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Showing posts from October, 2013

Qing Dynasty Anthem (1911-12) - China's First Anthem

On October 4, 1911, the Qing Empire issued China's first national anthem, known as Gong Jin Ou (Chinese: 鞏金甌; pinyin: gǒng jīn'ōu, literally "Cup of Solid Gold"). It was the 3rd year of the reign of 5-year-old Emperor Xuantong (better known as Puyi).
Because the Qing Empire was not a state in the modern sense, it had never had a national anthem before. Zeng Jize (1839 – April 12, 1890, traditional Chinese: 曾紀澤), one of China's first diplomats stationed in the West, observed that Western nations performed national anthems on official occasions. In 1883 he composed a song in honour of the Qing Empire ("普天樂") and sent it to the Qing court, but the song was never officially used. 
In the following years several songs were produced in succession, which were used as semi-official hymns from time to time. One of them was Praise the Dragon Flag ("頌龍旗"). The song was composed in 1906, when the Board of War and the Bureau of Military Reorganisation were m…

Why Chinese Women Are Obsessed With Men's Height

One day I was talking with a Chinese friend of mine about relationships. At one point she said something that struck me: "It doesn't matter if a guy is ugly as long as he's tall." I was quite surprised by these words, but I didn't pay much attention to them. 
As I met more and more Chinese, it became clear to me that "height" was a recurrent theme when Chinese women talked about a suitable partner. Many of my female friends mentioned men's height: "He's good-looking; what a pity he's so short!" "I like tall men" "A guy liked me, but I didn't want to date him. He was short", etc. etc. 
In her book about factory girls in China, Leslie T. Chang describes this phenomenon:
Height was a universal Chinese obsession. In a country that had experienced malnutrition and even famine in living memory, height signaled fortune, and it functioned as a proxy for class.
Height was also an advantage for women, though. The taller t…

Jumbo Floating Restaurant in Hong Kong

Yesterday I went with my language partner to the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, part of the so-called Jumbo Kingdom, in Aberdeen Harbour. 



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The floating restaurant is a gigantic boat built in the style of a Chinese imperial palace, with the addition of modern elements. It offers Cantonese food and, most importantly, yum cha. Yum cha (simplified Chinese: 饮茶; traditional Chinese: 飲茶), literally means 'drink tea'. The name is deceptive, because yum cha actually refers to a Chinese-style lunch or early afternoon meal served with tea. The meals consists of dim sum, a word that comprises a wide range of small dishes: steamed buns, dumplings, siu mai, rice noodle rolls, vegetables, roasted meats, congee porridge, soups etc. 
Usually, the dishes are put on carts, and then waiters push them around the restaurant. When a customer wants something, he calls the waiter and takes one of the baskets or boxes from the cart.
Unfortunately, I and my language partner were very late, becau…

Hong Kong Past and Present - Old and Modern Photos of the Dragon City

Hong Kong is one of the most exciting cities in the world, and part of its charm lies in its modernity. Dubbed 'the most vertical city in the world', Hong Kong captivates visitors with its futuristic architecture. But Hong Kong was not always like this. For more than a century, what one saw were monumental European colonial buildings. Chinese architecture and quarters were relegated in the less central areas of the city. 
The European-style city has disappeared almost completely. With the economic take-off starting in the 1960s, Hong Kong embarked on an era of modernisation. Colonial buildings were demolished one after another. Only the most representative ones have survived. The past didn't matter. People relentlessly marched toward the future. 
Hong Kong was thus the first Chinese city to have transformed itself into a modern megacity, long before mainland Chinese cities created their own aesthetic modernisation. 
I prepared a short video that shows some of the changes that…