News and Travel Editor
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?
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.
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.
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
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!
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 War has 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.
This week, Coco returns with one of her most popular recipes, featuring the most demanding of customers – Her mom! No pressure then…
Coco gives us the perfect dish that allows you to spend more time with your family and less time in the kitchen. Not to mention that this is probably the tastiest recipe Coco has shown us so far.
Coco’s top tips include a lesson in how to devein a prawn and how to avoid being burnt by hot oil splashes.
Had a go at the dish? Let us know in the comments and send us your photos! We might even feature them on our blog next time.
For more authentic Chinese recipes from the one and only Coco, be sure to take a look at the China Icons Food & Drink Playlist.
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.
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.
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.
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.