Interview with Anna Zech, Artist and China TV Celeb with a Passion for Chinese Culture

I came to know Anna Zech through her fantastic blogging (first as the Mandarin Duck, and now at China’s Lost Panda) – but as I’ve discovered, she’s more than just an outstanding writer and blogger.

Anna also excels as an artist (she does portraits for commission and has even written and illustrated a children’s book titled Maomao and the Nian Monster). A lifelong martial arts enthusiast, she has studied Shaolin-style kungfu (she met her husband Jinlong while training one winter). She has hosted TV shows and documentaries on Chinese television, turning her into a local celebrity (see this adorable video of her and her husband during Chinese New Year). And did I mention she’s fluent in Chinese and went to the finals for the 2014 Chinese Bridge Competition in Beijing, fulfilling a personal dream of hers?

Anna has so many talents and fascinating stories to share, it’s no wonder she has caught the attention of China Central Television, who will be broadcasting a documentary about her life in rural Anhui Province this weekend for the program “Foreigners in China” on CCTV Channel 4.

It’s my great pleasure to feature Anna Zech through this interview.

When I was young and practicing

Here’s Anna’s bio from her blog, China’s Lost Panda:

Anna is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture. She was born in Russia, grew up in Germany and studied in the UK. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and graduated with a masters degree in China and International Relations from London University in 2014.

Following the slogan Home is where the heart is, she joined her husband Jinlong, a Chinese national from Anhui province in his hometown, after living in Boading (Hebei) and Shanghai. Currently they both reside in Bozhou, a city in Anhui province. Being the center of Chinese Medicine and boosting thousands of years of history, Bozhou makes a great place for inspiration….

Aside from her passion for Chinese culture, Anna is spends her free time working on new drawings. Because art and Chinese culture hold such an important place in her life, she has fused her China blog with her art hobby, blogging about her new creations, sharing tips and tricks for beginner artists and gives free tutorials in traditional art, eg. pencil portraits, pastel or marker paintings.

You can find out more about Anna and her husband, and read Anna’s blog, at China’s Lost Panda. Visit Anna Z. Art to learn more about her artwork and how to commission Anna to do a portrait for you. If you’re in China, catch Anna this weekend on CCTV Channel 4’s broadcast of “Foreigners in China” at 1pm Beijing time Saturday, October 31.


The first time my husband made a move 2010

What originally brought you to China?

I have always been fascinated with martial arts. When I was 13, a friend introduced me to a Kungfu School in Germany. I was hooked from the first day. All my teachers were Chinese nationals from the Shaolin temple, and when they invited a small group to go to China to visit their home town and train in Shaolin, I was the first one to sign up. After this first experience in China I fell in love with not only Chinese martial arts, but also China’s culture, its people and, of course, the food.

A happy new year

How did you end up meeting your husband?

Since my first visit to China to train in Kungfu, I have been coming and going whenever the time allowed me to travel. I remember it clearly. It was 2010, and I was on a university exchange studying in Shanghai. During my university studies I had actually more or less given up on my Kungfu training. But, some strange thing happened that winter. All of a sudden I decided to pack my stuff and go visit my old Trainer. He had opened a new Kungfu school, and I thought I had to check it out. Who would have thought that this decision would change my whole life? I met my husband in that school. He was a good friend of my trainer, and back then teaching a few foreigners Chinese Kickboxing. Even though he was very shy, he still managed to win me over. In the end it wasn’t me who made the first move. And within a month we were a couple. It was never a question for me. I just felt it was right and meant to be. For me, everything that had happened up to that moment was meant to be. It was fate.

Chinese Bridge Competition in Changsha

You had the chance to participate in the Chinese Bridge Competition, and were even flown to Beijing for the finals. What was your most memorable experience in the competition?

The day I started learning Chinese, I have always wanted to one day take part in the Chinese Bridge Competition. I almost gave up on the idea, until last year when my Chinese teacher in London decided to push me to take part. When I won the finals in the UK and was invited to take part in the finals in China, I was actually really surprised.

The most memorable experience was the friends I made with people from all over the world. But, except that, I found the experience quite exhausting. I am fluent in Chinese, but I only speak a local Chinese dialect (blame my husband), and so the competition was my own little hell. We had special Standard Chinese teachers who tried to make sure we only speak Standard Chinese Putonghua. Every time I opened my mouth people started laughing at me. I got very self-conscious and even stopped talking Chinese for a while after the competition. I have now come to terms with my Chinese dialect. After all, where I live, everyone speaks it, and no one looks weird at me for speaking it as well. On the contrary, they accept me as one of them.

Chinese Wedding picture 2012

Many of us know you through your blogs — first, the Mandarin Duck and later the Lost Panda. How did you decide to start blogging?

I have always been writing a diary. I find it helps to structure thoughts. Since my first adventures in China, people had been suggesting I should share my stories with the world. It was 2013 when I finally had the courage (and a little push by my husband) that I decided to enter the blog world. I chose The Mandarin Duck at first because I thought they were really fitting. After all the male and female Mandarin duck look very different, but they still are together; a bit like our intercultural relationship with all its differences. But after blogging for a few months and moving to China for good, I realized it’s not just only about our relationship. Living in China, especially living in rural China has its own obstacles, and problems you have to overcome. And sometimes I just feel lost in this Chinese world of old traditions and superstitions. So, I became the Lost Panda. Who doesn’t love a panda? Now I am sharing the real life in rural China. It’s very different from the big Chinese cities, but it gives a glimpse into an old traditional side of living in China. The good and the bad.

Anna Zech's portrait of me
Anna Zech’s portrait of me

You’re also an outstanding artist and you’ve started selling your work online. How would you describe your artistic style?

I have never formally learned art. Actually, I just learned by watching my mother painting when I was a child. She gave up on art altogether, which is a pity. And to be honest I was on the same path over a year ago. It was my husband who encouraged me to pick up pencil and paper and do something with the gift that was given to me. I have found over the past months what I enjoy most are portraits. I have always been fascinated with eyes. When I was in school, I would draw little eyes all over my homework (creepy yeah). I am still a work in progress. Art is something you never stop improving in. I feel that during the past few months my portrait art has changed a lot. I have found my favourite medium to draw with and am now striving for realism. I want to capture the true character of every person I draw and make the portrait look as life like as possible. I hope I will get more opportunities in the future to practice these skills and share my knowledge I gain on the way with everyone else who is interested. Occasionally I also enjoy the freer art. I do many illustrations for my Lost Panda Blog and I have self-published a small children’s book called Maomao and the Nian Monster. I have so many more ideas and projects I am working on at the moment. Since moving to China, and finally being with my husband every day, I feel like my creativity has reached its peak, and every day I am excited to keep on working hard.

Anna Zech hosting a local TV show

You’ve been a TV host for a local station in Anhui. Could you tell us about how you came to land this gig, and talk about what it was like being a TV host in China?

Being the only female foreigner here in the city it wasn’t that difficult to be noticed. I had been doing a few documentaries with Anhui International TV and through them got introduced to our local TV station. We’ve done a few small shows, like filming me and my Chinese family spending Chinese New Year. Naturally, I am a very introverted person, and it took me quite a bit of convincing to enter the world of a News presenter. The first day they invited me to the TV station, it was supposed to be a simple “Meet and Greet”, where we could get to know each other and slowly get a feeling for what it could be like. As is usual in China, things never are as they say they will be. That Saturday, they put me into new clothes, put on make-up and sat me in front of the camera. I thought they were just testing, and so I complied, reading the lines running in front of me. But when the nice lady said, “Ok, we are done,” I found I out that what we just had filmed would be broadcasted later that day! To the whole of Anhui province! Chinese TV can be chaotic and very exhausting. I have already given up on the News host gig. Without the right support from the TV station, it is impossible for a non-native speaker to read out an unknown Chinese script right off the screen without preparation.

Anna Zech and her husband on Chinese New Year feature

China Central Television Channel 4 will be broadcasting a documentary about your life in rural Anhui Province. What was it like being filmed for China’s biggest TV network?

After having filmed a few documentaries for Anhui International TV, I was really relaxed about the CCTV 4 film crew coming to our home to film another documentary about our life.

I think my husband had different feelings. He hates the camera and always forgets how to speak as soon as the camera is facing him. This, combined with a funny director, made for a memorable experience. They followed us for five days, which was the longest I have ever worked on a TV production. In the beginning I wasn’t sure what there is to film about our life again. We don’t do anything spectacular at the moment. So, I am really curious how they have structured the documentary. Also, they did interview my Chinese parents-in-law and my sister-in-law and my husband separately, so I have no idea what they said and I am very curious to know. It is definitely something you should think about before agreeing to. A film crew will come to your home and film everything from you waking up in the morning, cleaning the house, cooking to how you are with your husband and family. It’s very personal, but I made the decision to join. I think it’s a great way to capture a moment of your life and share it with the world. Maybe even our simple life can inspire someone.


Thank you so much to Anna Zech for this interview! Find out more about Anna and all of her many talents at her blog China’s Lost Panda. Visit Anna Z. Art to learn more about her artwork and how to commission Anna to do a portrait for you. You can buy Anna’s children’s book Maomao and the Nian Monster on, where your purchase helps support this blog. If you’re in China, catch Anna this weekend on CCTV Channel 4’s broadcast of “Foreigners in China” at 1pm Beijing time Saturday, October 31.

I Was Just on TV in China. Now Watch the Show Online!

Jocelyn Eikenburg on CCTV Crossover_closeupChina Central Television just broadcast the episode of “Crossover” on Foreign Wives in China that I blogged about last week, and it’s now available for streaming online. Hooray!

So for any of you out there who wonder what I look like and sound like in person, well, here’s the next best thing. You’ll also see the “magical dress” in action and that lovely pair of earrings that the host Eyee Hsu lent me on the set just before we started filming (see my first post on this TV appearance for the full “backstage” story).

Besides me, you’ll also have the opportunity to meet two other amazing yangxifu: Marie Smurthwaite and Jess Meider (who I just featured on the blog).

Jocelyn Eikenburg on CCTV Crossover

Click here to stream the show online. And once you’re finished watching, sound off in the comments to let me know what you thought about the show!

Watch Me on China Central Television (CCTV) Saturday Sept 26


Back in June, I blogged about being invited to be a guest on the China Central Television (CCTV) English-language show “Crossover” for a show all about the foreign wives of Chinese men.

I’m thrilled to report the show will finally be broadcast in China on Saturday, September 26 at 10:15pm Beijing Time on the CCTV News channel. (Not to be confused with the CCTV 13 channel — the CCTV News channel is in English and it’s listed simply as “CCTV News” without a number.)

Now, I know a whole lot of you out there aren’t in China, but are still dying to see the show. No problem! Just head on over to the “Crossover” website on CCTV, where you’ll find the full episode available to watch online. (I’ll also make sure to post a link to that episode after it’s up on the website.)

To all of you who plan to tune in, thanks in advance for watching! 🙂

Photo Essay: I’m Going to Be on CCTV (China Central Television)!

mmexport1433086245275I still can’t believe I’m writing these words — I’m going to be on CCTV (that’s China Central Television)! Specifically, the CCTV English language show called “Crossover” (it’s a cross-cultural talk show — our episode is titled “foreign wives in China”) which will air sometime in August or September of this year. (I’ll let you know when.)

Back in March, Zhou Lei (the show’s director) introduced herself to me after my appearance at the Beijing Bookworm Literary Festival. She told me she was a fan of my blog and asked if I might be interested in being on CCTV.

Zhou Lei and me.
Zhou Lei and me.


Having spent so many years in China, I know CCTV — and have loved many of their shows. Plus, it’s CCTV! The thought of being on China’s biggest and most important television network sent waves of excitement through my body. So I didn’t hesitate — I said, “Yes, I’d love to!”

In May, I took part in a pre-interview session via Skype with Zhou Lei and Eyee Hsu, the co-host of “Crossover”. Later that week, Zhou Lei sent me an e-mail officially inviting me to Beijing to film a show on May 27 — and offering to cover my travel and hotel costs. (Double wow!) Who could say no to that?

With the invitation in hand, I started thinking about one of the most basic questions — what to wear? Since I didn’t have anything good for TV (and I live in a country where my size, while typical in America, is impossible to buy) I decided to find a tailor who could create the perfect dress for me. With the help of my one of my husband’s close college friends, we discovered this brilliant tailor in the Hangzhou area — she created this lovely little qipao that I dubbed “the magic dress”! I gasped the moment I first laid eyes on it — I just knew it would give me extra confidence in front of the cameras.

The perfect dress!
The perfect dress!

Zhou Lei also sent me an outline about a week ahead of taping the show. That’s when I discovered I would be sharing the spotlight with two incredibly talented young foreign women with Chinese husbands — Jess Meider (an amazing musician, performer, composer and teacher who has made her mark in Beijing as an outstanding jazz vocalist and singer-songwriter) and Marie Smurthwaite (a talented performer and member of a girl group called “5 Spice”). Even better, we were able to connect on WeChat before the program, so I got the chance to know them a little before going on stage.

I was thrilled to be on stage with two talented young women with Chinese husbands -- Jess Meider (left) and Marie Smurthwaite.
I was thrilled to be on stage with two talented young women with Chinese husbands — Jess Meider (left) and Marie Smurthwaite.

Finally, this past Tuesday, I boarded an Air China flight bound for Beijing — feeling thrilled and a little nervous at the same time! (It was my first time on TV, can you blame me?)

I arrived in Beijing Tuesday afternoon and it was dark by the time I emerged from the subway station closest to my hotel. When I walked out, the CCTV Headquarters stretched across the sky, shining like a promise of great things to come.


Zhou Lei had generously checked me into my hotel, the Chaoyang Hotel, ahead of time (thank you so much!) so it was a breeze getting into my room for the night. I spent most of the evening reading through the outline and thinking about how I might answer the questions during our conversation.


The following day, I arrived at the South Gate of CCTV Headquarters at 1pm. The building glinted in the sunshine while I tried not to sweat too much (it was a hot, balmy day — 35 degrees Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit)!


They run tight security at CCTV — and why wouldn’t they? It’s one of the most important buildings in Beijing, if not China. Everyone needs an escort inside and must pass through more than one screening. Fortunately, I ran into Jess Meider at the entrance so the two of us could walk inside together (along with our escort, Jeff Lau). I loved Jess instantly!

The staff brought us into the makeup room, where we were joined by Marie (who I also loved!). I was so grateful that the show’s makeup artists were able to help us with our makeup (I’ve never been skilled in that department!) and hair. Marie also graciously lent me her extra pair of high-heeled shoes, which matched my dress far better than my own pair. Thank you, Marie!

The fabulous makeup artists who made us all look beautiful!
The fabulous makeup artists who made us all look beautiful!

Then it was time to get dressed and enter the “Crossover” TV set. And it’s a funny thing — when I finally marched onto the set and sat myself down on the creamy white couches on set, my nerves were suddenly replaced with this overwhelming sense of excitement.


Having Eyee Hsu as our host made the show. She is so down-to-earth and fun to be around, not to mention incredibly generous. When everyone noticed I didn’t have any earrings to wear (yeah, forgot that one), she immediately took hers out and lent them to me for the show. Thank you, Eyee!

Before the cameras started running, the staff had us adjust our positions (and, in my case, my dress) to look good for the show.

Then before I knew it, the cameras were rolling and Eyee began introducing the show as well as the three of us. We discussed everything from how we met our husbands and cultural differences we’ve experienced to our wedding stories and the differences between dating Western guys versus Chinese guys. During the show, Marie and her husband King sang a beautiful song in Chinese, and later Jess performed an incredible song of her own with her band Chinatown. I was truly blown away with their talent!

Jess performing on stage with her husband, Gao Fang.
Jess performing on stage with her husband (to her right)

Around 5:30pm, we all left the CCTV building together — with my heart dancing from the amazing experience of being filmed for a show. I wished I could have spent more time with Jess and Marie, who were truly delightful company on stage and off. I also wished I had more time to see my friends in Beijing. But I had things to do back in Hangzhou and knew it would all have to wait for another trip to Beijing and another time.

Thank you to everyone at CCTV for an amazing time and I can’t wait to see the episode when it officially airs later this year!