News stories about China

update https://www.chinasage.info/news.xml Here are some news stories we have found that we think tell you much about what is going on in China. We avoid stories on politics and economics as these are adequately covered on news web sites. These News stories are available as a news-feed so you can receive notifications of these automatically in your browser. Click on the RSS button to add it to your browser or copy and paste the link.

Fri 26th Jun

The Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty were not content with just the Summer Palace and Forbidden City in the capital Beijing they also built an even larger extensive pleasure park at Chengde 150 miles further north-east. Here they could escape the summer heat and practice horsemanship out in the hills and mountains. The resort is dotted with impressive replicas of buildings elsewhere in China including the Potala Palace, Lhasa. It was here that the Emperor would hold audience and where on 4th September 1793 Englishman the Earl MacCartney representing the English East India Company had a famous meeting with Emperor Qianlong.

Hebei, Chengde, Qing dynasty, temple
Chengde, Hebei has many palaces built as replicas of buildings in China. This palace is a recreation of the Potala Palace Tibet Copyright © Dreamstime see image license

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Thu 18th Jun

June 21st will be marked by an annular eclipse with 40% of the sun obscured over much of China. It will be annular rather than total eclipse because the moon is slightly further away from the Earth than average and does not quite cover the whole solar disc. It will reach 90% coverage in southern China - from Tibet through to Fujian.

It happens to coincide with the Summer Solstice when the days in the northern hemisphere are at their longest. The Summer solstice is xià zhì in Chinese meaning ‘Summer limit’.

The Chinese for a solar eclipse is rì shí meaning literally ‘Sun eat’ following the ancient tradition that the moon or a celestial dragon (or dog) eats up the sun. The first record of an eclipse in China dates back to at least 1217BCE. China has kept an unbroken set of astronomical observations longer than any other civilizations. The prediction of eclipses became a very important study as the ominous diminution of the sun’s power could be seen as Heaven’s displeasure at the Emperor’s rule. People came out of their houses and stopped work while temples banged gongs and rang bells to scare away the dragon eating the sun.

Annular eclipse
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Fri 12th Jun

A new discovery of a small carving (only 0.76 inches [19.2 mms] long and 0.49 inches [12.5 mms] high) has excited an international team of archeologists at a site near Xuchang, Henan province. Professor Li Zhanyang of Shandong University is the lead writer of the report of what was found at the paleolithic site at Lingjing. It is far earlier than any previous bird sculpture to be found in China at 13,500 years old and is carved by hand from a single mammalian bone. The bird is carved so it has a base so it could stand up and be admired.

ancient bird sculpture,Henan
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Wed 13th May

In recent years a new 'festival' has been added to the calendar. This is on 20th May each year and is the day when young unmarried couples indulge in a little romance. It is all because the number 520 in Chinese ( wǔ èr líng) can sound vaguely like 我爱伱 wǒ ài nǐ 'I love you'. So far this has only really caught on in cities where stores have made it another trading bonanza.

With China just emerged from lock-down, when some couples have been forced to keep apart, it has taken on more importance. Another reason for 2020 being special is that the year expressed as 二零二零 èr líng èr líng sounds a bit like 爱你爱妳ài nǐ ài nǐ 'Love you, love you' particularly on a muffled mobile phone. In Shanghai all available marriage services on this auspicious day have already been snapped up.

Chinese couple

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Thu 30th Apr

With the lock-down easing some tourist attractions are now opening in China. At Shanghai zoo the 8 month old orangutan baby is a star attraction. She is named Hei Niu and is the offspring of Xiao Hei from Nanjing Hongshan Forest Zoo and Lu Lu from Shanghai Zoo. The orangutans are critically endangered due to loss of forest habitat in Borneo, Malaysia and Sumatra.

This follows on from a good news stories about giant pandas. Two weeks ago a couple of Hong Kong's Ocean Park zoo mated for the first time and this has been attributed to the lack of nosy visitors - the pandas are secretive animals and enjoy the peace and quiet at the moment.

Orangutan

An orangutan mother and baby, but not actually Hei Niu and Lu Lu.

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Wed 15th Apr

With less road traffic streets that are lined with cherry tree blossom can be fully appreciated this year. In particular fallen blossom are carpeting Jiangwancheng Road in Yangpu District, Shanghai. The 700m road has 264 cherry trees and this year the petals are being allowed to fall uncollected during the day. Peng Weiqiang sweeps up the fallen petals each evening to keep the display clean and fresh.

cherry blossom
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Wed 1st Apr

Last week saw some relaxation of the lock-down across China. It seems that the understandable urge of everyone to get back to normal after two months of restrictions proved too tempting. Some restrictions such as the re-opening of cinemas has been re-imposed in some places as well as the movement of people over provincial borders . The city at the center of the outbreak, Wuhan, is due to relax lock-down restrictions on April 8th. The world will be watching to see if the figures of infecting people in China continue to stay very low when the restrictions are lifted. One of the strange repercussions of continued isolation is that the number of cases of injuries to children has increased. In quite a few cases bored children are falling off skyscrapers . Another effect has been the vast improvement in air quality seen not only in China but throughout the world. Perhaps a long term benefit will be that no-one will need convincing that pollution is a real issue that has to be tackled.

The problem with this virus is that some people are asymptomatic carriers. Once you move away from assuming everyone might be infected these carriers may unknowingly start off a new outbreak. These people are not detected by the widely used temperature test. China has now started monitoring these asymptomatic carriers in a bid to understand the implications. On April 1st as many as 130 were identified. One study even suggests that this corona-virus has been around undetected for years and it has only been a chance mutation that makes it potentially lethal that has caused the pandemic.

The Chinese festival of Qing Ming falls on Saturday April 4th this year. As the festival normally involves the whole extended family gathering to visit graves it is not compatible with current distancing rules. The government is asking people not to visit the graves, and blocking access to cemeteries , a break in a ritual that goes back thousands of years. In the famous Babaoshan cemetery in beijing suitably protected workers are providing the tomb cleaning service on behalf of families.

As most Chinese people consider the domestic outbreak beaten they are understandably keen not to let travelers bring the disease back into the country . So anyone who looks 'foreign' is now subject to a wary look and some cases refusal to provide services for. This is the reverse of the situation in the US and UK a month ago when anyone who looked Asian was subject to the same kinds of suspicions and in some cases violence. Foreign travelers are still being forced into 14-day quarantine on arrival when they are not permitted to meet anyone. The only long-term solution must be testing of everybody so that all asymptomatic carriers can be detected and isolated. However the tests are not 100% accurate and providing a repeated test for a population of over 1 billion is just not easy to do. The main hope is that all the key workers can be tested and any new infections quickly tracked down.

medical testing
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Wed 25th Mar

While India and the UK step up isolation measures China in now slowly relaxing controls. The only new cases of Covid-19 in the last week have been amongst people coming into the country that have tested positive during the 14 day enforced quarantine.

The most eye-catching relaxation is the opening of the Great Wall at Badaling near Beijing to tourists. Tourists are temperature tested on arrival and tagged by their QR code. They also need to keep their six feet distance from one another. It must be a good time to see the wall as it is usually immensely crowded.

Schools in the island province of Hainan are planning to re-open on April 7th after a long break. In Xinjiang province, that has only ever had 76 cases and no new ones for five weeks bazaars and businesses are starting to re-open. In the province at the center of the Chinese outbreak, Hubei, the very strict lock-down has been ended with no new cases reported for over a week. However people need a 'green' health code pass to be allowed to leave the province.

Many Chinese are attributing their speedy recovery down to the use of traditional herbal remedies. The most popular remedy is blended from over twenty herbs, including ephedra, cinnamon twigs and licorice root. It is drunk as a soup and has won over many skeptics. About 85% of recovering patients are given the soup. and some figures suggest a boost of numbers recovering by 33%.

China has switched to stop possible infection coming into the country rather than containing it within its boundaries. Foreign travel into China remains very restricted with 14 day quarantine isolation before being allowed to move around the country.

The only exception to the improving picture is in Hong Kong where the number of infected people is still increasing and running at 40 new cases per day. Some have blamed this on a distrust of government following months of unrest there.

Great Wall, Beijing
Great Wall near Simatai, Beijing

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Wed 18th Mar

If you are stuck indoors for long periods time drags. In China people have been using the ubiquitous smartphone to keep tabs on the antics of the most Chinese of creatures - the Giant Panda. The most popular web site iPanda.com has received 700 million hits since January 25th and over 200 million videos have been watched of the playful pandas.

giant panda, wildlife
A sleeping Giant Panda

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Thu 5th Mar

China continues to demonstrate how to control the spread of coronavirus. The number of people infected continues to fall and the number of new cases in China excluding Hubei was down to 10 people today.

Some of the people most affected are farmers. The stock still need feeding and the harvest needs gathering and selling. With much reduced local markets and shortage of truck drivers a lot of produce has had to be left to rot in the fields. Livestock can't be taken to market or else buyers can not be found, so farmer's incomes are being heavily squeezed.

We're continuing to track the spread of the virus with daily updates on our coronavirus page.

cows, farm

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Thu 27th Feb

The effects of the coronavirus continue to dominate the news, with millions of Chinese people choosing or forced to spend all their time at home. One popular new hobby in parts of Shanghai is the growing of plants from seed. Watching the germinated seeds grow into plants is giving the community a sense of a brighter future. Vegetables are a popular choice with the normal shops and markets closed or inaccessible. Other popular indoor activities have led to a surge in online ordering of computer games, books, yoga mats, make-up and rather inevitably condoms. Contrary to the popular impression created in the media, the situation in China is of gradual improvement with the number of infected people falling for the last ten days in a row as more people recover. Unlike the rest of the world there has been success in keeping the cases within Hubei province, it is not spreading to other provinces any more.

cabbage seedlings
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Thu 20th Feb

A round-up from various news items recently reported in the South China Morning Post .

Studies are showing that the corona-virus is much more infectious than similar viruses, it seems to bind very easily to human cells. Autopsies of those that have died show the virus principally attacks the lungs but also the liver. Some people are being treated with corticosteroids and some results show that their use may lead to damage of the liver and kidneys so these steroids are not recommended for widespread use. There continues to be reports that herbal medicines based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are effective. It looks like that some herbs can significantly aid recovery but will not prevent people becoming infected.

The knock-on effects of the virus are showing in China and other countries. With many people either forced (as in much of Hubei province) or voluntarily staying at home the impact on all sorts of businesses is showing. With far fewer people traveling the airlines are canceling flights and laying off staff. Tourist destinations are pretty much deserted. As people are not out shopping many businesses are struggling, bookshops seem particularly badly hit, people are ordering by post to avoid going out. Restaurants are badly affected and some are quickly turning to offering take-away and delivery services to keep the businesses going. Farms are hard hit with livestock markets closed. Imports of frozen chicken, beef and pork are being held up at the ports due to a shortage of truck drivers to distribute them inland.

On a somewhat lighter note, a popular video game is letting people play at killing off the virus at least in the virtual world. With many millions stuck at home having something useful to do must becoming increasingly hard.

As far as the statistics are concerned there is a glimmer of hope. The number of people still infected has fallen on two consecutive days. If the pattern continues the whole sad episode could be over in a couple of months.

disinfecting coronavirus
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Thu 6th Feb

Tackling the corona-virus outbreak is consuming all the media coverage in China and around the world. Some novel ideas are being used to help out. One is to use drones a lot more and so avoid needing humans to go out and about. Some of the first usagee of drones is to go out and monitor the streets. If the drone sees people not wearing face masks it can use its loudspeakers to warn people to get indoors. More advanced drones have temperature sensors and can detect people who have a fever and alert the authorities that the individual needs quarantining.

Although things remain very bad in Hubei province there is some encouraging signs that the virus is under control elsewhere. Shanghai has seen a drop in the number of quarantined people (6th Feb). However much of this is because the New Year holiday has been extended and most people have stayed put at home. It will soon be necessary for many workers to go back to work to keep the economy moving and with this an increased chance of infection.

drone in flight
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Thu 30th Jan

We tend to leave the big news stories to dedicated news web sites but in the case of the current outbreak of coronavirus it is too significant to overlook. It is difficult to imagine how tough life must be in Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province with the place in lock-down (around 60 million people). Experts are skeptical about how effective this unprecedented government action will be. Although the bulk of the cases is in Hubei (4,586 on 29/1/2) there are already 3,197 or 41% of cases outside this region. [Follow the link for up-to-date statistics] It is fairly easy to live for a few days in lock-down but to expect 50 million people to live in relative comfort for two weeks is stretching even China's capabilities. Thankfully the fatality rate is lower than SARS at about 2%, but many people who catch it require hospital treatment to make a full recovery. If the infection spreads beyond a million people then it is hard to see how health care systems can cope. There is widespread footage of a hospital being built from scratch in a week but this only will be for 1,000 patients which is already looking far too few. The big threat of the virus is that it seems to take quite a time to show symptoms and the person is infectious during these crucial days. It is easy for someone to be in close contact with hundreds of other people during just one trip to a busy city center and so controlling the spread may prove impossible.

As there is no vaccine on the horizon for at least six months it is likely that governments are underplaying the risks to contain possible mass panic. Facemasks offer limited protection, they are more to help prevent infected people spreading the virus further rather than protected uninfected people. Already economic effects are significant with China's predicted growth rate marked down and stock markets worldwide taking a downturn. The next week will be crucial, if the rate of spread does not start slowing down then a global pandemic looks pretty inevitable. Our thoughts are with everyone caught up with this crisis at a time which should be one of rejoicing at the start of a New Year.

Hubei, Wuhan, cityscape, skyscraper
Wuhan, Hebei at night

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Mon 20th Jan

To celebrate the start of a new twelve year cycle - the year of the Rat - we've produced a fiendishly difficult New Year Quiz and also a recipe for a very popular New Year treat - jiaozi. The Spring Festival falls on Saturday 25th January and for many people the holiday will last a whole week. Xīn nián kuài lè - Happy New Year!

Yeat of the rat
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Thu 16th Jan
In the largest annual migration of humanity most people in China will be traveling back to the family home for the Chinese New Year on 25th January. The visit home ( bài nián) will stretch the capacity of China's rail and air networks when up to 3.6 billion trips are made. The improved rail system is built around a grid of eight vertical (north-south) and eight horizontal (east-west) lines linking all parts of the country. About 20 million travel tickets will be bought each day. The latest smartphone tickets and facial recognition should speed up the system somewhat but anyone traveling will have to expect delays and over-crowding.
airport, people, queue
Queue for airport desk for Chinese New Year flights Copyright © Dreamstime see image license

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Thu 9th Jan

In the run up to Chinese New Year on 25th January 2020 now is the time get ready for the year of the Rat.

With the ubiquitous mobile phone making access to calendar information instant, it might be thought that traditional printed calendars were only of historical interest. However in the last few years traditional calendars showing one page for each day are making a comeback in China. Many are illustrated and have facts, figures, cultural and historical information; it is far more than just a printed day and date. Du Xin from Tianjin is one person producing these new 'personalized' calendars. One reason that they are popular is that there is a wide range and so the choice made shows individual taste.

Chinasage provides an online calendar of all the Chinese festivals and holidays.

noodles
Various 2019 calendars on display at a bookstore. VCG Photo
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Fri 27th Dec 2019

During times of famine in the 1950s and 60s farmer Chen Suyuan was forced to use unusual foods. One is the inner bark (cambium) of elm trees that can be processed to make a very bitter flour from which unpleasant tasting noodles could be made. In the current boom for nostalgia foods Chen Suyuan in Shanxi province is now making a fair income from making elm bark flour.

Fortunately many Chinese suffer from the opposite problem nowadays: 30% of adults are overweight and 11.9% obese. The popularity of the famine foods have both a nostalgia and a health appeal - bitter tasting food must surely be good for you!

noodles
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Fri 20th Dec 2019

The way that Chinese people make a tally is rather different to how other countries do. Instead of using groups of four with a diagonal stroke for the fifth in the tally the Chinese way is to draw the character Zheng stroke by stroke, it is drawn with five connected strokes.

tally count,zheng tally count,English
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Wed 18th Dec 2019

Singapore is considered one of the most ordered places in the world with laws regulating every detail of life. Deng Xiaoping was so impressed back in 1978 that he ordered top party members to go to Singapore to learn how a Chinese run city can be run efficiently and prosperously. The training of senior figures in Singapore has continued up until the present day but now the trend is in decline, but President Xi is still impressed about how the small country manages to remain on good relations with the U.S. and China. Like Hong Kong, Singapore flourished as a British colony 1819-1965.

singapore
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Suzhou, garden, moon gate
Traditional style Suzhou house and garden, Jiangsu