miscellaneous

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In the Gulou days

Reminiscence, history and a walking tour of Beijing – by Alec Ash


Nostalgia is hard to keep up with in China. That old bar, that old neighbourhood, that old friend – memories accrue quickly along with the fast turn-over here, silt at the bottom of a swift river. Circumstances change, people come and go. Just count the number of new restaurants on your street. The way we talk about last year is the way folk back home talk about last decade. The constants – rent hikes, food poisoning, strangers taking selfies with you – are almost comforting.

The space I feel most nostalgic about in Beijing is the courtyard between the drum and bell tower.

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April Fool’s in ancient China

 

Now it’s past noon, if you fell for any April Fool’s pranks today it’s your own fault, chump. Last year we fooled a few of you ourselves; this time, we're delving into Chinese history and legend. The Chinese term for April Fool’s Day is 愚人节 (yúrénjié – literally “idiots festival”). And as some of you will know – apologies to the old hands to whom this is old hat – playing jokes on friends today is a tradition which originated in China, in the Warring States period.

The story goes that the King of Chu had difficulty deciding which of his four favourite ministers to promote to the position of top court official, in effect his right hand man.

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Why I Blog

Orwell's motives for writing in the blog age – by Alec Ash

 

On Tuesday the 18th, 8pm at iQiYi cafe opposite the Bookworm, I'm on the panel for Blogging China, part of the Bookworm literary festival. It should be a free ranging discussion of English language blogs about China, hosted by Anthony Tao from Beijing Cream, with Mia Li from Sinosphere, Tao Stein, and Jeremy Goldkorn.

George Orwell, in his essay Why I Write, said there are four motives for writing of any kind: (i) Sheer egoism, (ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm, (iii) Historical impulse, and (iv) Political purpose. I figured I'd do the same for why I blog.

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A Modest Proposal

For preventing the Corrupt officials of China from being a Burden to their country's Progress and for making them Beneficial to the Public

 

It is a melancholy object to travel through this great country of China, and see its provincial cities, towns and villages burdened by the venality of its corrupt local officials. These Party Chiefs, Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries, instead of honest service implementing the well intentioned directives of central authority, rely on fat envelopes and splendid gifts, handed under-table or with excessive ceremony, for comfort beyond what is necessary or appropriate, while their appetite at the table weighs down both themselves and the Nation.

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Ask an unsavory element ...

 

The 28 contributing authors of Unsavory Elements ("Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China"), last did an AMA – Ask Me Anything – session on Reddit over the weekend. It's a window into the lives and writing of some folk who've been in China a long time, and is worth skimming in full. There were questions and answers across a wide range – from cross-cultural dating to toasting baijiu – but I've selected a few of them here that relate most generally to the expat experience. Enjoy.

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