I’ve only been through Lanzhou, Gansu on the train, but after seeing this video, I’m ready to make a visit!

I’m not a fan of the proliferation of drones, but they certainly make for some spectacular shots!

Source: DistrictyMedia, on Vimeo

Related Posts:

Mercenary Masonry

“Live the Language” – A Great Beijing Video

Guilin and Yangshuo

Beijing Time-lapse

Teeny Tiny Beijing

A Stunning China Video


A Miniature Great Wall

Missing Beijing?

When the Media Come Calling

Here’s a pro tip for those of you living in China or planning to travel there. If you are approached by a member of the Chinese media (either national or local) and asked to give an interview or just answer some “quick” questions, JUST.SAY.NO!

I was reminded of that when I saw this cringe-worthy video that was making its way around the inter-webs last week. The Wall Street Journal posted the video under the headline, Xi Dada, So Cute: What Foreigners Think of China’s Leader (According to the People’s Daily).

I think a more accurate headline would have been What the Chinese Media Wants Chinese People to Think Foreigners Think about President Xi.

Now, some of the students featured in the piece are crying foul, claiming that they were duped; that they didn’t know they were going to be featured in a Party propaganda film; that the question about President Xi was just one of many that were asked.

To which I find myself responding, “but of course!”

I tend not to trust journalists in general, but even less so journalists in China. Maybe that’s because I’ve had my fair share of being duped as well (call me a slow learner).

Once when I was living in Changchun (in the 1990’s) the head of the foreign student department told me that a journalist from a local newspaper was in his office and wanted to interview a foreign student. Would I be willing? Knowing that Mr. Y. would probably lose face (who knows what promises had been exchanged between them), and against my better judgement, I agreed.

The reporter told me that he was doing a story about the life of a foreign student in Changchun. He asked me questions about my studies, how I liked the city, and how I was treated by people in town. I answered them politely and accurately, telling him that I was thoroughly enjoying my life in Changchun and that the people were great.

Apparently, that wasn’t good enough, though, because when the article was published in the paper the following week, the reporter told specific stories of my experiences in the city, which were obviously made up! That’s not to say they couldn’t have happened; they just hadn’t. Except for my name, where I was from, and what I was studying, the rest of the article “about me” was a complete work of fiction!

Obviously his assignment had been to tell a story that confirmed what the media wanted the Chinese people to think about what foreigners thought about the city.

Mission accomplished!

And who could forget the other time I made it into the Changchun newspaper for engaging in a decidedly “non-foreigner” type of activity: buying a couch!

So remember, folks; if the media come calling, just say no!


Friday Photo: VIP Section

Nine years ago this weekend I travelled from Beijing to Changchun in order to attend the 60th anniversary of the founding of Northeast Normal University. The organization I worked for has a relationship with that school and had been invited to send a delegate. I was thrilled for the privilege to be the official representative because, ten years previous, I had directed our language program at the university.

Attending the event meant not just sitting through ceremonies, meetings, and banquets, but also getting to see old friends and colleagues as well.

The official ceremonies were held in the giant auditorium on campus, and I was given a special seat in the VIP section next to a former president and party secretary (who were also “old friends”). This was the view from my VIP seat in the auditorium;

changchun vip

Related Posts:

The Corner of Stalin and Freedom

Changchun Railway Station

State Names in Chinese — Literally

When I began studying Chinese (years ago), one of the first things I wanted to learn how to do was answer the question about where I am from. That meant learning how to say Minnesota in Chinese.

It is simply a phonetic translation: ming ni su da (明尼苏达).

On top of that, there is Minneapolis: ming ni a po li si (明你阿婆里斯)

Since they are phonetic, I never stopped to ask what the literal translations were.

The good folks at Live the Language recently posted this interesting map of what US State names would be if they were literally translated back into English from Chinese:


Good grief. I speak Chinese and that map still makes my head hurt!

Image credit: Live the Language


Remembering Jewish Refugees in Shanghai

Last week, China staged a huge parade to commemorate the end of World War II. While everyone was focused on the pomp and ceremony in Beijing, there were a couple of events in Shanghai to honor the city’s role in taking in Jewish refugees during the war. In fact, on September 6, the city opened the Jewish Memorial Park.


Here’s the story from The Times of Israel:

Beginning in 1938, as Jewish persecution by the Nazis went into high gear, approximately 20,000 Jewish refugees fled to Shanghai, one of the few safe havens in the world that did not require a visa.

On Sunday, a Jewish Memorial Park was opened at the Fushouyuan cemetery in that city’s Qingpu district in their honor.

Israeli Consul-General Arnon Perlman, speaking at the dedication, said it is very important “to remember the friendship between China and Israel and between Shanghai and Israel.” On a patch of newly laid grass, a Star of David made of stone forms the centerpiece of the park and serves as the base of a sculpture of interlocking stones with another Star of David, and a menorah, at its center.

One of the stones pays tribute to Dr. Ho Feng-Shan, the Chinese consul general of Vienna during the war, who defied orders and issued over 3,000 visas to Austrian Jews to allow them to travel to China (while visas were not required to enter Shanghai, they were required to leave Austria).

The mostly German and Austrian Jews who came to Shanghai in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s joined another several thousand Jewish residentswho had made the country their home in the previous 50 years, either as merchants or to escape Russian pogroms.

You can read the full article here.

The Consulate General of Israel in Shanghai released a video thanking Shanghai for being a safe haven for Jews:

The World Jewish Congress had a story about the reopening of a cafe that had once been a gathering place for the Jewish community in Shanghai:

On Wednesday, an iconic café in the former Jewish ghetto of Shanghai, which served as a meeting place for Jewish refugees during World War II, was re-opened in the presence of 300 dignitaries, including a representative of the World Jewish Congress (WJC).

At the time, the White Horse Café (‘Zum Weissen Rössl‘) was a café where the Jewish refugees met.

The White Horse Café first opened in 1939. It has been rebuilt in a new location opposite tothe Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum with its original look. The three-story wooden and brick structure that combined Western and Eastern architecture served as a popular shelter for Jewish residents living nearby.

The owner sold the café to a local after the war. It was demolished in 2009 to make room for a subway. The Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum collected the building’s blue prints and key components such as beams and some wooden curving on walls for the rebuilding.

Among the guests at the ceremony on Wednesday was Ron Klinger from Australia. His grandparents, who had come to Shanghai from Vienna in 1938, had opened the inn. “A lot of people visited, Jewish people and non-Jewish people. It was like cafe, bar and nightclub. It was very popular,” recalled Klinger.

The new coffee house was rebuilt in accordance with the original style. It displays some old photos donated by the Klinger family.

Two interesting stories on a little-known part of Shanghai’s past.

Friday Photo: Curious Shepherd

On a trip to the autonomous region of Ningxia many years ago, I had the chance to visit the small town of Guyuan. During a walk with my hosts into the countryside outside of town, we ran accross a shepherd with his flock of sheep. He was surprised to see 4 foreigners wandering around and watched us with bemusement. Fortunately he was also quite happy to pose for a photo!

ningxia shepherd

Don’t you just love those glasses!

Related Posts: 

The Guyuan Gang

Bound for Guyuan

A Ningxia Road Trip