Every culture has its own unique superstitions (迷信 – mí xìn), and China is no different. Chinese people appear so westernised and modernised at first glance, but they will still seek help from a soothsayer, choose auspicious numbers, or hire a feng shui expert. Well, let’s take a look at some of these, and how they will bring you either good luck or bad luck.When it comes to good luck, the magic number in China is eight. So run into the number eight as much as you can. Business will boom and the cash will roll in! Eight sounds similar to the word for prosperity/wealth (八/發). Do you remember the Beijing Olympics and its grand opening ceremony? It’s no coincidence that the games commenced at 8:08 PM on August 8th, 2008. Starting the games at this time was meant to bring good luck. When people choose telephone numbers, mobile numbers, house numbers, car identification numbers and important dates, 8 is usually the first choice.
As far as good luck goes, it doesn’t get much better than the colour red in China. It represents happiness and is the colour of the national flag. During weddings or festivals, you’ll see the colour red everywhere you go.
In comparison the number four is extremely unlucky. It sounds similar to the Chinese word for death (四 – sì/ 死 – sǐ). Therefore, many people choose to avoid the number four. It will bring misfortune to you. It’s not uncommon to see 4th floor buttons in elevators skipped.
When giving gifts in China, never give someone a clock. This is due to the fact that “giving a clock” sounds similar to “ to bid farewell to someone on their deathbed”. So giving someone a clock basically means you’re sending them off to the great beyond.
If you should find yourself eating in a Chinese restaurant, and you get too full, don’t you dare stick your chopsticks into your rice straight down. It resembles the incense that family members burn to mourn a dead relative.
When it comes to ancient Chinese beliefs and superstitions, we can’t forget about feng shui. Chinese take it very seriously, and one’s home or office needs to be arranged in the correct manner to gain happiness and success in life.
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En vivant en Chine, vous allez sans le savoir adopter certaines de leurs habitudes et coutumes. La première chose que j’aimerais mentionner est que vous devez savoir comment compter avec vos doigts. Je trouve très pratique la manière chinoise de compter. Par exemple, lorsque vous montrez le numéro 6: Il est beaucoup plus facile de faire une forme de téléphone avec la main que d’utiliser les deux mains pour un seul numéro. Une fois, j’ai voulu acheter deux bouteilles d’eau et parce que j’avais l’habitude de compter “style occidental”, j’ai fini avec 8 bouteilles!
Autre chose amusante: les Chinois aiment étendre leurs draps dehors au soleil, sur un fil en métal sale juste au-dessus d’une route très fréquentée! Au début, je pensais qu’ils les séchaient…. depuis, j’ai appris qu’ils pensent pouvoir sentir le soleil sur les draps et que cela sent fabuleusement bon (même si le linge est accroché dans une rue sale). Et ils ont raison!
Et n’oubliez pas la course à la gare routière! Quand il est temps de rentrer à la maison après le travail, je prends habituellement le bus. Mais ce n’est pas comme si vous pouviez vous détendre sur le chemin du retour. Vous devez d’abord courir après votre bus car vous ne savez pas vraiment où ce dernier s’arrêtera. Alors que vous courez dans une direction avec vos nombreux rivaux, d’autres personnes se heurteront à vous. Après quelques poursuites j’ai appris approximativement où mon bus s’arrête et j’attends patiemment pendant que les Chinois courent d’avant en arrière.
Et quand vous avez enfin réussi et que le bus s’arrête, c’est à ce moment-là que la bataille de coudes démarre. Les Chinois ne font généralement pas la queue, alors vous devez vous frayer un chemin pour entrer dans le bus en ne laissant personne se précipiter devant vous. Au début, j’avais l’impression d’être poussé à gauche et à droite et j’ai dû essayer de garder l’équilibre pour monter dans le bus. Mais après un court moment, vous vous y habituerez. L’habitude chinoise d’ignorer les étrangers autour de vous peut être très pratique à certains moments.
Le plus étrange est que j’aime vraiment le fait de pouvoir dormir partout où vous voulez! Que ce soit dans le train, le bus, la rue, la voiture, ou sur une clôture, tout est permis! Personne ne s’en soucie et c’est tout à fait normal de voir cela. Vous vous y habituerez en peu de temps et vous apprendrez à vous endormir debout dans le train ou le bus.
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While living in China you will unknowingly pick up some of their habits and customs. The first thing I want to mention is you should be aware of how you can count using your fingers. I think it’s very convenient to use the Chinese way of counting. For example when showing the number 6: It feels much easier to make a telephone shape with one’s hand, than to use both hands for just one number. Once, I wanted to buy two bottles of water and because I was used to counting ”western style”, I ended up with 8 bottles!
One other funny thing is that Chinese people like to hang their bed sheets outside in the sun, on a dirty handrail right above a busy road! At first I thought they were drying them out, but since then I’ve learned that they believe you can smell the sun on the bed sheets; that it smells fabulous even if its hung by a dirty street. And they’re right!
And don’t forget the Bus Station Running Race! When it’s time to get home after work I usually take the bus. But it’s not like you can relax on your way home. First you have to run after your bus because you don’t really know where it will stop. While you are running in one direction with your many rivals, other people will bump into you, only to find out your bust just stopped behind you. After a few chases I learned approximately where my bus is going to stop and I wait there patiently while Chinese people run back and forth.
And when you finally made it and the bus stops, that’s when the elbowing starts. Chinese people don’t usually stand in line, so you have to “fight” your way into the bus, not letting anyone rush before you. At the beginning I felt like I was being pushed left and right and I had to try and balance myself to get into the bus. But after a short while you will get used to it. The Chinese habit of ignoring strangers around you can be really convenient some times.
The strangest thing is, I really like that you can sleep everywhere you want! It might be on the train, bus, street, car, fence, anywhere is fine! Nobody cares and it’s quite normal to see. You’ll get used to it in no time and you’ll learn to doze off while standing inside the train or bus.
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Qingdao has a history of more than 120 years, and the museum is as a great place to learn more about the history of the city. As last week’s InternChina event, we decided to visit Qingdao Municipal Museum.
The museum has exhibitions about several different aspects of Qingdao, and the themes of these exhibition includes Qingdao local history, ancient coins, ceramics in Ming and Qing dynasties and Qingdao local folk customs.
We started with the history of Qingdao exhibition. Although Qingdao city has only existed for about 120 years, there were some people who lived in this area around 6000 years ago. Unearthed vessels and tools were exhibited to display how ancient people lived their lives. There are some collections of models that shows the historical stories vividly, for example, the wars that occurred in Qingdao and the scenery in Qingdao hundreds of years ago.
Afterwards, we continued our visit with the coins and ceramics exhibitions. The oldest ‘coin’ on the exhibition looked like a knife with a hole at one end, people used the hole to collect and carry the coins on strings. Also, there were lots of ceramics there. They were made in different dynasties, and therefore styles and techniques used were totally different.
After that, we experienced a traditional folk custom called woodcut painting. This kind of painting is mainly made for Chinese New Year celebration. Traditionally, the paintings are about characters in Chinese myths. They are believed to be able to protect or attract fortunes for the family. To make this kind of painting, the wood should be cut into moulds according to the picture you want to paint. The mould is then coloured and used to print the picture onto paper. In the museum, they had some moulds already and we just did the painting part by ourselves. We followed the steps taught by the ‘teacher’ in the museum; eventually, we made our own pictures successfully.
We experienced lots of ancient Chinese stuff during this visit and it was a great opportunity to get ‘closer’ to Qingdao.
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Last Friday, for our weekly event, interns in Qingdao watched Peking Opera at the Qingdao Grand Theatre. Actually, for me, although a Chinese from Qingdao, it was my first time to watch live Peking Opera, and it was special.
Peking Opera, also known as Beijing Opera, is called 京剧(jing ju) in Chinese. It is a traditional Chinese theatre and has a history of more than 200 years. It is an art form that combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. The works of Peking Opera are mainly based on Chinese history and folklore.
The performance we watched that night was called ‘遇皇后打龙袍’, literally meaning meeting the queen and hitting the dragon robe. The story is from a Chinese classic literature. Bao Zheng is one of the most well-known ancient Chinese government offical in the history, and he met an old lady on his way back to Beijing. The old lady claimed herself as the mother of the emperor and had been set up by others. After verifying the old lady was the queen, Bao helped her to get back to Beijing and she blamed the emperor for all the misery she suffered. She ordered Bao to punish the emperor and Bao hit the dragon robe instead of hiting the emperor to save himself from being punished.
When the opera started, we were amazed by the unique sound made by the musical instruments, as they are quite different from what we heard from an orchestra. The songs have much more variations with stronger beats. They were in perfect cooperation with the singing of the players. Also the costumes the players wore were gorgeous as they have several colours and pattern on each one of them. The players also ‘told’ the story by their movement, for example, a walk around the stage would mean they took a long trip to somewhere. Even though it was kind of hard for us to get used to the music and to follow the story, we are glad that we decided to join the event!
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