China Spotting Dec/Jan-07/08

Nowadays the People's Republic of China is often being caught in generalities - communism & capitalism, economic wonder & danger, natural medicine & ecologic catastrophe - but there moves a lot more beneath, and - like viewing through a kaleidoscope - colours compositions continue to shift suddenly, while underlying patterns endure. To fully appreciate it's rich cultural aspects, one has to be forever vigilant & curious, below a selection of some interesting facts - and stepping stones to more background information - which caught my eye this month.

Society

The Bitter/Sweet Taste of Success

Although women in China enjoy much more freedom since 1949 - when communist rule was established - Chinese men on the other hand still view women making money as highly disruptive. At least according to Huang Hung, who wrote her opinion in Newsweek's 31st December 2007 Special Double Issue on China 2008, for full article see attachment. Huang Hung is well positioned to comment, as she runs CIMG (a media company) and publishes Time Out in China and iLook (a Chinese luxury lifestyle magazine). In addition, she wrote a best seller My abnormal Life and at the moment her own blog seems one of the most popular in China, go http://blog.sina.com.cn/honghuang.

Culinary & Shopping

Name Your Food

When you travelled China, you are probably much like me, unable to identify all these delicious things you ate, especially in Shanghai. Subsequently, whenever I venture to order whatever without my Chinese wife or parents-in-law, it turns out to be only half as nice. Luckily some hungry foreign souls fired up a blog with menu translations, reviews, photos and videos to help order street food in Shanghai. Go out armed with notes and prints, and savour Huā Xī Rice Noodles and more in places like Brother Ah Niu's, Naughty Fry and Lucky Wonton. Feast your eyes at www.likealocal.cn

Jin Li Street

There are some amazing ancient shopping districts in China, such as the old town center of Lijiang in Yunnan and the Yuyuan Garden & Bazaar in old Shanghai. A destination I never heard of previously is Jin Li Street in Chengdu, dating back from the Shu Kingdom during Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC), see official site of the Wuhou District of Chengdu. Rennovation was completed as recently as 2004, and it is now already as hot as Sichuan food itself.

Wine With Asian Food

New cookbooks are helping to pair Asian food with wines. Wine With Asian Food: New Frontiers in Taste is written by Patricia Guy and Edwin Soon. Many years ago we met Edwin at the Côte d'Azur, when he just acquired the art of wine-making from the French professional "oenologists", and now he returned to Singapore for some serious culinary matchmaking, see attached article in Europe's edition of Newsweek. We will keep in touch with Edwin to find out when the book becomes available in Europe, see also site of Patricia Guy at www.patriciaguy.com.

Movies

Erotism under Occupation

Much more then action - such as in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) - Taiwanese movie-director Ang Lee creatively elaborated on human relationships with humour in memorable films such as The Wedding Banquet (1993) and Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) and tragedy in the Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain (2005). His most daring latest masterpiece is Lust, Caution, which met with a lot of ideologic resistance in mainland China. Reception in the West also has been divided, as mix of reviews testify in www.rottentomatoes.com but the power of the movie can't be fully understood without appreciating the effort Ang Lee invested in reconstructing the image of the last years of colonial Shanghai under heavy-handed Japanese occupation. There are some quite sexually explicit sequences in the movie, but then again it was intellectually & visually not intended for a juvenile audience. Before I had the pleasure to view the full version - even though it has one of the saddest endings imaginable - I looked at the China-censored but English sub-titled edition, and surprisingly it were both great but completely different movies. Whereas Mrs. Mak (played by Tang Wei) appears like a naive heroine in the cut version, she becomes more sophisticated in full, where her relationship with Mr. Yee (Tony Leung) - a high-ranking official collaborating with the Japanese - turns slightly sadistic in nature. Fair to say that the censors must have been artists themselves. Other than that, another memorable moment in Chinese movie-making.

Jet Li as Warlord

Another movie breakthrough is said to hitting movie theatres soon according to Newsweek. Amids the turmoil of the Taiping rebellion in 1870, Jet Li will be starring as general Pang, strayed from the right course by this sworn blood brothers and bandits Andy Lau (as Zhao Er-Hu) and Japanese heartthrob Takeshi Kaneshiro (as Jiang Wu Yang), who get divided over Zhao's wife Lian (played by Xu Jinglei). Special this time are not the effects, but spending high budget on story-telling in a historic context - like Saving Private Ryan - rather than airborne kung fu masters. Let's wait if a spoiled audience can handle innovate cinematography, for a foretaste go www.warlordsthemovie.com.

Gao's Spiritual Walk

Finally Gao Xing Jian never drew large crowd, but the author of "Soul Mountain" did win the Nobel price for literature in 2000. Suffering with poor health, he lately did manage to complete "Silhouette Sinon l'Ombre" - see attachment - a real pity that English editions of his books & films are hard to come by even in Europe, where they are not restricted.

Xin Nian Hao 新年好

... following the Gregorian Calendar, beware that Chinese Lunar New Year will dawn upon us on 7th February 2008, and that Pig will be caught up by the Rat ... in case you got any fascinating facts to share on China, please don't hesitate to let me know via Hoornaert.net.

AttachmentSize
china_gao_xingjian.pdf646.09 KB
china_movies_warlords.pdf666.28 KB
newsweek_2008_china_women_and_society.pdf136.99 KB