Thursday, May 10, 2007

Golden Week

The May golden week has just passed by. Did you have a good holiday? Or were you hiding in your own home to avoid the crowd?

In China, there are three most important holidays: May Holiday (May 1 to May 7), National Holiday (October 1 to October 7), and Spring Festival (Date varies, but normally be late Jan or early Feb, and lasting for 7 days.

The public holiday is actually only 3 days for each of the three holidays, but people switched and put the previous weekend and the next weekend together to make it up to 7 continuous holidays, and fixed the date to be May 1 to May 7, Oct 1 to Oct 7. For the Spring Festival, since it is the 1st day to the 7th day of the first month according to Chinese calendar, so there is no fixed date.

Normally the May holidays and National Holidays are also called by most of the media the “golden week”. So when did this golden week start? And how did it start?

Every year, during May holidays or National Holidays, millions of people are getting on trains, buses and planes, as they use the opportunity of seven days off work, beginning Tuesday, to escape the daily grind which is exactly what the government expected. The first golden week started in 1999. It happened at a time when China was reeling from the Asian financial crisis and desperately needed more growth.

If you are a holiday maker to china, it's best to avoid coming in from May 1st to 7th or from October 1st to 7th, even if you are coming for business, I suggest you avoid these “golden weeks”. They are logistical nightmares for planes, trains, even taxies. Everywhere you go, there will be “ren2 shan1 ren2 hai3” (people mountain people sea, which is a Chinese four character idiom to describe big crowd of people). Maybe the government is considering a solution for the situation. We will wait and see.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Canton Fair

If you are new to Guangzhou and suddenly you find the traffic in Guangzhou became much worse, there is traffic everywhere no matter it is rush hour or not. Or your friend is coming to Guangzhou, but the hotel prices are so high much higher than what you expected. Or you go to the restaurant that you have been for so many times, their prices increased a lot for no reason. Or you go to the foot massage, they give you the same price, but the time is much shorter than before. Don’t be surprised. All of these are become of the CANTON FAIR which is commonly known as广交会(guang3jiao1hui4).

The Canton Fair was established in the autumn of 1956. The first Fair was staged in the former Sino-Soviet Friendship Building in the spring of 1957. The Fair serves as a historical witness to the development of China's foreign trade; it has faithfully recorded the pace of the country's growth.

This Canton Fair is the 101th one. It started on 15th April and will continue to 30th April. The most important feather of this canton fair is that the official name is changed from中国出口商品交易会(zhong1guo2 chu1kou3 shang1pin3 jiao1yi4hui4) which means “Chinese Export Commodities Fair”to 中国进出口商品交易会(zhong1guo2 jin4chu1kou3 shang1pin3 jiao1yi4 hui4) which means “China Import and Export Fair”.

Well, some people may love the canton fair. Some may hate it. If you haven’t experienced canton fair, then now you may want to go there to have a look. As a foreigner, you don’t have to pay money to get in. So take the advantage and go to experience it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Students in action

Mandarin Corner brought a battle against the sexes as we split the boys and girls up to play some games in Chinese. In the photos below our students are playing a game where they choose an envelope full of words and must make a correct sentence from them and then say what it means.

People are competitive by nature and it was no difference here as the boys were in minus points and the girls were up in the lead...... but it was not long before the guys fought back and won the game - still with disputes over our points system!!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Chinese Stone Lions

I have been asked by two students why there are often two stone lions in front of the gates of some buildings which really caught me out of guard. I have been seeing stone lions so often that I never questioned why people put them in front of their doors.

So I went on the internet to look for the answer, as Ben said, everything is “googlable”. The following is what I found:

There was no lions in China originally. The earliest stone lions were sculpted at the beginning of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220 AD) with the introduction of Buddhism into ancient China. In the Buddhist faith, the lion is considered a divine animal of nobleness and dignity, which can protect the Truth and keep off evils.

Lions are symbols of strength, power and dignity. In china, its imagines especially represented power and prestige. A pair of stone lions, a male and a female, can often be seen in front of the gates of traditional buildings. The male lion is on the left with his right paw resting on a ball, and the female on the right with her left paw fondling a cub. The ball played by the male lion symbolized the unity of the empire, and the cub with the female thriving offspring.

The most common material used to carve the lions is stone. But metal lions are also very commonly seen in front of the buildings. ( The photos shown here are taken by me last winter in the Forbidden City of Beijing. Can you tell me which one is male? Which one is female?)

Maybe you have other questions about the stone lions, write to me and I will try my best to answer your questions.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Chinese language partner for as little as 8 RMB!!

8 RMB for a Chinese language partner?!?! Is this possible you ask! I am sure the picture has given it away and you have guessed I am talking about the friendly taxi drivers that many of us spend time with everyday (and no comments that they are not all nice!!). Simply chat with your cabbie and practice your Chinese - easy!!

Most of the drivers in Guangzhou speak Mandarin as their first language, admittedly they may have a Funan (hmmmm, Hunan) accent or they may be local drivers with a Cantonese accent, but either way it is a great opportunity to speak Chinese. People always tell me they do not want to make a fool out of themselves with their friends and colleagues as their language skills are not good. This is even more of a reason to use the taxi driver as your language partner because the chances of seeing them again are limited so who cares if you make a few mistakes!!

Introduce yourself, ask him some questions, say anything you like. It will help you to remember what you have learned, can build your confidence and you can even learn some new words and phrases as your skills develop. At the end of your journey you can even grab the fapiao and claim the 'language training' on your expenses!

Trip to the flower market

As Ben mentioned in his blog on February 12, 9 adults and 6 children including Koco and I set off on February 15 to the Xihulu flower market - the oldest spring festival flower market in Guangzhou. We took a lot of pictures. Students bought “wu3dai4tong2tang2guo3” (five generation in a family) which is a very traditional spring festival plant in Guangzhou and some other flowers. Their picture also made the way onto the front page of the Guangzhou Daily newspaper. Here are some other pictures:

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mandarin Corner - 11th March

Next month we will hold our third Mandarin Corner on Sunday 11th March. It will be a chance for our students, their friends and anyone else to come along and practice their Mandarin. Our trainers will organise fun games in Chinese so feel free to pop in and take a look.

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