Post
Tales from the hutong

Three vignettes from old Beijing in midwinter

 

In the two months I have lived at no. 19 Xiguan hutong (between the mahjong hall and public toilets, past the sex shop and suspiciously located massage parlour next door), I have come to know the school kid who plays saxophone in the back of a cycle rickshaw, the market man who sells pak choi at a discount when he thinks it’s ugly-looking, and the army of fat cats who mobilise on the low rooftops at dusk.

Hutong life keeps giving. Here are three vignettes from it.

READ ON...

Post
What a difference a year makes

Reflections on how China has changed in two years

 

As with dog years, so is it with China years – one here is equivalent to several most places else. They just fit more in. When it comes to pace of change, no-one else holds a candle really.

I’ve been out of China for two years. For a dog, that’s ten human years, and you could argue the rate for China is about the same. It’s like leaving London shortly after the millenium and coming back for the Olympics. Recognisable, but look closer and you notice all the new things.

READ ON...

Post
Diary of an AIDS activist

Cheng Xiangyang of AIDS charity 爱源 talks to Alec Ash in Beijing

 

“In 1997, in my village in Henan province, China, people started to die inexplicably. There were certain symptoms they all had in common: fever, diarrhoea, and so on. More and more of us fell sick and died. The doctors said there was no virus - but they didn't test for HIV.

READ ON...

Post
“I Want to Marry a Chinese Man”

The battle diary of a foreigner on Chinese TV – by Sasha Draggeim

 

“More emotion! Make it natural! Relax!!” the director shouted into his microphone as I awkwardly pranced around the stage, background dancers scurrying to and fro. The advice wasn’t helping: the more I tried to act natural, the more nervous I was at the prospect of appearing on television in China to millions of viewers in a tiny strapless dress, singing “I Want to Marry a Chinese Man” in Mandarin.

READ ON...

Post
Photo Essay: Across Eurasia in 50 days

A journey from Oxford to Beijing in 16 pictures

 

Phileas Fogg took 40 days – October 2nd to November 11th, half of his allotted time around the world – to reach the port of Shanghai from London. When I returned to China overland from England this autumn, it took me 50 days. Bested by ten days – drat! Of course my aim wasn't to "jump mathematically" between train and boat connections, as Mr Fogg did, but to take my time and see Western Europe slowly change into Eastern China.

READ ON...