I am sure most people have watched Walt Disney’s Mulan (1998), but if anyone has not yet, I recommend it! Not only because it is a great story but also because it became a classic animation. As Mulan’s story is based in China, it is the perfect way to get in the mood for your internship.
The Disney’s Story
The Huns, led by the ruthless Shan Yu, invade Han China, forcing the Chinese emperor to command a general mobilization. To save her old father from death in the army, Mulan, a young girl secretly takes his place by pretending to be a man. She becomes one of China’s greatest heroines in the process and is helped along with a talking dragon and lucky cricket as companions (Disney style of course). At first, it is difficult as she knows nothing about becoming a warrior. However, her determination and courage eventually give her great recognition. Also, she falls in love with her handsome captain.
Derivated from a legendary story
The real story is quite similar; Hua Mulan is a legendary figure from ancient China who was originally described in a Chinese poem known as the Ballad of Mulan (木蘭辭). In the poem, Hua Mulan takes her aged father’s place in the army. She fought for twelve years and gained high merit. After the victory, the emperor offers her a place at his council, without knowing that she is a woman. However, she refused and only ask for a way to return home safely. The emperor gave her a horse and a bagful of wealth, and wished her a safe trip home. In fact, it is one of the first poems in Chinese history to support the notion of gender equality – Go China!
What can we learn from this story?
It is true to say that Disney’s version is different from the legend, but it may also be good to remember that there are many version of the legend itself. These differences do not take off the merit and the bravery of the character.
But…How can we relate to this character? The Hua Mulan story can teach us, interns at InternChina, a great deal actually!
Firstly, we can see that being confident and brave is a prerequisite for success. Self-belief is important when starting a new internship or job and Mulan never stops trying to integrate herself into the group.
Practising is the key to progress.
You may not become a Chinese warrior overnight as it can take time to defeat initial fears, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Appearances can also be misleading so we should never judge a book by its cover. Your boss may seem different from you, at the beginning but you actually may have many similarities and work very well in business together.
Lastly, the possibilities are endless! Like Hua Mulan, don’t fit in a box! Show people what you can do at work and impress them. Make friends along the way and most importantly be yourself!
Want to challenge yourself like Mulan? Apply here for a fantastic adventure in China with one of our internships!
Pi Ying Xi is one of the oldest kinds of drama in China, and is said to have its roots in the Han Dynasty. The leather puppets are painted with various colors and their designs follow the traditional moral evaluation and aesthetics coming from historical theaters, legends, stories of classical books or myths. Some are kind or wicked, beautiful or ugly. The positive figure has long narrow eyes, and a small mouth while the negative one has small eyes, a big forehead and droopy mouth. All the leather puppets are sculptures highly precise, simply shaped with decorative patterns. In Gansu province, the play is accompanied by Daoqing music, while in Jilin, Huanglong music forms some of the basis of modern opera.
About its origin; it is said that the Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty was deeply in love with one of his concubines Lady Li, but the good times didn’t last long and she fell sick afterwards. As the Emperor visited her, she covered her face and refused his request of taking a last look at her. She wanted to stay beautiful in his mind so that he’ll remember her forever, because she was afraid that all he favoured was her appearance after all.
After she died of illness, the Emperor missed her so much that he lost his desire to reign.
To help him get over the sadness, an occultist ordered by the minister, sculptured a wooden figure in the likeness of Lady Li and projected its shadow on a curtain, bringing him consolation with the belief that it was her spirit. Her joints were animated using 11 separate pieces of leather, and adorned with painted clothes. Using an oil lamp they made her shadow move, bringing her back to life. This story recorded in ancient books is believed to be the origin of the shadow play.
Shadow play is popular in various cultures and currently there are more than 20 countries known to have shadow puppet shows . Shadow play is an old tradition especially in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and India. It is a popular form of entertainment for both children and adults!
Hi, this is Stephan again from Qingdao. It has been a wonderful first week with InternChina in my new city. China is crazy, but in a positive way. Everything is different from Europe. The people, the food, the traffic. I love the beach and the wonderful sea here in Qingdao.
I got to meet a lot of interesting individuals this week and there are just a lot of impressions I have to process right now. What is also very interesting for me as a German guy, is that there is a long German history in Qingdao. Surprisingly, before me some Germans have already been here and they had quite some influence on the region around Qingdao.
In 1898, Germany forced China into giving them 553 square kilometers of land in Northeast China for 99 years. It happened after the killing of two German missionaries, this gave the military a reason to launch an offense in northeastern China. The most important city in this region was the city of Qingdao. This era lasted until 1914 when Japan was able to force the Germans out of China.
Today you can still see some influences of that past time. A lot of houses still resemble German architecture and there are a few churches that look exactly like a church back in good old Germany… Impressive!
You also can not forget the world famous Tsingtao Beer. The Tsingtao Brewery was founded back in 1903 and since then its beer has made its way all around the world. There is no better way to enjoy the Qingdao beach in the evening and drink a cold Tsingtao beer. Ganbei!
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Sights in Qingdao
Qingdao is a coastal city located in the Shandong Province and home to round about 8 million residents. The name Qingdao has a specific meaning, where “Qing” means lush or green “dao” means island.
Qingdao is a great place to live because you always have something to do there! Here are some top sights in Qingdao which I want to tell you about now:
May 4th Square
May 4th square, a large public square, is located in Qingdao’s central business district, right next to the coast. It was named after a nationwide protest movement which started in Qingdao and it is recognized by the huge red sculpture on the square which represents the “May Wind” in Qingdao.
The Catholic Church
Due to Qingdao’s history there is a huge German influence in the old town part of Qingdao. In this part of the city you can also find the Catholic Church which is located on De Xian Road. It was built and completed by a German architect in 1934. Because it was partly destroyed during the Cultural Revolution it was rebuilt in 1982. On the weekends there are still services and a lot of Chinese people take their wedding pictures in front.
Marina City is a large shopping center where you can find a lot of Western brands but also some Chinese ones. Walking outside the mall you can enjoy the view of the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Centre and walk along the peer to check out windsurfers and sailing boats that go along the coast.
Zhanqiao Pier was built in 1891. The Huilan Pavilion lies at the end of a 400m pier at Qingdao Bay and is the symbol for the Tsingtao beer.
Xiao Qingdao Island
Xiao Qingdao is a tiny freckle of land south of Zhanqiao Pier. On the little island there is a small German lighthouse which was built in 1900. It is especially beautiful at night, walking along the Qingdao Bay with the look on the light house.
Today I would like to give you a little insight about the German History of Qingdao. The reason, why I wrote this blog is, because a lot of people always ask me about the city´s exciting history, therefore I started a research for our Internchina interns and I would like to show you my results!
In 1914 the First World War broke out!
The Japanese wanted to continue to hold Qingdao for the remainder of the German lease and Chinese government then yielded to Japanese pressure. In 1938 Japan re-occupied with its plans of territorial expansion onto China´s coast, which lasted to 1945. Since the inauguration of China´s open-door policy to foreign trade and investment, western Qingdao developed quickly as a port city. Now it is the headquarters of the Chinese navy´s northern fleet.
The German occupation influenced Qingdao a lot, which used to be a small fishing village. Upon gaining control of the area the Germans equipped the poor place with wide streets, solid housing areas, government buildings and a rarity in large parts of Asia as that time and later. The area had the highest school density and the highest per capita student enrollment in all of China.
Commercial interest established the Germania Brewery in 1903, which later became the world-famous Qingdao Brewery. Also the Germans left a distinct mark on Qingdao´s architecture inevitably during the colonial period that can still be seen in its historic center and train station. Qingdao´s Old Town located in the German concession area is rich in European buildings. The mixture of historical sites and attractions in the old Qingdao city indicates the city´s diverse international cultures.
The beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year is known as Spring Festival春节 [chūn jié] . It is one of the most ceremonious traditional festivals of the Chinese people, and also a symbol of unity, prosperity and new hope for the future. The Chinese New Year has 4000 years of history!
Chun Jie is coming and all people are starting their preparations for this most important festival. I have been growing up in the North of China but not I’ve already been living in Canton for over 12 years. Although the Spring Festival has the same meaning for all Chinese, the customs are really different. Today, I am going to talk about the Cantonese’s customs for Chinese New Year. For Cantonese, the most important thing to do for Spring Festival is strolling on the flower markets. The flower markets always open a week before Chinese New Year. In that time, usually long streets are full of flowers, and sometimes you can even find stadiums filled with flowers. People believe strolling around flower markets will bring them luck for the new year and so they will also buy some flowers to decorate their houses. The most popular flowers are orchids, orange trees, solanum mammosum, peach blossom trees and narcissus. So Cantonese are the most romantic Chinese! 😉
Another important thing for Cantonese is shopping! We will buy lots of nuts, candies, fruits and lots of traditional snacks, such as sweet white gourd, sweet lotus root and so on…
Yes, all sweets and chocolate!
You find something interesting? Yes, red colour. During Chinese new year time, if you go to the market or supermarket, you will find most of things packed in red – it’s China’s lucky colour.
Next important thing is Spring festival decoration! Yes, also all red and gold colours!
Finally, I want to say Happy Spring Festival to all of you!
You want to accompany Sunny on her next Spring Festival shopping trip? Send us you application now!
Today I want to start a new mini-series about movies.We already introduced some books to you to prepare for China, but we know that there are lots of people who would rather watch a movie and there are some great Chinese movies out there, which can definitely teach you a lot about Chinese culture, history, humor and so on.
Farewell my Concubine (Chin.: 霸王别姬)
This is one of my most favorite movies and a must-see when you want to come to China! Director Chen Kaige (陈凯歌) did a really great job on this one (which you couldn’t say about his more recent movies).
The movie follows the life of Dieyi (Douzi) and Xiaolou (Shitou), who are both put into a Beijing opera school when they are still young. Douzi is supposed to train to play female roles (Dan), while Shitou practices male roles. The movie covers around 50 years of Chinese history starting in 1924 and displaying the cruel methods of the Peking opera education as well as changes in Chinese history. Both protagonists become famous Beijing opera stars. In the end Shitou falls in love with a woman, which is unbearable for Douzi…
Why watch this movie:
In my opinion, this is Chen Kaige’s masterpiece. Many historical and political changes are happening throughout the film. Topics like the Japanese Occupation, the Guomindang Administration, Communist Revolution and also the Communist Rule appear. Chen even displays the fights of the People’s Liberation Army and the Cultural Revolution’s attack on old, feudal traditions like Beijing opera. At first, the portrayal of these events led to the banning of this movie in China.
You can learn a lot about Chinese history and life in 20th century China – especially about the transition from a dynastic country to a Commmunist country.
Also, this is the first Chinese movie which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
You can buy this movie here.
For me, reading novels is not only reading a nice story, but in the best case I will also learn something about culture, history, politics… Especially Chinese novels can teach you a lot of things about China. So I looked at my bookshelf, and picked some of my favorite books for introducing them to you. They are all available in English and German translation, so no worries about not knowing enough Chinese.
The style is generally very different from what we are used to read. Chinese stories often don’t have a happy ending or sometimes the whole book can be just one big depression after the other, but it still might be worth reading. It can also be that you cannot identify with the main character of the story (which, of course, can also happen in western novels). Quite often authors use their stories to write down their experiences, political views. This can either be humoristic or really depressing. This is one of my most favorite novels ever: “Brothers (2005)” by Yu Hua (余华)! The story is about two brothers, who live through the Cultural Revolution together, lose their parents and couldn’t be more different. A lot of funny stuff happens while they grow up, but be careful, sometimes is really violent and sad! I recommend this book because you can learn a lot about Chinese history while being entertained by a good story.
I made the experience that quite often in Chinese novels a lot of stuff is NOT happening and what is happening happens so slowly, that you don’t really notice. Ba Jin’s (巴金) novel “Cold Nights (1947)” (he’s a very famous Chinese writer) is the perfect example and still really worth reading. As a foreigner, you might not be able to understand why the protagonist is acting like he is acting, but this book is a great opportunity to learn about the feelings people had and the life they were leading before the founding of the People’s Republic.
As a third recommendation I have a novel from this year’s Nobel price winner Mo Yan (莫言) for you. I know “Red Sorghum (1987)” is his most famous book in the Western World (mainly because Zhang Yimou adapted it for a movie), but I prefer “The Garlic Ballads (1988)“. Chinese authors might have a different way of writing, but they definitely have great abilities in evoking a lot of images, smells and feelings in the readers mind and for me the Garlic Ballads are the perfect example for this kind of ability.
For those of you, who can also speak (and read) German or Chinese, I can also recommend Han Han’s (韩寒) books (Chinese), especially “1988: 我想和这个世界谈谈 (2010)” and Wang Shuo’s books (王朔, some available in English or German, all of them in Chinese and all are worth reading!).
Are you interested in learning Chinese to be able to read Chinese literature? Apply for an Internship in a Chinese company or for a home-stay and language classes: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.internchina.com
Today, we start our new mini-series.
We’re going to take turns at suggesting you different books (English and German) about China, to help you prepare for your internship or your travels, but also for people who just share a common interest in China!
Wild Swans (1991) by Jung Chang – One of the best known books about China, having sold over 13 million copies and claimed international recognition. It is a story of three generations of Chinese women in twentieth-century China, the author, her mother and her grandmother. It shows the clash of Communism with China’s deep-routed traditions, values and culture and the terror ensuing the Cultural Revolution. A very good read, which is more of a novel than a history, but a novel which will help you to understand China. If you enjoyed this, then her next piece (which she wrote with her husband) is also very exciting: Mao: The Unknown Story. More of a history book, it depicts Chairman Mao’s life. It has undergone a lot of scrutiny about how “factual” it is, and her interpretation of Mao is seen as having a strong negative bias, but it is still an interesting read!
China Road (2008) by Rob Gifford – Well worth a read for anyone interested in China. It tells the story of Gifford’s journey overland from Shanghai in the east, to China’s border with Kazazhastan in the north-west. It is a short, funny, and lively narrative, whilst being packed with insight into China and how it is changing. His adventure is explained through interviews with people he meets on the way – from prostitutes to Tibetan monks. He looks at China in a much more personal way, past China’s economic statistics and into the hearts of the people. Thoroughly recommended!
“Informative, delightful, and powerfully moving . . . Rob Gifford’s acute powers of observation, his sense of humor and adventure, and his determination to explore the wrenching dilemmas of China’s explosive development open readers’ eyes and reward their minds.”
–Robert A. Kapp, president, U.S.-China Business Council, 1994-2004
Lonely Planet (2011) or Rough Guide (2011): China – I have to say I am not sure which of these is better. Whichever you choose to go for it is a vital part of your luggage! Have a read through bits which interest you before you come and you should be able to be much more time efficient when you arrive – having an idea of what you want to see and do in China is very important; otherwise you might get swamped by the possibility of doing everything and may end up going nowhere! They also have little sections about China’s history and culture; very basic but also very interesting. They will give you a taste of what is to come. If nothing else, having a look through these before you leave will get you very excited about your trip.