Recently in China Category

Cedric + Cheer

Not exactly a shrine, but relatively speaking, you could find, in this small records shop called 3PM, in Causeway bay, that probably held item by Cheer Chen, and a lot of different artists who you would like if you are a fan of hers. Man, isn't it great to be able to find all your niche items you've ever dreamt of?

That Monday night, I met up with the Chris/Laine, Tiffany, and Mirek, and went to a chain restaurant called Red Ant. Then, picked up a dessert drink (pomelo + mango) and a couple of drinks at some expat bar behind the Lee Gardens in Tung Lo Wan.

Yesterday was shopping day, as I got my electronics essentials (mobile phone + voice recorder), and clothing from UniQlo, where clerks greet you constantly with "foon ying, kwong lin" and random souvenirs from Goods of Desire. where clerks are dressed as monks.

Today? Preparing mentally for a trip to Taiwan, calling up people and going to Sheung Wan.

Edit (2008-02-08): The Spring Scream organization just released their 2008 website today, partly finished. You can actually explore the directory listing, as they forgot to put a index.html file...

Spring Scream logo

Spring Scream is a rock, anything-but-Mandopop, music festival in the resort town of Kenting at the south-most tip of Taiwan. Held since 1995, and according to many English-language publications from Taiwan, it is the festival that was held for the longest in consecutive years on the island of Formosa.

Official dates haven't been announced yet, but the festival's official MySpace says that it should be on April 3-6 (the 3rd had a question mark), which is the "Ching Ming" (tomb-sweeping day) long weekend across Greater China. This year is the year of the rat, so Spring Scream will "Double Rat" for its 14th edition. Last year, two Canadian bands were on the list of attendees, Girl + The Machine and Rhythmicru, both from Toronto. In total, there were about 250 bands / artists attending Spring Scream, including the more "general public" Cheer Chen, Faith Yang, Tizzybac and Dessert Chang.

According to some site that I found, tickets last year were in pre-sale as soon as February 18th, and the second sale period had tickets listed at NT1300 (CAD40) for the entire festival, and NT600 (CAD20) for one day, one venue. The location of the festival is the Eluanbi ("some mystical duck nose") Lighthouse.

The hardest so far in preparing to go was accommodation in Kenting. Presuming that this is an isolated town (the closest major city, Kaohsiung, being 2h30 away in bus), it shouldn't be easy to find anything cheap. I called the Kenting Youth Hostel aka Activity Center (infamously linked to this), and they had room now (despite the YH-affiliated website saying they did not). It is NT3500 (CAD100) for a double bed room, which is ok if you share, but prohibitive if you are backpacking alone. A surfing website listed guesthouses for surfers that asked for a little less. I've read somewhere that camping in the Kenting National Park would be possible at a minimal fee...


View Larger Map

(Updated map 2008-02-27: Apparently, I had the wrong location... This is a map prepared by Jimi of the Spring Scream festival - see original)

My friend Fiona, a Chinese American now living in Beijing, started a new blog about the "gently offbeat in a decidedly uncute city". Check it out!

http://www.quirkybeijing.com/

Comme les Chinois

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Comme les Chinois

Last few hours of 2007, and I am launching "Comme les Chinois", a blog on Chinese-Canadianess/Quebecness in this country's both official languages.

http://commeleschinois.ca/

27-year-old Lu Yang playing ZT Online, photo by Southern Weekly

I feel the need to repost this interesting article about a Chinese MMORPG called ZT Online (article translated by the excellent Danwei), originally published by Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly, a newspaper known for its remarkable journalism (no matter what is said on freedom of speech in China, it is at times indistinguishable from Western liberal democracies).

It is a fairly long article. Unlike WoW, ZT Online does not require you to pay to play. In fact, for playing a certain amount of hours (120 per month, as reported in the article), you even get 100RMB! But unlike WoW, too, you must buy your way up in the levelling hierarchy, as monsters don't drop items, and you must buy materials to make the equipment.

Asia 2002 pictures

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Tokyo 2002

Because it's the Holidays, one has the tendency to do stuff that he might not be doing during the rest of the year. In previous years, I've done such things as play video games 24/7, or install Linux for the first time while skipping a family dinner. This year is no different, and I've been passing my old 2002 pictures of my first trip to Asia, specifically Hong Kong, Tokyo, the Shanghai region and Beijing (pics not up yet). I've been playing with levels in photo editor software, which is Gimp, in my case, and it has been doing marvels to make my pictures more colourful.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/smurfmatic/sets/72157603534104889/

South China Morning Post

The South China Morning Post is published in Hong Kong, and is a newspaper that I am very fond of. So fond of that I took photos of the copy that my parents bought at the HK International Airport on the day that they came back from their four-week trip to China. September 27th also happens to be my birthday, being one extra reason to spend time on a petty newspaper copy (albeit one that comes from the city I love the most outside of Montreal, written in the one language spoken in Hong Kong that I am most familiar with)...

China September 2007 trip

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9.05.07 - BEIJING

My parents were in China for the whole month, and my father was in China for the first time since getting married (and that was just in HK). The cover pic (more below) was taken at the Forbidden City.

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My parents just came back from China. This was my belly, and a t-shirt from the UniQlo Creative Award 2007 (intense Flash alert) collection. All that I can say is that for the equivalent of $15-20 in Canadian dollars worth of t-shirt, it'd be my ruin if I were to live in Asia. But then, I don't, so I am safe.

Among those listed, my mother picked (indeed) Kiyotake Ogawa's "pattern". I thought that the World one (with Antarctica on the back), the Lazio Street and the Pigeons and Man are probably the other best ones.

(My love affair with UniQlo in fact started with a branch way outside of Tokyo, in a town called Ichinoseki, along the northern Shinkansen line. I was visiting my friend Uri, who was out there in the Iwate prefecture, teaching English in a small sleepy fishing town. UniQlo is best described as Gap's Japanese counterpart, at Old Navy's prices, with a certain emphasis on design - at least for North American eyes and fingers, it comes across as being close to the tip of trendy, deserving praise for encouraging volk-creativity with its various t-shirt design contests. UniQlo opened in the USA just a year or two ago, with its flagship store in SoHo, NYC. It shouldn't take long before Toronto gets one, and perhaps even Montreal.)

China 2007: Beijing + Shanghai

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I was not in China this year, and probably won't be back for some time, but my parents are currently there, and I could not help but post some of my father's pics (chosen so that they aren't of temples or other boring stuffs).

Shanghai: lining up at the gas station Shanghai: lining up at the gas station

National Pride in Hong Kong

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SCMP Chart on National Pride in HK, via Mask of China.

How you can change your mind about the totalitarian regime that took over your territory... For the general public, the totalitarian aspect of China seems pretty mild for regular working citizens from an external point of view. And as for these statistics, HK is still a island of relative free speech and free everything in a sea of relative restraint/censorship (I was reading how it is rather expected that you self-censor yourself in China, more than having a thought police run around hunting for dissidents).

In any case, I don't know. I am very interested in HK/China politics, and wish that the Bibliotheque Nationale du Quebec wasn't two months late in receiving the SCMP (about the only reliable publication that I can *read*). I would go to 6/4 and 7/1 walks, but I am not the kind of person to press for democracy right now for real (but understand the idea that you ask for 200% of something, if you want to insure to have 100% of it). And, I generally think that things must be gradual, and that immediate opening of the political system will only lead to an USSR-like collapse. See South Korea, Taiwan (all former brutal dictatorships), and Singapore (practically a single-party-thus-dictatorship city-state).

In general, I am proud of the HKness of my Chineseness. Was not born there, and my mother didn't even live there for more than a few weeks/months, I think (she passed by Taiwan for a few months, to get her papers for Canada). But uncles/aunts from both sides of the family live there, and I do consume more than the incidental HK culture, and speak of going to HK as "going _back_ to HK" (faan heung kong). Proud of its modernity, cleanliness, although I think I really need to go back to Beijing (five years after, and a year before the Olympics) and wander around in SH, not as a mere Western-born/grown tourist. Etc. Back to work.

Went to see Chinese Restaurants: Three Continents, the third of five films where the producer/director Cheuk Kwan goes around the world and recounts the lives of Chinese diaspora members from the perspective of the restaurants they own. In every city, little town out of nowhere, there is a Chinese restaurant. Mr Kwan, an engineer by training, left his job ("mid-life crisis") to focus on his project, which took him to fifteen different countries.

The three countries featured in this film were Madagascar, Norway and Canada. I was particularly interested in the Madagascar one, because my dad was born there and grew up there. Many of the familiar places my father told me about are described in the episode, the very long staircase going up the hill in Tananarive and which my dad escalated twice every schoolday, and a Chinese school opened by Chinese business people (it could've been the one my grandpa helped funding - but then the one in the movie was built in the 40s).

And the colourful Jim Chow from Outlook, SK, Canada, had one of the most interesting answers when asked whether he considered himself Chinese or Canadian: "I am myself". And my own "myself" is probably in a constant state of flux, with varying amounts of pull and push, of resisting, of letting go.

A heck of a series, and if I had $100 to fork out for the DVD set, I would (if it were just half of this, I definitely would - hey, it has it all: diasporic identity, immigration stories, Chinese food - from that-which-fools-gweilo and fusion flavours!). Available at the NFB centre on St-Denis x Ste-Cath in Montreal (first time I go there - and it basically has a couple of screening rooms almost as large as Ex-Centris' smallest, and half a floor with multimedia viewing stations, and that cool robotic film selection thing).

So I went to the Montreal consultation for the head tax issue this afternoon, at the new Chinese community centre in Chinatown. The room was packed with victims of the Head Tax and Exclusion Act. The head tax was a tax imposed on every immigrant of Chinese origin starting in 1885, and until 1947. In the meanwhile, the Chinese Immigration Act was adopted by the House of Commons in 1923 to limit Chinese immigration to 50 per year (link). I've never heard of the head tax or exclusion act until the last federal election campaign, nor did my direct family on both sides been affected by it.

The consultation was hosted by Heritage Canada, and the minister herself, The Honourable Bev Oda was present. It was said that the venue held about 300 people, most of whom were elderly citizens of Chinese origin, and at most 20 people of my age or younger.

INVITATION

The Chinese community is invited to a consultation on redress for the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act this Saturday April 29 at the Cultural Centre on Clark street in Chinatown, beginning at 13:30. Bev Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Jason Kenney, special assistant to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, will be here to listen to what the Chinese community in Montreal want in terms of redress.

Prime Minister Harper announced in the Throne Speech on April 4 that this year, we will finally receive an apology. However, the government would also like to hear what the community would like in terms of a full redress.

Please come in great numbers to show that the community supports full redress, especially for the direct victims of these racist immigration laws, and please come out to support the families as they tell their stories to the government for the first time!

Thank you!

May Chiu

More on the head tax issue:
- http://www.headtaxredress.org/
- http://www.ccnc.ca/redress/

Google's China Problem

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A very interesting article in tomorrow's NYT magazine, in very nice reporting style about the woes of Google in China. I share the views of Google, and people in China: it's better to have a bit of Google than no Google at all (but it's a whole different thing when there's active collaboration, like in many cases where dissident e-mails have been exposed, etc).

I think that most people are aware of the censorship, but live with it. My political history prof in cegep used to tell us how the youth became desensitized to the business of politics after 1989. If I am correct, people simply focus on economic growth with little or no democracy - just like HK in the 60s-90s, Taiwan of the Kuomingtang, and South Korea of the not-so-distant dictatorship, or hey, Singapore of today (or the quasi single-party Malaysia). There's something I can't grasp. I tried reading up on Taoism and Confucianism. Let there be economic growth, and some level of democracy will appear. If it's not "democracy" with western-style institutions, then at least let it be transparency in the affairs of the Party. In the very end, the people who govern seek the good for their country (if not, some way or another, there will be unrest).

Trouble in Disneyland

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hk.disneyland.entrance.jpg

Yeah, I don't know what's wrong with Disneyland HK. First, it was the announcement of a Disneyland in Shanghai (in like ten years, but still), before Disneyland HK was even close to be finished.

Then, last spring, when it was just a few months to opening date, came along the shark's fin drama. It wasn't so much that Disney was particularly evil b/c it served shark's fin soup at its hotel facilities; it's in fact a common thing to do in China (at least South China, 'cause, you know, it's such a large country that you can't assume what they do in your ancestors' region of origin that it's true for the rest of the country!), and if you're a HK hotel into the banquet industry, you can't afford not to serve shark's fin (customers potentially losing face == you not potentially getting their customership). Eventually, Disney backed off, probably after lots of focus group meetings, and banned shark's fin from the menu, not without trying to prance around with proposals such as getting shark's fins from "sustainable sources" (so, I remember this cartoon by Harry in the SCMP where Baby Shark comes back home with his dorsal sawed off, and Mommy Shark lecturing him not to play with the kids from the sustainable shoal - Mickey Mouse scuba-ing away with fins in hand).

It's not that the cause was unjust to defend - in fact, the way sharks have their fin sawed off and left adrift b/c shark's meat is teh suck (at least not the kind of shark I had the immense pleasure to eat at some Indian Ocean island food place XD), but Disney makes for the most excellent media attention-grabber evar. But that, everyone knew it.

Anyways, even more bad news (even stuff that I forgot about) from HK Disneyland, which would probably not help them recuperate of their faltering image in the HK press... Pitiful. The park is co-owned by the HK govt, and if the management keeps screwing up, it's the HK people who'll end up mopping up...

Now for a little bit of China

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I've been in a relative down wrt China, Asia, and the rest of what I usually consumed. Quebec movies, Canadian music, live shows in French, European cuisine? So it's weird that I didn't actually have a tag for China or Asia on this blog, other than for the actual trip there last year.

A strange conjecture tipped the current equilibrium. First, it was astrael's post (and my subsequent comment post), and secondly, it was my grandparents coming back from their annual winter-long trip to HK.

I was even considering skipping family dinner tonight, but watching hockey is a really stupid excuse. And I really enjoy talking with relatives-not-in-household (not that I don't enjoy it with them too - simply that we live so closely to each other than there's not much space to talk about anything non utilitarian - but I venture the guess that when I move out, this will definitely change), especially my grandparents. I am not forced to speak in Cantonese to anyone in Canada unless I speak with them - and when I do, woaw do I feel invincible!

For about four months - since October/Novemberish, both of them went to HK, visited Shanghai, some other deeper places in Guangdong province I've never heard of (where my grandmother claims that there are natural hot springs?), and of course had many many trips across the border to Shenzhen (where she described those 2000-employee spa complexes). My aunt/uncle here are now thinking of bringing my two cousins back with them to HK in July (while my uncle lived in HK for a while, my CBC aunt never did). *Now*, the big news is that my mother also wants to go in July, and wants to take along my little brother, and hopefully my father as well.

Basically, I am not fighting the impossibility and irresponsibility of returning again, but am planning ahead to wildify my usual summer party(ies). :D

No joke though is that after the Habs beat the Bruins, I spent the next hour or two at the dinner table sipping cheap Chinese tea and eating Macanese almond candies with grandparents (especially my grandmother), mother, aunt, chatting away about HK (useless chattering, as I spend half a day just trying to express an idea). My grandmother gets the belief that HKers are a different kind from the ones living overseas. They are quick, and they know how to talk (and to what I've countered for years that anyone would behave that exact same way if living in any big cosmopolitan city). We also agree on how the food is so much better - how my cousins and brother need to see the world of variety in Chinese cuisine (the next person ordering General Tao chicken in front of me will know my impassionate hatred for pseudo-Chineseness). I wanted to get the point across that clothes are so much are easier to fetch, b/c THEY ARE THE RIGHT SIZE! :O (So I laughed in the face of my friend Sean who went to Beijing for a month and thought that everything was so... short)

But going back to the China to make my own life has always seemed like a counter-intuitive thing to do. It's irrational (why go back to a semi-developed country after all these efforts made to emigrate?) - with more than some element of an underlying quest for identity. I'm alright with "Canadian-born Chinese", and it hasn't always been the case, but do I want to move back to China to live, let alone Hong Kong? A year ago, I said, way to go, that is exactly possible, and what I've wanted to do since like I was 19. OTOH, now, I think I could be content with a life in a tranquil town, with little action, and perhaps fork out a few thousand bucks once every few years for a pilgrimage to HK.

As opposed to 2002, this time I had a month stretch where I *only* stayed in HK and South China - basically living the life of a HK tai gong. :D I nonetheless discovered the city for real, deviated from the obvious landmarks (the big Buddha on Lantau, which I still haven't seen - but the new cable car should help), and got to know some of the more remote areas of the SAR, as well as participating in local events / gatherings (although I regret not knowing about the indie scene earlier). This is my idea of a safe way to get a change of scenery.

The next time I go, I wouldn't want to go alone, again. I would, OTOH, want to make my way to Xinjiang and the mountainous southwest (Chongqing), not with a tour, but with my backpack... I looked into the prices for the train trip from HK to Shanghai with the KCR (came to about 100CAD one-way hard-sleeper) but didn't dare booking it and I was also already way over-budget and out of time. That's probably going to go for 2008. The "youth hostels" I looked for in SH are super affordable and well-located, and I hope they stay that way.

One of the most eye-opening portion of the trip was to Dongguan, to my uncles' factories. "If we didn't put capital in it, there wouldn't be a factory at all, and those people wouldn't have work at all", says my aunt. Canadianized thinking asks you to wonder if there is another way than Dickensian economic growth this country is seeing. My belief is that a one-party system is required to sustain the economic growth, and that only through this growth can the country sustain a more transparent government (whether it's one-party or not - as long as there's a forum for real debate - hasn't Japan been governed by the same govt since WWII, except for a short stint of a few months, and how about S'pore?).

I'm worried about the state of world affairs. Ok, Crash is an over-simplified exaggeration... but what is actually brewing in countries envying the prosperity of others? What's going to happen when exploited people really fight back against their oppressor? So far, phew, the Cold War didn't destroy us all - while causing a lot of pain to a lot of people all around the world nonetheless, but I tend to side with Stephen Hawking about the fate of the Earth (search earth/destroy).

It's not exactly where I thought that talking about China led me to. I guess I am more a gloomy person than a jovial one. Other than that, yes, the world is more than Montreal, and yes, I can be more interested in my roots, starting with travelling with the olfactory and the gustatory.

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