a room to use as a workshop. She persuaded some local women to join her enterprise, while her husband took up the role of promoting and selling of their textiles online.

"It wasn't easy in the beginning, as local people didn't believe that traditional textiles could be turned into marketable products. Since the weaving process is so elaborate and time-consuming, very few women wanted to join us," Yang says.

Instead of chemical dyes, Yang uses the leaves from more than a dozen plants, including indigo, persimmon, safflower, maple and waxberry. These methods were passed down to her by her grandmothers.

Yang has enjoyed an increasing number of orders, as well as support from local women, as the unique craftsmanship and dyeing methods have gradually grown in popularity with consumers. Many rural residents, young and old, who've mastered the traditional weaving and dyeing skills from neighboring counties have joined the Dong-cloth industry.

The traditional cloth Yang makes sells for between 20 yuan ($2.85) and 400 yuan per meter, depending on its intricacy. In 2018, her sales soared to 2 million yuan, and many of her products were exported to Japan and Australia.

Yang Qiuyun was a migrant worker in Zhejiang province and Guangdong province before 2016. Since then, the 27-year-old has learned to weave and dye from working with Yang Chenglan. Thanks to the workshop, she doesn't have to leave her family to find a job and can earn around 4,000 yuan per month.

"What struck me most was that rural areas need young people with knowledge to lead locals to better lives," Yang Qiuyun says.

Since the country has been pushing ahead its rural revitalization strategy in recent years, an increasing number of talented youngsters have been returning to their rural hometowns, pooling their wisdom and energizing local economies.


Yang Chenglan, a university graduate from the Dong ethnic group, returns home to Zaima town in Rongjiang county in the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture to make traditional cloth. WANG BINGZHEN/XINHUA



Yang and her husband, Wu Fangjun, check the cloth they've produced. WANG BINGZHEN/XINHUA



2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Salt of the earth]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530360.htm Late sculptor Liu Shiming left an oeuvre that may seem quite unrefined and rustic to those whose tastes are sophisticated and are perhaps used to seeing a lot of polished and perfect pieces.

He largely produced monochromatic pottery, a feature of which is the rough texture showing the traces and marks left by his hands. His works form panoramic scenes of people from different walks of life going about their business: performers of local operas gathering backstage, boatmen working on the rivers, and street vendors and cobblers at roadside stands, to name a few.

Liu formed a distinctive style of freezing the most inconspicuous moments of these people's day-today lives, presenting them from a distant, peaceful perspective. The viewer ultimately feels "a simple concern with these people and a mood of sincerity that Liu hid deep within his work", says art critic Shao Dazhen.

Liu's passion for playing with clay is obvious. He once said that he didn't have any idea what he was creating before he laid his fingers on the clay.

"I experiment with the clay while I conceive. Only when I keep working with pottery can I become excited and have a great idea emerge in my mind," he said.

After Liu died in 2010 at age 84, his family donated dozens of his works to the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, the institution from which Liu graduated and where he once taught. Based on this donation, the school opened a gallery named after Liu with an exhibition showing more than 90 of his sculptures, photos, manuscripts, drafts and personal belongings on its Xiaoying campus in northern Beijing.

The ongoing exhibition will run until Jan 19, 2020. It will reopen on Feb 24 and continue until May 5, 2020.

The exhibition is dedicated to the critical period in Liu's career when he began to find his own sculptural language-the years between 1961 and the mid-1970s when he lived and worked in Henan and Hebei provinces, and frequently traveled to Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces.

He was extensively exposed to the diverse and rich customs in these regions, particularly the areas along the Yellow River. He was inspired to use clay to portray the dynamics of nature and life on the Loess Plateau, which he would continue for years, even after he was transferred back to Beijing in the late 1970s.

The exhibition hall is designed to resemble the interior of yaodong, or cave houses, a unique style of dwelling in northwestern China, and some of the sculptures are displayed on piles of sand and gravel to remind people of the windy, dry climate of the Loess Plateau.

Works on show include an "earthen courtyard" series Liu sculpted to convey his interest in the everyday routines of the people living in the enclosed, rectangular courtyards he saw along the Yellow River regions, including the distinctive dikengyuan-or "sunken courtyards"-that are dug below ground level.

The "ferryboat" series is another highlight from Liu's oeuvre that is on show. He depicted boatmen hard at work and a lively scene of passengers traveling with their heavy loads and livestock, through which he conveyed good wishes for these people.

Cao Qinghui, the exhibition's curator, says Liu's work embodies a humanistic spirit, and shows he valued mutual respect among people, and among humans, animals and nature, as well as a need to love and be loved.

Fan Di'an, principal of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, says that within Liu's body of work, the sculptures that depict the work and lives of everyday folk possess an intellectual seriousness in modeling and an academic tradition to present the spiritual nature of the subjects.

"He hailed from the working class, and he spared no effort to praise them in his work," Fan says.

"He sought no fame or fortune. He preferred to be far away from the spotlight and retreat to a world of his own for inner exploration. His art is deeply rooted in the soil of China's folk art and culture, especially those that were preserved in the countryside. He was nurtured with the brilliance of folk sculptures, and he opened his mind and heart to embrace the plain lifestyle of rural China and to feel its atmosphere.

"He therefore established a distinguished approach to art imbued with the delight of life, the emotional touch of shaping pottery with one's fingers and the warmth of the clay. By doing so, he also developed the 'Chinese methods' of sculpting."

Sculptor Wang Shaojun, a professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, says the opening of the exhibition and the gallery named after Liu is the beginning of a new course in which homegrown artists can learn from Liu's experiences. They can create work that also carries the cultural DNA of China and offers insightful perspectives into the realities and welfare of its people.

Liu once said: "Someday, after I die, my friends will have the opportunity to see my works and talk with them in silence. That will be lovely."


A photo taken in 2006 shows Liu Shiming at work. CHINA DAILY



Actress at Backstage is among the works by Liu Shiming on show at the current exhibition in Beijing. CHINA DAILY



Boatmen on the Yellow River is among the works by Liu Shiming on show at the current exhibition in Beijing. CHINA DAILY



Three Donkeys is among the works by Liu Shiming on show at the current exhibition in Beijing. CHINA DAILY



Preparing Meals is among the works by Liu Shiming on show at the current exhibition in Beijing. CHINA DAILY





2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Drawing from the past]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530359.htm A legend in the world of French cinematic animation, 76-year-old auteur Michel Ocelot recently visited China with his latest directorial outing, Dilili in Paris, winner of the best animated film at the 2019 Cesar Awards-the French equivalent of the Oscars.

The movie, which opened the Annecy Film Festival in 2018, was released in Chinese mainland theaters on Saturday.

Told from the perspective of a child, a method Ocelot often adopts, the story sees Dilili, a 6-year-old Kanak girl from New Caledonia-a French territory in the South Pacific-team up with a delivery boy to probe a string of mysterious child kidnappings in the French capital.

While the plot may sound a little flat to fans of the genre, the film should attract arthouse enthusiasts as it's something of a love letter to Paris during the Belle Epoque period-a famous artistic heyday for France between the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

During their investigations, the amateur detective duo meet more than 60 cultural figures and scientists of the time-from Nobel laureate Marie Curie to novelist Marcel Proust to biologist Louis Pasteur.

Of all the famous names in Paris, Emma Calve-the French operatic soprano famed for performing the lead in Georges Bizet's Carmen-plays a key role in helping Dilili and delivery boy Orel on their mission.

"I chose the year 1900 as the set for my film, as I believe it was a beautiful era that saw many of the world's finest and most talented artists and scientists gather in Paris. Despite having all passed away, their legacy will benefit humankind now and forever," Ocelot told China Daily during a recent visit to Beijing.

But there were characteristics of the era that Ocelot-who defines himself as a "global citizen"-feels uneasy and regretful about, realizing that Europe at that time only acknowledged the achievements made by white people.

With his childhood memories of family life in the West African country of Guinea and his knowledge of literature, the director developed the character of Dilili, a mixed-race child not regarded as "one of us" either by the Africans or the Europeans depicted in the film.

"It's not just about racial identity. I want to explore the diversity of culture. In some senses, I am like a child with a sweet tooth, who wants to taste candy from every corner of the world," the animator says.

The animation also features a two-dimensional hand-drawn style, set against the photorealistic backdrops of landmark attractions in Paris, from the Moulin Rouge to Le Bateau-Lavoir.

Ocelot reveals that all the backdrops were digitally transformed from photographs of the iconic buildings, as he believed there was no need to redraw the breathtaking Parisian landscapes already familiar to audiences around the world.

But behind the picturesque scenery, the ugly truths uncovered by the duo are as dark as they are terrible.

Under the control of an insane misogynist, the kidnappers abduct young girls from the streets of Paris and train them to become so-called "crawling people", who are forced to walk on all fours and serve as "benches" for men to sit on and rest.

This rather exaggerated metaphor refers to the struggle by women for gender equality over the centuries. Ocelot says he believes it is utterly wrong to consider women as "inferior to men".

"Although I am fascinated by glittering and enduring civilizations and cultures, I'm scared by the dark chapters of history and the malice shown toward women. We would be much happier if men and women were treated equally," he says.

As the former president of the International Animated Film Association, Ocelot says he has long held a strong interest in Chinese animation, especially Shanghai Animation Film Studio's classics, such as Three Monsters and Little Tadpoles in Search of Their Mother.

Chinese culture has also become his new source of artistic inspiration, reveals the director, who is planning to make the 15-minute animated flick, A Dream Lover, inspired by his visit to see the ancient architecture in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, a few years ago.

"The Chinese story will be about the daughter of a pharmacy owner," reveals Ocelot.

The meticulous filmmaker usually spends six years producing a film. But Ocelot intends to produce his upcoming works-which will include a feature-length anthology of three short tales set in Egypt and France-more quickly.

Born in Villefranche-sur-Mer in 1943, the artist who has been devoted to animation for over half a century jokingly suggests his passion developed in the mid-1940s at the age of 18 months.

"I always liked to scribble on paper or anything else that was available. There were no TV sets in my childhood, so I had to create my own amusement. Thanks to painting and animation, they continue to make me happy and have now become part of my life," says an emotional Ocelot.


Clockwise from top left: The main character, Dilili, rides a leopard in the animated film, Dilili in Paris, created by French director Michel Ocelet; Dilili's adventures lead her to meet a string of historical figures, including scientist Marie Curie (right) and actress Sarah Bernhardt (center); the film displays Paris' landmark attractions, such as the Eiffel Tower. CHINA DAILY







2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[In search of a silver lining]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530345.htm When actor Huang Xuan was shooting an advertisement earlier this year, he took a call from director Feng Xiaogang, a man who was once hailed as "China's (Steven) Spielberg" by the American magazine Newsweek.

"Mr Feng asked me if I had time to hear a story," recalls Huang in a recent interview with China Daily ahead of the Beijing premiere of Only Cloud Knows.

Then, over the course of the next 20 minutes, Huang-who starred in Feng's 2017 runaway hit Youth-came to hear about the story of an enduring 36-year-long romance between a couple of close friends of the famous director, Zhang Shu and Luo Yang.

"I met Mr Zhang when I was shooting Youth. But this was the first time to learn about his past and suffering. Feng is such an excellent storyteller that his detailed depictions quickly stirred my emotions and brought a tear to my eye," recalls Huang.

Both natives of the Chinese capital, Feng shared a dormitory with Zhang when they worked together in an art troupe of the People's Liberation Army in the early 1980s.

Back then, most people were reluctant to talk about romance, but Zhang soon asked Feng for advice after confessing to falling in love with Luo at first sight on a bus ride.

The couple later married and emigrated to Canada. Zhang returned to Beijing in 2003 to work on Feng's film, and stayed for over a decade. Unfortunately, Luo was later diagnosed with cancer and passed away in Toronto in 2017.

Widely regarded as a front-runner who helped to propel the Chinese film industry with his stylish comedy blockbusters like The Dream Factory (1997) and Cellphone (2003), Feng in recent years has adopted a more personal and nostalgic approach as seen in movies like Youth.

Feng was moved when Zhang opened up about his feelings for his late wife, especially as he had just happened to catch iconic Japanese actor Ken Takakura's last film Dearest-a story about a retired prison warden who fulfills his dead wife's last wish-which also tugged his heartstrings.

All these elements helped give rise to Only Cloud Knows, his latest movie currently on release in China, New Zealand, Australia, North America and the United Kingdom.

Penned by novelist-turned-scriptwriter Zhang Ling, whose 2009 novel Aftershock was adapted by Feng into a disaster flick of the same name in 2010, Only Cloud Knows by contrast has a narrative that unfolds at a much slower pace.

Set principally in picturesque New Zealand, the 132-minute film follows the story of a Chinese expatriate who travels over 15,000 kilometers to fulfill his late wife's wishes, returning some of her ashes to her hometown in China and scattering more into the sea at a whale-watching spot near in New Zealand.

Through a series of flashbacks, the story unfolds how the couple fell in love when they rented separate rooms in a Chinese woman's house in Auckland, and later, their painstaking efforts in setting up their Chinese restaurant in the small town of Clyde in southern New Zealand.

Huang, 34, stars as the grieving husband, while 27-year-old actress Yang Caiyu plays his wife. The new movie marks their reunion after appearing as the main characters in Youth.

Yang, whose father died of cancer two years ago, recalls that she could appreciate the sentimental tone of the movie from her own parents' love story.

"My mother's situation is much like the husband's in the film. They have both been left in the sorrow of loneliness halfway along life's path," Yang explains.

Both of the stars spent a long time preparing for their roles in order to convey the bittersweet romance and the characters' sense of isolation and loneliness as expatriates.

Since a number of Huang's lines were written in English, he recruited a native speaker to act as a voice coach to "force" him to only speak English for the entire duration of the shoot.

On the other hand, Yang studied in the United States and has a good command of English, so she devised a way to make herself sound like a novice speaker.

"I wrote the Chinese characters under the English lines on the script to make me pronounce each phrase a bit awkwardly. So my lines in the film came across as sounding quite 'Chinglish'," Yang smiles.

Both stars also received culinary training to help them perform their scenes in the kitchen at the restaurant owned by the protagonist couple in Clyde.

"I'm still a bachelor and I have yet to reach the same age as the character's age (who is depicted in the movie as being in his mid-40s). So I had to draw on my most mature and complex emotions to imagine the psychological state of this middle-aged man who had suffered the pain of his wife passing away," Huang says of his approach to the role that spans 17 years in the movie.

Despite facing the challenges of acting and language, Huang had some happy and unforgettable moments with a special "actor" named Blue-a stray dog the couple adopted in the film.

"I was surprised to see that a dog could be so smart to follow all the acting commands from the director … such as pretending to be weak and suffering from breathing difficulties," recalls Huang.

Yang adds: "The dog is a famous star in New Zealand and has appeared in several films and TV series. I was told that I should establish an intimate relationship with him (the dog is depicted as a key member of the family in the movie), so I always had some delicious sausages in my pocket."

By Tuesday the film had grossed around 110 million yuan ($15.7 million), outperforming Disney's epic Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker but still overshadowed by the box-office takings from Donnie Yen's final action film, Ip Man 4.


Scenes from the film Only Cloud Knows, which tells of the bittersweet romance between a couple of Chinese expatriates in New Zealand, with the husband played by actor Huang Xuan and wife by actress Yang Caiyu. CHINA DAILY



A poster of the film. CHINA DAILY



(From right) Director Feng Xiaogang alongside actor Huang Xuan, actresses Yang Caiyu and Lydia Peckham, who plays a waitress, at the Beijing premiere on Dec 17. ZOU HONG/CHINA DAILY





2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[This Day, That Year]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530342.htm Editor's note: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China.

On Dec 26, 2008, a Chinese naval fleet set sail on an anti-piracy mission off Somalia as seen in the item from China Daily.

It marked the first deployment of the People's Liberation Army Navy to the waters off the war-torn country.

In the past decade, China's naval forces have expanded their engagement in the region, adding the protection of Chinese nationals and interests overseas to counterpiracy and escort activities.

According to official statistics, about 109 ships and 29,000 soldiers and sailors have been dispatched since the start of the anti-piracy mission.

During this period, thousands of ships have been escorted and dozens of Chinese and foreign vessels have been assisted or rescued by PLA Navy warships.

On Monday, the 34th convoy fleet of PLA Navy left the port in Sanya, Hainan province, for an escort mission in Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia.

The task force consists of guided-missile destroyer CNS Yinchuan, Type 054A guided missile frigate Yuncheng and auxiliary replenishment oiler Weishanhu. It also has two helicopters, and is supported by about 700 officers and soldiers.

In 2002, the PLA Navy conducted its first global goodwill voyage, sailing for 132 days and visiting 10 countries.

Since then, the Navy has conducted several global goodwill trips to promote friendship and exchanges with the rest of the world.

Since it entered service in 2008, Chinese naval hospital ship Peace Ark has fulfilled nine missions coded as Mission Harmony and visited 43 countries and regions, and provided medical services for more than 230,000 people, covering a distance of over 444,400 kilometers.




2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[What's on]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530341.htm The Grand Mansion Gate

When: Dec 31 and Jan 1, 8 pm

Where: Shenzhen Poly Theater

It has been 18 years since Chinese director and script writer Guo Baochang created The Grand Mansion Gate, a 72-episode TV drama based on the story of his adoptive father.

It tells of the Bai family in Beijing through one of the most politically tumultuous periods of modern Chinese history, from the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) until World War II. The story has been adapted as a Peking Opera of the same name.

In the TV drama, the focus is on Bai Jingqi, a rebellious and ambitious young man. He carries the hopes of his family, which runs a traditional Chinese medicine shop in Beijing.

The drama version was created by the National Theater of China. It premiered at the National Center for the Performing Arts in 2013.

The Murder of Hanging Garden

When: Jan 1-11 and 14-18, 7:30 pm; Jan 11, 12, 18 and 19, 2:30 pm

Where: Beijing Citycomb Theater

Directed by the avant-garde theater director Meng Jinghui, the six-scene musical has all the characteristics expected in a Meng work: abstract settings, bizarre costumes, a ridiculous story, exaggerated actions and absurd anecdotes told by the performers between scenes.

The story starts with the rumor that the real estate magnate Mr. Wang has been murdered. His wife offers the villa, Hanging Garden, as a reward for information leading to the murderer's arrest. The reward is so enticing that three people confess to the murder.

At the same time the director explores love, friendship and father-children relationships in three independent storylines linked by a common desire for wealth and fame.


When: Jan 2-12, time varies

Where: Hangzhou Grand Theater

Tripula tells of a static balloon experience.

Two scientists have discovered a new mode of travel and expose a group of passengers to their idea. The balloon travels through space, close to the limits of reality, allowing people to go to places that until now nobody suspected existed. The trip promises to be gentle and poetic, but setbacks arise that force passengers to join the crew.

The Farres Bros and Co transform a hot-air balloon into an unforgettable theatrical experience.

Lang Lang Piano Music Gala

When: Jan 3, 7:30 pm

Where: Sichuan Gymnasium, Chengdu

Lang Lang is one of the nation's biggest classical music stars. The 36-year-old, who was born in Shenyang, Liaoning province, first began playing piano at the age of 3 and it only took him two years before he won first place at the Shenyang Piano Competition and performed his first public recital.

He now plays to sold-out houses around the world and has become a role model for millions of young Chinese learning classical music.

Spring Awakening

When: Jan 10-18, 7:30 pm; Jan 11, 12 and 18, 2 pm

Where: Shanghai Culture Square

Spring Awakening, the 2006 emotionally powerful, sexually frank and Tony-winning musical by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, has been staged around the world and is heading to China. The staging is directed and choreographed by Spencer Liff, who choreographed the acclaimed 2015 Broadway revival of Spring Awakening.

Liff directs and choreographs with an entirely Chinese cast which speaks in Chinese and sings in English.

The musical is a modern landmark in the theater of the United States; an explicit tale of 19th century German teenagers coming to grips with their sexuality, both straight and gay.

Sater's lyrics and book deals head-on with such controversial topics as abortion and suicide.


When: Jan 15-22, 7:30 pm

Where: National Center for the Performing Arts, Beijing

February is based on novelist Rou Shi's 1929 novel, and tells the tragic love triangle story between primary schoolteacher Xiao Jianqiu, his lover Tao Lan and widow Wen Sao.

Created by the National Center for the Performing Arts, the play plunges the audience into the bedlam of the May Fourth Movement, a patriotic campaign launched in 1919 by young Chinese to fight imperialism and feudalism.

Xiao is sent to the countryside, where his courtship of Wen sparks the lurid disapproval of the townspeople.

The melodrama champions New China while walking a tightrope between schmaltz and political allegory.

Duan Jin

When: March 11-15, 7:30 pm

Where: Beijing Tianqiao Performing Arts Center

Duan Jin tells the story of how three brothers with different personalities run a business together on the Wangfujing Street in Beijing with mixed love and hate, the rise and fall of interests during the early period of the last century.

Screenwriter Zou Jingzhi is best at describing the typical old Beijing story. Three well-known Chinese actors-Zhang Guoli, Wang Gang and Zhang Tielin-play the lead roles in this play.

Come From Away

When: April 23 and 24, 7:30 pm

Where: Beijing Tianqiao Performing Arts Center

Come From Away is a breathtaking musical written by Canadians Irene Sankoff and David Hein and produced by Tony-nominated director Christopher Ashley.

It is set in the week following the Sept 11 attacks and tells the true story of what transpired when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small town of Gander in Newfoundland, Canada, as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon.

The characters in the musical are based on real Gander residents, as well as some of the 7,000 stranded travelers they housed and fed.


2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Israel exhibition shows China through the eyes of tourists]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530327.htm JERUSALEM-China through Israeli Eyes, a photo exhibition held in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, has attracted more than 200 Israeli viewers.

The exhibition, held last week, displayed 30 pictures selected from about 1,500 photos taken by Israeli tourists during their visits to China. The China Cultural Center in Tel Aviv started to collect the photos in November.

The images demonstrate China's amazing landscapes in urban and rural areas, as well as Chinese people and their colorful lives, says Tao Chen, director of the China Cultural Center in Tel Aviv.

Cultural exchanges-a significant part of the cooperation between China and Israel-enhance mutual understanding, trust and friendship between the two peoples, notes Tao.

"Frequent cultural exchanges and cooperation between China and Israel reflect the friendly relations of our two countries," he adds.

Through an online vote, three photos were awarded the first, second and third prizes, and the awards ceremony was also held at the opening.

A photo depicting an old Chinese woman cleaning chaff from rice in a traditional manner in her home, taken by Amnon Eichelberg in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, won the first prize.

Eichelberg says that he visited China three times, including two tours in Guangxi. He says the old Chinese woman randomly invited him and his wife into her home.

"It was a very interesting experience, and the photo tells the story of her life," says Eichelberg.

China changes a lot every year, and it is interesting to see both modern and traditional elements in China, Eichelberg says.

"China is very big, and I would like to see other places."

Shimon and Dina Yona, a couple in their 70s, say the photos brought back memories of their China tour 15 years ago.

They point out that the country has totally changed compared with the China they knew. "China is very interesting, and the people are also becoming more open-minded, so now we have to learn more about China."

A performance featuring Chinese ethnic songs, dance and instrumental music was also staged at the event.

The exhibition was hosted by the China Cultural Center and Israel's tourism website, Lameteyel. This is the third event they have hosted together this year.

Itamar Barak, chief editor of Lametayel Website Group, says that, months ago at an event called "Yella China", five Israeli bloggers each won the chance to visit a Chinese city. They then posted about their experiences.

Dorel Sivan, one of the five bloggers, visited Lanzhou, capital of Northwest China's Gansu province. "It was a very nice experience visiting China," says Sivan, adding that he was surprised in many ways, and particularly by the hospitality of the people and the amazing nature.

"I would love to go back to China. There are so many places that I'm curious about," says Sivan.




2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Boxer joins Christmas party at Philippine embassy in Beijing]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530326.htm J.R. is a boxer from the central Philippine island of Bacolod. He was in Beijing last month to be a sparring partner for a Chinese boxer getting ready to fight in Japan for the world flyweight title.

He is about 1.6 meters tall. His hair is clipped like one of those you see on army crew cuts with a Mohawk touch.

The boxer appears to be in his early 20s and has the look of a movie star. I forgot to ask his last name.

He is deeply brown and slim. J.R. wore an athletic jacket over trimmed jeans, his hands jammed into the pockets to keep his fingers warm and shielded from the chill of the Beijing winter.

We were chatting for a few minutes in the small garden at the Philippine embassy during the mission's Christmas party one weekend in December.

"I'm going home on Dec 24," he said in Tagalog, the main language of the Southeast Asian country.

For many Filipinos, being home on Christmas Day, Dec 25, is a bit of a sacred duty.

The Chinese go home to their provinces and villages during the Lunar New Year to be with all the members of their extended families in January or February.

It is the same case for Americans during Thanksgiving and Christmas, with tens of thousands jamming the roads and airports to go home from, say, New York to Arizona or from Los Angeles to Maine.

This overwhelming desire to be home is true for Filipinos at Christmas time, as a deluge of expatriates endure monumental traffic jams in Manila and then fly out to families scattered from Ilocos Norte on Luzon island (in the north) to Zamboanga city in Mindanao (south).

J.R. appreciated the offer of being a sparring partner in China, where boxing is becoming an increasingly popular sport.

He said fighters in China are learning the intricacies of the fight game, mastering the footwork and the ability to throw combinations on their heels against rivals during a bout.

The footwork of a boxer is really not normal when compared with the way ordinary people walk.

Boxers roll on the balls of their feet, trying to find balance while flicking a jab or a cross.

The fighter then pivots in the other direction to set up another punch or a combination of punches.

That may take the form of a right straight or an uppercut to the body, all the time rolling sideways.

A person walks forward. A boxer glides.

"My best punch is a right straight," J.R. said.

He is already looking forward to 2020.

"Next year, I fight an eliminator in Dubai, I think, and if I win, I qualify to fight for the world title," he said of a possible shot at a flyweight crown.

J.R., like all boxers from the Philippines and probably across Asia, reveres Manny Pacquiao, the only eight-division world champion in the history of boxing and considered one of the greatest fighters in the sport's history.

"He (Pacquiao) is different from other Filipino boxers," he said.

"The others (Filipino boxers) who win titles are not as disciplined so they do not last long."

They get a bit lazy and lose after winning their titles, the money and fame seemingly going to their heads.

For now, J.R. clutched a meal stub at the Christmas party and made his way inside to take part in the festivities and grab a late lunch.

Children dressed in festive colors sang Christmas songs while the audience of around 300 tried to go along, partly swaying in their seats with the tune from the loudspeakers.

The mood was cheerful, but there is always a certain wistfulness from faces away from their countries during Christmas.

It is the look of someone missing home.


Rene Pastor



2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Silicon Valley honors Chinese painter]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530325.htm SAN FRANCISCO-A 103-year-old Chinese painter's life story has been preserved and presented to the public thanks to the efforts of a museum in Silicon Valley.

Los Altos History Museum recently interviewed Hou Beiren, a renowned contemporary Chinese painter in California, for an oral-history program that aspires to preserve the artist's history and raise awareness of cultural diversity in the United States.

"The United States needs people who can help bring the best of their culture to the country," the museum's executive director Elizabeth Ward says.

"And he is an example of someone who has brought a wonderful piece of Chinese culture to more public awareness in the United States. It's a very important contribution to our cultural life here."

Hou was born in Liaoning province in 1917. He moved to the US from Hong Kong in 1956 and has since lived in Los Altos in northern Silicon Valley.

For more than 60 years, he has received worldwide acclaim for his signature "splash-ink-and-color" style that fuses Eastern brush painting with Western impressionism.

Hou's works have been exhibited and collected in the US and China, including by the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the San Jose Museum of Art and the National Art Museum of China. Hou, who's still in good health, opened a new exhibition earlier this month in Santa Clara County, California.

"We were very honored that he decided to share his story with us, so that anyone can come to the museum and read his story," Ward says.

The master artist talks about the teachers who influenced him as a youth and why he decided to become an artist.

The museum plans to add Hou to its permanent exhibit and to put some pieces from the oral-history project online.


A painting by Hou Beiren, a renowned contemporary Chinese artist in California. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[British architecture institute constructs better cooperation]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/25/content_37530185.htm The Royal Institute of British Architects is laying solid foundations in China as it plans to open an office in Shanghai soon, its first on the mainland, and seeks to build up cooperation and construct greater educational structures.

The London-based professional body for architects was founded under a Royal Charter granted in 1837 and a Supplemental Charter in 1971. Its membership spans the globe.

"We've seen much demand in Beijing and Shanghai for the RIBA's expertise and collaboration, and the challenge is that we need to make sure we can service all of those expectations," says the RIBA's chief executive Alan Vallance, who recently visited Beijing and Shanghai.

For example, the institute will be running more member events, bringing architects from the United Kingdom to share ideas, according to Vallance.

The RIBA has more than 48,000 members worldwide, 6,000 of whom are outside of the UK, including about 1,400 in China.

"The reason we will set up in Shanghai first is because the majority of the existing members of the RIBA who live and work on the Chinese mainland are based in Shanghai. So we're looking to get their support to help us get started here," he says.

"Both Beijing and Shanghai are significant cities. We haven't made any firm plans for having a chapter in Beijing yet, but we expect to do that in the future."

Top architects, he says, set the standards which others aspire to, show a vision that others follow and are bold enough to carry out that vision. Constructing a building is a team effort and architects also need to foster a good relationship with their clients.

The RIBA is also an education institution that validates university courses around the world.

"There's a lot of demand for overseas validations as well, because universities value our brand and they know it represents the highest standard of education and practice," he says.

The RIBA has validated two schools of architecture in China-the university of Nottingham Ningbo China in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, and Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou, Jiangsu province. Both are Sino-foreign universities, set up by Chinese universities and their UK counterparts.

Gisela Loehlein, head of the Architecture and Design Department at Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, hails the cooperation. "Students will benefit greatly since it will allow them access to an international network and become global professionals. The RIBA's chapter in Shanghai will further support that and enable a bridge from academia to practice that is of the highest professional level."

Vallance says they've held discussions with several Chinese universities who are interested in getting RIBA validation.

"Students will become our members if they are at a school of architecture validated by the RIBA. It will give them an additional qualification. If you're a RIBA chartered architect, you're deemed to be qualified at the highest level of professional standards," Vallance says.

The global higher education company Quacquarelli Symonds released a list of the world's top universities in architecture and construction for 2019, based upon academic and employer reputation and research impact. Tsinghua University ranked 10th globally.

"It means the Chinese education of architects is as good as anywhere else, but there are many universities who have not made it to that same standard yet," Vallance says.

The RIBA validation process, he points out, aims to help these universities understand the quality of its architectural education, and what they need to do to get to that standard. The RIBA will assess them against that standard.

In October, the RIBA released the 2030 Climate Challenge, with a series of targets for practices to adopt to reduce operational energy, embodied carbon and drinking water usage. It aims to help architects meet net-zero (or better) whole life carbon for new and retrofitted buildings by 2030.

"Climate change is a global challenge for architects. When they design buildings and communities for sustainability, it needs to be tailored to local situations. There's an opportunity for organizations like us to work closely," he says.

Vallance says the RIBA had a long-standing relationship with the Architectural Society of China and looks forward to deepening relationships with more societies in China.

He believes there is tremendous potential for the Chinese architecture sector. He says UK architects have been designing buildings in China, but this direction could change as more Chinese architects establish global reputations.

"China has done well in fields like robotics, the adoption of technology and urban planning through better digital products. We've seen some fantastic examples where Chinese architects have adopted digital technology in their practice, such as virtual reality and cloud computing."

He visited hutong (alleys) near the Forbidden City during his recent trip and was impressed by Beijing's ancient architecture.

"The RIBA has many renovation and preservation experts. The architects in China and outside China can work together on topics like heritage architecture," he says.


Xiaojingwan University in Shenzhen is one of the projects in which the members of the Royal Institute of British Architects have taken part. NIGEL YOUNG/FOR CHINA DAILY







2019-12-25 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Honoring visionaries who made a difference]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/25/content_37530186.htm The end of the year is a time to reflect on what has gone and been done. In the spirit of the season, the British Council acknowledges achievements by graduates who studied in the United Kingdom.

Zhang Jin was one of the many who were honored at the Alumni Awards in Beijing in early December, an event hosted by the British Council.

Zhang, in her 30s, studied real estate finance in Cambridge in 2004-05.

In 2012, she quit a well-paid job in Hong Kong and returned to her hometown in Sanmen county, in Zhejiang province's Taizhou city, to build a library.

Zhang came up with the idea after she met a local youth during a vacation back home in 2011.

The high school graduate didn't have a clue about what he wanted to do and, like many of his generation, was only into computer games.

"It was quite a shock to me, reminding me of what it was like for myself at his age," Zhang recalls.

The experience in the UK and her love of reading led to the decision to establish the library.

She wanted to bring something tangible to her hometown.

Her Youwei Library hosts about 300 activities a year for students in Sanmen, including reading classes and a workshop on critical thinking. Crucially, the events are free.

Students and young people have responded enthusiastically.

"Usually we have 30-40 people participating in an activity," Zhang says.

The library offers immersive experiences for students and others to enjoy reading, communication, and it gives them opportunities to find a contributing role in society, she explains.

Zhang says the seeds of philanthropy were planted in her when she engaged in various activities with NGOs, including Bookstart and Oxfam.

"I learned how to do volunteer service, how to motivate people," she says.

Her knowledge also helped her deal with library development and management.

Zhang is one of the more than 1,200 applicants from over 100 countries applying for the Alumni Awards this year.

All candidates came from approximately 120 institutes of higher learning in the UK, covering law and finance to artificial intelligence and sustainable development. Most of them have used what they've learned in the UK to bring positive changes to their community, sector and country.

Matt Burney, director of the British Council in China, says: "One of the ways we can strengthen people-to-people ties is education exchange. These awards really recognize the importance of education exchange between people in the UK and China.

"We can use the Alumni Awards as a real opportunity to tell these people that they matter-they are shaping the world, they are creating stronger links between China and the rest of the world, of course, including the UK."

Nearly 600,000 people in China have studied in the UK since 1978.

"I think it is important to recognize this group of people through the Alumni Awards and the contribution they have made in building trust between China and the UK," Burney says.

The Alumni Awards ceremony has been held in 12 countries worldwide.

An increasing number of Chinese students have chosen to study in the UK over the years and about 160,000 are currently studying there.

"The diversity of thought that Chinese students bring to the UK is incredibly important," Burney says.

The UK has also come up with favorable policies to draw in Chinese students.

In September, the UK government announced the new Graduate Route visa, allowing international students to live and work in the UK for two years after graduation.

"It will be launched quite soon. It is very good news, and will enable good quality students from China to continue to live in the UK," Burney says.

"After academic study, they (students) will be able to improve their prospects by gaining employment in the UK."

The British Council has also provided support information online for funding, scholarships and interview services, and has helped Chinese students deal with UK institutions, according to Burney.

"Each year we organize pre-departure briefings for students, providing them with comprehensive view of life and study in the UK," he says.

"We are also doing an increasing amount of work to provide people access to internships and job opportunities when they return to China."

At the moment, the British Council is working on the Alumni Platform, which will enable 600,000 UK alumni in China to network with each other in a productive way.

Speaking about her application for the Alumni Awards, Zhang considered it an opportunity to get more attention for her philanthropy work.

"We only received 30,000 yuan ($4,300) worth of donations seven years ago, and yet the figure rose to 1 million yuan by 2016," Zhang says of her library.

Now, her library has more than 1,000 volunteers.

"I help them find resources and teach them how to better reach their audience, all of which is very interesting."


Youwei Library is a hot spot for young bookworms in Sanmen county, Zhejiang province. Founded in 2012, the library hosts about 300 activities a year, including reading classes and a workshop on critical thinking. CHINA DAILY



Volunteers and students attend a summer camp activity in Youwei Library. CHINA DAILY



The United Kingdom is one of the top destinations for international students. CHINA DAILY







2019-12-25 00:00:00
<![CDATA[This Day, That Year]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/25/content_37530203.htm Editor's note: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China.

On Dec 25, 1954, the Sichuan-Tibet and Qinghai-Tibet highways were completed and went into operation. They were the first modern highways in the Tibet autonomous region.

With a total length of 4,360 kilometers, the highways were built by soldiers of the People's Liberation Army and locals.

An item on Jan 5, 2005, from China Daily showed a section of the Sichuan-Tibet Highway.

Tibet got its first air route in 1965 when the Lhasa airport opened.

By the end of last year, the region's expressways open to traffic reached 97,800 km.

With the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway in 2006, the region was connected with the rest of the country's inland cities by rail for the first time.

Major transportation links-including the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which stretches nearly 2,000 km and connects Tibet with neighboring Qinghai province-have significantly boosted Tibet's tourism sector in recent years.

Last year, the autonomous region drew more than 33 million visitors, reaping more than $7 billion in tourism revenue, compared with the region's 1.8 million visitors and about $274 million in revenue in 2005, the year before the railway's launch, according to figures from the regional government.

As an extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the construction of the Lhasa-Shigatse railway was completed in 2014, and construction of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway has reached its track-laying phase.

The region has now opened five airports, with 96 domestic and international routes connecting Tibet and 48 major cities nationwide by the end of June.




2019-12-25 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Fujian's traditional teacups runneth over with beauty]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/25/content_37530205.htm I discovered something in Beijing recently that truly is, as the expression goes, my cup of tea.

Much as in romance, it was the sheer beauty of what I beheld that first caught my attention. But it was the integrity of, and story behind, the objects of my obsession-jian zhan teacups-that eventually won me over.

Interestingly enough, many of my Chinese friends mistakenly believe these teacups, also called tea pots for their sturdy construction, are of Japanese origin.

But this clay teaware that I've grown so fond of has a long tradition in China, with roots reaching back to Fujian province in the Song Dynasty (420-479).

The beauty of the cups comes from the iron-rich clay and glaze used in making them, as well as the glorious transformation that occurs in the superheated, fire-belching traditional kilns. The result is an astounding array of spectacular glaze colors and patterns.

The appreciation of jian zhan increases as one gains a better understanding of how a certain magic determines the magnificence, and hence the asking price, of these unique teacups.

In the West, the word "teacup" often calls to mind dainty porcelain pieces meant for genteel sipping. Jian zhan, however, are weighty in the hand and solidly constructed, and tea sophisticates swear by them.

According to the website of Crimson Lotus Tea, "When we're analyzing teas for purchase we can't use these cups. They make everything taste better."

The website Verdant Tea says jian zhan absorb tea oils over time and tend to "smooth out teas, bringing out their sweetness while evening out texture".

Some fans, including myself, buy a single special cup that comes with a fancy wooden or leather carrying case.

My favorite jian zhan, purchased recently for a mere 650 yuan ($93), is a gorgeous blue whose sheen on the inside rim reminds me of a favorite Bianchi bicycle from years back, which had light blue, metal-flake paint that virtually glowed in sunlight.

The process by which jian zhan take shape begins with the earth underfoot, or more precisely the clay. And not just any clay, but a very special type specific to Fujian.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory says this about the teacups' composition: "New analysis of ancient Jian wares reveals the distinctive pottery contains an unexpected and highly unusual form of iron oxide. This rare compound, called epsilon-phase iron oxide, was only recently discovered and characterized by scientists and so far has been extremely difficult to create with modern techniques."

The lab says the findings by an international team of researchers "could lead to an easier, more reliable synthesis of epsilon-phase iron oxide, enabling better, cheaper magnetic materials including those used for data storage".

The Berkeley Lab summarizes the jian zhan production process thusly: "To make the pottery, ancient artisans used local iron-rich clay coated with a mixture of clay, limestone, and wooden ash. Kiln temperatures of 1,300 C(nearly 2,400 Fahrenheit) hardened the clay, melted the coating, and bubbled oxygen within the glaze, pushing iron ions to the surface. As the glaze cooled, molten iron flux flowed down the sides of the ceramics and crystallized into iron oxides imparting characteristic patterns."

And there you have it. But neither the lab nor any amount of science can explain why this ancient form of teacup is so endearing.

Maybe it's the dense, earthy feel that helps ground our thoughts and emotions as we drink tea. Perhaps it's the way the teacups dazzle the eye (some feature real leaves of golden autumn hues embedded beneath the glaze). Or maybe they appeal to our longing for simpler, traditional ways.

But whatever the reason, whenever I encounter these glorious reminders of long-ago China, I quickly succumb to their iron-flux magic.


James Healy



A jian zhan teacup. JAMES HEALY/CHINA DAILY



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2019-12-25 00:00:00
<![CDATA[On our Sina Weibo]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/25/content_37530218.htm Mobile court brings justice to remote island

A video showing a circuit court holding session on a boat has gone viral. In the clip, a temporary court is set up, and judge Chen Daozhun and his colleagues can be seen meditating on a dispute over loans in Naozhou island, Guangdong province. The court was set up on the boat as a measure of convenience for fishermen. It consists of three members and they mediate various disputes among the roughly 60,000 residents that live in the island's 46 villages.

Nanjing Massacre survivor dies at 94

Shi Jiaxiu, a Nanjing Massacre survivor, passed away on Friday at the age of 94. With Shi's death, the number of registered survivors has declined to 77 from more than 1,200 recorded more than three decades ago, according to the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders. Shi said in her testimony that she and her elder sister had to shave their hair, wear shabby clothes and pretend to be boys before hiding in a cellar to avoid Japanese soldiers. The Nanjing Massacre began on Dec 13, 1937 when Japanese troops captured the then-capital of China and killed about 300,000 civilians and unarmed soldiers over the next six weeks.

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2019-12-25 00:00:00
<![CDATA[What's on]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/25/content_37530169.htm Top Restaurant

When: Dec 27-Jan 9, 7:30 pm

Where: The Capital Theater, Beijing

Produced by Beijing People's Art Theater, the drama tells of the vicissitudes of the time-honored Peking duck restaurant Fujude in Beijing.

In the early 20th century, Fujude's manager is forced to retire because of illness. He hands over the restaurant to his two sons. However, the young men are not interested in the family business. While the older son is obsessed with Peking Opera, the younger one likes martial arts.

As the two cannot cover their expenses from the restaurant's income, the vice-manager Wang Zixi recommends his best friend, Lu Mengshi, to manage the business. With help from his lover Yuchu, chef Luo Datou and head waiter Chang Gui, Lu manages to revive Fujude's popularity. A decade later, the two brothers, jealous of the restaurant's success, want to drive Lu away.

Murder on the Orient Express

When: Dec 25-Jan 12, time varies

Where: Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center

Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express is full of dramatic plot twists.

Board the exotic and mysterious Orient Express as it takes off into the opulence and grandeur of the 1930s, with a train full of suspects, each with a motive and an alibi.

Detective Hercule Poirot is determined to find out who did it in the thrilling murder mystery. Ten passengers board the train that's traveling from Istanbul to Western Europe. But after the train unexpectedly stops in the isolated, snow-swept mountains, only nine of them are still alive. A man has been murdered in his room overnight, and suddenly every passenger becomes a suspect. Tensions rise as Poirot searches for the killer lurking in their midst who just may strike again.

Two Dogs' Opinions on Life

When: Dec 31-Jan 19, time varies

Where: East Pioneer Theater, Beijing

How would you see the world if you were a dog? You may just find out if you go to see Two Dogs' Opinions on Life directed by the avant-garde Meng Jinghui.

Audience members will get to explore some of the big questions plaguing Chinese society from a canine perspective. The two dogs at the center of the play will look at all kinds of everyday issues, from online relationships to weight loss campaigns, poisonous food to traffic jams, and even sky-high education fees.

The play combines the creative techniques of Chinese comedy folk performance, Italian improvisational comedy, vaudeville, and absurdist drama. Its dark comedy explores the relationship between ideals and real challenges of life in contemporary urban and rural China.

Mr. Donkey

When: Jan 4 and 5, 7:30 pm

Where: Renmin University of China Rulun Auditorium, Beijing Writer-directors Zhou Shen and Liu Lu set the play in a rural village in the early 1940s, where a group of idealistic academics run a school. To raise funds, the teachers trick the government into paying a salary to a donkey that brings them water.

When a bureaucrat arrives, the faculty scrambles to find someone who can pretend to be Mr. Donkey.

Beneath the Red Banner

When: Feb 18-22 and 25-29, 7:30 pm; Feb 23 and March 1, 2 pm

Where: Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center

Beneath the Red Banner is adapted from Lao She's autobiographical novel.

The play is set in Beijing at the end of the 19th century. Capturing the events shortly after his birth in the winter of 1899, Lao She's pen vividly depicted the life of the Manchu people, during the turmoil as the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was dying. Foreign troops invaded, the peasants revolted and democratic reform was carried out-but soon failed.

The Manchus had a rigid sense of organization. Their military and civilian communities were grouped into eight banners, identified by colors, and the red banner was one of them.

As the Qing Dynasty declines, the nobles managed to continue their depraved life and were not fully aware of the nation's dangerous position, and their future. But there were others who realized that the nation's fate was hanging in the balance.

They devoted their lives to fight against the invaders.

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

When: March 12-15, 7:30 pm

Where: Beijing Poly Theater

Of all the works of William Shakespeare that have graced the theaters in China, Hamlet is arguably the most famous.

The latest version of the play, entitled The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, directed by Li Liuyi, will soon hit Beijing Poly Theater.

Veteran Chinese actors Hu Jun, Pu Cunxi and Lu Fang will play the leading roles.

Before The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Li directed the Chinese version of Shakespeare's King Lear.

The National Center for the Performing Arts has been working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, a theater organization based in the Bard's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, on the Shakespeare Folio Project. This aims to make the playwright's work more accessible to Chinese speakers.




2019-12-25 00:00:00
<![CDATA[On chinadaily.com.cn]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/25/content_37530184.htm Society: Train boosts Hulunbuir winter travel

A tourist train running on the Hulunbuir Prairie in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region started operations on Sunday, filling a gap in China's high-end railway travel market, CRRC Corp announced. Named Hulunbuir, the train runs between Hailar Railway Station and Wangong Railway Station in the region. The tourist train provides services such as sightseeing, food, accommodation and entertainment. It has business, soft sleeper, children's theme, dining and entertainment carriages. Each train can carry more than 200 passengers. The train, equipped with private bathrooms with showers, tries to provide a hotel experience on wheels. After witnessing the vast grassland and the quiet forests along the railway, passengers are taken directly to scenic spots.

Culture: Disney has a Marvel-ous year

Seemingly an unstoppable entertainment juggernaut, Disney has already powered past a world milestone of $10 billion for 2019 for its homegrown films and toward $11.94 billion with the Fox titles added, which are now under Disney's banner. This gives Disney a lock on nearly 40 percent of the market in the United States.

People: Man creates miniature Xi'an

Liang Dehuai, 80, a retired carpenter in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, recently completed construction of a miniature Xi'an city made with bamboo and wood. It covers an area of about 44 square meters, and is built to a 200:1 scale. It has reached a perimeter of 27.2 meters, is 8.3 meters long and 5.3 meters wide. In addition to the city's iconic architecture-bell tower, drum tower, the great wild goose pagoda and the small wild goose pagoda-the miniature consists of more than 100,000 bamboo and wooden accessories and parts. This includes the city walls, such as 18 gates and 2,500 city buttresses. The city served as the capital under many Chinese dynasties.

Trend: Win-win voted as our Word of the Year

Our app has received 10,569 votes from readers and 38 percent of the votes went to win-win as the word to conclude the past year and to signify the year to come. The concept of win-win is highlighted and hailed in many international arenas. It encapsulates effective and joint measures to enhance and strengthen global partnerships and bring benefits to the world. Visit our website to find out more.




Online Scan to read more on chinadaily.com.cn



2019-12-25 00:00:00
<![CDATA[On chinadaily.com.cn]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530119.htm Society: Wen selected as character of 2019

Chinese character wen, meaning stability, has been chosen by netizens as the character of the year, and "my people, my country" as the phrase of the year. The winners were chosen through an online poll featuring thousands of candidates recommended by internet users, said the Chinese National Language Monitoring and Research Center and the Commercial Press.

Interactive: Share how you did as the year ends

As 2020 is drawing close, New Year's resolutions are on everybody's mind. Before you come up with yours, just go over your 2019 resolution before you make a new one. Share the status of your 2019 resolution and win New Year gifts from our app. Send comparison photos or screenshots of your resolution and what you've done with it with a short description to webeditor@chinadaily.com.cn until Dec 29.

People: China deploys female minesweepers

In June, the 18th Chinese peacekeeping multifunctional engineer contingent to Lebanon, including the first batch of female minesweepers Yang Yixin, Lu Yanhong and Zhang Huajie, went to a new Blue Line minefield on the Lebanon and Israel border. Their task was to implement demining operations assigned by the United Nations. The female minesweepers mastered international standard minesweeping procedures after stringent training. This included tripwire processing, vegetation area clearing, signal source positioning, comprehensive excavation, and mine marking.

Trends: College unveils livestream training center

Students looking to catapult themselves to internet stardom can now join a college training center that promises to do just that. On Saturday, the Harbin Vocational College of Science and Technology in Heilongjiang province unveiled the center. It is run in cooperation with a local media company. The wanghong economy-whereby online celebrities earn money from fans through digital gifts received during livestreams, or selling anything from food to fashion products-is booming.




Online Scan to read more on chinadaily.com.cn



2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[SantaCon merrymakers sometimes naughty, sometimes nice]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530120.htm Every Christmas season, proponents of civility and maybe a few elitists wish that SantaCon revelers in New York and elsewhere would stay home.

SantaCon (the "con" short for convention) started in 1994 in San Francisco and was called "Santarchy". Its stated purpose was to "point out the absurdity of America's consumerist holiday traditions".

There are now SantaCon festivities in 435 cities across 51 countries, according to santacon.info, including two in 2016 in South China's Guangdong province, in Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

"In my experience, it's gotten busier and busier over the years," Claire Coyle, a bartender at Maggie McGarry's in San Francisco, told sfgate.com.

In New York, home to the world's largest SantaCon, the event is perceived by many as a drunken, stumbling bar crawl.

Jason Selvig, who started a petition to cancel the event in New York, told FOX 5 New York that SantaCon is "universally hated" in the city.

"It's the worst day of the year," he said. "There's drunk people all over the city; they're committing lewd acts."

Plans for "Santa party boats" on the day were sunk after three New York legislators raised concerns.

In 2017 in Hoboken, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, 17 people were arrested and 55 hospitalized.

Ken Ferrante, Hoboken police chief, asked on social media before the city's SantaCon this year how many participants "do you see getting off the trains in Hoboken or standing in bar lines with presents for underprivileged children?"

A popular soccer bar in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood played Scrooge to SantaCon men and women.

"So yep, Smithfeld Hall is a SantaCon Free Zone. Please don't turn up in outfits as you won't get in," said the bar's social media account, featuring a Santa image with a red line through it.

I gather some New Yorkers are irked because most of the revelers are well lubricated with alcohol, which makes many of them brash, cocky and arrogant, with a few prone to vomiting. They also are emboldened by their numbers. Thousands come from the suburbs and beyond, infiltrating neighborhood pubs with boisterous holiday reverie.

They appear to be mostly in their 20s, perhaps looking to relive their college days. Many also join in the conviviality to meet potential romantic partners, whether for one night or longer.

Each year, the would-be Kris Kringles have been increasingly accompanied by young women, many dressed as sexy Santa's helpers.

"SantaCon is a charitable, nonpolitical, nonsensical Santa Claus convention that happens once a year to spread absurdist joy," santacon.nyc says.

The event does raise money for charity and became a nonprofit in 2012, and the New York organizers say they donated some $450,000 to local charities.

With their red-and-white-felt costumes, most of which are likely made in China (outfits now that apparently have avoided tariffs due to the agreement in principle announced Dec 13 of Phase One in trade talks between the United States and China), SantaCon enlistees tend to talk loudly, peppering their conversations with boasts and obscenities-and that goes for both sexes.

I overheard one such woman on the subway Saturday cursing in a raspy voice, although she did say sorry for stepping on my foot two or three times. She later mentioned to a SantaCon friend that she was a teacher.

Sometimes, Santas are chivalrous, as when several of the costumed merrymakers played hero on Saturday when they subdued a stabbing suspect on a train from Manhattan to Long Island, according to NBC New York.

"A bunch of people jumped on him and they managed to hold the guy down and beat (him) up bad until the cops arrived, and even then he was resisting arrest," said Matthew Monte, who witnessed the altercation.

I really am not bothered by SantaCon, which for the most part is an expression of youthful exuberance. New York is a city that features annual parades and festivals celebrating just about any nation or group in the world. In that spirit of openness, let SantaCon be Santa-Con, as long as no one gets hurt.


William Hennelly



Revelers take part in SantaCon at Times Square in New York City on Dec 14. EDUARDO MUNOZ/REUTERS



2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[What's on]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530128.htm Frankenstein

When: Dec 24-28 and 31, 7:30 pm; Dec 29 and Jan 1, 3 pm

Where: Beijing Inside-Out Theater

Liam Scarlett's Frankenstein, his first full-length ballet for the Royal Opera House, is an adaptation of Mary Shelley's classic gothic novel. The score, composed for the ballet by Lowell Liebermann, sweeps the dramatic action toward its devastating end, while the detailed and chilling designs by John Macfarlane bring the creature and the anatomy lab to terrifying life.

It tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, who is about to leave home for university, away from his family, and Elizabeth, the woman he loves. Just before he departs, his mother dies in childbirth. Victor becomes obsessed with the idea of bringing his mother back to life, and his relentless studies eventually lead him to animate nonliving matter. Repulsed by the creature he has brought into the world, he flees.

Don Juan

When: Dec 24-29, 7:30 pm; Dec 28 and 29, 2:30 pm

Where: Beijing A33 Theater

Don Juan is the story of the world's greatest lover. He lives big, loves big and doesn't care about the consequences.

The play embraces the audience-performer relationship and makes it transparent, creating a piece of theater that is unique. The actors take turns to play Don Juan, personified by wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap.

Li Yundi Sonata 2020 Piano Recital World Tour

When: Dec 27, 8 pm

Where: Shenzhen Poly Theater

Li Yundi is the youngest pianist to win the International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition (at the age of 18). He has long been admired for his technical brilliance and dexterity.

His second recording of Liszt for Deutsche Grammophon, for which he recorded exclusively until November 2008, was released in August 2003 and named Best CD of the Year by The New York Times.

Starting this year, Li plans a run of 100 piano recitals around the world.

The Phantom of the Opera

When: Dec 31, 7:15 pm

Where: Shanghai Oriental Art Center

The Phantom of the Opera is a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Charles Hart. Richard Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber composed the musical together. Stilgoe also provided additional lyrics.

Based on the French novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux, its central plot revolves around a beautiful soprano, Christine Daae, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius living in the subterranean labyrinth beneath the Paris Opera House.

As Christine's star rises, and a handsome suitor from her past enters the picture, the Phantom grows mad, terrorizing the opera house owners and company with his murderous ways. Still, Christine finds herself drawn to the mystery man.

The Cuban National Ballet will perform the dances.

Lord of the Dance

When: Jan 14, 15, 18 and 19, 7:15 pm; Jan 18, 2 pm

Where: Shanghai Grand Theater

Lord of the Dance is an Irish musical and dance production that was choreographed and produced by Irish-American dancer Michael Flatley.

In 1994, Flatley changed the face of Irish dance forever with his breathtaking creation Riverdance. He broke the mold of traditional Irish dancing by incorporating upper-body movement and creating edgy rhythmic patterns that departed from the traditional.

Flatley went on to create Lord of the Dance, which made its debut at the Point Theater in Dublin in 1996. It was inspired by ancient Irish folklore and features the Lord of the Dance battling an evil force for control of Planet Ireland.

Ksenija Sidorova

When: Feb 16, 2:30 pm

Where: Guangzhou Opera House

Ksenija Sidorova is a genre-crossing player described as "the princess of the accordion".

The Latvian-born musician, who was encouraged to take up the instrument by her grandmother, continued her education in Britain, where she became a prizewinning undergraduate at the Royal Academy of Music.

Her debut album is an ambitious recreation of Carmen for the accordion in 2016, incorporating Latin, Asian, European and North American musical styles, which is driven by her identification with Bizet's free-spirited femme fatale.

He Had Two Pistols with White and Black Eyes

When: Feb 18-22, 7:30 pm; Feb 22 and 23, 2:30 pm

Where: Beijing Citycomb Theater

Dario Fo (1926-2016) was an Italian actor-playwright, comedian, singer, theater director, stage designer, songwriter, painter and political campaigner of the Italian left-wing. He also won the 1997 Nobel Prize in literature. The Chinese version of Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist has become a signature work for the avant-garde theater director Meng Jinghui. He Had Two Pistols with White and Black Eyes is Meng's second adaptation from the Italian playwright.

The play starts in a psychiatric institution, where a patient with amnesia is accused of desertion during war. However, a woman named Luisa comes to claim him as her lover, Giovanni, and brings him back home. But then the real Giovanni, a rogue and doppelganger to the patient, comes back from the battlefield and continues his life of crime-while scheming to blame his misdeeds on the amnesiac.


2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[UK set to host record number of inbound visitors]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530131.htm LONDON-Travelers to the United Kingdom are expected to reach a record high in 2020, according to the country's national tourism agency, VisitBritain.

Spending by overseas visitors is also predicted to reach a historic peak of $34.9 billion in the coming year, up 6.6 percent from the $32.8 billion projected for 2019, the UK's official tourism agency says.

According to predictions, overseas visits to Britain are expected to rise 2.9 percent in 2020, reaching 39.7 million compared to the 38.5 million visits projected for 2019. The figure is also much higher than the 29.8 million overseas visits recorded in 2010, the agency observes.

"Tourism is one of the UK's most valuable export industries, and these results show our continued ability to attract international visitors in a fiercely competitive global market," VisitBritain director Patricia Yates says.

"We are seeing success in growing tourism from our long-haul, high-spending markets, including the US-our largest and most valuable inbound market-and from markets that are crucial for our future, such as China."

According to the air-travel analysis agency ForwardKeys, forward flight bookings to Britain from December 2019 to May 2020 are up 5 percent compared with the same period last year, with strong forward bookings from China and South Asia, which are up 33 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

Tourism boosts economic growth across Britain. "The industry is also a job creator. For every 22 inbound visits from China, for example, one job is created in Britain's tourism industry," the agency says.

Major events in 2020 include the Year of the Outdoors in Wales, promoting its 1,400-kilometer coastal path and 600 castles, and the opening of the Royal Horticultural Society's new garden-the largest of its kind in Europe-in Salford, Greater Manchester, during summer.

In September, the 400th anniversary of the epic voyage of the Mayflower from Plymouth to Massachusetts carrying the first American Pilgrims will be celebrated at 11 locations in England, involving festivals of light, food and culture.


Albert Dock in Liverpool, the United Kingdom, is a must-see scenic spot. XU LIN/CHINA DAILY



2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Overseas tourism authorities team up with WeChat]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530132.htm Representatives of the tourism boards of 30 countries and regions recently gathered in Beijing for the Welcome with WeChat Alliance's launch ceremony.

The program aims to cooperate with global tourism-service providers to offer efficient marketing solutions in the mobile-internet era and enhance the travel experiences of outbound Chinese tourists using WeChat Pay and WeChat mini programs.

"We're working together to digitalize the global tourism industry," says WeChat's Ma Fengming, who's in charge of the program.

"For overseas tourism boards and their local partners, they will benefit from such digital services with higher efficiency and business revenue."

He says WeChat mini programs are versatile. Outbound Chinese tourists are able to read travel information and make reservations on their smartphones. They can enjoy convenient services in such areas as accommodation, shopping and insurance.

They can also enjoy interactive experiences that are common in China, such as scanning QR codes to order in restaurants, purchasing from online shops and receiving goods via delivery, and reading digital maps of scenic areas.

China is the world's largest outbound travel market. Chinese made almost 150 million outbound trips in 2018, a nearly 15 percent increase over the previous year.

Tencent's third-quarter 2019 financial report shows that WeChat's monthly users have reached nearly 1.2 billion, a roughly 6 percent increase year-on-year, while its mini programs have over 300 million daily users.

WeChat Pay's cross-border business offers payment services in 60 countries and regions, and supports 16 currencies.

"Growing demand from outbound Chinese will increase different demands for those who serve them," Ma says.

He says many providers are seeking solutions through cooperation with WeChat.

"Although our cooperation has just started, the future increase and demand offers great potential."

Li Zhaohui, head of the German National Tourist Board's Beijing office, says: "The alliance offers us professional knowledge about online-marketing campaigns on social media, which play an important role in attracting tourists. I'm confident that WeChat's technology and huge number of users will help enhance the travel experiences of Chinese tourists in Germany."

The alliance will help tourism bureaus educate their local partners, she says.

"Only after they understand the mechanism and influence of WeChat Pay and mini programs will they be willing to apply them in their services."

Eddie Yang, Asia director of the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions, says: "The alliance is an essential platform for tourism boards to communicate with each other about successes or failures. And we can learn from the role models rather than burying ourselves in hard work alone.

"Non-cash payment is popular in the Netherlands, (such as) the Near Field Communication-enabled credit cards. It takes time for them to be familiar with WeChat Pay, which needs a QR code."

Switzerland Tourism's China promotion manager Batiste Pilet says it needs multiple parties to work together to promote the payment method in destinations that are popular with Chinese visitors.

"In Switzerland, a company that manufactures point-of-sale terminals came up with a solution about WeChat Pay," Pilet says.

"After they upgrade the system, the terminals will have QR codes on their small screens for Chinese customers to scan and pay. And merchants don't have to buy new terminals for WeChat Pay."


WeChat Pay's cross-border business offers payment services in 60 countries and regions, and supports 16 currencies. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Cultural charm]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530080.htm For 9-year-old Liu Zhiyang, wandering through Everlasting Like the Heavens, a 99-day exhibition at Tsinghua University Art Museum, was one of the most exciting experiences she has had with her parents.

The exhibition features cultural relics from the Zhou (c. 11th century-256 BC), Qin (221-206 BC), Han (206 BC-AD 220) and Tang (618-907) dynasties, and celebrates the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China. Around two-thirds of showcased items reflect the spirit that flourished in those ages when many of China's traditions were developed and shaped.

"This exhibition aims to introduce China's vigorous and everlasting culture," curator Tan Shengguang says.

"Fine Chinese traditions have been passed down generation after generation. We hope the exhibition can help visitors find their roots and inspire their confidence."

Liu's father says: "Bringing my daughter to museums has been a frequent activity for my family. We want to let her better know our country's fine traditional culture and understand where she comes from."

The number of visitors to museums across China increased by 16 percent year-on-year to reach 1.13 billion in 2018, according to Liu Yuzhu, chief of the National Cultural Heritage Administration.

In 2018, museums across China held about 26,000 exhibitions and 260,000 cultural events, Liu says.

"With their numbers growing and their services improving, museums have become a new destination for people to spend festivals and holidays."

Liu Yuzhu says Chinese museums should market themselves as new spaces for get-togethers with family and friends so that going to a museum might become part of a "fashionable lifestyle".

This year, more Chinese people have found museums bridge their lives and traditional culture.

Getting trendy

Boasting over 17 million visitors in 2018, the Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, has been particularly popular this year. Tickets to the museum were hard to get during the weeklong Spring Festival holiday, as the museum only allows 80,000 visitors a day. From Jan 5 to April 7, the museum hosted an exhibition featuring Lunar New Year traditions. The entire Forbidden City was adorned with lanterns, paintings and couplets to create an immersive experience.

"The museum has tried to stay relevant to contemporary visitors in every detail," says Ren Wanping, deputy director of the museum.

The museum has also seamlessly associated itself with "being trendy".

Lantern Festival in the Forbidden City, held for two consecutive nights, invited thousands of people from all walks of life, including model workers, couriers and sanitation workers to enjoy the magnificent views of the lit-up palace. It was the first time the museum had opened to the public for free at night in its 94-year history.

The Palace Museum is time-honored for its rich history and representation of traditions, says Liu Yican.

"It is also 'young' in my view because it serves and passes fine traditional culture to today's youth," the 26-year-old says.

Themed train

The National Museum of China has gone beyond showcasing and studying its collections to work with schools in Beijing, organizing tailored courses and tours for students. Beijing No 4 High School became the first high school to make a cooperation agreement with the museum in 2016. On this basis, the school has set up an optional course, integrating history, philosophy and the arts.

"We simulated the casting process of hufu, a tiger-shaped tally issued to generals for troop deployment, with wax," says student Zheng Hanyun, as she recalls a class on ancient bronze-casting techniques.

Zheng says her immense interest was ignited by a trip to the national museum in junior high school.

The course aims to lead students to dig deeper and to shape their values with the help of traditional culture, according to Xu Yan, a history teacher from the high school, who initiated the cooperation.

The national museum has also extended its showrooms to the Beijing subway. A train decorated with patterns inspired by cultural relics runs on the tracks of Beijing Subway Line 1. Inside the six-car train are decorations showcasing representative relics and exhibitions of the museum.

The train began running on Nov 11 to offer people a window into the Chinese civilization. It is estimated that nearly 5 million passengers will get a closer glimpse of Chinese culture during the train's three-month operation.

"We hope the cultural relics can come out of the storehouses and showrooms, and enter people's lives in a new way that may arouse stronger interest in cultural relics and history," says Liu Jun, an official with the museum.

Tang relics

The large-scale exhibition, Meeting the Tang Dynasty Again, kicked off in the Liaoning Provincial Museum in Shenyang on Oct 7. It will last through Jan 5. Calligraphy and paintings from the Tang era are rare and seldom exhibited. The exhibition has a total of 100 displays, including 38 national first-class cultural relics. Many of the items have been deemed national treasures for centuries. The quality and scale of the exhibits are unprecedented.

A special part of the exhibition is a detailed introduction on display boards for almost each item, describing such elements as historical background, scripts of connoisseurship seals, an introduction to dressing styles and comments by authentication experts. The exhibition has attracted numerous visitors not only from Liaoning but also across China, who wait in long lines to check out items from the legendary dynasty.

"Our aim is for visitors, even those who do not know cultural relics well, to gain an understanding of the culture and life in the Tang Dynasty," Dong Baohou, the museum's director of academic research and exhibition curator, says.

"I frequently check the messages that visitors leave us."

Li Na, a young nurse, says: "Behind the museum's fashion is our ever-growing recognition of, and desires to, explore traditional culture.

"This is the charm of China."


The Palace Museum in Beijing holds Lantern Festival light shows during the 2019 Spring Festival in February. It was the first time the museum had opened to the public for free at night in its 94-year history. JIANG DONG/CHINA DAILY



A C-shaped jade dragon is shown at the Liaoning Provincial Museum. It's a representative artifact from the Hongshan Culture, dating back more than 5,000 years. HUANG JINKUN/FOR CHINA DAILY



A visitor views figurines at the ongoing exhibition, Meeting the Tang Dynasty Again, at the Liaoning Provincial Museum in Shenyang. HUANG JINKUN/FOR CHINA DAILY







2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[This Day, That Year]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530118.htm Editor's note: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China.

In December 1996, the Wuhan Baiji Conservation Foundation was established in Hubei province to protect marine mammals. It was the first aquatic species protection organization in China.

The baiji, or Yangtze River Dolphin, is a type of freshwater dolphin, which has existed for 20 million years.

In 1999, the baiji population was estimated to be as low as 13 dolphins, compared with 400 in 1981. The last confirmed glimpse of a baiji was documented by a photo taken in 2002.

An item on Jan 22, 2003, from China Daily showed researchers measuring the length of a dolphin at a Wuhan aquarium.

In 2006, the dolphin was declared functionally extinct, which meant the population was too small for the species to reproduce, after a team of scientists failed to find one during a six-week search of the Yangtze River. Its extinction was blamed on overfishing, pollution, ship collisions and other human-related causes.

The Chinese sturgeon, Chinese sucker fish, Chinese rock carp and Dabry's sturgeon-all endemic to the Yangtze River-are also on the brink of extinction.

To increase the diversity of aquatic species and recover fish stocks, the State Council, China's Cabinet, has issued a guideline to strengthen the protection of aquatic creatures in the Yangtze River that includes a year-round ban on all fishing in the river next year.

According to the guideline, fishing, apart from fish farming, will be banned shortly in the Yangtze River and tributaries and lakes connected to it.

By 2035, the environment of the Yangtze River will be significantly improved; the habitats of aquatic organisms will be fully protected; aquatic resources will increase significantly; and its diversity will be effectively restored, according to the guideline.




2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[On our Sina Weibo]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530099.htm IBM extracts battery materials from seawater

The IBM Research Battery Lab has a developed a battery that does not use heavy metals. It's made with materials that can be extracted from seawater. According to IBM, the new design can outperform current lithium-ion batteries in cost, charging time (less than five minutes to reach an 80 percent charge), power density and energy efficiency. The battery is also less flammable, and it could be used in aircraft and smart energy grids, as well as electric cars and trucks. The battery uses three new, proprietary materials, including a cobalt-and nickel-free cathode material and a liquid electrolyte.

Exoplanet named after moon goddess Wangshu

The first exoplanet discovered by Chinese astronomers in 2008 has been named Wangshu for the goddess who has the moon on her chariot. Its host star has been named Xihe, for a Chinese sun goddess. The two names, proposed by the student astronomy club of Guangzhou No 6 Middle School in Guangdong province, were announced at the Beijing Planetarium on Saturday.




Online Scan to read more on our Weibo page



2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[NCPA looks to the future during 12th anniversary festivities]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530100.htm Li Jiazhong, 90, woke up early on Sunday morning. He was excited because he was going to visit the National Center for the Performing Arts for the first time.

On that day, Dec 22, more than 50 public programs were staged to celebrate the NCPA's 12th anniversary. The venue opened to audiences for free, a tradition since 2009.

"I saw the news on TV and learned about the NCPA's birthday. Then my daughter applied for tickets online. She got three tickets luckily," says Li, who was accompanied by his family on Sunday. "Although I am old, I follow the news and I am interested in the arts. I love Peking Opera and today I watched some Peking Opera shows at the NCPA."

Li is among around 8,000 people who went to the NCPA that day to enjoy free shows, including a concert performed by the NCPA Chorus featuring classic Chinese folk songs, a concert staged by the Beijing Symphony Orchestra under the baton of conductor Tan Lihua and a quartet of the NCPA Orchestra performing works such as Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Johannes Brahms and Mozart's Divertimento in D major, K. 136. Students from the Beijing Dance Academy and Minzu University of China performed ethnic Chinese dances. Peking Opera artists from the Beijing Fenglei Peking Opera Company staged such classic works as The Drunken Concubine and Farewell My Concubine.

Filmed stage productions were also screened at the opera house of NCPA, including the premiere of a Chinese dance drama, The Railway to Tibet, which was performed and produced by the NCPA in 2018. According to the dance drama's director, Wang Ge, it pays tribute to the landmark project of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the world's highest and longest line crossing a single plateau.

"By turning the dance drama into a movie, it means that more people are able to enjoy the show," says Wang. "Unlike the stage, the movie captures the dancers' movements close up, and the emotions are expressed with a much more intimate feeling." The award-winning choreographer adds that this is the first time his stage production has been turned into a movie, offering him a fresh perspective of his own work. So far, the NCPA has produced 29 films in the past 12 years.

According to Zhao Jiachen, vice-president of the NCPA, the venue has welcomed over 800 art troupes and over 300,000 artists from all around the world. During the past 12 years, the NCPA has produced 91 stage productions, including 31 original works.

The NCPA was designed by French architect Paul Andreu. It has been the Chinese focus of the world's performing arts industry since it opened in December 2007, attracting top international artists and symphony orchestras.

She notes that for the first time, the NCPA has created a cartoon image to celebrate its birthday: that of a white swan. Therefore, during the day, ballerinas performed Swan Lake in the venue's public space.

"The NCPA's slogan is 'art changes life'. The day is open to all the family, so the cartoon image will resonate with children, who will, hopefully, become frequent visitors to the venue. They are the future audience of the NCPA," Zhao adds.

In a new drive to reach younger audiences in China, the NCPA has launched free online broadcasts. Since 2011, its online platform has livestreamed more than 100 classical music concerts, with each one receiving more than 1 million views on average.


A white swan serves as the logo to mark the NCPA's 12th anniversary. JIANG DONG/CHINA DAILY



Ballerinas dance Swan Lake in the NCPA's public space as one of the 50 programs to celebrate the occasion on Sunday. JIANG DONG/CHINA DAILY



2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[A celebration in strings]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530101.htm To mark his 50th birthday, violinist Lyu Siqing has been invited by longtime friend and conductor Yu Long to perform a special concert with the China Philharmonic Orchestra at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing on Wednesday.

Lyu will play Ludwig van Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 as part of a special series by the orchestra honoring the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth. This 2019/2020 performance season also marks the China Philharmonic Orchestra's 20th anniversary.

Lyu will play alongside young violinists to interpret the Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, a set of four tango-inspired compositions written by the Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla between 1965 and 1970.

"I used to focus on my personal pursuits, like touring in new countries and polishing my skills, but now that I'm 50 I realize that I want to attract more people, especially the younger ones, to our concert halls, and help young music learners to improve themselves," says Lyu in Beijing, adding that he will perform Buenos Aires Spring, the last piece of the Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.

The three participating young violinists-10-year-old Christian Li, Chloe Chua, a 12-year-old from Singapore and 19-year-old American Kevin Zhu-are all winners of the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists, the world's leading contest of its kind founded by American violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin in 1983.

Lyu was a junior prizewinner in the inaugural Menuhin competition and before participating in the competition, he was invited by Menuhin to study in London at the age of 11.

In 1987, he became the first Asian violinist to win first prize at the prestigious Paganini International Violin Competition in Italy, which propelled him to stardom.

"I've listened to the three youngsters play and they remind me of my younger days. We are performing together for the first time and I hope it will inspire more young violinists," says Lyu, adding that one of the trio, Zhu, is studying at the Juilliard School in New York.

"Now many young people are learning to play the violin. There are so many child prodigies who have been displaying their musical talent from a very early age. However, just like athletes, these musicians must build up certain muscles through practice to help them better perform in the future. It also requires passion and a love for the instrument," he adds. "I've gained a lot of experience throughout my career which I want to share with these young violinists."

Born and raised in Qingdao, Shandong province, Lyu has dreamed about becoming a violinist since early childhood because his father was a classical music fan and Lyu's two elder brothers were both learning to play the violin.

"My father was very strict and I grew up listening to my brothers practicing for hours at home," recalls Lyu. "My father didn't push me to learn the musical instrument, but it was the one thing I wanted to learn, and I've worked surely and steadily toward it.

"I can still remember that I practiced upstairs in my house while my childhood friends were playing football outside. I was tempted to join them, but once I started to play the violin, I soon got into the zone," he adds.

Lyu began learning when he was 4 years old, and by the age of 8, he was enrolled to study at the affiliated primary school of the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. At the age of 19, he went to the Juilliard School to study with American violinist Dorothy Delay.

"Like her surname, Delay was often late for class. So I would chat to the other students in the hallway as we waited for her," says Lyu. "When I first arrived in the US, I was very proud about winning the Paganini competition, but after talking with other students, I soon learned that they had all won major international contests. So, I set my pride to one side and devoted all my energy to improving my technique."

In 1992, he gave four recitals at the Aspen Music Festival and School, a classical music festival held annually in Aspen, Colorado, which set off his touring career. In 1997, he played the famous Chinese violin concerto Butterfly Lovers during galas held in Los Angeles and New York celebrating Hong Kong's return to China that year. Since then, he has been regarded as one of the best interpreters of classical Chinese violin concertos.

With over 20 albums under his belt, Lyu has played in more than 40 countries and collaborated with many of the world's leading musicians, including American conductor Lorin Maazel, Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, and Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden. As a soloist, he has performed with many of the world's leading orchestras.

In 2019, he toured over 30 Chinese cities in under 3 months, wrapping up on Nov 23 with a concert at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing with a repertoire including Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24, Spring Sonata, Niccolo Paganini's Cantabile and The Butterfly Lovers violin concerto by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang.


Violinist Lyu Siqing will perform with the China Philharmonic Orchestra at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing on Wednesday. CHINA DAILY



Violinist Lyu Siqing will perform with the China Philharmonic Orchestra at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing on Wednesday. CHINA DAILY





2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Opera house shaped like fan to be new city landmark]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530115.htm A new landmark for cultural activities is being planned in Shanghai as the city aims to become a global center for the performing arts.

The construction of the Shanghai Grand Opera House started on Wednesday. The landmark shaped like a Chinese fan is scheduled to be completed along the Huangpu River in five years. With the completion of the building, a gap in China's lack of opera houses will be filled, says Chen Ping, former director of the National Center for Performing Arts in Beijing.

"Shanghai has made an unprecedented, pioneering and visionary decision to build an opera house of such grandeur and scale," he said in an interview.

The new opera house will not just be a performing venue but also a creative base for opera productions, he added.

Opera is often named as "the jewel in the crown of the performing arts," and Shanghai has given emphasis to the development of the art form.

The opera house is an important step in the city's ambition to build itself into an Asian center for the performing arts, says Lin Hongming, head of the preparation group for operating the new theater.

In Tokyo, 40,000 ticket-selling performances take place every year. Shanghai has to look up to Tokyo in terms of the number of shows in order to win the recognition as an Asian center for the performing arts, and "the construction of new theater spaces will leverage greater potential for the performing arts market", Lin adds.

Located at the site of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai's Pudong New Area, the opera house will cover an area of 146,338 square meters. It has been designed with three performing halls, with 2,000 seats, 1,200 seats and 1,000 seats respectively, and the spaces will include rehearsal rooms, writing rooms and art education facilities.

The opera house is expected to hold 650 performances and receive 650,000 visitors in the first year after its opening. In the first five years, an average of 720 performances every year are expected to be staged.

Classical Western operas, Chinese opera productions, choruses and cantatas will be performed in the largest hall with 2,000 seats, while experimental opera productions, operettas and recitals will take place in the hall of 1,200 seats. The smaller hall of 1,000 seats will be a convertible space for shows using innovative props, new technology and bel canto performances targeting young audiences and international tourists.

The opera house will have a spiral staircase enabling visitors to access the roof, which will be used for outdoor performances and other activities. The building has been being designed like an unfolding fan by Norwegian architecture firm Snohetta, in partnership with Shanghai's East China Architectural Design and Research Institute.

Their objective is to build "a theater for the future", Lin says, adding that 50 years from now, the new opera house will be recognized as an established landmark like the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and the Teatro Alla Scala in Milan.

The Shanghai Conservatory of Music launched the new Shangyin Opera House in September. According to head of the school, baritone Liao Changyong, the two opera houses will play different roles in the promotion of opera and nurturing the arts. He hopes that the two houses will collaborate in the future in the fields of research, international exchanges and education.


An artistic rendering of the Shanghai Grand Opera House, the construction of which started on Wednesday. The landmark shaped like a Chinese fan is expected to be completed along the Huangpu River in five years. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[A go-go archipelago's allure]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530116.htm Fiji is happy. And the archipelago hopes to share its joy with more Chinese. To this end, Tourism Fiji recently signed a memorandum of understanding with China's Sina Weibo microblog platform to promote the "bula spirit" of Fiji, and such attractions as its tropical islands, pristine nature, marine life and culture. Like the Hawaiian aloha, bula is a greeting in the Fijian language. The "bula spirit" makes Fiji the place where happiness truly finds you.

Fiji's top inbound travel markets are Australia, New Zealand, North America and China, respectively accounting for about 45, 20, 10 and 5.5 percent of arrivals. Over 50,000 Chinese visited last year.

"China is a strategic market for Fiji, with huge potential," Tourism Fiji's CEO Matthew Stoeckel says.

"Our real challenge is about generating awareness in the Chinese market."

That's where Weibo comes in. The platform has nearly 500 million monthly and 216 million daily users, according to its third-quarter 2019 financial report. About 127 million users published nearly 5 billion travel-related posts in 2018.

"A growing number of young Chinese netizens enjoy unique, emerging destinations like Fiji," says Yang Yi, head of Sina Weibo's travel business.

About 70 percent of Tourism Fiji's followers on Weibo were born between 1985 and'95, she says.

Their demands are personalized and diverse, she says. They not only seek affordable luxury, culture, cuisine and family-friendly experiences but also, increasingly, in-depth content about emerging and niche destinations.

"Such changes among Weibo users and travelers are undoubtedly good for a diverse and unique destination like Fiji," she says.

Tourism Fiji and Sina Weibo invited Chinese singer-actor Luo Yunxi to travel to Fiji and promote the destination on social media. In July, the online reality show, Feel the World, released an episode about Luo's trip that received over 200 million views.

"Social media is an important channel for promotion. When celebrities and influencers share their travel experiences in Fiji on social media, they may inspire others to visit the destination as well," Stoeckel says.

"There are various in-depth experiences in Fiji, like skydiving and snorkeling. I'm impressed with Chinese travelers, who love to try different experiences and make the most of their trip."

He says their predominant customer base is couples, and many Chinese newlyweds come for their honeymoons. It's also a family destination where children enjoy entertaining activities at kids' clubs.

Fiji hopes to attract more people in its off-season, such as during Chinese Spring Festival, when the islands have the capacity to accommodate more travelers.

"Fiji is an island country, and tourism is its pillar industry," Stoeckel says.

"Tourism is helping to improve the sustainability of the whole country. Those in the tourism industry work closely to protect the environment because tourists like our good ecology."

Visitors can participate in voluntary activities to help turtles and other animals, and restore coral reefs.

The tourism board launched its "bulanaires" program on March 20, the International Day of Happiness, last year to redefine the meaning of "rich".

It aims to find "bulanaires"-a portmanteau of "bula" and "billionaire"-who are rich in happiness and good energy from around the world.

These "happiness ambassadors" will work with Tourism Fiji to share the "bula spirit" with the world.

"Fiji is a place where happiness finds you. The 'bula spirit' is felt the second you arrive in the destination and stays with you well after you return home," Stoeckel says.

"Everywhere you go, everyone will greet you with a heartfelt bula and look you in the eyes when they say it. Bula is more than just saying hello. It has various meanings, such as to wish somebody good health."

He hopes the program will bring bula to Chinese, and Chinese to Fiji.





The island country of Fiji is becoming a hot destination among Chinese tourists for its diverse and unique attractions, including tropical scenery, pristine nature, marine life, culture and friendly people. CHINA DAILY





2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[On chinadaily.com.cn]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/23/content_37529922.htm Culture: May 21 is International Tea Day

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on Thursday designating May 21 as International Tea Day. According to the resolution, tea production and processing is a primary occupation for millions of families in developing countries, as well as the main source of income for millions of poor families in a number of the world's least-developed countries. Tea production and processing contributes to the fight against hunger, the reduction of extreme poverty, the empowerment of women and the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, it added. The resolution invites the international community to observe the day as appropriate through education and activities aimed at raising public awareness about the importance of tea for rural development and sustainable livelihoods. Visit our website to find out more.

Theater: Scissor Seven to debut on Netflix

The second season of the Chinese animated series Scissor Seven will make its debut on streaming giant Netflix as a Netflix Original on Jan 10. It will be dubbed in English, Spanish, French and Japanese for audiences in more than 190 countries and regions around the world. Scissor Seven follows Wu Liuqi as he tries to recover his lost memories after a major injury, and shows how he uses love to resolve hatred and prejudice while helping others and finding himself. The series scored 8.9 out of 10 on Chinese media review site Douban.

Travel: Hop-on, hop-off tour sets sail in Shanghai

Shanghai's first hop-on and hop-off cruise was launched on Saturday, allowing tourists to enjoy both the view along the Huangpu River and attractions on the riverbank. The liner stops at docks on Jinling Road in Huangpu district, Qinhuangdao Road in Hongkou district and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong New Area. The whole trip lasts 100 minutes, including 70 minutes on board and 30 minutes of docking time. A hop-on, hop-off ticket without time limit costs 150 yuan ($21) per person and is valid for the day of purchase only.




Online Scan to read more on chinadaily.com.cn



2019-12-23 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Project seeks to inject new blood into China's theaters]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/23/content_37529950.htm A project for young theater talent training and theater works incubation was launched in Beijing on Tuesday, aiming at supporting and encouraging young Chinese playwrights to create original work.

Supported by Beijing Culture and Arts Fund, the platform called Pei Yuan, will be open to young Chinese theater talent, who can submit their original work for consideration through Feb 29. Playwrights, whose work stands out among the others, will have the opportunity to work with veteran directors and actors to have their plays staged next year.

"Chinese playwright Cao Yu, at the age of 23, became famous overnight with his classic play, Thunderstorm. At 22, Chinese author Wang Meng wrote his life-changing work, The Young Newcomer in the Organization Department. We have many great writers, who achieved success at a young age. We need young Chinese writers today, whose work reflects and represents society," says Peng Tao, head of the dramatic literature department at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing. "Now, I am working with my students on this project."

According to veteran Chinese actor Feng Yuanzheng-who has been working with the Beijing People's Art Theater since 1991 and is also a member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference-the project started with his proposal about launching a fund for young Chinese playwrights during the 13th National Committee of the CPPCC, held in Beijing, in March 2018.

"We are facing a severe situation; we have a lack of young theater talent, we're even losing it. We need young people who love theater and love to create it," says Feng, 57, noting that the Beijing People's Art Theater has lost Ban Zan, a great actor, writer and director, who died of heart attack at the age of 41 on Sept 3.

"If we compare a play to a big tree, script is its root and actors are like the trunk. It takes 10 to 15 years to train young theater talent to become mature and professional. We must not just stimulate young writers to write original plays, but also challenge them to continue to write works with quality, which can stand the test of time."

Feng, who was born in Beijing, was enrolled in actor training classes at the Beijing People's Art Theater in 1985. According to the award-winner, the Beijing People's Art Theater, which was founded in 1952 with Chinese playwright Cao Yu as its first president, launched six actor training classes from 1958 to 1985. In 1978 and 2004, the theater worked with the Central Academy of Drama on training young actors.

On Dec 16, the theater opened an actor training class, which recruited 15 Chinese actors selected from over 1,000 applicants, aged from 24 to 42.Veteran actors such as Feng, Pu Cunxin and Song Dandan, are teachers there.

"All of the 15 actors are professionals with acting experience. The latest training class for actors has been prepared for two years and those enrolled will keep on the tradition of the theater," says Feng, adding that in 2021, new theaters will open, which will increase the number of venues under the umbrella of the Beijing People's Art Theater from the current three to five.

"More venues means more shows, which need more actors. Some of the best actors with the theater, including Pu Cunxin and Yang Lixin, have retired or will retire in a few years. These new actors will dominate the stage one day," Feng says.

The need for young playwrights was also echoed by Liu Tong, president of the Jingju Theatre Company of Beijing, during the launch ceremony. Jingju, or Peking Opera, was listed as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2010.

Liu says all traditional Chinese operas, about 438 in total, require new, original scripts to give them a modern appeal. He says what traditional Chinese operas need is not just young playwrights, but also young theater talent to help keep the old art forms alive.


From left: Peng Tao, head of the dramatic literature department at the Central Academy of Drama, Liu Tong, president of the Jingju Theater Company of Beijing, and Chinese actor Feng Yuanzheng speak at the launching ceremony of a young theater talent incubation project in Beijing on Tuesday. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-23 00:00:00
<![CDATA[This Day, That Year]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/23/content_37529940.htm Editor's note: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China.

In December 1983, the country's first supercomputer, Galaxy-I, was completed at the National University of Defense Technology after five years of development and research. It was capable of more than 100 million operations per second.

It meant China had become a country capable of independently designing and manufacturing supercomputers and had joined an elite group, including the United States and Japan.

In 1993, the Galaxy-II supercomputer passed a key milestone by performing 1 billion operations per second. An item from Nov 20, 1992, in China Daily showed scientists working on the computer in Changsha, Hunan province.

Through decades of development, China has made remarkable progress in supercomputing.

Tianhe-1, the country's first quadrillion-level supercomputer was developed in 2009. China was home to the world's fastest computer from 2013 until last year when the US supercomputer Summit took the lead.

Tianhe-1 is twice as fast as the previous record holder, Sunway Taihu-Light, China's first supercomputer to use domestically designed processors.

The latest Top 500 supercomputer list saw China maintaining its dominance in number of installations. The country boasts 227 supercomputers, the most in the world, while the US had 117 systems.

China is busy trying to establish a new record with a new-generation supercomputer under construction.

It is expected to be 10 times faster than the Sunway TaihuLight. The new computer, Tianhe-3, will be a prototype exascale supercomputer and is expected to be completed by 2021, according to the National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin.

It will be capable of making a quintillion calculations per second.

Based in Tianjin's Binhai New Area, it is expected to herald a new chapter in the intelligent manufacturing industry in Tianjin and drive technology innovation in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei provinces.

Since 2009, China has built six national supercomputing centers to be innovation drivers-in Tianjin, Shenzhen, Jinan, Changsha, Guangzhou and Wuxi.




2019-12-23 00:00:00
<![CDATA[On our Sina Weibo]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/23/content_37529949.htm Whiz kid gets a greeting from Apple CEO

Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent birthday greetings on his Weibo account to an 8-year-old boy who has been presenting programming tutorials on social media. Cook was impressed by the boy's enthusiasm and talent for programming. The boy, who goes by the name of Vita, is a primary school student in Shanghai. He set up the tutorial channel on video streaming site Bilibili in August and has garnered about 60,000 followers and more than 1 million views. His father, Zhou Ziheng, has been Vita's main support, editing his videos and helping to run the channel. Zhou, a freelance translator of scientific and technology books, began teaching his son-at age 5-how to write computer code.

Hengdian filming base offers free studios

China's largest filming base, Hengdian World Studios, started offering all its facilities free to film and teleplay crews on Tuesday, in a move to boost the domestic industry. A full-scale replica of the Forbidden City, the Old Summer Palace and scores of other palaces and gardens are among the best-known antique-style architecture inside the center. The base in Zhejiang province was established in 1996.




Online Scan to read more on our Weibo page



2019-12-23 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Partnership brings themed afternoon tea]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/22/content_37529850.htm The Ritz-Carlton Beijing joined hands with century-old British toy brand Hamleys to launch a creative Christmas afternoon tea on Dec 5.

The culinary team in the hotel integrates Christmas elements, such as Santa Claus, an elk and Christmas tree in the design of the refreshments to celebrate the festival season.

The afternoon tea desserts include Hamleys bear-shaped chocolate, British Christmas fruitcake, hazelnut chocolate stollen, raspberry religieuse snowman and plain and raisin scones.

According to Tang Xiaoxu, executive pastry chef at the hotel, the shape of the Christmas chocolate cake was inspired by the fairy tale of Santa Claus climbing down the chimney to give out his gifts.

Dale Parkington, manager of the hotel, said that since it entered Beijing 12 years ago, the hotel has a tradition of afternoon tea, so it has made efforts to find suitable partners to launch different themed events.

Hamleys shares similar prestige with the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Known for its high quality, Hamleys also provides a sense of happiness for guests, so it is a perfect partner for the afternoon tea, as Christmas Day is coming soon, Parkington said.

Two 1.5-meter-tall sitting Hamleys bears and a Christmas tree are showcased in the hotel lobby, which attracts children and guests to take photos.

The afternoon tea is available at 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm every day until Jan 2, 2020, priced at 358 yuan ($50) per person or 618 yuan for two persons. In the latter case, diners can get one Hamleys bear toy as a gift.

Located at China Central Place in the center of Beijing's central business district, the Ritz-Carlton Beijing blends the city's glamor with traditional British elegance.

Set within downtown Beijing's main business district, the hotel offers a collection of five-star amenities that reflect the traditions and evolution of China.

An array of desserts offered at the Ritz-Carlton Beijing in cooperation with British toy brand Hamleys. CHINA DAILY

]]> 2019-12-22 14:19:23 <![CDATA[Crowds flood in, the roots take hold and theater flourishes]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/22/content_37529849.htm For the actor Huang Lei it was the perfect curtain raiser: a day before the Wuzhen Theatre Festival opened its seventh edition on Oct 25, he and his wife, the actress Sun Li, celebrated 24 years of being together.

"I met her when I was 24. Now after 24 years, the time I have been with her has exceeded the days I didn't know her," says Huang, one of the co-founders of the festival.

They have performed as a pair of star-crossed lovers in the classic play Secret Love In Peach Blossom Land by Stan Lai. For every performance, Huang and Sun made it their practice to give each other a kiss after the lights went out.

"After more than 500 performances I have come to realize that drama and life are one and the same," Huang says. "Holding on to one thing, whether it is theater or love, you harvest something special."

Huang says he hopes to keep the festival going until it becomes so much a part of the ancient town of Wuzhen that no one can recall a time when it did not exist.

This year's festival, from Oct 25 to Nov 3, ran under the theme of "Emerge", indicating the creative ideas that are constantly evolving in the town.

The festival presents an incredibly dynamic scene as theater practitioners and theatergoers gather for the annual celebration, and the scale of the performances continued to gain recognition around the world.

In the space of 10 days 28 theater productions from 13 countries and regions were staged, and around 2,000 outdoor carnival performances and 34 panel discussions took place.

Meng Jinghui, theater director and one of the founders of the festival, says: "The Wuzhen Theatre Festival to me is a nutritional reservoir that cultivates both practitioners and spectators, making practitioners more confident and diversified, while encouraging spectators to be more tolerant."

The opening play was Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters, staged by the Russian director Yury Butusov, retaining the festival's emphasis on classical theater works, which Huang says should be a vital component of any theater festival.

"Great works can be interpreted and watched many times and in many different ways," Huang says, noting that the audience may not fully understand the play.

"Progress is driven by ignorance. I am especially grateful for my own ignorance, which, for many times in my life journey has let me know that I can go a little further."

Some European directors who visited the Wuzhen festival said Chinese theater audiences are very different from European ones.

"I have a feeling that because of their geographical situation, Chinese audiences have not been exposed to the evolution that European theater has undergone over the past 50 years," the Italian director Eugenio Barba said.

"So in this sense Chinese audiences are different. They are more pure in a way."

The Polish director Michal Znaniecki described the festival and its audiences as vibrant.

"The shock that we have in Wuzhen is to see a lot of people with a special interest in theater… It's really very special, and you see that the audience is very participative. They know why they are here; they listen and they want to learn."

Barba has been a steadfast presence at the festival from the outset, and acted as honorary chairman in its second year, when it was "trying to find its own profile". At this year's festival it was clear that the event has indeed established deep roots and an identity for itself, he said.

"The festival should become like Mecca, and people should come to see what's happening in this Mecca. What is fascinating is that audiences travel to come and see a performance, and in fact become pilgrims."

With seven years under its belt the aim is for the festival to continue to flourish next year, "Flourish" having been announced at the closing ceremony of this year's event as the theme for next year. The festival will run from Nov 5 to Nov 15.


Directors and founders of the Wuzhen Theatre Festival, including Huang Lei (third from left), Meng Jinghui (third from right) and Stan Lai (second from right), strike a gong at the opening ceremony. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-22 14:19:23
<![CDATA[Sweet smell of the season]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/22/content_37529846.htm Roasted chestnuts are cold weather comfort food. On the streets of Beijing, tiny hole-in-the-wall shops with big black drum roasters or huge iron woks are once again sending out the tempting aroma of caramelized chestnuts.

They are seasonal vendors, because for the rest of the year, the drums are silent and the woks cold and the shopkeepers sell dried fruits, melon seeds and sweet potato chips instead. Only after the autumn harvests does the roasting begin.

If you take an excursion out to the Great Wall at Mutianyu, you will see the native chestnut trees below as the cable cars take you to the hilltop. Tourists visiting the Ming Tombs, too, may also rest unaware beneath ancient chestnut trees.

But they are there, distinguished by their dark green ovate leaves with serrated edges, or their skinny catkins when it's flowering season. The easiest time to identify chestnuts is when the fruits ripen and fall to the ground.

The reddish brown nuts, two to three to a thorny case, will peek through an extremely prickly shell called the burr.

In my old campus grounds, there were plenty of stately trees in the park and Asian students used to gather fallen fruits, stamping on the burrs to release the nuts to save fingers from being pricked. The American chestnuts are much larger and need to be sun-dried for a bit to sweeten them. Otherwise they would just taste floury.

We did not have the equipment to roast them, so we simply cranked up the oven and baked them. I even experimented with grinding the nuts into powder and making bread and chestnut cookies, which worked pretty well.

Funnily enough, no one else bothered to pick the chestnuts except the squirrels, and we were left to enjoy the free bounty.

In China, not a nut goes to waste. Even wild chestnut trees are carefully monitored and when the burrs fall, they are hastily foraged.

The best chestnuts are from Liangxiang in Fangshan, a southwestern Beijing suburb. Liangxiang chestnuts have become a known brand sold all over the country and are even exported.

Tianjin also produces chestnuts and the farmers there have carefully packaged their nuts in ready-to-eat vacuum packs that are sold in the city's souvenir shops. You can also see these at airport duty free shops all over China.

But ask Beijing locals and they will swear by the chestnuts from Huairou, an outskirt county that is well known for its trout farms and farmers' restaurants. Huairou chestnuts are smaller, but to all accounts, the sweetest.

Chestnuts are grown all over China, and the cultivars are all slightly different. Some are suitable for roasting, others are sold freshly shucked at markets for the cooking pot, and still others are harvested, skinned and dried to be sold all year round. The better quality chestnuts are from Shandong and Fujian.

Chinese chestnuts are winter snacks. Whole nuts are snipped at the bottom end to prevent them exploding during cooking and then roasted in a mixture of sand and sugar. They are sifted clean before being sold but are still characterized by the slightly gritty sticky shells. These sweet chestnuts, a deep chocolate brown and glistening with sugar glaze, are a real treat.

They used to be hand fried in huge iron woks, with the vendors perspiring over the hot sand mixture, in spite of the winter chill. The sand helps to increase the heat needed to pop the nuts open.

These days, chestnuts are mostly roasted in automated steel drums that rotate, rustling noisily at each turn.

Holding a bag of hot chestnuts warms both hands and heart. And, because of the high carbohydrate content, the nuts also provide heat to the body.

As the nuts cool quickly in the chilly temperatures of winter, they become easier to crack and peel, their dark brown skin coming away from the creamy yellow flesh like paper.

Chestnuts are also used for cooking.

They are one of the ingredients for the classic Eight Treasures Duck, together with lotus seeds, shiitake mushrooms, Chinese sausages, leeks, scallions, pine nuts and sticky rice. You can say this is the Chinese equivalent of stuffed turkey.

Chinese chefs go one better. The duck is carefully boned before the filling is stuffed into the bird, steamed and then flash fried to crisp the skin before serving. Sometimes, the duck is tied at the neck and at the waist to shape it into a bottle gourd, or hulu, a symbol of good fortune and longevity.

Another classic dish is braised chicken and chestnuts in an onion gravy. It is an extremely popular home-cooked dish when fresh chestnuts are in season.

Unlike the French, the Chinese are traditionally less likely to use chestnuts in patisserie, but the new coffee clubs and cake houses in the cities are now pushing out a popular cake topped with candied chestnut puree similar to marron glacé. This pastry first originated in Hong Kong and was in turn inspired by the classic French Mont Blanc.

Chestnuts are also dried. The dehydrated nuts meant chefs could use the nuts all year round, simply soaking them in water before cooking. Dried chestnuts are sold in Chinatowns all over the world.

During the fifth lunar month when rice dumplings are prepared for the Dragon Boat Festival, dried chestnuts fly off the shelves. Every savory dumpling will always need one or two chestnuts to complete the filling.

Like most Chinese ingredients, chestnuts are valued for their medicinal properties.

Traditional Chinese medicine prescriptions use chestnuts for stomach ulcers and to whet appetites. They are believed to be a "yang" food and therefore good for virility. Taken in moderation, they aid blood flow and increase "qi" in the body.

It is also food for the ladies, having the ability to combat anemia and improve complexions.

That's very comforting to know, and for once I'm sure, most will gladly take the prescriptions and enjoy them too.

Roasted chestnuts are a common street food in China during fall and winter, where they are sold outdoors in many towns and at street intersections. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-22 14:19:23
<![CDATA[Latin American TV producers captivated by Chinese TV series]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/22/content_37529845.htm CANCUN, Mexico-Gabriela Galarza is busy working at Bigtech Corporation, trying to find new content for online content service platform "Mi Ott", which now offers services in Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico starting from this month.

The idea is to attract new audiences with "great content", and "a better option is to include Chinese drama and animation series", Galarza told Xinhua during the MIP Cancun-Latin American TV Buyers Summit held in the Mexican resort city of Cancun recently.

The event is the most efficient platform to develop production partnerships and trade content for the fast-growing Latin American and US Hispanic TV market.

A Chinese delegation, participating in the event for the fourth consecutive year, attracted much attention for offering products in the categories of drama, documentary, and animation.

Galarza said she had approached several private and public Chinese companies during the event.

The Chinese companies had a wide catalog of programs, including some hit drama series in China that are of good quality and "with great content, costumes, and scenery," she said.

"I think that it's very important to be able to start having programs that come from other places. China is a country that shares its culture and also has good products," she added.

Galarza said she also plans to add a Chinese animated series to her list, and the piece of work is also educational as it conveys important values such as the care of the planet and animals.

"If this Chinese series comes to Latin America, I think it will have a big impact," she said.

Galarza was delighted that she was able to make her first in-person connection with representatives from the Chinese companies at the event.

With the means of technology and subtitles, the language barrier would not be a problem for these programs, she added.

Lisandro Caterina, from Caja de Ruidos, a sound production company with offices and studios in Buenos Aires, Argentina, said his company is looking to offer its audiences English-and Spanish-version of Chinese series.

Chinese TV series Nirvana en llamas (Nirvana in Fire) has successfully attracted Latin American audiences' interest in Chinese cultural products. The drama was the first Chinese TV series to be aired in Argentina in early 2018. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-22 14:19:23
<![CDATA[Macao lent a neighborly hand by Zhuhai to help its people settle in]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/22/content_37529838.htm Zhuhai, a seaside city in South China's Guangdong province and the next-door neighbor of Macao, is taking measures to add convenience for the Macao people who live, work, do business in or tour the city.

One of its latest moves was to launch the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Labor Dispute Joint Mediation Center on Dec 10, the first of its kind in China.

It is also known as Zhuhai (Hengqin) Labor Dispute Quick Mediation and Arbitration Service Station. The establishment will provide human resources management services, legal and consultation services related to social welfare, as well as dispute meditation to businesses and individuals from Hong Kong and Macao.

While boosting communication in the human resources sector and improving the business environment in the Bay Area, it will play a key role in promoting the development of a multifaceted labor dispute resolution mechanism locally.

Zhuhai government has been working hard to foster cooperation in social security and social governance with the Macao government and to enable the Macao people who are investing, working or living in Zhuhai to enjoy the same treatment as locals ranging from healthcare, education, as well as housing and transport arrangements.


In July, the city's Hengqin New Area, just a narrow stretch of water away from Macao, began a pilot program to entitle Macao residents living in Hengqin to the local basic medical insurance.

Those who have joined the program enjoy the same benefits as locals in Zhuhai. One of the recipients, who identified herself as Ng, said that she was happy to be included in the program.

"With the welfare, we will have more options to see doctors," she said.

"It generally takes a long time to see a doctor at a public hospital because you need to wait in turn; and it is much more expensive to see a doctor at a private hospital in Macao," she explained. "The healthcare welfare makes it possible for me to see doctors conveniently at many more hospitals on the mainland."

The program had been available to a total of 2,383 Macao people by the end of October, according to official statistics.

Meanwhile, Zhuhai has introduced other measures to enable Macao residents to receive quality healthcare services similar to Zhuhai locals.

As part of the efforts, Macao residents' information is incorporated into Zhuhai's healthcare system. This allows Macao patients to make appointments easily with doctors in Zhuhai. Zhuhai has also partnered with the University of Macau to build a precision medicine research and development center.

Transport and education

In March, Zhuhai launched cross-border commuter bus routes between Macao and the Hengqin New Area. It has since served more than 70,000 people, according to Zou Hua, director of the Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao affairs office of Zhuhai. She spoke at a recent press event in Zhuhai in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Macao's return to the motherland.

Zhuhai has been arranging education opportunities for more than 1,500 children from Hong Kong and Macao annually. Many schools in Zhuhai have forged sister-school relationships with Macao counterparts.

Zou said preferential policies are available to Macao children who sit for school entrance exams in Zhuhai.

According to Zou, Zhuhai has hammered out policies to help university students in Macao start their own business or look for jobs in Zhuhai by offering incentives, internships, exchange programs and job fairs in Macao.

Citing an example, she said the Hengqin-Macao Youth Entrepreneurship Valley, a national incubator also known as InnoValley, has incubated 199 Macao projects.


Hengqin is where most Macao people choose to live or work in Zhuhai. Yang Chuan, head of the administrative committee of the Hengqin New Area, said that Hengqin is joining hands with Macao to arrange housing for the Macao people.

Covering an area of 180,000 square meters, the Macao New Neighborhood Project, jointly promoted by Zhuhai and Macao governments to address the land shortage in Macao, will open for bidding soon.

Public services in the community including education, healthcare and elderly care will be provided by companies or organizations designated by the Macao government. The Macao government will also set criteria for selecting qualified Macao buyers, according to Yang.

He said that Hengqin has made great efforts to make port customs clearance more convenient and to make it easier for Macao professionals to practice in the new area.

Professionals, such as tour guides and architects, who have registered to practice in Hong Kong and Macao, are allowed to provide services in Hengqin.

Currently, a total of 233 tour guides from Hong Kong and Macao have been licensed to work in Zhuhai. The first clinic operated by Macao doctors was opened in the Hengqin New Area in November, according to Yang.

Looking ahead, Zhuhai will build more infrastructure to connect Macao with the Chinese mainland. There will be high-speed trains and metro lines to link Macao with major cities in South China. Zhuhai will also increase water and power supplies to Macao to support the special administrative region's growth. Currently, Zhuhai's water supply meets 98 percent of the daily consumption in Macao. The power supply meets 90 percent.


A group of young Macao people visit Zhuhai on Dec 7, aiming to seize cooperation opportunities in the city. CHINA DAILY




]]> 2019-12-22 14:19:23 <![CDATA[ALL THE WATER IS A STAGE]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/22/content_37529826.htm Picture an entire town turned into one grand immersive theater: huge marionettes walking through a narrow, flagstone-paved lane, mother and daughter sitting leisurely in a "paper" boat that floats along a river, young couples whispering under a night sky lit up by florescent kites.

No matter where you go in the town of Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, during its annual theater festival you are likely to run into performances-and some in the unlikeliest of places, such as at the corner of an otherwise quiet square, under the roofs of a mosscarpeted dock, and even on rowing boats.

Even tourists unaware of the festival will find themselves immersed in plays, dance and music, everybody being invited to roam the 1,300-year-old town's alleys, riverbanks and theater venues. Again this year, from Oct 25 to Nov 3, the festival transformed the town into a stage for performance and expression.

They can, for example, step into the "home" of the Italian director Eugenio Barba as he throws a "dinner party". Before the performances of The Tree he stood outside welcoming members of the audience and showed them where to store their personal belongings.

"This is a very creative way of thinking theater, that the spectators are my guests to share a dinner, and food are sounds, images, words, poetry," said Barba, founder of the Odin Teatret of Denmark.

But forget about private box seats with a glass of champagne in hand. Those who wanted to watch The Tree were required to hand in their phones before performances. When the show began they sat facing one another, celebrities and dilettantes alike, not knowing what the evening would bring.

What gradually unfolds were various stories with a tree at their center. The performance submerged its audience in an overwhelming auditory and visual head trip, or, as one viewer commented on the review site Douban, "the best nightmare I have ever had".

Barba is well aware of how offbeat his works are and that they can be unsettling. With the orchestration of words, sounds, light and space, he likes to take the audience by surprise.

He lives in two worlds, he said, the inner personal world and the world he shares with others. When he reads in the newspaper that something shocking has happened in the world, it stirs and interacts with his inner world, inspiring him to devise a performance to explore such issues.

"All Odin Teatret performances place the destiny of the individual in front of the bigger history... We hope the performance can awaken the imagination and sensibility of the spectators."

On Oct 27, the last day of its three performances, people lined outside the theater from afternoon till after dusk hoping to be able to buy last-minute tickets. Even though The Tree could be regarded as one of the headliners at this year's festival, there was room for an audience of little more than 100 at each performance.

Julia Varley, an actress who is artistic coordinator of the Odin Teatret, said 100 is in fact quite a lot, given that only 50 viewers were able to see each performance when the theater company first performed at the Wuzhen festival several years ago.

The same kind of audience size restrictions apply when the shows are staged in Europe, Varley said.

"The organizers always ask us to have more spectators, but we still limit the number."

On the same note, the audience is able to experience the performance as much as the director wants them to.

Varley said: "For us it is important that every spectator has the same possibility of seeing the performance. And we know also that the distance between the audience and the actors gives a special perception of the performance… It is the quality of the relationships that is important."

One of the company's most notable characteristics is that its shows are performed in different languages. After having been founded in Norway, the company eventually moved to Denmark, giving the ensemble a more diverse look and feel over time, with actors coming from a dozen countries with no common language.

The language barrier came as an obstacle for the company, leading it away from classical theatrical texts but pushing it toward innovation and originality, Barba said.

"The history of theater shows that actors of a company go from village to village, town to town. In all cultures, professional theaters are always like this. And being foreign, that is part and parcel of professional theater.

"So to be foreign is also a moment of attraction for the spectators because what is foreign presents diversity. And diversity is always an attraction."

Diversity is by no means something the Odin Teatret has a monopoly on in Wuzhen. In fact diversity is the festival's very essence, with troupes from 13 countries and regions performing this year. During the 10 days, each visitor, performer and theater venue were interconnected, creating kaleidoscopic effects that made the small town all the more dazzling.

All this was encapsulated in the play with a title that is as tantalizing as it is long, Dots and Lines, and the Cube Formed. The Many Different Worlds Inside. And Light, directed by Takahiro Fujita from Japan.

As with Barba's play, this is also inspired by real-life events that Fujita read about in the newspaper, dealing with how individuals and individual events could have rippling repercussions.

Telling the stories of several teenagers in 2011, Dots and Lines, and the Cube Formed was triggered by several news events that took place ten years before, including the gruesome murder of a girl in a small town in Japan, and the September 11 attacks in the United States.

It also tells of the thousands of young people who abandoned their home towns in eastern Japan after the huge earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011.

The play was created in 2013, when Fujita and his theater company Mum & Gypsy were invited to perform in Italy. It was the first time that he had created a show that people who didn't speak Japanese could relate to, he said.

He chose to write about leaving one's hometown, a universal theme that resonated with the audience. After the performances, viewers came to him, discussing their similar personal experiences.

Fujita said that recently he had been thinking about how to appeal to a broader public, creating shows that will attract people who do not normally go to the theater.

The Wuzhen experience was new for him and the company. Visitors do not just go to the Wuzhen festival for the theater performances, but also because they can enjoy the sights and the food and drink at the same time.

"I and the other troupe members feel the Wuzhen Theater Festival delivers a concentrated appreciation of world theater," Fujita said. "It really is unique."

Like Fujita, the Polish director Michal Znaniecki is keen to attract more people to the theater through open-air performances, in his case opera.

Last year when Znaniecki first saw Wuzhen's Water Theater he was seized by a strong yearning to stage one of his own works at the venue.

By day the Water Theater is a picturesque park with an amphitheater. Its central stage lies in front of a lake with a broken stone arch bridge, ancient architecture blurring into the trees in the background.

By night, perhaps because of a trick of the light, the theater becomes a portal for audiences to walk into different eras and realms.

In recent years directors from home and abroad have exercised their imaginations there. This year Znaniecki staged The Fairy Queen, a baroque rendition of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

He adapted the performance to make the most of every element of the venue. The opera singers sang on the broken bridge, fought on water as the boat pitched and rolled, and the audience gasped in awe when paintings were projected onto the water screens, as if suspended in mid-air.

"When you work on an open-air production, you need to make a lot of attractions because the audience can be easily distracted (for example) by wind, by rain," Znaniecki said. "So it's good to create huge visual effects all the time."

Open-air theater is an important part of his work. Znaniecki has staged his productions against diverse natural backdrops, including deserts and forests.

For him, open-air theater allows the maximum of theatrical effects, calls for actors of the highest energy, and demands a different level of participation from the audience, making opera appeal to the general public rather than a sophisticated few.




Polish director Michal Znaniecki stages The Fairy Queen, a baroque rendition of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, in Wuzhen. CHINA DAILY





2019-12-22 14:19:23
<![CDATA[Yes, chef]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/22/content_37529825.htm Éric Bouchenoire was the late chef-extraordinaire Joël Robuchon's closest collaborator for 33 years. Now supervising more than 20 multi-starred restaurants around the world, Bouchenoire shares the secrets of his scallop in ravioli dish, which is now on the autumn/winter menu of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Hong Kong and Robuchon au Dôme in Macao.

What was your inspiration in creating this recipe?

I was looking for what could make a good marriage with white truffles. Achieving harmony with white truffle is very complicated; that's what I learned with Mr Robuchon. Only pasta, some seafood, eggs and mushrooms-especially button mushrooms-work. One day, while thinking about button mushrooms, I had a flash and remembered a recipe we had created with Mr Robuchon in 2016 for the European Football Championship in France: button mushroom ravioli with white truffles.

What's your personal touch for this new recipe?

I added scallops to mushroom duxelles. It provides an iodized touch that is in perfect harmony with the mushroom and the white truffle. The duxelles is made with the whitest part of the mushroom; the excess parts and the stems are sliced to make our sauce, so there's nothing that goes to waste. With these extra parts, we add a light aroma of mushrooms, to which we add a little cream to bring lightness to our dish. Finally, we add a few sea urchin tongues on top-it's a nice touch of iodized color and the sea urchin also blends very well with the white truffle.

With all these ingredients, is it a rather expensive dish to make?

Well, if you remove the truffle and the sea urchin, you are also not obliged to use scallops, so you could make a button mushroom ravioli. It would be an absolutely sublime dish with very cheap, basic products and, in addition, a dish that would perfectly suit vegetarians.

Does this somehow relate to your definition of a great chef?

Yes, with simple cooking that's cheap and doable at home for everyone. It's the same for a sommelier-put them in front of a Château Pétrus and other great wines, and it's easy. But for me, a real sommelier is one who's able to find a basic wine that isn't expensive, but exceptional. It is based on this choice that we recognize a professional. In the kitchen, it's the same. One could put truffles everywhere-it's easy …

How long did it take you to develop this recipe?

Between Macao and Hong Kong, about eight working days. At the beginning, the recipe was very good, but we tried to improve it. There's always something missing, so at the end we added some little mushroom chips to bring a crunchy side to the dish. Honestly, if a recipe doesn't work and you don't feel it at first, you can stop! After that, it's just making small adjustments, like the racing car engines that mechanics used to adjust by ear a few decades ago.





2019-12-22 14:19:23
<![CDATA[SOW WHAT YOU REAP]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/22/content_37529824.htm Ye Minglan is cheerfully leading her guests on a red-carpet tour through the labyrinth of strawberry plants in her greenhouse.

"The route was where President Xi Jinping walked through when he visited us in 2014," Ye says with pride. Ye's family rented 6 mu (0.4 hectares) of land in Xianfeng village, Shiye town, Zhenjiang city in East China's Jiangsu province, and began to grow strawberries there in 2013.

Ye took over the land after it was rented out to two college graduates in 2012, who gave up after just six months.

"They grew cucumbers, but they couldn't develop any marketing channels," Ye says.

After consulting with agriculture experts, Ye's family settled on agricultural tourism as a business plan.

All their strawberries are planted on the top row of stacks of high shelves, which are filled with a patented formula wrapped up in membrane.

The formula was developed at an agriculture science institute in Zhenjiang and contains a mix of rich ingredients, from rice husks to turfy soil, which are fermented at high temperatures.

"This way, the strawberries can be kept free from dust and pestilence," Ye says.

Ever since Xi's visit to Shiye town, Ye's strawberry greenhouse has grown increasingly popular.

Tourists continue to flock to her garden to pick strawberries during the weekends and holidays.

"Around 300 people come here to pick fruit on a good day," Ye says.

On certain days, she receives seven or eight groups of business guests who visit her greenhouses to study how high-density agriculture operates.

Over the years, Ye's family has expanded their plantation to more than 110 mu, where they now grow six varieties of grapes, two types of strawberries and three different kind of peaches.

Tourists are able to pick fruit throughout the year. The strawberry season runs from November to May, peaches and loquats from April to July, and grapes from June to November, she says.

To date, her sales of grapes per mu exceeded 10,000 yuan ($1,423), and her strawberries bring in around 40,000 yuan.

The success of the fruit plantation has also brought about positive changes to the lives of the local villagers.

At the moment, Ye's plantation employs 18 villagers who earn a total annual income of around 400,000 yuan.

Professional guidance is provided to the staff, and covers every step of the process from seed planting to growth management.

"During harvest seasons, we hire extra help," Ye says.

Ye's business is one of many that have benefited from the development of high-efficiency agriculture and the rise of rural tourism in Shiye town.

"All of our income relies on agriculture now, rather than industry," says Nie Yongping, deputy head of the town. The local authority has also set up two agriculture companies to further tap into its land potential.

They aim to develop farm produce with a higher economic return to maximize land values and further enrich local life, Nie explains.

One business has introduced pecan nuts as a cash crop, while the other has grown dendrobium officinale, which is often used in traditional Chinese medicine.

The majority of the town's farmland is already being effectively used, according to Nie.

The town used to be one of the poorest of its kind in Zhenjiang, but it quickly rose above the national poverty line in 2016 after developing agricultural and rural tourism. Per capita income is expected to reach 29,000 yuan this year, compared with 12,000 yuan in 2014 and 17,000 yuan in 2015, Nie says.

Now, older villagers can make a decent living by engaging in organic agriculture production or by simply leasing their land out for it.

In the past, most rural households in the town only made between 500 and 800 yuan a year through traditional agriculture, according to Nie.

"Basically, villagers here have been freed from strenuous labor and have become technicians," Nie says.

The local government has made a point of developing rural tourism since 2005, when the Runyang Bridge was built, better connecting the town surrounded by waterways to the outside world-especially to Nanjing and Shanghai.

Many tourists visit the town to see the bridge and to enjoy a host of popular events that are increasingly being staged in Shiye.

Every year, more than 100,000 visitors descend on the town for the annual Yangtze River international music festival, Nie says.

More than 1 billion yuan has been invested to improve local infrastructure.

"Everything was quite primitive in our village," he says. "Many rivers and ponds were clogged up with silt and weeds ran wild.

"A network of wastewater pipelines and treatment facilities have been now installed, and rural toilets have been upgraded."

Efforts have also been made to improve local ecological environment.

"Asphalt roads were developed after Xi's visit and LED streetlights were installed," Nie says.

"We are also pushing for a garbage recycling system."

Sightseeing and health tourism experiences are also available in the town, and more options are in the pipeline. "We are promoting rural homestays and farmhouse experiences at the moment," says Nie.

Ye, too, has been working on upgrading the facilities at her fruit farm.

"Some old things, such as the roof membranes and the peripheral bird nets will need to be replaced to ensure everything is in top condition," Ye says.

She has also kept in touch with agriculture experts to keep abreast of the latest developments in planting technology.

"For instance, we now use fermented soybeans and cow dung as organic fertilizers to enhance the taste of our grapes," she says.

She believes these measures are necessary to meeting the constantly evolving tastes of her customer base. Ye is now considering sending her fruit to high-end markets in the nearby cities.

"Next year, we will have 40 mu of shine-muscat grapes hitting the market," Ye says.



]]> 2019-12-22 14:19:23 <![CDATA[Sanle village enjoys the many fruits of its labor]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/22/content_37529822.htm It's early December and Liu Jinyu is busy preparing for the harvest of the densely-laden tangerine trees on her farm in Sanle village, Huanjiang Maonan autonomous county of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

"This year's tangerines are good," the 60-year-old says of fruit blooming across her 12-mu (0.8 hectares) land alongside the cedarwood she also cultivates. Harvests of both have already been sold to buyers from outside the region.

Liu says she is quite content with her life at the moment.

"I don't have to leave home and move around, looking for opportunities to make a living," she says.

"I can stay home and take care of my grandchild."

Before 2005, Liu led a meager life selling peppers and ginger.

"We could barely afford to have meat once a month," Liu recalls.

She had to take part-time jobs away from home to keep her family's heads above water when there was no farm work available.

"Local villagers mainly lived on rice paddies and corn plantations, and could hardly make ends meet," says Meng Zusheng, head of Sanle village.

Per capita income was around 300 yuan ($42.9) a year.

Things began to change in the village when Huanjiang county government joined forces with the Institute of Subtropical Agriculture of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1996, offering farming materials, such as seedlings, fertilizer and mulching films to local rural households.

The goal is to make Sanle an example for other poor areas looking to lift themselves out of poverty, says Huang Rongbiao, the county's Party secretary.

Technical training and farm produce sales services have been offered to villagers.

Now, Sanle has pine and cypress growing on its hilltops, Chinese chestnut, bamboo and various vegetables and fruits on the mountainsides, and rice down the mountain.

Annual per capita income of villagers rose to 12,810 yuan last year and everything looks nice and neat in the village now. The concrete roads are lined with lush green trees, while pink pomelos and tangerines are waiting for visitors to pick.

Zou Xiaofeng has been preparing for his strawberry plantation in Sanle since 2017.

The 32-year-old believes that the improvements to the village environment is promising for rural tourism development.

He spent 150,000 yuan on a 7-mu plot of land to grow strawberries in 2018.

"Travelers come to my place and pick fruit," Zou says.

He has decided to expand his strawberry plantation to 30 mu, and develop a family restaurant and agriculture education facility to entice more future travelers to visit.


Local villagers harvest pink pomelo in Sanle village, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-22 14:19:23
<![CDATA[Scallops in ravioli, topped with a Saint-Hubert smoked Fleurette sauce (serves four)]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/22/content_37529821.htm ・ 4 scallops

・ 8 sheets of gyoza dough

・ 400 g of white button mushrooms

・ 1 shallot, chopped

・ 40 g of butter

・ 200 g of liquid cream

・ 1 small white truffle (optional)

・ Sea urchin coral (optional)

Mushroom duxelles:

Wash the mushrooms thoroughly. Separate the caps from the stems, and reserve the stems for the cream. Finely chop the caps with a knife or a cutting robot. Sweat the shallot in butter without coloring it, then add the chopped mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook until the water has evaporated completely.

Cream of mushroom:

Slice the mushroom stems and add a knob of butter to color them. Pour in the cream and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the cream through a small strainer, adjust the seasoning and keep the sauce warm.

Assembly of ravioli:

Mark the scallops with a drizzle of olive oil seasoned with fine salt and ground pepper. On a piece of round-shaped gyoza dough, gently place a teaspoon of duxelles, then half a scallop. Cover with another teaspoon of duxelles and finally close the dough to give it the shape of ravioli.

Touch-ups and dressing:

Immerse the ravioli in simmering salt water for two minutes. On a soup plate, arrange two ravioli per person harmoniously. Cover delicately with mushroom cream.

Garnish with a few sea urchin tongues, a dash of olive oil, a turn of the pepper mill and grate the white truffle just before serving.





2019-12-22 14:19:23
<![CDATA[Artistically restoring hometown charm]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/22/content_37529812.htm A stilt-mounted wooden structure perches on a slope at Guyue village, Qingxiu district of southern Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

It sits against a wall that has stood for more than a century and has a Chinese couplet on it. These days it is Liang Hanchang's art studio.

"It used to just be an old, abandoned house," Liang says.

He built up the architecture, solidified the foundation and added ethnic Zhuang elements to it in 2014.

Liang-a former reporter-is born and bred in Guangxi.

"During interviews in rural places, I saw a lot of architecture with ethnic traits, as well as costume, culture and traditional techniques on the verge of extinction as a result of modernization," Liang says.

In 2005, he quit his reporting job and took advantage of a rural revitalization plan by the local government. Since then, Liang has focused on cultural heritage protection work in the Guyue village.

He has taken photos of intangible culture heritage featuring ethnic Zhuang and Yao elements and studied ways to protect them.

To date, photography, oil painting and music workshops have sprung up in the hillside neighborhood as a result of Liang's endeavor.

The neighborhood is just a part of the change that has been going on in Guyue.

The village is now filled with traditional buildings of the Zhuang people, and the moss-covered walls, the mountain and lake vistas all add to the pastoral atmosphere.

The local authority has integrated rural tourism with ecological agriculture in a bid to boost development of the village.

A total of 70 million yuan ($10 million) has been invested by the Qingxiu district government to turn the village into a culture and art destination.

Aboriginal houses have been restored to protect and retain the village's original charm.

A folk customs exhibition hall and a public service center have been established to draw in visitors from all across the country. Distinctive folk-themed homestays have also been developed to ensure a better travel experience for visitors.

Local villagers have taken the initiative to plant trees and flowers in the open spaces surrounding their houses, as well as maintaining them by keeping them clear of weeds and trash, beautifying the village considerably.

So far this year, Guyue has received more than 400,000 visitors, and income from tourism and farm produce sales has exceeded 3 million yuan.

A significant number of villagers have established tourism businesses, offering services from catering to accommodation, which has increased the annual income of the villagers by 1 million yuan a year, according to the village authority.

Liang hopes his artwork can remind people of the diverse history, culture and customs of ethnic groups in China.

"So people can have opportunities to understand their own ethnicity and regional culture, which will increase their love of their hometown," Liang says.


People watch a dance performance in Guyue village. CHINA DAILY



2019-12-22 14:19:23
<![CDATA[Get off to a good start]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/22/content_37529810.htm With improving living conditions, the Chinese parents are paying increasing attention to early-stage formative education for their children.

None of them want their offspring to get left behind on the starting line of education.

China has seen a rise in the number of daycare and early education options available to young parents-many of whom work long hours and struggle to find time to satisfy their children's needs in learning, exploring and socializing.

As such, facilities have sprung up to meet this booming demand. Earlier this year, the State Council and the National Health Commission each issued guidance to encourage and standardize those early education service providers, ensuring that all children to get off to a good start.


From left: Parents and their children take part in activities together such as music classes, reading books and building things with toy bricks at the many daycare centers that are popping up all over China. GENG FEIFEI/CHINA DAILY



A child learns about boxing. GENG FEIFEI/CHINA DAILY



Physical and etiquette training underway at a daycare center. GENG FEIFEI/CHINA DAILY



Children receive dance classes at an early-education facility. GENG FEIFEI/CHINA DAILY



A parent takes his child to experience robotics and programming. GENG FEIFEI/CHINA DAILY



A child receives stamina and hand-eye coordination training at a daycare center. GENG FEIFEI/CHINA DAILY



A grandmother takes photos of her grandson in class at an early-education facility. GENG FEIFEI/CHINA DAILY



2019-12-22 14:19:23
<![CDATA[An enlightened man]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/21/content_37529912.htm An exhibition held in Beijing reveals the fine art talent of a modern Chinese poet and patriot of the early 20th century who is widely regarded for his literary achievements and heroic sacrifices.

It also sheds light on how a close circle of intellectuals of the time shared a high level of academic and cultural attainment that went on to lay the foundation of today's contemporary art and cultural practices.

Wen Yiduo (1899-1946), one of the early leaders of the China Democratic League, was shot dead in Kunming, Southwest China's Yunnan province, on July 15, 1946, during the civil war.

He died just several hours after he stood up at a memorial assembly to defend his fellow league member Li Gongpu, who was assassinated several days earlier, and openly criticizes his murderers-agents of the Kuomintang-and called for peace and democracy.

In memory of the 120th anniversary of Wen's birth, the exhibition at the Chinese Academy of Oil Painting, affiliated to the Chinese National Academy of Arts, running through Tuesday presents a variety of works, from book cover designs and illustrations, to seal cutting, calligraphy and sketches, as well as letters to his family and enlightened circle of friends.

The letters, in the eyes of his youngest son Wen Lipeng, convey an intellectual's reflections on Chinese culture, his struggle over whether to apply Western or Chinese cultural concepts to his work and his personal ambivalence toward making career choices.

Most of Wen Yiduo's artworks have been lost in those years of unrest over the first half of the 20th century, but the surviving ones-most of which are currently on display at the academy-demonstrate an integration between the Western and Eastern concepts of art and a combination of the traditional and modern artistic styles.

And they have also served to enrich the image of one of the all-rounders among the intellectual elites typical of this era in modern Chinese history.

One of Wen Yiduo's most famous pieces of poetry, an excerpt about Macao from a seven-piece suite of verse, became a household name when China resumed its sovereignty over Macao in December 1999. The verse was adapted to become the theme song for the event which was popularly sung throughout the country that year.

In the suite titled Songs of Seven Sons, he compared seven places including Macao, Hong Kong and Taiwan that were among China's ceded or leased territories to seven sons that were deprived of their mother.

The suite was created in March 1925, during Wen Yiduo's stay in the United States. A less well-known fact is that he was the first student from Tsinghua Xuetang-the predecessor to Tsinghua University-to study fine art in the US.

At that time, it was a preparatory school for students who would later be sent by the government to study at universities in the US.

Wen Yiduo went on to study successively at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Colorado and the Art Students League of New York from 1922 to 1925.

Despite his outstanding academic performance, he returned home before his graduation and devoted his time mainly to theater, poetry and the study of Chinese ancient literature as he pondered China's future.

The renowned writer and historian Guo Moruo (1892-1978) once commented: "He studied history to criticize it and delved into the bowels of the past to sublate it. He continued to dig purposefully only to reach the other side with his aims still at the forefront of his mind."

Wen Yiduo made his first foray into art at Tsinghua in 1921 as a graphics editor of an oddly named yearbook titled, Tsinghuapper, where he drew 12 illustrations, the bookplate, an advertisement and most of the decorative patterns. He had yet to get any professional artistic training back then.

In one of his Beardsley-style illustrations, he drew a maiden dreaming of blossoms growing out of a pencil-mirroring an ancient Chinese fable-as she sleeps at a desk by candle light.

The image highlights the use of Western perspective and drawing techniques combined with traditional Chinese line drawing techniques and approach to present artistic concepts. The latter was often applied to traditional Chinese woodcuts.

With its group photos and member lists of student associations-from an art society and a glee club to a brass band-the yearbook offers a glimpse of a time where groups of intellectuals, renowned both then and now, actively demonstrated their versatile talents.

For example, architect and architectural historian Liang Sicheng served as the major of the brass band and a member of the glee club.

Curator of the exhibition Wen Danqing, one of Wen Lipeng's sons, is impressed by one of the chapters in the yearbook, named For the Neighbor, in which the authors list the students' social volunteer work and their extensive efforts to care for those in the lower strata of society.

They set up night schools and libraries for coolies, servants, villagers, scavengers and other members of the poor and needy.

The curator believes these kinds of social services contributed to the students' devotion to the country and the people in later life.

Wen Yiduo not only designed covers for his own poetry collections like Red Candle and Dead Water, but also for works by his friends, like renowned authors Xu Zhimo and Liang Shih-chiu.

On the cover he designed for Xu's last poetry collection, The Tiger, which includes his most famous work On Leaving Cambridge Again, Wen Yiduo merged the front and back covers into one freehand, abstract depiction of a tiger skin using Chinese brush strokes.

In 1927, he created the cover for sociologist Pan Guangdan's psychological research work on the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) woman Feng Xiaoqing, who, as a concubine banned from seeing her husband by his first wife, was frequently seen staring into a mirror in self-pity.

The composition, the shape of the figure and the hues in this compassionate drawing all employ Western art techniques, but are used to reflect a woman's misfortune in feudal ancient Chinese society.

"The forte of that generation lies in their excellence in Sinology, combined with their mastery of the cutting-edge academic, art and cultural achievements of the West, and the era provided them with the groundwork to give full scope to their talents," says Wen Danqing.

Also on display are calligraphy works by Wen Yiduo. He wrote in a kind of ancient hieroglyphic font called guzhouwen to transcribe the coeval The Book of Songs, the earliest collection of Chinese poetry in existence that dates back to between 11th and 6th centuries BC.

His interest and gift for ancient Chinese characters and calligraphy can also be seen in his 500-plus seal cutting works mostly created in the three years before his death to make ends meet.

"The goal of Wen Yiduo's research was to revive the ancient glory that was partly fossilized in the minds of modern people," says his peer, writer Zhu Ziqing.

He also sketched 36 works during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45), on his 1,700-kilometer walk to Kunming from Changsha, Hunan province, in 1938 to join the National Southwest Associated University-a wartime union of top Chinese universities and scholars.

He worked as a professor of Chinese literature at Tsinghua right before the war.

The poet and artist once confessed to his friends, "I would rather be a preacher of art than a creator". The perspective of cultural history and the aesthetic ideas embedded in his art pieces are consistent with those of his works of poetry.


The book cover Wen designed for sociologist Pan Guangdan's research work revealing a woman's misfortune in ancient China. CHINA DAILY



Two of 12 illustrations Wen Yiduo drew for the yearbook Tsinghuapper in 1921. CHINA DAILY



Wen transcribes The Book of Songs in a kind of ancient hieroglyphic font. CHINA DAILY



Wen applies a freehand, abstract depiction of tiger skin using Chinese brushstrokes for Xu Zhimo's last poetry collection, The Tiger. CHINA DAILY



A seal Wen cut for mathematician Hua Luogeng in 1944. CHINA DAILY





2019-12-21 11:03:42
<![CDATA[The Santa Files: Transparency from the North Pole]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/21/content_37529911.htm Festivities? Bah, humbug! Balderdash! Of course he exists. Nonsense to even suggest otherwise. I have spent the last few weeks in a secret location in northern Europe. I actually met him, but I was sworn to secrecy and cannot divulge the exact whereabouts.

I would like to say I interviewed him, but when I asked questions, he only said "Ho, ho, ho!"

However, his public relations department, probably the world's best, were able to answer the questions I had prepared.

I live alone. I am very happy. But I heard that someone could call on the night of Dec 24. How do I avoid it?

Lock your doors, close your windows and go to bed early. Avoid children.

I am insured for break-ins. Can I file a claim on Dec 26?

Yes, it's called the Santa clause of your insurance policy.

My children are determined to stay up and see our mystery guest. What can I do?

Make sure that you take them for long walks on the 24th and keep them up until, say, 11 pm. Then they should be tired. If this fails, arrange for a neighbor to come in and distract them. It always works. No child has ever really seen the mystery guest, though some say they have.

Look, this is ridiculous. He has reindeer and has to battle the Third Ring Road traffic. He can't possibly make it.

He always makes it, sometimes a bit late, but he always makes it.

But the numbers involved… impossible!

Not at all-the modern world, smartphones, internet of things-he can make all his house calls. His sleigh is nuclear-powered for when the reindeer feel tired. He arrives in Beijing at the new airport about 8 pm on Dec 24. Staff there give him a hot cup of tea, and then he goes about his business (once cleared by air traffic control, of course.) He starts in north Beijing, then east, west and south, back to the new airport and then he's off again.

Has he ever failed?

Once, one of the reindeer got sick. But a new one was called in. Don't forget he has a year to make plans.

I think I saw him once. I am now in my 50s but when I was 6, I think I saw Santa.

I'm looking at the records and there was what we call a bad run. This happened in the mid-60s. Very bad weather and some of the presents got mixed up. There was hell to pay, but even then every home was visited. Yes, it could have been on that bad night that you saw him when he was running late. He may have been a bit sloppy.

Is it too late to make a request?

It is never too late.

Is there anything Santa cannot deliver?

Well, a functioning Airbus A380 may be a bit big, but generally he can provide all the presents that he has been told about.

Are you sure?

Well, I think so. Sometimes there may be a bit of confusion, but generally, within reason, he can do it.

Does he like his job?

He loves it.

Does he get presents?

Delivering them is his reward.

How old is he?

A bit older than grandpa.

But he's been doing it for ages.

Yes, but he takes very good care of himself.

What does he do after he has delivered all the presents?

He takes a long vacation to somewhere warm.

Does he like to have a cup of tea when he drops the presents off?

Yes, this is important. Children should leave a cookie and a glass of water or cup of tea near the window. It is thirsty work and he really appreciates this. It is vital that they inform their parents that this is for Santa, otherwise it might be removed. It is also crucial that children are asleep when he calls. He will not call if children are awake, which is why no one has ever officially seen him.

Hope this answers most of your questions. Now, get ready for Santa. Merry Christmas!


Tom Clifford



2019-12-21 11:03:42
<![CDATA[What's on]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/21/content_37529910.htm Ya'akobi and Leidental

When: Dec 25-28, 7:30 pm; Dec 29, 2:30 pm

Where: Beijing Drum Tower West Theater

Written by Hanoch Levin, one of Israel's better-known playwrights, Ya'akobi and Leidental is a comic escapade through the failings of friendship and love. It's a provocatively entertaining performance that was first presented in December 1972 at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv.

Ya'akobi and Leidental's close friendship is being destroyed by their idle pursuit of happiness. After Ya'akobi decides that it's time to start living, he cuts all ties with his best friend and meets the seemingly perfect woman, who possesses a "very exotic combination" of spirit and flesh.

The Chinese version is directed by Wang Zichuan.

Li Yundi Sonata 2020 Piano Recital World Tour

When: Dec 27, 8 pm

Where: Shenzhen Poly Theater

Li Yundi is well-known for being the youngest pianist to win the International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition at the age of 18. He has long been admired for his technical brilliance and dexterity.

His second recording of Liszt for Deutsche Grammophon, for which he recorded exclusively until November 2008, was released in August 2003 and named Best CD of the Year by The New York Times.

Starting this year, Li plans a run of 100 piano recitals around the world.

The Grand Mansion Gate

When: Dec 31 and Jan 1, 8 pm

Where: Shenzhen Poly Theater

It has been 18 years since Chinese director and script writer Guo Baochang created The Grand Mansion Gate, a 72-episode TV drama based on the story of his adoptive father.

It tells of the Bai family in Beijing through one of the most politically tumultuous periods of modern Chinese history, from the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) until World War II. The story has been adapted as a Peking Opera of the same name.

In the TV drama, the focus is on Bai Jingqi, a rebellious and ambitious young man. He carries the hopes of his family, which runs a traditional Chinese medicine shop in Beijing.

The drama version was created by the National Theater of China. It premiered at the National Center for the Performing Arts in 2013.

The Murder of Hanging Garden

When: Jan 1-11 and 14-18, 7:30 pm; Jan 11, 12, 18 and 19, 2:30 pm

Where: Beijing Citycomb Theater

Directed by the avant-garde theater director Meng Jinghui, the six-scene musical has all the characteristics expected in a Meng work: abstract settings, bizarre costumes, a ridiculous story, exaggerated actions and absurd anecdotes told by the performers between scenes.

The story starts with the rumor that the real estate magnate Mr Wang has been murdered. His wife offers the villa, Hanging Garden, as a reward for information leading to the murderer's arrest. The reward is so enticing that three people confess to the murder.

At the same time the director explores love, friendship and father-children relationships in three independent storylines linked by a common desire for wealth and fame.


When: Jan 15-22, 7:30 pm

Where: National Center for the Performing Arts, Beijing

February is based on novelist Rou Shi's 1929 novel, and tells the tragic love triangle story between primary schoolteacher Xiao Jianqiu, his lover Tao Lan and widow Wen Sao.

Created by the National Center for the Performing Arts, the play plunges the audience into the bedlam of the May Fourth Movement, a patriotic campaign launched in 1919 by young Chinese to fight imperialism and feudalism. Xiao is sent to the countryside, where is courtship of Wen sparks the lurid disapproval of the townspeople. The melodrama champions New China while walking a tightrope between schmaltz and political allegory.

Come From Away

When: May 8-10 and 12-17, 7;30 pm; May 10, 16 and 17, 2 pm

Where: Shanghai Culture Square

Come From Away is a breathtaking musical written by Canadians Irene Sankoff and David Hein and produced by Tony-nominated director Christopher Ashley.

It is set in the week following the Sept 11 attacks and tells the true story of what transpired when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small town of Gander in Newfoundland, Canada, as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon.

The characters in the musical are based on real Gander residents, as well as some of the 7,000 stranded travelers they housed and fed.


When: May 15-24, time varies

Where: Shangyin Opera House

Cats is a musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot and produced by Cameron Mackintosh.

It presents a tribe of cats called the Jellicles on the night they make what is known as "the Jellicle choice" and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.

Directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Gillian Lynne, Cats first opened in the West End, London, in 1981 and then with the same creative team came to Broadway in 1982. It won numerous awards, including Best Musical at both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Tony Awards. The London production ran for 21 years and the Broadway production ran for 18 years, both setting records at the time.

Its China Tour will present the authentic West End theater experience.


2019-12-21 11:03:42
<![CDATA[Vision of Splendor set to endure]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/20/content_37529731.htm Those who are not familiar with Chinese history may not know about Xi Shi, one of the great legendary beauties of China who is said to have lived around 500 BC and helped overthrow a kingdom.

But they soon will be, as international theater director Franco Dragone has incorporated the Xi Shi story into his new show, which will premiere on Sunday in Wuxi, an ancient city on the banks of Taihu Lake in Jiangsu province, East China.

The Taihu show, known as Splendor, is being hailed as the first step on a new creative path by Dragone.

"This really is one of the first shows I would call a'Dragone musical'," says Damien Long, director of creation, who has worked with the Belgian maestro for 15 years on a number of productions, including La Perle, Land of Legends, The Dai Show and The Han Show.

"Typically, our shows are stories told through emotion and the audience has a moment where they can decide what the story means for them. This is a story-driven show that we've adapted into more of a musical-style piece," says Long.

Choreographer Phenix Lin says that Splendor embodies a broad fusion of body languages, including martial arts and modern dance, helping with the development of the characters while revealing their inner strength.

The addition of universal comedy elements into the performance gives the show a fresher, more modern interpretation, says casting director Wayne Wilson.

When asked about his favorite character in the show, Wilson says to his surprise, it was Xi Shi, as he was unaware of the traditional story before the project. "To see the character (Xi Shi) set off on her journey from a naive, young lady to become a strong, independent hero, has been really satisfying to watch."

The tale of Xi Shi incorporates many aspects of traditional Chinese culture into its characters, customs and locations.

"Everything that we've built here has taken inspiration from something that is local... We really wanted to capture the key essence of the story," says Long.

He observes that in every culture, the younger generations are losing their connection with the past, partly due to the rise of modern technology such as smartphones. The stage artist from Las Vegas says he hopes the show will spark interest in younger audiences, and entertain them with stories about their culture and history.

This said, the work remains a blend of cutting-edge stage technology and tradition. With a modern theater featuring a revolving stage and a 360-degree LED screen surrounding the stage at a height of 9.5 meters, Splendor is expected to push the boundaries of performing arts and enhance the visual experience for audience members.

The 60-minute show will be staged in Wuxi's 2,000-seat Taihu Show Theater, which has been tailor-made for the permanent show that has taken six years to bring to fruition.

With a design concept inspired by a bamboo forest, the theater has been rated as one of the "top 10 buildings for 2019" by the British newspaper, The Times. It is a theater worthy of presenting a show that is ready to stun the audience.



2019-12-20 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Reach for the stars]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/20/content_37529742.htm The Michelin Man finally landed in Beijing on Nov 28, dishing out 27 stars to 23 restaurants across the capital, covering not only Beijing and Cantonese cuisine, but also European food.

Invited to attend a news conference, Jing Yaa Tang's chef Li Dong was one of the few locals on the list of chefs awarded a Michelin star in this year's Michelin Guide Beijing.

"There are only a few types of northern cuisine in the Michelin Guide Beijing, which means as local Beijing chefs, we need to keep improving ourselves," Li says.

Born and raised in Beijing, Li followed in the footsteps of his chef grandfather. From childhood, Li joined his family in trying different local restaurants-something of a luxury 40 years ago.

After graduating from middle school, he studied at a culinary school and became a chef two years later.

The 45-year-old has seen his career evolve over three phases. The first phase covers his first job at a hotel that lasted seven years, where he grew from knowing nothing to mastering every basic cooking skill. The second phase was when he worked as an executive chef at another five-star hotel for nine years, where he continued to hone his culinary skills and learned more about kitchen management.

"The third phase began when I was invited to become the executive chef at Jing Yaa Tang in preparation for its opening," Li says. "It was in this latest phase of my career where I tried to develop my own style."

Jing Yaa Tang first opened its doors in 2013, and soon became a favorite in the capital for its Peking roast duck and authentic regional takes on Chinese cuisine.

From the restaurant's opening menu to the most recent seasonal crab menu, each one was created by Li, featuring poetic names he devised for the dishes.

Roast duck is one of Li's signature dishes and is cooked in the traditional way in a wood-fired oven.

Li is strict about each step of making this classic Beijing dish, starting with the source-each duck has to be between 40 and 45 days old and weigh between 2 to 2.5 kilograms.

"If the ducks are too small, they won't have enough fat. If they are too old, the meat starts to become chewy," Li says.

Li uses jujube wood to roast the duck, and to complement the flavor, he adds Chinese dates into his special sauce.

The pancakes are handmade in-house and are rolled out two at a time and then steamed in batches of 10.

Both the ducks and the sauces are placed on calabash-shaped plates. Diners can watch the whole process from the roasting to the slicing and plating as part of the show put on by the chefs.

Li likes to study traditional dishes that are rare to find. "For many of the old dishes, there are only a few records left in existence, but the recipes can be as short as a few words. To replicate a dish takes a lot of time-consuming research and experimentation," Li says.

He also believes the flavors of these original dishes can be adapted to the tastes of contemporary diners. He once studied a recipe for marinated duck feet which had been lost for decades. The original version used raw marinated duck feet, but Li updated the dish by boiling them before they were marinated, deboned and steamed.

"There were no details about how to steam the duck feet, so I used a low heat rather than the usual high heat because they were already cooked," Li explains.

Collaboration is another way for Li to gain new inspiration and try different combinations of flavors to create dishes.

Last year, to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Jing Yaa Tang, Li worked with the Jing A Brewery to launch a 10-dish snack menu to pair with 12 craft beers.

From spicy pig's trotter to Sichuan-style spicy noodles with shredded chicken, Li paired the beer with dishes that highlighted each other's flavors.

This summer, Li created an entire menu to pair with craft beers for Great Leap Brewing.

He paired his roast duck dish with Rebellious General IPA, presenting the perfect combination of juicy duck with the bold scent of hops to create a lasting taste in the mouth.

Their Mojiang Purple Rice Lager, which is made with black rice and hops from Qingdao in Shandong province, has a sweet flavor which Li pairs with a dish of steamed rice with morel mushrooms wrapped in a lotus leaf to deliver a satisfying combination of flavors.

"Beer is actually a common tipple in China, yet pairing craft beer with Chinese cuisine is something quite experimental for diners both in China and in the rest of the world," Li says.

In June, Li worked with Xu Cungui, chef at the Mixun Teahouse in Chengdu, to find inspiration for his vegetarian dishes.

"I spent a week in Chengdu and realized that the culinary scene there is quite different from my last visit 10 years ago, and I learned much more about Sichuan cuisine during the trip," Li says.

Li often leads his team of chefs on culinary field trips around China. For the autumn hairy crab season, their voyage saw them sail from the Bohai Sea down to the southeast coast of China, where they developed a new menu composed of old favorites and refreshingly innovative flavors.

He says his dishes come from all across China, from traditional Cantonese dim sum to classic Sichuan spicy dishes, so that his diners can enjoy a comprehensive Chinese eating experience.

According to the Michelin Guide Beijing, Jing Yaa Tang's "menu showcases dishes from various provinces, and you can even watch your Peking duck browning in the wood-fired oven. The floral scent from lotus root stuffed with glutinous rice and the silky red bean soup make diners particularly happy".

Li says winning the star not only offered him recognition for his efforts, but also encouraged his entire kitchen staff, from the chefs to the service team, to work even harder.

"There is pressure to keep the star, but it's also motivation for us to offer better dishes and service to our diners," he says.




2019-12-20 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Spanish wine warms snowy solar term repast]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/20/content_37529722.htm It has almost become a tradition that, for each of the 24 Chinese solar terms, Da Dong restaurant hosts a special dinner that delivers an artistic conception of Chinese cuisine.

To celebrate the 21st solar term, "heavy snow", which began on Dec 7, Da Dong provided something a little different. Dong Zhenxiang, founder and chef of Dadong joined forces with Lyv Yang, the only Chinese person who has passed the exam of Master Sommelier, to present a feast combining Chinese cuisine and Spanish wine.

The dinner was held at Da Dong Nanxincang branch in Beijing on Dec 13.

The festive repast started with saipangxie, which literally means "imitation of crabs". It is a traditional dish in which gi