Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Along the River During the Qingming Festival

One of the highlight of the Shanghai Expo was the remake of a well known Chinese painting 'Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival' (清明上河图) by the famous Song Dynasty painter Zhang Zeduan. It is presented in the format of a long panoramic view as soon in many Chinese paintings except much longer. The scale of the original painting measured at 528 cm long and 24.8 cm wide, this new installation is about 30 times the original size. However this is no ordinary remake, keeping up with modern technology the entire painting is fully digitized with CGI animations giving the audience a multimedia experience of an ancient artwork. Not only that the scene also cycles through night and day. It is being currently shown in Hong Kong, it was such a hit all the tickets were quickly sold out.

The fascination with the painting is the depictions of a bustling city where civilians busily running errands in preparation for the Qingming festival and doing all sorts of daily activities. The painting is based on the capital city of the Song Dynasty Bianjing, which is today's Kaifeng.  Now if you integrate that with modern technology the whole picture just literally comes to life like an animation on canvas. The painting gives us the glimpse into the daily lives of civilians during the Song Dynasty, showing people from all walks of society and occupations as the scenes transcend from one end to another, through different sections of the city. There's also various farm animals working along side humans like ox pulling carts along the street. The details in it are just immaculate.

Official homepage

Here's a little video clip in the first half with some background info of the production:

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Great Global Evil Empire: China

Following on from the last post I found a very interesting article in regards to the advert:

As the New York Times reported on Oct. 9, a startling percentage of those billions in campaign funds went toward advertising portraying China as the new Great Global Evil Empire -- and tarring those associated with it, no matter how marginally, as traitors to the republic. Worse yet, the cues used to invoke China's ominous rise were a familiar hash of discordant symbols: Great Leap Forward-era images of Mao. Looming shots of the Forbidden City's brass-bound gates. Factory lines of masked, dronelike workers. Rippling seas of revolutionary red. Twanging zither music, punctuated by the booming accents of opera gongs.

The sheer scale of China's awkward symbiosis with the U.S. would seem to caution against simplistic, knee-jerk demonization. After all, China is America's second-largest trading partner behind Canada, and following a heavy series of T-bill purchases over the past six months, the largest holder of our foreign debt -- nearly $870 billion worth and counting. That's not even considering the fact that China's burgeoning population of 1.4 billion people is poised to become the globe's second-largest consumer market in the next few years, with a roiling appetite for Western consumer goods (cars, liquor, luxury goods, iAnything).

These mutual dependencies -- and make no mistake, they are mutual -- have produced a world-straddling, tail-chasing, two-headed beast that historian Niall Ferguson has dubbed "Chimerica." Both America and China need the other to survive in order to thrive, yet each has recently had the tendency to play off fear and anger of the other in order to distract their populaces in times of unrest and anxiety.

The difference, of course, is that unlike China, our political system is founded on democracy, and our society is rooted in diversity. It's chilling to see American candidates run not against each other, but against the looming specter of a foreign country. It's even more alarming when one considers that a large and growing proportion of the U.S. population traces its heritage back to this newly ordained Ultimate Enemy -- or at least looks like it does. (As we've seen in the past, amped-up fear and rage have a way of blurring subtle distinctions like ancestry and ethnicity.)

More from the article:
Fear of a Chinese Planet

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Fear China

I apologise for slacking off with the blog lately. It's not easy balancing your work life and running several blogs on the internet at the same time.

Here's a very interesting video I found from another blog.

It's an ad campaign that attacks the American government's wasteful spending of tax dollars. The advert uses China as a backdrop and is presented like a Chinese propaganda ad. Although it might not be the message the advert intended to give out, but you cannot help feeling there's some sort of underlying message that harps fear into the viewers about China taking over and the demise of the United State. In fact it isn't so subtle, if you look at the imagery of chairman Mao and communist propaganda posters. It certainly brings back the good old cold war hysteria.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Not So Charming Man...

Yes you heard the outrageous comment from Morrisey calling Chinese 'sub-species' for mistreating animals. He has a track record for causing controversy with his racially charged comments, so it's nothing new here. Some say his comment were just winding up the white liberals, whilst other say it's a publicity stunt for his latest album/tour. Well I'm pretty sure that won't go down too well if he ever decide to release anything in China. To be fair most Chinese most likely have never heard of Morrisey to even give a damn.

As for myself I'm not offended or angry. But this does not mean it's justified though, whatever the motivation (means to generalize Chinese people or provoking controversy amongst white liberals) I think comments like this will have some negative impact towards the Chinese community being one of the least vocal groups in the UK. In regards to my views on animal cruelty in China I'll leave that for another post.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Hong Kong Tourist Tragedy in Manila

Eight people have been killed in a bus siege containing Hong Kong tourists in Philippine. The bus was hijacked by a gunman who was a former policeman, when the group was about to make it's way to the airport on apparently the last day of the tour. I've been following this on the Chinese news channel, it was very saddening watching the survivors being interviewed on TV. A woman who lost her husband and two daughters, an injured young girl was interviewed in the hospital bed who has yet to find out that both of her parents were killed. It was very heart wrenching. Two of the survivors are British nationals.

The Filipino police force has been heavily critisized for it's incompetence in handling the siege that took ten hours which could have been resolved without any deaths. The police force admitted that they were not trained and equipped for this sort of ordeal. Here's an interesting analysis from the BBC in how things should have been done:
Ten things the Philippines bus siege police got wrong

The chief executive of Hong Kong Donald Tsang is demanding an explanation about the incident, a delegation from the Philippines will be sent to HK in a few days.The tragedy has not only caused grief amongst HK citizens there's also the feeling of anger. SE Asia has been favourites for thousands of holiday makers from HK, for something like this to happen on vacation it is utterly shocking. I feel very sorry for the family and relatives of the those who were slain as their lives will never be the same again and this incident will haunt them forever.

More news:
Philippines president pledges Manila bus siege inquiry
Philippines hostage deaths draws anger from China over gunman's TV view
China angry after 8 tourists die on hijacked bus
Torn apart

Monday, 2 August 2010

Aftershock 唐山大地震

Aftershock is a big budget film based on the 1976 Tangshan earthquake which had the highest death toll of all earthquake in the 20th Century. The film is directed by Feng Xiaogang. The film has also recently broken box office record in China grossing over 100 million RMB in the first 3 days. From the trailer the film looks pretty epic that feature some neat CGI effect. It is also the first Chinese film to be shown in IMAX format.

Feng keeps his promise as 'Aftershock' dominates box office
'Aftershock' shakes the Chinese box office, setting new record

Thursday, 8 July 2010

From Communism to Consumerism

A very interesting article from the Guardian website about the fast growing consumers market in China, specifically in Shanghai. It was only a few decades ago that China started recovering from the destructive era of the cultural revolution, since China has opened itself up this has greatly transformed China from a largely peasant driven society to now a society of 'superconsumers', it's capitalism in full throttle. Quite simply it went from one extreme to another. There's the emergence of a growing middle class population that has hardly existed before.

There are some interesting points that got me thinking in this article. One being the environmental impact it will have, as the average population becomes wealthier and so does the increase for consumption, which correlates to the increasing demand for resources. Of course this is inevitable for a fast growing supereconomy like China, and also adding to the concern being the most populated country in the world. It's not going to be problem confined to China as other developing countries will soon follow suit. I'm not sure what can be done, but one suggestion in the article is to reconstruct the economy so that the consumption of resources will become more sustainable. What that involves, I don't have clue.

The second point in the article is the dramatic change in lifestyle in society. Only two generations ago majority of people in the mainland had barely enough to feed themselves and maintain their livelihood. With the growing economy and increasing income, people no longer need to worry about putting food on the table. They can afford many luxuries and maintain the middle class lifestyle with plenty more to spare. As the article mentioned obese children are becoming more common than before because this. But at the same time we need to bare in mind that poverty is still a problem in large parts of China.

My last point is something that is hinted in the article but wasn't really focused on. Just simply looking at all the brands names mentioned; Luis Vuitton, Chanel, Starbucks, Jaguar Gucci...etc and the list goes on. All of these brand names are symbolic of luxury and prestige, and yet none of them are Chinese brands. Obviously the article is making a point on how foreign companies and corporations are infiltrating the Chinese market, but it's quite true that Western goods are percieved to be higher class, it's the signifier of wealth that all middle class wants to possess. Chains of these companies have been opening up in China at a massive rate. It's like colonisation through consumer products being sold to the conquered people. Sure sounds a bit like the Opium War doesn't it?
Most revellers in the lounge are European. "Where can I meet Chinese partygoers?" I ask Emily, but she is reluctant to recommend anywhere: "There are clubs, but they are the type of place you'd find in a second-tier city. The music and decor are not as good, but Chinese men prefer them because they don't want to be near foreigners. Chinese women are different. They are more open. They go where the quality is."
The 'quality' being foreign or specifically western obviously. Where as anything Chinese are automatically considered to be lower tier and inferior. You can sort of draw the same analogy with the Shanghainese women and their foreign boyfriends (nothing against them, just raising an example). This doesn't mean Chinese people want to be like westerners, rather they just want to share the same privilage as them. It's quite sad even China as a growing global power, Chinese brands and product has yet to be held with the same quality and prestige as western products by Chinese themselves. Unfortunately people are too obsessed with chasing their fortunes and rich life style to even realise this. But it's totally understandable. I'm hoping this is just a phase that China is going through.

As we congratulate China as prominent global economy power and modernity obviously it comes at a high price. One thing for sure nothing's going to stop or slow it down. However I think everyone in the world is entitled to live a life of luxury and plentifulness. It's a natural thing. At the moment poverty is still a problem that needs to be dealt with, there's uneven distribution of wealth between rich and poor, which is a major challenge. In developing countries this will bound to happen. But a materialistic society where it is mostly consumption and commercially driven is also not ideal either.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

The Green Hornet

The trailer for The Green Hornet film looks promising. It will star Seth Rogan, Jay Chou and Cameron Diaz, also this will be Jay Chou's debut in Hollywood. He will be playing Kato which was famously played by Bruce Lee in the original TV series. I was quite surprised how much Kato has face shown in the trailer, where as Bruce Lee never seen without his mask on. Similarly The Green Hornet was also Bruce Lee's first appearance in Hollywod. Also Jay Chou seems to get a large part in the movie so he's not just a 'mysterious oriental sidekick'. It'll be interesting to see how his take on Kato would compare to Bruce lee though I haven't seen much of the original TV series. The film won't come out till early next year so it's going to be a long wait.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Well it's time for kick off!

I'm not an avid fan of football but with the World Cup even non football fans couldn't help caught up with the fever. As for England's chances don't even bother thinking about it, I think we all already know the score. But just for the sake of patriotism we'll still fly the flags and cheer on England. Even if you're not into the game well there is still the bookies that will keep you interested.

Yeah this is just a small entry.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Tiananmen 21 years on

It was just a week ago that marked the 21st anniversary memorial of the Tiananmen Incident, I read on the news that a diary which supposedly belongs to Li Peng will be published in Hong Kong. Li Peng was the man who ordered the the tanks to be rolled into Tiananmen Square to crush the student protesters that lead to one of the most memorable tragic events in recent history. The diary that is set to be published will feature detailed account into the incident from the government's perspective. If this turned out to be authentic then this will definitely be an exclusive insight into what was going on behind the commanding power of the Communist Party at the time.
News source

Mainland China is still very restrictive on anything in regards to the incident. Hong Kong is the only place where people can openly commemorate Tiananmen where there's a huge turnout to the event every single year. With this years commemoration the Chinese University of Hong Kong have resurrected a bronze replica of the Goddess of Democracy that was used in the 1989 protest. Apparently they called it the 'New Goddess of Democracy' (新民主女神像), however it lead to a little dispute with the authorities as to whether it should be allowed in the campus.

On the other hand I was watching a Hong Kong TV political show about it (I prefer the Hong Kong media when it comes to report about China because it's a bit more neutral as well as informative). From what I got from the show; despite the Chinese government's are still very reluctant to be open about the massacre, there is some signs that they are a bit more relaxed about it and allow some sort of 'low status commemoration' probably meaning nothing that would attract huge public attention I suppose. Well I'm not sure how true it is this but I hope there is some progress.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Shanghai World Expo 2010

It's been quite some time since I last updated. I haven't abandoned the blog just lost the motivation to write anything constructive lately. I'll try to get back into the momentum. Anyhow, I think the World Expo in Shanghai is something worth talking about. Already has broken several records by covering the largest area (5.28 square km), having the most participants (190 countries), the most expensive ($4 billion) and predicted to have the most visitors. First they exceeded with the Olympics opening ceremony and now the World Expo. Just goes to show China likes to do it bigger and better than everyone else. Here's a virtual guide of it:

It's hard to find real photos of the event from the net, but from what I saw so far on the news it looks really impressive. The UK Pavilion got quite a lot of attention with its unique design, also known as the Seed Cathedral. The theme of the expo is "Better City, Better Life" so the event revolves around the environment and urban life. Also Jackie Chan sings the theme song for it. Seriously you'll never fail to miss him in any big events in China.

Here's the mascot for the expo called Haibao which suppose to resemble the Chinese character for 'human' or 'man'. It got into some controversy as it was accused of copying a well known American cartoon character called Gumby. Some say it looks like a blob of toothpaste, what do you think? To me I think it just looks rather rubbish, the 2008 Olympic mascots at least looked like the designers have given it some thoughts.

There are also other controversies as well like the plagiarizing of the promo song from a well known Japanese pop song, however it was eventually given permission by the original composer to use the song. China pavilion (pictured at the top) was accused of copying a Japanese pavilion design from a previous expo, but you have to consider that traditional Japanese architecture were greatly influenced by Chinese architecture itself, so it's debatable. Reports in the Hong Kong media showed visitors scuffling trying desperately to get hold of the tickets being given out on the opening day. Some even jump queues (often a stereotype of mainland Chinese), disregarding basic regulations (graffiti on the walls, sitting on railings) and securities getting into some very hectic situations with news reporters. Unfortunately brings out all the bad reputation of mainland China. But despite the shaky so far the event seems to be going smoothly.

Nevertheless, it's an exciting place to be.

For more info:
Expo 2010 Shanghai China

Friday, 2 April 2010

Super clever Chinese and Indian children = not British

Just came across this post from Anna Chen's blog. The controversy here is not that Indians and Chinese produce the cleverest kids but rather the way in which the article she was referring to was titled. Suggesting that the term British is only exclusive to white British people, where as Chinese and Indian (even born and brought up in the UK) are still aliens. Or did they meant that Chinese and Indians are so amazingly clever that they can't possibly be classified as British....humm. I'm sure it's just a silly mis-wording of the title. Well it's from the Daily Mail after all.

And as for Chinese and Indian kids being high achievers in high school, c'mon this is old news. Even the last census have already shown this. Those who have brought up in Chinese families should already know how much pressure our parents have put us through in regards to education thus yielding many 'high achieving' kids. The topic can be expanded further however I'll leave that for another post for now.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Record high pollution

Hong Kong's air pollution has reached a record level it become a health hazardous for the people living there. Even several news channel around the world has picked up on the story. The city itself has always had it bad with the pollution in such a densely populated area and high rise buildings. This time the combination of local generated pollution and sandstorm blown from mainland China just makes it worse. If it keep up like this I think one day the citizens will probably end up wearing gas masks.


Friday, 12 March 2010

Echoes Of The Rainbow

Echoes Of The Rainbow has been hailed as one of the most finest Hong Kong film films being produced over the years, it's like a gem amongst many disposable pop idol orientated that's been mass produced nowadays. The film also won the Crystal Bear award for Best Feature Film in the Generation category at this year's Berlinale film festival. Starring Simon Yam and Sandra Ng the film is set in the 1960's Hong Kong it's a melodrama depicting the life of a typical working class family, the setting brings a sense of nostalgia to many Hong Kong people who are old enough to have live through those times.

There's a commentary that bares within the film; to preserve the Wing Lee street which the film is set from redevelopment and demolition. It is one of the few places where the distinctive 1950s architecture known as 'tong lau' can still be found which is becoming rare with the increase of urban regeneration. The success of the film has heighten the awareness of the historical importance of the area. I haven't been watching much Hong Kong movies lately and usually they're disappointing. However I think Echoes Of The Rainbow is a film that's definitely worth watching.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Happy Valentines New Year

Traditionally Chinese count their dates using the lunisolar calender which is based on the cycles of the Sun and the Moon as opposed to the Gregorian calender widely used in the West. This is why Chinese New Year (and many other Asian festivals) falls on different date each year of the Western calender. By chance this year's CNY came in at the same time as Valentines Day. So if you're Chinese and got yourself a date you'll be getting a double treat of red packets and Valentines gifts. But regardless there are loadsa other stuffs to look forward to like all the yummy food, fireworks, lion/dragon dance and more yummy food.

If anyone's reading the BBC Ronin wishes you a lovely Valentines Day and Gung Hei Fat Choi (Gong Xi Fa Cai for you Mandarin people)!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The Feather Duster Fury

Now available in different colours

To most people a feather duster is no more than just a household cleaning tool, but for us growing up in a Chinese family mentioning the feather duster will always bring back some very 'painful' memories. Usually the ones that are used consist of a thin bamboo stick, about two feet long which half it is covered with long feathers. Chinese parents have cleverly (or cruelly) discovered more than one use for it; whilst the feathered part is for sweeping dusts, the handle is often used to lash out at their naughty kids, or just taking it out on their kids after losing their gambling bets (just kidding). The funny thing is you'll never see them do any dusting with it. It's more like a secret weapon disguise as a fluffy cleaning tool, usually tucked away and out of reach from their children. The feather duster is commonly used by Chinese parents for punishing their kids, of course there are other tools as well like a slipper, coat hanger, bamboo sticks, light saber....etc. But the feather duster will always be symbolic to us and you could say it's like a tradition passed on from one generation to another.

It's questionable whether this type of corporal punishment is actually effective or required in order to bring order within the family. Inflicting pain on children is the most straight forward and old school way to deter children from doing wrongs, or basically behaving like little brats. Most certainly what we've learned out it is.........it BLOODY HURTS! Usually our parents will give us a warning like a count to10 and if we continued to disobey, the feather duster will be unleashed onto us, we can run but it's impossible to hide. The more you pissed the parents off the harder you get hit - The art of feather duster beating.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Spirit Warriors: first impression

Spirit Warriors, Jessica Henwick, Benedict Wong, Burt Kwouk, BBC

A lot of us may have heard about and has been anticipated to see Spirit Warriors, possibly the first British children TV show that featured Chinese as the main characters. But actually the casts are quite diverse. The series was created by Jo Ho, a very promising British Chinese screenwriter/director to look out for. I've already known about Jo by chance through the internet before I even heard about the series, so it's great to see the progression of this project coming into fruition. She's definitely an ambitious and an aspiring person. Spirit Warriors falls into the fantasy action genre, tells a story of five ordinary school kids whilst on a trip to the museum who unexpectedly transported to a mysterious world (the Spirit World) that pretty much resembles ancient China. The kids are about to explore the unfamiliar world whilst fighting against evils, and as well as finding a way to go back home.

Already in the first episode I can see some influences from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (fighting in the bamboo forest), Narnia (journey to a magical world) and some Dragon Ball (blasting fireballs from the palm). The story moves along quite quickly with all the main characters being introduced and the action already kicking in within the first 15 minutes. Bo the lead character played by young actress Jessica Henwick is very convincing in the martial arts role. There's also another young British Chinese actress Alicia Lai as Bo's cute younger sister. Though I remembered early on in the production Bo suppose to have a younger brother instead of a sister, so that must have changed from the original script. Another great bit is the appearance from veteran actor Burt Kwouk lending his voice to the CGI Dragon Shen.

Parts of it is a little bit cheesy but I guess you can get away with it for a kid's show. Another criticism that some viewers have pointed out is the kung fu stereotype, a cliche that always played out by east Asian characters on Western TV and films that the we are already too familiar with. Also the character Li (the bad guy) played by Benedict Wong shares the aesthetic of the classic oriental villain. However his little squabble with Hwang (his henchman) reveals there's a lot more to the character than just a Fu Manchu archetype, I hope so anyway. Good character development will give them a bit more depth than just two dimensional bad guys. Well at least for sure the casts didn't consist of Caucasians playing Asian characters, unlike this up and coming Hollywood film.

The show is on every Friday on CBBC or if you missed it you can watch it on the official website.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Post 80s Youths of Hong Kong

Image from Apple Daily

A typical afternoon in Hong Kong as we saw thousands of people with huge banners poured onto the streets making their way to the Liaison Office. This was not a New Years celebration or anniversary of the Hong Kong handover but a mass public protest. What's been observed recently is a growing number of youngsters in their 20s (also known as the 'post 80s generation or youths') has been making up a large percentage of the participants in public protests. Of course every generation have it's own share of young passionate activists, indeed for China in the past hundred years protest and political movements has always been spearheaded by youths. Certainly in Western countries this is nothing new. But in Hong Kong there has never been such noticeable turnout of youngsters in protests until lately. Most definitely they were never used to protests in such a ferocious and aggressive manner before. Sometimes the protests can go out of control and end up in scuffles with the police, as seen in the new years day march. Since then the post 80s generation has been perceived negatively by the public and in the media; branded as rebellious and a bunch of hooligans. Since then there's a lot of talk on the TV, radio and on the internet about this growing phenomenon, trying to understand why it is happening.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

China sympathise with Haiti

Found an interesting article regarding China's reaction to Haiti earthquake, having went through a devastating earthquake in Sichuan two years ago. It's good to see that the Chinese government was quick in responding to the disaster with aid and help.