圣诞节 (Shèngdànjié), Christmas, is a thing in China. Kind of. Only a small Christian minority (well, that’s still millions) celebrates it as a religious holiday. But then, as consumers worldwide have long known, there are many other reasons to get giddy about Christmas.
Some see Christmas as an out-of-place Western import, others as a great excuse for a fancier-than-usual date or perhaps a shopping trip. Indeed, the season’s deepest footprints in China are commercial, with many shopping centers going all out on discounts, trees, lavish lights and saxophone-carrying santas.
Christmas isn’t really associated with any particular kind of food, but many people like to give apples – perhaps with a cute peel-engraving, and in a neat box - to the near and the dear ones. “Apple” sounds a bit like “silent night” in Chinese, and they look nice and taste good, so why not?
And with that, Mingbai goes on holiday! See you in January!
Is there really such a thing as a Silent Night in Shanghai? Pixabay
华晨宇 (Huà Chényŭ) is one of China’s most famous pop stars, unusual both in popularity and style.
Huà Chényŭ is popularly known as “the Martian” because of his first appearance on a TV talent show where he sang/hummed/mewed an otherworldly tune with no lyrics and got one of the judges to sing along excitedly. Social media freaked, and he partly adopted the extraterrestrial persona, calling his first big concert “the Mars Concert”, and a later album “Alien”.
Visibly and audibly unique, Huà Chényŭ uses the entire vocal spectrum from shrieking to whispering while commanding the stage. A composer and multi-instrumentalist, he usually gets other lyricists to interpret his Martian musings into intelligible Chinese.
In addition to digging his music, fans spend a lot of time trying to figure out where Huà Chényŭ stores all the food that he constantly consumes.
Space invasion. Baidu Baike
朱元璋 (Zhū Yuánzhāng), the Hóngwŭ Emperor, was the founder of the Míng Dynasty (1368-1644). His improbable rise from poor farmer to Son of Heaven is legendary.
After famine killed Zhū Yuánzhāng’s family, he joined the “Red Turban” insurgent group, which was fighting to take China back from the Mongols, who were struggling to keep floods, plague, and warlordism in check.
A skilled commander, he won control of the rebels in a massive naval battle, subdued the warlords, and finally marched on Bĕijīng and drove the last Khan back to the steppes.
Historians have called him both ruthless and visionary. He had anyone who opposed him killed, but his land reforms and flood control measures created a 300-year dynasty and restored the Hàn Chinese to power after one hundred years of repression.
He famously wasn’t exactly a looker, so today’s picture is a nice walkway from his beautiful mausoleum in Nánjīng.
The famous Ming tombs by Beijing weren't quite done in time. Baidu Baike
北京国安 (Bĕijīng Guó’ān) is Bĕijīng’s premier soccer team. They make the city proud when their green colors fly over the Workers’ Stadium in the eastern part of the city.
Bĕijīng Guó’ān’s arch-rivals are Shànghăi Shēnhuā, and the two teams despise each other, perhaps reflecting the general rivalry between the two cities - and perhaps fuelled by that one time in 1997 when Bĕijīng humiliated Shànghăi with a 9-1 win. Ouch.
The rivalry thrives despite the fact that neither team ever really wins the Chinese Super League, except when Bĕijīng finally reached their potential (or, some would say, got lucky) and won in 2009.
Both teams have recently cast long wistful looks after Guăngzhōu Héngdà, whose 7-year league-winning streak has cemented them as China’s best team. And indeed, Guăngzhōu’s ambitions are not modest, their English slogan being “Be the Best Forever”.
Show Shanghai who's the capital! Wikimedia Commons
庄子 (Zhuāngzĭ) was a Daoist philosopher who lived in the 4th century BC. He is famous for his subtle humor and his animal-related allegories.
In Zhuāngzĭ’s best known quotation, he argues that one can never truly know what is reality and what isn’t:
“Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither. I was happy, and unaware that I was myself. Then I woke up. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.”
In a more humorous episode, Zhuāngzĭ and a friend walk along the river. “See how happy the fish are”, says Zhuāngzĭ. His friend objects, saying “How can you know what makes fish happy? You’re not a fish!”. Zhuāngzĭ smiles and retorts: “How can you know that I don’t know what makes fish happy? You’re not me!”
Sure looks happy enough. Pixabay
鹿晗 (Lù Hán) is one of China’s biggest celebrities - a triple threat dancer-actor-singer who has the record for assembling the “largest gathering of people wearing antlers” according to Guinness World Records. What? Read on.
Sometimes called “the Justin Bieber of China”, Lù Hán started his career as a member of Korean-Chinese dance group “EXO” - and perhaps as a result, he has had a highly impressive range of hair colors through the years.
Since then he has gone on to a colossal solo career, mass-harvesting awards for both singing and acting. Fame has also made him the brand ambassador for everything from Coca-Cola to Star Wars, and his face is on every street corner and magazine.
And the antlers? Lù Hán’s fans (Lu fans, obviously) have been quick to fawn (pun intended) over the fact that his family name means “deer”, and they are happy to dress to impress.
But... where are the antlers? Baidu Baike
绍兴黄酒 (Shàoxīng huángjiŭ) can be flatly translated as “yellow wine from Shàoxīng”, but the sweet drink has much more to it than that. Similar to fortified wine like sherry or port, the brew is spiced, aromatic, and beloved across China.
The amber-hued huángjiŭ usually has an alcohol content of about 15%, and is very much distinct from it’s much stronger cousin, báijiŭ, which is clear and usually closer to 50%. While báijiŭ is mostly wheat- or sorghum-based, huángjiŭ is usually based on rice, and thus closer to its other cousin, Japanese sake. Like sake, huángjiŭ can (some say should!) be served warm.
Huángjiŭ is great for cooking as well, for example in “drunken chicken”, 醉鸡 (yep, you guessed it, it’s a chicken dish with lots of booze), or as a key ingredient in “red braised pork”, 红烧肉, known as Chairman Máo’s personal favorite.
Elixir. Baidu Baike
双十一 (Shuāng Shíyī), or “Double Eleven”, is a day dedicated to the joy of being single and, perhaps more importantly, supermassive online shopping! And it’s coming up this Sunday!
First developed as a day for singles to celebrate their singlehood in a dignified way, the day also - perhaps unavoidably - became a time for singles to meet. There’s two 1’s in 11, after all!
But most people think “shopping!” when they think of Double Eleven. The world’s largest consumerist feast, it has a much higher sales volume than Black Friday in the US, with discounts on everything from cars, clothes, and electronics to furniture, cosmetics, and toys.
Of course, most people have the same love/hate relationship with the date as Americans do with Black Friday. At least here it’s mostly online sales - hopefully resulting in fewer trampled people?
So good luck, delivery companies. Don’t get too stressed.
Fill it up. Pixabay
狐假虎威 (Hújiăhŭwēi) is a figure of speech that means “the fox exploits the tiger’s power”. It’s used to describe someone who uses somebody else’s authority to get an advantage.
One time, a very hungry tiger spotted a fox and pounced on him, ready to devour the unlucky creature. “Stop!” shouted the unusually clever fox. “If you eat me, the gods will smite you, because I’m the Chosen One!”
“Ha”, said the tiger, “prove it!”. But the fox had a plan: If the tiger would just walk a few steps behind the fox, then he would see how every other animal in the forest would scream and run away as soon as they saw the Mighty Chosen Fox.
And indeed - with the tiger behind the fox, everyone fled in fear, and the tiger had to concede that the fox was indeed divine.
Who's going to mess with the Chosen One? Pixabay
韩寒 (Hán Hán) is a blogger, writer, critic, singer, film director, and professional rally driver. What? Yes. Time magazine has called him one of the most influential people in the world.
Always controversial, Hán Hán has been described as “the voice of his generation”. After failing out of high school, he published the novel “Triple Door” (三重门) about a high school student who fails at everything, including love, school, and parents. It became the defining youth novel of a generation, and kick-started his career.
He then turned his attention to race car driving, which has only added to his image as a rebellious teenager. He won lots of prizes, making the establishment sigh with a mix of envy and indignation.
His scathing and irreverent blog has since been one of China’s most-followed. Everyone has an opinion about Hán Hán. And he probably has one about them.
Visionary? Annoying? Both? Baidu Baike