Category Archives: Life in China

In The News This Month | November

News and Travel Editor

Welcome to the latest China Icons ‘In The News’ blog, rounding up the best stories of the month. As always, so much has been going on this month! But worry not, China Icons has it covered – from World Philosophy Day and Singles Day to medical advancements and ancient discoveries. Read on to find out more!

It’s a spectacular time for science and medicine as a patient has been able to grow a new ear from a transplant on his arm, as he lost his old ear in a car accident. In other news, a Chinese farmer ingeniously created a rotating bed to relieve the pain and cure his wife from kidney stones. Most of us are lucky if we get a cup of tea without asking!

It has been an exciting month for archaeologists as they discovered a new ‘weird bird-like’ dinosaur on a building site of a new high school in Jiangxi Province.

It was also announced that recent discoveries may shed new light on the many cultural influences that may have shaped the various objects and treasures buried with the First Emperor. A radical theory has suggested that inspiration for these spectacular treasures may have come from abroad, with discoveries of bronze ducks, swans and cranes inside the Royal Tomb thought to be of Greek origin.

Terracotta Army
Terracotta Army. Image by Jean-Marie Hullot. Attributed under CC 2.0.

A huge amount of money has been flowing into China this month, from the 25 year old who has built a $500 million startup based on a bike share scheme, to China’s biggest online travel agency, Ctrip, purchasing UK startup Skyscanner for the whopping amount of $1.7 billion. Not to mention the casual $35 billion that has been invested by China in the new Silk Road in Pakistan.

11th November saw (many of us) celebrate Singles Day, which is becoming less to do with being single and more to do with grabbing as many bargains as possible. Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, created the event back in 2009 and the day has gone from strength to strength, with sales reaching 102 billion yuan ($15 billion) on Alibaba by 8pm.

On a slightly more cultural note, 17th November was World Philosophy Day, and we all know that you can’t talk about philosophy without talking about China. Take a look at our blog here on everything from Confucius to Sun Tzu, and all their proverbs in between.

confucius-1
Image source: “Life And Works Of Confucius”, Prospero Intorcetta, et al., 1687.

Finally, for all you Toy Story fans out there, it was announced this month that Shanghai Disneyland is to expand with a brand new Toy Story themed area! Unfortunately, we do have to wait until 2018 when we’ll be able to meet Woody and Buzz.

Join us next month for an exclusive peek at Shangri La in the Snow (perfect for some Christmas viewing), a well as so much more from arts and culture to natural wonders and travel in China. December is bound to be a busy one!

Interested in finding out more on stories such as these? Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more incredible videos about China.

What is the Future of Film in China?

News and Travel Editor

The 89th Academy Awards may not take place until February 6th 2017, but Oscars buzz is well underway with films vying for public hearts and attention in the build up to the big day. Films angling for awards tend to be released in fall and winter, so when better to reflect on China’s changing industry and consider what lies ahead for the future of film?
Whilst were on the Oscars, did you know that after 52 years and 200 films, Jackie Chan has finally received an honorary Oscar?  Here at China Icons, we think he deserved one for his role in the Rush Hour films alone!  Watch his acceptance speech below, and I dare you to try to keep a massive grin from spreading across your face. Congratulations, Jackie Chan!

To put it simply, it comes down to numbers.
  • Every day in 2015, 22 cinema screens were opened in China. That’s a total of 8030 new screens!
  • Watching all these screens is an ever expanding audience who last year pushed China’s box office total to $6.78bn. This number is on track to reach a huge $10bn narrowing the gap with the US and expected to overtake the previously dominant US market as early as next year.
  • Year after year, admissions continue to rise by over an incredible 50%
  • Over Chinese New Year 2016, always a peak time for the Chinese box office, the country set a new record for the highest box office gross during one week in one territory with a whopping $548m .
These ever expanding numbers are credited in part to the booming Chinese industry, with Chinese films securing 61% of ticket sales in 2015.   The rest of the sales are from foreign films. There is a set quota of 34 foreign films imported on a revenue-sharing basis, which means US distributors collect 25% of box office revenue. About 30 films a year are imported on a flat-fee basis, meaning Chinese distributors pay a one-off fee for the film and then keep all the profits.  One prominent example of an imported success is ‘Warcraft‘. Although the film suffered negative reviews in the US, in China a network of hardcore gamers pushed the film to have the biggest opening box office take of the year.  
This quota system means that foreign filmmakers and distributors look for creative ways to access the colossal Chinese film market, such as co-productions and joint ventures. Warner Brothers has joined forces with China Media Capital to make Chinese-language films.  Dreamworks opened Oriental Dreamworks in Shanghai. Legendary, China Film Group and LeVision are currently working on Matt Damon-led monster epic ‘The Great Wall’, the largest film shot entirely in China for global distribution.

 
Homegrown leaders are also in on the action. Alibaba founder Jack Ma (profiled briefly here in our Singles Day blog) has teamed up with legendary director Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Indiana Jones, E.T.) to “bring more of China to America, and bring some more of America to China.” 
Richest man in China,Wang Jianlin, paid $3.5 billion earlier this year for Legendary Entertainment, whose hits include “Jurassic World” and “Interstellar.” Not content with just one studio, Wang has announced his intention to own one of Hollywood’s Big 6 Studios, and has also purchased glitzy TV production company Dick Clark Productions. On top of this, Wang’s company, Dalian Wanda Group, recently announced an alliance with Sony Pictures that will allow the company to invest in the studio’s movies. 
It’s a hugely exciting time for a film fan like me. China’s box office is ever-expanding and looks set to change the course of the film industry forever. Keep an eye on your cinema screen, the future of film is coming! Popcorn, anyone?
Do you have a favourite Chinese film? Or is there a film coming out soon that you just can’t wait for? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Giving Thanks for Jujubes

News and Travel Editor

Tomorrow, Thursday 24th November, is Thanksgiving Day in the USA. A day traditionally celebrated with family, a roast turkey and all the trimmings. As you salivate in anticipation of a Thanksgiving feast, I’m going to introduce you to a very different edible tradition. An ancient Chinese fruit that you may never of heard of, the Jujube!

Firstly, what is a Jujube? Also known as Chinese Date, Jujubes have been cultivated in China for over 4000 years! There’s over 700 types, each with varying textures and flavours. Eaten fresh, they taste crisp and fresh like apples. When dried, they taste and look a lot like dates! Jujube trees are tough with spiky branches and able to tolerate both cold and drought.

 

There’s lots of different ways to enjoy Jujubes. You can chomp on them fresh, or bake dried ones into a cake. They can be made into juice, syrups and liquors, or my personal favourite way to eat them – candied!

This wonder fruit is also important in other ways. Some experts believe Jujubes help aid restful sleep, and in traditional Chinese Medicine the fruit is used to treat the aches, pains and abdominal pain. As part of a traditional wedding ceremony, Jujubes are places onto the new couple’s bed in honour to promote fertility in the marriage.

Want a taste?

Here’s a recipe from Baker Gal to try at home

Candied Jujube Recipe

2 lbs dried jujube
3 1/3 cups cold water
3 2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp corn starch

1. Wash and drain jujubes. Prick each jujube a few times with a fork. Mix cold water, sugar, and cornstarch, and bring to a boil. Add jujubes. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and refrigerate overnight.
2. In the morning, return the mixture to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Then, remove jujubes from the syrup and place on foil-lined pans. Place the pans in a 275F oven and bake for 2 to 5 hours or until dry to the touch.

So, do you think you’ll be incorporating this wonderfruit into your diet any time soon? Have you ever eaten Jujubes before – and if so, what did you think? Is there another Chinese food you’d love to learn more about? Let us know in the comments below!

Happy Singles Day

Features Editor

Need a little light relief from recent global events?

Thank goodness for China’s ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ all rolled into one. It’s more commonly known as ‘Singles Day’…..

….Or as we like to call it:- a genius-marketing ploy by China’s golden entrepreneur Jack Ma, who has completely transformed an anti-Valentine’s sentiment into a commercial frenzy.

https-%2F%2Fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fuploads%2Fcard%2Fimage%2F282000%2FAP_108422994888.jpg
Ji Haixin/Imagine China
If China’s Singles Day has completely passed you by, then you’re missing out on 24 hours of sales by thousands of companies from Apple to Estee Lauder, from Macy’s to Zara. Not to mention the Chinese brands. Or the live-streamed fashion show from Shanghai. Or the special appearances from Kobe Bryant and David Beckham. It really is a big deal.

But, if like me you’re wondering what sex has to do with shopping and whether you really do need to ditch the spouse just to enjoy some online consumerism, this blog is for you!

Firstly, make a note in next year’s calendar – because Single’s Day falls every year on 11th November. It’s known as ‘bare sticks holiday’ because of how the date looks when written as numbers: 11.11. And yes, the internet really did go wild on 11.11.11, dubbed Singles Day of the Century.

giphy

It all started out as a celebration for the singletons of China before Jack Ma, former English teacher and founder of the Alibaba, the world’s largest retailer, spotted an unprecedented commercial opportunity.

562px-jack_ma_2008
Jack Ma

Since 2009, he’s gradually turned it into an event generating the highest online sales by one company in 24 hours, as certified by the Guinness Book of Records. Last year, revenue was a whopping US$14b, up from US$9.3b the previous year and it is predicted that today’s shopping spree will smash these records again. Unsurprisingly perhaps, it has helped to turn Jack Ma into one of China’s richest men.

Forget Singles Day for a second… Alibaba’s phenomenal success probably merits a crash course in the company itself.

First – if you don’t use Alibaba, ask yourself how you purchase online … through marketplaces like Ebay? Or Amazon?
Alibaba sells more than those two e-commerce outlets combined.
Repeat: it’s the world’s largest retailer, even bigger than US Giant Walmart.

And how do you securely pay for things online… Paypal?
Alibaba has its own device called Alipay. It’s China’s largest third-party payment platform, with 400 million users and 80 million transactions per day, compared with Paypal’s 9 million.

Embed from Getty Images

Combine them all and you have the strength of Alibaba.
And Singles Day is the biggest event in Alibaba’s calendar.

The China Icons take on all this….. You don’t need to be single to enjoy this event… but it does help not to have the distraction of a partner whilst you’re trying to shop!

And if all this Singles Day talk is getting you down, we’ve got a perfect and unique idea on how to woo your love interest.

Hong Kong – the city of record breakers

News and Travel Editor

Hong Kong always takes our breath away and is a favourite winter destination.

But don’t just take our word for it! Here are some record breaking reasons why you need to plan a trip to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s skyline is staggering, with more skyscrapers than any other city on the planet. More people live and work above the 14th floor here than in any other city in the world!

To get around, you have the biggest double decker tram fleet at your disposal…. Plus more Rolls Royces per person than any other city. Although you might need to seek alternative transport to reach Hong Kong’s 200 plus islands…!

When you’ve recovered from all that island hopping, marvel at the biggest nightly show of light and sound in the ‘Symphony of Lights’ at Victoria Harbour.

Want more tips on things to do in Hong Kong?
Callum’s 72 hour selfie has you sorted

For more on China, SUBSCRIBE to China Icons.

The Legend of Fireworks

News and Travel Editor

November is a pretty big month for fireworks around the world.

Not only is Thanksgiving Day celebrated on the 24th of November in the US, the 5th of November marks Bonfire Night in the UK. For the British, fireworks represent the explosives that were never used in Guy Fawkes’ attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Lots of people know that fireworks and gunpowder were discovered in China, but did you know about some of the fun and more unusual legends surrounding their discovery?

shanghai-fireworks
Shanghai at Night. Image by SebastienPoncet.

It is generally accepted that gunpowder, and later fireworks, were discovered by Chinese alchemists from the Han dynasty, who were hoping to discover an elixir for immortality. As you may have already guessed, this elixir was never discovered. However, these alchemists did happen to combine a seemingly random collection of chemicals: potassium nitrate (saltpeter), sulphur and later charcoal. Little did they know this happened to be the recipe for the perfect firework… Potassium nitrate is the stuff that creates the loud bang, whilst the sulphur makes the firework spray out of its container and smell delightfully of rotten eggs.

On that note, you can probably guess how much smoke and pollution is produced from fireworks. It’s because of this that certain cities in China, including Nanjing and Hangzhou, have taken the decision to ban fireworks in urban areas.

firework-invention-thing
Illustration of Chinese Fireworks. Image by Rurik the Varangian.

It wasn’t until the 13th century when Marco Polo was credited with bringing the Chinese invention back to Europe, although some European Crusaders also claim to have brought the concoction back home after their travels.

The recipe has of course developed from the 13th Century. Not only did gunpowder start to become used for rockets and weapons, but fireworks became increasingly popular during celebrations, religious ceremonies and to commemorate military victories. We started to add more and more ingredients to create different effects and colours, such as copper for blue and barium for green.

Other legends also suggest that fireworks were discovered somewhat by mistake. One traditional Chinese legend claims that a cook accidentally poured saltpeter on to a fire, creating interesting flames and colours.

Another story from the Tang dynasty credits a Chinese monk, Li Tian, with the discovery of firecrackers. It is said that Li Tian fought off the lingering spirit of an evil dragon by shooting explosives out of a bamboo shoot. The dragon’s spirit was scared away by the loud bangs.

In a similar story, the province of Hunan was consistently plagued by an evil spirit, who deliberately caused droughts and floods. That was until Li Tian (this guy again?!) set off fireworks to scare the spirit away. Every year on the 18th of April, some Chinese honour the efforts of the  ‘Founder of Crackers’ by offering sacrifices.

Next time you’re gazing up at the night’s sky and watching a spectacular fireworks display, remember you’re watching an invention created over 2000 years ago! Today, most of the world’s fireworks are still created in China, in a town called Liuyang, Hunan Province.

Check out a timelapse from China Icons when we were lucky enough to witness Chinese New Year fireworks.

Are you doing anything to celebrate Thanksgiving or Bonfire Night soon? Let us know and send us your fabulous firework pictures for our blog!

How to make traditional Chinese Tofu

News and Travel Editor

World Vegan Day may have been yesterday, but we’re still celebrating at China Icons with a brand new vegetarian and vegan recipe – traditional Chinese tofu!

China has a loooooong history with Tofu. Add some store cupboard staple ingredients and you’ll rustle up an impressive mid-week dinner in no time.

Packed with tips on how to make Chinese cuisine, Coco shows us her signature way to prepare a garlic and don’t forget – ‘hot pan and cold oil’!

 

For more easy, authentic Chinese recipes, be sure to look at Coco’s videos on the China Icons Food and Drink Playlist

In China right now, or heading over soon? Check out our blog on how to survive in China on a meat-free diet:

What’s your favourite vegan/vegetarian Chinese dish? Send us your photos and recipes below – we’ll share our favourites!