non-fiction

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Dude, where are my socks?

The anatomy of a door-to-door Taobao delivery – by Alec Ash

 

If you live in China and are anything like me, you order a lot from Taobao. The last dozen items I purchased from the online shopping site are: foam ear plugs, a wooden moxibustion set, USB speakers shaped like a panda head, a hemp cushion with a union jack design (vote no, Scots!), a laptop stand, a wireless keyboard and mouse, a piano stand clip-on light, a fridge magnet that you can snap open bottle caps against, a bottle of Bruichladdich whisky, a portable iPhone battery charger, and a tai chi sword. I have just revealed too much about myself.

If you have lived outside of China and are anything like me, you are in awe of Taobao. First, there's the old saw that Taobao has everything.

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Ramadan in Kashgar

Searching for a morsel in Xinjiang – by Brent Crane

 

Unless you are in Kashgar during Ramadan, as a foreigner you will never go hungry in China. Eating is a national obsession, and takes on an almost sacred air. Cheap restaurants are everywhere, people are constantly talking about food, and Chinese hosts will bend over backwards to make sure you’ve eaten enough. Often I'm confronted by a fierce jabbing of chopsticks in the direction of a half-finished communal dish and the barking command “eat!”.

So I was surprised to find myself roaming the twisting streets of Kashgar’s atmospheric old town, with a rumbling stomach and diminishing chances of finding an open restaurant.

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Love, or Nearest Offer

Finding a catch in the marriage market – by Alec Ash

 

Chinese Valentine's day, Qixijie, came and went. Roses were sold, promises told, single beds felt extra cold.

On the day, there were blind dating events for singles across the city. Some ladies who were more self-affirming about their singlehood performed in the Leftover Monologues. And the Global Times dusted off the old saw about materialism and romance in China (even quoting yours truly, to my embarrassment).

But for those who didn't find their soulmate by the end of the Saturday night, there was always a backup option the next morning – marriage market.

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Identity Papers

On being Chinese, but not – by James Hsu

 

When I was growing up in Canada, my mom used to tell me a story about how our Taiwanese relatives got cheated when they visited mainland China. The story meant only one thing – that all mainland Chinese were thieves and could not be trusted.

It must have been the early nineties, because the tale has been repeated endlessly for at least two decades. My mom wasn’t there, but she heard it from her sisters. As the story goes, my aunts visited China for a tour in the summer. They were looking for a place to exchange their Taiwanese dollars for Chinese yuan.

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Dark Displays

Sightseeing the Nanjing Massacre Museum – by Christian Shepherd

 

"Alright mate. Where've you got to?" I'm sat on the benches at the exit."

Relieved, I up my pace to a brisk walk. "With you shortly."

"No rush mate – watching an interesting documentary on the author of The Rape of Nanking. You don't want to skimp on the torture and beheadings section."

I slow down. "Hold on – you're still downstairs?"

There's a pause on the other end of the line. "Upstairs? There's more?"

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