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Cultural, Eating Out in Chengdu, Eating out in Zhuhai, Travel

Sugar painting(糖画)

In China, it is usual to see some folk artists producing sugar paintings with liquid sugar along the streets, in the parks, and touristic areas.

InternChina - Chinese sugar painting
InternChina – Chinese sugar painting

The artist sits before a wooden stand where there is a polished slab of marble in the middle. On the side of the stand is a bamboo arrow and a wooden plate painted with various patterns in a circle such as a 龙 (Chinese dragon), bird, dog, or a flower basket.

InternChina -Sugar painting is especially popular among kids
InternChina -Sugar painting is especially popular among kids

Children especially usually select a figure by spinning the arrow on a wheel which will randomly land on such popular figures as a dragon, fish, monkey, dog, bird, or flower basket.

Sugar painting is very different from normal painting and was originated from the Ming Dynasty when sugar animals and figures were made in molds as part of a sacrifice in religious rituals. In the Qing Dynasty, sugar painting gained more popularity. At that time, many people made a living by sugar painting, shouldering a carrying pole and setting up stalls in crowded streets, in front of theatres and busy public places.

InternChina -Me and my Sugar Dragon 2012
InternChina -Me and my Sugar Dragon 2012

There are two main categories: plane painting and solid painting. For the plane painting (which is the easier one), the painter uses the brown sugar or white sugar as the raw material, the bronze spoon and a shovel as the tool, and the slab of marble as the “paper”. To acquire liquid sugar, the artist has to cook the solid sugar in a pot before painting. Since the hot liquid sugar could freeze solid if it cools, the artist has to produce his work very quickly.

Using a small spoon to scoop the syrup which looks like silk and thread, the handi-craftsman concentrates his strength on the wrist and takes the spoon as a brush pen, rising and pausing strokes, up and down, left and right. Soon a sugar painting of an animal, flower or a bike is finished, and the painter separates the painting from the marble with a shovel, puts a bamboo slice on the painting or wraps it with a transparent plastic bag.

InternChina -Separate the painting from the marble with a shovel
InternChina -Separate the painting from the marble with a shovel

If you have a sweet tooth or an eye for art – apply now to enjoy the Chinese culture and everything it has to offer. 


Cultural, Internship Experience, Mandarin Guide, Understanding Business in China

A word or two on Chengyu’s

I thought I’d write a small piece on idioms and my thoughts on them.

InternChina - The Chengyu embodies Chinese culture
InternChina – The Chengyu embodies Chinese culture

A Chengyu (成語) is a form of idiomatic expression. They usually consist of four characters, but of course some are longer. Many Chengyu are used in everyday conversation, these examples are common and could be viewed as catchphrases. Here are some examples;

自由自在 – zi4 you2 zi2 zai4 – lit. free and easy; carefree/leisurely

首屈一指 – shou3 qu1 yi1 zhi3 – second to none/outstanding

一分爲二 – yi1 fen1 wei2 er4 – lit. one divides into two; there are two sides to everything/to see both sb’s good points and shortcomings

There are thousands of phrases like these ones. They are great if you are looking to improve your oral Chinese as after you have learned a few you will begin to listen out for them in daily conversations. I used to learn one a day, and jot down new ones in a little notepad. There is usually an interesting story behind the most common chengyus that can help you remember.


InternChina - 滿天飛花 - a sky full of flowers
InternChina – 滿天飛花 – a sky full of flowers

Others Chengyus are used in works of literature to enrich the imagery and conveyance of stylistic expression. Some Chinese families even hang them as works of calligraphy on their walls, or etch them into their paintbrushes and adopt them as personal maxims. It’s also not uncommon to see Chinese businesses adopting a chengyu they feel represents their company’s image.

InternChina - An example of Chengyu Calligraphy
InternChina – An example of Chengyu Calligraphy

The best thing about Chengyu’s is many of them can be translated to English phrases, sometimes not directly but there is usually an equivalent English phrase. For example:

集腋成裘 – ji2 ye4 cheng2 qiu2 – lit. many hairs make a fur coat; many a mickle makes a muckle.

雨過天晴 – yu3 guo4 tian1 qing1 – lit. sky clears after the rain; every cloud has a silver lining.

冰山一角 – bing1 shan1 yi1 jiao3 – tip of the iceberg

The thing about learning Chengyus is they are all about personal preference. Different strokes for different folks. For me personally, some of chengyus make little sense as they express a meaning that is unique in Chinese culture. Yet, they are good for ‘showing’ off your Chinese. You can whip out a few at a business dinner or at a meeting to impress.

Some chengyus have variants, depending on where you go in China and dialects etc. For instance, the Chengyu 一成不變 (yi1 cheng2 bu4 bian4) meaning stuck in a rut/always the same, changes its meaning when translated into Cantonese. Cantonese speakers, especially Hong Kong residents use 一生不變 (yi1 sheng1 bu4 bian4 – yat sung bat bin) which conveys a good meaning of permanence and stability.

Learning the many different chengyus is a difficult task, so 加油!

只要成功夫深鐵杵磨成針 – If you work at it hard enough, you can grind an iron bar into a needle.


Kick start your China experience with an internship in Qingdao, Zhuhai or Chengdu and join in the adventure. Apply Now!



Cultural, Things To Do in Zhuhai

Time for some Chinese culture – Our calligraphy lesson in Zhuhai

Here in Zhuhai we are taking part in a lot of fun activities and trips to special places around the Pearl River Delta. We have also had many opportunities to learn more about the Chinese people and their culture.
This time we went to visit a very traditional cultural house, a former local style house of Zhuhai. At this place there was an exhibition of pictures from a very famous painter. This painter was actually there to teach us calligraphy. But more about this later.

chinese calligraphy lesson
Getting ready for our calligraphy lesson

First, I would like to explain a bit about Chinese Calligraphy. As a discipline, calligraphy is at the basic level, a pursuit focused on writing well -書法 Chinese: shūfǎ, “the rules of writing Han characters”. Students aim to obtain the writing characteristics of exemplary pieces of writing. Elementary school students practice calligraphy in this way, as do elders without aspiring to artistic creation.

Calligraphy is also considered an art which in Chinese can be known as 藝術/艺术 Chinese: yìshù, a relatively recent word meaning “art”, where the works are appreciated more or only for their aesthetic qualities.

The English word “calligraphy” refers to that which is “beautiful writing”, thus including both aspects.

We started with a tour around the house and they told us more about the amazing paintings, the different types of paper used and the techniques used for drawing.

chinese ink brushes
chinese ink brushes

After the tour, whilst the painter was painting we got to observe over his shoulder. It was fascinating how he simply uses one brush and only one colour (black) to draw and create a beautiful Chinese landscape. It was then our turn to see how creative we are.

We began with some simple Chinese characters and I can really say it is not as easy as it looks. You have to hold the brush in a special way and guide the brush movements of the wrist. For some of us, this made it a big challenge. But the teacher was really patient and took time with every one of us and explained how to do it the right way.

intern chinese calligraphy
intern chinese calligraphy

We also got our names painted in Chinese characters and when I told the painter my name, he just laughed out loud. It was then that I found out my name “Pia” when spoken in an aggressive way means “bullshit” in Chinese (I actually kind of liked my name before, especially as it means “love” in Hindi) . The painter found other ways of pronouncing name and then decided on similar sounding characters and now it is “pei er”, which has no meaning. Much better that way!

As you may be able to imagine, we had a lot of fun learning to write Chinese characters. If you want to learn more about the Chinese culture and the meaning of your name apply now.