I will show you the tips for China Travel, the Traditional Chinese Culture, Chinese Food and some other interesting things in China here.

July 5, 2010

Cherries - Summer's Flavor

After this long winter and spring, cherries are now in season, which are one of the first fruits to appear. These days, the fruit peddlers' carts are piled high with mountains of cherries, some vendors taking time to bunch them together in a sort of bouquet.

The bright magenta red cherries and the golden yellow skin are as beautiful and alluring as glossy adverts for nail polish and lipstick in the pages of fashion magazines. The sea of cherries on vendors' carts on the streets of Beijing remind me of my visit to Pike Street market in Seattle several years ago. It was early summer and the market was loaded with Bing cherries, the most popular sweet variety.

This variety of cherry was developed at the Lewelling Nursery in Salem, Oregon, which was known as the Cherry City because of its fine display of cherries at their annual Cherry Fair. I was surprised to read that the Bing cherry was named after a Chinese helper who worked at the nursery.

Bing cherries are the sweet blackish cherries for eating while the smaller Early Richmond, Montmorency and Morello cherries are the sour types for cooking. The last category is a hybrid, a cross between sweet and tart cherries, such as Duke and Royal Anne, which are ideal for both eating and cooking.

The cherry is native to the Black Sea area, but the ancient Chinese are said to have been the first to cultivate cherry trees. The fruit was perfected by the Greeks and Romans, who planted cherry trees across Europe.

The Romans planted cherry trees as a staple for the Roman armies, but the Japanese grew them purely for their beautiful blossoms. It was said that a fifth century Japanese emperor drank his sake under a cherry tree every day. Today, people from around the world visit Japan during springtime to take pictures of the blossoming cherry orchards.

This is the best time to get your dose of fresh cherries as the supply is plentiful and the prices are good. Cherries are selling for between 8 yuan to 15 yuan per jin (1 jin equals 500 g) depending on the size.

Cherries are grown around the Beijing area, in Yantai, Shandong province and Chongqing. The type of cherries we have here are not like the sweet juicy cherries in the United States, but are tart like amarelle-type cherries, with a yellow flesh and clear juice.

The morello, sometimes also available in China, is another type of red-fleshed sour cherry with red juice. Both are perfect for baking or cooking to make a delicious syrup.

Panda Babies Arrive at Beijing Zoo

Beijing Zoo sees the arrival of a pair of panda babies at about 10 am on July 5.

They were the first pandas to be born at the zoo since 2003, according to Beijing Times.

One of the twins is still at the zoo, being cared for by its parents, while the other was sent to Ya'an in Sichuan province where its parents, Gugu and Yinghua, were born.

Pandas typically care for one twin and abandon the other, necessitating the move.

"The 109-gram baby panda sent to us, which does not yet have a name, is probably a male but its gender cannot be definitively worked out by us until it is around three years old," a worker with the Ya'an-based China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda told local media.

The baby panda in Sichuan is being fed with milk from its grandmother that the center had collected and frozen. Baby pandas need breast milk to improve their immunity during the first three days of life.

The baby panda will eventually be sent back to the zoo, once it has developed.

The mother panda and her baby in Beijing are receiving care from experts in the delivery room at the zoo and will not meet tourists for the time being, according to a worker at the zoo.

June 8, 2010

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival is a Chinese lunar holiday, occurring on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (June 16, 2010 this year). It is a significant holiday celebrated in China, and the one with the longest history. While many stories regarding its origin abound, the most popular and widely accepted version regards Qu Yuan, a minister during the Warring States Period (475 - 221 BC).


At the end of the Zhou Dynasty, the area we now know as China had fallen into a state of fragmentation and conflict. While the Zhou dynasty had ruled for several centuries, several other states, originally feudal domains, tried to carve out their own kingdoms. The state of Qin would eventually emerge the victor and unify all of China under one rule for the first time in history.

Qu Yuan served as minister to the Zhou Emperor. A wise and articulate man, he was loved by the common people. He did much to fight against the rampant corruption that plagued the court-- thereby earning the envy and fear of other officials. Therefore, when he urged the emperor to avoid conflict with the Qin Kingdom, the officials pressured the Emperor to have him removed from service. In exile, he traveled, taught and wrote for several years. Hearing that the Zhou had been defeated by the Qin, he fell into despair and threw himself into the Milou River.

As he was so loved by the people, fishermen rushed out in long boats, beating drums to scare the fish away, and throwing zong zi into the water to feed braver fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan's body.

Zong Zi

The traditional food for the Dragon Boat Festival, Zong zi is a glutinous rice ball, with a filling, wrapped in corn leaves. The fillings can be egg, beans, dates, fruits, sweet potato, walnuts, mushrooms, meat, or a combination of them. They are generally steamed.

Dragon Boat Race

The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated by boat races in the shape of dragons. Competing teams row their boats forward to a drumbeat racing to reach the finish end first.

The boat races during the Dragon Boat Festival are traditional customs to attempts to rescue the patriotic poet Chu Yuan. Chu Yuan drowned on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in 277 B.C. Chinese citizens now throw bamboo leaves filled with cooked rice into the water. Therefore the fish could eat the rice rather than the hero poet. This later on turned into the custom of eating tzungtzu and rice dumplings.

The celebration's is a time for protection from evil and disease for the rest of the year. It is done so by different practices such as hanging healthy herbs on the front door, drinking nutritious concoctions, and displaying portraits of evil's nemesis, Chung Kuei. If one manages to stand an egg on it's end at exactly 12:00 noon, the following year will be a lucky one.

April 12, 2010

Sakura Road in Wuhan University

SPRING is often trumpeted as the best season to visit Wuhan University when the sakura (cherry blossom) is in full bloom. Rising temperatures and rain pave the way for the first sakura blooms which herald the arrival of Spring.

The road lies below the Science School and the former library. The road is neatly lined with strong Sakura trees. From March to the early April each year, Sakura blooms vigorously, but only lasts a week. After that the road is thickly carpeted with Sakura petals. Each year during flowering of Sakura, the road is crowded with constant streams of tourists.

There is another Sakura scenic in Wuhan that is Moshan Hill of Wuhan’s East Lake Scenic Area where Wuhan Sakura Festival is held each year. It is a highlight to appreciate Sakura in the evening. Set off by colorful lights and white snow, Sakura will be more charming and attractive this year.

Price of admission ticket: 10 Yuan per person

Traffic: take tourist line 401 and get off at the stop of Wuhan University. Go into the entrance of the campus and walk ahead along the street to a pond and then turn left to the avenue till you arrive at Sakura Road and the former library.

March 30, 2010

Tips to Help You Eat Healthy

Recently, I suddenly realise that I should have a healthy life style. Because the sub-heathy problems are obsessing me, though I am just 20+ years old.

Thanks to my friend that giving me a soybean milk machine as my wedding present. Last weekend, I went to supermarket to buy all kinds of whole grains, including Brown Rice, Whole Barley, Black Rice, Millet, sorghum and Sweet Rice... Then I choose 3 or 4 from them to make multi-soybean milk as dinner everyday.

Following are some other tips for eating whole grains:

* To eat more whole grains, substitute a whole-grain product for a refined product - such as eating whole-wheat bread instead of white bread or brown rice instead of white rice. It's important to substitute the whole-grain product for the refined one, rather than adding the whole-grain product.
* For a change, try brown rice or whole-wheat pasta. Try brown rice stuffing in baked green peppers or tomatoes and whole-wheat macaroni in macaroni and cheese.

* Use whole grains in mixed dishes, such as barley in vegetable soup or stews and bulgur wheat in casserole or stir-fries.

* Create a whole grain pilaf with a mixture of barley, wild rice, brown rice, broth and spices. For a special touch, stir in toasted nuts or chopped dried fruit.

* Experiment by substituting whole wheat or oat flour for up to half of the flour in pancake, waffle, muffin or other flour-based recipes. They may need a bit more leavening.

* Use whole-grain bread or cracker crumbs in meatloaf.

* Try rolled oats or a crushed, unsweetened whole grain cereal as breading for baked chicken, fish, veal cutlets, or eggplant parmesan.

* Try an unsweetened, whole grain ready-to-eat cereal as croutons in salad or in place of crackers with soup.

* Freeze leftover cooked brown rice, bulgur, or barley. Heat and serve it later as a quick side dish.

March 28, 2010

Give up Laptops or Not!

Nowadays, more and more office people feel pains from backs, necks and shoulders. The most important reason is using computers for a long time.

According to market-research firm IDC, sales of laptop computers passed desktops in the U.S. for the first time ever this fall. That's bad news.  

Laptops are inherently unergonomic--unless you're 2 feet tall, says physician Norman J. Marcus, a muscle-pain specialist in New York City.  

When you work at a computer, the keyboard should be at elbow height, so your upper and lower arms form an angle of 90 degrees or more and your forearms are supported by armrests. The monitor should be roughly at eye level so you can lean back in a chair with back support.  

But most users simply set their laptops on a desk or table. The keyboard is too high, which makes your arms reach up, your shoulders hunch and your wrists bend down. The monitor is too low, which pulls your head and neck forward and down and puts a strain on your back.  

That's OK if you use your laptop occasionally, for short periods. But if you use one for hours at a stretch--as do millions of college students, business travelers, telecommuters, video-gamers and growing numbers of office workers--you're setting yourself up for muscle problems that can make your entire upper body hurt.

Ergonomics experts have warned about laptop problems for years--mostly in vain. People continue to abandon bulky desktops in favor of the ever-sleeker, lighter portables. And WiFi connections let us use laptops anywhere--in bed, on the floor--in all kinds of contorted positions.  

People think, How can a mouse or a keyboard hurt you?'' says Thomas Caffrey, founder of Myofactors LLC, which does ergonomic consultations for factories and offices (including The Wall Street Journal). But poor technique can significantly overload the anatomy over time."  

A wrong position can cause pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, back and arms, as well as headaches, pains in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and carpal tunnel syndrome, in which pressure on wrist nerves causes tingling and numbness in the hands.

February 23, 2010

Chinese Paper Cutting

Paper-cutting is a very distinctive visual art of Chinese handicrafts. It originated from the 6th century when women used to paste golden and silver foil cuttings onto their hair at the temples, and men used them in sacred rituals. During the Chinese Festivals like the New Year, paper cuttings are used to adorn entrances of buildings and homes to bring good luck and fortune.

They have special significance at festivals and on holidays. At the New Year's Festival for example, entrances are decorated with papercuttings which are supposed to bring good luck.Papercuttings used to be used as patterns, especially for embroidery and lacquer work.

Though small piece of paper is, it can reflect many aspects of life like prosperous atmosphere, healthy persons and harvest year, etc. Some is even drawned from stories representing common goals and expects to happiness.

The main cutting tools are simple: paper and scissors or an engraving knife, but clever and deft craftspeople are remarkably good at cutting in the theme of daily life. When you look at items made in this method carefully, you will be amazed by the true to life expressions of the figure's sentiment and appearance, or portrayal of natural plants and animals' diverse gestures. Patterns of chrysanthemum display the curling petals, pied magpies show their tiny feathers and others such as a married daughter returning to her parents' home, or young people paying a New Year call to their grandparents.

People find hope and comfort in expressing wishes with paper cuttings. For example: for a wedding ceremony, red paper cuttings are a traditional and required decoration on the tea set, the dressing table glass, and on other furniture. A big red paper character 'Xi' (happiness) is a traditional must on the newlywed's door. Upon the birthday party of a senior, the character 'Shou' represents longevity and will add delight to the whole celebration; while a pattern of plump children cuddling fish signifies that every year they will be abundant in wealth.

Chinese Lantern Festival 2010

The Lantern Festival is a traditional Chinese festival since Han Dynasty more than 2000 years ago. In the early Tan Dynasty (618-907AD), it was called the Shan-Yuan Festival, because of Taoism. in the late Tan Dynasty, it was called the Yuan-Xiao Festival. It was called Lantern Night in the Sun Dynasty (960-1297 A.D.). The Lantern Festival was used in Ching Dynasty (1644-1911 AD).

According to the Chinese calendar, the night of January 15th has the first full moon of the New Year and marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities.

Chinese people traditionally celebrate this occasion with the Lantern Festival in which beautiful lanterns (and nowadays electric lights) of all shapes and sizes are lit, fireworks are set off, lantern riddles are devised and guessed and people eat Yuan Xiao together while appreciating the full moon.

The lantern displays can be found in the town center square and temples. Usually. there is the lantern competition at the temple. Traditional lanterns are made by paper. They can make the lantern tuning around by the heat circulation from the candle inside. Today the light of the lantern is from the electricity. People like to design lantern using zodiac animals, historical figures, saint and gods of Taoism or Buddhism. Certainly, the current year's animal symbol of the Chinese calendar is most popular subject. Using the computer tool today, they can design the lantern with different movements, the different colors of light and even using the laser light with special visual and sound effects.

Customs of the Lantern Festival

1. Eating Yuan Xiao
It is well known that Lantern Festival is also called Yuan-Xiao Festival. This is because Chinese eat Yuan-Xiao on this day. This custom originated from the Eastern Jin Dynasty in the fourth century, then became popular during the Tang and Song Dynasty.

Yuan-Xiao just like Tang-Yuan . They are made of sweet rice flour into sticky glutinous balls. They can be filled in with sesame, red-bean or peanut butter paste. Usually, they are severed with sugar water. But some people still make salty Tang-Yuan.

The difference between Yuan-Xiao and Tang-Yuan is the way they are made and cooked. This is because that Chinese in different geographic area prepare the food in different way. Chinese call the one they eat on Winter Solstice Day is Tang-Yuan. The one they eat on the Lantern festival is called Yuan-Xiao.

2. Lantern Riddles

Guessing lantern riddles is a popular addition to the Lantern Festival that appeared during the Tang Dynasty. As you would imagine, the game is to write riddles and have other people try to guess them. This is a popular social part of the Lantern festival and provides great exercise for the brain!