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.

Thu 15th Apr

The pet of the future is now available. A robot dog will offer many advantages, no food, no mess, no kennel fees and if a nuisance it can just be switched off. The developers of AlphaDog at the Weilan workshop may be on to a winning design, it is already selling well. The latest model is using A.I. to give a more convincing dog-like behavior and will soon be given a 'bark'. It can be taken out for walkies but currently will struggle with stairs. They cost about $2,500 at present which is expensive but much lower than the cost of keeping a real dog. In future the dog could be used for all sorts of uses including as guide dogs.

alpha robot dog
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Thu 8th Apr

This year there has been a great deal of wind blown sand from the Gobi desert that has afflicted all north-eastern China. In Beijing the annual tree planting day on 12th March has seen over a million residents take part in activities. Nearly a million trees have been planted and the existing 6 million trees in the city have been given a check-over. There are plans to add over 10,000 hectares of forest and 400 hectares of green spaces. These should all help improve the look of the city and well-being of the citizens. Trees are considered to emit auspicious 'qi' particularly in the morning.

PKChina-26, Summer Palace, beijing, forest
View of Beijing from the Summer Palace. September 2019. Image by Paul Kerswill

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Fri 26th Mar

Although it is getting close to April’s fool day this is a genuine news story. Over the centuries the Daoist (Taoist) tradition has had many ‘masters’ who have claimed extraordinary magical powers.

This year a man (actual name unknown) from Hubei area has claimed the power to enlarge breasts. He does this not by laying on hands but by psychic energy. He claims to be a Guhao master (a Daoist sect) of Zhuyoushu. Women have claimed the ‘treatment’ has gained them at least one inch of breast enlargement. He also claims to be able to make people taller, treat tumors and increase IQ. For each ‘treatment’ he has devised a scale of exorbitant charges.

Now the authorities are catching up with this charlatan (he of course lacks any formal Daoist accreditation) to answer allegations of fraud.

enlargement
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Wed 17th Mar

The flowering of cherry blossom is a welcome sign of a return to normal in Wuhan. After a year which began with a very tight lockdown of 52 days some medical workers are returning to admire the cherry blossom lining the streets and parks. More than 42,000 nurses and doctors from all over China answered the call to come to Wuhan to join in the fight against Covid-19 Grateful residents are now offering free tours and performances to the workers and their families in the cherry blossom season.

Cherry blossom
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Thu 4th Mar

A new package of regulations has been brought in to help protect the fragile ecosystem along the Yangzi (Yangtze) river. The world's third longest river and the world's second in relation to water flow has had mounting pollution problems. The new laws hopes to co-ordinate controls of development and protect wildlife among the nine provinces through which the mighty river flows. Fishing will now be banned in some areas so the delicate ecological system can regenerate.

Yangzi River, river, boat
Barge on the Yangzi river near the Three Gorges dam

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Thu 25th Feb

The Lantern Festival on 26th February this year marks the final end to the traditional fortnight of Spring Festival celebrations. However most people have been back at work for some days already.

The ancient roots of this important festival is that the lanterns light the way for the ancestral spirits to go home to their tombs after joining the family for the festivities. Many bright, colorful lanterns are made of lucky red paper and some have riddles painted on them to entertain everyone and dragon dances are frequently performed. The most common form is hexagonal in design.

A long time ago the rich made lanterns the size of a brightly lit room where the host would entertain his guests.

lantern festival, festival, fujian
Lantern Festival, Daoist parade of gods (Ngi?ng-s?ng) in Luoyuan, Fuzhou. Image by LuHungnguong available under a Creative Commons License

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Fri 19th Feb

‘Miss grandma’ and her sister have been making a new painting in the traditional Chinese style every day for many years. In a number of short Tiktok videos you can see how the 108 year old paints a variety of subjects with great skill.

In one quick video she paints a picture of plum blossom - a common motif at the continuing Spring Festival. Although many workers will return to work after a week of muted celebrations due to Covid, the traditional festival lasts two weeks, ending on the Lantern Festival on Friday 26th February.

Painting of plum blossom
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Wed 10th Feb
Good Fortune for the year of the Ox

Everywhere in China the characters for Good Fortune fú and the Ox niú will be seen during the next week to welcome in the Chinese New Year of the Ox on February 12th.

Just in time for the celebration has been the news that China’s Mars explorer Tiān wén-1 (‘Astronomy-1’) has successfully entered orbit and will hope to send a lander to the surface in the summer.

Less seriously some students have been turning robots into service to help celebrate the Spring Festival. Tianjin University staff and students have programmed a robot to paint the character for good fortune based just on the eye movements of the operators.


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Thu 4th Feb

After an eventful year of the Rat, let us hope that the Spring Festival on 12th February brings us all a better new year. The Ox is by tradition quiet and easy-going as well as practical and self-assured.

With the incidence of Covid-19 in China still at a very low level, everyone is concerned that the annual mass migration to be with family for the new year festivities may cause a resurgence, and so the advice this year is to keep travel to a minimum.

We've dusted off our Chinese New Year quiz with new fiendishly difficult questions. For a very comprehensive guide to everything about the most important traditional festival see our guide.

Wishing everyone xīn nián kuài lè A happy and prosperous new year.

Year of the Ox
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Thu 28th Jan

China provides a little known, specialist service for foreign travelers.

It is a helpline with the easy to remember number '12345'. It is run from China Unicom buildings in Beijing and aims to answer visitor's queries in English or other languages. It is a 24x7 service aimed to answer a wide range of queries. At present explanations of the current Covid-19 restrictions are high on the list of common questions. The operators are trained to quickly redirect to the appropriate language speaker. They have built up a set of responses for the frequently asked questions.

The national emergency numbers 110 and 119 are a separate mandarin service and you may be able to be understood in English on these lines. The 12345 service is for non-urgent queries. The service is being beefed up ready for the increased number of expected visitors for the Winter Olympics 2022 to be held in Beijing.

Macau, city wall, people
Old streets of Macau at night Copyright © Dreamstime see image license

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Wed 20th Jan

Chinese people have surprisingly few family names. One of the classics of Chinese literature is called the Hundred Family Names Bǎi jiā xìng which lists all the common ones from 1,500 years ago. It was one of the first set of characters that children would learn by heart. One colloquial way to refer to the Chinese people is as the Lǎo bǎi xìng ‘Venerable hundred surnames’ or just Bǎi xìng ‘Hundred names’. The term refers to the ‘ordinary working people’ not the government or rulers.

Some of the family names are used by millions of people. The most common one is ‘Wang’ which means ‘monarch, king, ruler’ and is shared by over 93 million people. However some families with only a few descendents have kept alive some very ancient names. This now causes a problem in the digital age because the character used for the family name are very rare and not in the standard fonts used by computers. So these families are being encouraged to change their name to a more common one. Because of China's huge population this affects a lot of people - about 60 million. The standard character set have now been extended from the basic 8,000 to 70,000 to accommodate many of these rare names but some people are still being left out. Their old written form is fine, it just can't be used digitally.

Wang Zhideng seal
The personal seal of Wang Zhideng

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Thu 14th Jan

A continuing archeological dig has pushed back the history of Chinese palaces by another 1,000 years. Not so long ago it was considered that a complex settled civilization in China only went back about 3,000 years. The latest discoveries at Shuanghuaishu in Henan province, it is just to the north of Zhengzhou near the Yellow River. The remains found are hard to spot as they are mainly made of rammed earth, any stones would have been taken away and used in later buildings. A courtyard covering 8,611 sq feet [800 sq meters] has been found from over 5,000 years ago. which would have been in front of a royal palace. These remains predate the Xia dynasty (c.2100 - 1600BCE) and even before the birth of the Yellow Emperor (born c. 2718BCE)

Shuanghuaishu Dig
Archeological dig at Shuanghuaishu, Zhengzhou, photo credit China Daily .

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Wed 6th Jan

The scales of the rare armored animal, the pangolin, are highly prized in China for their use in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). The Chinese species is a scaly ant-eater (Manis pentadactyla) somewhat like the American armadillo. The Chinese government is taking strong action against illegal imports. The dried scales were once believed to be effective against fevers and nervous diseases. Yesterday 17 smugglers were sentenced to between 12 an 14 years in jail for trafficking 23 tons of scales into China worth a probable $28 million. The pangolin is very rare in China but a related species (Smutsia gigantea) is more common in West Africa from where these scales were illegally smuggled.

pangolin, wildlife
Photograph of a pangolin. From Lucile and William Mann's participation in the National Geographic Society-Smithsonian Institution Expedition to the Dutch East Indies, 1937. Image by Lucile and William Mann available under a Creative Commons License

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Wed 30th Dec 2020

The famous Shaolin Temple has now launched, jointly with Henan University, degree courses in Chinese Kung Fu. Bachelor, master and doctorate courses are available for international students. Many of the successful students will return home to teach Kung Fu at teaching centers. The Shaolin Quan Wushu technique dates back around 1,500 years. Kung fu Gōng fu can be translated as ‘fighting competition’ which describes the many competitive fights between the contending schools of martial art.

Henan, Shaolin , martial arts
Shaolin martial arts display Copyright © Dreamstime see image license

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Thu 24th Dec 2020

In recent years the Western celebration of Christmas on 25th December has had increasing observance. This is chiefly an excuse to go out shopping and buy presents for children in the cities - only about 3% of Chinese people are Christians. ‘Shengdan Laoren’ is a transliteration of ‘Santa’ as ‘sheng:’ saintly ‘dan:’ birth followed by ‘laoren:’ old man. As Santa is dressed in lucky red this greatly adds to his appeal. To wish someone ‘Merry Christmas’ you can say shèng dàn kuài lè. It is not a public holiday in China.

Christmas in China
Christmas decorations in China, photo credit University of Maine .

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Thu 17th Dec 2020

On Thursday 17th December the Chang'E 5 completed its mission to bring back samples from the surface of the moon. This makes China only the third nation to achieve this feat. The successful mission, named after 嫦娥 Cháng É the Chinese goddess of the Moon, is one more significant step in the Chinese space missions that should eventually put people on the planet of Mars.

The samples come from an unexplored region of the moon called "Ocean of Storms" and should provide crucial information about how and when it was formed. It's 48 years since the last lunar rock samples were brought back to Earth.

surface of moon
The surface of the moon as photographed by Chang'E 5. Photo courtesy of Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP).

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Wed 9th Dec 2020

China is extending its control of the rain over a huge area of land. It has long been known that you can seed clouds with a type of salt (silver iodide) that causes it to rain or snow. In order to bring rains to drought prone regions China is extending its weather control to 5.5 million sq. kms by 2025 (an area the size of India) on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. The salt is dispensed by either airplanes or anti-aircraft guns.

It's hard to be sure of the effectiveness the seeding of the clouds because if it rains it maybe would have done that regardless.

threatening cloud

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Wed 2nd Dec 2020

Quite a number of artworks that were stolen or looted many years ago are being bought up and returned back to China. The latest example is a bronze horse's head that was looted from the Old Summer Palace, Beijing at the end of the Second Opium War in 1860. A combined Anglo-French looted and burned down the Emperor's great pleasure garden. Many artworks were taken away. A magnificent set of sculptured heads of each of the astrological animals designed by the Jesuit missionaries to China was made into a huge water clock. The horse's head was modeled by Italian artist Giuseppe Castiglione . Macau billionaire Stanley Ho (who died in May) bought back the artwork at auction in 2007 and donated it to the Chinese state in 2019. Only seven of the twelve original sculptures have been found and returned.

bronze,horse
Bronze horse head. Image credit: China News Service

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Wed 25th Nov 2020

A long time collector of historic photographs of China wants to find a buyer. Stephan Loewentheil has accumulated over 20,000 photographs of China taken between 1850 and 1920 over the last few decades.

It is a unique collection with many very rare images of life in China from this tumultuous period. He is keen to sell it to an institution or individual in China so that the collection at last goes home. There are many images by the largely unknown Chinese pioneers of photography: Lai Fong, Liang Shitai, Pun Lun Studio and Tung Hing Studio.

Guofen launch,satellite
A traditional weaver at work (1870) by William Saunders. Image credit: Stephan Loewentheil Photography of China Collection

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Wed 18th Nov 2020

In these dark days of approaching winter (in the northern hemisphere) now might be a good time to explore one of China's great cultural gems. As travel into China is very restricted at present it is good that it is now possible to make the trip with your computer. At the Mogao caves near Dunhuang, Gansu province there was a treasure trove of ancient paintings and writings preserved in the dry desert for up to 1,600 years. Western explorers in the early 19th century bought up many of these items so about 40,000 items are now spread between more than ten countries including the UK, France, Russia and Japan. The UNESCO world heritage site is located near the junction of the old Silk Road route to China, where traders in exotic goods chose the long desert road either to India or towards the Middle East and Europe. The 'Digital Dunhuang' project aims to reunite these lost items in the virtual world.

You can already visit and appreciate the beauty of the 30 richly decorated caves using the web site Digital Dunhuang and the fascinating artwork within them.

Gansu, Dunhuang, Buddhism
The Mogao Caves with magnificent Buddhist paintings and sculpture at Dunhuang, Gansu

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Thu 5th Nov 2020

The world's biggest shopping spree is timed to fall on China's new 'festival/holiday'. A very recent special day, is ?Single's Day? when young, single people buy themselves presents. The festival started among men at Nanjing University in the 1990s and has caught on very rapidly in cities throughout China and amongst single women too. The choice of date is based on the fact that 11.11 has four single 'ones' in it, representing two 11 couples. It is now a popular day to declare love and propose marriage, a second Chinese Valentine's Day. More importantly it has become the world's busiest shopping day (mostly online but also in shops). Alibaba heavily promotes it as a special occasion to spend money and has already held one special bargain period (Nov. 1st to 3rd)this year.

couple
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Thu 15th Oct 2020

China is continuing to successfully launch satellites at an increasing pace. The Mars probe Tainwen-1 Tiān wén was successfully launched back in July. It will reach the Red planet in February and will aim to land a roving probe on the surface soon after.

Meanwhile on the far side of the Moon the lander and rover of the Chang'e-4 probe are still working fine. Its rover, Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2 Yù tù is still delivering useful data after over 22 months of operation.

The latest set of rocket launches have been to put more monitoring satellites in Earth orbit. The Gaofen-13 satellite launched on the 12th October will monitor the skies in visible as well as infra-red wavelengths at a high resolution ( Gāo fēn means high resolution or high score). As well as giving vital geographic information (growth of crops etc.) it also acts as military defense as it can detect stealth fighter airplanes invisible to radar.

With the end of high tech. co-operation with the U.S. China is building an independent space program. It is now also building a network for global positioning ( Běi dǒu-3 series) so it is no longer reliant on the U.S. controlled GPS system of satellites.

Guofen launch,satellite
Image credit: Xinhua Agency
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Thu 1st Oct 2020

There is good cause for double celebration today because the Mid Autumn festival and National day fall on the same day - the next time this will happen is 2031.

The Autumn Moon Festival takes place at full moon in the 8th lunar month (15th day), it marks the end of harvest. Lanterns are lit and round moon cakes are cooked and consumed in large numbers - these usually are filled with soybean paste, lotus seeds and egg yolk and covered in pastry. As there is a tradition that a rabbit lived on the moon, rabbits are a popular image. Another tradition is to layout peaches, melon or grapes in a circle of thirteen as there are 13 lunar months in a year. It celebrates Chang'e, the goddess of the moon, and particularly the romance with the archer god Houyi. Traditionally, spirits of the dead came forth to feast on the fruits of summer harvest. People would climb hills and mountains to watch the rising of the full moon.

National day marks the founding of the Peoples' Republic on 1st October 1949. There are often three days of public holiday for it normally, and so accounting for the weekend this year the combined celebrations last until 7th October - a whole week's holiday.

Moon festival, food, cake
Moon cake for the Mid Autumn (Moon) Festival

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Wed 23rd Sep 2020

The largest palace complex in the world marks its 600th birthday this year. The Forbidden City (as only the privileged few had any access) took 14 years to build at great expense. The Ming dynasty Emperor Yongle had decided in 1406 hat he must move his capital further north towards the still troubled northern frontier. The Forbidden City is the largest and best preserved collection of ancient buildings in China. 200,000 worked on the immense project including thousands of families who were forcibly uprooted and moved from the former capital of Nanjing, 600 miles away, to build the new capital. The buildings have only a few levels as they are built of wood making them less prone to damage by earthquake. The use of wood has required a continuous cycle of renovation over the intervening centuries. The Forbidden City remained in use up to the forced removal of Emperor Puyi in 1924.

The modern center of Chinese government has not moved far from the Forbidden City - the government buildings of the People's Republic are located immediately to its west at Zhongnanhai. Although completed in 1420, it was officially inaugurated on Chinese New Year 1421 so we can expect many more stories about it before February 12th 1421.

Ming dynasty, Forbidden City, view, Beijing
View of the Forbidden City, Beijing from the peak of Jingshan Hill

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Thu 17th Sep 2020

All nations are looking at ways to make our cities greener, but the experience in Chengdu might give pause for thought.

The vertical style urban jungle has been used on a large scale in the Qiyi City Forest Garden, Chengdu, Sichuan. The eight apartment blocks were built in 2018 and all 826 of them were quickly snapped up when put on the market.

Urban forest,Chengdu
Image credit: European Pressphoto Agency

However the development has hit an unforeseen problem. The new green spaces on every balcony have found insect tenants too, and so the few residents have to fight a battle with clouds of mosquitoes. The planners forgot that jungles are not only full of lush vegetation but a whole range of insect life that is not quite so welcome.

Only ten families have so far braved the insect menace to take up permanent residence.

Another threat that seems inevitable is that over time the plants will become both large and old. So branches and whole plants are at increasing risk of tumbling down from a great height.

You can also watch a short video about this story here.

Video not visible
Vertical urben forest

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Thu 3rd Sep 2020

A new adaptation of the acclaimed sci-fi book by Chinese author Cixin Liu is to be made for Netflix by joint US - China production teams. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss who brought Game of Thrones to our screens will write and produce the epic story in an English adaptation. It is set at the time of the cultural revolution in China (1966-75) and concerns scientists discovering a sophisticated alien menace.

In this time of increased U.S. - China tensions it's heartening to see a new collaboration being forged.

Three body problem book
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Thu 27th Aug 2020

Over the last few years the Chinese government has supported the astonishing growth of Confucius Institutes over the world. By the end of 2019 there were 541 institutes in 162 countries. Their aim is to promote the teaching of the Chinese language and learning about Chinese culture. They arrange classes in Mandarin, Taichi, calligraphy, painting, dance, opera and other cultural pursuits. With the cold war between China and the US under President Trump these have been seen by many as a sinister attempt to foster a pro-Chinese movement - a development of Chinese soft power. To counter this criticism they are now being re-branded as 'Chinese language learning centers'. This is a less contentious title because just learning the language does not imply any loyalty to the country of China; as even hostile news reporters need to learn the language.

The U.S. government has reclassified the institutes as 'foreign missions' and that has led to similar circumspection in other countries include the UK, Australia and India. There is some basis behind these suspicions because each Confucius Institute is controlled by Hanban ( Hàn bàn) in Beijing. This Chinese administrative center chooses who is funded and who is employed as well as the texts used in classes. As a result many academic institutions are reviewing their relationship with Confucian Institutes and many in the U.S. have now shut down. Many students and teachers are lamenting the suppression of interest in foreign cultures. Surely it should be possible to separate learning about another country from supporting a foreign government?

Qufu, Confucius
Statue of Confucius at Qufu, Shandong

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Wed 19th Aug 2020

19th August 2o2o is the first day of the seventh Chinese month. The 7th month of the traditional calendar is associated with ghosts. The Hungry Ghost festival in the middle of the seventh month is the main festival but some people also mark the start of the month - Ghost Gate. This is when the ghosts come back to the world of the living for a month. The ghost month is considered unlucky, spirits wander around for the whole month and so new projects and enterprises should not be started. One superstition of relevance is to avoid sticking chopsticks vertically into the rice bowl as this invites in the ghosts. Other superstitions include not to take pictures at night (the ghosts don't like it) or go to the beach or buy a new house.

ghost,  battle
Section from a 19th century Chinese Hell Scroll showing the ghost of Yue Fei accusing the traitor Qin Hua in the sixth and seventh court of hell. Available under a Creative Commons License

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Tue 11th Aug 2020

There have been some impressive development of Maglev (magnetic levitation) trains in China for some years. A major increase in speed is planned to equal that achieved on Japan's super-fast Maglev trains (600 km/h or 370 miles/h).

The first Maglev train was built in Birmingham, UK 1984 from the pioneering work of Prof. Eric Laithwaite but it was soon abandoned there. Because the trains are pushed up above the train track they can run at much higher speeds than other trains. China opened its first Maglev to link Shanghai airport and the city center in 2003 and has continued to develop the technology. A Maglev link from Beijing to Shanghai would cut travel time to 3.5 hours, other high speed links are planned throughout the country. The photo is of one of the current Shanghai Maglev trains.

MagLev train,Shanghai
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Thu 16th Jul 2020

This year's annual summer floods are turning out to be the worst for over twenty years. Floods on the Yangzi river are now affecting 38 million people from the effects of heavy rains that have continued to plague central China since June. Rainfall figures are the highest in the Yangzi valley since 1961.

Lakes along the Yangzi that act as buffers for flood water are at record high levels.

All this comes at a high cost just as Wuhan, Hubei the center of the Chinese covid19 outbreak was getting back to normal. The economic cost to China is estimated to be at least $12billion.

Yellow river, waterfall, river
Hukou Waterfall on the Yellow River

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Thu 9th Jul 2020

The sale of just a couple of volumes from the great Ming dynasty encyclopedia has cost a thousand times more than the expected sale price at more than $9million.

In 1403 Emperor Yongle ordered a great encyclopedia to be written the Yǒng lè dà diǎn. This was to be an encyclopedia of all known scholarship on all subjects arranged into categories ordered according to its special system of rhyme of category names. It took 2,180 scholars six years to produce an amazing work totaling 11,095 volumes - the Wikipedia of its day. Its content was considered so vital and significant that no foreigner was allowed to view it. Some say that a copy was buried with Emperor Yongle and may still lie there intact. Two copies of the great Yongle Dadian were made of the original at Wenyuan Ge in the Forbidden City. The copying started in 1562 and took five years to complete.

Yongle Dadian, Pascal triangle
Yang Hui (1238-1298) 's work preserved in Yongle Encyclopedia. It shows what is now called a Pascal Triangle discovered by Chinese mathematicans 500 years before Pascal. Image by Yang Hui available under a Creative Commons License

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Fri 26th Jun 2020

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 2020

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 2020

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 2020

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 2020

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 2020

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 2020

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 2020

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 2020

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 2020

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 2020

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 2020

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 2020

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 2020

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 2020

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 2020
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 2020

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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window lattice, Forbidden City, Beijing
Ancient Lattice Windows at the Forbidden City, Beijing