Guest blogger Will Tang: The benefits of Chinese kungfu 1

Guest blogger Will Tang: The benefits of Chinese kungfu
studentChinese kungfu has a very long history. During the last 5,000 years of China’s history, there have been many people who are good at Chinese kungfu, such as 张三丰 (Zhang Sanfeng),李小龙 (Li XiaoLong – Bruce Lee), 李连杰 (Li LianJie – Jet Li), 成龙 (Cheng Long – Jackie Chan),甄子丹 (Yen ZiDan – Donnie Yen), to name a few. When I was a child, I watched Bruce’s movies and every day wondered, “When will it be my turn to do that?” My Dad told me with a laugh, “Do you know how many Bruce Lees there are in the world? One! Only one!” I know that he wished that I live a peaceful life – grow up smoothly, find a good job, get married and bring up children. However, I have my dream to become the dragon (龙 means dragon in Chinese) like Bruce Lee who was great at kungfu. As the old saying goes, “The one who knows a son the best is his father.” “Hey, son! Why do you insist on learning kungfu?” my dad asked me once. “I want to be a famous kungfu star!” “No, it’s not that! Be sensible, please!” “Um, I want to be a stronger ...

How to poop in orbit – astronaut Sam Cristoforetti’s how-to video

More at the Washington Post, or hit Cristoforetti’s webpage for articles and other videos. The International Space Station also has a new coffee machine that makes espresso. It was designed by Lavazza, the Italian coffee company. Molto buono!

A fat raise, a countryside wedding, English speaking contest time, an upcoming trip

A fat raise, a countryside wedding, English speaking contest time, an upcoming trip
JISHOU, HUNAN — April has turned out to be a very busy month, so I’ve been lax in posting here. Here’s a lame attempt at catching up. Three weeks ago, the slow leak in the bathroom that I’ve put up with for a year started to become a fast leak, so I told my foreign affairs officer, Sue, about it. She arranged for a repairman to come fix it, and by the way asked if I would extend my contract another year. In fact, I’d been considering this question myself since the start of the winter holiday in January. This is my seventh year in Jishou, and while my pay got a generous boost last year, it’s still below what I could make elsewhere in Hunan, much less almost anywhere else in China. You see, I’d been combing the ESL job boards to see what was available and at what pay level during the winter holiday. Competing with the purely mercenary aspect of work were two other factors. One, I really hate moving. Not that I have a lot to move, but the hassles of changing banks, addresses, etc., is not something I really enjoy doing unless it’s absolutely necessary. ...

Comparing travel options to Shanghai: different ETAs but all about $100

Comparing travel options to Shanghai: different ETAs but all about $100
JISHOU, HUNAN — There is now a high speed rail station just an hour and a half from here, so I crunched some numbers to compare the various options to reach Shanghai, one of China’s international air hubs. China’s high speed rail (HSR) system has been extended to Huaihua, the next city south of here, which is already a rail hub for the standard rail system. There are frequent trains between Jishou and Huaihua, giving me yet another way to reach Shanghai and thence the USA. I’ve kept the prices in US dollars for simplicity’s sake. Option 1: Bus to Changsha (5 hours/$21), fly to Shanghai (2.5 hours/$87 best price) = $108 Option 2: Direct train to Shanghai (23 hours, price between $21 for hard seat to $90 for soft sleeper) = $90 tops Option 3: Bus to Changsha (5 hours/$21), HSR to Shanghai (5.5 hours/$80 for second class ticket or $128 first class) = $101 minimum Option 4: Train to Huaihua (1.5 hours, prices range from $1.50 to $17), HSR to Shanghai (7.5 hours/$104 second class or $168 first class) = $105 minimum You’ll note the prices all cluster around $100, but I have not factored in taxi or ...

An update on my former student, Carla Wu

An update on my former student, Carla Wu
JISHOU, HUNAN — I’ve been holding off on posting about Carla Wu Shuang until I was sure of what was going on. And I’m sorry to say, it’s not good news. When I last posted about Carla, it was all good news. Her cancer seemed to be in remission, and she and her fiancé went ahead with their wedding plans and held the ceremonies in his hometown on January 1. They held similar festivities in Carla’s hometown of Yueyang in February, after the Chinese New Year. By then, Carla was already two months pregnant. But Carla told me in February her leg was bothering her, and she was feeling weaker than before. Last month, she consulted with her doctors. They gave her some grim news. The osteosarcoma in her thigh had returned, and there was little they could do without jeopardizing her baby. On Tuesday, she told me she was now suffering from terrible backaches, as well. Doctors this time told her the cancer had probably spread to her kidneys, and now the choice was even more grim. For her to survive, they would have to terminate the pregnancy. I have not heard from her since Tuesday, so I can’t ...

After more than a decade, we meet again … in China

After more than a decade, we meet again ... in China
CHANGSHA, HUNAN — Maybe some Cold Spring Harbor High School alums — and maybe a few Princeton ones, too — will recognize the man on the left. He’s Bill Shain, who taught American history at CSHHS in the 1970s, then went on to serve in the Princeton admissions office. And he was in Changsha (of all places) last month, as part of a whirlwind professional gig touring China. We met there, and were joined by one of my own students, Helen Xiao, who is a graduate student in Changsha, for dinner and drinks on a Sunday evening. Student, teacher and teacher’s teacher. Rather poetic, no? Bill was in China last year, traveling with representatives of the Kitebridge program, but our mutual schedules did not allow a rendezvous. This time, they passed through Changsha, which is just five hours from Jishou. So, I asked for leave from my Monday classes and took the bus there on a Sunday morning. Kitebridge arranges for Chinese junior high school students to attend one of several American private high schools. Bill consults with schools and such on the American college admissions process, so Kitebridge retained him as an expert. He says his role in China ...

Photo: Crescent Moon and Venus, March 23

Photo: Crescent Moon and Venus, March 23
TAOHUAYUAN, HUNAN — I was on my way back from Changsha Monday evening, and snapped this shot of the Moon and Venus in the western sky around 7:15 pm with my cellphone. The shots are grainy, because I didn’t have time to diddle with the phone’s settings. I just let it set the ISO, etc. automatically. Still, not bad for a cellphone. The Changsha-Jishou bus typically makes a pit stop at the TaoHuaYuan rest area — about halfway — so time was limited. The color in the left hand shot I corrected with IrfanView’s automatic mode. The color in the right hand shot I left as is.

Video: The power of pele — Hawai’i’s Kilauea volcano

It’s just about six minutes long, but this video will give you an idea of the power of the Earth underneath our feet. And rather fittingly, today is the birthday of my cousin Ernie, who lives in Oahu. Happy Birthday!

The top destinations for expats; China is #38

InterNations is an association for expatriates around the world, regardless of where they’re from. Each year, InterNations surveys its members’ opinions of their countries of residence, and publishes the results. Here’s the map of the top expat destinations, taking into account all factors. China is number 38. It ranks low on education opportunities for children and ease of settling in a new community, largely because of language and cultural barriers, but high on cost of living and ease of finding a job.. Clicking on either map will take you the InterNations.org website for more information.

A week-long roller coaster for China’s viral anti-pollution video

A week-long roller coaster for China's viral anti-pollution video
Last weekend, just before an important national party congress meeting, former state media newscaster Chai Jing released her environmental video, 穹顶之下 (qióng dǐng zhī xià, or Under the Dome). By midweek, it had been viewed online more than 15 million times, and by Friday, hundreds of millions of times. Then it disappeared from China’s video streaming websites. Any residual links just give an error message saying the video is no longer available. Although Chai had obtained permission to share the self-produced video from government officials, it seems the widespread popularity of the film caught them off-guard. Discussion of the film is still being permitted online for now. Comments critical of the central government are being deleted, however. Although the movie first appeared with Chinese subtitles, common in China with scores of local languages, there were no complete English subtitles until Friday. Organized by a Chinese 12th grader and an expat, an international team translated the one hour and forty minutes of Chinese subtitles into English. The result can be seen on YouTube. Clicking the subtitles/CC button to the left of the gear icon will turn on the English subs. The future of the film, which Chai spent a year researching, ...

America had The Dress, China has duang!

America had The Dress, China has duang!
While the rest of the world was debating the colors of The Dress, people in China were busy popularizing a new word: duang. Jackie Chan may have been the first to coin the word, but he used it as a sound effect, like “Boing!” in English. Chan used it during a commercial for a shampoo he endorses, saying it “Duang! Made my hair thick and fluffy!” The word has gained a new meaning that’s gone quickly viral in the last few days. It now means something like “digital effects,” i.e., not real. There’s even a viral video spoofing the original commercial by editing it to seem as if Chan is rapping lyrics. Tóu fa 头发, by the way, means “hair.” Why the sudden popularity? It’s hard to say, but it’s probably because of duang’s association with Chan. His son, Jaycee, recently served time for drug offenses. And the “all natural” shampoo Chan extols in the ad is alleged to contain artificial ingredients and chemicals. Plus, Chan, a Hong Kong native, has publicly criticized his birthplace for being too wild and free. Many of his critics believe Chan dissed Hong Kong so he could make movies more easily on the more ...

The first stage of The China Chronicles is almost finished

The first stage of The China Chronicles is almost finished
For the last several weeks, aside from my travel time, I’ve been working on pulling all my China posts from the last seven years into WordPress pages, to make finding and reading them more easy. The eventual goal is to turn them into a book of some kind. Here’s the introduction to what I’m calling The China Chronicles for now. You can also find the links to it and the chapters following in the righthand sidebar. This is a work in progress, so please excuse the rough edges.
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