Train Collision in Shandong

The train collision near Jinan killed 71, and injured 416.

Little flower for the victim in the accident

That is too bad. Not to mention those who were killed, I am horrified by the news story of a young man who broke his own arm to be able to escape from the train cart.

When I talked about risk of altitude sickness in Tibet, but to be fair, the risk of living anywhere in China is also high. I don’t want to count the long list of big accident country wide in the past, just to name a few that seems close to me:

A gas station near my home may exploded, killing 4, and injuring 40.

Maglev, which I am both a big fan of in terms of technology, and am writing against it for its cost, can catch fire.

The Metro train also kills. Not only this time, it happened once again, again and again.

If I keep counting the experience I had before I started blogging in 2002, I also can list some terrible accidents I feel very close to:

At the Christmas eve of 2000, fire in my home town, Luoyang, killed 309 – a number till now I cannot believe. When I was in middle school, that shopping center is the closest and the biggest in the area of my high-school.

In the summer of 1993 (July 10, 1993), just one day before I took train from Luoyang to Beijing to visit the capital for the first time, a passenger train No. 163 from Beijing to our direction collapsed with the cargo train in the front, killing 40 people (again, most of them comes from my city). I remember the sad face of the crew of my train after they hear about the news.

These are just few accidents that I feel pretty close to me. There are much more than that in the whole country, not to mention the frequent airlines disaster.

Transportation is a big thing everywhere, but how can I be assured that I am still lucky enough in the next accident? The key question is, who cares after so many accidents happening everywhere? Most of them are because of very stupid mistakes that are so easy to prevent.

I complained about sense of safety in the cyberspace (website can be easily shutdown at any time), it seems we need to move our focus to the safety of lives also.

The country needs some change to make it better. I keep thinking about it….

Wired Photos… Long Time Ago

On Jan 14, 2006, around 6:00 PM, Eric, Me, and Miss Tang gathered at Xujiahui, to take a series photos to be published on Trends Travel – the National Geographic partner in China. So here are the selected photo by photographer, Tang Wanli. The article I wrote for the magazine is called "Fall in Love with Shanghai with 6 Years" (Chinese version of the article).

Just now, received an invitation for an afternoon tea break this Saturday with old friends from Linda. Suddenly thought about these photos taken 2 years ago. Pretty weird photos, aren’t they?





I have to say, a really good (which often means, expensive) camera + an experience photographer can create an imagine that’s beyond our daily life experience.

P.S. It is the time to enjoy great night without burden of a laptop – I will go home without my laptop today.

Death and Religion in Tibet

Today, I want to share about the topic of Death and Religion in Tibet.

Caution before Deciding to Go to Tibet

Many people encourage others to visit Tibet by themselves to draw a conclusion. I also believe so, but before you go, I do want to put a very bold statement here:

    1. Be Aware of Altitude Sickness.
    2. Prepare for the Worst.
    3. Never Catch Cold in Tibet

Why? Because Tibet is  not distinct from other regions on culture, religions, the natural environment in Tibet is very unique – maybe the highest places with less oxygen than any place else.  Let me share my own story.

Death in Common in that Natural Environment

In Oct 2002, Wendy and I was very excited to visit Daocheng – the Tibetan area for the first time. We joined a group of 18 people, and experienced the most beautiful but worst natural environment in my whole life (see reports and pictures here). However, one man passed away during the trip. Seriously, he died because of altitude sickness. I wrote about the story briefly in my blog after we are back:

His wife, wrote a memorial article here.

I don’t want to mention it because it was so terrible, and everyone was horrified. Only in Tibet, people may feel how weak a man’s life is. In my original imagination, death is still very far from us – people may be ill, lasting for a long time, and finally, cannot cure, and die…

In Tibetan Plateau, death is so close to everyone. Under the beautiful snow mountain, and in the highest town in the world, the purest soul and the most dangerous threat to people’s life exist in the same place. Death arrives just at night – any night for any one.


"The Judge" is not the only one we know dead during the visit. In the same month, 4 persons in the village (of 100 or something people) lost their lives. I heard (which means I cannot verify whether it is the truth or not) one drove a motorcar and directly run down on the mountain. The other three went to forest to crop trees, and a tree collapse, and killed three (one of them is the head of local Party branch). I hope that only happened for the month of bad luck.

Imagine what this reality may influence your point of view to this world. At least it changed mine. In that plateau that is not suitable for man kind to live, the only thing a mother can do to ensure safety of her children is to pray for them – at any time, their lives can be taken away by the nature. What else can she do? When people’s life is not in the control of human, religion is the very powerful to help people. I don’t think people have the right to easily say "your thoughts is stupid"… It is the person who say it reveals his own limited understanding to the world.

Tibet is a Unique Place

Since I have so limited experience with Tibet, and I almost know nothing about the mysterious land. I just want to share my very limited experience to remind people about the tough natural environment in that place. It is not just from social side, it is also from the natural side. Hope it helps.

In the last few weeks, in response to what is going on in Tibet, and in Paris Torch relay, and many related events, I initiated discussion around Tibet. The result is
Tibet Issues Related Entries:
Mixing, Muddling, and Confusing
Four Types of Consciousness
Grace Wang Called a Traitor
Brief Chat with Andrew
"Love China" Blooms on MSN Messenger
Not Just Identify Problems for China – Solve Them!
What the Term China, or France Means?
Friends Started to Boycott French Products
My Experience of Culture and Religion in Tibet
Disturbed Lunch
More Discussion on Tibet
Error in Western Media Report about Tibet
Why I Didn’t Cover About Tibet

Many of them generate more than 100 comments from thoughtful readers. Not only the quantity, the quality of the comments are among the best during the last few years of my blogging. No matter which perspective people see the matter (as I always believe there are thousands of different perspective to see the same thing), there is something I think people share in the discussion – seeking for understand, and ready to understand.  

This is not a news site. I don’t pray for some "breaking news" so people can come to visit the site everyday. I am happy that the conflict didn’t get larger. If we can improve understanding and communication from this event, that is the a positive change, although I do worry that the event made the gap in communication between western and Chinese world even bigger…

I hope I wrap up the recent meaningful Tibet discussion with this post. I hope more people start to share their first  hand experience instead of just quoting some thoughts from book, or even worse, from eye-ball driven media.

Minpu Bridge Under Construction

After many bridges and tunnels, a new bridge over Huangpu River is under construction, without my notice. Today, in order to find a better route from our home to Zizhu Hi-Tech Park, where Microsoft is moving to at the end of this year, Wendy and I drove to the area, and found the huge poles of the bridge is already almost completed.

The East Side of the Poles


The West Side of the Pole


The Huangpu River in the middle – this is very different scene from in the Bund section. There is almost nothing on the east bank – Pudong was like this 20 years ago.


The Minpu Bridge will be a double-layer bridge. As you can see, the bridge is already in the shape of two levels. Since they need to build the bridge, and the arches anyway, to make it double-deck is a good idea.


Under the two bridge poles in Pudong and Puxi, a ferry line connects the two ferry station, with a ferry every 20 minutes. On the ferry, they also holds 5 cars in it, so I can drive to one side and pass the bridge with my car on the ferry.


On the Puxi side, the area is mixture of huge bridges, large cargo port, and the Wujing Coal-Electricity Power Station (highly polluted) with its two huge cooling-stations. (Pollution is another topic we discussed before).


The bridge started construction 2 years ago and will be completed in 2009. It will be the seventh large bridge on the Huangpu River. The other six bridges over Huangpu River are:

  1. Nanpu Bridge
  2. Yangpu Bridge
  3. Lupu Bridge
  4. Fengpu Bridge
  5. Xupu Bridge
  6. Songpu Bridge

The top level of the bridge will be part of A15, an expressway from Pudong Airport to Zhejiang Province, and the lower level will be like Nanpu Bridge or Yangpu Bridge – for local traffic.

I am looking forward to posting more pictures when it opens to traffic.

Metro Line M8 in Shanghai Under Construction

The most impressive experience I had during my first visit to Singapore in 2000 was a night ride of Singapore Metro – I basically went around the border of the city via Metro, and saw some remote but well-connected residential areas in the far north of the city.

I thought I saw the future of Shanghai – a city connected by Metro system. However, at that time, my imagination may well stop at what the Metro is currently like, and didn’t go far enough to imagine the future Metro system.

Wendy got the same conclusion when she is back from her Paris trip. She mentioned: because of Metro, where you live does not matter any more.

Let me share some photos of the current construction of Metro Line #6. Below are the tracks (on the left) of Metro #8.



It is at the intersection of Puxing Highway and the future Pudong Middle Ring.


Below is the approximate location of the place where I took the photo. That is a long line!


Looking forward to more Metro lines in Shanghai.

Mixing, Muddling, and Confusing

This post is related to the last post about Grace Wang’s experience. What I want to say in this blog article is, mixing and confusing issues is not a good strategy (George expressed the same thing in a comment)

Disagree with One Side in a Debate does not Mean Support the Other Side

It is quite common for people to make this mistake. I made this mistake all the time.

Just like the media war between CCTV and CNN. When I say CCTV is not reporting the truth, I can guarantee that I will receive one comment or two claiming that “don’t you think CNN won’t do this?” The problem is, I do think CNN will also do this, but by stating CCTV is doing something wrong does not imply that I support CNN. The same thing happens when I said CNN is reporting something wrong, I didn’t imply that CCTV is always right. It is “you” who think I am implying something, not me.

For a much bigger topic of China, it is even so. I often comment on news and issues in China. When I wrote about the negative side (for example, my blog started to get banned by GFW these days from time to time, due to the “sensitive” topic we have discussed), some people claimed that I am biased, and gave me evidence to show the economic development. Again, the point is, talking about the existence of the GFW does not imply that China don’t have a good economy. The other example is topics like Mega-Projects. Describing the exciting highways, and bridges didn’t imply I don’t know the cases of abusing tax payer’s money. I admit I don’t know everything (who does?) but not mentioning everything in every article does not mean I don’t know the existence of them.

It is the same for the recent hot discussion I saw in many threads. It is just like this: one guy says: “This apple is red”, and the other disagrees and says “Why do you think banana is not yellow? Here is the evidence to show how yellow a banana is” or “No. I don’t think so, didn’t you see the farmer who grow the apple is experiencing economical crisis”. Both arguments may be valid, but they make people confused, or in a frequently used term: “out of topic”. So, sticking to the discussion itself may be more helpful.

Mixing Concepts

Not many people are interested in debating with Einstein about his theory of relativity, anyone can comment on the shape of a building. This is the reason why the life of an architect is more tougher than a physician, and pop-star is easier to be the daily topic than both architect or physician…

Just like that, everyone can talk about current international affairs, and everyone has something to say. So the concepts are often mixed, muddled, and confused. If most people (including myself) did it without a strong intention, media, organization, and governments did it very well intentionally. My reader George W. Shen commented about it better than I can:

My biggest problem with the Western media is that many issues are conveniently muddled. It applies to both sides of the propaganda but more so to the Western media outlets than to the Chinese side given the latest Tibet and Olympics chaos. There are many different issues involved and they should be debated separately. To name a few here, not in any particularly order –

The issue of Tibet

The issue of Dalai Lama

The issue of Western Media

The issue of Chinese Government

The issue of Olympics

The issue of Freedom & Democracy

The issue of Human Rights

Just because one supports freedom & democracy in China it doesn’t mean he/she must support the independence of Tibet. Just because one supports the autonomy of Tibet it doesn’t mean he/she must support Dalai Lama. Just because one supports Olympics it doesn’t mean he/she must support the communist party. And just because one supports freedom & democracy it doesn’t mean he/she must support the Western media. Similarly, just because there is free speech in the US, it doesn’t mean media outlets here are fair, unbiased, or even truthful. Just because there is no free speech in China, it doesn’t mean the government has no right to enforce the rule of law to ensure the safety of majority people.

These are totally different issues. It seems to me many people don’t get that. THE WORLD ISN’T JUST BLACK AND WHITE.

For the China side, it is the same. Among all the voices, the official way to call the whole group is Zangdu (or Tibet-Independence) since this is the most unacceptable thing people in China and can “unite” most of people to fight for the whole group. Just as I said, I disagree with this specific muddling strategy from both side, and I believe wise people should try to stand firmly at the side of truth, logic, rationale, instead of having to choose one from the existing two sides.

On Grace’s Case

So, based on the two stated reasons, I said “death threat” is not acceptable in any situation. Whether what Grace did was right or wrong is another issue, and please don’t mix it with the death threat or the illegal things happened in Grace’s home in Qingdao and please don’t draw a conclusion that Grace did everything right.

I also feel angry for the Chinese translation with analysis (thanks to lin posted the original Chinese here). The analysis is interpreting what Grace said to the worst extend,. Taking any article from my blog (or almost any article from any where), and adding sauces that way, you can demonize a person easily. Due to the ambiguity of language, there is no “right statement” under that kind of intentionally negative “analysis”, especially an article written by university student, not a seasoned politician. We did that for too many times during culture revolution, and anything can be interpreted to be evidence to show you are traitor of the country.

I agree that Grace is naive, or as in some comments, “politically naive“. Who aren’t? My question is, does someone have the right to be naive, or say something wrong? For sure, as adult, for anything we do, or we say, we need to be responsible for it, and accept all the consequences. Grace is of no exception. However, whether the consequence of “saying something incorrect”, or “standing on the wrong side of a perceived political movement” is criticize, or death thread is a question we need to discuss.

The reason I feel Grace was treated unfairly is because I clearly know that I will be treated the same way one day in my country, and so does many people who dare to show his/her opinions. The other reason is, although we have every reason to say Grace didn’t do everything right, she is doing great for her age. For the guess of her motivation of getting refugee status in US – a key reason many people don’t like her – this is not something worth debating. The chance to get famous by this way is lesser than winning a lottery. For the opinion that by publishing an article on newspaper, she did something that negatively impacted China’s image. I agree that it has negative impacts, but it is not all her fault. I would rather fight to make things right in the systems in China and remove mob mentality from people, instead of pretending those don’t exist. I hope my country can be better by solving all the problems we have, so we can be more confident to face the world, instead of complaining a girl who happened to be used as an ideal case to reveal the existence of these problems.

P.S. Before someone asks about my statement of whether I am at the side of Grace Wang (as I am often asked), I want to clarify – in case there are misunderstanding for this post – that I try to avoid simply saying: “I am on this side or the other side”. Just as I am not on the side who claim Grace is a traitor, I am not on the side of Grace either. What I can say is, I agree with Grace on this, or disagree with her on that, instead of simple statement like “with her or against her”. To be more exact, in this post and in the last post, I even didn’t specifically tough the topic of what Grace did, or write. I just stated the fact that I don’t agree with how she is treated.

I have past the age to claim whatever some person said (Grace or whoever) is what I believe in… In this sense, I am not on her side.

Subscription Enabled on This Blog

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Four Types of Consciousness

As we have discussed the top for many times, the world is not black and white. There are so many gray areas (different degree of gray) in almost everything. In foreign media, and people’s mind, Chinese government is the extreme side of irrationality, and Chinese people are on the same side, while the media is in the middle. However, this is not always true. I tried to draw a GRAY level chart. The chart is according the the dimension of consciousness or rationality (unfortunately, the world has more than 1000 dimensions you can take). Please add if you saw more people that can be hardly put into any of the four buckets.

  1. Angry Youth. Simple minded, and ready to die or kill or do whatever asked to do, if someone tells them this is the right thing to do for their country. There are plenty of them. They are typically young (I was once one of them, which I don’t want to hide), and don’t understand how complicated the world yet. If not because of the policemen, they are the first to burn a Carrefour store, or rush into US embassy with sticks in hand. Even with policemen guarded, they successfully throw a stone into a French, or Japanese, or US store, depending what is "hot" in TV. <–> In US, they are the individuals who never been to any other country, and even cannot draw where Tibet or Darfur is, and just join whatever protest group the saw and shout for something, as long as the evidence people show to them seems reasonable.
  2. Conscious Patriot. They know how to love the country, and take actions they believe can do good for their country – only their country, not anyone else. Conscious patriots also argue with each other (because they started to think independently), and if you look close enough, there are many sub groups within this group of people. Some believe boycott is the most effective way to show feeling, while others think putting Love China is cooler, and can engage millions of people already. Some may love both action, while others don’t like either. They just forward patriotism articles tireless on all major BBS, and even buy millions of email addresses to spread the emails (they don’t think they are spammer, because they are in the name of Patriotism). Some people form hacker group to attack targeted web sites; other completely disagree with any hacking behavior (also for many different reasons. Some may think hacking is illegal in any country, while others think to quietly use his power to disconnect a foreign company web site which happens to be in his IDC is more practical. Let me stop here without digging further.). I just listed very limited number of types of the different behaviors in this group. You may get the idea. They are thoughtful, and they believe in whatever they believe to help the country. Most of all, they know what they are doing, which is the key to distinguish this group from the Angry Youth.
  3. God-like Analyst. With the whole country full of patriots, there are still some calm guys who tried to tell people to cool down, and do everything in the framework of the current law. They remind people of consequences, and they call for stopping boycotting, stopping burning French national flag (especially not to burn German flags by mistake in some occasions), and call for communication. They try to provide a solution that benefits not only China, both also the world (or in many countries, not only world, but also China). They didn’t take any action other than thinking and writing (and not many dare to talk face to face with Angry Youth yet, because of the risk of injury) behind Internet. They tried to pull down the flame while others try to raise it. These guys are often called traitors in any camp, and their voice is seldom heard. They are often accused as "pretending to be the God, who don’t have a motherland".
  4. Careful Balancer. People who make decisions in the Chinese, and other government may below to this group. On one hand, they try to show to the people that they are fight back on behalf of the people hard enough (otherwise, they have really internal problems. The Qing Dynasty was overthrow partly because of it) while don’t want to cross the line, and cause real trouble with International world. The US and French government is the same. It is a political crisis for both China and France, and both governments have to be very careful to handle this hot potato. On one hand, they have to react the way its own massive people want (for China, request apology from CNN, and for France, the president has to throw away his Olympic opening ceremony ticket), and other the other hand, they have to maintain a level of good relationship for the interest of both people (for China, keep the real diploma relationship going, and carry out the signed big contract with France, and for France, the same, plus a letter from the president to Jin Jing). For Angry Youth, it is so simple to say "I want to die for this country". For Conscious Patriot, it is easy to boycott anything, for as long as they want. For God-like Analyst, it is even simpler – just type a word or two. However, for the government, any action causing death is called a war, which surely cause humanity disaster; any boycott from government means millions of worker lose their jobs in their own country, as well as the opposite country, or any careless word can cause a consequence that no one can take. Not everyone can take the job, and very few can handle it well. We already saw some really bad examples.

Above are just some of the groups of people I saw. Where am I in the groups? I don’t know. I used to be the Angry Youth, and I sometimes act as "Conscious Patriot", and often, I am God-like Analyst (like in this post). Anyone can shift from one side to the other side a little bit depending on what they see, and what they think THAT day.

Interestingly enough, when Angry Youth types of people from two opposite camp met, who knows what may happen! Most of the times, Angry Youth just follow Conscious Patriots and do whatever they tell them to do. Let’s pray for the Conscious Patriots to make good decisions!

The real situation is far more complicated than this analysis. I just try to imagine some of the scenarios in this whole mess: the Conscious Patriot type of Pro-Tibet people may strongly disagree with Angry Youth type of pro-Tibet protester who were so wrong to try to get the torch from Jin Jing (a PR disaster for the camp), but they are also strongly against those God-like Analyst, who ask them not to leverage Olympics. God-like analysts in Pro-Tibet camp may claim that they don’t like what the Chinese government did in Tibet, but when they see how scary the behavior of the Angry Youth type of people in the Chinese camp, they may (my guess) think the government is more rational. It is the same for the Chinese camp. For God-like Analyst in China, they tried to ask Angry Youth to start to think before behave, but when they saw what the Angry Youth type of pro-Tibet guys did in Paris, they may be easily turned into Conscious Patriots, or Conscious Patriots may turn to Analyst, when they saw the consciousness of some people in the other camp. Wow. The combination is endless. Even people with the same type in the same camp may argue for a long time. That is the reason there are so many articles around this issue everywhere, including the one you are reading.

In both camp, there are some God-like analysts try to help the own camp to understand the other side, and find some way out for the both camp. Some God-Like Analysts even sit completely in the middle, like Grace Wang – the most dangerous position to take.

However, "history is made of People", and the history has repeatedly show us, the people is made of Angry Youth, and Conscious Patri

ots, but very rare is made of God-like Analyst, just because there are so few of them. The history in the combating world (like in the long history of China) is always written by the winner, and no matter which side win, God-like Analysts never get mentioned.

How sad it is.

Grace Wang Called a Traitor

GN posted an article on Washington Post about the recent indent of Grace Wang.

Caught in the Middle, Called a Traitor (I think it is important to readers on this site to read this.)

By Grace Wang
Sunday, April 20, 2008;

I study languages — Italian, French and German. And this summer — now that it looks as though I won’t be able to go home to China — I’ll take up Arabic. My goal is to master 10 languages, in addition to Chinese and English, by the time I’m 30.

I want to do this because I believe that language is the bridge to understanding. Take China and Tibet. If more Chinese learned the Tibetan language, and if Tibetans learned more about China, I’m convinced that our two peoples would understand one another better and we could overcome the current crisis between us peacefully. I feel that even more strongly after what happened here at Duke University a little more than a week ago.

Trying to mediate between Chinese and pro-Tibetan campus protesters, I was caught in the middle and vilified and threatened by the Chinese. After the protest, the intimidation continued online, and I began receiving threatening phone calls. Then it got worse — my parents in China were also threatened and forced to go into hiding. And I became persona non grata in my native country.

It has been a frightening and unsettling experience. But I’m determined to speak out, even in the face of threats and abuse. If I stay silent, then the same thing will happen to someone else someday.

So here’s my story.

When I first arrived at Duke last August, I was afraid I wouldn’t like it. It’s in the small town of Durham, N.C., and I’m from Qingdao, a city of 4.3 million. But I eventually adjusted, and now I really love it. It’s a diverse environment, with people from all over the world. Over Christmas break, all the American students went home, but that’s too expensive for students from China. Since the dorms and the dining halls were closed, I was housed off-campus with four Tibetan classmates for more than three weeks.

I had never really met or talked to a Tibetan before, even though we’re from the same country. Every day we cooked together, ate together, played chess and cards. And of course, we talked about our different experiences growing up on opposite sides of the People’s Republic of China. It was eye-opening for me.

I’d long been interested in Tibet and had a romantic vision of the Land of Snows, but I’d never been there. Now I learned that the Tibetans have a different way of seeing the world. My classmates were Buddhist and had a strong faith, which inspired me to reflect on my own views about the meaning of life. I had been a materialist, as all Chinese are taught to be, but now I could see that there’s something more, that there’s a spiritual side to life.

We talked a lot in those three weeks, and of course we spoke in Chinese. The Tibetan language isn’t the language of instruction in the better secondary schools there and is in danger of disappearing. Tibetans must be educated in Mandarin Chinese to succeed in our extremely capitalistic culture. This made me sad, and made me want to learn their language as they had learned mine.

I was reminded of all this on the evening of April 9. As I left the cafeteria planning to head to the library to study, I saw people holding Tibetan and Chinese flags facing each other in the middle of the quad. I hadn’t heard anything about a protest, so I was curious and went to have a look. I knew people in both groups, and I went back and forth between them, asking their views. It seemed silly to me that they were standing apart, not talking to each other. I know that this is often due to a language barrier, as many Chinese here are scientists and engineers and aren’t confident of their English.

I thought I’d try to get the two groups together and initiate some dialogue, try to get everybody thinking from a broader perspective. That’s what Lao Tzu, Sun Tzu and Confucius remind us to do. And I’d learned from my dad early on that disagreement is nothing to be afraid of. Unfortunately, there’s a strong Chinese view nowadays that critical thinking and dissidence create problems, so everyone should just keep quiet and maintain harmony.

A lot has been made of the fact that I wrote the words "Free Tibet" on the back of the American organizer of the protest, who was someone I knew. But I did this at his request, and only after making him promise that he would talk to the Chinese group. I never dreamed how the Chinese would seize on this innocent action. The leaders of the two groups did at one point try to communicate, but the attempt wasn’t very successful.

The Chinese protesters thought that, being Chinese, I should be on their side. The participants on the Tibet side were mostly Americans, who really don’t have a good understanding of how complex the situation is. Truthfully, both sides were being quite closed-minded and refusing to consider the other’s perspective. I thought I could help try to turn a shouting match into an exchange of ideas. So I stood in the middle and urged both sides to come together in peace and mutual respect. I believe that they have a lot in common and many more similarities than differences.

But the Chinese protesters — who were much more numerous, maybe 100 or more — got increasingly emotional and vocal and wouldn’t let the other side speak. They pushed the small Tibetan group of just a dozen or so up against the Duke Chapel doors, yelling "Liars, liars, liars!" This upset me. It was so aggressive, and all Chinese know the moral injunction: Junzi dongkou, bu dongshou (The wise person uses his tongue, not his fists).

I was scared. But I believed that I had to try to promote mutual understanding. I went back and forth between the two groups, mostly talking to the Chinese in our language. I kept urging everyone to calm down, but it only seemed to make them angrier. Some young men in the Chinese group — those we call fen qing (angry youth) — started yelling and cursing at me.

What a lot of people don’t know is that there were many on the Chinese side who supported me and were saying, "Let her talk." But they were drowned out by the loud minority who had really lost their cool.

Some people on the Chinese side started to insult me for speaking English and told me to speak Chinese only. But the Americans didn’t understand Chinese. It’s strange to me that some Chinese seem to feel as though not speaking English is expressing a kind of national pride. But language is a tool, a way of thinking and communicating.

At the height of the protest, a group of Chinese men surrounded me, pointed at me and, referring to the young woman who led the 1989 student democracy protests in Tiananmen Square, said, "Remember Chai Ling? All Chinese want to burn her in oil, and you look like her." They said that I had mental problems and that I would go to hell. They asked me where I was from and what school I had attended. I told them. I had nothing to hide. But then it started to feel as though an angry mob was about to attack me. Finally, I left the protest with a police escort.

Back in my dorm room, I logged onto the Duke Chinese Students and Scholars Association (DCSSA) Web site and listserv to see what people were saying. Qian Fangzhou, an officer of DCSSA, was gloating, "We really showed them our colors!"

I posted a letter in response, explaining that I don’t support Tibetan independence, as some accused me of, but that I do support Tibetan freedom, as well as Chinese freedom. All people should be free and have their basic rights protected, just as the Chinese constitution says. I hoped that the letter would spark some substantive discussion. But people just criticized and ridiculed me more.

The next morning, a storm was raging online. Photographs of me had been posted on

the Internet with the words "Traitor to her country!" printed across my forehead. Then I saw something really alarming: Both my parents’ citizen ID numbers had been posted. I was shocked, because this information could only have come from the Chinese police.

I saw detailed directions to my parents’ home in China, accompanied by calls for people to go there and teach "this shameless dog" a lesson. It was then that I realized how serious this had become. My phone rang with callers making threats against my life. It was ironic: What I had tried so hard to prevent was precisely what had come to pass. And I was the target.

I talked to my mom the next morning, and she said that she and my dad were going into hiding because they were getting death threats, too. She told me that I shouldn’t call them. Since then, short e-mail messages have been our only communication. The other day, I saw photos of our apartment online; a bucket of feces had been emptied on the doorstep. More recently I’ve heard that the windows have been smashed and obscene posters have been hung on the door. Also, I’ve been told that after convening an assembly to condemn me, my high school revoked my diploma and has reinforced patriotic education.

I understand why people are so emotional and angry; the events in Tibet have been tragic. But this crucifying of me is unacceptable. I believe that individual Chinese know this. It’s when they fire each other up and act like a mob that things get so dangerous.

Now, Duke is providing me with police protection, and the attacks in Chinese cyberspace continue. But contrary to my detractors’ expectations, I haven’t shriveled up and slunk away. Instead, I’ve responded by publicizing this shameful incident, both to protect my parents and to get people to reflect on their behavior. I’m no longer afraid, and I’m determined to exercise my right to free speech.

Because language is the bridge to understanding.

Grace Wang is a freshman at Duke University. Scott Savitt, a visiting scholar in Duke’s Chinese media studies program, assisted in writing this article.

GN thought it is important for readers on this site to read  this article. I also think so. So I copied the article in this entry to share Grace’s thoughts.

Called a Traitor? Don’t Worry

It is so common to be called a traitor in China. I, myself, was called a traitor many times in BBS or blogs. There are many versions of the story. No matter what you do, the easiest way to get everyone to get to the same side of the line is to tell people the guy betrayed  China. Just to list the logic of the criticizer who said I am a traitor.

  • Anyone who  writes in English forgot their motherland already. He is a traitor. Sometimes, people may call people who can read English as a traitor. I saw this situation, although not common.
  • Anyone who didn’t boycott Japanese goods is a traitor
  • Anyone who didn’t show strong emotional reaction to Torch Relay is called a traitor
  • Anyone who said there are true report in western media is a traitor.
  • Anyone who said Chinese government is good is a traitor, or in other cases, anyone who said Chinese government is bad is a traitor.
  • Anyone who think the Party has done something wrong is a traitor.
  • Anyone who tried to help foreigners is a traitor
  • Anyone who work in a foreign company is a traitor…

The list is endless. The point is, if you have anything to do with something "foreign", or you talk about politics, you are called a traitor by someone, publicly, with name and, in Grace’s case, private information. For many people, if they heard from any source that someone is a traitor, they will try everything to fight against this person, including personal attack, forward the mail/post to other places, add a comment to condemn the person, even threat to kill the person.


I don’t know Grace, and I don’t know whether I agree with what Grace said or not – I agree for most part, but I worry that I only hear one-sided story. Grace is just 20 years in age, and she may also did something immature in the sensitive time, which is completely acceptable and understandable. But it may cause strong reaction from the Chinese student group and netizen in China, which is also pretty understandable. However, I feel so bad and ashamed that she got death threat, and rude personal attack (and physical attack in her home). How I wish I have a country that is more open  to different opinions, and tolerate diversity. To follow the law is the basic way to show one’s love to his country.

I know if I post the entry in Chinese, and if I am lucky, I will be called traitor again, just for this article. Even in English, I believe I will receive many critics for this entry, and the next entry I am planning to write. It is OK. I never expect everyone agree with me. Call me whatever people want to call. A blogger needs some courage, right.

PS. When you attack, please just attack the opinion, not the person hold the opinion. Even if you want to attack a person, attack myself (and I am pretty tolerate, and understand that is the cost of running a blog), however, I will take action if I saw personal attack to other readers (and they shouldn’t be insulted).

Social Environment in Central China

I am in Nanyang for 3 days. Some observation of the social environment:

  1. People have plenty of time
  2. It is very family oriented
  3. Food is the center of people’s life

Let me explain them one by one.

People have Plenty of Time

I guess it is the impression only for people like Wendy and me who just came from Shanghai. We are not not tourist, and we live in part of the family. So we saw normal people’s life. Some one only go to work for half days, and many of them don’t have work. When it is sunny, people bring chairs to the public spaces, and talk, or just sit there. When it is cloudy, people get back to room, and sit on small chairs, chatting. One out of several days, people may be busy enough to get a table to play Mahjong.

For people who work, the schedule is quite different. They go to work at 8:00 AM in the morning , and get back to home for lunch at 12:00 in the noon. The afternoon session starts at 2:00 PM and ends at 6:00 PM. In summer, people can have a good sleep during the noon time, since they need to go back to work at 3:00 PM.

This is not something new to me. That is how life should look like when I was in Luoyang, and I believed everyone in the world lived the same life. It changed a lot after I moved to Shanghai 13 years ago, and this trip just refreshed my memory. It didn’t change in the last 20 years.

It is very Family Oriented

Family is the center of many people’s everyday life. In the last few days, we have lunch together with 6 – 12 people, on the same table, or in rotation. Rotation means the dishes are on the small table, and 6 of us eat our lunch, and someone finish lunch first and gave room to other family members. That is the life of big family. Two or three families (with parents and their one two two children, and even grandchild, Yifan) gather together, and have lunch and dinner happily. The life is waved by the family relationship net, and by "family", we mean the "big family" or the family with the same grandfather. In Shanghai, and many other countries, the same family may already been split up to smallest unit (parent and children), and bigger family (aunts, uncles, grandparents…) only gather occasionally. In many places in China, the gather of bigger family is the day to day life. 

So is the family property. I use other family members electricity-powered motor is just as I use Wendy’s. :-)

Food is the Center of People’s Life

Food is great here. People spent enough time on food (if not 100% of time). Most things people eat are hand-made by family members themselves. In the morning, aunts prepared the breakfast, and we had them. Then they started to prepare lunch already. At night, people prepare the food for the next day. Food cost is a major cost of people’s salary.

This is China

To be more exact, this is still not China. Life in Shanghai is part of China, and life in Nanyang is also part of China. Many people try to find only one type of life that represent the whole China. I don’t think there will be such a "China lifestyle".

Brief Chat with Andrew

This afternoon, I talked with Andrew, correspondent for Wall Street Journal  about the misunderstanding between Chinese and foreigners in the last few weeks. I am pretty outspoken these days, and accepted more of interview request from US and France, because the recent events clearly show the importance of communication. I may be wrong, but I believe talk is better than fight, and protest is better than boycotting. I enjoyed the talk with Andrew, since he has wrote many articles on China for Wall Street Journal. He is also one of the very few journalist who insisted to do the interview in Chinese. I appreciate it. Here are some of the note I talked about.

I saw misunderstanding

In the last few weeks, I saw protests; I saw boycotts; I saw many news headlines in all major media; and I saw hundreds of BBS posts; but in short, I saw misunderstanding – that is the major thing I saw. Behind it, from some limited times, I saw conspiracy, but most of the time, it appears to be misunderstanding to me, more than anything else.


There are at least four levels of mismatches I saw between western world (France, British, and America) and Chinese world.

  • First Gap: Facts
  • Second Gap: Logic and Reasoning Process
  • Third Gap: Result

The first gap is about facts. People in France know different facts about China, than people in China. Interestingly enough, both pointing figure to the other camp claiming that they are brainwashed.

The second gap is reasoning process. With more and more comments on this blog, I saw people in France is protesting against Chinese government, and people in China perceive it as protesting against China – a ethic  entity. People in France value freedom and human rights more important than unity of a country or economic growth, while people in China thinks the other way.

So, the final result is completely different.

Western Standard?

I think media in US is using western standard to measure China. Freedom and human right are important. I do agree. China is still far from what everyone is expected, especially on the freedom of speech, and democracy (to enable people of the land to really make decisions for themselves). After several hundred years, we still didn’t find out a way to govern this land better. I am trying very hard to write blogs to help increase the awareness to people that they do have certain rights. Awareness is the first step. If the government see the human right record in China is 9 out of 10, US may give it 3 out of 10, I may say it is 5 out of 10. That is the reason in China,  I am trying to stand on the opposite side of the government to improve the political system, but when I talk with western media, I will try to stand on the same side of the government and want them to be aware that the human right record has already been improved.

As I talked in this post, entering a train via door instead of window is also human right, to be able to enter a restroom instead of piss in the public is also human right, and to have clean water to drink is also human right, just as freedom of speech or democracy. It is too easy to take it for granted that everyone in China already have the basic human rights. No, they didn’t yet.

I am in Nanyang, even in city, I saw poverty. Is there anyone in France want to protest for poverty in China? This is what I call the western standard.

China is the elephant in the story "Blind men and the Elephant". Western media saw only the tail and say "it is a rope". There is not doubt that it is the truth (although it sometimes makes mistake like recently pointed out by Chinese netizen, it generally is telling more truth than most media in China), but the problem is, to tell the truth does not guarantee completeness. For people in China see the bright side of the elephant, but often, it is not complete either. 

Willing Help vs Be Able to Help?

The last conversation with Peter on this blog was great. He, as a protester against Chinese government in San Francisco, asked sincerely: "What I can do to help create a better China?" I do appreciate the sincerity and the willingness to help, but the problem is, how to help, or whether people need the help or not. People think the democratic political system, and the market economy system, even the culture in American can help people in China, just as they believed in Iraq.

American tried very hard to help people in Iraq. Does it work?

Just as the central government is trying to help Tibet. From economic numbers (even from United Nation, not from Chinese official numbers), Tibet improved so much, but the problem is, whether it is what the Tibetan want? Do they value economic freedom as you do? Do they want to change the way you want them to change? This rule applies to China and to America.

Willing to help is good, but not everyone is able to help.

To help is good but to force others to accept the help is often written in the history book as invasion. That is the reason why people in China often use the term "Interfere Internal Affairs" to describe what American are doing.

Talk and Talk

There are many ways of communication. Wars can also be counted as one – to show the other country that a country is really angry, boycotting is another, protest is the even less destructive one (but still damage economic, political, and culture relationship).

"Talk" is the method I personally prefer, although it is perceived as the weakest way.

Update April 21, 2008

The outcome of the chat is published on Wall Street Journal today: Games Tensions on Slippery Track with the quote on my part:

"American people feel that freedom and self-expression are very important. Chinese people feel that national unity is very important," says Wang Jianshuo, 30 years old, who works for an Internet company in Shanghai and writes a blog in English and Chinese. "There is a big gap between the West and China on which values are more important. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just different."

The article appeared on Page A9 of today’s Wall Street Journal. The short quote reflected what I saw pretty well, and I think I am at least doing something to help this country (not necessarily helping the government) better than boycotting French products.

Street Scenes of Nayang – Part II

This is the second part of the Street Sences of Nayang Series. This is the first part:

Street Scenes of Nanyang

At the corner of Qiyi Road (July 1 Road), and Gongye Road  (Industry Road), I saw a giant blue high-voltage electronic tower. This is pretty rare in China cities, since the high-voltage lines go just in the middle of road, along the road. The other thing I noticed is the traffic light. Nanyang completely abandoned pure traffic lights, and replace them with left, forward and right signs. However, the traffic is still a mess, even in Shanghai standard. I will talk about it later.


The low head jam is a common practice in many cities in China. In Luoyang, for example, people built the jam to keep the water there, and for a bigger "lake" on the river. The jam’s only propose is to hold the water a little bit, without stopping it. The jam on the White River (Bai He) looks successful from the scenery perspective, but I am not sure about the impact for environment.


This is a typical "unit apartment". These types of apartment building is pretty popular since 1980s in China. People who were able to live in these apartments are regarded as "rich people" already. One of Wendy’s uncle has one such apartment. The 70 sq. meters apartment cost him 3000 RMB (400 USD) to buy back in 1980s. (The price is not per sq. meter, it is for the whole apartment)


This kind of electricity-powered motor is very popular. You can see them everywhere. This afternoon, Wendy and I was very happy to ride one (borrowed from family members), and traveled on two bridges in Nanyang. I rode it, and Wendy sat at the back – it was an adventure. We finally got back safely after 1 hour, and used up all the electricity in the battery.


Glass shop: most shops are randomly opened on the pedestrian, and those shops with fixed room are more luxurious.


This is the traffic on the road. I told Wendy, Nanyang reminded me of a city outside China – the capital of Cambodia. I am not kidding. Traffic in Luoyang is the same, and for most cities I have been to in China are like this. Shanghai has one of the best traffic rules in China, although it is still often described as "Scary" by my foreign friends.


Pineapple vendor on the street. A tri-cycle, a knife, and some relationship with the local Administration of Industry and Commerce will do the job.


Another noodle shop – many people eat there. We had wonderful dinner in another shop, similar to this. I am still completely full after 4 hours. The noodle is really tasty! "Is it clean?" Good question… That is all I can tell you.


What you call it in other places? BBQ?


On the street, food are everywhere, and you can always pick something you like, provided you are OK with the hygiene standard.


Crazy Taxi on the street.


As other cities, fashion business always get up-to-date to what is most trendy in coastal cities. They label them as Guangzhou, Shanghai, or Hong Kong fashion stores.


Why I Spent Time to Post These Photos?

Because of the picture I saw here. Pictures are so powerful (if well taken). They can help people to understand a country, and to reserve the smell, the feeling for the future.

As I stated at the beginning of Nayang Series:

I don’t think I know China. Although I lived in this country for 30 years, and lived in Luoyang for 17 years, in Tongchuan of Shaanxi Province for one year (when I was very young), and in Shanghai for 13 years, and traveled to all major cities frequently, and even stayed in city like Beijing for 2 months, there are still so many places I haven’t been too. The even bigger challenge for me to understand my own country is, to visit a place physically does not mean to understand the life there. I know Luoyang much better than any other city since I lived there, and of cause, Shanghai. Nanyang is the third city in China that I have a chance to get closer to learn because of Wendy.

Hopefully, the 6 days will contribute to this blog, so people will see another part of China, and add more Nanyang flavor to people’s perception of China, other than the strong flavor of Shanghai, on this blog.

I just want to record the "fact" which is the basis of understanding.

Street Scenes of Nanyang

First two photos of my trip in Nanyang.


In any of the residential area, the walls look like this. The ads are for pluming works, and relocating. The lack of good management for public property is a key problem in Henan, and in China (overall).


Update April 20, 2008

Sometimes writing a blog means that you have to keep your promise and try to post a blog entry no matter how hard it is. I am in Nanyang now, and don’t have Internet access. Fortunately, I still have a China Unicom CDMA card in my laptop, but I have to tolerate the slow speed. The two photos I posted last night took longer time than I expected, and I felt asleep before Windows Live Writer report complete of post.

Today, let me explain what I meant by the two photos.

Photo 1: Popular way to Get Around

The first photo is about the tricycle seen everywhere on the street of Nanyang. There are taxi, and taxi is more and more popular every time I am back. The first time I came to Nanyang, only tricycles were available to hire.

Photo 2: Advertisement inside Residential Building

The sticker with telephone number of relating and pluming work (sometimes with fake certificate of all kinds) are everywhere. This is the entrance of where Wendy’s Uncle live. Not just this wall, all the three walls are covered by the stickers. No just that building, all the building I visited are the same. No only in the buildings, the numbers can be seen in most of the public walls along streets. Better governing is needed for this town to be more beautiful.

Flight from Shanghai to Nanyang, Henan

Thanks to China Southern Airlines, we have direct flight from Shanghai to Luoyang (my hometown) and Shanghai to Nanyang (Wendy’s hometown). Today, I took the flight for the first time with Wendy and Yifan.

Small Aircraft

The airline is using CRJ airplane, a very small one. It only have about 50 seats, and there are three seats per row (numbered as A, D, and F). We do worried about turbulence and safety of the small plane, but it turned out to be pretty good. I took some photos.

The Airplane

Look, the door itself is steps, and you only need 5 steps to get onto the plane.


This is within the aircraft. Although there are only 3 seats per row, the seat is pretty standard, and not in mini-size.


The parking indicator of CRJ.


The flight was great. Very smooth, and very convenient. After using the 5 staircase to get onto or out of the plane, I don’t want to use the big ladder of Boeing 737 or 747 any more.


People may not care, but a small airplane plus a small airport like Nanyang makes it so convenient for passengers. That means, 3 minutes after landing, we are able to see our family members waiting in the small terminal. Luggage? Just a few that the round rolling pickup counter didn’t event rotate for one circle before everyone get their luggage.


Here, we are at Nanyang Airport!


Nanyang Airport (NNY) only have one runway without taxi way. So it looks funny for me for the plane to land on the runway then made a U-Turn ON the runway to get back to the middle, where the terminal is. This design is good enough for an airport with just less than 3 flights per day.


Wangjianshuo’s Blog on BBC, Again

Thanks for my reader fujianren and others to let me know that the recent hot article of BBC quoted my blog entry, again. Here is the URL: For my reader who cannot access the link (due to the Great Firewall), fujianren has been kind enough to post the content here.


This time, they quoted what I mean pretty accurate.

Blogger Wang Jian Shuo says several of his friends have started to boycott French products and describes the impact of recent events on his own thinking: "If you need an example, I am the person in China who were turned from pro-France to anti-France within few days. .. I don’t think France is a friendly country at all."

I am happy that BBC did an objective report. (Objective is what I see from my own perspective, while many may see it very biased if you are not in the same camp).


It is always a hard job to quote someone and use only one sentence to summarize what the other person used several page to express. It is hard. This time, BBC did a better job than the last time. I don’t remember how many times BBC quote my blog, but this time, I will give it a score of 5 out of 5 scoring system.

I am not Anti-France Now

Time changes, and my mind changes. If you ask me again, I may say, I am not anti-France now. The 300+ comments posted in the last few days did help me a lot to understand people in France – take some time to read the comments if you want, since they are so valuable to read, and worth the time. Some post are even 5 times longer than my original comment.

Communication is Better than Rejection

In 2005, I said, I will refuse future interview request from BBC after they mis-reported what I mean twice. I really did.

3 years past and I think it is the time to re-evaluate my decision. Many times, BBC, as many other media, may take bit out of the context to prove something I don’t agree, but even so, it may make positive change to the world by start communicating. I love this article from BBC, and they started to pay attention to another voice. So, I will take BBC’s interview in the future, although it means I often have to wake up at 3:00 AM to attend some of their live broadcast show. Hopefully, I can strength my ability to tell what I mean in just one sentence or two, since any media don’t have the luxury to give you more than that.

On My Way Back to Nanyang

Today (Friday), I am on my way back to Nanyang, Henan Province. It is about 1000 km west of Shanghai and 4 hour’s train ride from my hometown Luoyang. Nanyang is the hometown of Wendy. Due to some family issues, we have to get back together with Yifan. I will stay in Nanyang for 6 days starting from today, and get back to Shanghai on Wednesday. For me, it is the third time I am in Nanyang – a city in central China, and it is the third very good chance for me to understand China better myself.

Who Knows China Better?

Recently, during the discussion on this blog, it seems they key question people asked was about "who know China better, people in China or from outside?" It seems so simple a question that how can people outside a country claim to know a country better than people who live there? Most of the cases, people believe so, but when there is no freedom of speech and strong power of propaganda, the question is not that easy to answer. Western media tend to think people in China don’t know truth at all, and even if someone claim that they know the truth, they are simply brainwashed. The debate goes on and on…

I don’t think I know China. Although I lived in this country for 30 years, and lived in Luoyang for 17 years, in Tongchuan of Shaanxi Province for one year (when I was very young), and in Shanghai for 13 years, and traveled to all major cities frequently, and even stayed in city like Beijing for 2 months, there are still so many places I haven’t been too. The even bigger challenge for me to understand my own country is, to visit a place physically does not mean to understand the life there. I know Luoyang much better than any other city since I lived there, and of cause, Shanghai. Nanyang is the third city in China that I have a chance to get closer to learn because of Wendy.

Shanghai does not Represent China and Culture Shock

I devoted my last 5 years to report to the world about Shanghai, and many reader thanked me to help them understand China better. I would want to add a note that although Shanghai is true China (just like a leg of the elephant in the story), it does not represent China. For my friends in Shanghai, I want to remind them that Shanghai is not China.

In my Chinese blog, I am often attacked by people outside Shanghai about some point-of-views. I know they do have the reason to disagree with me, since it is for sure the life and thoughts in different part of China is very different.

We talked a lot about culture shock for westerners coming to China, but for me, the culture shock between different parts of China is no less than the western-eastern culture shock. For example, the difference I observed from my Nanyang trip today (although it is the third time) is no less than the difference I noticed from my last San Francisco trip. I will try to record some of the difference in the next few days.

In the next few days, Wendy, Yifan and I will spend very long time with her family (I am not sure whether I should disclose it, but Wendy’s grandmother just past away, and it is the local tradition that everyone in the family must get back no matter how far away they are, and how busy they are. Since Wendy’s grandmother is already almost 90 years old when she past away, there are not too much sorrow as others. In China saying, it can be regarded as the "leaving with happiness" for respected people who enjoyed long life). My other goal is to take the first hand opportunity to learn China better. I was trying to do it with sensation in the last few years, but the more I learned only revealed the more I don’t know.

Just as the Tibet discussion in the last few weeks, but very few of us (no matter on which side of the camps) have ever been to Tibet ourselves. Being part of a big family in Nanyang is sweet for me, and I want to learn more, and share.

Hopefully, the 6 days will contribute to this blog, so people will see another part of China, and add more Nanyang flavor to people’s perception of China, other than the strong flavor of Shanghai, on this blog.

Please stay tuned, and ask questions to me. I hope the questions will be more related to central China (Henan Province), so the question may help to guide me to observe things I may not notice.

Above: Nanyang Airport, and a small terminal.

Real Pictures of China with My Experience

I enjoy the 150 photos posted on EastSouthWestNorth. They are about real China. I don’t know whether the original source of the photos. I assume it is the web site, and credit goes to EastSouthWestNorth. I am re-posting some of the photos from the site, with my comments. I only pick those I personal feel very familiar to me, and add my observation to it. I hope the effort will help people who don’t know China to see the other side of the country, instead of just a country related to "Human Rights", "Tibet"… (I admit my own ignorance that only after I really took time to study what happened in Darfur did I understand Darfur is actually in Africa. I guess China may be the same for many people, who cannot really point out where China is on a map).

About the Photos

These photos are quoted from the web site EastSouthWestNoth. I don’t know the photographer, so I cannot gave credit, but the photos are very good and reflect real China very well. If anyone know who is the photographer, please let me know, and I do want to give big credit to him/her/them.

About My Selection

There are many photos in the original site. Most of the scenes look very familiar to me because I saw it all the time in the last 20 years. But I will only choose those scenarios I have personally experienced. I just don’t have camera at that time, and I don’t have the skill to capture the scene, but they did exist in my memory.

Also, most of the photos seems to be taken in 1990s in China. It is not current China. For current China, hopefully my site helps – I have many photos! Here come the Photos.

Getting on to Train

Below: too many people to get on to a train. This is exactly my initial memory of a train. I also entered a train via window! My memory is even worse than this photo. My home town is Henan, the province with biggest population, and there are just very few trains at that time. It is basically a war for everyone – people inside are fighting very hard to close window, to avoid people crawling in (thus make it even more packed), and people outside are "attacking" the window. If there is one open window, it is just like a hole in a dam – many people will get in and there is no way to close the window before the train moves – after train moving, there will still be people in the middle of the window! To be short, my memory of train is even worse than this image. Look, there are still open window there at least. Imagine what it looks inside. Bathroom is full of people, and no one can manage to move. People are everywhere – on the top at the luggage rack, on the floor under each bench, sitting on top of the back of the seat, or just manage to keep balance on the table. It is not news if someone manage to take 10 hours of train ride with only one foot on the ground. This was my experience back in 1990s. If there were color on the photo, you will see the train is green.


Now the trains are replaced with CRH trains (with photo), and this scene is very rare in China now (I don’t think it has completely gone away, since during Spring Festival, in some section, this scene may also on show). If you ask me, I am pretty happy with the change, and talking about human right? I stand firmly that we need more freedom in speech, and political rights, but the right to enter a train from door is also part of human right, and I HAVE TO give credit to people who made it happen. (Of cause, we need to reflect as a nation about who pulled the rich country in the past into the bottom of poverty and chaos).

45 Minutes Line for WC

According to the original title of this photo, the train station is full of people going down south to work, so that the bathroom line is longer than 45 minutes. I don’t experience that long line myself, since the line for men’s room is always shorter than the women, but I do experience situation when there is no WC at all. In my life (in early 1990), it is not something shy to piss at the side of the road. In the village I was born (photos), water closet is just some new, and it didn’t exist when I left the village when I was 5 year old. There is a well in the village, and all water comes from the well. Restroom by definition, don’t have water in it.

For my mother’s hometown, they don’t have water at all, and they have to go very long way to get very limited water. A bowl of water can be reused for many days before drop it away. This was the real situation when I was born. Until today, my mother has the habit to save every drop of water. Now they can use pure water.


This is true during my trip just 4 years ago, in a tourist group to Daocheng, the Tibetan area. The first lesson the tour guide, a lady taught us was how to "sing" in the Tibet area. By "Singing", she means to go to WC. When tour bus stops, men and women get off the bus and find his/her own places. General rule is, women find further places, and men just do it near the bus. I believe it is the same today.

Again, I do love more human rights in China. When I have a house, and have good job, and I want more. I want my void heard. But I am also aware that human right mean a place to piss in private with dignity. I see the change in the last 20 years as a history of improved human right record in China.


This is the Instant lottery ticket purchase line some where in China. I have experienced something similar – not so many people, but pretty close.


To get rich is not easy, especially in early days of China. People have enough time and ambitious enough dream to get rich. How to do it? Lottery seems the only way that everyone can participate. I was one of the person who bought lottery back in Luoyang, and dreaming to get something big. I did won a soap or two with many many tries when I was young. In Shanghai, recent years, there are still lottery like this (see the first photo, taken in 2003), but it is not the only way to get rich today. Something to note is, at that time when the photo above was taken, the job market is not open yet, and people don’t have the right to choose a job yet, and just recovered from the thinking "Money is the worst thing in the world".

I have two observation. It is the crazy idea of communist to turn people into extreme poverty, and we don’t have enough reflection on it yet. However, in the economic field, China government did something right in the last 30 years.


Below: Roadside vendor selling to railroad passengers. I saw this and it happens in some section of China these days. I don’t buy from them but many people buy – I think it is good for local economy. Long the railroad, in tourism area, in many middle and west part of China, vendors like them are everywhere. We experienced the same thing in Cambodia – a sign of poverty. I do have great respect to them, although many people

got annoyed by them. I read many foreign visitors to China wrote about the unpleasant experience to be surrounded, or traced by the local vendors, and they refused their offer pretty rudely, and even think they "don’t understand how to be polite". Well. I can be polite if I have something to eat, and have something to raise my children. It does not mean anything to be polite if I am starving.


I am writing a blog about Shanghai, since I am living in this amazing city in China. However, Shanghai’s situation does not represent China at all. The image I showed is more like China. However, take into consideration that these photos are taken about 10 years ago (I don’t know when they were taken exactly though), and things changes faster than everyone’s imagination.

I hope they can get a better life first – to be able to get some money to improve their lives. Democratic is important, I believe. I hope they can find a way to manage their village better, both politically, and (more importantly) economically.

I saw someone criticizing that people in China take economic progress too seriously. Well. If I were the railway vendors, I do take it more serious than "environment", "human rights", "freedom" that many people care. I hope one day, they care about these human rights, but only after they have a better economic right. (Meanwhile, I believe democratic in some sense help economic growth).

Haircut and Food

I love this photo:  Street barber in a demolished room. I don’t see it in Shanghai these days (in the recent few years), but it is how people have their hair cut before. I didn’t personally experienced it, since when I was young, I went to barber shop in a room, not on the street. But I do see many older people at the same time (1990s) choose to have their haircut on the street. A room is too fancy for simple job like haircut.


I am pretty familiar with this, and I was a loyal customer of these out-of-school youth selling cooked yam on the street. In my hometown, they typically sell baked potato, not yam. There are many of them. On the street, there are many shops until recently. When I came to Shanghai, I heard the news that in this city, shops offering eat on the pedestrian road is not allowed, I thought: "It is crazy! Is there any restaurant selling small things like this can afford to rent a room?" Later, I know that is the difference between a rich city like Shanghai and a poorer city like Luoyang (Luoyang is not a poor city in any way, so imagine China).


I believe even people who haven’t come to China may heard of some terrible story about the hygiene status of China. Many of my foreign friends are very cautious in China regarding food – they can easily got sick after eating something we eat everyday. Well. I admit it is true. However, the point is, to have clearer food is a human right, isn’t it? Everyone wants that right, but for 1.3 billion people to have this right is not very easy. I am in Shanghai, and I don’t eat those "tasty" food any more, but I know when one day, the food get clearer in my hometown and in most other places in China, we are improving human rights in China. I hope everyone can do something positively to improve the human right record.


Below: "The cadres visit the village to explain the law, and are treated to a work meal of potatoes".

From the mud wall, I guess it should be somewhere in the middle of China, where my hometown is. Now to mention the farmers in villages, even people in Shanghai like myself don’t have a clear law concept. I can tell you that I have never been to the court in my life yet: never got sued, and never sued anyone. Law is something new to many people. The change from empire ruled country in Europe took many decades, and American were lucky enough that they don’t have that kind of history when the nation was formed. China is different. In previous entries, many people use the word of "brainwash" to describe the behavior of Chinese people. I agree that some of the blind-nationalism and put an equal sign between party and the country is due to propaganda and brainwash, but many other things are rooted far more than the recent 100 years. It is rooted in the long history of China. If you call it "brainwash", just call it, since in some sense, culture can be regarded as "brainwash" in long enough years, so the group of people have pretty unique way of thinking. The thinking logic is pretty common among one group of people but distinctly different from another group of people. We call it historical and cultural different, right?



Below:  A peasant woman and her ten children.


People in China  love to have more children. People in China love to have boys. Please wait to point fingers to the peasant woman on the photo and judge what she did with your value system.

For a peasant family, number of children is almost equally to the production power of the family and hence the economic return of the family unite. For a highly urbanized Europe or North America, and especially after the industrial revolution, people just need a job to survive. In the vast rural area of China, a family is almost can be called a company (I know it is inappropriate, but you can loosely think that way), and number of children can also be thought as number of employees. The more employees you have, the stronger the family are. (For my friends in China, I know it is not EXACTLY the real situation, but I think it is pretty easier for people interested in China to think that way. For my readers, please don’t get mislead by my comparison, if you have a chance to learn more about how rural areas in China works.

The other reason is the thousands of years of family value in China. As I stated in article The Name of Chinese People, I am the 20th generation in my family tree, and my family book have detailed record of every single person in the family tree since the year of 1380 – my son Yifan, me, my father, his father, and 19 generations before him. The traditional way to record it is just to use male in the family, and female didn’t appear in the book. The family book has been past down for 500 years (in my family), and there are efforts from the family to find out the book before the year of 1380 (For your information, our family migrated from another province in that year). Many other family has more than 1000 years of record. Imagine the proud and the family value! Also imagine what if you don’t have a boy to keep the book going, and your branch in the book ends at you. This explains why people in China love boys.

Recent 50 years changed it. People don’t take family book as serious as before, and I don’t know whether we should be happy or unhappy about it, whether as a nation, we are lucky to abandon it, so we don’t have the pressure to have boys, or we are unlucky to be the generation to stop the tradition that has survived in so many years.


This is

common scene in my hometown, Luoyang. In summer, people get to street, and cool down for heat. People have different definition of privacy and public image. If it is accepted by local, what’s the point to say  it is uncivilized (as I saw many comments from blogs and travelogue by foreigners?)

Below: The commune wash room in an apartment building.

I love this picture a lot since I lived in this environment for two years since I was 4 years old, until maybe 6. If someone had a camera, they may caught me like the little child in this picture.


That is the living standard of many Chinese in 1980s.

Relationships between people are pretty different than the current relationship  in China (change in China), and also very different from the families in U.S. today.

P.S. Disclaimer

As a routine, whenever I post something related to the topic of China, I have to put a disclaimer here: Please first read a story called Blind Men and the Elephant and understand everyone is a blind man who can only possibly see part of world, and we have to accept the truth is, the same thing will definitely appear to be different to different people, and we also need to accept the really that there are many different but all correct answers to the same question.

China is so big a topic, and it means the people, the government, the land, the culture, the history and many things, and it has bright side as well as dark side; it has its hope and desperation; it is mixed of the best and the worst. In any article, I can either focus on something good, or bad, but hardly can be both. Whenever I post bright side of China and express my hope to my country, there are enough comments pointing out that I ignored the bad side. What comments are exactly the truth! When I write the dark side of this country, and show my worry, there are almost the same amount of comments pointing my finger about my limited knowledge about the whole China (or the elephant in my story). These comments, again, are very correct, since no one in this world is in a position to tell people what China really is, just like the blind men in the story.

My experience – where I was born, how I am raised, cities and villages I have lived in, and how I am treated by people around me, my job, my education, my luckiness or unluckiness, my love or hate, my hope or desperation – are only mine. If you think differently, it is the best time to share what you see China, from your perspective. Please do so now and that is why we have comment function on this blog. ( YLF )

"Love China" Blooms on MSN Messenger

This morning, I opened my MSN Messenger, and saw a list like this:



Due to limitation of screen copy, this is not a complete list yet. The heart and China was inputted this way:

(L) China

I just want to share with my friends on this blog about the reality, or to be more exact, about the reaction/perception of what happened in London and Paris. People may evaluate about the result of the protest. It is the time to find a way to communicate a message that is acceptable by the Chinese people. I heard a lot of criticism about the perception, but I only see "different", not right or wrong.

We have had great discussions about this issue in the last few blog entries. I am going to provide more report on what is happening in China. Since this blog is in English, its propose is mainly to help people outside China understand the feeling of people in China, and understand China as a whole better. Although it also serves as an important window for people in China to understand what is in the mind of people outside.

P.S. The last time I saw this was during the flower bloom in 2004.

IKEA Shenzhen Opens

I was an IKEA fan (from graduation to about age of 28). I am not a fan, but am still a customer for them

IKEA just opened a store in Shenzhen, at European City on April 6.

Hours of Operation: 10:00am to 22:00pm
Tel: (0755) 8602 2345
Address (English): No. 8188 Beihuan Dadao Nanshan District, Shenzhen (Off of Shahedong Rd. in the European City)

It has already entered Beijing (with two stores), Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu.

IKEA is one example of successful foreign companies in China.

PS. IKEA’s second store in Shanghai will open in 2008 in Beicai – pretty close to where I live.

Standing Cross Different Lines

One interesting thing I found from writing this blog and reading comments is, this world is far more complicated than black and white, and there are so many ways to look at the same thing (or we call it “perspectives”). Just I always referred (did I refer to the article everyday?) to the Blind Men and Elephant story, different perspectives tell completely different story. (I hope I don’t emphasis this too many times, but I do mean it).

Chinese Media and Western Media

Sorry to use the too generalized word, but this is what they both use when pointing finger to the other party. We saw direct attack between the two groups, but stand up against one does not automatically mean to be supportive to the other (just as I was misunderstood by being supportive to what CCTV said when I pointed error in CNN). To some extend, the truth seekers are standing on one side of the line, while both media (western and Chinese) stand at the other side. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying Chinese local news made exactly the same mistake as western media – the types are different, and the degrees are different, but, still on the same side of the line.

News-Lover or not

Recently, there are no big news around the Torch. Local people welcome torch is not something exciting, at least for media, and the last round of news debate started to fade out. I know many people are not happy, including pro-China protesters, and anti-China protesters. Confrontation is exciting for most people.

If there is a line of “no-news” is good news type of people, and news-lover, people protesting against each other may stand on the same side of the line.

Government vs Government

EU and US congress had past resolution (is this the right word) against China, and China is standing up to fight back. At the same time, I am still emailing back and forth with my friends in other countries, and people started to discuss in many places, like in this blog. This time, people (common people) are standing on one side of the line and governments (of both countries) on the other.

Speaker vs Listener

One highlight of our discussion in the past was from Peter Duong (here and here, who are protester against human right record of China in San Francisco, but willing to discuss, and actually shared a lot of insight. Me and other people from China are also those guys who want to listen. If you draw a line of those who are pure “speaker” and just want their voice heard without trying any effort to hear what others are saying, Peter, me and many others are on the same side of the line, while others on the other side.

Interesting, isn’t it?

By seeing the things from different perspective, the lines are so blurred. In many people’s eyes (I met many and read many of the comments), the world is made up of black and right, or right and wrong. However, there is something common to put some guys from the black group and someone from the white group to form a new group, and the rest in the other… Complicated? The world is even more complicated than this. That is why we have something called “Novel”. If the world is simple, we should be able to stop writing novels or any other form of literature already.

P.S. Besides what I talked before, I may want to spend some time to analyze the huge different between Shanghai and inner part of China – Henan Province where Wendy and I came from. Even within China, the value for family, freedom, money is completely different. I would even wonder whether the gap is bigger between France and Germany. To be short, I am consistently shocked when I witness the gap.

P.S. 2 Another thought about why people want to boycott French product: it is not allowed to protest against anything that matters (it is allowed according to law with a permit, but no one can get the permit), and boycotting is not explicitly banned, boycotting is the (maybe) only way to show people’s voice in China. quoted a video on YouTube about a single girl (from the video, just herself) holding a banner (cannot see what’s on the banner. Should be related wither boycott, or the torch relay) standing on the street corner, and policeman politely talked to her….