Videos

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!

How to Make Chinese Prawn Hotpot

News and Travel Editor

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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.

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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!

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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!

Saving Beijing’s Street Cats

Features Editor

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If, like me and many others, you’re more of a dog than cat person, you may be wondering why we’ve dedicated this week’s upload to the plight of Beijing’s stray cats.

Let’s start with the numbers. Despite my preference for canines, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that cat ownership is booming, especially in China, and the figures back it up.

Cats are the world’s most popular pets, outnumbering dogs by three to one. In China, there are an estimated 58million cats, a mere 30million fewer than in the US, which has the highest number of cats in the world and will be celebrating them during National Cat Day this Saturday.

Whilst China hasn’t (yet) gone to such lengths as to have a national day for their feline friends, the pet industry is forecast to grow by more than 50% in the next three years.

But despite our love affair with pets, life for some of cats is far from purr-fect (sorry readers) and China is no exception. Which brings us to today’s content -where we follow some of the dedicated volunteers saving Beijing’s street cats and rehoming them through monthly adoption days.

The Chinese have a long history with having cats as pets. Research into cat bones unearthed in archaeological excavations in 2001 show that the Chinese were living alongside Asian leopard cats as early as 5,500 years ago.  Miao!

Still, the lengths these volunteers go to are astonishing.

Sure, on the surface, there are the obvious jobs of picking up abandoned animals, organizing the monthly adoption days and running social media campaigns to find potential new owners. Which is impressive enough alongside working full time and having a family of their own.

But then we meet Xiao Zhan, who arrives for filming wearing a mask. She’s a seasoned volunteer, having helped many animals over the last 3 years. But it turns out she has an allergy to animals that is sometimes so bad she has to seek hospital treatment. She sneezes frequently through our filming.

So why not quit, get a new hobby? This is someone who, in her own words, couldn’t ‘bare the look in their eyes’ if she stopped volunteering and left the animals to their fate on the streets.

Our next contributor Ling Yinmin is extraordinary. As we film her in a flat all set up for the cats, she reveals that she pays the rent herself out of her own pocket. Remember, this is Beijing, a place we love, but still one of the most expensive cities to rent in the world. Add to that the cost of getting the pets fighting fit for their future family and we’re talking a small fortune.

They believe the cost is worth it – over the last five years Ling Yanmin, Xiao Zhan and many other dedicated volunteers have found new families for over 1000 animals.

Interested in helping these volunteers or giving a pet a forever home?

Search for ‘Beijing Adoption Day’ in Weibo and WeChat.