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Showing content with the highest reputation since 05/07/2010 in Posts

  1. 25 points
    Hi guys! I haven't been terribly active on Chinese Forums, but I've been lurking since way back. The amount of good stuff posted here is a little overwhelming, frankly. I occasionally see links to Sinosplice here, and I'm always happy to see that, but today I'd like to announce the release of a major project of mine which I've been working on for over a year, and I'm very excited to finally be releasing. It's called the AllSet Learning Chinese Grammar Wiki, and it's pretty much what it sounds like. The project began as an internal resource for AllSet Learning. It became quickly apparent to me that you can't mix and match various study materials like we do for our clients unless you have some kind of over-arcing framework for tracking acquisition of vocabulary and grammar patterns. The Grammar Wiki is my solution to the grammar part of this issue. But in developing this resource, I realized that there's no single resource on the entire internet which does a good, comprehensive job of covering the grammar of Mandarin Chinese. There are some decent books, and users of this forum do a great job clarifying various grammar patterns, but I believe there's still room for a Chinese grammar resource with greater cohesion (like what Wikipedia has). Creating a resource for an entire language's grammar has been a massive undertaking, and so I've gotten a good start on it over the past year with the help of some excellent reference books and four especially hard-working interns (including the famous "East Asia Student"). We've done it as a wiki not to open it up to anonymous edits, but to make it easier for interested parties to get involved, and because I think what Wikipedia is doing is very much the same thing that's still needed for Chinese grammar (on a smaller, more niche scale). The Grammar Wiki content belongs to AllSet Learning, but it's freely available to all through a Creative Commons license. I'm really hoping that learners all over the world will find it useful, and that some of them will even want to give back to the project by serving as an editor. In fact, I'm thinking of all the places for volunteer editors to come from, Chinese Forums is definitely the most likely! This is the first "public-facing" project we've done at AllSet Learning, and I'm looking forward to talking to users about what they like, what most urgently needs improvement, etc. I know we still have a lot of work left to do, but I think we're off to a decent start. The wiki link is: http://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/ And our blog post which more thoroughly explains the wiki's structure and features is: http://www.allsetlearning.com/news/introducing-the-allset-learning-chinese-grammar-wiki/ I'll definitely be back here to answer questions. Happy Year of the Dragon!
  2. 25 points
    I took one year of Chinese during graduate school and studied on my own (using NPCR 3 and part of 4) for about two years. Around last winter, I decided that I was tired of my slow progress and wanted to immerse myself in a Chinese speaking environment as well as study Chinese. I accepted the invitation of a friend and went to Taipei in January for two weeks to check out the city and meet my future Chinese language teacher. The trip went quite well, so I decided to bite the bullet and plan for living in Taiwan for two and a half months. One thing I should mention about myself before I continue - I'm a deaf young male who teaches chemistry, so I have summers off, and, because of my being a teacher, I was able to do this in the first place. Because I'm deaf and have no latent spoken language ability, I had very little interest in speaking and listening skills, and wanted to focus exclusively on reading and writing skills. Last year, in the fall, I contacted several programs in mainland China and in Taiwan asking them what kind of classes they held during the summer, to see if I could get around the listening/speaking requirements in a Chinese language program. I generally received negative responses, mostly because their curriculum was integrated - so there were no 口语 classes I could skip or anything like that. The ICLP also responded in the negative, but offered to email their teachers to see if one would be willing to teach me on an one-on-one basis. A few days later, I received an email from one of the ICLP teachers, and over the course of a couple of months, we discussed my goals and eventually arranged a meeting while I was there in January. That January meeting was quite challenging for me, because my prospective teacher and I corresponded for three hours, all in traditional Chinese, on paper and pen, discussing different things - my Chinese study history, what I'd been doing in Taiwan, my goals for the Chinese language, what I expected from the class, tuition, course texts - basically making arrangements for me to take Chinese during the summer under her. It was quite overwhelming because this was the first serious conversation I had ever had in Chinese for so long. It was also quite exciting, because this was exactly what I wanted - to finally acquire the skills to be able to interact with people (albeit in a written form). So, spring semester came and went, and I went to Taiwan in late May. I applied for, and got, a 60-day multi-entry tourist visa, and took (and passed) the HSK level 3 test during this time. When I arrived in Taiwan, I didn't start my classes until about a week and half into my Taiwan stay as my teacher had finals during that time, and I still had to get settled, get over jetlag, etc. Once classes started, we had about eight weeks of classes minus a few days here and there for travel (for me!). We ended up deciding on 今日台湾, which is a decent text. We basically met every weekday for two hours in a coffee shop (丹堤咖啡, if you were curious), and went over the material over a cup of tea. My teacher gave me what I felt was a lot of homework - about 2-3 hours a day on average - but I was grateful for it as it was great practice for my Chinese expression skills. The teacher was very good at forcing me to use my Chinese actively rather than just read Chinese texts and "listen" to her write in Chinese. We always corresponded using pen and paper, and I have three full notebooks filled with our correspondence over the eight weeks that we had classes together. The format for our lessons varied, but with each chapter, the teacher would assign me the following exercises: Vocabulary list questions - basically two questions per vocabulary item. Since each chapter has around 50 vocabulary items, this amounts to about 100 questions that I had to answer. These were not easy questions for me to answer either - questions like 「你认为家庭对人的重要性是什么?」or 「拿美国跟非洲的乡下比,有什么差别?」were quite common. Since there were so many questions, we usually spent a day or two just going through my answers and discussing my grammatical errors or unfamiliar words in questions. Textbook exercises - this included the grammar and vocabulary exercises. This was generally not that time-consuming, but some of the grammar points inspired much discussion and comparative examples. A discussion of the textbook passage - the teacher would quiz me on my retention of the textbook passage content and vocabulary. I don't think it was that useful, because it basically amounted to me memorizing the text and key vocabulary/phrases, but there were a couple of interesting discussions that stemmed from the textbook. A review sheet bringing together the grammar and vocabulary, that had three parts. First, there was a set of questions to answer followed by a grammatical pattern that I had to use in my answer - I felt this was very restrictive, but it still reinforced my understanding (or lack thereof) of the grammar point in question. Second, there was a question that required a short paragraph and incorporation of five or six vocabulary items - also very restrictive as I often felt that I had to shoehorn in one or two of the vocabulary items. Third, there was a 300 character essay that I had to write following a prompt. A 500-600 character essay assignment where I had to respond to some sort of prompt. There was one occasion where my teacher and I had completely different mental images of what the essay question was about, which led to an interesting conversation. I began the summer session doing these by writing my answers by hand, but towards the end, I used my computer to input my answers. I still did a good deal of writing by hand during class, and I think that really cemented my learning how to read/write characters - as well as read a native Chinese speaker's handwriting. We would sometimes laugh together as I tried to decipher one or two of my Chinese teacher's handwritten characters, and I have to say that I got sick of writing 台灣 or 喜歡 pretty fast because there are just so many strokes to write each time >_< So, with this much work, it took us about a week to get through each chapter. The teacher said that we would probably be able to finish the whole book in the eight weeks alotted, but we only got halfway through it by the end. I honestly have no idea how ICLP or MTC teachers can find the time to give feedback on students' work, given how much homework the students are given, and the number of students per class. Maybe my teacher and I could have covered the material more quickly if we could communicate orally, as writing is a pretty slow process, I dunno. I was very satisfied with the quality of my education in Taiwan and would choose her again as my teacher, without hesitation. So what did I do besides attend class and do homework? I interacted quite a bit with the deaf Taiwanese community - and for those of you who are curious, Taiwanese Sign Language is pretty much unintelligible to an American Sign Language user, as sign languages are not universal. I learned a fair bit of Taiwanese Sign Language, but confess that I chatted much more with people who had studied abroad in the US or learned American Sign Language at one point, just because it was so much easier to communicate with them. I would have taken a Taiwanese Sign Language class if I could, as there are quite a few classes offered throughout Taipei, but most conflicted with my classes, unfortunately. Right now, I can understand the basic gist of Taiwanese Sign Language, but I can only communicate very simple things about myself - family, occupation, that kind of thing. I also taught American Sign Language to a group of deaf Taiwanese. Taipei's largest association of the deaf offers one American Sign Language class in three levels - beginning, intermediate, and advanced, with the first two taught by Taiwanese deaf people who had gone to the US to study abroad for a number of years and returned to Taiwan for work. I was offered the opportunity to teach the advanced class this summer, and I accepted. It was fun, but it was also a lot of hard work, as the students' levels were so varied. I definitely know what a language teacher feels like, in some ways. It was also a huge time sink to prepare for and then teach two 2-hour classes a week, since I had already made a big commitment to studying Chinese. I don't regret it though. One thing that was interesting, though - if a student didn't know how to say something in American Sign Language, they would often replace that concept with the equivalent in Taiwanese Sign Language, so I had no way of knowing if they signed it incorrectly or if they used their native sign language. I also did some travelling - I went to Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung, as well as visited Jiufen, Sun Moon Lake, and a couple of other landmarks. Some of these trips were made with deaf Taiwanese friends, so I had a real insider's perspective on these landmarks. I also made the Kaohsiung trip by joining a group of 40 deaf Taiwanese two weeks after I arrived in Taiwan - that was a very interesting experience, to say the least, since I had a practically nonexistent knowledge of their sign language and they didn't know any English or American Sign Language either. One last thing. Apparently, to the deaf Taiwanese there, a deaf foreigner coming to Taiwan to study Chinese was interesting enough to broadcast on TV. So, I was featured on a daily news program produced by deaf Taiwanese that is broadcast in Taiwan every morning at 8 am. You can see my one-minute-long news article here: - I'm the first story of that news clip. All of my comments are in American Sign Language, and the reporter himself knew ASL, so he was able to directly translate my remarks into Chinese subtitles. I still cringe at how I looked at that time, but I think no one likes to see themselves on camera ;)I think that's everything - I would gladly do it again, and am thinking about possibly going back next summer. I already miss Taipei tremendously - the people, the food, the culture - but do not miss the language barrier or the summer heat. We'll see how things work out next year
  3. 23 points
    Hi everyone, Finally, finally, finally!!! The long wait is over. I finally got my CSC admit notice today, at NUAA. Yes, it's really worth the wait. I am shaking with joy. As I have received such good news, I know there's great news for those who are still waiting. This calls for celebration......YAAYYY!!!
  4. 22 points
    Today marks the 9th anniversary of this fine site's foundation. While I am not one for big celebrations, it would be remiss of me not to note the date, and give a thank you to everyone who has contributed over the years. Attempting to thank everyone by name would of course be a futile effort. So I thought I'd thank by name everyone who registered in our first year, and has visited over the last 12 months - that is, has been active to some degree for pretty much the lifetime of the forum. But there were two pages of us, and I wasn't typing out all those names. So I looked at post counts - but what of new members who haven't had time to rack up a high post count? Reputation figures? That's only been running a few years, members from way back wouldn't show up. So I gave up on names. Here's to you, the unknown poster. It isn't the biggest site on the Internet. Lord knows I'll admit it isn't always the best run. Sure as hell ain't the prettiest. But I'm kind of fond of it anyway.
  5. 16 points
    Guys, I'm in. The embassy in my country has just been released the results today. Thanks God.
  6. 15 points
    It was all because I, out of curiosity, downloaded @imron's Chinese Text Analyzer. I just wanted to get a rough idea on how different Chinese writers compare with each other in terms of accessibility for foreign language learners. As a native speaker, I'm not in a good position to assess the relative ease or difficulty of a book. Of course I know 《道德经》 is more difficult than 《小布头奇遇记》. But what about normal books that normal people read? I wanted a more objective criterion. And I think I've found one – the number of unique characters in a book. (Total characters and unique words are also useful – Chinese word segmentation is not a perfect science but the number still means something when comparing different texts.) After running a dozen of .txt files through CTA, I have some interesting findings: 1) 余华 really is easy. He is like the Chinese Hemingway. You can't get any easier, really. 余华's 《活着》 is a favorite among Chinese learners for good reason. It has 1865 unique characters, significantly lower than 2619, the number of unique characters in 曹文轩's 《草房子》, a children's novel suitable for 4-6th graders. 2) For advanced readers like imron, who knows 4400 characters and has quite a few 金庸s under his belt, the Four Classic Novels or 四大名著 should be theoretically within reach. (《水浒传》 was among the first novels I read. I was in 初一 and I don't think I knew that many characters. I didn't understand everything of course, but understanding everything isn't the point.) So it was a dark and stormy night. I ran a dozen of .txt files through CTA. And the perfectionist in me wasn't happy. As anyone who has used these "free" e-books knows, they're a very mixed bag. Typos, OCR errors, bad formatting, and no way to know which version/edition they are based on. When all the texts you pull from the internet give you 身后“”的马蹄声, you know something is missing. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I bought some 300 yuan's worth of books and was proofreading e-books... That's when it struck me: We have a First Episode Project, why not a First Chapter Project? Thus here I am, presenting you with 第一弹 of the First Chapter Project! biu~biu~ The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. The reason I chose it is because: 1) It's popular. It's one of the bestselling books on JD.com, Dangdang, and Amazon.cn. 2) It's a contemporary work, not too easy, not too difficult, and rather heavy on dialogue. A major obstacle may be technical vocabulary. But the Chinese technical words are mostly compounds and relatively transparent compared to English. And you don't need to be a scientist to read science fictions. From what I gathered from JD.com reviews, children as young as 10 are able to enjoy this book. How much do you reckon they know about particle physics or radio cosmology? Not much. It's just a fun escapist adventure. Don't take it too seriously. 3) It has two different versions of the first chapter. The novel was first serialized in Science Fiction World in 2006, because the opening scene (China at the height of the Cultural Revolution) was deemed too sensitive for the year 2006 – the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the said revolution. In the book version published in 2008, the story begins instead in present-day Beijing – the original Chapter 1 was tone down a bit and became Chapter 7. The English translation from 2014, which went on to win the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel, was based on the serialized version. Personally, I like the book narrative better. Science fiction with no sign of science in the first 30 pages is, frustrating. Although admittedly, had it not been for the Cultural Revolution theme, it wouldn't have won the Hugo Award and I wouldn't have read it in the first place. All right, enough third conditionals. Let's get to the main course. 《三体》,刘慈欣,重庆出版社,2008年1月第1版,2017年8月第7次印刷,ISBN 978-7-5366-9293-0 Difficulty: medium; Total characters: 162,680; Unique characters: 2,817; Unique words: 10,228 (not counting preface, epilogue and the like) First chapter (6,897 characters): (I made two corrections: 不、不→不,不 and 看去很小很小→看上去很小很小) Characters: 汪淼 Wāng Miǎo – Nanomaterials researcher (淼,大水也。 Personal names are the best opportunity to get acquainted with some rare characters, e.g., 金鑫, 牛犇, 朴文垚.) 史强 Shǐ Qiáng – Police detective and counter-terrorism specialist, nicknamed 大史 Dà Shǐ 常伟思 Cháng Wěisī – Major general of the People's Liberation Army 杨冬 Yáng Dōng – String theorist, recently committed suicide 丁仪 Dīng Yí – Theoretical physicist, Yang Dong's boyfriend 申玉菲 Shēn Yùfēi – Chinese-Japanese physicist and member of the Frontiers of Science Other names: 科学边界 Kēxué Biānjiè – Frontiers of Science, a fictional international academic group 吉普赛人 Jípǔsàirén – Gypsy 北约 Běiyuē (abbr. for 北大西洋公约组织) – NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) 中央情报局 Zhōngyāng Qíngbào Jú (中情局) – Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 罗非鱼 Luófēiyú – tilapia 良湘 Liángxiāng – Fictional place name, site of China's new high-energy particle accelerator 钱钟书 Qián Zhōngshū (1910.11.21–1998.12.19) – Chinese literary scholar and writer 白桦树 Báihuàshù – Siberian silver birch (Betula platyphylla) 联合国教科文组织 Liánhéguó Jiào Kē Wén Zǔzhī – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 三菱电机 Sānlíng Diànjī – Mitsubishi Electric 石器时代 Shíqì Shídài – Stone Age Vocabulary (explanations in Chinese, taken from 《现代汉语词典》第7版 and 教育部《重編國語辭典修訂本》): (A bit long, so I'll just fold it into a spoiler tag) ==================== P.S. If you're planning to buy the book, don't buy the hard copy, at least not until there's a revision. They made 200+ changes to the original text, ranging from unnecessary (它几乎完全被野草埋没/它几乎被野草完全埋没) to awkward (扩大搜索目标、频率及范围/扩大搜索目标和频率和范围) to stupid (夕阳、晚霞/朝阳、朝霞). The handling of 了 and measure words makes one wonder whether the editors are native speakers. And I'm not even talking about typographical errors that can throw a reader completely off the planet (一颗恒星/一个颗状星). The electronic version restored most of the original text while keeping the rearranged chapter order. It is the version I recommend.
  7. 15 points
    I've spent a lot of time looking into this and I think it is very clear that broadly speaking it is a mix of local aesthetic values that manifest as a kind of Afro-Phobia e.g. aversion to dark skin, thinking we're dirty, over the top reaction to body odour (something which is actually a real "racial" difference ); as well as a product of originally Western but now essentially global racial stereotypes that can legitimately be called racist in the strong sense of the word. Personally, I don't think there's any removal of agency in attributing certain aspects of this to Western influence, particularly when it comes the fact that Blacks and Chinese have very little shared history, so when Chinese point out that "Blacks have never had a great civilization" or "Blacks have never contributed anything to American society" they are doing so based off second hand accounts. Because of the huge influence of Western culture on "global culture," many of these "facts" go unchallenged even in places like the US and UK that have taken a great many steps to redress the imbalances of the past. It's no surprise that without any reason to stop and rethink these things, the general trend towards anti-racism has not extended (far in) to China. I did some work on this recently so I'll give you an overview of what I found (I won't bother with working out how we define "Black" and "Chinese" because I never got that far myself, but it's worth thinking about). If anyone is interested I can share more sources. (I'm doing this off the top of my head as, unfortunately, I just returned all my relevant books to the library and just finished a dissertation so I'm not up to going all out for this, please excuse any inaccuracies. On the other hand, please excuse the fact that I’m basically posting a mini essay complete with in-line citations. Its pretentious, I know, but please indulge me.) Part 1 - Early Period and Nation Building I'm going to speed over the pre-modern period because, personally, I don't think stories of magical slaves etc. have all that great an influence on what we see today. Suffice to say that southern China has certainly had contact with Black Africans for many centuries via the Indian Ocean Slave Trade. Bear in mind that "racial" categories were different back then and African Blacks were often lumped in with other dark-skinned peoples like South Indians, and Indonesians. As Europeans, particularly the Portuguese, became more common in the Indian ocean and eventually settled in Macau, Chinese became more familiar with Black Slaves drawn from their African colonies. With no other specimens except these slaves they were often looked down on, but a certain number did escape their masters and were, if not welcomed, were not turned away. At this time any sense that Africans were a magical people was largely dispelled at least among the educated. They were slave barbarians and not much more (Snow, 1988) After the Opium Wars and around the turn of the century 20th century, the Chinese were rapidly absorbing as much European or Western learning as they could, first via Japan, and then through Chinese students who went to study in the West. They began to model themselves on Western institutions and scientific practices. This is when terms such as 民族 (ethnie/nation) and 种族 (race) first came into use via Japanese. It's worth noting that in China, Korea, and Japan, 民族 or ethnic group is often treated as synonymous with nation and race. I'm not saying this is wrong, in fact that was probably the popular understanding at the time, and it's only recently that ethnonationalism has fallen out of favour in the West, the difference is that this understanding has persisted to this day. Now when I say they were modelling themselves on the West, it doesn't mean that they were copying everything wholesale. They were attempting to change their empire into a nation-state along Western lines, but there were always parts of the process where they compromised or, for some scholars, flipped things on their head. In the case of racial theory, social Darwinism and eugenics, they compromised. Thus we get from prominent nationalist scholars such as Liang Qichao gems like this: "All the black, red, and brown races, by the microbes in their blood vessels and their cerebral angle, are inferior to the whites. Only the yellows are not very dissimilar to the whites" (in Dikotter, 1990, p.425). Or this by Tang Caichang, "Yellow and white are wise, red and black are stupid; yellow and white are rulers, red and black are slaves; yellow and white are united, red and black are scattered" (in Dikötter, 1990, p425). Dikotter argues that these intellectuals were denigrating other races in order to boost the collective prestige of themselves and China which had been brought low by foreign invasions. Still other intellectuals sought an amalgamation of the White and Yellow races for the good of both. Kang Youwei, a prominent intellectual and reformer, laid out a vision for the eugenic improvement of the human race in which the Yellows and Whites interbred to produce glorious Eurasian hybrids, while the Blacks and Browns were gradually purged from the gene pool and bred out of existence. It sounds awful but his solution was actually probably kinder than the race wars and outright extermination that was implied by some of his contemporaries (Teng, 2006). What one needs to realise is that they co-opted the European racial hierarchy and put themselves on an equal footing with Whites, while simultaneously shitting on most everyone else. Although this is the opinion of the elites, it percolated down to common people through textbooks, encyclopaedias and pamphlets. It's important to realise that people often don't question this kind of information when it comes at them in dribs and drabs and has no bearing on their everyday experiences - they're less likely to challenge them. The fact is these views of Black people were largely a by-product of the need to educate and forge a nation from the disparate groups that were the Qing empire. In creating a racial or ethnonationalist state they had to define themselves against others and part of that self-definition included defining what they were not. Based on the information they had at the time they defined themselves as part of the Yellow race (this took persuading as they historically considered themselves "White", there's a good book on this by Keevak (2011)), but even though they accepted the Western labels they rejected the framing and redefined the racial hierarchy to suit themselves. I think the seeds of a lot of racial thinking in China today were set around this time, as they were elsewhere. Part 2 - Anti-black Racism in the mid to late 20th century The fact that Chinese intellectuals already had a set racial view of Africans and Blacks is very important because it almost certainly played a key role in the difficulties African students had in China during and just after the Mao era. Despite claiming that racism only existed in the capitalist imperial West, the CCP never did follow through with a proper anti-racist education, leaving much of the "knowledge" of the previous era untouched, merely overlaid with the language of class warfare. During the Mao era the CCP reached out to newly decolonised African nations in the spirit of third world brotherhood. The official propaganda was somewhat paternalistic, but there was nevertheless real effort to assist with money and infrastructure projects, as well as educational opportunities. Between 1959 and 1961, China admitted 125 African scholarship students. After this date numbers fell sharply as the Africans protested their unequal treatment when compared with Europeans; they complained of small dormitories, low stipends, and discrimination when off campus. Bear in mind that this was under high communism, the Africans were inundated with politics to the exclusion of everything else. Despite the fact that most had come on scholarships to receive technical educations, they found themselves asking how to say “water” in Chinese after 3 months of language courses because all they learned was political jargon. It's no surprise that they showed little aptitude for such "studies" but unfortunately this may have appeared to confirm stereotypes of their low intelligence. Furthermore, they complained of discrimination, some fights broke out, especially when they were accused of dating Chinese women. Most of the students were male and naturally relationships flourished, but they were strongly discouraged by the regime and the women were often carted off to the countryside or imprisoned for having relations with foreigners. At the time the regime claimed that unrest was caused by discontent about the lavish stipends foreign students received, but Europeans actually received more than Africans and were not targeted. (Liu, 2013) The situation only worsened in the reform period with multiple instances of public riots where African students were attacked. Anti-black racism would meld with nationalist discontent and the desire for the Chinese government to raise the profile of the nation. The spark for such violence was almost always incidents of African men dating Chinese women – although there were often multiple grievances. It is important to bear in mind that at this time there were foreign students of all kinds, including whites, but it was Africans who drew the most ire (Sautman, 1994, p416-417). Beginning with an incident at the Shanghai Textile Engineering Institute in 1979, the period ended with the 1988-89 Nanjing Anti-African protests that fed directly into the pro-democracy movement and the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Lufrano (1994) argues that these events cannot be separated and the racial violence and nationalist fervour are closely linked. The takeaway from the student violence is that all of the allegations levelled at Africans could be said of White students as well, but it was blacks who were deported for having relationships with Chinese women, and it was Blacks who received insulting messages about their "jungle manners." In the following period polling data about attitudes towards foreign groups was conducted and African's were consistently rated lowest on almost all categories (Sautman, 1994). Of the groups polled, students in particular had a very dim view of Africans. I think this is important because I would say that the strongest vein of racism in Chinese society is actually among the educated classes who - in the stark absence of personal experience - have greater access to the "evidence" of black inferiority both foreign and domestic. The middle classes and intellectuals have a bigger stake in defining the nation and Chineseness in a way that excludes Blacks, just as nationalist intellectuals did in the late 19th century. Part 3 - African Traders, International Students, and "Cyber-racism" In the third and most recent period, from the millennium onwards, there are two big differences from the previous two. The first is the big increase in reciprocal migration between China and Africa on a large scale, places like Guangzhou and Yiwu have become hubs for African traders and Chinese infrastructure projects in Africa have brought thousands of Chinese to Africa's shores. For the first time there is a large number of Chinese and Blacks interacting in daily life within China itself, and this has changed the racial dynamics there. Chinese are developing their own stereotypes of Blacks, but these are coloured by historical western stereotypes that exist as part of global culture. The second, is the advent of the internet and the opportunity for Chinese people to access huge amounts of information, this includes news about racial problems and racial conflict around the world. For example, when many Chinese see the racial problems in America, such as the Baltimore protests a few years ago, they don't see the result of hundreds of years of oppression that went well beyond lynching, but included systematic exclusion from political, economic and cultural life; all they see is a group of Black people causing trouble again. When they see the news about the failure of African countries to develop they don't see the aftermath of colonialism coupled with a broken system of international institutions that force them into development plans that have basically never worked, they just see the consummate failure of all Black countries to develop. So, blacks are and always have been failures. It's a very neat narrative and plenty of Chinese people have joined these dots, just like others have. When one combines Afro-phobia with global racism, Chinese have very few reasons to like black people, but nevertheless I think these things come together in different people and in different ways. For example, Shanshan Lan (2017) conducted a study of African migrants in China and found what she called "uneven racialization." I won't bore you with the academic jargon, but she found that African traders in Guangzhou made many connections to their Chinese business partners, and there was a much more nuanced understanding on both sides. In particular, rural to urban Chinese migrants had a lot in common with illegal immigrants because they're both marginalised communities that operate outside state control. The African men often hire young Chinese to work in their shops or as their translators, providing young rural workers with an unlooked-for connection to a different culture and chances to improve their foreign language and business skills. Because the Africans are relatively well off, more than a few migrant women consider marrying an African trader to be a step up in the world, and nothing cements a business relationship like marriage. There are tensions of course, Chinese traders say the Africans are unreliable, and the Africans say Chinese are too inflexible at times, sometimes Chinese women are taken aback by how forward some African men are in their courtship, but overall, Lan didn’t find any serious ethnic conflict. This is important and supports a very commonly used and well supported hypothesis, the contact hypothesis which suggests that prejudice can be reduced with contact. Unsurprisingly, the most prejudiced group was not the people who had a lot of contact with Africans, but middle- and upper-class keyboard warriors who couldn’t stand the sight of Africans using the metro in their city, or worse, dating Chinese women. The connections made between those on the bottom of Guangzhou society, stand in contrast to the rather toxic situation online. If you've spent any time paying attention to what gets said about Blacks online in China, you'll know what I'm talking about. Lan also did an analysis of many of the biggest online platforms like 天涯, looking at how people discussed Africans and Black people – the users of such platforms are usually students or the moderately well off. She concluded that overall the online discourse was very negative, full of what she called the "Black Threat narrative" and Afro-phobia. As I mentioned above, Afrophobia seems to stem mostly from more straight-forwardly Chinese beliefs about size, skin colour, and body odour. People find the sight of Africans scary, and they find some of them to be smelly. The Black threat narrative is much more insidious and it was the focus on my dissertation. The black threat narrative represents the fusion of Western and local beliefs about black people. Those who fully subscribe to this view often call themselves 反黑 (anti-Black) and are extremely afraid of African immigration. A lot of their rhetoric mirrors that of white nationalist hate groups: they believe that Africans are genetically inferior; that each race should keep to its own; that Africans have the ability to outbreed other races and will do so in China as they are doing elsewhere; they believe that Black men are prone to violence and rape and that they are a threat to Chinese women. They focus heavily on instances of Black crime in China and abroad, with frequent references to the US, France, Haiti, and South Africa, all places that they believe have been or are being ruined by Black people. They take particular exception to any instances of Chinese women dating black men, and make a point of exposing and harassing them online. They say their actions are driven by the epidemic of Black men sleeping with Chinese girls and giving them HIV or leaving them holding the baby (Lan found that strict immigration controls and deportations were often the reasons why African fathers “abandoned” their families – they were physically prevented from reuniting). There have also been multiple scares about African international students raping Chinese girls and precipitating their suicides, all these rumours appear to be false. I’ve yet to see anything beyond anecdotal evidence of all these crimes, but unfortunately the lack of official statistics makes fertile ground for such rumour-mongers. I don't have anything close to an accurate estimate of the numbers of these hardcore anti-Blacks, but having done a simple search for 黑人 on the top three Chinese search engines one of the top anti-black forums (黑人吧) is on the first page of every one, suggesting that the online discourse is strongly influenced by these people. Bearing in mind the strict control of social movements in China, I’d say they’re rapidly approaching the size and significance of what would be called a hate group round our way. To my mind, this online phenomenon is closely linked to the historical background which I've already laid out, as well as the press coverage and government handling of African immigrants in Guangzhou. (A lot of the people on the forums said the beginning of their anti-black sentiment began through seeing news stories.) There have been some good studies on this, especially the work by Huang (2018) in which he had a close informant in the police force exposing how the Guangzhou police were blatantly racially profiling and discriminating against Africans, as well as how the Guangzhou media linked the concept of 三非外国人 (those who illegally enter, live, and work in China) with Africans. In his media analysis he broke down how the papers linked Africans to crime by overusing their photographs in discussions on foreign crime, and running sensationalist pictures of the African's protesting. His media analysis is corroborated by Dang (2016), who did a media analysis comparing Guangzhou papers to others in the region. She found that Guangzhou papers focused much more on crime and negative stories when reporting on Africans, and Lan (2015) found that the immigration laws put in place to restrict immigrants in the region had a disproportionately negative effect on Africans because of their high visibility. Not only that, but these laws were then used as a template for nation-wide changes. Despite the central government’s push for Sino-African friendship, local government and media often view African immigrants as a social problem. Unfortunately, the recent waves of new immigrants to the West have not always helped to bring nuance to these issues. International migrants often have a keen eye for noting and adapting to the racial situation of the countries they live in. Ritter (2013) found this to be the case with East Asian international students in the US, who were quick to notice the lack of Blacks on campus when compared to other groups, and the prevalence of Latinos in service roles. They often chalked this up to these groups being naturally uninterested in education. Kaiser Kuo, whom some of you may know of, wrote a good little piece that touched on the racial conservatism of recent Chinese immigrants in the US. A big factor is the tendency to focus on immediate safety and to ignore history. The fact that Blacks have the highest crime rate is enough for most upwardly mobile class-conscious immigrants to know that they're bad news, they don't want to hear excuses for it. If you’re British you may be familiar with the case of the Chinese airline that advised passengers to avoid areas of London populated by Pakistanis, Indians, and Black people. In my personal life many Chinese students, friends of friends, won’t go to certain places in London because there are too many Blacks or Indians. In one way it’s not incorrect, those places tend to have more petty crime, but by using race as the key signifier for high crime areas it openly reinforces the local racial politics that put those people there in the first place (黑人区 is the ubiquitous translation of American ghettos, some may argue that they’re functionally the same, but I think the thin veneer of the term ghetto at least allows for the potential use of the word in other contexts, whereas 黑人区 inescapably racialises the issue as a problem of the people and not the place). I haven’t touched on the portrayal of Africa and how that plays into things, but suffice to say that as the “veritable heart of darkness/blackness,” the state of African nations stands as a big piece of evidence to the casual Chinese observer. There’s a strong tendency in Chinese media to link Africa and Africans with all kinds of extremes, this has been well documented by Johanna Hood (2011) in her study of HIV/AIDS and the Chinese media. Here are two illustrative examples from her book. In Wang Jian and Xu Lianzhi’s Clinical Illness AIDS Pictorial, a book used to teach Chinese doctors how to treat AIDS in China, 224 of the 249 images were of black sufferers, this at a time when there was no shortage of AIDS patients in China. In the 1991 publication, Sexually Transmitted Disease, AIDS, and Drug Use, there are no images of unhealthy Chinese at all. Overall, Hood found that advanced or horrific states of disease were always depicted on foreign, especially Black bodies. Han Chinese were shown sparingly, most often in the early stages, or after recovery. The thrust of the book is that the disease is framed as so foreign that it actually makes many Chinese complacent because they think it’s not something Chinese can really get, but for our purposes it’s clear that such framing will affect their racial outlook. The Chinese media and even medical profession are doing a good job of associating Africa and blackness with disease and decay, even as the government trumpets all the good China does there. It’s no wonder the online racists are constantly fear-mongering about Africans causing an HIV epidemic. Conclusion The point of this little essay was to give a background to OP and those who are interested, and to clarify the part that historical racism has in creating other kinds of racism, as well as to point out how Chinese have built on these concepts in recent years. There are now a great many sites for Chinese to develop prejudice against Black people. In particular, the internet is a key site where anti-black racism is flourishing thanks to the efforts of a small number of hardcore racists poisoning the already biased media landscape. Unfortunately, there are few Black people with the Chinese ability to adequately combat these smears, and appropriately qualified Chinese allies are thin on the ground. These problems are exacerbated by a lack of personal contact with Black people, as well as long standing colourism that draws a very strong association between skin colour, class, and even morality. One certainly cannot go too far by saying that Black people in China have things stacked against them. In contemporary times we can be thankful that actual violence hasn’t broken out as it did in the past, yet this does not mean that anti-black racism is no longer a problem in China. There’s still discrimination in employment, in social life, in the media, and even a degree of institutional discrimination albeit on a small scale. Some of the backlash is related to the fact that the Chinese have been building a race-nation for the past century, and so expanding the definition of Chineseness to fit Afro-Asians is going to take time, Eurasians have it easier because of the historical dominance of Caucasians and phenotypic similarities, but there is still very much a taken for granted belief in the unity and antiquity of the Chinese race-nation. I didn’t go into it as much as I’d have liked as this is already over long, but there’s a lot of evidence for this when you see the myths about Peking man, or the myth of the Yellow emperor, descendants of the dragon, all that jazz. But I digress. When it comes to one on one interaction you’ll find a hundred different reasons behind any Chinese person’s view of Black people. Some will talk about GDP differences between China and African nations, others will talk about skin tone, or crime rates, or historical civilizations. The case has often been made that Chinese are unfairly judged for being open with their shallow prejudices, while Westerners have simply learned to hide their much more serious prejudice better. While I am partial to this viewpoint, I do think it is sometimes overstated, and my investigations into the long history of this stuff makes me think that, at a broader scale, anti-black racism is more entrenched in China than most people think. It doesn’t help when certain people imply that Black people are crying wolf or have been somehow coddled by Western PC culture. Contrary to what these people think, the majority of black people, and minorities of all sorts, women included, tend to avoid making a fuss wherever possible, and if they’re complaining about a certain incident, chances are there are many more they aren’t talking about. Anyway, this has been a bit negative so I’d like to finish on a more positive note. Linking back to what Lan called “uneven racialisation” there is still room for Black people and Chinese to get along productively, I think this is shown in the increasing numbers of African Chinese intermarriages, both in China and in Africa. Among her African informants, Lan found people who thought that Chinese pragmatism tended to supersede racial considerations, they found doing business much easier in China than in Europe or America, where they have almost no credibility. Among the traders in Guangzhou, and presumably Yiwu, Black Africans are associated with foreign money and the international community, sometimes being reflexively addressed as 老板, a term of respect (can’t remember if this was Lan or Bodomo, 2012). In my more optimistic moments, and I am a huge pessimist, I think there’s definitely hope for the future. Sources Bodomo, A., 2012. Africans in China : a sociocultural study and its implications for Africa-China relations. Cambria Press, Amherst, NY  Dang, F., 2016. 全球化时代中国地方媒体对在华非洲人的媒体报道研究——以广州报刊为例 (Study of Chinese Local Media Reports on Africans in China during the Globalization Era - A case Study of Guangzhou Press). 西安文理学院学报(社会科学版) 78–83. Dikötter, F., 1990. Group definition and the idea of ‘race’ in modern China (1793–1949). Ethn. Racial Stud. 13, 420–432. https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870.1990.9993681 Hood, J., 2011. HIV/AIDS, health, and the media in China : imagined immunity through racialized disease /, Media, culture, and social change in Asia series ; Routledge, London ; New York : Huang, G., 2018. Sanfei Clean-ups: African Traders and Guangzhou’s Urban Development from a Global Perspective (Ph.D.). State University of New York at Buffalo, United States -- New York. Keevak, M., 2011. Becoming Yellow: A Short History of Racial Thinking. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. Lan, S., 2017. Mapping the New African Diaspora in China: Race and the Cultural Politics of Belonging, 1st ed. Routledge, New York ; London. Lan, S., 2015. State regulation of undocumented African migrants in China: A multi-scalar analysis. J. Asian Afr. Stud. 50, 289–304. Liu, P.H., 2013. Petty Annoyances?: Revisiting John Emmanuel Hevi’s An African Student in China after 50 Years. China Int. J. 11, 131–145. Lufrano, R., 1994. The 1988 Nanjing Incident-Notes On Race And Politics In Contemporary China. Bull. Concerned Asian Sch. 26, 83–92. Ritter, Z.S., 2013. Making and Breaking Stereotypes: East Asian International Students’ Experiences with Cross-cultural/racial Interactions. University of California, Los Angeles. Sautman, B., 1994. Anti-Black Racism in Post-Mao China. China Q. 138, 413–437. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305741000035827 Snow, P., 1988. Star Raft: China’s Encounter with Africa. Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London. Teng, E., 2006. Eurasian Hybridity in Chinese Utopian Visions: From “One World” to “A Society Based on Beauty” and Beyond. Positions East Asia Cult. Crit. 14, 131–163.
  8. 15 points
    I think there are a few points of confusion here. One is that your friend didn’t understand what you were trying to say even after you clarified, another is that you are not using 再也不 for the right situations, and the last is that you are unsure of the differences between 能 and 會. For the first problem, your friend probably got confused by your use of 再也不 and then tried to give you a better way to say what he thought you wanted to say using 再也不. But you shouldn’t have used 再也不 in the first place to express what you were trying to express because it talks about the situation moving forward from the reference point. So if you say it while talking about now, you’re explaining what will happen in the future, i.e. I won’t play anymore and I won’t be able to play anymore. 再也不⋯了 and 不⋯了 mean different things. 再也 carries the notion of “never again.” 不⋯了 just means you did something before and now you’re not doing it. But in my understanding, you are saying that you are finding you suck at this game now (can’t play), when you did not suck as much in the past (could play). When we talk about skill/ability in doing something, especially like playing games, we use 會. 他很會玩 or 他會玩 or 他不會玩 can all be used to say that he is good or bad at the game. You can insult someone by insinuating they 不會玩. But 會 can also express volition, which is what you express when you say 再也不會, which means “will never again.” When I play 王者榮耀 for too long on my phone, and my head starts to hurt because I haven’t stayed hydrated or have squinted too hard or whatever, I will put down my phone (usually after losing) and say something like 不能再玩了 to my friends to explain that I can’t keep playing with them anymore. If my understanding is correct, you really should have just said 我(怎麼/已經/突然)不會玩了. If you suddenly discover you suck: 我(突然)不會玩了 If you won’t play ever again, for any reason: 我再也不會玩了 If you can’t (not allowed, broke your arm, etc.) play ever again, for some reason: 我再也不能玩了 If you aren’t going to keep playing in the immediate future: 我不玩了
  9. 15 points
    I just passed the HSK6, reasonably comfortably but my score was nothing special (205/300, where the pass mark is 180). Looking at the requirements of the CEFR, I would put my level at C1, albeit at the lower end. So I would agree with those above that said the HSK6 is a C1 test. I think the 5000 lexical units is a red herring. My feel is the actual range of vocabulary on the test is wide enough for it to be a C2 level test. For example, I remember that the last passage in the reading section was about a 丞相 which is a reasonably obscure word that I wouldn't have thought would be in the most commonly used 5000 lexical units (although I admit I haven't actually looked at the list). Looking at the actual requirements of the HSK level, each of HSK1-5 has an absolute numerical ceiling of number of words required, but HSK6 simply says "more than" 5000. Personally, given that C2 is supposed to be complete "mastery" and looking at the descriptions of what a C2 level user is supposed to be able to do, my opinion is that the pass mark on a C2 level test should be pretty close to 100%. I feel that if a test is such that a genuine C2 level language user might only be able to score 60%, the test is testing something other than pure language competency, for example, maybe deductive reasoning ability. On that basis, the HSK6 might actually be a reasonable C2 test if the pass mark was raised to, say, 270. My guess is that most if not all people who can break 270 are C2. I never did the old HSK Advanced, but I did several of the old HSK Advanced 听力 practice tests (but not the other parts, actually not sure why). I wouldn't say they were dramatically more difficult than the new HSK6. I think the biggest thing making the HSK6 "easier" than the old HSK Advanced is that you can pass it simply based on your overall mark and there is no minimum requirement for the individual parts. For example, as I understand it, a native Cantonese speaker with no Mandarin could theoretically pass by getting 90% in each of the 阅读 and 写作 sections and 0% on the 听力. The biggest problem is with the 阅读 section. The first section is grammar (10 marks), the second is fill words in the blanks (10 marks), the third section is fill sentences in the blanks in a passage (basically reading comprehension) (10 marks) and the fourth section is reading comprehension (20 marks). So you can get 60% (30 marks out of 50) on 阅读 purely from reading comprehension without doing any grammar or 综合. To prepare for the test I went to one of the big one-on-one schools in Beijing whose bread and butter is getting language cadets from the big Japanese trading companies through the HSK6 (Japanese companies take the HSK6 seriously, a good sign). The teachers told me that for the overwhelming majority of people who take the HSK6, the main barrier to getting 100% on reading comprehension is time, but the grammar section is really extremely difficult and all of the time could easily be spent on it while still getting half of the answers wrong. Therefore, the school advises each of their students to randomly guess the 10 questions in the grammar section and spend the time saved on reading comprehension instead, and almost all of them do this. As far as the fill the words in the blanks section goes, it is not prohibitively difficult but it is definitely harder than the reading comprehension and can be a time sink, so it tends to be done last and often very rushed, after enough marks have already been obtained on the reading comprehension passages. So the HSK6 can be, and often is, passed without any grammar or fill the words in the blanks. I understand that the old HSK Advanced made you pass each of 语法 and 综合 separately. Of course, if you have serious grammar problems that is going to hurt you on the 写作 section, but it is possible to write very simply and avoid complicated grammatical constructions. I understand that only using simple grammar may cost you marks on 写作 (it is a bit of a black box), but then you only need 60% to pass. A lot of these problems with the test would go away if you need close to 100% to pass, because then you wouldn't be able to get away with sacrificing parts of the test. So maybe the HSK6 would actually be a reasonable C2 level test if the pass mark was raised to 90%, although even then it might well be too light on grammar and 综合. Still, I would probably be surprised if anyone not at the C2 level could break 270 on the HSK6.
  10. 13 points
    UPDATE 11/7/2018 Regular Script Graphemics is now available on paper as well as in ebook form for Kindle apps and Kindle devices. This book describes the features and execution of regular script, the most common Chinese script. Script features are presented in approximately 50 cases, with over 120 handwritten regular script examples, overall demonstrating the interaction of different forces on the rendition of a character: existing scripts, other characters, real-world resources, ergonomics, typical script patterns, mental resources, the desire for legibility, and the demands of new and evolving languages and media. Interspersed throughout the cases are a selection of exercises to help language learners improve their handwriting and check their understanding. Practically speaking, this book is about how Chinese characters are written. If you've been watching this book's development, you may remember the extra cases. I've killed them in the book and put them, as well as errata, here.
  11. 13 points
    Hi guys! I received an email from the embassy in Bulgaria saying that I won the scholarship and I will study in Tsinghua! They will call me when they receive the documents from China. I applied for Bachelor’s degree in Software engineering + 1 preparatory year Chinese language. Just stay patient and hope for the best. I hope somebody else will join me in Tsinghua. Good luck to everyone!
  12. 13 points
    I'm thinking about putting together a small bilingual cookbook aimed at the expat and foreign student community. Would like to help people new to China be able to make food at home that is inexpensive and satisfying. Would like to include some exposure to the original Chinese recipe language, so people are not forced to use lame English-language adaptations.
  13. 13 points
    Apart from commenting on the totally unnecessary personal abuse, I just wonder how you would know that a site is "permanently-censored". YouTube has been blocked and unblocked many times over the years. Other sites have been blocked for years and reappeared. And if you really think that YT became re-blocked because the censor read about it here, then you need to take a refresher course on common sense instead of hurling abuse at others.
  14. 12 points
    @all.Firstly, I called the CSC office several times on 3rd of July, and every time I called they gave me the different contact number to contact , finally I contacted the right person in the late after noon) BTW that day I spent all day calling the CSC office))) anyways, the first questioned I asked about was the final date for " b type " scholarship announcement . And he answered " late July" , I incisted for the exact date( I knew he was getting irritated but my mental relaxness was more important than his irritation so, I continued) he answered " between 15 of July till end of the month". Second question, " will students with status " in progress " get scholarship for sure" he replied " yes". I asked " for sure?" He answered " yes , as their assessment has been accomplished by their target universities". Third question, " is there a chance that someone with " in progress" status be denied of scholarship?" He replied" I don't think so" I asked" are you sure?" He said " yes". Secondly,All that conversation was in chinese ( yeah I can speak [email protected] who asked this question") I guess that was the reason this conversation got that longer cuz normally to don't spent that long talking on phone. Thirdly, when I was talking , my intentions were about " B type" scholarship, but what I think he was answering generally about all the types including " A, B and C". Moreover, the guys who have already got rejected their stauses have got changed way back to " self paid".so, if someone has some concerns of being rejected kindly flushed them off and be possitive and be patient)) Furthurmore, those who have applied through embassies , firstly they get assessed by CSC, then CSC sends there documents to their target universities where they again undergo the process of assessment rigorously and if university/ies approve them , their documents are sent back to CSC for the final approval , here there get the status of " in progress" ( means they have already gone through the process of assessment. If someone gets approved by more than one university then CSC chooses the university of that individual ( mostly the university with the lower ranking to fulfill the quota as , there is always a tough completion in high ranking universities). I hope this information is helpful enough for at least few of you and put a smile on your faces and decreased the level of built up nervousness/ tension by waiting for such longer, and calmed you guys down a bit. Remember in prayer) regards , Shawn Kane
  15. 12 points
    I'd like to get in before the thread degenerates into a flame-war Congratulations, Benny, on your progress. You went from zero to having real conversations in Chinese in 3 months. It took hard work, and regardless of one's definitions of fluency, that deserves respect. More importantly, you motivated many people to start learning Chinese and showed them that it can be fun. Many long-time students of Mandarin take the joys of Chinese for granted after a while, and all discussions tend to focus on difficulties and negative aspects (I am sometimes guilty of this too). You have motivated many people to pick up Chinese, and I'd like to thank you for it. Sadly, the decent progress you've made will not get the recognition it deserves because of the inflated claims and posturing at the start. You might not realise how it comes across, but I took it the same way imron did. In any case, these discussions will hinge on the definition of "fluency", and for me (and most people), this simply means that you can take care of all everyday business naturally, and with minimal extra effort required for both you and the people you converse with. It is far from perfection, it's far from Julien Gaudfroy, or even glossika, but it is still a very ambitious goal, and you are too quick to dismiss any and every disagreement as academic and linguistic perfectionism. You are hurting your own progress like this, IMHO. If you can keep up learning at this speed, I expect that you will reach fluency (written + spoken) at C1 level or above in about three years. That's probably further off than you expect, but a good gauge for fluency is writing all the answers in this thread in Chinese without a great effort, or discussing the plot of a Chinese movie you've just watched in Chinese. And this has been more elusive for me than I expected, and you'll make your own experiences. In any case, welcome to the world of Chinese learning, it's a fascinating place to be!
  16. 12 points
    Learning 1500 words in 30 days won't be your biggest challenge. That will be not to forget 1300 words in 90 days...
  17. 11 points
    Going through the same "what are you reading" thread (but over a longer period of time), below is my list from when I started making a conscious effort to do more reading. The list is in the order that I read them, and I read them one after the other (sometimes finishing one and straight away picking up the next). Like I mentioned to Mark, it's always a good idea to have your next book ready to go before you finish your current one to prevent any break or lull in reading. Like Lu, I could read quite well when I first starting doing this and regularly read newspaper articles and such, but other than a couple of half-hearted attempts, I had only previously finished 1 or 2 novels, and didn't do any sort of regular long form reading. Also worth noting is that when I decided to do more reading the first book I chose was actually《书剑恩仇录》. However due to it having too many new words/characters a page I put that aside and came back to it a dozen books later which made it much easier to read (an experience I wrote about here). This was a good decision. I've since come to the opinion that you are better off reading a bunch of easier novels than struggling through a more difficult one - especially when you are just starting out. If the more difficult book is one you really want to read, you can always come back to it later (like I did) and it will be much more enjoyable. In the list, I've highlighted the books I think are suitable for beginners in blue, and the books I'd avoid entirely in red. The reason I'd avoid them is not because the language used is unsuitable, but rather because I didn't like the book. I've also thrown in a couple of oranges, which are books I didn't like, but that are part of a set so it may be worth reading them if you are interested in being able to say you've read the set. Finally, you'll see a couple of green ones, which are my favourites out of all the books listed here. 《平凡的世界》in particular is one of my favourite books I've read in any language (I've written about it here). Although it's quite accessible in terms of language, it's really long, which is I why I don't recommend it as a first book because you'll want to build up your reading stamina before tackling it. 《汉语与文化交际》 《家》 《春》 《秋》 《活着》 《许三观卖血记》 《记忆的微风》 《天下无贼》 《中国式离婚》 《兄弟》(上) 《兄弟》(下) 《书剑恩仇录》(上) 《书剑恩仇录》(下) 《碧血剑》(上) 《碧血剑》(下) 《圈子圈套1》 《圈子圈套2》 《圈子圈套3》 《射雕英雄传》(1) 《射雕英雄传》(2) 《射雕英雄传》(3) 《射雕英雄传》(4) 《狼图腾》 《在细雨中呼喊》 《平凡的世界》(1) 《平凡的世界》(2) 《平凡的世界》(3) 《色,戒》 《神雕侠侣》(1) 《神雕侠侣》(2) 《神雕侠侣》(3) 《神雕侠侣》(4) 《夜谭十计》 (includes the short story that《让子弹飞》was based off) 《人生》which is by the same author as 《平凡的世界》 《雪山飞狐》 《杜拉拉升职记》 《杜拉拉华年似水》 《杜拉拉3:我在这战斗的一年里》 《裸婚》 《蛙》 《飞狐外传》 《北京记者》 《黄金时代》 If I was doing it again I'd definitely change up the order of things. I was smart enough to put aside《书剑恩仇录》until I was a better reader, but was still stuck in the trap of wanting to read "great literature/notable books", hence 《家》《春》and《秋》. Those books are worthy of reading for the insight they give you in to China during that period of time, but in hindsight, I would have been better off reading them later. I had to force myself to finish 《春》because it was boring me to tears. 《家》and 《秋》were much better in that regard but still contained enough archaic and old-fashioned language that I wouldn't recommend them as first books (I know others disagree with this). Of the blue books, 《活着》is the one I'd recommend first, although《许三观卖血记》is at around the same level and is also a good choice (I put 《活着》first because I prefer the story). 余华 is a very accessible author for learners because the language he uses isn't too complicated, the only thing is, he tends to write about the same sort of things, and so if you've read a couple of his books and want a break from that genre, you'll have to go to another author. Here's how I would break down the genres of the other blue books Rural China/Cultural Revolution and Beyond 《活着》 《许三观卖血记》 《人生》(same author as 《平凡的世界》) Modern China - Business Intrigue 《圈子圈套1》 《圈子圈套2》 《圈子圈套3》 Modern China - Relationship Drama 《中国式离婚》 《裸婚》 Reading things in the same genre will have the benefit of having similar vocabulary, but mixing things up can keep things interesting. It comes down to personal preference as to what works better for you. If you look at the main list, you'll see I tended to read a few books in one genre and then switch up to another genre, and then go back to the original genre and so on. I think that approach worked quite well. Once you've read all those blue books, you can probably start venturing out in to longer and/or more difficult works. 《兄弟》is good if you like 余华, although the second half is much better than the first. If you're looking at getting in to 武侠 novels 《雪山飞狐》is one of 金庸's more accessible stories, and《流星•蝴蝶•剑》by Gu Long is also apparently quite accessible (but I haven't read it). 《鬼吹灯 》also comes recommended (but again I've not read it so can't comment more on it). Once you're comfortable reading longer texts then《平凡的世界》might be a good choice, or perhaps some of the other 金庸 novels -《碧血剑》is a favourite of mine. Regarding advice for book selection, I think for the first 10-20 books, I'd really focus on pulpy, easy read books just to build up reading stamina and other reading skills (not to mention incidental vocabulary). With handful of exceptions, the way I chose books was just to walk in to one of the giant bookstores (北京图书大厦 is 西单 is a favourite) and have a browse around to see if any of the promoted books looked interesting or if any of the authors I knew had other books available, and then purchase 10-15 books at a time (this also solved the problem mentioned above about always having the next book ready). I agree with Lu that you need to enjoy the book you are reading, but I'd hold off on more difficult books that you want to read until after you have acquired decent reading experience and ability - that way they'll be that much more enjoyable. Once you've got 10-20 books under your belt you can then start to branch out in to more serious literature. The only other thing I'd add is the importance of doing daily reading, even if it's only a page, or half a page. Once you stop, it's easy to stay stopped - and somewhat ironically, that's the position I find myself in at the moment, as I haven't done much long-form Chinese reading for a number of months. I could blame an international move, or life getting in the way, but there are always excuses if you want to make them. Making sure you do a little bit of reading every day helps keep the momentum going.
  18. 11 points
    There really isn't much to talk about. My English was rubbish as you would expect from an average college graduate in China who isn't an English major. I started to transcribe newscasts (VOA), documentaries (NatGeo/Discovery), movies (The Matrix), hoping to improve my listening skills around 2000. That was the dial-up, pre-Google era and before transcribing became known as a "method" among English-learning Chinese students (鐘道隆逆向英語學習法). I did it again in 2007-08, this time on a language-learning website built around the idea of "crowdsourced transcription." I stopped when I felt I had reached a level where transcribing became too time-consuming and less efficient. Overall in my experience, materials for transcription can be arranged in order of difficulty like this: educational stuff (which I skipped) < Special English < standard news report/public speech < documentary/cartoon < interview/talk show < TV/movie. During the same period I read a lot of books, starting from 30 or so of Agatha Christie's detective novels. I also did some intensive reading: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (which turned out to be too long I couldn't finish it). It was before SRS went mainstream so I just kept my vocab list on paper flashcards. Reading enlarged my vocabulary like no way before. And a large vocabulary makes everything easier. Bam! virtuous circle. And that's about it. If I'm to learn a new language today, this will be how I plan to do it: Get the script and pronunciation down quickly. Grab a grammar book, read a couple of times, not to remember everything, but to know where to find the answers. Find a 5000-ish vocab list with sample sentence audios and cram it like mad using SRS. Then just read, read, and read some more. Do the transcribing at the same time until it feels like a waste of time. As for the production side? Well, output will come naturally when you have enough input -- hopefully.
  19. 11 points
    I'm leaving in a few days for my annual return to Texas and am saying goodbye to my favorite Kunming people, places, and foods. It's a process I go through every year, but it never gets easier and is always accompanied by an odd sense of sadness and loss. Life is uncertain and my bones are old, so I never know for sure when I'll be back in this sweet spot again. One of my favorite Yunnan meals is Cross-Bridge Rice Noodles, 过桥米线 and I've had it hundreds of times over the last 9 or 10 years. Had it again today at lunch and thought I would show you how it worked and what it looked like. If you visit Yunnan as a tourist, no matter for how brief a time, it's something you should definitely try. It's too much trouble to make at home unless you have a huge family or it's a special occasion, so I never tried to learn. Some things are better enjoyed in a restaurant and you can find it all over Yunnan. Inexpensive, filling, delicious. Ordering can be puzzling, even if your Chinese is fluent. That's because this dish comes in many configurations, and the names don't always convey clear culinary meaning. Need to read the item description or ask what's in it. Failing that, just order by price. But today for example, I had 进士过桥米线, the name of which derives from the term for a successful candidate in the highest imperial examination, a 进士。 Legend has it that the dish was invented by the wife of a young scholar, studying in Mengzi 蒙自, in the heart of 红河州。 Here's the Wikipedia version: Here's a shot of the menu outside the cashier's window: Sometimes there are pictures, like those on the left, but you cannot always count on it. I ordered the 35 Yuan version. Sometimes I splurge on the 58 Yuan edition that comes with an assortment of wild mushrooms 野生菌 in season. The higher priced versions come with a starter of steam clay pot chicken medicinal soup 气锅鸡, another Yunnan specialty item. It's only a little thing, as you can see from my snapshot which includes my hat for scale. But it's chock full of medicinal seeds, roots and herbs. Served with a tiny plastic spoon. This dish is cooked over steam, not over flame. Notice the hollow center of the clay cooking bowl shown below. This allows steam to come up the middle, gently heat the contents, which then condense on the inside of the tight lid and return to the vessel. This circular process goes on for hours, making the soup very concentrated and mellow. This preparation style is said to have originated in Jianshui 建水 in the time of the Qianlong Emperor (1711 - 1799) 乾隆帝 and most of these cooking bowls, all different sizes, still come from there today. The food for your guo qiao mi xian 过桥米线 arrives in three batches, separated by several minutes when they are busy. First you are brought the small dishes that contain the assorted special ingredients for the "package" you have ordered. Today I was there before prime time, and my rice noodles also arrived promptly. Sometimes you have to request them from a different server. Boiling hot broth is brought by a different waiter, usually a strong young guy, being fetched fresh from a different window on a tray. He usually carries several and they are heavy. Also, this broth must be extremely hot as a matter of food safety. Tremendous amount of bad karma if he splashes some on the backs of the patrons, seated on low stools. You first add the thin-sliced raw meats, fish and quail egg 鹌鹑蛋。 Swirl them around with your choptsticks. Next add the raw vegetables, followed by the cooked vegetables and condiments. The last thing to go in is the noodles. Stir vigorously for a while; don't be in too much of a hurry. A bench off to the side has additional spices and seasonings. Some garlic chives and cilantro, some pickled greens 酸菜, salt and ground Sichuan peppercorns 花椒。Also vinegar 醋 and soy sauce 酱油。Various spicy pepper oils can be had here as well as nearly-atomic bird's-eye, Thai-style chilies. Otherwise this dish is not spicy hot. You load up a small dish 碟子 as shown. Here are some shots of the second-floor dining area. The bottom floor is for people having standard kinds of rice noodles, faster turnover. This upper level is reserved for people enjoying this more complex dish. They are all set up for it, with stacks of ingredients at the ready and with a huge cauldron of stock bubbling off in a side kitchen. This particular restaurant is part of a Kunming chain, and I'm fortunate to have one of their outlets just a block or so from my home. They are far from being the only show in town, but they are reliable. English name, which absolutely nobody will recognize if you search for it, is Brothers Jiang. Local story from old timers in the know is that the two brothers quarreled after achieving a modicum of fame and the enterprise was therefore renamed as 桥香园过桥米线。Some shops still have the old name, others have the new one. When I first came to Kunming, I thought cross-bridge rice noodles might be something put on for the domestic tourists who flock here from Beijing and Shanghai. But much to the contrary, I soon learned that they are immensely popular with locals. I ate my fill and still had half a bowl of tasty broth left. You can get it poured into a container to go or you can buy extra rice noodles for a few additional Yuan. People also often buy other side items downstairs to add to their soup or to eat along with them. The folks at the next table to mine had an order of chicken feet, another of steamed congealed pig blood cut into squares 猪血化, plus some chopped deep-fried pig skin. These are strong clues that you are no longer in Kansas, Dorothy, and you can also buy stewed pig feet, slices of boiled pig stomach, and bits of roast pig tail as well. Cold vegetable side items 凉拌 are also available, such as lotus root 藕片, cucumber 派黄瓜, and wood ear mushrooms 木耳。 Definitely suggest you add a Cross-Bridge Rice Noodle stop to your Kunming itinerary. It's even available at the airport for about twice the normal in-town rate.
  20. 11 points
    We've made the full announcement now, including our plan for moving forward. Here it is on Kickstarter and our blog.
  21. 11 points
    Bursting with fresh, bright floral flavor, this is another of those fleeting glories that makes China life worth living. Cherry blossoms light up Kunming in mid-February, but Maofeng tea is not far behind. Mid-March this year. The Yunnan Maofeng 云南毛峰 I bought locally, here in Kunming, was from the mountains of Xishuangbanna Prefecture 西双版纳州, way to the south, not far from the border with Laos and Burma. Six of those hills are famous for producing great Pu’er, but a couple of excellent lesser-known green teas originate there as well. This tea doesn’t get a lot of press, because it is only produced in small quantities, just before Qingming Holiday 清明节, while the high mountains are still shrouded in cool mist. The best weather conditions don't last very long, so the season is of necessity a short one. After temperatures rise and the rains come, it is no longer the same growing environment. Green tea is still produced there later in the year, but it isn’t on a par with this rare, early crop. The very best of this tea is sold at a premium as “first flush” because it is made from the first picking after the plants have awakened from being dormant over winter. This means they are bursting with tea essence, with aroma and flavor since they have stored up important elements over the cold months. That’s the kind I was fortunate enough to find. It is peerless. The tea leaves are picked by hand, and it’s done with a good deal of care. Only a tiny immature bud and one small, tender leaf are picked in order make this tea. Most teas involve the use of several leaves, making them more economical to produce. During the picking, very small baskets are used, since large ones would promote bruising and crushing. This tea is loose, fluffy and light; not very compact. Here’s a photo. It looks that way because it is only minimally processed. It is briefly wilted using indirect sun 萎凋, and then exposed to brighter sunlight for only about an hour 晒干。Then it's quickly roasted in big woks 杀青 to retard oxidation. It isn’t twisted or rolled 揉捻 like many green teas. The entire process must be completed the same day it is begun. The quick processing also means this tea won't keep very long. It will deteriorate and become tasteless in about six short months. It isn't a tea to put back on the shelf for later. Like fresh fruit or fresh flowers, it is something to be enjoyed now. Share it with friends. Most tea people here simply brew it in a tall glass. It's easy to do with one important caveat: don't use water that is extremely hot. That makes the tea taste unpleasant. About 85 degrees Celsius is ideal (185 F.) Also, the water needs to not have a lot of flavor of its own, whether from minerals or from chemicals. This is a good time to splurge on bottled water. Here's a picture of my glass, with pencils inserted for size. It holds 8 ounces (240 ml.) Rinse out the glass with hot water then fill it about a third of the way up. Sprinkle a generous layer of tea leaves on top of the water. Then fill it about 3/4 of the way up. Leave yourself an inch or so at the top so you can grasp the glass comfortably after it is hot. When the leaves start to fall to the bottom, it's ready to drink. Swirl the glass gently if you wish to hasten the process, but don't stir it with a spoon. This tea is drunk plain, without the addition of milk or sugar. When your glass gets down to about a third, fill it again. Remember, not too hot and not too full. Can brew it like that about 3 times. The tea liquor is pale gold to light green. It doesn't contain much caffeine, so it won't make you jittery or "wired." I read somewhere non-scientific that, in equal amounts, it only has about a tenth as much caffeine as most coffee. But it does have other healthy components (mainly theanine) that increase general alertness as the same time as promoting calm. If you would like to strain it into small cups, that's fine even though it isn't essential. If you get tea leaves in your mouth, they aren't harmful. Here's what the leaves look like after brewing. Most complexes are comprised of one shoot or bud and one small leaf. If it came out weak, next time put in more leaves or let it brew longer. In fact, the three major operator variables in brewing this or any loose leaf tea are: 1. Amount of tea, 2. Steeping time, 3. Water temperature. With this particular tea, you can fiddle around with the first two, but be careful not to use water that is too hot. Many tea people first pour boiling water into a small pitcher, let it stand a few seconds, and then pour from that into the tea glass. They also will pour in a high stream, allowing the water to cool on the way down. The most famous tea of this type is Huangshan Maofeng 黄山毛峰,from Anhui Province. It is one of China’s ten most famous teas and is produced in large enough quantities to find its way into exporters’ stocks and into tea purveyors’ catalogs. That’s probably what you need to order if you would like to try tea of this type back home. If you are used to mainly drinking hearty tea, such as brews from India and Ceylon, this mellow spring green will require some adjustment. It is a subtle tea, a nuanced tea. It isn't intended to replace your usual bracing "cuppa," but it will expand your taste horizons a bit and let you experience something a little different. It is uniquely Chinese and one of the bounties of Spring. I thought you might like to give it a try.
  22. 10 points
    For those of you that don't know, The Chairman's Bao is a site that produces daily news reports at various HSK levels. There is an audio with each report and I find it useful for improving reading and keeping sharp. I actually use it with imron's Text Analyser, an article each day really keeps things ticking over. Anyway, I received a mail today stating that the Apple app is ready to go and Android released tomorrow. At first glance it looks nice, able to save unknown words and even flashcard them. Many of you may already know but just in case I thought I would post. All details here.
  23. 10 points
    1) I live in Sweden and we don't even have free public toilets. If they were free, we'd just have homeless people our junkies there. The Chinese at least have free public toilets readily available everywhere, even if they are very very dirty. 2) This used to be the case in the West as well, didn't it? 3) Yeah, but it wasn't so bad when I was in Nanjing earlier this year. People still spit inside, but they make sure to spit in a rubbish bin. I think I saw one dude spit inside on the floor, but he got stink eyed. It's related to the smog I think, which clogs up in the back of people's throats. 4) They're trying to combat this actually. They have laws that say that if car hits a pedestrian, the blame is by default always on the owner of the car. This has created a phenomena of people throwing themselves on cars in order to win lawsuits and get rich, which again is being discussed how to solve. 5) Yup, but the food is awesome. Isn't it interesting though how we in the West suffer a lot mleftore from allergies? 6) True, but Chinese infrastucture is excellent in other ways. They have an incredibly extensive network of highspeed rail, the tickets are cheap and the seats roomy and comfy. 7) I used to hate haggling and negotiation too but now I've learned some after travelling extensively, and it made me a stronger person. As people we are always negotiating, not only using money but in terms of your time and energy, even with friends and family. You sound like a typical Westerner who just left the Westerner bubble for the first time and are judging China for how it is now. Let me tell you something though. I've been to many countries in the world, both rich and very poor. I've been to some countries that are poor now and have no indications of becoming any better within the coming 20 years. Hell I've been to countries that, sadly enough, made major regressions in terms of economy, political situation, human rights, etc. The first time I visited China I experienced everything you listed in your post, but I was also struck by how different it was from what I'd heard growing up in the West. I was led to believe that Chinese people were brainwashed robots who only know how to make cheap knock offs. What I discovered, however, was a vibrant country on the rise, with an incredibly ambitious and hard working populace, who've been able to make do in clever ways. In terms of culture, Chinese people have an incredibly rich literature and history, that has had a very strong influence on other Asian countries like Japan, Korea and Vietnam. In terms of food, China is a culinary heaven, boasting 8 different kinds of major cuisine branches. In general it is a very, very diverse country, so learning Chinese feels like you're learning English and having access to a whole continent/world of material. Finally, and I am biased as my Chinese friends are in general well educated, but their opinion on their country, their government and politics is actually more nuanced and critical than what many would think. So experiencing all of this really inspired me to continue learning Chinese, because I knew that that year's China was very different from China 10 or 20 years previous to that, and today's China is very different from what it will be in 10 or 20 years. I remember thinking after that that not learning Chinese would be the biggest mistake I could make. People will be finding faults and complaining about China every year until one year they won't. Today, Japan and South Korea are praised for their high level of technology, but there was a time when they had a pretty shitty standard. Something similar will happen with China, IMO. Also, a lot of people love anime and k-drama/k-pop respectively, and they attract people to learn the languages. My personal prediction is that Chinese period pieces, and fantasy in particular (literature and movies), will be the next huge thing and that Chinese-Forums will be flocked with young guys and girls interested in talking about the hottest Wuxia tv series and whatever book that inspired it. I'm back in Europe now, but I'm still able to enjoy the benefits that come with learning Chinese. My university has hundreds of Chinese students with 95% of whom I'm able to make instant friends with just because of my interest in their country. Also, if you regularly check out Reddit you'll regularly see gifs/videos which have sort of "leaked out" from the big bubble that is Chinese Internet. Remember these guys? My mother often shares Chinese short drama videos on Facebook with me (you know, the low quality cheesy ones with some message about bullying or generosity), asking to know the specifics of what they're saying. Anyway, to wrap this post up, if you're unable or do not care to see the bigger, long-term picture of what's happening, go ahead and quit Chinese. If you're like us, however, and are incredibly excited for all that is in store for us, then 加油!
  24. 10 points
    Grandmother's spicy tofu is an essential Sichuan dish, and graces the menu of every Sichuan restaurant I've ever seen, anywhere in the world. It is quintessential Sichuan food, bursting with flavor and chock full of bold spices. The Chinese name refers to its historical inventor, a grandma with a pockmarked 麻子 face. Yunnan, where I live, has fondly adopted this dish and has made it our own. Not surprising, since we appreciate spicy food here just about as much as they do in Sichuan. After enjoying it for years in restaurants, I've been making it at home these last several months. A major advantage of doing it yourself is that you can adjust the heat of the dish, adapting it somewhat to your likes and dislikes, while still retaining its essential character. But I don't want to mislead you: no matter how you tweak it, this is food for an adventurous palate. It's not white toast or mashed potatoes. Let me show you how I made it yesterday. Like many good things here, it begins with a trip to the market to pick up the best fresh ingredients. I almost always approach these projects by telling the vendor what I intend to make and asking for specific ingredient recommendations. My usual tofu seller reluctantly turned me away. He specializes in tofu from Shiping Town and he told me what I needed for this recipe could be had for half as much money just across the alley. (As always, click the photos to enlarge them.) What I needed was "soft" 嫩 tofu, and that's what I got. Neither the silky "flower" tofu 豆花 that falls apart immediately or the "firm" tofu 老豆腐 that is best for sautéing. Will show it to you closer in a minute. I also bought long, tender green garlic greens, plucked before they start to form the characteristic root bulb. These go by the name 蒜苗 or 青蒜 and Sichuan cooks love them. They impart a mild garlic flavor, with some crunch and a fresh note missing from dried cloves of garlic. They are "brighter" as well as more subtle. To the right of the garlic greens in the photo above you see fresh cilantro, complete with roots, stems, and leaves. I bought a handful of these. They have so much more flavor than dried coriander seeds. On to the spice lady now, master of pickled foods and slow-preserved sauces, some of which you see just above. I always get a thrill out of entering her kingdom, and linger as long as I possibly can. She shows me new arrivals and tells me of alternatives to my tried and true selections, tempting me to expand my horizons. My shopping list from her only called for two items, but both were crucial to the success of the venture and neither would admit of any compromise. First was 豆豉, salty fermented black soybeans. These are in the left foreground of the picture above left. The beans are discrete, not mashed into a paste; but note that they aren't black "turtle beans" such as are used in Mexican cooking; they are a special soybean variety. And the star of the seasoning lineup, and one of her specialties, was the rightly famous Pixian douban jiang 郫县豆瓣酱。It is shown in the photo above right, in the big bowl on the left-hand side. This magnificent seasoning has often been described as "the soul of Sichuan cuisine." It is made from fermented broad beans and chilies, plus an assortment of auxiliary spices. The best of it takes months or even years to ferment and has so much punch you can smell it across the room. Let me show you now how all this came together in my Kunming kitchen yesterday afternoon. Important side-note: Before anything else, as in most Chinese home cooking, start soaking the rice. It needs a 15 minute pre-soak, and then requires about 30 minutes to boil and steam in my electric rice cooker. I do ingredient prep while the rice gets a head start, but never actually fire up the wok until the rice is completely ready. One prep item was a little out of the ordinary, and that was the essential Sichuan peppercorns 花椒。For this dish they need to be toasted and ground. I used a non-stick skillet with no oil and a marble mortar and pestle. You toast them until they begin releasing their aroma. When you smell them at that moment, it's a reminder that they aren't really peppers at all, they are unusual members of the citrus family. They have a distinct citrus aroma. I used two teaspoons of them. The tofu needs to be cut into cubes and soaked for 20 minutes or so in lightly-salted warm water. This does two things: first it removes any "off" flavors and second, it firms it up a bit so that is easier to handle during cooking. Less likely to fall apart or crumble. Finely sliver or mince some fresh ginger 生姜,enough to make two or three teaspoons. Do the same with two cloves of dry garlic 大蒜 and roughly tear apart three or four dried red chilies 干红辣椒。This is an important juncture because it's where you can easily alter how fiery you want the dish to be. To crank up the heat, use fresh chilies instead of dry ones. Selecting more potent chilies will allow you to earn admission to the "forehead drenched in sweat club" when you eat the finished product. 出汗 Finely cut the garlic greens 蒜苗, fresh cilantro 香菜, and the white of a large spring onion 大葱。I hold back a few of the chopped garlic greens and coriander so I can sprinkle them on the top of the finished dish as a garnish. I do the same with some of the crushed 花椒 toasted and ground Sichuan peppers. The rice just now announced that it was ready. I checked it, gave it a quick stir with a pair of chopsticks, unplugged the cooker and cracked the lid. Gently drain the tofu and set it aside. Everything is now ready to go, including the ground pork. One could use beef instead. I bought about 400 grams of tofu and abut 50 grams of meat. (I buy them by eye and then weigh them afterwards at home.) A ratio of six or eight to one is about right. This is mainly a tofu dish, not a meat dish. Mushrooms can be substituted for the meat if you are vegetarian. I've laid out two heaping tablespoons of douban jiang 郫县豆瓣酱 (on the left) and one heaping tablespoon of fermented black beans 豆豉 (on the right.) Used my big knife 菜刀 to finely chop the black beans so they will cook a bit quicker. Add some oil to a hot wok, quickly stir-fry the minced ginger, and add the garlic and dry red peppers when it begins to change color. Taking care not to burn the garlic, next add the ground meat and fry it until it looses it's pink color. Add the chopped garlic greens, cilantro, and spring onion, stirring quickly 翻炒 over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of light soy sauce 生抽, two tablespoons of Shaoxing cooking wine 料酒, and about a cup of chicken stock or water. This is the point at which to add a teaspoon or so of sugar if you think it is getting too spicy. Sugar seems to slightly moderate the heat. Mix everything well and then gently add the tofu, turning the fire to low. Let the tofu cook 2 or 3 minutes with minimal stirring. When you do stir it, do so with the back of your wok tool 锅铲 or ladle 大汤勺, only pushing slowly away from yourself, moving it in one direction only. No vigorous swirling, flipping or back and forth movements that might cause the tofu to fall apart and sort of just disappear. When the tofu has taken on the colors of the sauce in which it is cooking, you can thicken the juices with a mixture of cornstarch 淀粉 and water 水淀粉, prepared ahead of time by mixing one teaspoon of corn starch with two or three teaspoons of water. Don't add too much. The pan juices should just barely coat the back of your spatula or ladle. Don't turn it into a paste. I usually don't put in any extra salt because the beans, bean paste and soy sauce all are salty. Sprinkle on the remainder of the freshly ground Sichuan peppercorns, scoop it all out into a bowl and garnish with some of the reserved greens. This is a dish that is best served right away, while it is hot, straight from the stove. Diners, myself included, often heap some of it directly on top of a bowl of steamed rice and eat it that way. Might mention that some recipes call for adding additional vegetables to turn it into a one-dish meal. Though that's an approach I sometimes take with other Chinese food, I prefer not to risk messing up this classic. After all, it's one of China's "top ten" signature dishes, famous throughout the Middle Kingdom as well as all corners of the "outside world." Give it a try if you are in the mood for something spicy and memorable. It will make your day and it will do it the Sichuan way!
  25. 10 points
    From what I'm reading in this thread, it seems like nobody's actually addressing the real issue that OP is facing, which is active language use (speaking, writing, constructing sentences actively). A lot of the suggestions have to do with what OP is actually good at, which is passive language use (listening, reading, comprehension). And there's also an insane focus on vocabulary, which it seems to me is not the actual issue that OP is facing right now. @adeliepingu, just to give you a quick and dirty background. I am a heritage Chinese speaker, but English is my native language. I previously was in a similar situation to you where passive language use was fine, but active language use was problematic. I eventually worked on improving my Chinese, and got an MATI for Chinese & English translation & interpreting, and have been working in the industry ever since. I am now basically fluent in Chinese (and have been living in China for the past couple years). From reading your post, I understand you want to improve the following things: 1) Chinese grammar; 2) not sounding like you're just speaking/writing English-ified Chinese; 3) increase reading speed; 4) accent. Increasing reading speed can only be done by reading more. That's it. Read the kind of text you are interested in reading more of, and you will read faster in that style of text. I read a lot of technical manuals & reports and news-related things, so my reading speed for those kinds of materials is fairly fast. Still a lot slower than all my Chinese colleagues, but I am not spending all day catching up at least. However, it can take me over a year to finish a Chinese novel, because that's not the typical type of reading material I read. Pick your battles. Chinese grammar & speaking/writing Chinese the way a Chinese person will speak/write is a different kettle of fish. One way to do it is to formally take a Chinese class not in America. Go spend a year in China/Taiwan and focus on the grammar stuff. Another way to improve your active use of Chinese is to use Chinese actively. In terms of conversation, I advocate shadowing as a good way to improve your speaking skills. Since you watch TV dramas, use them as part of your conversational training. Dramas set in the modern day would be best for this, because the style of language used in period dramas tend to not lend itself well to daily conversation. What you should do is shadow what the characters in the drama are saying. Basically, after one character speaks, repeat what they say after them. Do not pause the drama. It might be easier to just pick one character and shadow what that specific character is saying. This is how shadowing works. Let the character start speaking. Give him a 1-2 second lag, then repeat exactly what he is saying. This way, you are practicing your listening skills and are also actively using real Chinese (scripted by native Chinese speakers) in a real context. If you keep on doing this, you will begin to internalize how Chinese spoken by native speakers is expressed. You will find yourself beginning to use common turns of phrases and grammatical structures that you have been repeating. It will seem too much and too overwhelming in the beginning, because you won't be able to keep up. That's ok, you'll get better with practice. You should also focus on word collocation, or 词语搭配, which is probably another reason why your Chinese is so English-ified. Learn which verbs and nouns go together. When you are shadowing a native speaker speaking their native language, chances are high that they are speaking a lot faster than you can follow. That's also normal. If you can't catch up, or the speaker speaks fast naturally, focus on one specific part of grammar. For instance, collocation. Say, for example, the character you are shadowing says something like, “你真的能够准时完成我昨天给了你的任务吗?” If you are focusing on collocation, then you might listen and get the whole sentence, but instead of repeating exactly everything the character is saying, you just focus on matching words together. In this instance, you might just repeat out loud: “完成……任务”. Doing this will actively reinforce in your mind that these are the words you will want to use when you want to talk about completing tasks. This is one way to de-Englishify your Chinese. You can use this same method to internalize whatever part of Chinese grammar you feel you are lacking in, just really zero in on the one thing you plan on working on each time you begin shadowing for the day. Do not focus on more than one thing on each session. Shadowing is also a good method to practice your accent. Before you start, pick the accent you want. I'm serious. Don't try to mix accents up, it will confuse you. It would be even better if you pick a specific person you want to emulate, and then shadow only that specific person. While you are shadowing that person, record yourself. Do it in short segments. 1 minute, max. Listen to the recording of yourself and compare it with the original speaker. Where are your pronunciation problems? As always, focus on one thing at a time. If you are working on your fourth tone this session, don't worry if your 'ng' sounds are not clear. Focus on getting your fourth tone right, and only your fourth tone right that session. Work on your other accent issues in your next session. If you want to improve your writing, the method is the same, but instead of using spoken Chinese, use written Chinese. Copy a paragraph from a novel/story/whatever you are interested in/reading. Copy it exactly word for word, and then keep on writing the next couple paragraphs on your own. The first paragraph is just to get you into the style of how Chinese is expressed by a native speaker, so you need to pay attention while you are copying (just like you do when you are shadowing). Focus on grammar. Which words go where, and in what order? Ideally, pick a paragraph that focuses on one topic: true love, a historical event, etc. Then, in the two paragraphs after, emulate the writing as best you can, and continue it on your own. Honestly, for writing, if you have somebody who can critique your work, that would be best, but if you don't, this method will at least help you internalize the real sentence structures and forms of expression used by native Chinese speakers. Note: Written language and spoken language are two completely different things. Do not read out loud to practice your spoken language. Do not try to copy spoken language from your drama in written form. (I mean, you can do these things, but language expression differs when you're speaking vs when you're writing, so it kind of defeats the purpose a little bit.)
  26. 10 points
    Let's say you arrived in China earlier this year either for work or for study and don't have a lot of time, money or language skills at your disposal. And, though it was fun at first, eating out all the time has become problematic. Yes, it can be cheap, but it isn't the healthiest of options and it isn't always as convenient as just whipping up something simple at home. Several of us old timers will try our best to give you a few hints and tips as to how to make some of your meals at home without much in the way of tools or materials. These won't be gourmet feasts, but they will keep body and soul together without costing an arm and a leg and without cutting too deeply into your busy schedule. This thread is intended to provide a forum for discussion, comments, questions and answers. We hope it can serve as a useful starting place for your China cooking and eating adventures. You will find that once you try cooking for yourself over here, it will also make it easier to order when you do go out since you will have some familiarity with Chinese ingredients, seasonings, and preparation methods. You will know what those words mean when you see them on a menu. A personal digression, to be up front and get it out of the way. I first came to China in 2006 and fell in love with the people, the food, the way of life. I was still working full time back in the US at the time, but took progressively longer and longer vacations. Am an ER doctor, and was senior enough to have the luxury of being able to schedule generous unpaid time off as long as I did it well in advance. Spent most of my China time learning the language and immersing myself in China's rich history and culture. Have traveled to every province with the exception of Tibet and Xinjiang. Lived in Zhuhai, far south, and Harbin, far north. Spent time in Dalian and Beijing as well. Tried Shanghai. Eventually retired and settled in Kunming, where I now spend most of each year. Go back to Texas for a couple months annually. At every stop along the way I have either stayed in a dorm or rented a small apartment, with a short lease of 6 months or less at a time. Never wanted to invest in purchasing top-notch tools or appliances since I knew I would have to soon leave them behind. So I have, by now, equipped six or eight small kitchens, and have done it frugally. Have had a chance to correct beginner mistakes and do things better the next time. Learned tons from my Chinese friends and shamelessly copied their methods. Dorm cooking is similar to bachelor cooking in a bare-bones efficiency apartment. It assumes not much room, not much money, not much time. Let's start today with the basic durable items that will make it possible to prepare at least some of your own chow. You will need something to cook in, such as a flat-bottomed wok. The one shown is a real good one; but a no-name "starter wok" will cost under 100 Yuan and is adequate when beginning. Wok is 炒锅。Mine, illustrated here, is ASD brand 爱仕达。That's a good label; 苏泊尔 Supor is another reliable one. Some woks are round on the bottom, and only work well when cooking on gas. My old one was that kind, pictured below. Flat bottom wok is 平地炒锅 though that can also mean a western-style skillet with strait walls. Please see this earlier article for more about selecting a wok plus how to season it and care for it. https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/51217-wok-and-chopsticks/#comment-392506 Woks almost always come with a lid. It shouldn't cost extra. Lid = 盖子。Here are my two lids, the one with a glass center and a convenient "stand up" attachment. The old plain one is lying down beside it. Here, below, is a wok I saw in the store yesterday for peanuts (19 Yuan and 80 Mao.) You want one that can be used on an electric hot plate 电炉, such as the one pictured above. Electric hot plates can be purchased for between 100 and 200 Yuan. Expensive ones have a larger heating area and put out more intense heat. Sometimes they are also programmable, a feature you won't need. An alternative to a wok plus hot plate is an all-in-one electric skillet 电炒锅。These can be bought for as little as 100 Yuan. I would suggest spending around 200 Yuan instead because they cook more evenly. The very cheapest ones have hot spots and cold spots that makes it difficult to cook food without parts of it burning. Best to buy a major brand. Two which are dependable are 美的 and 九阳。Supermarkets like Walmart 沃尔玛 and Carrefour 家乐福 carry them. Appliance stores such as 苏宁电器 are also a good bet. Prices will be the same across the board, unless you hit a special sale or promotion 活动。 I don't have one of these, so cannot tell you for sure first hand, but I've heard that they don't cook as fast as a wok on a hotplate. Arguably, none of these electric skillets do as good a job of 炒菜 frying, but they are satisfactory for less demanding tasks, such as boiling broth for hot pot 火锅 or for 涮菜, useful tasks in a minimalist kitchen. A knife and cutting board 菜板 are essential. This cutting board can be of bamboo or plastic. Either option only costs 10 or 15 Yuan. The square Chinese "cleaver-like" 菜刀 is great for most tasks and one can be had for a song, well under 50 Yuan. A paring knife, known here as a fruit knife 水果刀 can also be useful. The ones on the left, above, are mine. But here are snapshots from a recent shopping trip to the corner store showing a knife and cutting board for 10 Yuan each. Not a very large investment. You need something with which to stir the food and eventually scoop it out. A special stir-fry spatula or 锅铲 may even be included with your wok at no extra charge as a bonus or "sweetner" to clinch the deal. This is the single most important hand tool. A ladle 汤勺 and a coarse strainer 滤网 are also handy. Furthermore, you would be smart to buy some chopsticks 筷子。Knife 刀, fork 叉子 and spoon 勺子are optional but suggested. A supermarket is where to shop for these. Useful "extras" include something with which to handle a hot dish or hot pan. You could, of course, just use a rag instead. Something on which to set a hot pan to keep it from burning the table also is handy, but once again, you could improvise with a magazine or one of last-year's textbooks. The third item in this category of "nice to have" doodads is a steamer stand so that you could place a dish of food in your wok and let it steam over simmering water (with the lid on, of course.) Dishes from which to eat are always discounted in one or another supermarket, and typically cost between 5 and 10 Yuan each. The essentials are a rice bowl 饭碗 and a soup bowl 汤碗。A flat European-style soup dish is also useful, in that it can be used for steaming as well as for eating at the table. You can also find paper plates and paper bowls to use some of the time. I will stop here for discussion before moving to the next section, which will be about essential perishable/disposable items that need to be in your cabinet, such as oil and salt. Please pitch in with your own experiences and ideas. Feel free to offer additions and corrections. Matters of this kind have no absolute right and wrong; lots depends on one's personal preferences and perspective. Thanks!
  27. 10 points
    What evidence is he supposed to have? And...? You're treating this like it's in the New York Times or something. He doesn't need evidence, he's just posting about his experience, something people on internet forums tend to do. For example, I was thinking of making a topic about how I have food poisoning right now. Many people living in China have experienced this. Would I post statistics about food safety in China? Should I take a picture of my toilet to provide evidence? No. Of course not. I'm not sure why you're applying some sort of weird journalistic standard to a post on a forum. I downvoted you because your post came off as insensitive. After OP was imprisoned, possibly wrongfully, for four months, your reply is: In fact, I dug up my password after not posting for several months just to neg you because your post so horribly offended me.
  28. 10 points
    Well, I think this is where he ends up sounding like a politician; "One confusion people have when they arrive on my site is this non-existent “claim” that I’m here to prove that fluency in 3 months is possible, which I’ve never made." ..is kind of undermined slightly by titling his website "fluentin3months". It is a little like having a website called "cheapestdogfood", and having a disclaimer saying; "One confusion people have when they arrive on my site is this non-existent “claim” that I’m here to provide the cheapest dog food, which I’ve never made."
  29. 10 points
    I think the other thing to realise is that one of Benny's stated purposes is to convince the world that languages are not difficult to learn. That's a very worthwhile goal, but the upshot is, you will be hard-pressed to find him saying that any language is difficult, because apparently saying a language is difficult discourages people from learning it. I don't necessarily agree with that, and think that while it might discourage some people, it will encourage others, and it also prevents people from having unrealistic expectations and then giving up after a few months when those expectations aren't realised. With Chinese especially, which has a reputation for being more difficult for native English speakers compared to say French, German, or other Western European languages, he has also stated that he was determined to show everyone that it is no more difficult than any other language. So, if you believe the language is no more difficult to learn, but you find that progress isn't perhaps happening as fast as you might like, then trying to find other reasons why that might be the case is not an unexpected response.
  30. 9 points
    My documents have finally arrived!!! Thank youu Got in BNU for masters scholarship. So it was the one from the CSC. Thank you guys for helping me in waiting for this 💗💗 @Abmens @Kimberly125 @Jabri Hi guys so I feel like I was part of the first batch that they submitted to CSC. You can try calling them on the phone to see if you got in, or if something is up for the second batch that they will release.
  31. 9 points
    Yaaayyy!!! I had this great news from tsinghua this morning
  32. 9 points
    First off, I'd like to welcome our first new moderators in.... years! @Lu and @陳德聰 have been getting used to how things work behind the scenes for a month or so now and are pretty much doing all the post approving / moving / deleting duties. This might mean some minor changes in what gets through the moderation queue, but nothing drastic, except perhaps improvements in response times in the Americas. Indeed as they've been doing this for a month already, you'll have noticed any changes by now. So thanks to them for offering to help out. And now that they're in place... Second: We should also have a small team of people in a volunteer / curator role. The tasks here would include: 1) Choosing content to be featured on the newer version of the homepage. The interface for this is quite straightforward, see the attached image. 2) Welcoming new members on-board. We've done this sporadically in the past, I'm hoping to get things running a little more systematically. By way of example, the poster here says she's studying in Nanjing. Right away that means she's got information which is useful to our members (Where? What's it like? So on). There are also topics she could be posting in right away (the fact that topic hasn't had a new post in six months shows the scope for improvement). Obviously not everyone is going to become a regular, but some will. Tools to aid this will include some kind of post-feed (like the new posts block on the homepage, maybe) including only posts by new members, highlighting posts by new members in topics, that kind of thing. Perhaps each new member automatically gets assigned to a volunteer, who gets a notification about their posts. Basically, I want to make sure the first posts by every new member are seen by someone who's thinking not just 'how do I answer this question' but also 'how do we make this person more likely to be here in six months'. 3) Similarly, encouraging existing members to contribute more. If someone mentions they're enjoying their new textbooks, suggest a write-up. If someone apologises for a late reply as they were on a trip through the Chinese countryside, suggest a trip report. The above is the top of the list and we can get started on this (enthusiasm permitting) by the end of the year, easily. There are other things I'd like to be doing in the longer term, but I'm going to leave those aside for now. If you're wondering what's in it for you - well, it's basically the above. If that's not the kind of thing you enjoy, continue using the site as you do currently. There'll probably be access to some more stats (tracking how we do on encouraging new members to stick around, for example) and definitely a private forum for volunteers and mods to discuss organisational stuff and post pictures of cats. If you enjoy the site and would like to help improve it and help others get more out of it, speak up. Don't worry if you're a relatively new member. I'm looking for, I guess, 5-10 people and it'd be nice to have a range of membership 'ages', and also people in different circumstances (eg, folk who are studying Chinese in China, at a university outside China, independently). If you're interested let me know. [email protected] Private Message or reply below. Questions and clarifications welcome. And don't forget to say hi to the new moderators! Edit: Changed the terminology to moderator, from admin. This is more accurate, we roughly have Admins: Me and Imron. Full server and back-end access, although Imron only uses his if I disappear. We can never be on the same plane. Mods: Our two new additions. Can approve, hide, delete, move, edit and generally toy with all posts. Can ban and warn members. Volunteers: None yet, role explained above.
  33. 9 points
    Limoncello is native to the citrus growing region along southern Italy's Amalfi Coast, but it can be home made in Kunming as well. We have an abundance of fresh, full-flavored citrus, especially in the cooler months of the year. If silk and porcelain and tea could make their way west centuries ago, no reason why the caravan cannot now head back to the east. Home made limoncello has always been the best kind, with a taste more fruity and fresh than commercial brands. It is traditionally enjoyed as a post-prandial digestif, served cold in a small glass right after eating. It is also loved as an aperitif, before the meal. Or it can be turned into a tall drink with club soda or tonic water. It is sunny and bursting with fresh lemon/citrus flavor. Let me show you how I make it. Buy a couple of bottles of trusty and potent Red Star Er Guo Tou 红星二锅头, which is known and maybe loved/maybe hated by every Old China Hand worth his salt. This notorious 白酒 is 52% alcohol, making it over 100 proof. One of the beauties of this recipe is that it is a way of "taming the dragon" -- transforming this fiery "rocket fuel" Er Guo Tou even beyond the palatable, actually turning it into a beverage which is smooth and enjoyable. This is the famous grain neutral spirit that is sold in every hole in the wall lunch stand in "unit dose" sized bottles. You regularly see hard hat guys knocking it back with their noodles. A 500 ml bottle of this powerful concoction costs the princely sum of 13 Yuan and 50 Mao. I used a bottle and a half, about 750 ml, just because of the size of my containers. The Er Guo Tou distillery produces some other whiskey that is more refined and lower proof. Don't need it; this original wild potion does just fine at a price which cannot be beat, only pennies more pricey than Coca Cola. Buy four to six nice firm lemons, preferably from the market where they haven't been sprayed with wax to extend their shelf life (as is common in the US.) Oranges are prime just now and I bought five of those along with my five lemons. Limoncello can easily be modified by using part tangerines or grapefruit. I've experimented with youzi 柚子 (pomelo) and the small green limes 青柠蒙 that are so popular here. Both have very thin skin, making them difficult to use. But mixing lemon with another citrus fruit makes the resulting liqueur have a less aggressive character; sort of rounds it out. Scrub them well with a vegetable brush and sharpen your best paring knife. The goal is to deftly remove the yellow zest with very, very little of the bitter white pith underneath. I used a ceramic-blade peeler and the paring knife. It takes some time to do this right. One can alternatively use a micro-plane grater, but it will make the finished product slightly cloudy. Do the same with the oranges. Just like the lemons in the picture above, you can see the full thickness peel on the left, the white pith sliced away with careful scalpel strokes, leaving the finished peel on the right. I pull a chair up to the table, set it all out on a cutting board, put in earphones with some Bach or Beethoven, and take my time. Let my mind go blank into that semi-meditative 刀法 zone. (daofa = knife skills) As you work, drop the finished peels into a big wide-mouth jar that contains your alcohol. Screw the lid on tight. If the fit is not snug, put a piece of Saran wrap 保鲜膜 over the top before sealing. To backtrack a moment, Er Guo Tou is really not the only way to go. Everclear plain grain alcohol would do, but I've never seen it for sale in China. Similarly, vodka is ok, but you need the 100 proof kind, which is nearly impossible to find. You want a high alcohol content because it acts as a solvent and puts the aromatic elements of the fruit into solution. Set this jar up on a shelf for at least a week. Every day or two agitate it gently. Some schools of though call for leaving it like that for a month or more. A week is as long as I've personally been able to delay. Maybe resting it longer would make it a hundred times better, but I will probably never know. After a week, it is time to make it sweet. This is done with a Chinese version of simple syrup. Bing tang, Chinese rock sugar, 冰糖 adds an element of smoothness that works with the Er Guo Tou like the two were made for each other. I used a cup of rock sugar and three cups of water. This will make the finished product about 50 proof, which is about right for my palate. You could use less water or more depending on your personal preference. Bring the sugar to a gentle boil in a saucepan, stirring off and on until it's all dissolved. After that, be sure to let it cool completely to room temperature. If you rush that step the resulting brew will be muddy in appearance. Now pour the cooled simple syrup into the alcohol and citrus peels. Seal the jar again and let it stand overnight. My jar wasn't big enough to hold it all, so I improvised with a clean ceramic casserole. Next morning strain it into a bottle. I used a fine mesh strainer first, set in a large funnel, then did it twice more with cheese cloth. One can also use a coffee filter, but I didn't have one. When you do this, don't be greedy. Don't try and press all the liquid through with a wooden spoon or such, determined to get the very last drop. The reason is that this would push through the unwanted crud attached to the peels; stuff that you would like to discard. Here's my finished product. You can smell the citrus across the room. And the taste is smooth, without that ferocious 白酒 bite. I poured mine into a saved vodka bottle because it's the right size to fit in my fridge. This finished limoncello doesn't absolutely have to be refrigerated, but it keeps longer like this so I don't feel compelled to guzzle it too fast. Safe for a month or more. It still seems to disappear pretty smartly on its own; I sometimes think there must be some refrigerator mice with straws at work after lights out. Why have I included a picture of ginger? Because I thought I would tell you a Chinese herbal secret. This limoncello is fantastic served hot with an additional squeeze of lemon or lime and several slices of fresh ginger. Put the juice, ginger, and a generous shot of limoncello into a mug and fill it with nearly-boiling water. In the technical parlance of Traditional Chinese Medicine, it will "cure what ails you." So you have wound up with a bottle of first rate home-made joy that can be served strait as an aperitif, mixed tall with club soda or tonic water, taken after the meal to settle things, or utilized as medicine to chase away the winter vapors. Can't go wrong with that. Give it a try and see what you think.
  34. 9 points
  35. 9 points
    I think it has some merit on a practical level, I don't think it is something I "believe in" because that would imply something supernatural, and for me it is purely a practical thing. I think it has developed over the years into the form it is now to enable the people who study the methods to make a living from it. To cloud it in mysticism and myth gives credence to paying a knowledgeable person for it. Also the little rituals and methods used are an aid to remembering how it works. If you think about some of the advice given it does make sense, a house with the back door and the front door inline with each other will not be fortuitous because the good qi will blow straight through the house, so in practice this would probably be a draughty house. Not sitting with your back to the door of the room is probably good advice if you have cause to be concerned you may be assassinated, you want to know who is coming in, these days it has been shown that it is not a restful situation if you are sat with your back to the door because you are always looking over you shoulder to see who might be at the door. They use to sell a little mirror to put on your PC monitor so you could keep an eye on things behind you. I actually have a separate monitor with the CCTV cameras so I can see the doors and shop. We also have 3 doors in the room I spend most of my day in, so its hard not sit with my back to at least one, but also facing at least one door. I think if you approach the whole subject with common sense and don't get carried away with it, it can make a useful contribution to your life. If you study it you will notice that if something that is consider bad for qi such as a wall in the wrong place or the toilet in the wrong place in the house there is always a "cheap" alternative to pulling down the walls, by the judicious placement of plants or rearranging of furniture solves the problem. I haven't made an extensive study of it, but what I do know gives me enough information to decide it is pretty harmless and may even be beneficial, just as long as things aren't taken too far.
  36. 9 points
    Primlo is a new app that helps you learn spoken Chinese. When you use Primlo, you choose from a library of packs and courses with topics like "Renting", "Arguing" or "House Parties" which contain sentences written and recorded by a native speaker. You then you study the sentences in your packs in our study mode. The first time you see a new sentence, Primlo will ask you which words are new to you and teach you those first before quizzing you on the whole sentence. After you've learned the sentences, you can practice them in our speaking mode which includes shadowing, passive listening and a recording mode in which you can compare yourself to the original. Finally, we are working on a chat in which you can apply your new knowledge while talking with a native speaker through audio messages. Here are some more features of the app: - Useful, fun, spoken Chinese, we are allergic to boring - Thousands of sentences in dozens of packs with more being added constantly - You have complete freedom in choosing what topics you want to learn about... - ...but can also choose from our more structured courses - Right now, we have one foundation course with another one almost done (should be up in a few days) that follow the structure of the Yip/Rimmington books and that take you through Chinese grammar with sentences specifically written according to the particularities of Chinese grammar It's currently iOS only but we are hard at work at making an Android version. Primlo will be free during our open beta but we do plan to eventually charge for it. I'll be responding in this thread but we also have a blog that you can check out here. We think it's sad that pretty much all the Chinese learning blogs have disappeared and we have some cool posts in the pipeline! I'm grateful for any kind of feedback you have, especially things you think we could improve. It's still a little buggy and we are working on ways around the GFW, but we wanted to get something out as soon as possible and hear what everybody thinks. Sorry if Primlo crashes on you and thanks for trying it out! Primlo on the App Store
  37. 9 points
    A couple of years ago I spent two days and two nights with a dynamic young Chinese couple who were executives in a Non-Governmental Organization trying to improve elementary education among children in remote parts of Yunnan. Several of us were staying together at a tea farm in the south part of the province during early spring harvest. Over the course of that short time, while drinking tea, having a meal, walking in the hills, working with the new crop and so on, they gave me a small glimpse of the challenges they face. Before that I knew next to nothing about the scope of the problem, and I admit to still not knowing much. They were not specifically trying to address the problem of rural children with absent parents, but what they had found in trying to help these kids develop had a lot to do with that in the end. Their team had to function somewhat like social workers, trying to make sure the kids were properly clothed and fed before they could even think about teaching them reading, writing, and arithmetic. They often had to arrange basic medical care for the kids: get them treated for anemia, worms and lice; arrange dental work, buy glasses. Their staff periodically visited the homes, hoping to convince the elders that leaving the kids in school was better than pulling them out to work as juvenile farm hands. They found that the standard mechanisms in place for recruiting and retaining teachers in impoverished villages was inadequate. Their NGO and its backing foundation were trying to supplement salaries and improve living conditions of front-line teaching staff. These village teachers were real modern day heroes, often serving as role models and kind of like parents, in loco parentis. The NGO met with tons of red tape and obstacles that they had not anticipated. They were routinely viewed with suspicion for months or even longer until locals were convinced they were legitimate. They had to navigate fiefdoms, political rivalries, and petty jealousies. They had to keep a fairly low profile and hope not to be perceived as reformers or troublemakers by the authorities. I asked if they needed money, thinking I might even donate. They said money was not the main problem; they had been fortunate in securing several rich and generous sponsors. The hardest struggle was cutting through red tape that seemed intent on keeping the status quo from improving very much. They also were plagued by corruption at every turn. If they sent X amount of money to school Y to pay for more nutritious lunches, half of it might just disappear into the principal's pocket unless they had a "disbursement officer" personally go along to be sure it was spent as intended. I admired their dedication and left with heightened respect for the complexity and magnitude of such an undertaking. It seemed even more obvious than it had before that simple solutions were not enough, nor was just waiting for time to somehow magically heal all.
  38. 9 points
    I admit that you might want to just think of this as Sichuan fish with a little less punch even though Yunnan has adopted it and made it a staple here. First met this dish in Chengdu several years ago where it was delicious but scorching. After that, I made a point of seeking it out here on home turf, in Kunming. 酸菜鱼片 could probably best be translated as pickled greens and fish slices, but that name doesn't have much pizzazz. Thought I would show you one way to make it that worked out well for me last night. Went to the wet market yesterday morning with a well-defined mission, namely to round up the ingredients. I had read several recipes beforehand, but always like to consult the experts there about the fine points. They are my best resource; a living encyclopedia of accumulated knowledge. First visited the fishmonger for advice about what kind of fish would be best. My research had come up with 草鱼 grass carp as the number one candidate. He agreed without any hesitation and helped me pick a fine specimen from the live tank where a couple dozen of them were churning around hoping for a stay of execution. He asked whether I wanted a big fish or a small one. I told him one that was suitable for two people. He plucked a lively one out of the tank and held it up for my inspection. It was wiggling with vigor. I nodded, he knocked it in the head and put it on the scale. It would cost me 17 Yuan. He deftly cleaned it and filleted it. Then sliced the two fillets into smaller pieces, cutting on a diagonal so that none would be too thick. He put those slices in one bag, then put the fish head, spine and tail in another bag so I could use them for stock. We chatted about recipes. All these vendors know how to cook, so it's natural to get their advice instead of just buying on the run. It's one of the reasons I like going to the wet market instead of to an impersonal supermarket. He told me his wife likes these grass carp when they aren't too large because their flesh is firm and not oily. He said they do have a distinctive flavor that not everyone likes, and that's one reason they are often prepared with pickled vegetables 酸菜。 I moved on with my two bags of fish and found a lady selling pickled vegetables around the corner. She had half a dozen varieties and I would have found it a bit overwhelming had we not been able to talk it over together. But as it was, I showed her the nice-looking fish and told her my heart was set on making 酸菜鱼片。 Her face lit up. "We are from 和顺县城 near 腾冲。One of my husband's favorite things. My grandkids like it too,even though they are picky eaters. (挑食) I usually make it on Sunday when they come over." And we were off to the races, my ears open wide, while she fills me in on the relative merits of her pungent wares. Hands down, the best bet was the pickled mustard greens. Still some fresh flavor, while not being too hot or overpoweringly sour. She wanted to talk more about her home town and asked whether I had been there. I had; far west Yunnan, not far from the Burma border. Told her I admired the serene walled ancient town built around a blue lake up in the mountains. Admired their beautiful jade jewelry and mahogany furniture. Eventually I bought 2 Yuan worth of her best pickled greens, a generous amount. She double bagged them. Here's what part of them looked like once I got home. Must cut them up and rinse once with cold water just before using. So far my total capital investment is 19 Yuan, but it is fast rising, because three small spring onions, some ginger and garlic were also required. So now we are talking about the princely sum of 20 to 25 Yuan. Ready to cook now. Remember to first put on the rice, because the main dish is quick and easy. Make a rough stock from the fish head and spine. Don't need to season it. Rinse the sliced fish pieces. Don't need to remove the tender skin. Don't worry about the small bones; they are easy to spit out at the table, informal Chinese family style. The second picture, above, is to give you an idea of size. Make a marinade from a tablespoon of cooking wine 黄酒, a tablespoon of light soy sauce 生抽, a half teaspoon of salt, couple dashes of white pepper 白椒粉 and a couple more of ground prickly ash peppers 花椒粉。Mix these ingredients into the fish using your hand or chopsticks. Do it gingerly so you don't tear the fish up. Let it stand about 10 minutes. Pro tip is to add a little bit of corn starch 小粉 to the marinade so the fish will have a more velvety texture and the dish will develop a little gravy as it cooks. Should add a comment about the Sichuan peppers, aka prickly ash, aka 花椒。They are delicious and special, but not everyone likes them. They have the effect of sort of numbing the tongue. I prefer to use about half a teaspoon of them in this recipe instead of their ground powder, but my guest had a different opinion and I accommodated her wishes. The peppers have a crunch she doesn't like. One of the beauties of cooking at home is that you can adapt things to fit personal taste. Here's what the peppers look like, next to the ground powder. Lots of them are grown in NW Yunnan, in rugged mountain farms outside Lijiang. Finely slice some ginger and garlic. There are two main ways to prep these ubiquitous ingredients. Sometimes you want to mince them fine so that they get completely absorbed into what you are making. At other times, such as now, you want them to be large enough to let the diner to avoid eating them. They just flavor the dish, but aren't ingested. The other principal dry ingredient are some Yunnan red peppers, 3 or 4 of them torn up. These have been dried, and are not very hot. When I've had this dish in Chengdu, they use fresh chilies instead and big clusters of green and red prickly ash peppers. They lend a superb flavor to the finished product and are recommended additions if your mouth is fireproof. Slice three small spring onions, dividing the white parts from the green parts. The white parts take longer to cook and will be added first once we get over the fire. The green parts are mainly a garnish. Prep time up to this point has only been about 10 minutes. Now we are ready to light the fire and spend 10 minutes more for a total of about 20. In my humble opinion, 20 or 25 minutes of my time and 20 or 25 Yuan of my money is not bad for a tasty home-made main dish. When you buy things like this in a restaurant, they can at times be fabulous, but they can also scrimp on the quality of the ingredients in ways you might prefer not to discover. Saute the dried Yunnan pepper pieces, ginger and garlic in a tablespoon or two of cooking oil. You remember that garlic cooks faster than the others, so you put it in last. Stir them fast for half a minute or so, until they begin to release their aroma. Add the pickled vegetables and white pieces of scallion together with a pinch of granulated white sugar. Add about 2 cups of the fish stock you made earlier. If you don't have fish stock, you can use chicken stock. If you don't have that, water will do. Boil gently 2 or 3 minutes, adding additional liquid if required. Next add the fish, one piece at a time with chopsticks or a spoon. Don't just dump it all in at once. It will be real soupy at first and not look very exciting, but don't worry because it will thicken quickly and perk up. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring gently as needed. Don't get too vigorous or the fish will break up. Near the end, add the green scallion pieces. Must monitor the done-ness of the fish, since you want to cook it enough to change color but not enough to become mushy. Test a piece with the tines of a fork or the tip of a knife. When ready, scoop it out into a large serving bowl along with plenty of juice. This is enough to feed four hungry people if you serve it with steamed rice and a side dish of vegetables. A small bowl of the soup plus a few spoons of rice makes for a guilty pleasure after you have officially finished the meal and are pretending to just be cleaning up. The flavor might sound a bit strange when you just read about it, but in the mouth it is surprisingly pleasant and piquant without being overpowering. Good Yunnan family-style food 家常菜。Hope you will give it a try.
  39. 9 points
    Tell you what, I'm super-jazzed that this kind of non-compliant language isn't part of my balanced work-life or the quality time I spend with my blended family. I was just work-shopping a new proposal to generate better sponsorship for corporate initiatives with my High-Performance Virtual Team Coaching Circle members last night on the conf-call and we saw significant levels of buy-in for Simplification of the Field Operations Guidance at all levels of the global organization including the G20. We call it project "Clearing the F.O.G." - pretty snappy name that I think will help significantly in the field acceptance phase. If we could encourage more lean-in and less push-back during the Town-Halls, and drove hard for wide ranging active listening skills, we could eliminate time-consuming approval loops that cause delay incidents and wastages (not to mention roll-backs!). We agreed that the next step would be to do broad-ranging study of the current role definitions and swim lanes, and socialize this idea the appropriate stakeholders from the segments and functional leaders. So we selected an appropriate funding source and procurement role (keeping in mind that Compliance is Our #1 Priority and our Absolute Commitment to Quarterly Accountability under Sarbannes Oxley!) in order to hire a consultant to provide an initial Vision-Scope and Preliminary Non-Binding Quotation (a ViSco-PreNoB quote) on the work required. We are "all-in" on this one kids! (provided leadership agrees it aligns with our strategic vision and it falls in our 2015 rationalized scope of course!). But imagine if we had to change all this simple English language to suit some kind of hegemonic overlord and their goals to guide our thinking! We would be distracted from our relentless focus on Delighting our Customers and Contributing to the Success of Others. Could we truly say we are a People First company then? And would we be able to maintain our laser focus on integrated innovation while maintaining our unwavering commitment to execution excellence? Wouldn't all this messing around with language distract us from continuous improvement against out 3+1 core operating models, particularly the Balanced Scorecard (with its 35 multivariate measures) which has only just been approved by the Global Operations Committee and will be announced on Tuesday by the president of operations himself who will then go on a 22 city tour to launch the initiative? No thank you, overbearing paper-pushers. That would be against the 6 company values and the 4 pillars of our performance management strategy. Not to mention, last time I looked, "Political Speak" is not one of my 6 role based competencies (although "Generating Support for your Ideas" is one of the 7 general employee competencies, although I heard that model is considered out-dated and is going to be reviewed next year with a view to right-sizing 2 of the competencies, so who knows?). And I certainly don't want the valuable employees that are in my span-of-control distracted during our mission-critical People Perfect Pre-Planning Preparation Period (or 6P as we usually call it now, at least in the CIG group during KYR period before CNY, according to JA and TP this kind of acronym needs to go in the AD - Acronym Directory - before it can be an accepted regular acronym for using in formal leader-led communications level 4 or above, so we just use it informally for now and say "screw you" to the internal comms auditors, better to ask for forgiveness than permission eh!). Anyway, elimination of unnecessary change is the #2 opportunity for reduction of per-headcount churn related operating expenditure (according to the Corporate Playbook on Change-Management of Simplification Initiatives - Volume 2- Manager Guidance - 2015 Phase 3 out of 7, East Asia Edition). So it's important to stay vigilant. Although I hear they are re-ranking the opportunities in the winter. So I salute the NYT for its ongoing vigilance in this area. At least within the current fiscal period, perhaps not on an ongoing basis.
  40. 9 points
    Most of the people who ask this question have probably already made up their mind, just want to hear some confirmation “No, you don’t need to learn characters.” But that answer is probably not a good one. As stated above, it is not a 50:50 decision with many pros and cons. There are many disadvantages of skipping characters. I also made this mistake at the very beginning, learning Pinyin-only and regret to have lost several months when I “really” started. Your motivation to skip characters: you want to save time. I can promise you; in the long run you will waste time if you do that. Waste time to find suitable learning materials, waste time to look up new words. It will considerably slow down your learning progress. You will save time at the very beginning as you can memorize the basics with Pinyin, the typical phrase book stuff (Hello, are you Chinese, what’s the time, I have diarrhea) very quickly. But not knowing Hanzi will be painful for you, as soon as you reach a certain level. And that level is not very high, let’s say after the first few hundred words and phrases. That is almost nothing and far away from “fluent”, without arguing now what fluency exactly means, as ten people will give you ten different answers. The reasons for the pain have been mentioned above, e.g. in Erbses post. But the biggest disadvantage in my opinion: the wonderful variety of written Chinese materials will not be accessible for you: Books, newspapers, road signs, advertisements, websites, menu cards, even the little leaflets sticking on your apartment door. If you live in China, you will be surrounded by hieroglyphs, “pictures” without any meaning for you, anywhere and anytime. I am on intermediate level, have been learning for about two years. At the beginning the ratio of time spent on characters was indeed quite big, now it is maybe 5% of the total learning time, really a piece of cake. I can discuss antibiotic resistance and the latest mars rover in Chinese. Without knowing characters and reading a lot – impossible. I cannot write by hand, recognizing and distinguishing is enough. Please come back half a year later, let us know about your progress. Miracles might still happen.
  41. 9 points
    This morning I took a local bus for about an hour's journey across the city. To pass the time I indulged in some intensive eavesdropping, as you do. Nearly everyone's conversation referred to the price of something. The outrageous price of bean sprouts in the market, how much Ding Dong Dang's new car cost, how much his uncle paid for the new apartment and twice that again to turn it into something habitable, etc. etc. When I was teaching, I'd introduce Shakespeare. The only questions students ever asked were "How much is a ticket?" and "How much does the Complete Works cost". Zero interest in the contents. At family banquets, mama introduces each dish by announcing the price of each ingredient and how she managed to bargain the vendor down from one yuan to 9 mao. It only took half an hour. At formal dinners I have been advised to eat dish X because it is not only delicious but cost X元, as if that were some indicator of quality. I find most people totally money obsessed and it doesn't surprise me at all that someone would exaggerate the price of a gift, but it is still a pretty dumb thing to do. As jbradfor points out the boss may be able to check the real value. That said, I rarely meet bosses who know how to search the internet. It's only for using QQ and downloading movies, isn't it? "It's the thought that counts" doesn't hack it in China.
  42. 9 points
    I just saw this news article: Chinese universities offer free online courses Excerpt: "According to the Ministry of Education, the first 20 China university open courses were put online on Nov. 9. The will have free access to them through several websites, such as www.icourses.edu.cn, www.cntv.cn and www.163.com." I checked out a few lectures from www.icourses.edu.cn (爱课程) and they seem pretty interesting, complete with subtitles and all. I can't comment on the quality of the course topics, but for someone who is studying Chinese outside of China, this gives me a feel of how it's really like to be sitting in a class in China.
  43. 8 points
    The reason I ask this question is because last week my father asked me, and I couldn't come up with a convincing answer. I often hear expats complaining about China, and yet many of them have been here for over a decade and don't seem to have any plans of returning to their home countries any time soon. Many such complaints are not unfounded, and I too do my fair bit of moaning (I've you've seen my other posts you'd know I hate fireworks, noise and censorship) and yet again there must be something bigger that negates all the bad stuff because a decade has gone by and... here I still am! After reading through your replies and thinking about it for a while, I started to think that the question might be easier to answer if, instead of thinking of it not in terms of what I like about China, I turned it around and considered the things I miss about China when I'm back home. This lead me to the following main two reasons: Life doesn't feel stagnant: This could be just me, but my life in China has never felt stagnant, not one day. There's a prevalent sense of opportunity, maybe due to the fact that China is not yet fully developed, or perhaps the sheer size of the country and its population—either way, it oozes opportunity and excitement. Lower societal expectations: In China I don't need to meet my home country's societal demands and expectations and, being a foreigner, Chinese people tend to forgive me for not meeting theirs. Once the societal burden is removed, you are free to be yourself and focus on the things that really matter, and not the petty crap that drags you down and serves no real purpose. Other more specific reasons I can think of: Easier to meet new people: It's just really easy to strike up a conversation with just about anyone in China, both locals and expats, male or female, of any age, so I'm continuously meeting new people. That's just pretty awesome. Product availability: Though, at times, it can be challenging finding exactly what you want, it's almost guaranteed to be somewhere out there on Taobao or Jingdong. I also quite like the availability of engineering services such as 3D priting, PCB manufacturing, CNC milling, etc which costs relatively little money—great if you are a hobbyist. Convenience: Being able to do almost everything from my phone, from paying for my groceries, paying utility bills, booking travel tickets, calling a cab. Being able to just step outside and get stuff done without having to plan too much in advance (a lot of things in China are done impromptu). Cost of living: Being a frugal person, not having kids, knowing how to take good care of my health (at least I like to think so), not having a desire to own a home or a motor vehicle, being a devoted minimalist and worshipper of life's little pleasures more than, say, an obscenely expensive holiday and other material cr*p, I find in China I don't need to work as much as back home to make ends meet (in fact ends meet pretty effortlessly here) and still have loads of spare time to do the things I like. What's really interesting is the fact that I could tell you a thousand reasons why China sucks and still, overall, I quite like living in China. It's as though all the bad stuff and the good stuff combined adds up to something better, kind of like a dish where you don't like the individual ingredients but the finished product actually tastes alright. Chinese people tend to be quite tolerant to rule-bending and chaos, which one one hand gives rise to a whole host of annoyances, but on the other also encourages individuals to venture and explore without fear of crossing a line. Maybe my observations resonate with some of you.
  44. 8 points
    Just got a call from my university (Southwest University of Finance and Economics 西南财经大学) that they just received the list in the mail from CSC in Beijing and I'm on it! woohoooo! Good luck to everyone else still waiting I know its super painful but I guess CSC isn't yet technologically advanced enough to do this all by email
  45. 8 points
    The first one, you can say “发呆”。 You can say “茫然”, it's an adjective. If you want a verb, you can say “茫然地+do sth.……” It depends on the context. You can say 盯着sb.(spoken) or 凝视sb(written language) You can say “生气地盯着sb.” or a word “怒视”。
  46. 8 points
    My experience...It is enough, especially in less expensive cities. I am in the one of the most expensive cities in China which is Shanghai... If one does not live an unreasonably flamboyant life style, 3500 RMB is more than enough. Even those that live a flamboyant lifestyle with some good planning, they can make do with the 3500. You could have reasonable savings every month which could be used for handling other matters of life. You should use the period to plan for the future, whether your parents are too rich or too poor.
  47. 8 points
    This is my situation now: I understand most conversations and can usually get the gist if nothing else. When someone uses words I don't know, I know that I don't know those words. This is in contrast to my former habit of believing I was stupid. When someone is speaking too quickly I tend to drift off, but I think I do a bit of that in English too. I don't get expressly tired any more, neither do I panic on those days when it doesn't come together so well (my anxiety might have been the cause as well as the effect of my listening fatigue). When I'm switched on, I can go for hours. When I'm knackered, I let myself off and come back to it tomorrow. A year ago, as per the very first post in this thread, I was very seriously ready to give up. Don't. Give. Up. Instead, do this:Look for listening material you care about. Don't persist with a gardening podcast if you don't like gardening. Whenever you find content that interests you, come back to it daily for a few days. Mix up your formal instruction with real-world conversation. Text books don't tell you that words like 诶 and 那个 and 就是 permeate so much informal speech. (This is why, when you put down your NPCR and go outside, nothing makes sense.) When you're tired, flick on some Chinese YouTube or 优酷 and just stare at it. Passive listening is not of much use as discussed above, but if you watch people's body language as they speak, you can pick up a lot just through repetition (e.g. 过来 while beckoning, 滚开 while waving someone away, 我的天哪 while rolling eyes). Being tired means you're not likely to over-analyse. I said it in point 1 and I'm saying it again: Don't persist with audio that bores you. Don't. You might as well listen to a dial tone. And some advice for language exchange:When a language partner says "how about I speak English and you speak Chinese?" say no. You get no listening practice this way. As far as I'm concerned this technique is total rubbish for anyone above HSK1. When you have an 'exchange' that's all in English, don't delude yourself. It can feel like progress because you put in the time, but your skills won't develop and you probably won't know why. Don't apologise for speech you can't understand — sometimes it's not even your fault — and don't effusively thank people for slowing down and/or repeating. It only builds anxiety and grinds the conversation to a halt. One or two thank-yous tell them you appreciate it, and you can both assume gratitude and get on with pursuing fluency.
  48. 8 points
    I just handed in a very difficult translation of a highly specialised linguistic article. Had some vocabulary help from OneEye, which was much appreciated. As I was working on the text I listed the terminology I came across, and I thought I'd post it here, in case it comes in useful to someone at some point. Feel free to correct or expand the list. 語法意義 grammatical meaning 平聲 MC level tone 上聲 MC rising tone 去聲 MC departing tone 變調構詞 derivation by tone change 及物動詞 transitive verb 不及物動詞 intransitive verb 雙及物 ditransitive 致使 causative 使動 causative 聲母 initial 韵母 rime 清 voiceless 濁 voiced 形態 morphology 異讀 reading variants 上古漢語 Archaic Chinese, Old Chinese 中古漢語 Middle Chinese 古漢語 historical Chinese 音切 same as 反切 變調 tone change 文法 grammar 語義 semantics 詞彙意義 lexical meaning 受事 patient 自主動詞 volitional verb 動作動詞 action verb 元音 vowel 收音 ending, syllable ending 既事式 perfective aspect (not sure of this one) 自動詞 intransitive verb 字書 character dictionary 施事 agentive, agency 終止 telicity 語法體貌 grammatical aspect 論元 argument 表意文字 ideograph
  49. 8 points
  50. 8 points
    I'm going to have to politely disagree here. Self-discipline, perseverance and hard work are the keys to learning good Chinese. A lot of people, including Julien Gaudfroy, learned most of their Chinese outside of China. Just because you're in Qingdao instead of Shanghai, you're not going to work any less to attain the same level of Chinese. Avoiding distractions and creating a Chinese immersion environment is something that all of us should learn how to do. In my opinion, you can do this in any of the big cities like SH, BJ, etc. You don't have to move to the boonies to learn good Chinese. That said, if you don't like the pollution in SH, BJ or the fact that those cities have a lot of foreigners, then that's a perfectly fine reason to find another city. But saying that one can't learn good Chinese because of those reasons sounds like an unwarranted excuse to me. Also, I'm not sure how Taiwan would fit in based on all the reasons that you don't want to study in SH or BJ. Many of the locals speak with a Taiwanese accent and often mix the s/sh, z/zh, and c/ch sounds (this is not particular to only Taiwan but to many places in China as well). Plus, Taiwan isn't free from foreigners either. There are other reasons to study there though and those include the use of Traditional Chinese characters (if that's what you're looking for), more freedom of press / speech, and fewer visa issues. My suggestion is to find a place that you enjoy as your first priority. If you put in the work hard and effort, you'll get to your goal in any of those cities.
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