Why Maps in Shanghai are Upside Down?

Received an interesting email. I could not help laughing. This is another typical daily stuff that I didn’t pay attention but my readers did.

The question for Shanghai today is, why maps in Shanghai are upside down?

Hi Jianshuo,

Always read your blog, keep it up.

Here’s an interesting thing you might like to comment on. It concerns

Chinese map reading.

When in Shanghai recently (third time!) I went to the Century Park to check

out the metro station and the park entrance before

the big firework show on September 30 (spectacular!) the exits to use and

to also check out a concert at the Oriental Concert Hall across the road

from the Metro station.

The Metro station has a very convenient map on the wall showing the exits

etc and NORTH is clearly shown. However, I already had some idea about the

correct direction from Google Earth and was puzzled by the map. It soon

became clear that it was UPSIDE down! OK, a mistake, just reorientate and

get on with it.

However on the way back I stopped off at another Metro stop and noted also

on a map the road I wanted. North was marked also and I noted the way East

which is where I wanted to go. But uh uh, part was “east” i noted the road

numbers were going the wrong way. This map was also UPSIDE DOWN! with

North actually pointing south so I had to waste time retracing my steps.

What is going on??

Now, while in China I learned Mahjong (a little) and when returning home

checked out an old Hong Kong Mahjong rules book.

This notes that the seating position in order of the 4 winds is actually

opposite to reality. EAST is the main wind with North to its LEFT etc.

The reality is that NORTH is actually to the RIGHT of east on any map (in

reality). On internet checking I note that this is not a mistake but a real

part of Mahjong rules.

So here is a though about the upside down maps in the Metro stations? Are

they related to Chinese peoples’ thoughts about direction related to

Mahjong? :-) Why the strange Mahjong winds? Hmmmm….

There are different reasons to the different scenarios. Let me explain it one by one.

Maps in Metro

You are right. Many metro stations don’t use the “North” as the top in their maps. They position the maps just for the convinience of reader. Which ever direction the reader is facing, they use that direction as top. So it gives the reader clear idea about how they can use an exit.

For example, if you are facing east, and north should be on left, and south on right. Just check the map and see it from where you stand, then you understand whether you should turn left (to north) or south (to right) without understanding which direction you are facing.

This is very typical diagram you see in China. The map that works!

I remember there must be similar maps in other places. This should be the easiest way for readers to find their way.

Maps in China

Currently China uses the “North on top” map system, as most places in the world. But do you know that in history, Chinese map is always south on top?

I believe that is because of the same reason of the maps in Metro. People in China like to stand facing the South (where the Sun is), and with his/her back to north. This is how the architect of China was designed.

If people live this way, it makes sense to draw the maps with South on top – exactly the way people see their world.

Most people don’t know about this. I checked some ancient maps, and it WAS upside down from current point of view.

Look at the Forbidden City.

Although currently it is upside down (with north on the top), the names of the gates still give you some hint about how they were designed.

The gates on the left side of the palace was called “RIGHT gate”, and the gates on the right was called “LEFT gate”. The maps changes, but the names were not.

For the Mahjong, Hmm… I don’t play Mahjong, so have no comment on it. Anyone want to help?

Some Thoughts about War and History

I didn’t mention too much about this topic, but the recent discussion on Fight Between Foreigners and Local led to heated discussion, and I was touched by the depth of the thinking. Then in response to some of the comments, I talked a little bit about my thoughts about war (especially the WWII), and the recent anti-Japanese movement (which I think is a little bit out of track).

Again, I am open to your continuous input. As I always believe, the more facts and perspective we collect, the more likely we are closer to completeness (although I don’t think we can reach it.)

About Japan Text Book

@ling,

“However, I still cannot accept how the Japanese (most of them) can blatantly attempt to rewrite history and refuse to apologise.”

Where are your facts on how MOST Japanese blatantly attempt to rewrite history? If you’re talking about the revised textbooks, a vast majority of schools REFUSED to use them. Is that what you’re talking about? Also, no Japanese person who was not involved in the war of aggression (IE, basically all Japanese under the age of 65) owes ANYONE an apology. The disaster wrought upon Asia by the Japanese imperial army was a travesty, yes, but it was in the past. People shouldn’t have to apologize for crimes they didn’t commit.

Posted by: Steve on September 26, 2007 2:13 PM

@Steve, I agree with you on this part. I stood exactly the same side of the massive crowd in China before on the issue of text books in Japan, but recently, after really seeking for the truth, and I know more about the text book issue. Just as you said, it is one version out of many versions of textbook, and it is not government appointed text book (not like China). It is not widely accepted and it does not represent the majority. It is the local media itself twisted the fact and create something far from the fact.

Posted by: Jian Shuo Wang (external link) on September 26, 2007 3:40 PM

Who is Covering the History?

@Jian Shuo

So just what are the Japanese are teaching their kids about the war ??

Is it glazed over by two sentences ? or nothing at all ?

Why are the youths always surprised when they visit sites around memorial sites around Asia regarding the war ? Why are they when told always expressed shock at what their country did ?

All I know is that when their minister commented that the bomb had to be dropped to end the war, it caused a huge uproar in their country. Why ?

Why is it that until today, more events were organised for the victims of the bomb than the people they slauthered in Asia ??

Just my 2 cents

Posted by: wonton on September 26, 2007 7:11 PM

@wonton, this is useful observation. By stating that the text book issue is not completely as many media reports, I am not saying that Japan is doing a good job. The situation you mentioned is true, since people in Japan don’t know too much about history, especially those younger generations, and about the WWII part. I think it is the right thing for other Asian countries to keep speaking loudly about what the truth of history is and showing the evidences. History makes future, and we have to be respectful to history, and let it reminds us all the way to the future.

However, I do think that we are doing a even worse job than Japan about history in China. If there are just few places mentioning wrong facts (or just ignoring the facts) in Japanese textbook, there are pages and pages of wrong facts and stories in Chinese textbook. I was also shocked (maybe even more shocked than people in Japan to see their history) to face the history of my OWN country. Talking about the China’s role in Korean war, China’s role in Anti-Vietnam War, do we know what we did outside China?

For what happened inside China in the last few decades, we know even less. Many history in China has already been burned into dust for many younger people, even the history is just as recent as 20 years. We are still using very inappropriate names to refer to our own part of the history.

Also, for the aggression of Japan into China, I believe we should focus on what is the structure of government in Japan at that time that leads to the war, what mentality leads to war, and what we can do to keep peace. We should also (both China and Japan) should re-examine what is in the current society that seems like the seeds for another war. That is the more important thing to think about.

Unfortunately, the current education about history is all about hate. The education is something like: “they killed many of our people. Let’s remind this hate forever, and never, never forgive them…” I don’t like this kind of attitude, since if this kind of hate spread widely enough, this may just leads to another war. We did exactly the opposite from what we should learn from the bloody history.

I am not thinking Japan has done enough, but that is not the excuse for us (China) to do the same thing.

Posted by: Jian Shuo Wang (external link) on September 26, 2007 7:33 PM

Who is the Victim?

@Jian Shuo

Don’t believe everything you read.

The history of the opium war written in 1850s will be very different from the one written in 2007.

The view outside China may be different from within.

Perhaps, like you said, they are different parts of an elephant.

For example, Saddam Hussien is generally regarded as somekind of monster by many western countries. But he was able to provide peace to much of his country, and prevent sectarian bloodshed. Something the Americans were unable to do. Is the country better off now?? I’m sure from W. Bush’s point of view, I’s a great improvement. I am not saying that the killing of Kurds was an excusable crime. But whatever in Saddam’s reasons, we will never know. But it is interesting to note that even Iraq’s neighbour Turkey is afraid of them (Kurds). A hundred years from now the view might be quite different.

Stephen wrote : “Japanese Imperialism is to seek better livelihood for her nationals in the era of great depression.” Perhaps so, but it certainly does not include developing germ warfare and testing it on the vanquished, neither does it include mass killings of the Chinese throughout Asia. It would be so easy to just say ‘lets move on”

What I am concerned about the Japanese is that without an admission of responsibility and the absence of education, Imperialism will rise it’s ugly head again. Not possible ? happened twice in Germany. I don’t think there will be a third because the people did the right thing. Nazism is widely reject because of education.

I have no problems with the Japanese born either before or after the war. Most were not involved. And many responsible are dead or will be soon. But I am concerned about the tales that are spun in their popular culture turning disgrace into heroism. Celebrating the soldier’s samurai spirit, while continuing to wrap themselves as “victims” just like everyone else.

Can anyone blame China for building up it’s army and freak out everytime Japan flex it’s military might ?

Just WHO are the victims of the war ??

The bully who got slapped in return ???

@wonton, exactly. No one should fully believe in what he/she reads, no matter it is in China or outside China. However, different point of views (as stated in the book Mao or other English books by Chinese) does help me (at least) to re-think about history. That is why we need free flow of information.

I agree with the part you said about Japan. Education should be strengthen to prevent the war again. Peace is so precious. Everyone knows it, but it is harder than people’s imagination to keep it. If anyone say it is easy, look at the war everywhere, and the potential war by the inclining attitude toward war around us.

For your last question, “WHO are the victims of the war?”, my answer is (let me put disclaimer here: it may be controversial), both the Chinese people and the Japanese people are the victim of the war.

I want to say, the normal people in Japan or German are also victim of the crazy thing done by those people who control government or military. They also suffer a lot during the war. In this meaning, the people in China and Japan should stand firmly together, hand in hand, to fight against those attempt to break peace, no matter under what cause those attempt is.

I have no problem when people in Japan memorize the civilians killed in the bomb. They have the right, just as people in China have the right to hold events to memorize the our victim in the war. But I am completely offended when someone there show respect to those guys who planned and committed the aggression war! They are not only guilty to people in Asia, they are also guilty for their own people. It is those War Criminals who brought the world into war, and killed so many people in China, Korea, etc, and in Japan as well. I do want to protest if it happens.

In a war, no one is a winner. This is the fact of war. No one – both the aggressor, and the victim country – lose. It is the mentality that “war can solve all problems” that we (people in both Japan and China) are fighting against, not the people of Japan.

Just my 2 cents, and as always, I am open with more thoughts about this matter.

Posted by: Jian Shuo Wang (external link) on September 27, 2007 1:35 PM

Any one has more facts to support or reject the thoughts?

Shanghai Looks Like a Modern City

I haven’t take Shanghai Metro for a long, long time.

The other day, I took Metro home. Wow. I found some really good improvement in Metro. Let me share what I saw with you.

People Start to Line Up!

I would say people lining up to get onto to off Metro is very rare for me. Normally, taking Metro is a physically fighting game that you have to either join handful of people to rush into the door or you wait until the second train and get pushed by people behind you.

During my metro ride, I found more people line up on the left and right side of the gate to allow people to leave the train before they enter.

This is still not the common practice, but I am happy to see at least some people are starting to do so, which is very positive sign.

Empty Seats on Train

This also seems strange to me. On the train, at around 7:00 PM, there are empty seats while there are still many people standing!

I don’t think there is anything significant behind this, but this is a scene I rarely saw before. Typically, even if there is only one empty seat left, people will get across the train cart and take it.

This reminds me my first trip to Singapore about 5 years ago. I was so puzzled to see empty seats while there are many more people standing nearby. I even asked people around me why not take seats! (FYI, they didn’t have an answer). At that time, I thought I wrote something about it and claimed that this could never happen in Shanghai.

It happened after 5 years. I would guess that it is because of the higher quality people’s life and the more abundance of public facility that a seat is not that a big deal. The most likely answer to the question why people don’t take something is “abundance”. I would say if you take everything out of the garbage bin these days and show it to people of 10 years ago in China, I bet most of the items will be taken away, like all newspapers (they can sell it for 1 or 2 cents), bottles (they can also sell it), and boxes (they can bring home for daily use).

I guess the seat is the same thing for people. When I have a seat everywhere, why bother take the seat in a Metro? It seems the same in U.S. Subways, and especially the AirTrain in SFO (almost all people stand and keeps all the seats open).

Fight Between Foreigners and Local

Last Sunday, I went to buy some Sushi in the Biyun International District. Near Carrefour, I witnessed the fight between a foreigner (actually his Chinese driver) and a local safeguard. When police (110) came to bring everyone involved away, I am still in deep thinking about what is going on in this society.

The Story

I didn’t see the first part of the story. When I see it, I just found the safeguard used the plastic sign board to hit the rear of a black Passat, and the driver and a tall foreigner (should be American from what he said later) immediately rushed out and the driver start to beat the safeguard, and very quickly they formed a position that no one could move. Many people came and wanted to break them apart.

The Foreigner

The foreigner was very upset, and used the top of his voice to shout to the safeguard. Obviously he didn’t know Chinese and this is something he said:

“Keep your F*** hands out of my driver.”

“You hit my car. I will call police. You need to go to jail!”

“You are over. Bye bye”

“I took your photo. You cannot run away. You are done!”.

Something like that, and I could not hear it clearly.

The Crowd

Very quickly, the crowd gathered and this was their comments:

“Get out of China, foreigners!”

“This is not 1930s. You go away.”

To the driver: “Why you a Chinese work for Americans like a dog? You betrayed your country”.

To the driver: “There are enough people like you before liberation. You are not a Chinese.”

“Now China cannot beat American. That is the reason they dare to beat our people here.”

Most of the people are nearby flower sellers, and other people who sell goods on their cart.

My Thought

I am confused. In this case, for the crowd (which I would say is a very good example of the current majority in this society), it does not matter who is right or wrong, the only thing matters is who stands on the Chinese side, and who is not. I admit I completely have no information to judge who is right and who is wrong, since I didn’t see the beginning of the story, but the strange thing (very common in current society) is, no one really care about the reasoning process. There is a power (anti-foreigner) hidden in the society that can be easily triggered at any time there is a conflict between Chinese and foreigners, or between China and other country.

I’d like to make it fair for everyone. For people who are foreigners and reading this blog, I want to explain the reason why there are such a strong power hidden there. The current education about history is, foreigners invaded China and pull the country into half a century of poverty and humility disaster. People feel very proud of the current strong country that history may not repeat itself.

If you ask me, as an independent thinking (I hope so), I think the current nationalism education is dangerous. If someone can fight for something just because of hate of another country, or they were told this is a conflict between his/her country and another country, that can be very dangerous. That is the case in Japan and Germany in WWII.

I was very surprised to realize how deep this kind of hate is and how deep the scare in people’s heart. That is the reason I feel very puzzled. I am not sure what is the right way to handle it, and the right way to think about it.

My readers, what is your comments? Do you want to share with us the similar stories you experienced and the results?

P.S. The result of story is, they were all brought away by police (someone called police), and I don’t know what happened next.

You Know You Have Been in China for Too Long

This is a popular article circulated in the expats community for some time. Share with everyone.

You know you have been in China for too long when…

  1. You no longer wait in line, but go immediately to the head of the queue.
  2. You stop at the top or bottom of an escalator to plan your day.
  3. It becomes exciting to see if you can get on the lift before anyone can get off.
  4. It is no longer surprising that the only decision made at a meeting is the time and venue for the next meeting.
  5. You rank the decision making abilities of your staff by how long it takes them to reply “Up To You”.
  6. You no longer wonder how someone who earns US$ 400.00 per month can drive a Mercedes.
  7. You accept the fact that you have to queue to get a number for the next queue.
  8. You accept without question the mechanic’s analysis that the car is “Broken” and that it will cost you a lot of money to get it “Fixed”.
  9. You find that it saves time to stand and retrieve your hand luggage while the plane is on final approach.
  10. You can shake your hands almost perfectly dry before wiping them on your trousers, or you have your suits made with terrycloth pockets.
  11. A T-Bone steak with rice sounds just fine.
  12. You believe everything you read in the local newspaper.
  13. You regard traffic signals, stop signs, and copy watch peddlers with equal disdain.
  14. You have developed an uncontrollable urge to follow people carrying small flags.
  15. When listening to the pilot prove he cannot speak English, you no longer wonder if he can understand the air traffic controller.
  16. You regard it as part of the adventure when the waiter correctly repeats your order and the cook makes something completely different.
  17. You are not surprised when three men with a ladder show up to change a light bulb.
  18. You blow your nose or spit on the restaurant floor (of course after making a loud hocking noise)
  19. You look over people’s shoulder to see what they are reading
  20. You throw your trash out the window of your house, your car or bus you are on
  21. You would rather SMS someone than actually meet to talk ‘face to face’
  22. You wear nylons when it is 30 degrees outside
  23. You honk your horn at people because they are in your way as you drive down the sidewalk
  24. You regularly fumble for five minutes to find 10 jiao despite 10 people waiting in line behind you
  25. One of your fingernails is an inch long
  26. You ride around on your bicycle ringing a bell for some unknown reason
  27. In a meeting you say everything will be ‘wonderful’ and give no details.
  28. You forget that the other person needs to finish speaking before you can start
  29. You burp in any situation and don’t care.
  30. You see one foreign person eating Pineapple (or whatever) and say “Yes, all foreign people like Pineapple”
  31. You start to watch CCTV9 and feel warm and comforted by the ream
  32. You take a nap while you are dining in a restaurant with your girlfriend/boyfriend
  33. Just everything produced in your home town is “very famous in China”
  34. You don’t do any favors without wondering what your personal benefit could be
  35. You never ask “Why?” anymore.
  36. You understand all the above listed references.

My Comments?

Unfortunately, most of the items listed above are true – it is the behavior of my fellow people. What would I say?

There are some bad behaviors, and there are also many things that are just different. One of the best thing people get during travel is sensation. People are much more sensitive in a new world, and notice every difference from its own country. It is the same for people going to other countries. For example, Claire posted about the France version along with the Chinese one here. Don’t too worry about this part.

I do worry and feel ashamed of the bad habits people have, with the “jumping into the line”, and “spit in restaurants” on the top of the list. I am confident and optimistic about the future at the same time. We are in the transition period of urbanization. There are more people moving into cities in the last 20 years than people living in cities. Litter? Bad habit, but did you ever see a dust bin in the cotton field? It takes time for people to get used to the city life.

I thought of another word: Jay walking. Why people use “Jay Walking” to talk about people who didn’t obey traffic rules? From a reference book, I learned the word was invented in old cities (like New Yorks) in 1930s. Jay means “village people”. See, it has nothing to do with country. It is more relative to the time in progress. I would say, of cause, China is not so advanced in development… So take the time.

Having said that, I do agree it should be brought to everyone’s attention to improve all these bad areas.

What do you think about these 36 items in the list?

Can you Understand Dish Names in China?

Or let me try to use a better title: As a foreigner, are you able to understand the English translation of Chinese dishes in China?

To Read English Menu in U.S. is Hard, but Chinese Menus are Harder

The biggest headache for me is to order dishes in U.S. I think I understand English, and can speak some English, until I am presented an English menu. I believe the most effective way to determine whether someone has lived in a foreign country or not is a menu test. The names of vegetables or sauces are the most basic terms in daily life, but can be very hard terms for a language learner (when they learn it out of the daily life context). That is how I feel in U.S. and Australia.

For visitors or expats in China, the situation is completely the same, and even worse. The translation of Chinese dishes does not help too much because by nature, it is not easy to translate the Chinese dishes to English just by direct or word-to-word translation, not to mention the Chinese dish names are not descriptive itself.

The Key Difference in Chinese and English Dish Names

There are key differences between the dish names of Chinese and English. The English names basically list what’s in the dish (the ingredients) and how it was cooked. The challenge of understanding English menus is to understand the name of the limited amount of vegetables, fruits and sauces names.

The Chinese dish names, in contrast, are completely irrelevant from the ingredients. Cooks tend to think of a very short and beautiful name for the dishes. Typical Chinese dish names are only four characters long, and when you read it, it sounds like a short poem. To name or to guess what the name stands for is an interesting game for cooks and diners.

Examples

Here are my favorite examples of Chinese dish names. Guess what it is from the names.

  • Lion Head. Is it the head of lions? No. It is big meat ball cooked in Hangzhou. One of my favorite. Why they name it this way? I have no idea. It is just named hundreds of years ago and people are still using this name.
  • Ants Climbing Trees. This is also a popular dish in China. We order this almost every time we go out. It is also translated as “SautĂ©ed Vermicelli with Spicy Minced Pork”. Did you see the connections? I didn’t.

Xiaojie Wang sent me some other direct translations that is so funny. Here you are:

  • Slobbering chicken. Chinese: 口水鸡 More official translation: Steamed Chicken with Chili Sauce
  • Tiger Dish. Chinese: 老虎菜 English: No idea at all. What is that?
  • beancurd made by a pockmarked woman. Chinese: 麻婆豆腐 English: Mapo Tofu (Stir-Fried Tofu in Hot Sauce)
  • Rolling Donkey. Chinese: 驴打滚. English: Glutinous Rice Rolls with Sweet Bean Flour
  • There are very ridiculous: Chicken without Sexual Life. Chinese: 童子鸡 English: Spring Chicken

These are the traditional dishes with relative common names. In some restaurants, they really tried hard to find new names for old dishes, or their new inventions. That can be even more wired for foreigners.

You see. From the name, you really have no idea about what it is, and some direct or bad translation makes it even hard to understand.

Bad Translations

Even with good and direct translation, it is so hard to guess. Believe me. It is not only for foreigners. I also have hard to understand what it is about. It is not rare that I ask the waiter what a dish really is.

Now many restaurants provide English menus, and the translation is really bad. They did the translation just by characters (not by meanings), and it turned out to be seriously wrong.

For example, “Griddle Cook” is common way to cook a dish, and it can be mistakenly translated to “fuck” if they don’t know English well. Look at this menu, and you will be really surprised by what the dish names are.

screen-interesting.menus.jpg

See? Don’t be surprised to see a translation like this. They really didn’t mean rude – they just want to communicate about what they are going serve you – in a wrong way.

Survey: What is Your Experience?

Reporter Miss. Wang Xiaojie asked me to do a simple survey on my blog for my foreigner readers: What is your experience with Chinese menus? Can you read it? If you can, how did you figure out what it means? If you cannot, what do you think that can help you?

Please post comment directly understand this post. Thanks.

P.S. Xiaojie will collect the response from this post and feature the interesting replies in the next week’s International Herald Leader.

P.S. 2 Why there are so many f*** word in the menu?

There are just 2000-3000 frequently used Chinese words, and there are so many meanings in the world, so every single character means a lot of different things. For example, the Chinese character 干 in the menu means a lot of different things. To name a few:

the trunk of a tree

the main part

capable; competent

[Informal] to do; to work

to fight on

[Literary] to offend

to interfere in

to be involved in

dry; dried

to drain till empty

You can see, there are some. It can also be translated to the f*** word. The menu maker may randomly pick a translation and print it there.

P.S. 3 The blog of International Herald Leader points to this entry on my blog for discussion around the Chinese dish names. Welcome, readers from International Herald Leader.

Chat with Helen Wang on Chinese Dream

10:03

Helen is a great person. She writes blog at http://www.helenwang.rdvp.org/. Actually, she has two blogs. .One is Across the Pacific and the other is A Taste for Good Life. She seems doing similar thing as I am doing – to setup a bridge between China and the rest of the world. In her case, with America.

Helen is preparing her book about China – The Chinese Dream. Helen aims to profile the middle class of China. Our conversation started with the size of the middle class. We agreed that the middle class of China is not big, but it is almost 100% of who foreigners have access to. More importantly, this segment will grow to the majority of China (to 700 million according McKensy estimate). That is the significance of this group of people, and why it is a good idea to write a book about it.

Then we talked about the questions Americans concerns about China. I laughed where Helen talked about the little survey she did in on MySpace about the questions people have about China. They are exactly the same questions I receive every time I meet with first time visitors to China. To name a few of the FAQs:

  • Censorship
  • One Child Policy
  • Pollution
  • Communism
  • Human Rights

I laughed because these are the exact questions (and some in the exact order) the people in the Mayor’s delegation asked me during our dinner, and how the U.S. Congress Delegation asks. It seems the great way to tell foreigners’ knowledge about China is by checking whether they ask “censorship” as the first question. Why? Because if they have talked with someone from China, the chances are, they may already have asked this must-ask question.

Well. I would say there is nothing wrong to ask these questions. No offense. It is exactly the normal question to ask, but this reveals what is in the media in the U.S., because people will ask questions about what they see on TV.

We are the same. When we meet people in Japan, we ask about the text book, or ask about war for people from Iraq. It is just as natural as it is, but the problem is, there are much more than text book in Japanese life, or war in Iraq. In the Japan case, it is even out of the mind of almost everyone. That is the exactly the problem, just as censorship or human right is not the concern for most people in China.

Then, we talked a lot about my take to the following issue: one child policy, censorship, future of China, concerns, dreams, the moral standard in China, pollution, difference between U.S. and China, and my own story… (NOTE: Although I provided some links to the topics, my blog entries were written (maybe) long time ago, and my current thinking may change dramatically in the last few years.) It seems this article is too short for me to write everything we talked about. Maybe you can either wait for one year or two after Helen’s book comes out, or let me write more about these “sensitive” topics in the future.

10:25

P.S. Tomorrow, the National Public Radio will conduct a short interview with me on censorship. I hesitated and finally agreed, because I know the reporter long time ago. She interviewed me twice on the Bill Gates Murdered event and on my photo exhibition. I doubled checked to make sure I have enough time to talk, and the BBC’s interview situation does not happen. I am comfortable to talk about censorship but not comfortable for what BBC did for me – twice. Once broadcast 5 seconds out of my 30 minutes interview and the other time, cut one sentence out of my two page blog. Hope this time is better. Let me try.

Foreign Language Only Signs?

Found an interesting article on Shanghaiist about the recent regulation to add Chinese signs to all stores, shops and restaurants in Xintiandi.

Xintiandi is a very unique place, where most of the shops and bars remains the same style as they were in their original country (many from U.S.) and it is a cultural showcase in the heart of Shanghai about the foreign cultures. One reflection about this is the names and signs of the stores. Many of them only have English names and only show English on their signs, like my favorite KABB. I don’t know whether they have a Chinese name.

The recent requirement is to put Chinese names on their store. I didn’t visit Xintiandi recently, but it is said all store complied with this regulation already. Hmmm.. This seems wired and the next time I am there, I will take pictures, and I am sure Xintiandi may look differently.

The other place very similar to Xintiandi is the Biyun International District. It is just an American Town in Shanghai.

How do I feel? Well. I have some concerns on this. I am afraid the consistency may overtake diversity in this city, and the government is trying to regulate everything, and may kill the energy of the new economic ecosystem. I love to see Chinese culture become more and more rich, however, it should base itself upon a very solid foundation – like more artist, more poetic, more great novelist, and more good Chinese restaurants and bars. By suppressing the other culture to make sure one culture is stronger is not the right way to do it.

How do you feel?

The Name of Chinese People

After I wrote about Chinese Characters (which is an interesting topic), let me talk about the name of people in China. Just as the last article, I “intentionally” over-simplify it since 1) how can it be possible to tell the “complete” story with such a short answer 2) why people need to understand that details when they are first exposed to such topics.

What’s in the Name?

I chatted with Chris the other day about giving naming to my son – it was not an easy task. I asked: Do you have explicit meaning in English names? I assume there is no for most names, and the choice is just about pronunciation and because people who are named with this name. (Is this true?)

The Chinese name is different. There are only limited number of Chinese characters (you cannot create a new one, and it is always impossible to create a “typo” on computer since you cannot create one characters on computer), and there are just a small subsets that are often used (within 2000). That means, every single character has explicit meanings. It is either some physical objects (like mountain, rain, cloud, tree, gold), or some concept like happiness, good, wisdom…

Finding out the name is like write a very poem. Everything express some meaning so you need express something with the two or three characters.

So, ask what the meaning of their name when you meet a person from China, and you will be surprised by how deep the meaning of the names are.

Family Names

Unlike English names, people put family name in the first place, and the given name the second. It shows respect to the anscester.

There are not so many last names. The common saying is “100” last names in China, but actually, there is more than that. To recite all the 100 last names with the exact order is one of the must-do task for children in the past.

Common last names are:

Wang, Zhao, Zhang, Li, Yang, Sun, Zhou, Wu, Zheng…

The Middle Names

People in China actually don’t have middle names.

In tradition, all the names are three characters, with the first character as last name, and the rest two are the given name. However, in many families, the first character of the given name is a mark of the generation. (Let me name it as middle name, although people in China don’t call it so). Everyone in the same generation has exactly the same middle name.

For example, according to the Family History Booklet, my middle name should be Zhong 重. This has been determined hundreds of years ago already, so I know my son’s middle name, or my grandson, or his son, or grandson’s middle name.

The usage of this middle name is make sure when two person with the same last name meets, they can immediately tell what generation he is, and they know how they should address the other. It is not rare for a person of 70 to call a person of just 5 grandfather…

So, when the last name, and the middle name are determined, people typically only need to think of one name – the second character of the given name. The tradition is, you cannot use the same name as your ancestor, even names with similar pronunciation to show respect. There are thousands of characters, and there are only hundreds of pronunciation in China, so you can calculate how many characters with exactly the same pronunciation. So this further limit the options.

The Sense of Family History

When I read the history of my family, I realized I am the 20th generation of the family living in that small place. The first generation, according to the history, moved from Shanxi province to Henan Province in the year 1380. We know the name of this person, and how many children he has (and what is their names), and the all the way down to me – it is a very big family tree there. When I read about the person who record the relationship. They did the work in the 15th century, and once in the 18th century, and the latest work is in 1993. I was amazed by how long the history of my family is. I just discovered this when I am thinking about names for my son, who is the 21th generation of the family.

Current Situation

We finally turned out that we didn’t follow the naming standard recorded in the Booklet. However, I will tell Yifan what generation and what “middle name” he should have. In China, the recent two or three generations typically give up the old way of giving names, so people have two characters name or three, or even more. It is chaos. The long history of naming in China gradually got lost… It is a pity.

Chinese Characters

I blogged about China for 5 years but still didn’t mention the Chinese character. How can it be possible. Let me talk about the Chinese characters today.

It is Completely Different from English

I am not talking about the language itself, I am talking about the characters. Is there a difference?

The written language of many language, like English and German, are record of the pronunciation. You see the written language, and chances are, you can pronounce it.

Chinese charters are the record of meanings, or the object, and has separation between the oral language, or the pronunciation.

This major difference makes it possible for Chinese to survive in the last 2 thousands years, and, in my personal belief, to hold the country as a united country.

Examples

China is so large, and pronunciation of the same language changes dramatically. For example, in Southeast part of China, almost every village has their own variety of pronunciation, and it differs from each other every 10 km.

I could not understand the language Shanghainese say, and now I can understand but still cannot say the language after I am in this city for 12 years. It is not just accent – it is completely another language!

However, the written language of the whole China is the same. No matter how different people pronounce, when they write it down, it is the same language! That is the amazing thing about Chinese.

The Written Language

How does it work? You may ask.

Look at this picture I draw.

On the first line is the original Chinese characters.

A circle with a dot in it means the Sun. A moon shape with cloud around it is the Moon. What people mean by putting the Sun and the Moon together? It means light, bright…

On the right, there are two characters, one is pointing to top, and one is pointing down. So the left one means “up” and the right one means “down”.

At the bottom, there are one line, meaning 1, two lines = 2, and three lines = 3.

Then with the mountain shape – a horizontal line with three vertical lines above it (with the middle one higher), people are expressing “mountain”, and for water, they draw it like water.

That is the origin of the Chinese characters.

In the several thousands characters (two thousands are commonly used), the most basic characters are either the same of the nature, or has some meaning like 1, 2, 3…

Pronunciation and Characters

I just imagine. If someone pronounce 山 (or Mountain) as Mountain, and pronounce 一 (or one) as one, as long as they write it the same way, they are still speaking Chinese!

From the middle of the last century, a general pronounciation was enforced to make it easy for people to communicate. This is called Putonghua 普通话 or Mandarin. Many people say basically two languages, with Putonghua and the local language.

I am convinced because of people share the same written language, China is always a united nation while empire like its size already broke into smaller countries. If China should have used a language the record the pronunciation, it should have already be the same situation as Europe – German, French, English… many very similar but different languages, thus became different countries.

Just because it is the shape of the nature, I still can directly read all the books written thousands of years ago without too much difficulty (a little bit). This is a miracle that I enjoy.

Hope this helps to bring some interest about Chinese to you.

Shanghainese Girl Marrying Foreigners

I was asked (more than once) about my point of view of Shanghainese girls marrying foreigners. This is a controversal topic.

You will see this topic here and there:

Another question for you Jianshuo though it might spark off a lot of hot debates (both positive and negative).

Why are there so many women in China who are dying to marry foreigners (mostly westerners but also Asians from developed countries like Japan, Singapore, Taiwan …you can’t call HK a country but yeah, HK as well? I don’t see as many Chinese man marrying foreign women.

It is a “social trend” or real love? Most of these women are in their early 20s while their “partner” are at least in their 40s (from observations, for course I don’t know their exact age).

Would like to hear your views on this.

Posted by: Elaine on November 9, 2006 02:50 PM

Or

Speaking of marriage, one thing bothers me a great deal is seeing so many young Chinese women (especially the Shanghainese) marrying foreign men old enough to be their fathers, or dating married foreign men knowing they are married. Oh well, this is a touchy subject…

Posted by: tamie on March 20, 2007 12:26 PM

Or

China has been opening up for many years, and the Chinese now knows a little more of the outside world now.

Perhaps you should think of WHY Chinese in some cases prefer foreigners instead of Chinese.

Perhaps because foreigners has far more knowledge of the rest of the world outside China,

due to the free press, and the holiday travels to other countries which most foreigners do quite often.

That makes them more interesting in the Chinese’ eyes.

And marrying a foreigner opens many new doors for you outside China.

Worth to think about, when someone is just fed up by all the control, the rules and the whole system here….

Posted by: carsten on March 20, 2007 09:04 PM

My Point of View

First of all, I don’t think some form of the question itself is not appropriate. For example: “Do you think Shanghainese girl should marry a foreigner or not?” I believe both answers (Yes or No) are not the right answer? Why? It seems like discrimination. I know many people don’t think it has anything to do with discrimination. I didn’t realize it before until I thought carefully about this issue recently.

Martin Lurther King was a wise man. He said in 1963 that

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

It is wise and clear enough. I would use the same words for people debating whether Shanghainese should marry foreigners:

The marriage of two person should be judged by the nature of their love instead of their original, nationality, color of skins, religious, or race

(Some declare to add gender into this sentence. I am not that sure yet, but I am at least not 100% opposite to it)

So, marriage is marriage, love is love. It has nothing to do with whether the husband is a foreigner or not. The same for the wife.

The Question is More Than That

Of cause I know many people ask the question not just because of the difference in nationality, they are asking the other question:

“Are Shanghainese girls marry foreigners just for money?”

“Are foreigners treat girls in China not as seriously, and play with them?”

“Are the Shanghainese girls just show off, or something else?”

I know there are many questions like this need to be answered.

I do agree there are always statistical distribution of certain behaviors. For example, we can say that “the statistical average wealth of expats in Shanghai is higher than the average of local people in Shanghai.”. I don’t see anything wrong with this statement if the real number shows so, but to generalize any statement to be “all foreigners are richer than local people” is not correct, and to generalize all Shanghainese girls marry foreigners just for money” is completely wrong. Percentage? It seems it should be higher but there is no data support.

So the question should be transformed into a new one: “Is it proper for a girl to marry someone just for his money?” This is a question with less discrimination intend. Generally, people’s answer is “No”. This kind of marriage does not only exists in a cross-culture family, and also exists (largely) in China.

To be Short…

To be short, I don’t think it is Right or Wrong for a Shanghainese girl to marry a foreigner, because it has nothing to do with nationality, or race. To take it as a factor to judge whether it is right or wrong is inappropriate.

City Life v.s. Village Life

I should put a disclaimer at the top of every entry I post:

Although I made all effort to make sure I honestly record what I see, I hear, and I think, this blog does not represent Shanghai. People with different history and status have competely different view about the city. It of cause does not represent China.

I read a peom about life in city v.s. life in village. I think it is very true. It reveals how different the two lives are. Let me translate some sentences of the peom and explain why it is true.

I live in city – I was born in hospital

I live in village – I was born in my home.

Don’t take it for granded that there are hospital in all villages. I viisted places where people deliver their babies in home.

I live in city – from today, I become happy citizen of the country.

I live in village – from today, I become a honorable tax payer for the country.

Actually everyone pays tax, but the burnden for people in countryside are much higher compared to the low income they have. They pay not only tax. There are many other fees they need to pay for the village.

I live in city – I am ill. Dad bring me to hospital. I am courious whether insurance cover it.

I live in village – I am ill. Dad sold the pig, and bring me to doctor.

Medical insurance only covers people in city. People in villages, and people who move from one city (home city) to the other city typically are not covered by any medical insurance. If they get ill, they need to pay for themselves.

I live in city – My family bought motor cycle, and prepare to buy car several years later.

I live in village – My family bought a new baby pig. Perhaps the year after next year, it will have more baby pigs.

Still, big contrast about what people are thinking about and expectation about future.

I live in city – Dad want to have a business of his own.

I live in village – Dad want to go into city, to be a farmer worker

Go to city is the dream of many people in villages. Now, farmer worker is a way, but very hard way. They work on construction site and work all days and night.

I live in city – country gave Dad all kinds of benefits, and waived all tax.

I live in village – Dad has to pay all the tax and fees back in home, and need to pay to get all kinds of licenses.

In the previous years, startups and small businesses in city was encouraged, but the situation for farmer workers got worse. From last year, things are getting better.

I live in city – Dad to go bank everyday, and servant smiles to him.

I live in village – Dad ask for delayed salary at the year end, but was beaten and insulted by business owners.

The previous years, farmer workers’ salary is not ensured. Many work for the whole year, and want to get their salary for the year. Many cannot get their salary, and don’t have money to go back home… The situation is better this Spring Festival.

I live in city – Government said Dad work on startups, and benefit the economy

I live in village – government said Dad’s rushing into city made big problems, and maliciously asking for salary.

I live in city – I can move freely in my country.

I live in village – I can live freely in my village.

This is interesting part. For people living in cities, they have city Hukou (or residential certificate) and they typically enjoy going to other cities. However, for people in villages (farmer resident), their move in the country, especially to move into city is restricted. Without Hukou, they don’t have benefit, don’t have medical insurance, and their child cannot go to local schools. (This is changing)

I live in city – Tomorrow is promising.

I live in village – Tomorrow is hopeless.

This is totally two different expectation about the future.

Totally Different

That is the current situation of the country. There are many good things everyday, and there are many bad things. One thing to point out is, many situation listed above are true about two years ago. Now, although it is still true in majority population, a lot of things are improving in the last two years. There is still a long way to go.

On Humanity

Chat with Fay today. I found Humanity is an inspirational word. When I am thinking about the business we are doing, we dig very hard into the details about what value we provide to users. At the end of every thread, I found out humanity is the final answer.

Fay put it very well. She reminds me in the year of 1900, when motor and cars were invented, it brought mobility and freedom to life. No matter how hard and detailed the manufactures’ work are, at the end of day, it satisfied the humanity need – people can get from location A to location B at any time they choose.

Internet is great. It changed people’s life. The last time I read the word humanity was in John’s book The Search

“… thousands of people very rich, improved the businesses of hundreds of thousands of merchants, and fundamentally changed the relationship between humanity and knowledge. In the process, Page and Brin have become fabulously wealthy and movie-star famous. And it did not take them …” on page 66.

A lot of things are important, but at the end of the day, only smile on human face explains all the reason why people work so hard.

Why I Have to Keep Thinking

Recently, I was put into a position that force me to think really hard about the deep reason we do it, and find out reasons about what we do, and how it is meaningful even after several years, even there are many people standing up and say no…

On Enemy

Jack Man’s last interview on Future Life is definitely a successful one. I didn’t watch it, but I heard one quote:

“When there is no enemy in your heart, there is no enemy in the world”.

It echos my thinking about Passion for Contribution, and Confident about Return. When your goal is to contribute, and competitors only help you to grow, you see no enemies, you see no angry, and the only thing you feel is passion. That is the situation everyone should be in.

Don’t Know What I am Talking About?

Don’t worry. I don’t know either. There are too many thread in my mind now, and I didn’t put it into a logic order. I hope it will come out later, but now, let me put it down and help me thinker deeper.

Do Chinese Move to Small Cities

PC is an investor running Investor Diary in Hong Kong. He is also a good friend of mine after we exchanged some emails. He dropped me an email today and discussed about the idea of moving to smaller cities.

Dear Jian Shuo,

In the US an increasing number of people choose to live outside of the big cities because of lower costs of living and better quality of live. See http://www.forbes.com/bestplaces/2005/01/20/life2land05.html

I wonder if the same can be applied to China. Apart from the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, are there smaller cities in China that are cheaper and nicer (e.g. air quality, population density etc.) to live? For example, what about places like Tsing Dao?

Maybe that can be a topic for your post later on. Anyway just a thought.

Kind regards,

PC

PC, thanks for the good topic. Yes. I will write about it.

Moving into Cities? It is a Dream

China is still at the stage of urbanization. It remains a dream for the 0.6 billion population in country-side to move into cities. They struggle for their whole life to get a city Hukou so they can move into cities. If they don’t get the Hukou, they are called farmer workers, with no health insurance, no education opportunitiesÂ…

To enter a collage is one of the very few ways to get a city Hukou. I have friends who tried more than 5 times for the collage examinations. It was 5 years of waiting and trying. If he didn’t try, he will remain a farmer for the rest of his life (before the Hukou system changes).

Moving into Largest Cities? It is a Dream

For people in smallest cities, they want to go to bigger cities like Luoyang (which has 6 million population). There are more job possibilities there.

For people in these middle sized cities, like me, they try to move to bigger cities. People in Shanghai or Beijing have many benefits which people in other cities don’t have. Let’s take education opportunity as an example.

In Henan Province, only 1 out of 5 students has the chance to enter university at the time I completed my high school, while in Shanghai, the ratio was about 4 out of 5. In Beijing, the ratio is higher.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University accepted 56 students from Henan province (with a population of 100 million) while accepted several hundred from Shanghai (with population of 12 million at that time). When I was in grade two or three in high school, some of my friends transferred to high school in Beijing or Shanghai. The reason is simple. In Luoyang, they worried about whether they could be accepted by a colleague, while in Beijing, they only worry about whether they can enter Tsinghua or Peking Univ. That is the difference.

Besides education, the job opportunity, the income, the city facility in bigger cities are better. I never heard of drama or symphony performance in Luoyang, but I can see them in Shanghai. It seems everything in big city is better in smaller city – except the hot competition, the high pressure and the bad air.

There are too many people looking for opportunities to enter biggest cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, while so less thinking about moving out.

Moving Out to Smaller Cities? It is Also a Dream

For those who already have good life in Shanghai, sometimes, they may be attempted to move out of bigger cities when they bear too much pressure. It’s just like say “Hey, I hope I can stay at the sand beach for the rest of my life.” It is a dream that no one really get it.

Wendy and I joked: If we sell out our house and we move back to Luoyang, maybe we don’t have to work for the rest of the life. The living standard in Luoyang is low and everything is cheap. In a city where people with 200 RMB monthly income can lead pretty good life, we have many 200 RMB to spend. We can lead happy life there. It is only a dream. There are too many things we cannot give up.

Wendy’s friends, a couple with a newly-born child, once told me about the same dream. They are alone in Shanghai and no one takes care of their child – both of them need to work and an Ayi is not helpful enough to take of the newly-born child. After several months of life like “working at day time and taking care of the child till early morning”, they really thought about giving up the high pressure life in Shanghai and go back to the small town. We said, we all have the dream, but how can we really do it?

Nice Small Cities

There are some very nice smaller cities in China. Here are some on my life:

  • Dalian in Liaoning Province
  • Tsingtao (or Qing Dao) in Shandong Province
  • Xiamen in Fujan Province
  • Sanya in Hainan Province
  • Beihai in Guangxi Province
  • Suzhou in Jiangsu Province

The list can be long. They are really nice with good view or environment. People are nice and the pace of living is slow. However, I don’t think it feasible to move. You can not get 1/3 of the salary you get here. If someone does not need to work, and he/she just want to find sometime to retire, he/she can do it. Dalian or Qingdao is good choice.

Move? It is not Easy in China

U.S. is a country on cars. People pack up everything and drive to a new city to settle down. Since the country is the immigrated country, it is common for people to move.

China is not. Moving was traditionally considered to be very bad thing. The last thing people in China will do (traditionally) is to move home. We call it Bei Jing Li Xiang 背井离乡, or directly translated to English: Go away from the well and leave one’s home town. If there is not disaster in that area, people do not move.

Recently, the metropolitan like Shanghai attracted many people to do it, for sake of the family’s future, they move. Many move only for better education for next generation. For sake of children is still the #1 reason for those who immigrate to Canada. It is very rare to see someone to move back to smaller cities. I never heard about it so far.

China is different. It is at the stage when everyone rushes to cities. Maybe after several years, when people are more mobilized, a very small portion of the population may think about moving out. In Shanghai, people have cars started to move out of the downtown and move into the town house out side the Outer Ring. It is a positive sign of the future move.

Conclusion:

To move from smaller cities into bigger cities is a dream that many people have realized. To move from bigger cities out to smaller cities is also a dream that no one takes it seriously.

P.S. Steve-O flattered me to be the “nicest guy in the world!” today. Maybe. But I am the happiest guy in the world when I got your comment. Thank you Steve-O!

In China, His Pay is Hers to Spend?

Fei forwarded the message from Straits Times Interactive and asked me if it is true.

Jan 25, 2005

In China, his pay is hers to spend

BEIJING – CHINESE women, although not the main bread-winner in most households, have a big say over how the pay cheque is spent in the world’s most dynamic economy, a survey has found.

Nine out of 10 Chinese women who are married or living with a partner claimed in the survey that they have at least an equal say over big purchases such as property and cars.

Although 74 per cent of the respondents said they earned less than their partners, 75 per cent disagreed that whoever holds the money holds the power in the relationship.

Half of them subscribed to the philosophy that ‘my partner’s money is my money, my money is mine’.

These findings were presented by market research company Synovate after polling 314 women aged 15 to 64 in China last month.

It was part of a worldwide study of 4,000 women in nine countries including the United States and Japan on women’s attitudes towards financial issues.

‘Socially, Chinese women would always claim that their men held final sway over big purchases – it’s part of giving ‘face’ to the man – but it’s a different story at home,’ said Mr Larry Wu, director of Synovate’s China office.

The Chinese respondents answered differently than women in Japan, where marriage often means the end of financial independence. \– AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

I cannot claim it is the situation in the whole China, but I guess it is pretty much close to the truth in Shanghai. The percentage of the wife controling the family expense in Beijing should be a little bit lower than in Shanghai, I guess.

Happiness, Wealth and Long-Live

I saw these three traditional Chinese statue at a lot of places in Guangzhou. They are called the Star of Happiness, Star of Wealth and Star of Long Life

guangzhou-happiness.jpg guangzhou-money.jpg guangzhou-life.jpg

© Jian Shuo Wang. Taken at the lobby of the China Hotel by Marriot in Guangzhou.

Wendy has been ill for some days. She caught cold and didn’t show any sign of recover after the injection. I hope the statues bring some good luck to her. I have my finger crossed for her recovery soon.

National College Entrance Examination (Gaokao)

The past two days are special for the 7.23 million examinees and their parents. It is the National College Entrance Examination (Gaokao in Chinese). Based on the current education system in China, the result of the two day exam greatly impacts the future of any students in China. The score will decide whether you can receive college education. For most places in China, only half of the students are eligible for college education (only 3.40 million will be admitted to colleges in 2003) and the rest has to start work after high-school. In cities like Beijing and Shanghai, students are lucky enough to have a much higher ratio (more than 70%) to enter colleges.

Tsinghua, Peking University, Fudan University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University are among the first class in China. But only very few people can go there.

To enter a college or not, or to enter a good college or not directly impact the first offer they can get after graduate and impact their career. So it is the most critical time for students.

Isaac recorded the “No Honking During Gaokao” sign. I saw the same sign near Henan Rd. and Zhaojiabang Rd.. Not only honking is not allowed. All construction sites around schools were ordered to work in limited time in the recent 10 days. Thousands of policemen are working around schools to make sure there is no noise or traffic jam during the two important days. Taxi drivers even offer free ride to transport examinees and their family.

My Gaokao

My experience with the College Entrance Examination was in 1995. It was sunny. I remember those two days clearly because there were stories. I remember I did very bad in the first exam – Chinese. I am not good at composing articles and reciting the poems. I even didn’t completed the article in the composing part :-( I felt blue when I stepped out of the classroom. The sunny day was not sunny for me. I didn’t go to my parents who were waiting form me outside the gate of the school. Instead, I rushed to the play field to adjust my mood. It helped.

Fortunately, I recovered from the negative impact of the first session. I performed pretty well in the following 4 sessions. The exam result came out. As I expected, I got only around 560 in the 100 – 900 point system in Chinese – it is a little bit better than the average. That is the reason I always feel uncomfortable to write Chinese content till now.

However, the other four exam results went super high. Each of them are near the full score. For English exam, I even got the highest score (900 in standard scoring system) among all the 500,000 examinees. The overall score is 825 point. According to the Stand Scoring System, it means, my score in that exam was higher than 99.942303% of other examinees. So I can say I was the among top 0.057697% of the 500,000 million candidate. :-D If I didn’t fail too badly in Chinese exam, maybe I can got higher overall score. It is a pity that I didn’t put Tsinghua, the best university in my mind, onto my application form, although the score turned out to be 60 point higher than their cutoff score.

I am still lucky to have chose Shanghai Jiao Tong University, since Wendy entered the school the same year. She also did excellent job in that exam. The China Southern Airlines offered three tickets to Shanghai to top 3 students to SJTU. Wendy also got the ticket.

Appendix

Here is the table to convert a standard score, like 825, to a position in all examinees.

Table to Convert a Standard Score to Position in All Examinees
T 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T
500 50000000 50400001 50800002 51200002 51599997 51990002 52389997 52789998 53189999 53590000 500
510 53979999 54380000 54780000 55170000 55570000 55960000 56360000 56750000 57139999 57529998 510
520 57929999 58319998 58710003 59100002 59480000 59869999 60259998 60640001 61030000 61409998 520
530 61790001 62169999 62550002 62930000 63309997 63679999 64060003 64429998 64800000 65170002 530
540 65539998 65910000 66280001 66640002 67000002 67360002 67720002 68080002 68440002 68790001 540
550 69150001 69499999 69849998 70190001 70539999 70880002 71230000 71569997 71899998 72240001 550
560 72570002 72909999 73240000 73570001 73890001 74220002 74540001 74860001 75169998 75489998 560
570 75800002 76109999 76419997 76730001 77029997 77340001 77640003 77939999 78230000 78520000 570
580 78810000 79100001 79390001 79670000 79949999 80229998 80510002 80779999 81059998 81330001 580
590 80590003 81860000 82120001 82380003 82639998 82889998 83149999 83399999 83649999 83890003 590
600 84130001 84380001 84609997 84850001 85079998 85310000 85540003 85769999 85990000 86210001 600
610 86430001 86650002 86860001 87080002 87290001 87489998 87699997 87900001 88099998 88300002 610
620 88489997 88690001 88880002 89069998 89249998 89440000 89620000 89800000 89969999 90147001 620
630 90319997 90490001 90657997 90824002 90987998 91149002 91308999 91465998 91621000 91773999 630
640 91924000 92072999 92220002 92364001 92506999 92646998 92785001 92922002 93055999 93189001 640
650 93318999 93448001 93573999 93699002 93822002 93943000 94062001 94178998 94295001 94408000 650
660 94520003 94630003 94738001 94845003 94950002 95052999 95153999 95253998 95352000 95449001 660
670 95542997 95637000 95727998 95818001 95907003 95994002 96079999 96164000 96245998 96327001 670
680 96407002 96485001 96561998 96638000 96711999 96784002 96855998 96925998 96995002 97061998 680
690 97127998 97193003 97257000 97320002 97381002 97441000 97500002 97557998 97614998 97670001 690
700 97724998 97777998 97830999 97882003 97931999 97982001 98030001 98076999 98123997 98168999 700
710 98214000 98256999 98299998 98341000 98382002 98422003 98461002 98500001 98536998 98574001 710
720 98610002 98645002 98679000 98712999 98745000 98777997 98808998 98839998 98869997 98899001 720
730 98927999 98956001 98983002 99009699 99035800 99061298 99086303 99110597 99134099 99157602 730
740 99180198 99202400 99224001 99245101 99265599 99285698 99305302 99324399 99343097 99361300 740
750 99378997 99396300 99413198 99429703 99445701 99461401 99476600 99491501 99506003 99520099 750
760 99533898 99547303 99560398 99573100 99585497 99597502 99609298 99620700 99631900 99642700 760
770 99653298 99663597 99673599 99683303 99692798 99702001 99711001 99719697 99728203 99736500 770
780 99744499 99752301 99759901 99767298 99774402 99781400 99788201 99794799 99801201 99807400 780
790 99813402 99819303 99825001 99830502 99835902 99841100 99846202 99851102 99855900 99860501 790
800 99865001 99869400 99873602 99877697 99881703 99885601 99889302 99892998 99896502 99899900 800
810 99903238 99906462 99909568 99912602 99915528 99918360 99921119 99923778 99926358 99928862 810
820 99931288 99933630 99935901 99938101 99940240 99942303 99944288 99946231 99948102 99949908 820
830 99951661 99953347 99954993 99956578 99958110 99959588 99961030 99962419 99963760 99965048 830
840 99966311 99967521 99968690 99969822 99970913 99971968 99972987 99973983 99974930 99975848 840
850 99976742 99977589 99978417 99979222 99979991 99980742 99981463 99982148 99982822 99983472 850
860 99984092 99984688 99985272 99985832 99986368 99986893 99987388 99987870 99988341 99988788 860
870 99989218 99989641 99990040 99990427 99990797 99991161 99991506 99991840 99992156 99992466 870
880 99992764 99993050 99993324 99993593 99993849 99994093 99994332 99994558 99994779 99994987 880
890 99995190 99995387 99995571 99995750 99995923 99996090 99996251 99996406 99996555 99996698 890
  1.00000000

The table was quoted from ChinaSchool

P.S. Yesterday, for the first time, I saw the page view for this site goes up to 8000+ hits/day. It is nice.

Drive-Ins in China

Paul pointed me to this interesting article:

Drive-Ins the Hot, ‘New’ Thing in China

It is so interesting to me, as a new car owner. I admire that the drive-ins are already available in Beijing, but not in Shanghai yet.

Re: Movie

Every time I look back, I am surprised by the high speed of the change in life in China. When I was in my teenager, as described in the article, I did carry my small bench to a large football field to see movies. Workers will dig holes on the ground and setup tall poles, then hang the big screen in between. They have to pull ropes to fix the poles and the screen. The operator will sit besides the old fashioned movie player (very noisy) and show the whole audience (all on the football field with small benches). That was just 15 years ago and now, people still see the movie on the field, but in cars.

“You could say that we Chinese have gone from sitting on a rock to sitting in a car.”, according to Mr. Wang in the article. LOL.

Re: Car

There are definitely more cars in Beijing than in Shanghai, due to the wider road, larger area of the city, and cheap plate fee (around 200RMB). Shanghai has much larger population but smaller areas. A car plate has been 44200 RMB or more, according to the result of yesterday’s bidding, a 1200 RMB rise than last month.

Thanks, Paul, for pointing me to this interesting report. Can anyone tell me why there are fewer driver-ins in U.S?

The Devil’s in the Details

I heard of the English proverb “the devil’s in the details” in a presentation delivered by my friend Peng Gao when he talked about project management. It was about two years ago. I didn’t realize how wise the proverb is. It was recently that I pick up the term and see how the details make so big difference.

When Wendy and I were shopping at B&Q in Pudong, we discussed about why most dominators on the consumer markets are foreigner companies. For example, B&Q in decoration materials, IKEA in furniture, Carrefour in retails, and KFC in fast food business.

There are many promising local companies in every single business listed above, but generally speaking, they are less attractive than the leader. Why? What is the difference?

It is not culture issue. Taiwan/Hongkong companies seems domanating the entertainment business. I always buy book at Schorlar. They have a store in Metro City. It is owned by Taiwanese. I go to excercise in Physical (also in Metro City). I guess it was a Hong-kong based company (may be wrong). I go to Chatea 一茶一坐 for lunch (38 RMB for business suite) – Taiwan company. I have my hair cut in a very small hair salon downstairs – even it was opened by a Taiwan business man. I have alternatives. For example, Da Niang Dobbling (大娘水饺), or any other salon, I just wanted to go there for better service. Why?

The devil’s in the Details

Today, I read an article (Chinese) talked about details. It is very reasonable. Many leading companies are paying attention to small things which makes big difference.

I was surveyed by a lady when I shopped in IKEA yesterday. I was not surprised and I won’t be surprised if a shop I don’t like never survey me in my whole life. :-D

Devils are in the details is in my mind when I look at those leading companies again. I can always find BIG difference in many aspects between the stores. I didn’t notice that before. The differences are all in the details…

Fun, and Silly Activities Became Fashionable

This is an age of innovation. Recently, more and more people are devoted into activities that is fun, infeasible before, requiring combined effort of many people, but not SO useful.

Example 1: Degree Confluence Project

The goal of the Degree Confluence Project (blocked in China) is to visit every integer longitude and latitude point on the Earth, take pictures and write visit log. I participated by contributing an incomplete visit to 30N 119E.

Example 2: Geocaching

The game for anyone with a GPS to hide some caching anywhere in the world, post the details about it onto Internet and others with GPS visit the place and find out the caching. The finding of the cache is also posted on to the website. It has been a popular sport worldwide already.

Example 3: Flashmob

Flashmob is even crazy. Hundreds of people come to a place from different directions and do something really silly at exactly the same time, then disappear quickly. They may shout out loudly in a shopping mall or rush into a toy store to worship a huge dinosaur model. No matter what they do, they will disappear quickly before people understand what is going on and leave shocked people there. The activities were organized on blogs and BBS. If I were 5 years younger, I must have joined them.

Example 4: Send Your Name to Mars Program

This is the most reasonable (but still not useful) activities among the four is the Send Your Name to Mars Program. John Lee, the owner of this project at NASA is a genius to think about this idea when he was asked to engage as many people as possible into the Mars mission. About 4 million names were collected online and sent to Mars. My name was among them.

More and More Community Activities

These fun sports (if I can call Flashmob sports) have something in common:

  • Many people are involved.
  • Communication is done online and offline activities is often involved.
  • The result is typically not productive. It does not generate anything really valuable, but just like sports, they are fun and make people happier.
  • They reached tipping point already as you and me already know it.

Eric and Steven told me about the flashmob today at dinner table and asked: Why people are eager to do silly things like this? It is a very good question which I don’t have answer yet. I can understand the excitement of the people involved but cannot tell a reason. Can you?

P.S. I also started two projects of the same kind: The Bus Stop Project (to take a picture of all bus stops in Shanghai) and the Shanghai Map Viewer (to make a map of ourselves by pinning our own points) I just don’t have enough time to work on it.