It’s Christmas, we promised you some festive cheer and at China Icons, we’ll never let you down. Here is our Christmas special blog and video!
Ever wondered how Christmas is celebrated in the most remote provinces in China? In Shangri La, Yunnan Province, Christmas is an extremely popular and important time of year. It’s a time when the whole community celebrate together through the night of Christmas Eve and into the next day. So settle down with a glass of mulled wine, a mince pie, and relax whilst you watch our peak into Christmas in Shangri La…
You might have noticed a significant lack of the white stuff in our video. Don’t worry! We’ve made up for it below, with a collection of our favourite winter scenes in China. Don’t forget to comment with your favourites and to let us know how you’ll be celebrating Christmas this year.
A beautiful shot of the Pavilion of Prince Teng in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province.
A Chinese Winter storm hits Hefei in Anhui Province back in 2008.
Fancy trekking the Great Wall at this time of year?
A very atmospheric pic of the Summer Palace in Winter.
We hope this blog has made you cosy and glad to be indoors, it looks pretty chilly in some of those pictures! Comment below with your favourite winter scenes and with whatever you’ll be getting up to this Christmas.
Did you know that tea is the second most consumed drink in the world, behind only water at no. 1? And that the average Briton drinks 876 cups of tea per year? If you’re as obsessed with tea as I am, then today is the day we’ve all been waiting for – International Tea Day!
Celebrated annually on December 15th since 2005, International Tea Day officially draws public attention to the impact of the international tea trade on estate workers and small-scale growers. Fairtrade have very much been leading the fight on this and you can check out the work they’re doing here.
As many of you will probably know, China is huge on all types of tea. In fact, it is estimated that there are at least 1500 kinds of tea! To celebrate, here is a rundown of our favourite tea facts and legends from China, as well as one of our favourite China Icons videos of Kate Humble receiving a tea making masterclass…
Did you know that tea is thought to have originated in China over 4000 years ago? The legend goes that tea was discovered by accident by Chinese Emperor Shennong in 2737 BC. One of Emperor Shennong’s far-sighted policies required water to be boiled before drinking to prevent the spread of disease (very forward thinking!). One day, whilst sat under a tree with a boiling cup of water, a tea leaf allegedly drifted into his tea and after drinking it, the Emperor stated ‘one can think quicker, sleep less, move lighter, and see clearer.’ Thus, tea was born.
For nearly 3000 years, tea was used for medicinal purposes and it wasn’t until the Tang Dynasty (618-907) that tea began to be enjoyed as an art form by all social classes. Nevertheless, Chrysanthemum tea remains a medicinal favourite in China and Korea as it’s thought to reduce fevers and ease headaches.
Tea also wasn’t just used for drinking… Believe it or not, tea was also used as a form of currency in Ancient China! Tea leaves were pressed into bricks and scored on one side to be broken up if change was needed.
Tea later became popular in Buddhist monasteries to keep monks awake during the hours of meditation. Because of the popularity tea gained, monks started to cultivate huge fields of tea. It was in one of these monasteries that a young orphan called Lu Yu was educated and wrote the book: The Book of Tea. This was a detailed account of ways to cultivate and prepare tea, tea drinking customs, the best water for tea brewing and different classifications of tea.
So there you have it, whether you’re ill, tired or fully fit, you should never pass an opportunity to have a cup of (Chinese) tea. In the West, we have a lot of catching up to do. Whereas people in the East have generally been consuming tea for thousands of years, us backward folk in the West have only been drinking tea for 400 years, so we’re officially about 4000 years behind. There has never been a better excuse than International Tea Day to start catching up.
If you want to know more about Chinese tea, check out our video below of the lovely Kate Humble receiving a private masterclass in the delicate art of Chinese Tea making.
Planning on getting crafty with your gifts this Christmas? Or want to have some extra special snowflakes for your window? How about having a go at the art of Chinese Paper Cutting?
If you’re wondering how to get started, learn from the master in this week’s new video. Zhou Shuying has been paper cutting for decades. You’ll see that her work is different from the Chinese paper cuts you may be more familiar with…
Paper cutting, the art of cutting paper with scissors or a small knife, started in the 4th Century. Originally it was an art form for high-society women to use as embroidery stencils, but soon began to spread wider and be used decoratively.
Fast forward to the 21st century to see how this intricate and ancient art-form has shaped one woman’s life forever.
Here at China Icons we hope this gives you some Christmas-craft inspiration!
Do you like hand-made Christmas gifts? What will you be making this year? Let us know in the comments below!
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.
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.
Jack Ma. Image by World Economic Forum.
Ji Haixin/Imagine China
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.
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.
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 we’re 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 grinfromspreading across your face. Congratulations, Jackie Chan!
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.
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 securing61% 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.
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!
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.
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!
‘Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.’
Today is World Philosophy Day, an event established by UNESCO back in 2005. According to UNESCO, World Philosophy Day ‘underlines the enduring value of philosophy for the development of human thought, for each culture and for each individual.’
Here at China Icons, you can’t talk about philosophy and proverbs without talking about China.
To mark this cultural day of mindfulness, we thought we’d share some of our favorite ancient Chinese philosophers and thinkers, and some of their thought provoking proverbs. Now, open your mind, and indulge in some ancient philosophical teachings, many of which are still adhered to today…
Confucianism (Confucius, 551 BC – 479 BC)
Confucius is probably the most famous Chinese philosopher, having also introduced some concepts we’re still familiar with today. These include Confucius’ Golden Rule (treat others how you would like to be treated), Yin and Yang (two opposing forces that are permanently in conflict with each other), as well as the idea of a meritocracy. Confucius is big on ideas including loyalty, humaneness and ritual. Confucius was born and buried in Qufu, Shandong Province. His descendants even own an enormous mansion there if you fancy a visit…
Some of Confucius’ most famous proverbs:
Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.
It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
Sun Tzu (544 BC – 496 BC)
More of a military tactician and theorist than philosopher, Sun Tzu’s Art of Warhas guided military planners for millennia. Retired 4-star General of the US Army, Colin Powell, revealed that Sun Tzu ‘continues to give inspiration to soldiers and politicians. So every American soldier in the army knows of his works. We require our soldiers to read it.’ The practicality of Sun Tzu’s ideas have extended beyond the realm of military tactics, as modern day businesses have also found value in his teachings.
Some of Sun Tzu’s most famous proverbs:
If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.
All warfare is based on deception.
Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
Taoism (Lao Tzu, 605 BC – 531 BC)
Lao Tzu emphasised living in harmony with the ‘Tao’, literally meaning ‘the way’. Taoism is heavenly influenced by nature, and today, Taoists continue to honour this influence by making pilgrimages to five sacred mountains in China to pray at temples which are believed to be inhabited by immortals. It is believed that the mountains develop an instinct for the love of life and nature. The most famous of which is perhaps the Azure Cloud Temple in Shandong Province, which is also an incredibly important archaeological site.
Some of Lao Tzu’s most famous proverbs:
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.
Mohism (Mozi, 470 BC – 391 BC)
Finally, a philosopher you might be less familiar with. Mozi argues that everyone must love each other equally and impartially to avoid conflict and war. Sounds simple enough… Mozi’s philosophical ideas are strongly linked to Western Utilitarianism (the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people). Mohists are pacifists and believe that ‘heaven’ is an active force in nature, which punishes as well as rewards.
Some of Mozi’s most famous proverbs:
If there is no mutual love between people, mutual hatred will arise.
A generous man striving forwards never loses his goal.
Whoever criticizes others must have something to replace them. Criticism without suggestion is like trying to stop flood with flood and put fire out with fire. It will surely be without worth.
Has this blog got you pondering on World Philosophy Day? What inspiration have you taken from the proverbs?
Get in touch with your own take on these philosophers and if you admire any we didn’t get the chance to include this time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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