News stories about China

update Here are some news stories we have found that we think tell you much about what is going on in China. We avoid stories on politics and economics as these are adequately covered on news web sites. These News stories are available as a news-feed so you can receive notifications of these automatically in your browser. Click on the RSS button to add it to your browser or copy and paste the link.

Fri 10th Feb 2023
Selfless teacher mourned

Song Wenwu was a teacher in one of the poorer parts of Anhui province. It was only when he recently died aged 48 that it was discovered that he had been helping students in financial difficulties over many years. A great many of these grateful students have played their part in mourning his loss by traveling from all over China.

Song Wen mourners
Mourners for Song Wen who traveled great distances to show their gratitude (source Weibo).
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Wed 18th Jan 2023
Chinese New Year 2023

The new Chinese New Year begins on 21st January 2023 - the start of Chinese year 4721 in the traditional calendar.

In Chinese astrology the rabbit or hare holds a position of honor as it is considered a friendly, gentle animal that is good at getting along with people. People born in a year of the rabbit/hare are gifted, elegant and ambitious as well as being proficient at business.

With the relaxation of Covid restrictions there is likely to be a very busy time of annual migration of millions of Chinese as they visit their families after years of restrictions. The public holidays last from 21st January for the full week until 27th January. Many will take extra leave to extend the holiday. Noted anniversaries in 2023 include the death of the first great Chinese poet Qu Yuan in 278BCE (2,300 years ago), and the first Chinese moon landing back in 2013 (10 years ago) which launched the Yutu ‘Jade Rabbit’ robot .

Wishing everybody xīn nián kuài lè – A happy and prosperous new year.

Rabbit Year 2023
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Wed 9th Nov 2022
Drought brings in treasure hunters

While some parts of China have experienced flooding others have experienced drought this year. In Jiangxi province the lack of rain has led to the river beds of tributaries of the Yangzi river (Zhang and Gong rivers) to be exposed for the first time in many years. The river beds have revealed a good deal of treasure in the form of bronze coins and artifacts. Locals have been out treasure hunting while officials are rather keen that any finds are handed in for analysis. A stone tablet of the Qing dynasty has been found along with many coins, some dating back a thousand years.

Chinese bronze coins. Image by Plismo available under a Creative Commons License

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Thu 3rd Nov 2022
Brother excluded from wedding

An incident at Zunyi in Guizhou province has sparked much online debate. It is here that a couple has chosen to go back to some age-old traditions for marriage.

One of the strangest of the many customs is that if you have a younger sibling (brother or sister) who marries before you do then you are excluded from the marriage ceremony. You are expected to hide away while everyone else was having fun.

Perhaps this tradition provides a strong encouragement to anyone delaying become married. Remaining single used to be a fairly rare event as marriages were typically arranged by parents without their children’s approval.

So in 2022 people are debating whether it is appropriate to bring this custom back again. What do you think?

marriage, couple, people
Chinese wedding couple Not the actual married couple

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Mon 10th Oct 2022
Republic of China day

The 10th October celebrates a key date in the foundation of modern China. In Wuhan on this date in 1911 the revolution that had rumbled on for decades finally took hold and soon all southern China declared independence from the Qing imperial dynasty.

However it has come to have a modern political significance because the People Republic celebrates National day on 1st October rather than the 10th as that was the date when Mao Zedong proclaimed victory over the forces of the Republic in 1949.

Today the Republicans is celebrated only in Taiwan as their 'National Day'- the last hold-out after their defeat and withdrawal to the island. Recent tensions after Nancy Pelosi's visit have not resulted in a reduced fervor of celebration. Indeed the mainland's threats of military invasion have hardened the vast majority of the population's aim to retain semi-independence from 'China' - with peaceful trade for mutual benefit.

Wuhan, pavilion, Hubei, city
Wuhan city view

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Wed 28th Sep 2022
It's the birthday of Confucius

Today marks the official birthday of China's great sage Confucius. 2022 is also somewhat special as it marks 2,500 years since he died.

Traditionally the birthday of the great sage and philosopher Confucius was celebrated on the 27th of the 8th lunar month (in 2022 this fell on 22nd September). It is now tied to a specific day, the 28th September each year.

The town of Qufu, Shandong was the home of Confucius ( Kǒngfūzǐ ) and descendents now in the 83rd generation still live there. The size and grandeur of the buildings rival that of the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Arguably the most important Chinese book is the 'Analects of Confucius'. It sets out the ethics and philosophy using incidents from the life of the great sage. Written around 300BCE a long time after his death, it admonishes the reader to obey the state rituals and know ones place in the order of things. It is not spiritual - Confucians do not believe in the after-life and does not include cosmology or the natural world. The system of ethics that are set out continue to guide the lives of many people in China.

One of the key tenets of Confucianism is that everyone should live in a spirit of benevolence rén. A follower of Confucius should be a person of empathy and humanity who believes it is correct to help those in need. This is not to be done on the basis of future reward (in life or death) but rather it is the virtuous way to behave.

Qufu, Confucius
Statue of Confucius at Qufu, Shandong

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Tue 6th Sep 2022
Locals drain lake to find invasive 'monster' fish

The search for a suspected invasive 'monster' fish (probably a pet let loose after outgrowing its tank) in a lake near Ruzhou, Henan province has grown into a major operation. The Alligator Gar fish can grow to 10 feet long and weigh up to 350lb comes from the southern states of the US and Mexico and so is a threat to local Chinese wildlife. After attempts to catch the fish by conventional means failed, it was decided to take the drastic action of draining the whole lake. The fish has still not been found and may be hiding in inflow pipes. It gets its name because it looks rather like an alligator as it has a squashed snout ( “gar”comes from Anglo-Saxon meaning spike or lance). Some fear that the fish could attack children and this has added to the priority of the operation. Millions have been watching the story unfolding online. It's expected that the lake will soon be refilled with little long-term ill-effects to local wildlife.

Aligator Gar fish (Atractosteus spatula)
Alligator Gar fish (Atractosteus spatula).
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Tue 23rd Aug 2022
China feels the heat

It's been an exceptionally hot summer in most of the northern hemisphere.

Europe still suffers from drought and high temperatures but China has been affected just as badly; Japan also had record braking temperatures in June. The main area of concern at present is the inland province of Sichuan. This province is often hot in summer but usually has high rainfall. Sichuan is one of the main crop growing areas in China and so this will be a worry for the coming months. Large wildfires have been seen close to Chongqing near Sichuan's southern boundary. China has built many hydro-electric dams and these are now struggling due to increased demand but lower river flows - rationing of electricity is forcing some businesses to partially close.

Chongqing wildfire
©Image courtesy CNN/Getty.
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Thu 11th Aug 2022
Secrets of ancient bronze making decoded

China is famous for producing world-beating bronze technology at a very early date. Large bronze vessel dating from the Shang dynasty (1600-1100BCE) have long been admired.

A recent study has been looking into the recipe for bronze used and it seems it is a complex system based on alloys rather than just a rough mixture of tin and copper. Only if a carefully followed process was followed would the Shang bronzesmiths been able to create such large and finely detailed objects. For many years the Kaogong ji was the source reference to follow but this uses the terms ‘Jin’ and ‘Xi’ as ingredients with no description of what they were. It is now thought these were specially produced alloys of precise proportion of elements.

Zhou dynasty, bronze, dish
Ancient bronze dish of Western Zhou dynasty date

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Thu 4th Aug 2022
Valentines Day again

Chinese Valentine’s Day this year falls on Thursday 4th August.

In China the festival is a moveable festival as it falls on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month [Qīxìjié means seventh night festival]. It commemorates the love between Zhī nǔ the weaver and Niú láng the cowherd . Because after marriage they spent too much time canoodling rather than carrying out their work, the gods separated them and they were only allowed to meet on one night each year. The husband and wife are represented by the bright stars Vega (Lyra constellation) and Altair (Aquila constellation) and a bridge of magpies is made over the Milky Way which runs between them in the sky to allow them to meet. The magpies will only come if it is a dry day.

It has now become a day for lovers to have a romantic evening, exchange gifts and maybe pop the question.

ox, oxherd, Niulang, Zhinu
The oxherd Niulang seeking to reach his estranged bride Zhinu in the sky.

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Thu 28th Jul 2022
Magic mirror reveals secrets

China produced fine ‘magic mirrors’ that mystified everyone until quite recent years. The smooth mirror surface creates a hidden image in its reflection when bright light is shone on it. This new discovered magic mirror was made in the 16th century and creates an image of the Buddha surrounded by light beams, the characters on the reverse spell the name of the Amitabha Buddha.

These mirrors were made of bronze from the Han dynasty onwards. The way they work is not obvious, only careful microscopic analysis revealed that the mirror surface is not quite smooth but has very fine ridges and dimples that create the effect. The design is made by first making the smooth mirror surface and very carefully hammering in the design on the reverse.

These mirrors rarely survive and Shanghai museum has a couple this one is at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio.

magic mirror
©The back of the mirror features Chinese characters that spell the name of the Amitābha Buddha, Photograph: Rob Deslongchamps
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Wed 13th Jul 2022
Museum treasures

On hot summer days one way to escape the heat is to visit the cool interior of museums. This page shows fifteen great treasures from Taipei, Hong Kong and Beijing.

national palace museum, taiwan, taipei
National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan. Image by Dr. Gary Lee Todd available under a Creative Commons License

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Fri 1st Jul 2022
Free pig sweetener for house buyers

The housing market in China has entered a challenging phase - too many houses and too few buyers. Some sellers are turning to desperate measures, some are offering a free pig to purchasers (Jiangsu province), while others are accepting payment in wheat or garlic (in Henan province). Clear signs that the housing market was in big trouble came when EverGrande defaulted on debt repayment last year. Buyers can elect to have the pig slaughtered without actually having to take delivery.

Shanxi, Taiyuan, lake, modern housing
Longtan Park, Taiyuan, Shanxi

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Thu 23rd Jun 2022
Floods hit southern China

Southern China is often subject to heavy rain but this year the rains have come early and in greater quantity than normal. In some parts of Guangxi, Guangdong and Fujian rainfall records have been broken and hundreds of thousands have been evacuated from flooded homes. Yingde, Guangdong on the Bei River is one of the worst affected areas. This is worrying because the bulk of the rainy season (June-September) is yet to come.

Northern China is suffering not from rain but the heat, the increased drain on the electricity supply for air conditioning is causing concern. All in all, with the excessive heat in Europe and US, the predictions of climate change do seem to be confirmed this year.

Guangdong flooding

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Thu 16th Jun 2022
Iconic Hong Kong restaurant to be towed away

The Jumbo Kingdom Floating restaurant that for many years has graced the harbor of Hong Kong has shut up shop. Severely hit by the pandemic it has continued to lose money and has now closed permanently. Eight dedicated boats used to ferry diners to the traditional styled mammoth restaurant.

hong kong,  restuarant,  boat
Jumbo Kingdom restaurant, Hong Kong. December 2000. Image by Maksym Kozlenko available under a Creative Commons License

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Thu 9th Jun 2022
Men wear dresses to boost examination success

It's the time of the grueling university entrance examinations gāo kǎo that are vital for future careers. There has been a tradition of mothers wearing a traditional silk dress 旗袍 qí páo to bring luck. Now some fathers and brothers have taken to wear the dress to bring luck and also lighten the serious mood. The origin is partly from the similar sounding proverb/idiom qí kāi dé shèng which means 'Success at first attempt' that has for centuries been associated with good wishes for examination success.

man wearing Qi pao dress

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Wed 25th May 2022
New alcoholic ice-cream launched

The most famous Chinese alcoholic liquor Moutai or Maotai from Guizhou province is now available as an ice cream flavoring. The availability of 14 different flavors at a new ice cream parlor in Zunyi, Guizhou is aimed at attracting younger people to the already very popular drink. Liquor distiller company ‘Kweichow Moutai’ is the second most valued company in China with a market capitalization of over $338 billion.

Maotai icecream
©Photo Kweichow Moutai
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Wed 18th May 2022
Unusual Qianlong vase sold

An unusual blue, silver and gold vase has sold for nearly ?1.5 million ($1.8 million). Another of those amazing stories of an overlooked treasure originally bought for about $500 found in Berkshire, UK. The vase was made for the Emperor Qianlong's court and includes symbols for longevity (crane), luck (clouds) and good fortune (bat).

Qianling vase
©Photo by the auctioneers Deweatts
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Tue 12th Apr 2022
Red Chamber exhibition in the Netherlands

An exhibition celebrating the famous book 'Dream of the Red Chamber' has opened in The Hague, Netherlands. The exhibition brings together calligraphy, painting and translations of this epic story written mostly by Cao Xueqin in the mid 18th century

novel, Dream of the Red Chamber
These are from an exhibition outside Beijing showing different scenes from the classic Chinese novel 'The Dream of the Red Chamber'. Image by Klariti available under a Creative Commons License

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Tue 5th Apr 2022
Along the river during the Qing Ming festival

Today (April 5th) is the Qing Ming festival in China. It is an ancient festival tied with sweeping and tidying the ancestral tombs as Spring gets under way.

Also associated with Qing Ming is China’s most famous painting called ‘Along The River During the Qingming Festival’ Qīng míng shàng hé tú sometimes dubbed the Chinese ‘Mona Lisa’ but this painting is older and far more interesting. It is an amazingly meticulous painting of teeming life of all sorts in the then capital of China Kaifeng in around 1117 - it's incredible that it is 900 years old. The detail and naturalism is amazing and perspective is drawn accurately. Compare this with the comparatively crude Bayeux tapestry of around the same date. It was painted as a long scroll 10 inches [25 cms] by 17 feet [5 meters] with details of the bustling everyday life of the people - rich and poor. It is a valuable document of life at that time showing people eating and shopping. Very little is known about the artist Zhang Zeduan. All seems peace and opulence yet within ten years the capital city fell to Jurchen invaders and Kaifeng never again recovered its former splendor.

Qing Ming river festival
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Thu 31st Mar 2022
Three days - three festivals

On the third day of the third lunar month the Shangsi festival (or Double Third) is held in China. In 2022 it falls on Sunday 3rd April. This is an ancient festival that has faded over the centuries. It goes back over 2,000 years and is believed to have been based on an annual ritual bathing in rivers. This cleared away the grime accumulated over winter and ritually cleared away evil to make a clean start to the year. In modern times some people go out by water and collect orchid petals.

There are several legends associated with the festival. It may mark the birthday of the founding Yellow Emperor and the birthday of the important Daoist goddess The Queen Mother of the West. There is a traditional saying to celebrate the day 轩辕 Sān yuè sān Xuān Yuán shēng 'third month, third day, Huangdi born' (轩辕 is the personal name of the Yellow Emperor).

In 2018 there was a move to re-badge the festival as 'Chinese National Costume Day' where people of the many ethnic minorities of China are encouraged to wear their traditional costumes.

The following day is another rather obscure festival - Monday 4th April will be the ‘Cold Food Festival.’ In this case it is more straightforward to explain. The day was traditionally when the fires were put out that heated the house and cooked the food. The ashes were cleared out and everything cleaned. As there was no fire all the food was cold.

But the following day this year (this does not occur every year) is a much more important festival ‘Qing Ming’ on Tuesday 5th April when people pay respect to their ancestors. It is associated with ritually cleaning the graves and graveyards and making offerings to the departed. It is also the time to sow and plant crops and so is anchored to the solar year rather than the lunar year; this makes it falls between April 4th and April 6th. It is a public holiday.

Qingming, tomb, ancestor veneration
Making offerings at the family tomb, Qingming festival Copyright © Dreamstime see image license

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Thu 3rd Mar 2022
50 years since Nixon visit

It is now fifty years since the historic visit of President Nixon to China where he met Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. After a long break in any formal contact since 1949 it marked a major shift in both US and Chinese policy that began the opening up process. Nixon was accompanied by Henry Kissinger (as United States National Security Adviser) who is still going strong at the age of 98. This CNN article looks back at US-China relations in general and considers how ground-breaking this visit actually was.

nixon, usa, zhou enlai
US President Richard Nixon and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai toast, February 25, 1972. Image by White House Photographer available under a Creative Commons License

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Wed 9th Feb 2022
Life in China through photographs

A competition to find the best photographs about everyday life in China has released its results. The Global SinoPhoto Awards has found some very evocative images of China.

The overall winner shows a girl twirling on a bed in front of her grandmother was made by photographer Li Huaifeng’s “The Dancing Dreams of a Mountain Girl”. Follow the link to see more of the award winning photographs.

Award winner
©Li Huaifeng
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Thu 27th Jan 2022
Tiger Year 2022

The new Tiger Chinese New Year is ushered in on 1st February 2022 - the start of Chinese year 4720 in the traditional calendar.

This year the celebrations will be even more widespread because the Beijing Winter Olympics begin during the holiday on 4th February. In Chinese astrology the tiger holds a position of honor as it is considered an animal of power and courage. People born in a year of the tiger are thoughtful, competitive and charming and may be destined for high office.

As in the last two years covid restrictions may make the annual migration of millions of Chinese to visit their families more difficult or impossible. Noted anniversaries in 2022 include the death of Confucius in 479BCE (2,500 years ago), and the celebrated visit of President Richard Nixon to China on February 21st 1972 (50 years ago).

Tiger Year 2022
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Fri 21st Jan 2022
Animated film popular for Spring Festival

In the west feel-good films aimed at children are released for Christmas. In China this happens in time for the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). This year it falls on 1st February just ahead of the opening of the Beijing winter Olympics on the 4th.

This year the big successful film is Xióng shī shào nián with the English title ‘I am what I am’ but actually ‘young male lion’ is more like a translation. This animated film tells the tale of a boy dreaming of becoming a leading lion dance performer against all odds (somewhat similar to Billy Elliot in plot). The lion dance tradition is something that has faded in recent years and it is hoped the film will encourage more youngsters to take it up.

Here is a link to the official film trailer video .

I am what I am

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Thu 23rd Dec 2021
Scotland's pandas to remain

Edinburgh Zoo has negotiated a deal with China to keep its two giant pandas Yang Guang and Tian Tian for another two years. The zoo has been paying about $1,000,000 a year to keep the pandas but with Covid19 visitor numbers at the zoo have tumbled and so the cost will by about $500,000 a year. It was hoped that Yáng guāng meaning ‘sunshine’ and 甜甜 Tián tián meaning ‘sweetie’ would mate and produce a rare cub outside China but in spite of encouraging signs several times they have had no success. Even with artificial insemination Tiantian has not had a full term pregnancy. They were both born in 2003. With the success of the captive breeding program in Sichuan China the pandas are no longer classed as threatened with extinction.

You can watch the pandas on a live webcam .

This will be the last post for 2021. Christmas is now widely celebrated in the Chinese cities so we wish everyone Shèng dàn kuài lè ‘Merry Christmas’ and a happy 2022.

Edinburgh zoo pandas
Yang Guang and Tian Tian at Edinburgh Zoo. Photo courtesy Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and Edinburgh Zoo.
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Fri 17th Dec 2021
China ramps up battery recycling

China is using the virtue of centralized planning to prepare for the inevitable consequences of the switch to battery powered cars. Electrical vehicles already make up 12.7% of car sales in China with over 3 million sold this year. The expensive lithium powered batteries only last about five years so there will soon be huge numbers needing disposal or recycling. It is planned that batteries can be refurbished and used for other purposes - such as storage of electrical power in large arrays. If they can not be reused they will be dismantled and the valuable metals extracted for construction of new batteries in an environmentally friendly way.

Mercedes Benz electric F 015 concept car
Mercedes-Benz electric F 015 concept car, Shanghai auto show 2015. Available on Creative Commons license .
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Wed 1st Dec 2021
New Film breaks Chinese box office records

A new film made in China ‘The Battle at Lake Changjin’ has already made an amazing US$890 million (made with a budget of $200 million). It tells the story of the Korean War when thousands of Chinese 'volunteers' helped North Koreans hold back an invasion led by American, British and Commonwealth troops in November/December 1950. The push by the South Koreans, backed by Allies, had pushed north nearly to the Chinese border - the Yalu River, Zhou Enlai then warned that China would not allow its border to be threatened. The Battle at Lake Changjin (or Chosin Reservoir) was a key moment of the ensuing war. The supremacy of the larger and better armed ‘UN’ forces produced many more casualties on the Chinese side (about 48,000) compared to 17,000 and is full of tales of heroism. The battle reached a stalemate with the Chinese and North Koreans holding the key area. It ended the 'UN' plan to unify the whole of Korean peninsular under effective American control. The film is one of many Chinese produced films that are dominating the cinemas in China, gone are the days that top American films seemed to be guaranteed high placement.

The Battle at Lake Changjin&rsquo,

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Tue 23rd Nov 2021
Snow leopards invade power station

On 18th November power station workers were surprised to find clear images of snow leopards exploring the interior of their workplace on their surveillance cameras. The snow leopards are a rare and highly protected species that range over the western mountains of China: Tibet, Xinjiang, Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu. The encounter happened at a hydro-electric plant in the Qilian mountains of Gansu on the border with Qinghai. The workers at first thought they might be foxes before noticing their much larger size.

snow leopard, chinese wildlife
Portrait of a male snow leopard (Panthera uncia) of the Rheintal zoo. Modifications made by Niabot . Image by Tambako available under a Creative Commons License

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Fri 5th Nov 2021
Elon Musk quotes the Book of Odes

In a rather curious posting, Tesla CEO Elon Musk quoted from one of the oldest Chinese classics - the Book of Odes. This is an assorted collection of song lyrics up to about 600BCE from a variety of sources. The topics covered include love, marriage, victory celebrations, sacrifices and hunts. Elon Musk chose a fairly obscure poem:

Beanstalks are ignited to boil beans
The beans in the pot cry out
We are born of the same root
Why should we incinerate each other with such impatience?

The reason for the choice is not obvious. It seems a call for mutual tolerance and understanding with due note for sacrifice. The specific meaning could possibly have something to do with Musk's support for a new crypto-currency the 'dogecoin'.

Shaanxi, calligraphy, rubbing
Taking a rubbing of famous calligraphy at Xian Beilin museum, Shaanxi Copyright © Dreamstime see image license

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Thu 28th Oct 2021
Why are giant panda's black and white?

You would think that having a distinct bands of opposite colors would make you stand out and put you in danger from predators. However recent research is giving a different story. Just like the zebra's stripes it is not obvious as to the purpose of the coloration. The surprising conclusion of a report by scientists from Britain, China, Finland and the United States is that the bands serve as camouflage. In the remote mountainous home terrain of the panda the black and white merges into light and dark shadows of rocks and trees to make them hard to make out from a distance. This is at odds with previous suggestions that the coloration was to aid pandas find each other at long distances.

giant panda, wildlife
Giant Panda bear

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Thu 21st Oct 2021
New railway link to Laos

As part of the huge Belt and Road Initiative China has been building improved travel links to neighboring countries.

A new railway links China with neighboring Laos. Because the border is short and the terrain mountainous there has been limited contact between the countries over the centuries. Laos remains a relatively poor landlocked country. The 621 miles [1,000 kms] long link will become fully operational by December and has required long tunnels to traverse the steep mountains and valleys . It is expected that Chinese tourists seeking the warmer climate of Laos will be the main beneficiaries of the link.

laos, temple, buddhism
Buddhist temple at Luang Prabang, Laos. Image by NipponNewfie available under a Creative Commons License

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Fri 8th Oct 2021
Noisy Grannies

It used to be common in the early morning, less so now, to see groups of people gathering in public parks to dance together. Although tai chi is done in silence the dance groups perform to the loud blare of amplified music. All the noise does cause problems at times and rival groups sometimes try to out compete each other by tweaking the volume still higher. The up to 100 million 'dancing grannies' are formidable opponents if you complain about the noise. Some groups have taken to wearing airpods but others have refused to turn down the music. Technology may now have a solution, a special gizmo can be pointed at the offending loudspeaker from over 164 feet [50 meters] away to silence it. The dance steps keep the participants fit and healthy and maybe the new quieter atmosphere will encourage younger people to take up the custom.

dancer, dance
Street dancer at the shore of Xihu (West Lake) on Sangongyuan (Three Parks) - Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China, 22.11.2014. Image by Hermann Luyken available under a Creative Commons License

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Thu 30th Sep 2021
More water diverted to north-west China

A major water diversion project has been opened in Gansu province, north-west China. The project was started as early as 1958 but soon stalled before restarting again in 2006. It will bring 550 million cubic meters of water every year from a tributary of the Yellow River to the parched lands of southern Gansu. It will allow agriculture to flourish to a region that been constantly hit by periods of drought. It is one of China's poorest regions with limited access to tap water. The project forms part of several ambitious projects to redirect rainwater from the wet south to the dry north.

Gansu, lake, desert
The famous crescent lake near Dunhuang, Gansu

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Sun 19th Sep 2021
Mid Autumn or Moon Festival

This year the annual celebration of the start of autumn chill is on the same day as the equinox 21st September.

The Autumn Moon Festival takes place at full moon in the 8th lunar month (15th day), it marks the end of harvest. Lanterns are lit and round moon cakes are cooked and consumed in large numbers - these are usually filled with soybean paste, lotus seeds and egg yolk and covered in pastry. As there is a tradition that a rabbit lived on the moon, rabbits are a popular image. Another tradition is to layout peaches, melon or grapes in a circle of thirteen as there are 13 lunar months in a year. Ancient pagodas were decorated with lanterns to shine at night. It celebrates Chang'e, the goddess of the moon, and particularly the romance with the archer god Houyi. Traditionally, spirits of the dead came forth to feast on the fruits of summer harvest. People would climb hills and mountains to watch the rising of the full moon with the greeting Kàn yuè liang ‘Look at the bright moon!’.

Ivory figure of Chang 'E

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Fri 10th Sep 2021
Green miracle at Saihanba
Saihanba, park, Hebei
18 July 2005. Image by available under a Creative Commons License

The effects of long term soil degradation by inappropriate farming and tree felling had turned the Saihanba area in northernmost Hebei into a desert of dust of little value to anyone.

Efforts to keep back the Gobi desert in north China began as early as 1962 with the planting of trees as a shelter belt. The efforts of nearly 60 years of continuous management are now bearing fruit. It has become national forest park and nature reserve and received an international ‘Champions of the Earth’ award in 2017. It is the world's largest planted forest and absorbs over 860,000 tons of CO2 each year.

The foresters have developed skills in nurturing tree seedlings and claim a 98.9% survival rate compared to about 8% in the early years. Trees are still being planted and by 2030 should cover over 309 sq miles [800 sq kms]. As well as trees the park is home to 610 species of plants and 261 species of animals. The park should have a noticeable effect on the air quality as far away as Beijing.

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Thu 2nd Sep 2021
Universal Studio comes to Beijing

Universal Studios makers of such films as Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Transformers, Minions, The Great Wall and Warcraft have chosen Beijing for their fifth theme park.

It has 37 different rides including the popular Harry Potter rides found elsewhere in the

world but also new ones like ‘Kung Fu Panda Land of Awesomeness’.

It is jointly run by Beijing International Resort Co. and Universal Parks and Resorts and cost about $7.7 billion to build. It is located 20 miles east from the city center but does have its own subway station at the end of the Batong line.

Universal Studios Park

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Fri 20th Aug 2021
New link to Russia

China has announced completion of a new railway link to Russia. The traditional route of the Trans-Siberian railway has a link into China through Ulan Bator in Mongolia and also links through Harbin in Heilongjiang province. The new bridge over the mighty Heilongjian/Amur river is further east linking Tongjiang and Nizhneleninskoye. The link joins the Trans-Siberian railway to Vladivostok at Birobidzhan. The bridge is 7,267 feet [2,215 meters] long and has taken seven years to build. It was financed as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Tongjiang-Nizhneleninskoye bridge

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Wed 11th Aug 2021
Chinese Valentine's day

This year Chinese valentine's day falls on Saturday 14th August - precisely six months after the western version.

In China the festival is a moveable festival as it falls on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month [Qīxìjié means seventh night festival]. It commemorates the love between a Zhinu, weaver and the cowherd Niulang. The gods separated them and they were only allowed to meet on one night each year. The husband and wife are represented by the stars Vega and Altair and a bridge of magpies is made over the Milky Way which runs between them in the sky to allow them to meet. The magpies will only come if it was dry so she earnestly prayed for rain to keep away on this day.

It has now become a day for lovers to have a romantic evening and exchange gifts.

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Thu 1st Jul 2021
Dragon Men

Analysis of a partial skull is changing people’s ideas of human evolution, The discovery of Peking Man back in 1926 caused a stir as the conventional view was that humans evolved in Africa and moved north into Europe before spreading out. Over the last hundred years it is clear that there were several species of humans and it is certainly not a case of simply following back to an original ‘Adam and Eve’. The new skull, although discovered in 1933 has only recently been studied and suggests a new species of humans from Asia which adds further complexity to the story of human evolution. The new ‘species’ has been called Homo longi, because ( lóng) represents the Chinese dragon. It gives further evidence that ancient Chinese culture developed independently from the rest of the world.

dragon man
A reconstruction of the whole human from the skull fragment.
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Thu 17th Jun 2021
Chinese Elephants on the move

A group of migrating elephants are being closely followed on Chinese social media. They set off from the nature reserve at Xishuangbanna in the remote south-western part of Yunnan province. They have traveled about 311 miles [500 kms] and are now quite close to Kunming, the provincial capital. One 'rogue' male has broken away from the group and is 10 miles [16 kms] away.

China used to have elephants roaming over a good deal of the country, for a long time there was an elephant stable at the Forbidden City Beijing as they were used for ceremonial parades, but the Asian elephants rapidly reduced in numbers and by the 1970s there were only 193 of them restricted to the far south-west. They are rarer in China than the Giant Panda and have been given top protection status. Numbers have risen to just 300 so this group of 15 have been given aid to prevent as much interaction with humans as possible. Roads are blocked and the animals receive daily food drops to encourage them to keep away, not always successfully, from farmer's crops.

It is hoped that the group can eventually be enticed back to their original home at Xishuangbanna but many followers on social media may like to see them set up a new home elsewhere.

sleeping elephants
Drone footage of the elephant group sleeping. Courtesy China Central Television (CCTV)
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Thu 10th Jun 2021
New record for art work

A Qing dynasty hard painted scroll has set a new record at auction. It's a long scroll measuring 61 feet [19 meters] long and was painted by Imperial court painter Xu Yang in the 1750s. The scroll commemorates Emperor Qianlong's military campaigns in Myanmar / Western China to try to capture jade mines as he had a major fixation with this semi-precious stone. It fetched $65million (414 million yuan) at a Beijing auction. Other examples of Xu Yang's work can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

scroll, Emperor Qianlong, auction, Xu Yang
A detail from the scroll. Photograph: Courtesy of Poly Auction. Available under a Creative Commons License

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Fri 28th May 2021
China's Chocolate Village

A local entrepreneur has turned his love for chocolate into a thriving business. Mo Xuefeng from Jiaxing (conveniently halfway between Shanghai and Hangzhou) became a huge fan as a boy and has been able to create a chocolate themed village; it attracted 50,000 visitors on the May 1st holiday. China imports most of its chocolate few people having the expertise to create a local chocolate industry.

chocolate cake
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Fri 14th May 2021
Double yolk boom

A CNN report describes how a local area in Jiangsu (south-eastern China) has become famous for its double yolk duck eggs. A double yolk is quite rare normally but this particular county has ducks laying double yolk eggs one in twenty times. Over many generations ducks have been selected that are more likely to produce the double form. The double yolk commands a much higher price and many are preserved in salt water and eaten as a delicacy. The famous county is Gāo yóu near Yangzhou. Local salt has been produced for many centuries making a wealthy area.

double yolk,eggs
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Fri 7th May 2021
Robot taxis in Beijing

The first commercial driver-less taxi service has been launched in China by Baidu. Although no-one sits in the driver's seat currently there is a ‘safety monitor’ in the front passenger seat. It is running within Shouqing Park, Beijing which will be a venue for the winter Olympics next year and is not part of the main road network.

A robotaxi can be summoned by an app called ‘Apollo Go’ and costs around $5 a trip. Many people are fascinated by the novelty of the robotaxi service and so it is having to frequently stop as people get a little bit too close to take a a good look at the driver-less vehicles.

robot taxi,robotaxi
Image copyright Baidu Apollo.
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Sat 1st May 2021
Mermaid record

An unusual Guinness world record has been set. In the south of Hainan Island, the southernmost inhabited land in China, a group of 110 divers have dressed as merpeople to set the record. Swimming with only a tail rather than two legs requires new skills to be mastered. You can see a video here. It was held at the Atlantis Sanya resort. Diving has recently become a very popular sport.

mermaid swimmers
Image copyright CGTN.
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Fri 23rd Apr 2021
China nears 100 cities with over 1 million inhabitants

The latest data show that the move of Chinese people to the cities continues. There are now 93 cities with populations over 1,000,000. This represents about 60% urbanization, not so long ago it was the other way with around 60% in rural villages and small towns. Of China's 30 provinces two have more than ten cities with over 1 million people. There are now ten cities with over 10 million inhabitants, that's a lot of people!

The big growth area is a long way from Beijing, in the mega-cities of Guangdong in the far south and also Jiangsu in the south-east.

Tiananmen Square, crowd
2004 PRC National Day at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. What a crowd! Image by pfctdayelise available under a Creative Commons License

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Thu 15th Apr 2021
Intelligent robot dog proves popular

The pet of the future is now available. A robot dog will offer many advantages, no food, no mess, no kennel fees and if a nuisance it can just be switched off. The developers of AlphaDog at the Weilan workshop may be on to a winning design, it is already selling well. The latest model is using A.I. to give a more convincing dog-like behavior and will soon be given a 'bark'. It can be taken out for walkies but currently will struggle with stairs. They cost about $2,500 at present which is expensive but much lower than the cost of keeping a real dog. In future the dog could be used for all sorts of uses including as guide dogs.

alpha robot dog
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Thu 8th Apr 2021
The greening of Beijing

This year there has been a great deal of wind blown sand from the Gobi desert that has afflicted all north-eastern China. In Beijing the annual tree planting day on 12th March has seen over a million residents take part in activities. Nearly a million trees have been planted and the existing 6 million trees in the city have been given a check-over. There are plans to add over 10,000 hectares of forest and 400 hectares of green spaces. These should all help improve the look of the city and well-being of the citizens. Trees are considered to emit auspicious 'qi' particularly in the morning.

PKChina-26, Summer Palace, beijing, forest
View of Beijing from the Summer Palace. September 2019. Image by Paul Kerswill

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Fri 26th Mar 2021
Daoist master claims powers to enlarge breasts

Although it is getting close to April’s fool day this is a genuine news story. Over the centuries the Daoist (Taoist) tradition has had many ‘masters’ who have claimed extraordinary magical powers.

This year a man (actual name unknown) from Hubei area has claimed the power to enlarge breasts. He does this not by laying on hands but by psychic energy. He claims to be a Guhao master (a Daoist sect) of Zhuyoushu. Women have claimed the ‘treatment’ has gained them at least one inch of breast enlargement. He also claims to be able to make people taller, treat tumors and increase IQ. For each ‘treatment’ he has devised a scale of exorbitant charges.

Now the authorities are catching up with this charlatan (he of course lacks any formal Daoist accreditation) to answer allegations of fraud.

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Shanxi, Mount Wutai, temple
Longquan temple Buddhist gate on Mount Wutai, Shanxi