China doesn’t have to have rivers that run bright red with industrial waste, or our lakes and beaches smothered by thick, green algae, or 18,000 dead virused pigs floating down the Huangpu River. We shouldn’t have to check our air quality index app on our phone every day to determine whether we should let our children outside to play. There shouldn’t be any more Chinese children who, when they go abroad for the first time, ask: ‘Mommy, why is the sky so blue?’… China can be better than this. China needs to carve our own unique way to a thriving life and stable community — a path that is a sustainable path. If we don’t do this soon, we will end up with a China Nightmare. And there’s no escaping that a China Nightmare is a global nightmare.
Everyday Carry: Beijing v San Francisco
In SF biking streamlines my personal effects.

Everyday Carry: Beijing v San Francisco

In SF biking streamlines my personal effects.

Random notes on Shanghai

(Mainly in contrast with Beijing)

  • the subway transfers are insane and make the Guomao Line 1/10 transfer seem quick
  • 1 RMB coins are everywhere, one kuai bills are rare
  • SH drivers are nicer than BJ drivers—they don’t threaten to mow you down (as much)
  • fruit is expensive.  bananas were almost 2 kuai—Trader Joe’s sells bananas for cheaper back in America
  • always carry an umbrella and insect repellent
  • Shanghainese sounds a bit like Korean

Was in Shanghai for 4.5 days; wish I could’ve stayed longer—I’m definitely a Southerner.

Comparing the Chinese market with the rest of the world.
The data is old (from 2010), but still mind-boggling.

Comparing the Chinese market with the rest of the world.

The data is old (from 2010), but still mind-boggling.

I’ve been in Beijing for three months without sharing any photos.

Finally.

我好囧阿! —I’m a good window?

In Chinese, there is an archaic character, 囧 (jiong3), which referred to the old ricepaper windows overlaid with wooden patterns. It fell out of use because houses were no longer built with such windows, but in the past decade internet users started to use this character as a emoticon, thus bringing the word back with a new meaning.

我好囧阿! (wǒ hǎo jiǒng a,  I’m so embarassed!)

What I love about Barbara Klemm’s work is how timelessly some of them reflect the human condition.  She’s has other photos of old China which are intriguing because of how things haven’t changed in over 25 years, like transporting goods on bikes, wearing scarves on windy days (we still get the occasional sandstorm), and the bicycle food vendors.  However, as someone’s who’s been seeing periodic glimpses of Beijing for the past decade, these scenes are fading, and they’ll soon turn to novelty (if they haven’t already for foreigners).

What speaks to me more deeply are gestures like the two figures dancing, the family sharing a park bench, or that little girl’s pout at the market.  The costumes may change, but the characters won’t.

(See more at the Museum für Moderne Kunst’s web site—it’s a pity not all her photos are online.)

Kuandao, Diandian, iFeng, the Chinese Tumblrs

Came across this nice collection on bizarro Tumblr while trying to find the source of the Julião Sarmento illustration.  Unsurprisingly, there are a number of Chinese copies of Tumblr out here: KuandaoDiandianiFeng. The content is generally the same stuff that gets reblogged here (cute girls, nicely designed items, illustrations, architecture, kittens..), but there’s some original content as well.  I found this guy’s stream on farming pretty cool (he also took a photo of his jacket in the field—workwear!).  And the light nature of microblogging makes it easy for a beginner Chinese reader to comprehend words.

E.g. 没什么永远,没什么很久,找个借口,谁都可以先走

(Of course much of the writing leans towards ennui/angst.)

That original Beijing hustle.

Barbara Klemm. Beijing, 1985.

That original Beijing hustle.

Barbara Klemm. Beijing, 1985.

Shanghai love triangle quadrilateral
Barbara Klemm. Shanghai, 1985.

Shanghai love triangle quadrilateral

Barbara Klemm. Shanghai, 1985.