What we seen and heard in Beijing, China
I went to Beijing for the first two weeks of February, seeing friends and family over the Chinese New Year holiday. I found out afterwards that Chinese New Year is a particularly good time to visit Beijing, not just because of the number of meals available. People flowed out of the usually overloaded city en masse like waterfalls. In a positive way, roads were empty, the metro and buses were empty, bookshops were empty, factories were shut, the sky was blue and clear.
It reminded me of this lovely home city of mine when I was little. Most people cycled to work and school. Entertainment for the public was ice-skating on frozen lakes and flying kites. Every kid held toffee hawthorn fruits on sticks, which always looked terribly dangerous to me. Cabbages were sold on the back of trucks along the street, and stored outdoor in our courtyard in piles alongside coal blocks.
Friends who grew up and went to school with me were as fun and generous as before if not more so. Distant family members whom I used to see once a year didn’t look much different since I last saw them eight years ago. They still got drunk at lunch time, but in a much less terrifying way. Maybe that was one evidence that they are all in their 70s now. There was a newborn baby girl I didn’t have a chance to meet before I left Beijing in 2008. Now she’s eight and is taller than her mother. I watched with my eyes and mouth wide open as throughout lunch the whole family from 12 to 80 years old fought non-stop for virtual red envelops on their phones on social network WeChat.
WeChat Wallet has developed in such an amazing and unexpected way. People now do everyday clothes and food shopping, pay for meals in restaurants, book tickets for films, call taxis, send small transactions between friends and colleagues as a “small change purse” etc etc all on WeChat. This is way before Apple Pay came onto the market and even now I don’t know how Apple pay works. But in China, it looks like people from teenagers to the seniors use it fully or partially, just by observing my extended family (about 40 people).
National Museum of China on Tian’anmen Square is almost brand new, but apart from one temporary exhibition it was pretty disappointing. The building, though massive, was divided into tiny show spaces with a very limited collections of items on display. Capital Museum and Shanghai Museum in my memory were both a lot better. However, the one exhibition I liked made the visit all worth it. It was a show of architectural sketches by a Chinese scholar. It was lovely to see a sketch of Carlisle among the collection. I might focus on architecture and give it another go (about my tenth attempt at drawing and painting in my life).
Mr Holmes might have wonderful actors and actresses but the storyline was not engaging for me. I blame the uncomfortable long flight and the persistent engine noise.
The Martian, however, which I watched the during the same flight was a lot more entertaining. I imagined it to be such a lonely and desperate situation to be in. But because of the funny angle of the webcams, his days were almost cheerful. However, the vulnerability of his survival each day never went away with the smaller and smaller portion of potatoes, the complete destruction of an airlock, the dodgy-looking plastic fix-up. The final rescue where the captain caught his hand really reminded me of Eva and Wall-E…
On the flight back, I watched The Little Prince. I started reading the book and still haven’t got the essence of it. What is it talking about anyone? It looks like I’m hopelessly grown-up since I can’t understand it.
Nirvana in Fire is a historical drama about how an unloved and ignored prince becomes the king with wholehearted support of friends. The message of the story is simply, justice, integrity and loyalty will win. Maybe it doesn’t sound very different to many other TV dramas or films to your ears. I’ll just say, it’s a refreshing breeze in an entertainment industry where adulterous relationship is celebrated, deceit and betrayal is commended, violence and cruelty is allowed, where evil triumphs and goodness is trampled. In this series, good and kind people are not stupid and useless, bad people are not always powerful and invincible. What an exciting surprise!
That is not the only highlight of the storyline. On the journey to the throne, the battles of the minds are risky, dangerous and hard work. At the end of each step towards triumph, I would give a sigh of relief and at the same time, couldn’t help getting really excited about how brilliant the scheming works out seamlessly. The depiction of characters is well done too. There are complicated relationship networks with many characters involved. But every one of them is a vivid individual.
Another highlight of the production for me is the carefully-crafted images of almost every frame of the series, mainly thanks to the composition of the photography and the luxurious costumes and room interiors. I particularly love their sleeves! The details of the houses, palaces, banquets, weapons etc are all exquisite. All the actors and actresses are skilful in their every word and action. The script is carefully thought through and doesn’t sound too awkward or too modern.
Overall, an excellent masterpiece that worth spending 54 hours of time to watch.
A night of music making
Recently I’m a fan of a Christian worship song called From The Day, by a new American band called I Am They. It caught my attention not only because of its catchy tune, but also the context in which I was first introduced to it; by a Chinese DJ in a Chinese radio show. It’s pretty amazing that an atheist country is broadcasting a Christian worship song to the public.
So to introduce this song to my fellowship, we had an evening rehearsal, with piano, guitar and flute in the band. It could have been an ordinary evening for them, but it was extremely exciting for me. I listened to the song about a million times beforehand, I listened for the vocal parts, the guitar and banjo, the piano, the organ, the drum one by one. It was the first time I “studied” a song so carefully.
We kept the tidying going, aka throwing things out. My husband and I have finally come to a similar speed in this – I got a bit bored and lazy with it, husband just started to get up to the rhythm and spirit.
One of my best finds this month was Monocle. It’s funny that it was a trip to China that made me buy my first ever issue of Monocle (The Forecast) and prompted me to check out their website, which I have fell in love with. It’s a gold mine.