端午节 ( Duānwǔjié) ' Dragon Boat Festival'     



              Crossing the finish line in Heiwai, Ronggui. (Photo: Caiguanaho)  



     In honour of the Dragon Boat Festival, celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (May 30th 2017), here is a short excerpt from one of Qu Yuan’s most famous poems, translated by  Hugh Grigg .  離騷 ( Lí Sāo ) 'The Sorrow of Parting'  朝      發  軔   於  蒼    梧  兮,                                                                     Zhāo fā rèn yú cāngwú xī,                                                                    Taking off the brake, departing from Cangwu at dawn,   夕 餘  至  乎    縣    圃;                                                                               xī yú zhì hū xuán pǔ;                                                                                and before night falls, arriving at the Hanging Gardens;   欲   少    留  此 靈    瑣  兮,                                                                         yù shǎo liú cǐ líng sǒu xī,                                                                              I wish to stay at this gathering place of the spirits,    日 忽 忽  其 將     暮;                                                                                   rì hūhū qí jiāng mù;                                                                                    yet the sun is about to set;   吾   令    羲 和 弭  節 兮,                                                                             wú lìng Xīhé mǐ jié xī,                                                                                  I   order Xihe to slow to a trot;   望       崦   嵫 而  匆    迫;                                                                           wàng yān zī ér cōng pò;                                                                        gazing at Mt Yan and Mt Zi, yet not anxious to approach them;   路  漫   漫     其 脩   遠    兮,                                                                       lù mànmàn qí xiū yuǎn xī,                                                                          the road is boundless - cultivation so distant;   吾    將      上     下   而  求 索。                                                                   wú jiāng shàngxià ér qiúsuǒ.                                                                      I shall explore it from beginning to end.      What has Dragon Boat racing got to do with Qu Yuan?  Well, the story goes that Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BC), poet and political advisor to King Huai of Chu, recommended that Chu ally itself with the enemy state Qi to defeat the mutual enemy state of Qin. However, in exile from Chu for allegations brought against him by corrupted ministers influencing the King, Qu Yuan hears that his beloved homeland has been defeated by Qin after King Huai did not take his advice. Upon hearing this news, he drowned himself in the Miluo river in an act of political martyrdom and in protest against political corruption.   After his drowning the locals are said to have rushed into the water in long boats, beating drums to scare evil spirits away and throwing rice wrapped in leaves into the water to prevent the fish from eating him. Another version is that they threw rice to feed Qu Yuan's spirit but it kept getting intercepted by catfish the size of dragons. So, a few years after his death, Qu Yuan appeared and told them to wrap the rice in leaves. Either way, at the Dragon Boat Festival people race long boats, eat 糭子  zòngzi  (rice dumplings wrapped in leaves), and remember Qu Yuan for his poetry and patriotism.   In recent years people have begun to suggest another reason for his committing suicide based on alternative readings of his poetry.  Usually, his prose is understood as patriotic, but some scholars suggest that it can also be understood as an expression of his love for King Huai, who exiled him before ignoring his advice. This has led to some of the Chinese LGBTQ+ community, as well as a number of scholars, interpreting Qu Yuan’s suicide as that of a jilted lover, rather than an exasperated patriot.  Regardless of the reason for which he committed suicide, he was a much-loved figure and this yearly celebration of his life, death, and poetry has left a great legacy in sport and cuisine. Over the last 30 years or so, the sport of Dragon Boat Racing has become popular around the world and the International Dragon Boat Federation support competitions and leagues everywhere. The  zòngzi  have also gained popularity as a regular snack food, sometimes plain, sometimes stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings.  Sources:   https://eastasiastudent.net/china/classical/qu-yuan-li-sao-extract/    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-legends-behind-the-dragon-boat-festival-135634582/    http://shanghaiist.com/2012/06/23/duanwu-festival-gay-valentines.php    https://www.idbf.org/history    http://thewoksoflife.com/2015/05/zongzi-cantonese-style/

In honour of the Dragon Boat Festival, celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (May 30th 2017) here's the tradition and story behind the yearly celebrations.

      Chinese Language Indie-Pop and Alt-Rock     






     ‘How can I find out more about Chinese indie-pop and alt-rock?’  It's a question I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves at some point. Well, the answer is ‘Watercress FM’; a Chinese mash-up of LastFM, Spotify, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Goodreads, IMDb.... Basically it is a site for finding new music, books and films. It contains content from all over the world but also, and crucial for those in search of China’s indie music scene, lots of Chinese content.     






   Anyway, this blog post is not just to alert you to the delights of the Chinese hipster scene (yes! China has hispters too! They are called the w ényì qīngnián  or 'cultured youth') but also to highlight the usefulness of music for learning Chinese, or any other language.  The sounds of Chinese are so different from those of English that it can take a while for our ears to adjust to the new sounds. As such, it is important to 'open our ears' to these new sounds from the very beginning. This is usually done in class through 'listen and repeat' exercises - how many times have you repeated 'ni hao' just trying to get the tones right?  Music provides us with a much more interesting way of doing 'listen and repeat' exercises because we tend to listen to our favourite songs on repeat anyway. The trick is finding some music in Chinese that we like, so that we find ourselves  wanting  to listen and repeat. This is where Dòubàn comes in handy!  Simply make an account and listen to some songs under the 'Chinese music' heading. When you find one you like, click the heart icon and the site's algorithms will bring you into contact with other songs you might like. You can even search for your favourite music in English (or other languages) so that every now and again a Chinese song will just pop up in amongst your regular playlist!  Here are a few of our favourites to get you started (they open in new windows - click on the green 'button' if it plays the previous song again).  1.   Carsick Cars: 中南海/Zhōngnánhǎi    2.   Queen Sea Big Shark (后海大鲨鱼/Hòuhǎi dà shāyú): 'Bling bling bling bling'    3.   Hedgehog (刺猬 Cìwei): 'Asphalt Road' (柏油公路 Bóyóu gōnglù)     If the thought of learning Mandarin makes you nervous, don't worry! Our pre-departure packages include a short introduction to learning Mandarin, plus lots of pointers on independent language learning.       






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If you're learning Chinese, listening to music is a great way to improve your listening and spoken skills. But how do you find songs you like? This blog post tells you how...

      Inspirational  Women of China  Today is International Women's Day! Whilst it is celebrated across the world, in China the female population, who "hold up half the sky", are appreciated with gifts, showing respect for the women who are working harder than ever to build equality outside traditional roles.   Although there are now many inspiring women in China who have broken through the "glass ceiling", we've picked a few stories and triumphs to inspire you on this celebratory day.          



              Jane Zhang at Terminator Genisys Premier. china.org.cn  



      Jane Zhang - Popstar   After rising to fame on Chinese Talent show 'Super Girl',  Jane Zhang  is on the verge of becoming the first Chinese female pop star to break into the global pop industry. After recording multiple tracks in the U.S., Zhang was the only female Asian singer to be invited to sing vocals on the World Peace One charity single with 99 other famous voices in 2007.   Since then, Jane has continued to break through into the international pop industry by singing the theme tunes for both Terminator Genisys in 2015 with Big Sean, and for The Great Wall in 2016.      



              Jane Zhang - Dust My Shoulders Off Video  



     Jane's ability to mix traditional Chinese pop with contemporary R'n'B in English has meant a soar in popularity globally, and her most recent debut "Dust My Shoulders Off" was not only a hit being produced by  Timbaland , but struck a chord with cultures globally through it's creative, arty video representing the music scenes through different famous paintings.              Wu Yi - Politician      



              Wu Yi - From http://trade.gov/  



     Now retired, Wu Yi was regarded as one of the most successful and powerful women in China during her years as a politician up until 2008. Graduating in Beijing with a major in oil refinery engineering, Yi worked her way up from a technician to general secretary in petrochemical engineering and technology, defying all odds and gender stereotypes.  Known as the "Iron Lady" in the Chinese media, Yi was formidable in her work and most known for her takeover as Minister for the Ministry of Health. Wu Yi never married either, another common importance for Chinese women as she worked throughout her life. In 2004, 2005 and 2007, Forbes regarded Wu Yi as the 2nd most powerful in the world before her complete retirement from politics and the public eye.            



              Guo Pei on wsj.com  



      Guo Pei - Fashion Designer      



              Rihanna in Guo Pei in 2015. imabeautygeek.com/  



      Guo Pei  is not only the first woman, but first born and bred Asian designer to have been invited to join the " Chambre Syndicale de la   Haute Couture " as a guest member. Inspired by "life and love", Guo's designs stand out in China with her imperialistic and luxurious designs. Guo had studied design in Beijing before working in an independently owned clothing company, and finally setting up her own brand in 1997.    Guo was known most popularly for dressing Chinese celebrities, in particular the 2008 Beijing Olympics, until one of her most lavish and unique gowns was worn by singer Rihanna at the 2015 Met Gala - propelling Guo Pei into the global design-sphere. Perfectly combining western and traditional Chinese culture into her gowns, Guo Pei became a huge success and has gone on to take part in Fashion Weeks across the globe, as well as being included in Times 100 Most Influential People 2016 breaking barriers in fashion and feminism.            



              Deng Yaping Wins  english.cri.cn/  



      Deng Yaping - Sports Woman      Deng Yapin  is regarded as one of the greatest athletes in Chinese history, with 4 Olympic and 6 world championships to her name in table tennis - winning her first national championship at only 13 years old!      



              Yapin Receiving her PhD from Cambridge University. en.yibada.com/  



     Deng was firstly denied a place onto the Chinese national table tennis team due to her height (4''11), but her determination and talent scored her place on the team and she has since gone on to become one of the greatest female players in history, ranking top female player in the world from 1991-1998 and Chinese Sports Personality of the Century in 1999. As most sports careers are shorter in nature, Yapin retired at the age of 24 with 18 Olympic medals to her name and became part of the 2008 Beijing Olympics Committee. But that wasn't enough for Yapin, as she went on to study for her bachelors degree, followed by a masters at Nottingham University and a Phd at Cambridge University.           



              Lucy Peng speaking. @Gia Dinh  



      Lucy Peng - Billionaire Business-woman    A former economics professor who stepped down to become a co-founder of one of the biggest e-commerce giants around, Alibaba,  Peng Lei  is a woman who made it onto Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women in the World and is a woman with experience in everything from finance to HR.   Overseeing around 35,000 employees in Alibaba, Peng worked on different employment models in HR- the department also created by herself and made innovations in mobile commerce technology. Peng became a billionaire in 2015 whilst changing to working for Ant Financials, founded again by herself to support smaller businesses with some of the biggest investors in the Chinese Industry. From a professor to a co-founder to a CEO billionaire - Peng is definitely an amazing example of female power and determination.            No matter what profession or age, all these women and many more have all broken through barriers in China and across the globe. Influential and inspiring, the dynamics between gender and equality are ever-changing and these women are just a few who prove that it is possible!      
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It's International Women's Day 2017! We've picked a few inspirational women in China from the past few years who've broken barriers in their professions not only as a woman in China - but in the world. 

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