One of the things I do as part of my “day job” is to produce a weekly online newsletter with curated news stories from China. I usually include a few dozen stories, but there are always a few that, for some reason, stand out.
Here are three news stories out of China that caught my attention this week:
NPR journalist Rob Schmitz travelled to Sichuan Province to report on a property developer who was so moved by the movie Titanic that he decided to build a life-size replica in his small, land-locked city:
A lot of questions spring to mind on arriving at the construction site for a full-scale Chinese replica of the Titanic: Why is this being built in the remote countryside, 1,000 miles from the sea? Why is this being built? And simply: Why?
The question that comes to my mind is, why not?
The New Yorker has an excellent photo essay about China’s so-called “Belt and Road” initiative to invest in infrastructure development from China to Europe, along a new “Silk Road.” It already includes a rail line that carries goods from China to London.
If bridges, pipelines, and railroads are the arteries of the modern world, then China is positioning itself as the beating heart. […] Like most Chinese official-speak, the phrase “Belt and Road” obscures more than it clarifies: the “belt” will be composed of land routes running from China to Scandinavia, the Iberian Peninsula, and the Middle East; the “road” refers to shipping lanes connecting China to Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In the fall, the photographer Davide Monteleone traced stretches of one of the land routes, travelling from Yiwu, in the southeastern province of Zhejiang, to Khorgos, home to one of the world’s largest dry ports, and to Aktau, in Kazakhstan, on the Caspian Sea.
The photos are amazing!
Unfortunately, China is known as a place where anything and everything can be faked, from buildings to boots, from milk to money. Now comes word from the Chinese site Sixth Tone of restaurants in Hebei Province serving up fake donkey burgers:
Restaurants in a Chinese city known as the “hometown of donkey burgers” might not have been dishing up what it advertised, as a recent investigative report found that cheaper meat from mules, horses, and pigs was frequently being used instead. […] Several people involved in the fake donkey meat trade said that demand for the genuine article has grown rapidly in recent years, leading to price hikes so large that some vendors in Hejian have instead turned to mule and horse meat — often imported frozen from overseas — and even pork.
Yes, you read that right: there is a HIGH demand for donkey meat. It’s a delicacy in north China, particularly in Hebei Province. I wrote about the popularity of donkey burgers in a post way back in 2006:
There’s a new culinary sensation sweeping the masses of Beijing lately—Donkey Burgers. They are not burgers as you or I may conceive of them–a meat patty on a bun. Rather, Beijing donkey burgers are BBQ donkey meat inside something that is very much like pocket bread. There’s a small restaurant near where I work that specializes in them.
Today, while eating there, I noticed a sign on the wall–a poem of sorts– that I’d never seen before, extolling the virtures of donkey burgers.
It said, “xiang changshou, chi lurou; yao jiankang, he lu tang.”
Translated, it means: “If you want to live a long life, eat donkey meat; if you want to be healthy, drink donkey soup.”
I’ve recently taken to trying to find out how widespread the love of donkey-meat is, so have been doing informal polls among my Chinese friends. The results: those from the north or northeast of the country are aware of the culinary value of donkeys, and those from the south turn up their noses. (But, keep in mind, folks from the south eat all manner of other strange creatures like civit cats!). One friend from the northeast even went so far as to quote a famous saying about donkey meat: Tianshang longrou; Dixia lurou. (In heaven there is dragon meat; on earth there is donkey meat.
Well, as clever as the sign and poem are, I still haven’t been able to bring myself to try a donkey burger! Sorry folks, my loyalties are with Culvers!!!