Season of Super Savings for Veteran Singles Day Shopper – Pub’d on China Daily

push cart and a white paperbag

China Daily just published my latest column titled Season of super savings for veteran Singles Day shopper. Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve already made my list and checked it twice-my shopping list, that is, for Singles Day, which traditionally falls on Nov 11 each year.

While some have compared Singles Day to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it has since eclipsed those two to generate more sales than both combined, becoming the world’s largest shopping event. It is also the most wonderful time of the year for many shoppers like me, with 2021 marking my eighth consecutive occasion to take part online through Alibaba’s Taobao platform.

After so many years of participating in the shopping spree, I’ve witnessed and experienced how it has evolved over the years, for the benefit of consumers like me.

You can read the full piece here. And if you like it, share it!

P.S.: To those of you participating in the shopping festival, wishing you a very merry Singles Day! 😉

Seeding a Lifelong Love of Autumnal ‘Super Fruit’ – Pub’d on China Daily

sliced pomegranate

China Daily recently published my latest column titled Seeding a lifelong love of autumnal ‘super fruit’. Here’s an excerpt:

The arrival of autumn has left me enchanted once again with its bountiful harvest of pomegranates. And as I savor this gem of the fruit world, I can’t help but reflect on how living in China actually introduced me to the wonders of this unique food.

While pomegranate juice had always been a favorite of mine, for a long time, I couldn’t say the same for the actual fruit. Admittedly, appearances played a big role in my anti-pomegranate prejudices. It’s a bunch of pulpy little seeds, I had thought. How could anyone possibly take pleasure in eating that?

But by chance, my bias was challenged, thanks to a family gift several years ago.

A handful of small, spindly pomegranate trees grow just outside the gate of the family home in rural Zhejiang, and the branches were pendulous with the fruit every fall. So one autumn, my mother-in-law gave me and my husband a bag heaped with pomegranates she had picked herself.

At first, I shunned the seemingly burdensome pile of fruit on our dinner table, as well as my husband Jun’s every attempt to cajole me into taking a bite. But with each passing day, where he continued to nibble on pomegranate and offer me a taste of the seeds, eventually curiosity prevailed.

I popped a handful in my mouth, preparing to be underwhelmed, and instead found myself stunned in the best possible way. The seeds were bursting with that same rich, sweet-tart flavor I had come to cherish about pomegranate juice, except it was superior to anything I had encountered in liquid form. These weren’t a bunch of forgettable, pulpy seeds-they sparkled that day as ambrosial jewels of fruit.

Just like that, one taste converted me into a lifelong fan.

You can read the full piece online — and if you like it, share it.

‘Love Nang’ a Souvenir of Affection from Heart – Pub’d on China Daily

China Daily this month published my column about the “love nang” I carried back from my trip this summer. Here’s an excerpt, which captures the moment when I just boarded my return plane bound for Beijing:

…I was still clutching to my chest a rather unusual package, wondering if it would even fit in the overhead compartment.

It was circular and flat, wider than the car tires on your average sedan, and more than 2 kilograms in weight-too heavy for the plastic bags around it, leaving one set of handles in tatters. Through the layers of plastic bags and the pink brocade covering, I could feel how a few small pieces had already broken off inside. This led me to grip it even tighter, worried it might not survive under the weight of someone’s carry-on suitcase.

After all, this was not your typical souvenir, but rather-as my colleagues had dubbed it-a stack of “love nang“.

Read the full piece here — and if you like it, share it!

My Story Made Front Page of China Daily!

I’m excited to share that my story recently made front page of the China Daily paper! The feature, based on reporting from my recent trip, profiles a number of up-and-coming women I encountered. Here’s an excerpt:

A photograph of 34-year-old Maryam Mamatali is positioned on a wall at a factory run by Nanda New Agriculture Group….

Her smile exudes the quiet confidence of a woman who has risen from working on a milk production line to become manager of an entire workshop.

“Since childhood, I have always been very hardworking. When I joined the company, I was really interested in learning and was a fast learner,” said Maryam, a member of the Uygur ethnic group. “The bosses noticed my progress, so they really believed in me. They felt that I could do this work and shoulder more responsibility, so eventually they made me a manager.”

Maryam, who has been with Nanda for 11 years, said many people admire her for joining one of the largest and most reputable companies in Kashgar.

The job also changed her life in a more personal way-she found love.

“When I joined the company, my husband’s father worked there as a guard. He saw me and introduced me to his son,” Maryam said.

The couple, who dated for just two months before getting married at a ceremony attended by company bosses, now has three children-a son and younger twin daughters.

“This job has been especially good,” said Maryam, whose salary has greatly helped the family. “We have renovated our home into a villa with a small fruit garden. When I have to buy something for my kids, I no longer worry about it, and before winter sets in this year, I’m planning to buy a new car.”

You can read the full story here, along with my reporter’s log from the trip. And if you like them, share them!

Learning To Celebrate Cultural Differences in Birthdays – Pub’d on China Daily

China Daily just published my latest column titled Learning to celebrate cultural differences in birthdays. Here’s an excerpt:

With the arrival of July, the month I was born, conversations at my home have invariably shifted to discussing potential “birthday programs”, as my husband Jun likes to say. ….

This year, he has already begun sketching out details for a birthday trip to the Chengde Mountain Resort, where we can walk together hand in hand in the splendor of the former imperial summer palace and grounds, and hopefully take in some of the picturesque mountain views I’ve glimpsed in photographs online.

But while Jun has approached my birthday like a production, he has often seen his own birthday as just an afterthought.

Read the full piece here — and if you like it, share it!

Guiyang Legal Clinic Serves Up Remedy of Justice – pub’d on China Daily

China Daily just published my latest column titled Guiyang Legal Clinic Serves Up Remedy of Justice, detailing my encounter with a legal aid clinic nestled within a community in Guiyang, Southwest China’s Guizhou province. Here’s an excerpt:

On a tour of the comprehensive service center for the Jinyuan community in Guiyang, the capital of Southwest China’s Guizhou province, the last thing I ever expected our guide to say was, “This is our legal clinic.”

A red sign with the Chinese characters for “legal clinic “hung just above the door, and inside, behind a desk, sat a middle-aged man wearing a military green button-down shirt. As I peered inside, I noted the curious smile on his face, as if he were just as surprised to find a foreigner observing him from the hallway as I was to discover this clinic. Never before had I seen a lawyer within the walls of a community service center anywhere in the world.

“Pardon me, but could I ask you a few questions?” I said to him, as I stepped into the clinic with an outstretched hand and my fascination.

He introduced himself as Liu Yuanhe, the head of the clinic’s legal team and a retired soldier from the People’s Liberation Army. While his career as a lawyer dated back to 1996, when he passed exams to become certified in the profession, he had been involved in legal aid service in the community over the past year. Liu said the clinic, which had officially opened its doors in January, helped people free of charge with anything at all involving the law. While typical cases involved matters like contract disputes and recovering unpaid wages, he emphasized they handled any legal problem and would even file lawsuits, if needed, at no cost. In his view, the work he did at the clinic was part of a selfless dedication to give back to society.

Moreover, he stressed the importance of justice to people’s well-being. “What do people want? They want some form of happiness. What is the essence of happiness? I think it is a kind of social fairness and justice.”

Head on over to China Daily to read the full piece — and if you like it, share it!

Time for Full Reckoning With Anti-Asian Racism – Pub’d on China Daily

China Daily recently published my column titled Time for full reckoning with anti-Asian racism. Here’s an excerpt:

The National Day of Action and Healing on March 26 was launched in the United States to galvanize individuals, businesses and organizations to take steps to tackle anti-Asian racism and hate incidents. As organizers have called for efforts to make streets and businesses safer for Asians, they’re also asking that business leaders work to address the long-standing problem of anti-Asian discrimination in areas such as the workplace. 

I’m encouraged that people are also seizing this moment as an opportunity to shine a light on the pervasive problem of anti-Asian bias, which often acts insidiously through systems and institutions and doesn’t usually produce the kind of shocking video footage that commands more attention in the media.

The 2019 study Discrimination in the US: Experiences of Asian Americans published in Health Services Research found 37 percent of Asian adults said they had experienced racial discrimination. That number jumped to 60 percent for the overseas Chinese in a recent survey highlighted by the US-based World Journal in a March 26 article. Such discrimination may not necessarily inflict physical harm, yet can be devastating.

Imagine being prosecuted by the government for alleged espionage you never committed. Racial profiling under the guise of national security has long threatened the livelihoods of scores of Chinese scientists in the US. Most are familiar with Wen Ho Lee, who was later exonerated, but more recently many others have been wrongfully targeted-including Cao Guoqing, Li Shuyu, Sherry Chen and Xi Xiaoxing.

More often, though, anti-Asian workplace discrimination occurs in subtle ways. Consider the news in February 2021 that Google agreed to a settlement with the US Department of Labor, after an investigation exposed problems including “hiring rate differences “that impacted not only female but also Asian job seekers.

Meanwhile, Asian students can have their education and careers harmed at the hands of instructors and faculty, who may disguise racial animus behind pretextual explanations.

Read the full article here. And if you like it, share it!

Photo credit: John Englart – https://www.flickr.com/photos/takver/24802572641

Nothing Replaces My Cup of Hangzhou Green Tea – Pub’d on China Daily

China Daily recently published my latest column, inspired by a blog post. It’s titled Nothing replaces my cup of Hangzhou green tea — here’s an excerpt:

The arrival of March inevitably turns my thoughts to this tea, as this month sees the first harvest of the spring longjing. The leaves, plucked off the bushes before the coming of Qingming Festival in April, are considered the most tender of the year, and command the highest prices. I’ve sampled it a handful of times, luxuriating in its delicately sweet fragrance and flavor.

Nearly two years ago, I traveled back to Hangzhou for a video shoot that included a visit to the restaurant Charen Cun, nestled within the city’s longjing tea fields. I walked through the terraces of jade-green bushes along with the owner of the restaurant, who had inherited the fields and tradition of tending and appreciating longjing tea from his own father. Hovering over one of the bushes, he pulled a small bunch of leaves off with a gentle tug and placed them in my hands. They were a light and exuberant green, a shade recalling the uplifting joy of warmer spring days and the return of more sunshine. I tucked into my pocket those leaves, which were the most precious souvenir of my trip, a real physical reminder that I had stepped among the fields of my most favorite tea.

Read the full column here — and if you like it, share it!

Staying Single Not Easy: Women Bucking Tradition in China Stand Strong

As International Women’s Day is coming up on March 8, stories of women who stand strong, particularly when it comes to the headwinds of societal expectations on romance, have been on my mind. Not that long ago, China Daily published a story highlighting the challenges that Chinese women in their 30s and even late 20s face when they’re single — and the courage it takes for them to live their lives.

Titled Staying Single Can Be So Demanding, it highlights several singles, including 38-year-old Feng Xin, “the last single person in her group of friends”:

In China, where conformity and traditional family values have always been highly prized, her solo lifestyle is still considered unconventional. ….

…after dinner a few days ago with colleagues, most of whom are in their 20s and early 30s, Feng came across a phrase she had never heard before-mu tai solo. This combination of the Chinese words “mu tai” and the English word “solo” refers to people who have never been in a romantic relationship. “Unfortunately, I am one of them.

When I told my colleagues I had been mu tai solo for nearly 40 years, they looked shocked and sympathized with me,” Feng said. “It was very embarrassing. I just made fun of myself, saying that my new year wish is to find my first love and then experience my first heartbreak.

“There has always been a phrase for single women-sheng nyu, or ‘leftover women’. Now, there is this new one, mu tai solo, which is disparaging. It’s not my fault that I’m mu tai solo, because when love happens, it happens. You cannot force it.”

When she told her mother about this experience, her 67-year-old parent sighed and said, “See, this is why you need a boyfriend to help get you out of this situation.”

Feng said: “But I really don’t think so. I don’t need a relationship to prove that I am one of ‘them’. I don’t want to get married under any kind of pressure. Finding what makes you happy is the most important thing.”

While not single, I can relate to the pressure felt when bucking societal expectations (such as the fact that I have no children). Not everyone ends up living in a way that follows convention — but, as Feng points out astutely in the piece, you don’t have to prove yourself that way. You just have to seek your own happiness, and be content in that.

You can read the full story here. And to all the women out there who read this blog (and the people who love them) wishing you a happy International Women’s Day on March 8!

What do you think?

Despite Tough Year, Guesthouse Still in Business – Pub’d on China Daily

China Daily published a column of mine detailing the story of a guesthouse in Zhejiang province that managed to open and thrive in a tough year. Here’s an excerpt:

“In 2020, the most important thing is not what you’ve already lost, nor what you’ve yet to achieve, but rather what you have now. Let go of the past, and laugh for the rest of your life.”

Yu Jianping, who wrote these words in a post on his WeChat page, might just have been imagining his recent entrepreneurial venture. He and his wife, Huang Li, opened a guesthouse and restaurant in Tonglu county, Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, during the star-crossed year of 2020, but still survived and thrived.

You can read the full piece here — and if you like it, share it!