By Popular Demand

Another open thread.

The Discussion: 73 Comments

I’ll start: If you can contribute any insights into life in Shenzhen, Qingdao or Taipei, please share with us over here.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:01 pm | Comment

I’ve got friends in china coming back to cambridge in a few days – are there any really good new Chinese TV programs on DVD or VCD? Any must read Chinese books out? Not often I get this chance!!!

June 28, 2005 @ 7:03 pm | Comment

Not very helpful… but I had a friend from Xi’an that moved to Shenzhen – she complained no one liked to speak putonghua and that the people were superficial. I’ve never been there though.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:06 pm | Comment

What do they speak if not Putonghua? Yiddish?

June 28, 2005 @ 7:15 pm | Comment

No – but maybe in Xi’an there’s some yiddish? i think there’s a jewish population there.

anyway – she said there was a lot of Guangdonghua there. Not sure how much but enough to annoy her.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:17 pm | Comment

Damn, I forgot they speak Cantonese down there. Okay, Shenzhen’s out.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:23 pm | Comment

I have two other requests for first-hand info: Kaifeng and Weihai.

Qingdao is on my list too.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:35 pm | Comment

Dear Richard,

If you do end up coming to Shenzhen, you and I and Sam will be able to get together sometimes and to sit around a table and argue in person. Wouldn’t that be fun!

Other Lisa – I was impressed with Qingdao – I wouldn’t mind spending a year there myself. As I said earlier, some lovely old Bavarian architecture, nice parks, and some picturesque little beaches – especially Beach No.6, which is overlooked by a German castle.

Mark Anthony Jones

June 28, 2005 @ 7:43 pm | Comment

Well, it would certainly be interesting. A liberal democrat, a neo-con and a Marxist. A good name for a movie.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:44 pm | Comment

Mark – and the beer! Don’t forget the beer!

I’ve heard lots of nice things about Qingdao, and I’ve been meaning to get there for years.

I have to admit, I have a fondness for Gordon’s neck of the woods (sichuan) but they really don’t speak very good Mandarin there, and it’s far away from everything. Maybe Gordon can tell us more – he’s supposed to be posting about this amazing place he went for the weekend. But I liked my vacation there a lot. I went to this very cool Daoist mountain called…ack. I can’t remember Qingzhenshan? That’s not quite right. And I really loved the whole teahouse culture. It’s sort of slower and more relaxed there and I noticed that people by and large actually followed traffic rules! I mean, compared to say, Beijing.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:48 pm | Comment

Oh god…………..

June 28, 2005 @ 8:11 pm | Comment

Dear Other Lisa,

Yes, I also love Sichuan, and I love Sichuanese food – perhpas because I lived in South Korea for two years, I have a taste for very very very spicy food!

A few years ago I spent six weeks on the road travelling through Yunnan and Sichuan provinces – it was one of the best trips I have ever embarked upon.

If you pass on to me your email address, I will email you, as attachmment, some of my more recent travelogues – I too, visited a wonderful old Buddhist temple last Golden Week, here in Guangdong Province – in a UNESCO protected reserve – China’s first national park, in fact – the Dingushan Biosphere Reserve. I have some photos too, that I took, and that I could send you.

Mark Anthony Jones

P.S. I agree with the beer! Bavarian monks were the first to introduce beer-making in China, in Qingdao. The germans, of course, also introduced beer-making to the Japanese.

June 28, 2005 @ 8:12 pm | Comment

Dear Richard,

A liberal democrat, a neo-conservative, and a Marxist! Actually, when you think about it, it represents quite a good balance, does it not?

I’m not sure whether or not Sam would accept the label “neo-conservative” thuogh – his views, from what I can gather, are hards to pigeonhole.

At any rate, perhaps we could invite Anne Myers from Guangzhou to join us so that she can adjudicate – aside from the fact that I appreciated her favourable verdict on the debate I had with Conrad on the “China more popular among our allies” thread, she does seem to be very level-headed and objective in her judgements!

Mark Anthony Jones

June 28, 2005 @ 8:21 pm | Comment

I think Sam might see himself as a “recovering Democrat.”

Well, we’ll plan the party when my plans have crystalized. Right now, it’s so up in the air….

June 28, 2005 @ 8:24 pm | Comment

HI Other Lisa,

I’m working on getting that post up. I’ve been tied up trying to get all the photos uploaded to Blog-CIty which is a very tedious process when you have so many. I hope to have it up this afternoon.

As for the language here…it blows! One of the main reasons I came to China was to continue my studies in the language, but as I’ve discovered, Chengdu is not the place to continue such a course of study because most of the people here speak ËÄ´¨»° and even when they do speak putonghua, I can’t understand a damn word they say because they speak it with such an accent that it’s nearly unintelligible.

It’s reeeeaaallly frustrating.

June 28, 2005 @ 8:37 pm | Comment

Beijing’s the place….

June 28, 2005 @ 8:39 pm | Comment

“I think Sam might see himself as a “recovering Democrat.””

See…proof that is is possible to overcome the disease 😛

June 28, 2005 @ 8:39 pm | Comment

Not funny, Gordon!

June 28, 2005 @ 8:40 pm | Comment

*snicker* *snicker*

June 28, 2005 @ 8:53 pm | Comment

I’ll offer the option of Dalian as a possible alternative. Nice cool weather, coastal town and not too polluted. Of course being in my home province of Liaoning doesn’t hurt either. Seriously, hardly any foreigners seem to settle themselves in China’s northeast, where men are men, women aren’t high maintenance(I’m looking at you Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, etc), and mandarin is as standard as it gets. Of course, if you really felt like it, you could even relocate to my hometown of Jinzhou (well not really, but its the nearest sizeable city). I’d avoid Shenyang though, you’d probably not enjoy it. It’s just about the picture perfect model of a Soviet heavy industrial wasteland sprawling with drab Stalinist architecture, I haven’t been back in years but its probably much the same now.

Even nifter is the fact that you are a stone’s throw away from North Korea, you could probably even enter the country on a weekend vacation or some such.

June 28, 2005 @ 9:16 pm | Comment

Jing, do they speak standard Putonghua there?

June 28, 2005 @ 9:29 pm | Comment

I gather Putonghua in North East is pretty good in general. I had a friend who lived in Dalian for a couple years and her Chinese sounded pretty good – there was some tone shifting, not sure if that was her or Dalian.

Gordon, I couldn’t believe the dialect in Chengdu. We were talking about sacred mountains, and this one guy pipes up with what sounded like (in pinyin) “Wo mei can.” And I’m like…uh…he perhaps…didn’t…eat?

He was saying Emei Shan.

And some of the older people don’t seem to speak Putonghua at all.

June 28, 2005 @ 9:41 pm | Comment

dang rrrrrrrran 😛

Yes, Mandarin in the northeast generally tends to be fairly clear, some of us do tend to roll our R’s though.

June 28, 2005 @ 9:44 pm | Comment

I have 48 hours in Kaifeng, and then 24 in Zhengzhou… how do I slice it?

June 28, 2005 @ 10:33 pm | Comment

Dave, dunno, but Kaifeng is a place I’ve been really interested in seeing – supposedly because of the geology, the ground is kind of unstable and they haven’t been able to build all the massive highrises as elsewhere. So the place apparently has a kind of retro charm. this I think is according to Lonely Planet so I’d love to get some first-hand insight.

June 28, 2005 @ 10:44 pm | Comment

My two cents:

Shenzhen: a city of transients, ugly, and unsafe. Only good thing is proximity to Hong Kong. But you can get that living in the New Territories.

Qingdao: nice but provincial. Fresh air (something of a rarity in China).

Taipei: When I lived there, water buffalo were still grazing downtown, but it was a happening place. My first choice among the three cities. But I’ve never been colder than I was in Taipei during the winter. High humidity and a nasty chill.

June 28, 2005 @ 11:09 pm | Comment

I think I will be going to Qingdao this weekend. Will post on anything interesting. I was there once before 3 years ago. Went to a monastery about 30 minutes out of town. There was a lot of new construction. It turns out a lot of it was destroyed during the CR. Can’t remember its name.

The Tsingdao Brewery is open to visitors. There was a neat little worker’s tavern just outside the brewery gates to the left. Fresh beer and inexpensive.

June 28, 2005 @ 11:34 pm | Comment

ha, talking about my hometown: Xi’An, really a good place, i think it’s the most prosperous city in west china. good entertainment too, especially food i miss everyday. the ancient wall, just liking BeiJing, is compeletely preserved(but conflict with economy severely), the great mountains, such as Hua and QinLing… the language, dialect, just a little accent Putonghua. But, environment is not good, i mean, air, water,and dry hot in summer. and oppotunities are not as many as BeiJing, ShangHai.

I prefer ShangHai for the economy, entertainment(especial night life), and international concepts. except the dialect, ShangHai hua very fast and different accent, totally incomprehensible to me.

June 28, 2005 @ 11:44 pm | Comment

BTW, i love sichuan too, cozy lifestyle, greate climate and exerllent food! but again, dialect! i think, the difficulty is between Xi’An’s and ShangHai’s(i understand partly)

June 28, 2005 @ 11:47 pm | Comment

Henry, I went to Xi ‘An for the first time in many years last year. I was really impressed by some of the development – that park by the Wild Goose Pagoda was really nice. I had a great few days there, wandering around the city, enjoying the Muslim quarter and eating lots of mutton barbecue! And yes, I went to the Bingmayuan.

June 29, 2005 @ 12:23 am | Comment

Blatant plug: I’ve posted three rather looonggg excerpts from this thing I started about 10 years ago, a pop history of recent Chinese history, told through the frame of Zhou and Mao’s lives.

I won’t give you all my disclaimers about the problems with it here because i do that on my site, but getting involved with this community (ok, it’s a cliche, but we’re all friends on the open thread, right?) has really got me psyched about continuing.

And Richard, for your T-shirts? I think “Peking Ducklings” has to fit in there somehow…

June 29, 2005 @ 1:30 am | Comment

I found a t-shirt for Laowai,hehe

here is photo

June 29, 2005 @ 1:40 am | Comment

Richard, about Yiddish in China, maybe you know how the Jesuit Metteo Ricci found some Chinese Jews (c 1500s)? They spoke Chinese but they assumed he was a Jew, because he seemed to share the essentials of their religion. At any rate a lot of Chinese have traces of Jewish blood whose origins have been long forgotten. And there were at least two sources of Jewish blood in China – some came by sea, from the Middle East, and others (more closely related to the European Jews, the Russian Jews and Kazars etc) came by land through the Silk Road.
Last year at the National Museum in Beijing, there was a special exhibition of artifacts from XinJiang, all of the Tang era. And I saw one purse there, brocaded, and the idiot official museum “historian” who did the English label just wrote:
“Brocade purse with designs”, but I saw a menorah and some Hebrew letters on it!!!
(This escaped the notice of the Chinese historians, the Party drones who run the museum.)
It obviously belonged to a Jew who lived or worked on the silk road – probably related to the Central Asian Jews who settled in Russia. (I love finding things like that!)

June 29, 2005 @ 2:36 am | Comment

Well, it would certainly be interesting. A liberal democrat, a neo-con and a Marxist. A good name for a movie.

How about “Three Bores and some Gore”?

I finally fired off a longer email to you, R. Have plenty more to say if the first round doesn’t eliminate SZ.

Plenty of PoTungHua spoken here! And English, too, if you’re in the right place. And a bit of an expat community, though not a tight one.

And I want to speak up for Mark: he’s quite personable face-to-face, and not nearly so tedious as the writing would make you think. (is that like saying “you don’t sweat much, for a fat girl”?)

June 29, 2005 @ 3:35 am | Comment

Way, way off-topic — esp. given Richard’s views, or lack thereof, on the topic — but the Canadian Parliament has just passed a law authorizing same-sex marriage.

Money quote from PM Paul Martin:

We are a nation of minorities and in a nation of minorities, it is important that you don’t cherry pick rights. A right is a right and that is what this vote tonight is all about.

Freedom is on the march!

June 29, 2005 @ 3:38 am | Comment

“a right is a right”

What an utterly meaningless statement.

June 29, 2005 @ 4:10 am | Comment

Henry, I actually have that exact shirt, except in green, a color that is more flattering for this particular yangguizi…

June 29, 2005 @ 4:15 am | Comment

green, lovely color, do u like wearing it?

June 29, 2005 @ 5:06 am | Comment

I have a friend in living in Taipeh for a year. Before, we were together in Beijing for half a year, and she loved it. But Taipeh, she says, is a place to live forever. She especially likes the fact that you can anytime do whatever you want. On the other hand, if you have a bad sleep, you probably never will be able to do so. They speak Fujian dialect, putonghua and taiwanese. Those who can are proud of their Taiwanese, but no one has a problem with speaking putonghua.

June 29, 2005 @ 5:17 am | Comment

Other Lisa:

Weihai is very similar to Dalian, weather wise, but Weihai is a small town. The Western part is the newer section, a University part of town, newer homes, etc. The Eastern part is the old part of town, rather crowded. The weather is nice. But it is a kind of retirement community. Qindao, as you are aware, was a German sphere of influence zone, and most give credit to the Germans for its atmosphere. But most of the economic development that took place was from the Japanese (taking over the German sphere of influence after WWI, but no one really wants to give them any credit).

June 29, 2005 @ 5:45 am | Comment

Gee! Thanks for the endorsement Sam. Next time I need somebody to write me a character reference, I’ll come to straight to you!

When’s the next drinking session due to occur, by the way?

Mark Anthony Jones

June 29, 2005 @ 6:04 am | Comment

so, no one’s seen any good new TV series out in China on DVD?

June 29, 2005 @ 6:31 am | Comment

Thanks Richard. Despite Martyn’s review, to which I’m also thankful, I still want to get a copy, partly because I heard he disclosed a CISCO inside memo there, and I’m pretty curious.

I’ll do the shopping shortly. Thanks Richard.

June 29, 2005 @ 6:33 am | Comment

Okay Other Lisa,

I’ve got the photos uploaded to my weekend getaway trip, but I haven’t finished the commentary – it’s going to be a bit lengthy, but I will either finish it tonight after my wife and I finish watching a move or early in the morning.


June 29, 2005 @ 6:58 am | Comment

Gordon, I think of Howard Dean as a “Recovering Democrat”, because he is a democrat who seems to have been growing a spine!
Most other Democrats, to me, are in the Invertabrate Phylum.
Three cheers here, for Senators Robert Byrd and John McCain. Both of them have spines, both of them resemble what the Founding Fathers intended Senators to be like. And having a spine has nothing to do with party affiliation.
Democratic Presidents with spine:
FDR, Harry Truman, and sorry to say, no others. (Maybe Jackson but he used his spine in the wrong ways)
Republican Presidents with spine:
Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt – and sorry to say, no others. (Reagan does not count – Reagan was just an actor)
JFK really had no spine. He knew Russia would not risk a war over Cuban missiles.
Carter had no spine – God, I remember the times of Carter, when America was humiliated.
Clinton had no spine. “I did not have sex with that woman.”
Same for most Republicans. Nixon had no spine. “There can be no whitewash at the White House.” Eisenhower said “America must have a religion and I DON’T CARE WHICH RELIGION IT IS” Hoover? Harding? Any Republican President other than TR or Lincoln? No spines.
Democrats, other than FDR and Truman? (and maybe Andy Jackson the Indian killer) – no spines.
We have had very few Presidents with spine, since John Quincy Adams.
George Washington had spine, and I wish more Americans would remember him as our best role model now.

June 29, 2005 @ 8:32 am | Comment

Richard, as far as I’m concerned Kunming is the only place to live in China. You should realise that from your last visit! Relatively clean air, great climate, not too big (or too small), expat comforts, lots of culture (especially minority), beautiful lanscapes and tourist destinations in the SW area, and well connected to SEA with direct flights to HK, BKK and Vientiane (Laos is a great escape – very mellow). Don’t know what your background is, but quite a big NGO/development scene if you’re into that.

June 29, 2005 @ 8:53 am | Comment

When’s the next drinking session due to occur, by the way?

Should be soon! Want to arrange one for Saturday? I’m free, but don’t much want to do all the inviting and coordinating.

June 29, 2005 @ 8:54 am | Comment

Funny, your presidents with spine, whatever that means, all lead the US into war. The guy who does not fit your analysis, JFK, you dismiss with the nonsense statement he knew the USSR would not go to war with plenty of hindsight by you. Any unimpeachable record JFK actually knew that?

June 29, 2005 @ 8:55 am | Comment

For any economists out there, an assessment of China’s future from the WB:

June 29, 2005 @ 9:05 am | Comment

For the sake of language, I would suggest Kaifeng. What they speak is the closest to Putonghua (in vocabulary, pronunciation and syntax). The Beijingers don’t really speak putonghua.
Of course, Kaifeng is not the most exciting place of this country, but I suppose it is closer to the reality in China.

June 29, 2005 @ 9:19 am | Comment

I get a BIG laugh when an ex-expat teacher turned blogger suddenly has fantastic ability. Extolling “special” military knowledge to acurately critic press articles expressing the “Communist China” military threat written by respected journalists/authors.

It seems true that the longer a westerner lives in China the deeper they succumb to the Communist media’s re-education curiculum.


June 29, 2005 @ 9:22 am | Comment

Heinz, is there a university there?

June 29, 2005 @ 9:25 am | Comment

Tianli – sorry, I have no idea what you are saying – what are you responding to in particular?

All – what about Harbin? what’s it like there? I heard the putonghua there is the most standard.

beijing might not speak putonghua but I like their dialect!!!

June 29, 2005 @ 9:41 am | Comment

of course, I mean strict putonghua.

beijinghua is cool though. I don’t know much but I’ve got a bit of the accent down. easy for me though since we pronounce lots of r sounds in new hampshire too.

June 29, 2005 @ 9:42 am | Comment

Not really new, as it is a few years old by now Laowai, but have you seen 走向共和? I watched a few episodes last christmas at home, my parents own the collection. It was rather interesting for a mainland period peice drama, set back in the twilight days of the Qing and early Republic.

June 29, 2005 @ 10:00 am | Comment

You can email me if you have questions about teaching in Taiwan but the two quick points I want to make are: 1) I don’t know how old are you are, but it could be a bit hard to find teaching work outside of Taipei if you’re both past your late 30’s (the after-school buxibans typically want young teachers) and don’t have a Ph.D (which is basically a requirement to teach at a university.) But in Taipei, there’s a greater variety of teaching positions, so I’d imagine that there’s a lot of business English type schools you could find work for.

2) The standard of living in Taipei absolutely blows away any city in mainland China. If you were able to survive Beijing for a year or so, you’d be ecstatic in Taipei.

June 29, 2005 @ 10:09 am | Comment

Thanks Jing!

June 29, 2005 @ 10:29 am | Comment

Wayne, I really appreciate it. Luckily, I am only 25 (yeah, right).

June 29, 2005 @ 10:35 am | Comment

Gordon, I’ll be heading over your way shortly.

I like Beijing hua as well. My teacher tells me I have that accent, I guess from hearing it when I was young. I like a lot of things about Beijing, actually, but it’s just too damn big. It will be interesting to see how well they do with cleaning up the air for 08. It is cleaner there than it was in 79, I must say. during one of my recent winter trips, the sky was this gorgeous, brilliant blue for nearly the entire trip. A Beijing friend of mine, living here now, was stunned – “blue sky? in winter??”

Qingdao sounds very appealing. Ocean and beer. My kind of place.

June 29, 2005 @ 10:37 am | Comment

Isn’t it freezing cold in Qingdao? I couldn’t deal with that.

June 29, 2005 @ 10:39 am | Comment

走向共和? “Road to the Republic”?

Haha, Martyn played a starring role in that. Seriously, he was one of the main foreign actors in the production. It was all filmed in Beijing when he lived there. He has all the original scripts and everything.

June 29, 2005 @ 10:49 am | Comment

Paul, where is Martyn? Did we scare him away?

June 29, 2005 @ 10:54 am | Comment

LoL which role did he play? I’d laugh my bum off if he played the role of Nathaniel Curzon.

June 29, 2005 @ 11:22 am | Comment


“Climatic Features: a temperate maritime climate, warm in winter and cool in summer, frost-free period of 251 days

Average Temperature: 12.2C annually 25C in August and 1.3C in January
Rainfall: average annual of 775.6mm

Mountains: Mt. Laoshan
Local Highlights: International Beer Festival”

June 29, 2005 @ 11:34 am | Comment

yeah, I was wondering where Martyn is too!

June 29, 2005 @ 11:35 am | Comment

I coul deal with that climate. I think I confused it with Harbin (they are both beer cities).

June 29, 2005 @ 11:38 am | Comment

Last I heard he was off again to either Bangkok or Taipei for his usual monthly holiday, he alternates between the two. He’s not working these days.

He’s your man if you want to know anything about Taipei, he loves the place.

June 29, 2005 @ 11:43 am | Comment

Harbin is FREEZING! Though I really want to go see the Ice Festival there…Dalian is supposed to be a milder climate, on the ocean, etc.

June 29, 2005 @ 11:44 am | Comment

Re DVD, I would also recommend Toward the Republic also, though I’m not sure it’s available in the PRC in its untruncated form. The powers that be took the later episodes as a veiled criticism of Jiang Zemin (as Ci Xi) and Hu Jintao (feckless boy emperor Guang Xu) and cut passages they found offensive.

June 29, 2005 @ 12:04 pm | Comment

Is is much colder than New Hampshire? harbin I mean. I used to sleep outside in -20 deg weather (that’s farenheit, -30 C) when I was a teenager in the New hampshire winters. Growing up we’d heat the house with wood only, and in the mornings it would only be about 43 F (5 or 6 C) in my room (farthest from the woodstove).

Can’t be that bad, right?

June 29, 2005 @ 12:07 pm | Comment

I dunno, Laowai, I’m a San Diego girl and we don’t understand weather where if you leave a glass of water outside, it turns hard and shiny…

June 29, 2005 @ 12:22 pm | Comment

Sure, Kunming has a very nice Uni and lots of foreign students running around. No shortage of language teachers, exchanges, etc.

June 29, 2005 @ 10:04 pm | Comment

Richard, academically I guess Qingdao would be a better choice over Kunming, which is too sleepy and too close to the hippy town – Li4jiang1. You wouldn’t bother to blog any more if relocate there.

June 30, 2005 @ 4:49 am | Comment

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