Shadow play.

On July 27, 2012, in Activities, Entertainment, by Jack Li

If you travel to China you’ll probably see lots of things that will amaze you, but one of the most curious things you can see in your Chinese Tour is the Shadow play, or Shadow Puppetry. The Shadow play is a form of storytelling that use cut out figures that are articulated and are held […]

If you travel to China you’ll probably see lots of things that will amaze you, but one of the most curious things you can see in your Chinese Tour is the Shadow play, or Shadow Puppetry.

The Shadow play is a form of storytelling that use cut out figures that are articulated and are held between a light and a screen. They can be very detailed and they move accorded to the Puppeteer who can make them move in a realistic way.

Although now is present through all the Asian continent it is said that this kind of storytelling was originated in China and, like most of the things that are from China, it has a very beautiful legend that explains how the Shadow play was created.

During the Han dynasty one of the concubines of emperor Wu died from an illness, the Emperor Wu, devastated, asked everybody in the realm to bring his beloved back to life.

One officer made a concubine figure made of donkey leather and articulated it with 11 joints, he painted it and he put it against an oil lamp, made this figure look as if the concubine was alive again.

The final of the legend is not very clear, but what it’s known is that some years later, on the Song dynasty the beginning of holidays was marked by a large quantity of Shadow Plays on the street.

It is said that in the Ming Dynasty there were 50 shadow plays groups in the City of Beijing alone.

From there the popularity of the Shadow play augmented, it was extended throughout Asia because the Mongols learned this kind of entertainment and they brought it everywhere they went.

When the Shadow Play began the screens were made of mulberry paper and the theme was always similar, events from the past wars or just Buddhist stories because that were the themes that interested the people.

The puppets were made of leather and they used sticks to move them through the scene.

Later Myths and Legends from Chinese culture were also added at the repertoire and they were accompanied by music specially prepared for the plays.

Although is quite difficult to find a Shadow because is not a big show and it can only be seen by a specific amount of people it is good to try to find one place to see it just for the experience.

Shadow play is an ancient Chinese art that has been entertaining people nearly a thousand years and since then it has not changed, so if during your China Travel you want to have a taste of how was the life in the ancient China why don’t you try to find a place where you can see Shadow plays? (Normally there isn’t any theater that does these shows regularly so it’s better to gather information at the hotel or online on where you can find Shadow play shows).

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Chinese astrology

On July 17, 2012, in China Travel Gossip, Cultural Experience, Tips & Ideas, Travel Info, by Jack Li

Understanding Chinese culture and way of thinking is a plus to enjoy your China travel; their history, beliefs, values and ideas are so different from the West, and some points are quite hard to imagine. Indeed, dealing with beliefs, as you know Chinese people have their own astrology, not based on months like us, but […]

Understanding Chinese culture and way of thinking is a plus to enjoy your China travel; their history, beliefs, values and ideas are so different from the West, and some points are quite hard to imagine. Indeed, dealing with beliefs, as you know Chinese people have their own astrology, not based on months like us, but based on years. After having met some Chinese people and stay with them for a while during your China Tours you will know that their astrological sign is very important in their life. Knowing your sign and asking others their sign is a good way to start a conversation with a Chinese person. Moreover have you noticed that Chinese people have an intelligent way to ask women’s age; they don’t ask them directly their age but their sign, so they can guess how old you are approximately.

Their zodiacal signs are composed of 12 animals, each animal comes back every 12 years in this order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Do you know why they use these types of animals? In the legend, it is said that one day Buddha wanted to convene all animals on earth and promised them that they’ll be rewarded. Only 12 animals came that day, and they arrived in that order I gave on the top. In order to thank them Buddha dedicated to each animal who came a year. It is said that you should never show your enthusiasm while entering in the year of our sign; it can bring bad luck unless you wear something red every day. Each sign is supposed to determine a person’s personality and the possibility of success. Even if Chinese people tend to be less and less traditional and believe less and less in these beliefs, they like to know the sign of their business partner, their children-in-law and so on. Indeed, certain couples refer to the astrology for having a baby or still go to fortune tellers’.

Here are the basics characteristics of each signs to read before taking your China flights :

The Rat: is known as an active and charming person. Sociable, curious and smart, the Rat has a lot of friends even if he is conniving and gets easily upset.
The Ox: is a dynamic and reliable person. He likes to hard work, he is organized and stubborn. He is known to be a sweet and protecting lover.
The Rabbit: is a wise and idealistic person. He is one of the most popular sign. Thanks to his compassion, the fact that he hates conflicts, a good contact with the others and his ability to bring harmony, he’s got a lot of friends. Women are said to be unfaithful but they usually have a lot of children.
The Tiger: is a reckless and sensitive person. Determined, brave and seductive, but the Tiger is unpredictable, he is touchy, easily stressed, and often changes mood.
The Dragon: is a domineering and lucky person. Seductive and leader, he fascinates the audience and always gets what he wants. He is called “the King of the sky”, it is said that persons of this sign would be good at politics. He hates miscarriages, but it almost never happens since they are lucky.
The Snake: is possessive and has a philosopher mind. He is smart, intuitive and always succeeds. But he is very jealous, so he prefers to only count on himself.
The Horse: feels that others always do better than him, and is constantly looking for new friendships or lovers. He has no difficulty for that but he can break the bonds at any time because of his impulsiveness.
The Sheep: is a lonely and creative person. He likes to be alone to develop his imagination. The Sheep only enjoys himself and put away his fears when he feels supported by his partner.
The Monkey: is a happy-go-lucky person, carefree and joyful. He likes discovering new experiences even if it is bad ones.
The Rooster: is organized and a conservative person. He likes rules and planning everything. He is a good advisor and a faithful partner.
The Dog: is a sensitive and lonely person. He likes being alone living in his own world, which is difficult for his relationships but he is a loyal friend.
The Pig: is a generous and showy person. He likes to show off but he is smart and is always willing to help the others. It’s a very positive sign.

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Love and traditions, Chinese weddings

Have you ever attend to a Chinese traditional wedding ? I do, and the least I can say, is that the ceremony is full of codes and conventions that I couldn’t imagine before. Even if nowadays Chinese people are influenced by western weddings, they still keep a lot of traditional conventions. I think that attending […]

Have you ever attend to a Chinese traditional wedding ? I do, and the least I can say, is that the ceremony is full of codes and conventions that I couldn’t imagine before. Even if nowadays Chinese people are influenced by western weddings, they still keep a lot of traditional conventions. I think that attending a Chinese wedding ceremony would be one of your best memories of your China travel. Here I will present some facts that you could only happen in Chinese weddings.

The average age of marriage is around 30, because they first want to have a stable situation (work, house, car…). And when they come to this big step, they’ll have to prepare the wedding ceremony. Chinese people don’t choose the date of the wedding by pure serendipity, they often refers to the astrology, in China marrying the year of your sign is a bad luck omen. In fact, they also refers to the zodiac for the best couple matches, for example is it said that a Sheep woman perfectly fits with a Ox man and Tigers and Dragons couples would have great troubles to come to an agreement. About the ceremony itself, only the family of the groom have to organize and cover all the charges of this event.

Chinese couples don’t marry in a church or city halls, they got married by registering at the Department of Civil affairs where all they do is sign some documents. That moment is not part of the ceremony. The ceremony takes place after. On the big day, the bride got prepared in her room during the morning, and waits until her husband comes to symbolically “kidnap” her from her parents’ and take her to the reception where they swap their wedding ring. The groom generally arrives with a group of six (lucky number in China) or eight (represents wealth) cars covered with flowers.

In general the reception takes place in a restaurant, and 100 or 150 people are invited. Parents and closest relatives are at the entrance of the restaurant to welcome the guests. At the entrance guests don’t offer gifts to the married couple but money and are registered in an account book. The bride arrives at the restaurant in a white dress, and then she wears the traditional red Chinese dress (Qipao) to have a toast on each table, and she finally wears a third dress for the rest of the reception. The banquet begins when the new married couple raise a toast in front of the crowd, then numerous dishes are served successively to each tables. Many kinds of meat, seafood and fish are served (sign of wealth) and when everyone is full the banquet comes to the end. And finally, after the reception, the new couple prostrate themselves in front of their parents and offer them a cup of tea. And it is only after this ritual that they call their parents-in-law “mother” and “father”.

And other funny fact, if during your China tour you ever take China Southern flights to go in the south you could see that before “kidnapping” the bride, the groom has to bang on the door with bank notes on the other hand. Is it said that the bride would only open if she thinks that it’s enough. Of course, I think that now people don’t do this anymore, or very few, but maybe in small villages this tradition still remains.

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The noodles way of life

On July 4, 2012, in China Travel Gossip, Restaurants & Food, Tips & Ideas, Travel Info, by Jack Li

Instant noodles were invented by the Japanese, but the biggest consumers of these noodles are the Chinese ! Chinese people eat 42 billion packs of instant noodles per year, that is to say that they represent 44% of the world consumption of these noodles, amazing right ? In fact, I’ve never eaten as much noodles […]

Instant noodles were invented by the Japanese, but the biggest consumers of these noodles are the Chinese ! Chinese people eat 42 billion packs of instant noodles per year, that is to say that they represent 44% of the world consumption of these noodles, amazing right ? In fact, I’ve never eaten as much noodles as in my whole life during my China travel.

You can find instant noodles everywhere you go at anytime. Noodles are very simple, quick and convenient to prepare, all you need is some hot/boiling water, and in only 3 minutes, your noodles are ready. Chinese people eat noodles for breakfast, lunch or dinner ! Yes, I said for breakfast, they put an egg and some vegetables with it. I’m pretty sure that you were served instant noodles in your China flights. And if you ever doing your China tours by train, you will see numerous Chinese people eating noodles at the station. As a student, I can say that little packets of dried noodles are the best seller of all the groceries around the University.

Each pack is composed by a block of dried noodles, a flavoring pack and seasoning oil, you can also find a plastic fork in noodles cups. Instant noodles are sold everywhere : groceries, on the street, at supermarkets, and it is also served in restaurants. Indeed, I think that the main difference between a western supermarket and a Asian one is the presence or absence of the noodles shelf. There is a huge choice of noodles flavor, and so many different brands. The best seller in China is Master Kong’s noodles, they managed to launch a wide variety of flavors that fit the local eating habits for each region. For example, they launched spicy noodles in Sichuan, “halal” noodles for the large Muslim community living in China and if you like lamb meat during your travel to Tibet you may taste lamb flavoring noodles who knows ?

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Bottoms Up!

If you want to travel to Beijing and enjoy alcohol, it is imperative that you understand the drinking culture. In China, people drink a variety of alcoholic beverages, but the most interesting I have tried since arriving is baijiu. Baijiu is Chinese vodka, that is distilled from rice or sorghum depending on which part of […]

If you want to travel to Beijing and enjoy alcohol, it is imperative that you understand the drinking culture. In China, people drink a variety of alcoholic beverages, but the most interesting I have tried since arriving is baijiu. Baijiu is Chinese vodka, that is distilled from rice or sorghum depending on which part of China it comes from. If you find yourself wanting to travel to Beijing and enjoy the drinking culture, Baijiu is something you should consider trying.

Whether you are out to eat with coworkers or friends or even if you find yourself at a karaoke bar, baijiu is a common beverage you will find on the menu. However, there are regulations that accompany taking part in drinking baijiu. In China, whenever someone gets ready to drink hard liquor by itself, you must make a toast. Solitary drinking is frowned upon. If you are drinking baijiu, however, chances are it will be served at or above room temperature, which is why I find that it’s better to put an ice cube in my glass before drinking it. No matter the occasion, baijiu can certainly lead to some fun nights because unlike most vodka brands from the United States, it’s alcohol by volume ranges from forty to sixty percent. However, due to its higher alcohol content, it has a very distinct taste. I have yet to try the flavored baijiu, but it apparently comes in a multitude of flavors ranging from rose flavored to tea flavored. According to several websites, people in China find the smell and taste of baijiu to be very pleasing while people from other countries find its smell to be a little too potent, but this can be attributed to the fact that it contains more alcohol than the beverages we are accustomed to. Despite the differences between Chinese liquor and United States liquor, it is definitely a drink you should try here just because of its cultural implications.

Due to Chinese baijiu being around for over five thousand years, it has deeply rooted cultural implications and plays an important role in many festivities. Since baijiu is made from rice or grain, its production relies heavily on how well the agriculture industry is faring. There is also a tax on the alcohol, but apparently the tax fluctuates depending on whoever is leading the country, but no matter who is in power, the tax is a source of income for China. It is evident that baijiu has a rich history because of its usage for celebrations all over the country.

Whether or not you are an alcohol connoisseur, baijiu is a cultural beverage that you should experience once you travel to Beijing or anywhere else in China for that matter. Depending on where you travel, you can taste different types of baijiu. Despite your location, when you take part in drinking baijiu of course drink responsibly, but also keep in mind the alcohol contents is much higher than what we westerners are accustomed to. Travel to China and try some baijiu for yourself!

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Singing Karaoke

On June 13, 2012, in Activities, China Travel Gossip, Cultural Experience, Nightlife, by Jack Li

If you travel to Beijing, one of the local pastimes that you absolutely have to take part in is karaoke. Karaoke is a very popular way to spend an evening here in China and due to its popularity, there are many locations where you can take part in singing karaoke. You have the option to […]

If you travel to Beijing, one of the local pastimes that you absolutely have to take part in is karaoke. Karaoke is a very popular way to spend an evening here in China and due to its popularity, there are many locations where you can take part in singing karaoke. You have the option to either sing in front of a large group or in a small room with a group of friends. Either way, you are guaranteed a fabulous time. In the United States, karaoke is not nearly as popular so in order to have a unique karaoke experience that would be impossible to have anywhere else, travel to Beijing!

The karaoke here is an experience like none other. In terms of the atmosphere, it is easily comparable to an upscale theater. I say this because once you walk in and after you determine which beverage you will be drinking while singing your heart out, you can see hallways of rooms with doors closed, but once inside the room it’s as if you are in your own private movie theater with a large screen in the front of the room and a couch and tables facing the screen. Then someone will bring you your beverage of choice along with some other snacks. The karaoke bar that I went to served us watermelon, popcorn, and soft drinks. After getting settled, we let the singing begin!

From Brittany Spears to Michael Jackson, our group thoroughly enjoyed every song that came up on screen. It was a lot more fun to sing the older songs that were played, so if I were to make any sort of recommendation, it would be to have some good oldies in mind before heading out! However, it’s not about the songs you sing that make karaoke a good time; it’s about the people you are with. By the end of the night, you are undoubtedly going to have made new friends due to this unique experience. Although I personally am not a star singer, neither were the majority of people in our group, which was half the fun, so even if you are a little bit more reserved, karaoke can still be a positive experience. It was immediately apparent to me why people in China love to go sing karaoke; it creates friendships and is simultaneously a great time.

Despite my inability to sing, my vocal cords were more than worn out after my first real Chinese Karaoke experience, one that I could only experience due to my travel to Beijing. After leaving the Karaoke place, I immediately wished that the United States had something similar. I was fortunate enough to experience karaoke on my first evening in Beijing and because of that first night, I have great new friends that I otherwise may not have met had I let my fear of singing in front of people hold me back. If you find yourself in China with a free evening, I definitely recommend gathering a group and taking part in the karaoke scene. 

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Anyone for Tea?

On September 19, 2011, in China Travel Gossip, Cultural Experience, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

It is virtually impossible to go on a China tour and not come across Chinese tea. From green tea to oolong tea, China ceases to amazing the palette with it’s variety of smells and tastes of tea. From Chinese shops to Chinese hotels, tea is everywhere. According to popular Chinese legend, tea was first discovered by the […]

It is virtually impossible to go on a China tour and not come across Chinese tea. From green tea to oolong tea, China ceases to amazing the palette with it’s variety of smells and tastes of tea. From Chinese shops to Chinese hotels, tea is everywhere.

According to popular Chinese legend, tea was first discovered by the Chinese Emperor Shennong in 2737 BCE when a leaf from a camellia sinensis tree fell into some water that the emperor was boiling. Today the camellia sinensis leaves are still used for Chinese tea. Traditionally there are 4 types of tea: white, green, oolong and black however it is thought that there are over 1,000 types of tea within these categories!

Chinese tea culture is so different to that of the western world. In China, tea is regularly consumed for casual and formal events as well as used in traditional Chinese medicine and cuisine.

Tea customs

There are many tea drinking customs to be aware of whilst you visit China which will help you liaise with the locals:

Sign of respect:  The younger generation should always show respect for their elders and offer them a cup of tea. This is also the case that the workers should offer tea to their boss. However in modern society in informal settings, bosses will make tea for their employees, it should not be expected.

To apologise: People make serious apologies by pouring tea for them and this shows a sign of regret and submission. i.e. a child will pour their parents tea if they have been disobedient.

 

Finger tapping: It is customary to thank the tea server for tea by knocking their bent index and middle fingers on the table to express thanks. This is a common way if you are in the middle of talking with someone at the table whilst tea is being served.

 

How to prepare the perfect cuppa

In order to make the perfect cup of Chinese tea, you can either place the loose tea leaves into a tea infuser, a teapot or a teacup. Then

 

you poor the hot water over the leaves and leave it for a couple of minutes. When the tea is ready to serve you either remove the infuser or strain the tea.

These are the ideal temperatures of water and steeping time for the 4 categories of Chinese tea:

White Tea (Between 65°C and 70°C)  1-2minutes steeping time
Green Tea (Between 75°C and 80°C) 1-2 minutes steeping time
Oolong Tea (Between 80°C and 85°C) 2-3 minutes steeping time
Black teak (99°C) 2-3 minutes steeping time

Eat cup of tea there should be a level teaspoon for white, green and oolong teas whilst black tea needs a rounded teaspoon.

Some teas are brewed several times using the same leaves. Chinese teas are divided into numerous infusions. The first is immediately poured out to was the tea. Every infusion after the first is drunk but the third to fifth infusions are considered the bests. However, different types of tea open up differently and may require more infusions.

 

China tea can come in a variety of weird and wonderful colours and can either be hot or cold. Your China travels are not complete without a sip of tea!

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