My Chinese New Year’s Dinner

Two nights before Chinese New Year’s Eve, I got into a lengthy conversation with a taxi driver about US politics − why we didn’t like Bush, the difference Obama would make, how it felt to have a black president, when the economic crisis would end, etc. I couldn’t go into great depth on any of these issues, just enough to get across what I wanted to, even if it was sometimes roundabout and syntactically challenged. It didn’t matter. Soon we were talking like old friends.

He was the friendliest and most loquacious taxi driver I ever had in China. As we approached my place, he asked whether I had plans for CNY’s eve, and when I said I didn’t he surprised me. “Come and have dinner with my family and me,” he said enthusiastically. I was startled as my mind quickly painted the scene: me sitting at the table with a family of total strangers for whom this is perhaps the most important day of the year; my being unable to follow the conversation quickly enough to make a meaningful contribution; my obvious presence as the only foreigner in the room making them all uncomfortable, etc.

My immediate thought was that he was just being polite, making an offer he knew I’d turn down. But another part of me felt (knew) he really meant it, that he actually would have let me into his home and greeted me as a guest. I know how important hospitality is to people here. Yet it was still hard for me to grasp that someone would go this far in demonstrating his hospitality, altering the entire mood of his family’s Spring Festival. I politely declined, although in my heart I was dying to say yes.

All my Chinese friends said the taxi driver was sincere, that I really could have walked in and they’d have treated me as a special guest, and I would have been truly welcome. I felt that I missed an opportunity, I should have said yes. How often would I have this chance to celebrate a holiday with Chinese workers in their own living place, to experience a side of Beijing life that’s still mainly foreign to me? I thought about it a lot the next day. I didn’t know I’d soon be offered something of a second chance.

The following night I went to an expat friend’s jiaozi party and was chatting with the host’s housekeeper, a gregarious fellow from the Guangdong countryside. When he asked where’d I’d be on CNY eve, I said I still wasn’t sure. With the same enthusiasm as my taxi driver’s, he said he was giving a party for his waidiren friends, guys from the countryside who didn’t have the money to go back home for Spring Festival. This time I didn’t let the opportunity slip. Yes, I said; I’ll be there. All the same doubts as with the taxi driver − language issues, a sense of intruding, putting a damper on things by sticking out − were there, exactly the same. Except this time I said to hell with it, I’m going.

Xiao Wang shares a tiny apartment up in the most northern part of Chaoyang with three roommates. He let me in to a very narrow hallway that would also be our dining room. There was a tiny little collapsible table that supported a big slab of wood, about the size of a door, which would be our dinner table. Around it were seated seven guys, each sitting on those tiny plastic stands, maybe 8 inches high. The kind where you sit down and your knees are almost hitting your face. There was no other furniture. No stereo or decorations. There was a lot of food on the table, mainly Guangdong dishes – steamed fish, taro root, grilled chicken wings, toufu, fried rice and some things I couldn’t identify.

Xiao Wang showed me his tiny room, which housed a TV set and a bed, nothing else. Instead of closets, there were plastic bags pinned to the wall to hold clothes.

Dinner was amazing. The food was excellent and somehow the initial strangeness started to fade quickly. There were two guys from Fujian, one from Heilongjiang, one from Inner Mongolia, two from Guangdong and another from – well, I don’t remember. It was probably my best night for speaking Chinese since I got here, and also one of the most relaxed, purely happy nights of the past two years.

Dinner ended, and I wasn’t sure what would follow; I thought maybe cards or mahjong. Then one of the guests brought in a pile of newspaper coupons – those bright red glossy pages that are inserted into some of the weekend papers. He handed them out and most of the guests got to work. I watched in amazement as they folded up the pages to create paper birds, dogs, little boxes and other shapes I couldn’t quite make out. One of them made a paper frog that he placed on the table. He blew at it and it jumped into the air. One of them said to me later that at their homes, their parents didn’t always have enough money to buy gifts for the Spring Festival, and they made their own toys this way.

This was probably the most unforgettable moment of the evening, watching my new friends, who probably ranged in age from 24 to 30, sit there and play with the pieces of paper, fashioning their own creations, totally absorbed in their work. It struck me how little we really need to have a wonderful time, and how people somehow manage to make do with what’s in front of them without letting their lack of physical niceties dampen their spirits.

I had to keep holding myself in check because as they started, I reflexively heard that little Orientalist voice in my head saying, “Aren’t they child-like? Isn’t this charming?” I know these people aren’t always being adorable, that they have a hard life and that what might strike me as charming and innocent is simply the way they live their life, and that if they had a choice they might be doing something else. But it was impossible not to sit in that room and watch them all working on their treasures without being moved right to the core of my being. And being the sentimental idiot I am, I had to fight back my tears.

There is no point to this post, no conclusion or climax, no happy ending or takeaway lessons. It is simply a snapshot of what was without question one of the most beautiful and precious nights of my life. One that I know, should I ever have to leave China, I will always look back on with a pang in my heart and a renewed sense of love for the people here, and a renewed faith in the fundamental beauty of the human spirit. For a worn-out atheist like me, there was a god this Chinese New Year’s Eve, and I’ll always be grateful for the twists and turns of fate that led me to this magical occasion. Sometimes we are just lucky.

______________

Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 62 Comments

moving.

what did you talk about during the dinner?

February 4, 2009 @ 1:57 am | Comment

We talked about where they were from, how life in Beijing differed from the countryside, what kind of work they did… I admit, I did more listening than talking, but i certainly talked more than usual. Most of the time they talked with each other, with my understanding anywhere from 40 to 70 percent, and then they kept drawing me into the conversation. And helping me when I had trouble talking or understanding.

February 4, 2009 @ 2:13 am | Comment

Richard: Inviting someone with no company on New Year’s Eve to your own home is a Chinese tradition, and the invitation is always sincere. No one should be left alone on New Year’s Eve.

February 4, 2009 @ 2:22 am | Comment

Yes Bill, and I had heard that. I was just so surprised to actually find myself being invited by someone to whom I was a total stranger. It’s a wonderful tradition. I still feel so lucky that I finally got over my own insecurities and accepted.

February 4, 2009 @ 2:29 am | Comment

Don’t sell your experience short, Richard. Unintentional as it may have been, there was definitely a lesson to be had and it would seem that you might have even picked up on it with out realizing.

Thanks for sharing.

February 4, 2009 @ 3:55 am | Comment

Richard, this is a great story, I support this story.

If this event was experienced by stuart, he would have very superior as a Westerner in front of those poor brainwashed Chinese workers, and then start this kind of conversation:

“Did you guys know that the parents from the Sichuan earthquake were suing the government these days? That this is not reported in CCTV?”

And then the workers obviously would not know.

Then stuart would say “Here, I brought you guys some news articles from our Western press, NY Times and BBC, I translated them for you, here read them. Are you guys surprised there is so little you know?”

And the workers would look confused.

Then stuart would come back to this blog and brag about this experience, and say something like “I pity the confused Chinese workers, how ignorant they are, how they are brainwashed by their government. I can only feel sorry for them.”

And then he would end it with some obligatory sentence like how he wishes the best for all Chinese people, how he wishes Chinese people can be as knowledgable and as enlightened as him, an educated Westerner.

But Richard, you did not choose path, maybe you would have 5 years ago, but now you have matured. This I praise you very much.

February 4, 2009 @ 6:40 am | Comment

Excellent post.

February 4, 2009 @ 7:10 am | Comment

Richard,

Maybe you won’t remember anymore, but a year or a year and half ago you tagged me in this “Five things you didn’t know about me”-meme. One of the five things I mentioned is that, while I grow older, I start to cry more easily. I had it when first hearing Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” and I had it this weekend when I was driving with my dad in my car and we were chatting and I was thinking “How many more times will it be like this” ? So I think I know exactly what you are talking about, that feeling while you were watching those guys folding their paper toys. By all means, keep telling those stories, as living proof that one thing is not going under in the crisis yet: humanism.

February 4, 2009 @ 7:23 am | Comment

Thanks for this little vignette. My wife tells me CNY is like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s all rolled up into one. I hope that good Chinese traditons like this don’t get mucked up as the standard of living increases over there and more people have big flat-screen TVs to sit in front of.

February 4, 2009 @ 8:12 am | Comment

What a lovely experience–you are blessed–MOM

February 4, 2009 @ 9:12 am | Comment

Very human. :-)

February 4, 2009 @ 9:52 am | Comment

Richard… this is a great story. Sharing these special moments, I think, is what draws most of us so far away from our home countries. This is what makes it all worthwhile.

I also understand holding back tears… although it would’ve been interesting to see their reaction. ;)

Cam.

February 4, 2009 @ 10:04 am | Comment

It’s ok to have a comment.

February 4, 2009 @ 10:06 am | Comment

Thank you Richard, for the wonderful story.

February 4, 2009 @ 10:32 am | Comment

Beautiful.

February 4, 2009 @ 11:18 am | Comment

The most touching story I have read in recent months, reminds of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol in its warmth, compassion and other great qualities that can be summed up as “humanity”. Thank you so much for sharing it. Actually I kind of envy this special experience of yours. It is a great pity of mine that I, as a Chinese reporter, have never had such opportunities to have such up close and personal interactions with my less fortunate/disenfranchised fellow countrymen and women to know what they, as individuals, are truly like or what they truly want.Hope I can also have similar opportunities in the future.

February 4, 2009 @ 11:34 am | Comment

By the way, I took the liberty to post this story on my Facebook page. Hope you don’t mind. Have a nice day!

February 4, 2009 @ 11:35 am | Comment

Song, I’m really honored that you reposted the story. And thanks to everyone else for the great comments.

This post had been percolating for 10 days. I knew I had to write it, but worried I couldn’t really capture the mood, the ambience – I finally decided to write it as simply and as bare-bones as possible, without a lot of modifiers, just a recitation of what happened, how I saw it unfold and what I felt as I participated. And that’s what makes it a challenge, since nothing at all “happened”; all the “action” was inside my own head, and in my heart. Guys met for dinner, played with paper. To get across that this simple non-event captured the very essence of humanity was all I wanted to do. I’m so glad to see it’s actually being read. Thanks again to everyone.

February 4, 2009 @ 11:49 am | Comment

It is lucky to be an American in China, where they may enjoy the best the people could offer, from JiaoZi to women, while the Communist govt always acts like a jerk to the U.S.

February 4, 2009 @ 12:09 pm | Comment

Lovely post, Richard. It’s not one that deserves to descend into a slanging match,
So I’ll just say this:

HX, I’ve accepted hospitality from ordinary Chinese citizens on many occasions. They are moments to savour and remember. I have never behaved in the manner you suggest.

February 4, 2009 @ 12:12 pm | Comment

Thanks a lot Stuart.

I’m going to request no more lashing out at anybody (I’m talking to HX and el chino). If you need to do that find an open thread below. Thanks.

February 4, 2009 @ 12:26 pm | Comment

What a great story, Richard! These really are the experiences that make life worth living. The fact that you can’t usually predict when they might occur are part of what keeps things interesting.

February 4, 2009 @ 2:32 pm | Comment

Beautiful story, Richard. Thanks for sharing this.

February 4, 2009 @ 3:33 pm | Comment

Richard, my experiences with the warmth and hospitality of my Chinese friends has been very similar. They are generous, warm, fun loving people who have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome and included me despite my almost non-existent Chinese language skills. I’ve been on a group fishing outing, visited the the homes of parents and siblings in the countryside throughout Yunnan province and had numerous impromptu get-togethers for dinner. Without exception, they were a celebration of life’s simple pleasures that I will treasure for years to come. I’m glad that you were able to partake in some of the same.

February 4, 2009 @ 5:18 pm | Comment

Richard, thank you for crafting and sharing that sincere and heart-warming post!

I wish more Americans back home had opportunities to hear anecdotes like this. As you and most “foreigners” posting here all know so well, it’s only in personal interactions with Chinese (including strangers!) that you really get to know how incredibly charming they can be. And once you discover that side of China … it can become damn hard to leave. :-)

February 4, 2009 @ 9:44 pm | Comment

Beautiful…it’s the many interactions like this that I have in Taiwan that keep me going.

February 4, 2009 @ 9:55 pm | Comment

I could not hold back my tears when reading your story. It is very touching. I wonder if I can have your permission to translate it into Chinese and post it on my blog.

February 5, 2009 @ 4:23 am | Comment

ferin, you can put this sort of thing in the open thread, not here. thanks.

richard

February 5, 2009 @ 5:31 am | Comment

Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience! I hope we can all learn a lesson from these gentlemen, and be able to answer this question: “would I be willing to invite a stranger with no place to go to my home on a holiday?” This experience is just one example of the charity and goodness shown to us from our friends here in China, goodness that we can all learn from.

February 5, 2009 @ 8:36 am | Comment

This is the single best post you’ve written in months, maybe years. You do much better when you write these longer, more personal post instead of commenting on news. I wish this blog dumped the news commentary and instead focused on your personal experience in China. That’s what makes this site special, but you don’t give us enough. More about life in China, less about the Chinese government. And you can leave US politics out completely.

February 5, 2009 @ 8:41 am | Comment

Egori, certainly you can translate it – I appreciate it.

Lao Lu (way up at the top), of course I remember you. Guys are supposed to be ashamed of crying, especially American guys. But I think there’s a reason we’re equipped with this mechanism, which can be purifying and cathartic.

Lurk, I prefer to write essays but finding the time (and sometimes the inspiration) can be a big challenge. I’d like to do more of them, but don’t expect me to stop writing about politics. Impossible.

February 5, 2009 @ 9:10 am | Comment

Good one Richard

February 5, 2009 @ 1:33 pm | Comment

Hhhhmmm….. It would be interesting to hear about experiences of CH expats/students/workers in America/EU being invited for thanksgiving of Christmass….

February 5, 2009 @ 2:02 pm | Comment

@ecodelta

This is a lot less likely to happen in the UK, cos we wouldn’t invite people we don’t know into our homes. My parents used to invite Chinese students round for Xmas dinner as a part of an international society run thing at their local uni. Dunno what they made of it, seemed happy enough though….

@richard

A really touching story. Thanks for posting.

February 6, 2009 @ 12:52 am | Comment

[...] Peking Duck, “My Chinese New Year’s Dinner” …This was probably the most unforgettable moment of the evening, watching my new friends, who [...]

February 6, 2009 @ 9:15 am | Pingback

Chinese taxi drivers can be great fun – especially the ones in the rural areas. They usually have an opinion on everything.* The latter can also be lifesavers when one gets tricked into taking long routes to access tourist sites and you’re forced to stop off everywhere along the way. (It also saved a bit of face for my friends because they’d been the ones who’d suggested taking the route because it was on an air-conditioned coach.)

*This isn’t always fun if you just want to rest on your journey.

February 6, 2009 @ 11:39 pm | Comment

Richard, I’ve lurked for a year or so, but just had to comment. This is a great post, and it is so warm with the sense of being there! It reminded me of my father’s story of a Depression Christmas in North Carolina. The family had left West Virginia after the coal mines closed, returning to NC to live near other family. The good car had been repossessed, and all they had was an old Model t or A Ford. My grandfather took his 2 sons to some woods his father owned, and they shot mistletoe from trees, cut pine boughs and tips for wreaths, and went back to town to sell it on the street. Everybody’s present that year was a pair of shoes. I grew up on these tales of the hard times, hearing them from grandparents, aunts and uncles who had survived and prospered, fought in WW2 and raised my cousins and me with love and care. New Year’s is my second favorite holiday, right after July 4 — FIREWORKS*!*!*!*!*!*!*

Thank You.

February 7, 2009 @ 8:04 am | Comment

White people in the US on the other hand cannot conceive of the notion of inviting random strangers into their homes for the holidays. Most of them have “do not trespass” signs on their houses, and if an Asian goes onto the lawn, most likely he’ll be shot.

This is the tragedy of American society.

February 8, 2009 @ 3:05 am | Comment

Can you imagine a white person inviting a random black guy to share Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner with his family?

And especially when America was industrializing?

It would never happen. And yet so many expats whine that the locals are “xenophobic”.

February 8, 2009 @ 6:02 am | Comment

I’ve had a lot of great Chinese New Year experiences while I was in China. And it’s not just New Year, there’s National Day and a few other holidays as well. Chinese people are the most wonderful, most hospitable people I’ve ever met. I’ve always been amazed by the skills of Chinese people creating a piece of art out of something as simple as a piece of paper. When we talk about Chinese culture, we usually think about Chinese callighraphy, Chinese paintings or Chinese opera which are great in their own way, but we shouldn’t forget the real arts of the people of China which is for example to create a paper frog out of some sheet of paper and make it jump. This is the real Chinese culture, that we so often tend to forget about.

February 8, 2009 @ 6:44 am | Comment

wow mor said something about Chinese people without saying a majority of them love Nazis.

February 8, 2009 @ 6:54 am | Comment

Ferin: “Can you imagine a white person inviting a random black guy to share Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner with his family when America was industrializing. Especially when America was industrializing”

Yes, I can. Spend some time this afternoon at the library reading about “The Underground Railroad.”

This was a beautiful post, and I don’t understand (though I have a hunch) why you have to muck it up with the same tired old attacks on people. It’s really, really sad.

February 8, 2009 @ 8:18 am | Comment

Yes it is a beautiful post. But you cannot help but wonder if a Westerner would be as welcome to foreigners. Any immigrant who lived in the West can tell you the answer is no. In states like Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, don’t tell me those rednecks there would invite a stranger Chinese student into their house for dinner, please stop joking me.

Even you guys silently admitted this, when you expressed “pleasant surprise” when you were treated so nicely by regular folks in China, because you were never used to treating foreigners like this in your own country.

But I agree, this is a beautiful post.

February 8, 2009 @ 8:51 am | Comment

“The Underground Railroad.”

That’s a little different. That was life and death, there is more of a moral obligation to do it.

February 8, 2009 @ 10:16 am | Comment

I was really hoping to keep the usual shrillness out of this thread. HX, Ferin – it’s nice to know I can always depend on you.

Ferin, you can’t weasel out of the corner Jeremiah got you into by flippantly saying, “Oh, the underground railroad was different.” You made an ignorant claim about America during the Industrial Revolution, an excellent example of your shouting the first thing that comes into your head when it comes to US history.

February 8, 2009 @ 11:33 am | Comment

We are talking present day, not history. Also the leader of the underground tunnel is a black woman called Tubman, not a white. Also, the underground tunnel was operated in secret? Why? Because if the mainstream white people found out that you ran this tunnel, they’ll report it to the police.

What a joke.

[I'm appending this year so as to not derail the whole thread. Actually, Ferin was talking historically. HX, please read some actual BOOKS on the subject. The history of the underground railroad is, unsurprisingly, far more complicated and nuanced than this. -- Jeremiah]

February 8, 2009 @ 2:22 pm | Comment

Now we’re way off-topic. I don’t think there were any tunnels in the Underground Railroad, HX, and of course it was secret, like all underground movements. This is just one example of blacks and whites working and eating and coming together during the industrial revolution, something Ferin said was unimaginable.

February 8, 2009 @ 3:07 pm | Comment

Stop joking me. It is common for blacks and whites to be friends during that period?

I can find some example of Nazis working with Jews during Hitler’s era, even famous example like Schindler’s List. But what point does it prove? Nothing.

So the description that it is extremely uncommon for whites to treat blacks well during that period is totally accurate. Your counterexamples cannot overthrow that description.

February 8, 2009 @ 3:17 pm | Comment

So what is your point, HX – Chinese people are open and hospitable while Americans aren’t? No, I am not surprised that the usual trolls try to turn this thread in that direction.

Warning: I may look back at this in a few hours and delete all the comments from #37 on.

February 8, 2009 @ 3:25 pm | Comment

@HX
” But what point does it prove? Nothing”

Wrong! It proof everything, and you proof nothing.

A small number do the crimes, a small number stand against the crimes, a majority stays uncomfortably idle or cowed. That happens everywhere.

About Schindler, I cannot imagine a more German like man like him. He has nothing to loose and everything to win, bu he did what he did nonetheless. He by himself can compensate for a bigger number of Nazis fanatics.

About not inviting CH migrant in EU/US. It has more to do with affluence than culture, as people becomes richer they close their house to others.

Has anyone have being invited by a rich CH entrepreneur?
Curious, we may be more ashame of our riches than of our poverty.

But go back to some rural areas where people are not so rich and things start to change. Hard to find such hospitality in cities

Some times poverty bring people closer together, no matter what.

February 8, 2009 @ 4:53 pm | Comment

Ooops… that should be “everything to loose and nothing to win”

February 8, 2009 @ 4:54 pm | Comment

I openly and readily criticise China and frequently vent about the things I don’t like here . . . However, as with most things in life, and indeed in discussion and debate, these things take place, or should take place, in a context.

This thread was intended, as the author very clearly stated, as a nice story, a tale of a touching moment and an interesting tale too. The story,as I read it, was not even supposed to be a spiel praising the Chinese, but simply one recounting a nice tale, reminding us of things we may often forget about in life, about people, and about hospitality here. And again, it was stressed that this be regarded as a pleasant tale, taken for what it is, at the readers discretion, and not as some moral or ethical lssson, or some political point about any culture or social group.

I fail to understand how anyone could, (and I repeat: in the context of this thread) turn this into a pro/anti/pro-anti/anti-pro mudslinging match, especially in such a crass fashion.

Given the liberty to vent and debate opinions for and against all these issues in a million different threads on this site, I am unsure why some people choose this particular thread to be nothing short of catty.

An intelligent person who wants and yearns to make a point should take into account when he chooses to make a point.

As my mother would say: “for some people nothing is sacred”.

For now, right here, let’s keep it real. I suggest going back to the story and reading it again, instead of the remainder of this thread, and keeping a few little contexts and spaces in our lives and the experiences of others, ‘sacred’.

February 9, 2009 @ 8:46 pm | Comment

@random

well said.

the reason why anyone can turn this into a mudslinging match in such a crass fashion is because hong xing and ferin are themselves crass, boorish, rude and, worse of all, utterly tedious in a deeply predictable manner.

the sad thing is that their behaviour would be horrifying to the great sages of chinese culture (which they appear to think they are defending from the onslaught of the honkys) who stressed moderation, thoughtfulness and well tempered argument – virtues which are of course utterly alien to them.

@richard

it is a shame that your blog at times does become fly paper for such dullards. i think that the bores simply appear to have more energy and time on their hands than those who wish to make a positive contribution and say something original and thought provoking. even though i rarely comment, i just want to say please keep up the work. i can assure you it is much appreciated.

February 9, 2009 @ 11:44 pm | Comment

Thanks Si and Random.

I talked about this with a friend who posts here from time to time, and we agreed – there’s no reason to let HX and the like ruin threads with irrelevant comments echoing their reflexive “two wrong make a right” response.

I’m going to be a lot less magnanimous. This week saw a new record in malicious comments, some of them staggeringly evil, and I’m not going to be nice to these guys anytime soon. If I have to start pre-approving comments before they show up I’ll do so, painful as that would be.

February 10, 2009 @ 1:02 am | Comment

By far your best post to date on this site, Richard. I enjoyed reading it very much, as it reminded me of countless similar experiences that I had throughout my five years in China. Many of your descriptions brought back for me vivid memories: “There was a tiny little collapsible table that supported a big slab of wood,” you write, “about the size of a door, which would be our dinner table. Around it were seated seven guys, each sitting on those tiny plastic stands, maybe 8 inches high. The kind where you sit down and your knees are almost hitting your face. There was no other furniture. No stereo or decorations.” I experienced this very scene so many times while I lived in China, and like you, I was always deeply moved them. Some of my experiences, similiar to this one of yours, I detailed in my book, because, as you say, they are indeed “beautiful” and “precious”, and are worth sharing.

I hope you will compose (and post) at least a few more snapshots like this one – which I find far superior in quality to your usual, more politicised commentary – a commentary that generally reflects a liberal neo-Enlightenment response to the complexities of today’s China. You might like to consider instead more pluralist assessments of China, which are fairer, though you have, over the last year or two it seems, been gradually developing a more nuanced understanding. From my arrogant perspective, that’s good to see!

February 10, 2009 @ 8:35 am | Comment

Hey Richard, I haven’t been reading your blog (since I thought you stopped writing), but upon my first visit in about half a year, I come upon this wonderful post. One of my friends in China, a foreign teacher, would tell me all these stories about how random Chinese people who stop and talk to him in the street and end up inviting him to all these events.

I’m actually really jealous that you are able to have these kinds of experiences. A lot of foreigners in China complain about getting stared at or ripped off, but as a Chinese American in China, I just get ignored and criticized for speaking weird putonghua.

Then again, during the Spring Festival, I get red envelopes from all my aunts and uncles, so I guess that somewhat makes up for it… but yeah, once again, great post and I hope to read more about these kinds of experiences in the future.

February 12, 2009 @ 3:12 am | Comment

Great Richard ! Thanks for you story

February 17, 2009 @ 12:43 am | Comment

“I will always look back on with a pang in my heart and a renewed sense of love for the people here, and a renewed faith in the fundamental beauty of the human spirit. ”

I am really touched by this beautifual story, Richard, you move us to tears.God bless you. :)

April 6, 2009 @ 11:09 pm | Comment

[...] strangers. And finally my third friend, this one a real friend who I knew well and who took me to the Chinese New Year dinner I wrote about six months ago. He was at home one morning not long ago when the police knocked on [...]

August 1, 2009 @ 10:46 am | Pingback

[...] this site has been blocked in China since June, and that it criticizes and questions (and sometimes even praises) China on a fairly regular [...]

October 2, 2009 @ 2:27 am | Pingback

Wow. Incredible, Richard! Having stayed with my best friend who lived in Shanghai, I understand what you mean about making do with so little. Really makes me wonder why in the U.S. so many feel they need so many things around them (myself at times included!). Empty things, that truly don’t make us happy. Yet being with people we care about, showing hospitality, caring for one another regardless of where they are from or how well they pronounce the language–that is true happiness.

I love your words:
“One that I know, should I ever have to leave China, I will always look back on with a pang in my heart and a renewed sense of love for the people here, and a renewed faith in the fundamental beauty of the human spirit.”

The beauty of the human spirit. Sounds like you truly experienced it that Chinese New Year.

Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece…
Courtney

January 14, 2010 @ 12:23 am | Comment

[...] feel really make a difference (I hope) for the reader are never about current events, but about my personal experiences in China and the people I meet [...]

May 19, 2010 @ 9:31 am | Pingback

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