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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!

A Day for Deep Thought: World Philosophy Day

News and Travel Editor

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…

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A Song Dynasty painting illustrating that Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism are ‘one’. Image source: http://www.npm.gov.tw.

 

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.

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

 

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.

sun-tzu
Image by 663highland.

 

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.

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The Azure Clouds Temple. Image by Rolf Müller.

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.

lao-tzu
Image source: http://www.tubaba.com/art/2007/0529/image_1875.html.

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.

 

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

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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!

Tofu Rolls for World Vegan Day

News and Travel Editor

Happy World Vegan Day!

To celebrate, we’re sharing a recipe for a delicious vegan Chinese meal. (If you’re more of a carnivore, there is an alternate option involving bacon, but why not give the Tofu version a go in the spirit of the day? Whichever you try, let us know how you get on! We’d love to see pictures)

Here it is, delicious Tofu Mushroom Rolls!

Psst, to see more from Coco, click here to discover the secret behind delicious Peking Noodles.

If you want to find out more about eating Vegan in China, check out our handy guide!

To see more from Shiv, visit his blog here.

 

 

 

Happy Halloween from China Icons

News and Travel Editor

Happy Halloween from everyone at China Icons! To mark the occasion, we thought we’d share some of China’s spookiest stories, past and present. Read on, if you dare…

Ever seen The Ring or The Grudge? Did you know these films were inspired by one of the most famous ghost stories from China, known as the Tale of Painted Skin? The tale originates from the Qing dynasty and tells the story of a lost young woman roaming the streets (who, of course, later turns out to be a vengeful female spirit) who is discovered by a scholar. He of course offers her a place to stay. Despite warnings from a Taoist monk that he has been bewitched by the woman, the scholar continues to allow her to stay, leading to particularly grim consequences for his family. Click here if you fancy a read of the short story (Definitely one to read with the lights on).

Hungry Ghosts are also extremely common in Chinese culture and Buddhist tradition. Hungry Ghosts are the spirits of people who were greedy or had sinned in their previous lives and have bulging stomachs and tiny mouths. They appear during ‘Ghost Month’ in China and some Chinese families will burn ‘Hell Money’ and provide offerings of food and drink in order to ward off trouble from coming to their households.

We all know about China’s Forbidden City, but did you know it’s also said to be haunted by a variety of ghosts dating back to the Ming dynasty in the 15th century? Murders committed by guards and imperial concubines were common at the time, so it’s unsurprising that stories and rumours have circulated for years. Emperor Yongle of the Ming dynasty also committed suicide during an uprising, only after forcing his wife to commit suicide as well as going on a murderous rampage against other family members.

emperor-yongle-1
Emperor Yongle. Image by Shizhao

Their ghosts still allegedly roam the Forbidden City, so it’s perfect for a spooky Halloween ghost walk if you happen to be in Beijing and believe in this sort of thing. Don’t panic, you can only really visit the Forbidden City in the day with thousands of other tourists – I doubt any ghosts would even want to make an appearance it’s so busy!

forbidden-city-1
Image by Pixelflake

Don’t worry, there are a few stories of kind and friendly ghosts in Chinese culture as well! The legend of the Chinese ghost hunter, Zhong Kui, tells the tale of a scholar who killed himself after being stripped of his title by the emperor. When he returned from the dead, he decided to subdue evil spirits rather than join them. Many Chinese people have Zhong Kui’s picture hung up in their homes and businesses as a protector!

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Zhong Kui and a demon. Image by Paul K. Attribution CC 2.0.

So there you have it. We hope for your sake this wasn’t your bedtime reading…

Are there any Chinese ghost stories you’d like to share that we haven’t mentioned here? We’d love to hear them!