Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Who’s the Champ?

Fresh from the Dad…

China argues they’re champions at the Olympics based on their 51 gold medals. The USA counterargues its the number of total medals won (USA 110 – China 100) that matters. The New Paper’s Santokh Singh begs to differ and proposes that winners should be based on medal per country population – making the Bahamas the winners of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

country pop (mil) total medals ratio 1 per (mil)
1. bahamas- 0.31- 2- 0.155
2. jamaica- 2.8- 11- 0.25
3. iceland- 0.3- 1- 0.3
4. slovenia- 2- 5- 0.4
5 australia- 21- 46- 0.46
46. usa- 304- 110- 2.8
54. singapore- 4.6- 1- 4.6
68. china- 1300- 100- 13
87. india- 1100- 3- 370

Source – the New Paper, Singapore

Filed under: Uncategorized

Unpolished Gem

A bandmate pointed out this book as one to get for an Aussie perspective on the same-issue. Am keen to eventually broaden research to include overseas-born Chinese elsewhere in the world, and this is a good start. Particularly poignant – the middle para in bold. I would argue – symptom of Confucianism or Chineseness, or both?

Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung
The Age (Source – http://www.theage.com.au/news/book-reviews/unpolished-gem/2006/09/01/1156817080625.html)
Juliette Hughes, Reviewer
September 1, 2006

THIS IS A MEMOIR SO vivid that images from it linger behind your eyelids – the pig’s blood jelly that Alice Pung’s father remembers wistfully; the festive paper chains made of cut-up Target catalogues; the fate of the chocolate eggs that the seven-year-old Alice hoards in a drawer.

The book begins as the ethnic Chinese Pung family arrive in Australia from Cambodia, fleeing the Khmer Rouge. Immigrants to this country have a vast range of stories to tell but their have a more complex narrative formed by the experience of life as links between the old country and the new.

Over time various ethnic groups have arrived and congregated in tight-knit communities for a while: Irish, Italian, Greek and, of course, Anglo Saxon. All have merged into the dominant Australian culture; significantly all have provided top footballers, politicians, chefs and writers, the first being a more reliable indicator of cultural integration than the last two. But Chinese Australians and other East Asians have been more inclined towards business and medicine than footy. However admirable their achievements, it takes a book like this to help bridge the wider Australian culture and the old ways…

The stories are full of pain but there is a rich vein of comedy running through Unpolished Gem. Pung sees her family with Australian eyes and portrays them often as quaint. It’s a position of privilege – certainly no one else could do this without risking prejudiced cultural stereotypes. Yet many of the Asian/migrant stereotypes are there: the family sets up a small business; her mother is an outworker, putting enormous pressure on the young Alice to look after her younger siblings; Alice is under massive pressure later on to excel at school.

Pung’s sense of what it is to be a Chinese woman is often disturbing: “Constantly sighing and lying and dying – that is what being a Chinese woman means, and I want nothing to do with it.”

Western notional female equality entices her. As a teenager she engages in the usual subterfuges in order to go to parties and feel comfortable with her friends. But she does not go as far as they do: she has a strong sense of what can be tolerated by both the cultures she inhabits, even as she loses the ability to think in Chinese.

Filed under: Culture

Confucius – the first Christian Name

Dad was joking today that Confucius has to be the first Christian name in the world. And that the West was good at putting down the very glue that made Chinese who they are by well, giving it such a confusing name.

Reckoning that Confucius’s proper Chinese name was actually Kong Qiu Ni, how in the world did it ever become Confucius? He jokes that he should be called Johnny (First name – Qui Ni) Kong (Family Name), as opposed to Confucius. Kong Fu Zi (or Kong Zi) is his formal title of sorts, meaning Revered Teacher Kong.

Apparently it was so thanks to a Jesuit Matteo Ricci, who was the first to Latinise the name as “Confucius.”

And broken down – it would make sense.

Con = Kong
Fu = Fu (Teacher) Zi

Just not quite sure how the ‘CIUS’ works.

Filed under: Confucius

Please – join in the quest.

Click Here to be part of this grand investigation

Beverage of choice on me the next we get to meet.


Filed under: Uncategorized

Overseas-born Chinese population

A total of 33,335,827 overseas-born Chinese roam the planet today. And it never occured to me Indonesia would have the most! And that figure, according to some sources – added together would populate what could be the 34th largest nation (in terms of population) in the world today.

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/peo_chi_pop-people-chinese-population#source (Date of Access 19 August 2008)

#1  Indonesia:

#2  Thailand:

#3  Malaysia:

#4  Singapore:

#5  Philippines:

#6  United States:

#7  Burma:

#8  Vietnam:

#9  Canada:

#10 Australia:

Filed under: Chinese overseas

Napoleon and his view on China

Some might be already familiar with the notion of China being the world’s sleeping dragon (well, they’re now pretty much awakened and breathing fire, albeit, peacefully). Napoleon needs little introduction – the short and stout Frenchmen who pretty much took over Europe with a belly of fire, never taking no for an answer. Apparently, even 200-odd years ago, he had the foresight to predict what’s happening in the world today.

On China…He was supposed to have said, “Let China Sleep, for when the Dragon awakes, she will shake the world.” Now – foresight or wisdom? Another perspective would reveal that he could have very much appreciated the value of what a cultural centre like China’s could do to keep an empire together (like how early Christianity served as a glue for the Roman Empire).

Or something to that effect. That triggered a little hunt online for the origins of such a saying, if it indeed happened, and if it did, what it meant.

And I managed to find a pretty decent entry at the China History Forum.

“Actually, there seem to have been two quotes. The first one is attributed to Napoleon in 1803 (ie before he became emperor), he is said to have pointed to a map, on china and said (more or less, there are many versions of the quote)
“Ici repose un géant endormi, laissez le dormir, car quand il s’éveillera, il étonnera le monde” – “here lies a sleeping giant (lion in other versions), let him sleep, for when he wakes up, he will shock the world”

And then, there is a second, more famous one, which is supposed to have been said in St Helena (in which case, it might be in Las Cases Memorial of St Helena): “quand la chine s’éveillera, le monde tremblera” (when China wakes up, the world will shake).

As for Napoleon’s knowledge of China, the second half of the 18th century was a moment when Jesuit missions were quite active in China (time of Amyot, Castiglione, etc… all Jesuits who held high positions in the Qing court). The first translations of classics date from this era, and many of the translations were into latin or french. The first translation of the Daodejing, of some Confucian classics, and more importantly of the Sunzi and other military books were done in the second half of the 18th century. It is quite likely that Napoleon did read Amyot’s translation of Sunzi (in fact, a compilation of several military texts, which included the Sunzi).

Note also that all things asian, and especially chinese, were fashionable among european intellectuals from the 17th and 18th century. Leibniz was probably the first, but Voltaire took sides in the quarrels on the origin of chinese civilisation, and wrote a tragedy “l’orphelin de la Chine”, which had some success, after a translation of a chinese play based upon a story from the Shiji (the orphan of Zhao).

So, Napoleon did have some notions about china, and chinese civilisation, and was in this respect pretty typical of many young educated people in the late 18th century (or early 19th).”

In another article found on the Washington Times

The sleeping giant stirs
J. Ross Baughman
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Source – http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/aug/03/the-sleeping-giant-stirs/ (Date of Access 17 August 2008)

“Alexander the Great would have liked to have conquered the entire world, but found his limitations on the doorstep of east Asia. Centuries later, Napoleon knew his own military ambitions would fall short of the same frontier, and supposedly muttered “China is a sleeping giant. But when she awakes the whole world will tremble.”

Sigmund Freud, who had a lifelong fascination with ancient Oriental art, also found this metaphor irresistible, except that the father of modern psychology saw in the sleeping giant China’s potential for rage, born out of a deep-seated repression of ego and individualism.

Mao Tse Tung, the Marxist revolutionary, with an image of the “sleeping giant” in mind, promised his people that “All that the West has, China will have.”

Now that’s some food for thought on the world’s imagination of China. At this point I’m wondering if any of these worries are founded as China has always proven to prefer to take the a ‘pacifist’ strategy of non-violence (as anyone who reads Sun Tze in any detail would know), and have hardly been known to take her internal problems outside of the country, much unlike the West, who take lands as they see fit hiding their resource gathering under a guise of pseudo-legitimate reasons. Why’s the West keeping relatively quiet on Georgia today? I doubt there’s anything to fear about China unless provoked. But it looks like the provocation will continue.

Filed under: Napoleon

Conquer English to Make China Stronger

Everyone (my mistake), Anyone… should take some time to observe this phenomenon of Li Yang, one man hired by the Chinese to improve standards of spoken English in China for the Olympics. My experience with my Chinese friends reveals a common problem – they’re all fantastic with the rudiments of the language (I’ve been asked on many occasions to help vet their work), but extremely low in confidence in its utility in day-to-day conversations. Now check out what China has been doing about this. Like anything in China, we’re talking about en masse, and a little big to fathom easily. Inspired by the religious evangelists from the US, Li Yang adapted the method to appeal to Confucianist Chinese, getting students to dig deep into their loyalties and love for family and country to instigate a will beyond common means to well, in a word, conquer the language as if it were a battle.

The New Yorker, April 28, 2008
Evan Osnos
Source http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/04/28/080428fa_fact_osnos (Date of Access 16 August 2008)

“He is China’s Elvis of English, perhaps the world’s only language teacher known to bring students to tears of excitement. He has built an empire out of his country’s deepening devotion to a language it once derided as the tongue of barbarians and capitalists. His philosophy, captured by one of his many slogans, is flamboyantly patriotic: “Conquer English to Make China Stronger!”
Li peered at the students and called them to their feet. They were doctors in their thirties and forties, handpicked by the city’s hospitals to work at the Games. If foreign fans and coaches get sick, these are the doctors they will see. But, like millions of English learners in China, the doctors have little confidence speaking this language that they have spent years studying by textbook. Li, who is thirty-eight, has made his name on an E.S.L. technique that one Chinese newspaper called English as a Shouted Language. Shouting, Li argues, is the way to unleash your “international muscles.” Shouting is the foreign-language secret that just might change your life…”

Click here for full article.

Filed under: Culture

Why Number 1 means a lot to 1.3 billion people

Had a good long chat with the dad today about his views on China today and how they want to be number 1 really badly, and this was echoed in the papers. It’s really a simple deal for the Chinese. They see themselves as victims of the West’s unjust methods of the past (and probably still very much so today) and they’re just making an effort to redeem themselves. Whether this machine of redemption has been so overwhelming that the Chinese consciousness loses touch with reality is really and possibly a figment of Western imagination.

My dad had an excellent anecdote. He related how present Chinese premier Wen Jiabao told the West – “You give me one big problem, it isn’t a problem because I can divide it by 1.3 billion people and it becomes a small problem. But if you gave me 1.3 billion small problems then we have a really big problem.” And this one was even better. In response to the accusations on Human Rights and Freedom of Movement, Deng Xiaoping, arguably the architect of contemporary econimic powerhouse China – “Fine, how about we just let them all go and do what they want. Will your countries, i.e. Australia & America take them in?” Perhaps the West never stopped to think of the consequences of such lip-service. And by letting them go – I doubt many countries would be able to take those quantities without seriously impeding their own way of life. One perspective of such considerations is this – China (read the communist party) is doing a damn great job at keeping a quarter of the world in order and productive. Would the world prefer if they all went amok instead?

Understanding China requires a little bit more finesse as we are dealing with quantities and qualities that few of us can fathom easily. More reading to do.

From the New Paper 13 August 2008
by Zhen Ming

Source – Ming, Z. (2008) The Boston Brahmin – Why Number 1 means a lot to 1.3 billion people. The New Paper.

“Numbers mean a lot to the Chinese.

It was no coincidence that at 8.08pm, on the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year of perhaps Team China’s eighth millennium as a civilisation, they finally had their moment.

The critics, of course, ask: But at what expense?

They point to the human rights abuses and curbs on freedoms.

But for the full story, one should first take a walk on the ruins of the Summer Palace, or Yuan Ming Yuan, not far from the Olympic Park.

This will evoke the time when Britain forced opium on China which “enslaved a generation of Chinese and caused corruption that dwarfs anything in present-day China”, as writer Richard L King noted.

“The burnt Summer Palace remains a symbol reminding China of its past weaknesses and humiliation,” said Travis Hanes and Frank Sanello in their book, Opium Wars…”

I think this second-hand source of information makes it quite clear – an eye for an eye, really, is the name of the game now. And yes, this overseas-born Chinese is certainly aware of the influence of second-hand media information can be rather misleading. Still – the quest continues.

Filed under: Culture

1.1 billion people, only 1 gold

And on the flip-side of things, we have the case of India. Probably the world’s other emerging global superpower that can stand up to the wave of China, the Indians have a very different view of all thing Olympic as China races ahead to own the medal tally. And yes, I really love this article.

1.1 billion people, only 1 gold
India’s first individual Olympic gold begs the question: How come?
By Ravi Velloor, India Bureau Chief
Source – http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/Prime%2BNews/Story/STIStory_267502.html (Date of Access 13 August 2008)

IT IS said about Alexander the Great that on his way to conquer India in 326BC, he stopped to take the blessings of a powerful Hindu sage meditating on the Khyber Pass.

The sadhu readily gave his benediction to the invader.

On his way home, the Greek king stopped to thank the mendicant and flush with victory, grandly ordered the sadhu to ask for whatever reward he desired.
The old man opened an eye briefly to look at the conquering hero.

‘Just this,’ he said. ‘Move out of my way. You are blocking my sunshine.’

On Monday, the 25-year-old shooter who brought India its first-ever Olympic medal in an individual event, accepted his victory with the same detachment displayed by the ancient sage who encountered that early invader from Macedonia.

There was no fist-pumping, Tiger Woods style. No Michael Jordan high- fives or V signs.

Just a slightly bemused expression playing on the lips of crack shot Abhinav Bindra, almost as though he was watching someone else on the victory stand.

Not for nothing is the man from Chandigarh called The Monk.

Yet, even as Bindra’s parents and national leaders erupted in joy at the unexpected gold medal that came India’s way in Beijing, the larger questions loom.

India has a population of 1.1 billion people, though admittedly poor in large part.

It has a military of 1.3 million, where diet, discipline and spare time ought not to be an issue, especially since India hasn’t fought a war since 1971.

Yet, while it has participated in every Olympics since at least 1900 it had never won an individual medal before. Much smaller countries have done a whole lot better.

Indeed, the country’s most celebrated sportsmen are two who narrowly missed bronze medals in athletics: ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh for the 400m at Rome in 1960, and the woman sprinter P. T. Usha who lost by 1/100th of a second in the 400m hurdles at Los Angeles in 1984. She was mistakenly declared third before the announcement was withdrawn.

The last time India won any gold was 28 years ago and that was in a team event, hockey, always considered the national sport until it got overwhelmed by cricket.

This year, the hockey team did not even qualify, leading to much soul searching across the nation.

How to explain all this?

Infrastructure is clearly one issue. India has few quality stadiums and few notable facilities have been added since it hosted the Asian Games in 1982. Indeed, there is deep worry that New Delhi may fail to keep its deadline to host the Commonwealth Games that are scheduled to be hosted by the national capital two years from now.

Aside from cricket, its sportsmen and athletes barely get recognised.

Budgets are sparse. Bindra’s parents could afford to give their lad a private shooting range in their home, but not every athlete is as lucky.

Usha, the sprint queen of the 1980s, says she wore her first running spikes as a mature teenager although her talent had been evident for years prior to her success.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram allotted the equivalent of $390 million to sport in his annual Budget this year. Much of the money goes to waste, and is often used by officials for their own junkets. Indian participants at the Beijing Games number less than 60, a tenth of the men and women carrying the Chinese flag.

And of course, there is corruption. A senior official of the hockey federation had to quit in disgrace recently over allegations that he took money to include players in the squad.

But perhaps there are larger social and philosophical issues at play behind India’s lack of will to win big.

Indian parents push their children to study hard, not work on their sport, although that is slowly changing, especially with the upper classes.

Mr Sudhir Damodaran, who pioneered the satellite television dish business in India, also attributes the absence of a searing desire to excel in sport to the Hindu mind’s highly developed sense of impermanence.

‘Unlike in the West, we Indians do not worship the human body,’ says the 51- year-old businessman who works out three times a week. He insists that his weight – 67kg – has remained the same since he was 28.

‘We see it as a mere temporary vehicle for the soul’s journey towards salvation. And so we neglect it. We do not take pride in our physiques.’

Filed under: India, International Relations

Zhang Ziyi Being Chinese

In the Straits Times today –

Zhang Ziyi has quite happily quoted that she will not be an American even if she had children with her New York-based fiance. Told to the Chinese edition of Harper’s Bazaar, “My children may be American, if my present fiance is their father, but I am Chinese now, and I will be Chinese forever.”

Point made.

Filed under: Quotable quotes

Follow me on Twitter



August 2008
« Jul   Sep »

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,228 other followers

East/West headlines of Rising China

East/West headlines of Rising China

About Wandering China

Click to find out more about this project

Support //WC

Support Wandering China now - buy a Tee Shirt!

Be a champ - Support Wandering China - buy a Tee Shirt!

The East Wind Wave

China in images and infographics, by Wandering China

China in images and Infographics, by Wandering China

Wandering China: Facing west

Please click to access video

Travels in China's northwest and southwest

Wandering Taiwan

Wandering Taiwan: reflections of my travels in the democratic Republic of China

Wandering China, Resounding Deng Slideshow

Click here to view the Wandering China, Resounding Deng Slideshow

Slideshow reflection on Deng Xiaoping's UN General Assembly speech in 1974. Based on photos of my travels in China 2011.

East Asia Geographic Timelapse

Click here to view the East Asia Geographic Timelapse

A collaboration with my brother: Comparing East Asia's rural and urban landscapes through time-lapse photography.

Wandering Planets

Creative Commons License
Wandering China by Bob Tan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at Wanderingchina.org. Thank you for visiting //
web stats

Flag Counter

free counters
Online Marketing
Add blog to our directory.