In addition, I did two live broadcasts for China Daily from the expo — one on Nov 6, and another on Nov 7. However, those are only available to watch on the China Daily app (which you will need to download for your Android or iPhone, and then search the app to find — use the search term “CIIE” to find expo-related content).
And I’ve also included a number of photos below documenting my time at the expo, including behind the camera (thanks to my colleagues!).
On my first morning at the expo, I introduced the cultural heritage on display at the Meet Shanghai booth. Behind me is a selection of folk paintings done by rural painters from Shanghai.
Also during my first morning at the expo, I continued to show more of the cultural heritage from Shanghai — here I’m introducing Shanghai-style woolen embroidery, also used to make a dazzling picture of the Shanghai Pudong skyline hanging on the wall.
High-tech was a major highlight of the expo, and it appeared in some fascinating forms — such as this device. It’s rideable, and it can also follow you around like a dog. (It even looks like one, with a cute canine design.)
On Nov 7, I completed my second live broadcast at the expo from the food and agricultural products exhibition hall. Here, I’m talking to a representative from CJ Foods, a South Korean brand promoting their foods at the event.
That’s a wrap! Here I am after finishing the second live broadcast on Nov 7 (my final assignment at the expo), along with my colleagues from work.
I’ll be back later this week with a new blog post!
This week, the China International Import Expo opens in Shanghai. And I’m there on behalf of China Daily website to host some videos, which include interviews with companies participating in the event (in its second year).
I’ll be on break from the blog during the week to focus on the video shoots, but will share with you any videos we put online from the event. And don’t worry, I’ll be back next week!
The 2010 animated film “A Jewish Girl in Shanghai” (犹太女孩在上海), the first Chinese movie to take on the Holocaust, puts Chinese-Jewish ties in the spotlight through the heartrending story of a European Jewish girl who flees to Shanghai’s Jewish ghetto with her brother during World War II and finds support through her friendship with a Chinese boy.
This beautifully crafted story offers a rare glimpse of Shanghai’s Little Vienna—the neighborhood where 30,000 Jewish refugees found shelter during WWII. The story centers around the extraordinary friendship between Rina, a feisty and independent European Jewish schoolgirl and A-Gen, a courageous teenage Chinese pancake seller, who teach each other about their different worlds as Shanghai struggles under the harsh Japanese occupation.
According to an interview in Asian Jewish Life with the writer Wu Lin, the film was inspired by his Chinese graphic novel of the same name as well as stories of the Hongkou Jewish ghetto and even meeting a former refugee:
[Wu] was moved by the struggle the Jews endured during that time and saw parallels between their struggles and those of the Chinese against Japan and explains that it was a very hard time for both people in the face of fascism….
“Mutual help and support during the harsh time illustrates the harmony and friendship between the two races,” he says. “Hence I came up with the idea of writing [a graphic novel] to demonstrate this period of history which would also provide more or less positive impetus to the peace of the world.”
While doing some research for a recent article about Rachel DeWoskin’s new book “Someday We Will Fly”, which highlights Shanghai’s Jewish settlement during World War II and Japanese occupation, I discovered there was also a musical drama set in the same era called “Shalom Shanghai“ (苏州河北 in Chinese). It centers on a love story between a Jewish woman and a Chinese soldier, and the complications they faced in the tumultuous times. Here’s the short description a few years back from China Daily:
A Chinese Casablanca, a difficult moral dilemma. 1943, in a Cafe run by a Jewish father and his daughter, came Jewish refugees escaping the Holocaust, Japanese officers in love with western food and beauty, and underground Chinese fighters getting medicine for their comrades. Suzuki pursued Shana, who couldn’t afford to offend him but had in her heart only Song Yao, a Chinese resistance fighter. She had to decide whether to follow her heart or sacrifice herself to save her father. Song Yao was drawn to Shana, but he had a mission he could never overlook. And there was also Ying, a childhood friend and comrade… The story unfolds in English and Chinese, integrating popular Jewish, Hollywood and Chinese melodies from the period.
The only other English-language article I uncovered about this drama appeared in Shanghai Daily, with the title ‘Shalom’ delves into romance during chaotic era. Here’s an excerpt:
Based on a script written by William Sun, a professor with the Shanghai Theater Academy, the bilingual show portrays a love story between Jewish girl Shana and a Chinese soldier. Things become more complicated when a Japanese officer also courts Shana.
Sun says the drama’s scenes are set in a Jewish-run cafe along Suzhou Creek. It explores the intersection of Jewish refugees, Japanese officials and Chinese people co-existing in Shanghai during World War II. It also depicts the life and friendship between local people and the Jewish community during a turbulent period of history, despite differences in language and culture.
Years ago, when Philip Wong of Wongfu Productions cited Meet the Parents as a movie that should have starred Asians in one of the major roles, the universe must have heard his plea. That’s because a new Sino-Russian collaboration How I Became Russian (Как я стал русским), set to hit the theaters here in China on Jan 25, stands as a perfect example of a Meet the Parents-style tale, with a Sino-Russian twist.
The movie’s Chinese name Zhandou Minsu Yangchengji (战斗民族养成记), which roughly translates to “Notes on Battling Nationals”, pits a young Shanghainese man engaged to a Russian woman against his future Russian father-in-law, a nightmare of a man determined to put the newcomer through the wringer to prove his love for his fiancée.
Philip Wong would definitely approve of the casting, as he once stated “the basic premise [in Meet the Parents] of the “outsider” boyfriend meeting his fiancee’s ‘all-American’ family would be even more strengthened if said boyfriend was really ‘different’ i.e. Asian.” In this case, there’s no doubt who’s the outsider — the Shanghainese fellow met and proposed to his Russian fiancee in China, and then they travel to Russia, a foreign country, to meet the family.
And if the trailer is any measure, How I Became Russian also has lots of comedic potential with the hurdles the gun-toting Russian father throws at the Shanghai boyfriend. These include drinking duels with vodka, sweltering in saunas, shivering in the frigid cold and a showdown with an armored tank. The bottom line, like Meet the Parents, appears to be the same — it’s yet another father who doesn’t trust his daughter’s fiancee and will make him fight for the right to love her.
The movie stars Dong Chang (董畅) as the Shanghainese boyfriend, Elizaveta Kononova as the Russian girlfriend, and Vitaliy Khaev as the Russian father-in-law. Learn more about the movie in Chinese on Baidu (where you can also see trailers).
What do you think of How I Became Russian? Would you like to see this film?
An reader, who has asked to remain anonymous, sent me a recent story about a stalker in her workplace in Shanghai.
I didn’t really think about sexual assault for the longest time in China, even though as a woman, it was something we always talked about back home in my Western country. Things often seemed different, even safer, over here. But now I realize I was a little naive, especially after what my coworker told me.
We work at a large company in Shanghai. Most of us are women, the majority Chinese, with a few foreigners like me. And some of us have to work evenings. I do too at times but the night never worried me.
But last week, my Chinese coworker came over to me and said, “Did you hear about the stalker at work?”
I was so shocked she used the words “stalker” and “work” in the same sentence. I mean, this is our office. It had felt so comfortable and friendly most days. And people had to swipe a card to get inside. So how could this be?
She said that the guy is from Shanghai and actually used to work for our company. He got a swipecard from a former employee and then hung out around the building during evenings, when bosses are gone but the evening workers (usually women) are still around. He had swiped his way into our department to harass some of the women. She said he had come to harass women more than once.
My coworker didn’t elaborate on what “harass” exactly meant in, but I could tell from the look on her face that it wasn’t anything good.
But it got worse the other night. The guy followed my coworker all the way to her apartment building. I don’t know if he saw her exact apartment or what, but it was chilling enough to know the creep trailed her.
The news has rattled me a bit. I’ve often bicycled home late at night after getting off at work, and would always say how safe it is because there are so many people out on the streets. Now I’m not so sure.
My coworker said she doesn’t want to work in the evening anymore. And I’m asking myself, should I do the same too?
Recently, I discovered bicyclists in Beijing could no longer have an extra passenger in the back.
While I understood the safety rationale behind the move, I couldn’t help feeling it was the end of an era. After all, some of my fondest memories with Jun happened while I was riding on the back of his bicycle in Shanghai.
We dubbed the bike our “official car”, and Jun would use it to pick me up when I would arrive late in the evening from business trips outside the city. I would message him when I was about 10 or 15 minutes from the subway stop near our apartment, and then he would pedal over and wait for me. No matter how exhausted I might have been, the thought of Jun and our humble little bicycle made me bound up those subway stairs with a bounce in my step.
He would always immediately take my bags for me and place them in the basket, and then I would settle myself on the platform behind his seat, and hug him with my arms. Riding with him was like an extended embrace in a sense, and maybe that’s why I liked it so much. It was romantic, but with a purpose. After all, you had to hold on to the person pedaling the bicycle for safety.
I think I liked these trips even better because, honestly, Jun didn’t need to pick me up like that. Our apartment was only about four blocks from the subway and could easily be reached in a 10 or 15 minute walk. But Jun insisted on meeting me with that bicycle, regardless. He never made any grand declarations in the process, but he didn’t have to — the whole thing was an act of love.
I understand why things have changed in Beijing. And those changes come at a critical time when motorized vehicles, including scooters, rule the roads, not bicycles.
But this reality makes those memories of riding on the back of Jun’s bicycle all the more precious to me.
Have you ever ridden on the back of someone’s bicycle? Was it ever a romantic experience to you?
Photo credit: By 齐健 from Peking, People’s Republic of China – Down the Hutong, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18200257
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Good evening fellow storytellers. Now you are probably wondering what does this tired looking man in the dusty old coat have to say about a love story between a Chinese man and a French woman. Hell, I look like someone you talk to when you need advice on what gun you should use when you are tryin’ to take down a grizzly bear in the Rockies. Half the time I give that kind of advice. But tonight, in response to another story in this place titled “Crying Over Him“, I feel like I got some’ to say that has been in my memory for the past 15 years.
Now I dabble in writing now and then and even try to work on my own literature. But most of the time I find myself drawn again and ‘gain to that old fifth of Jacks. But tonight I got a true story to tell that brings a tear even to this weathered face time again.
So pull your chairs around the table and get me the barkeep if you will? I’ll take a bottle of Jim Beam and I am buying for the rest of yeh’…
This story is one that my Uncle shared with me about one of the young men on his work team back in 1997. First off, we must realize that Asian men, most particularly Chinese men, are very reserved and self-conscious. As a man of Chinese descent myself I can say that I am no exception. We simply don’t make the “first move”. Especially in this day and age, ANY woman is approached on a daily basis by many creeps and shady men with bad intentions. We DON’T want to be potentially thought of as “ugh, yet another guy is trying to hit on me”. Because the life of most Chinese men revolve around how others think of him, so he does not want to be put in a position where someone may judge him negatively. So most Chinese males do not ask the girls they like on dates, and wait for them to ask first.
Now on to the story. My uncle is an excavation supervisor in one of the numerous ore mines that dot the northern borderlands of the China-Mongolia frontier. In 1997 a new man joined his team. Lets call him Wei, shortened version of his much longer Chinese name. A man from Shanghai, around age 22, whose dream to operate heavy equipment and drive industrial machinery just came true. He was one of the best workers on the team and would be the first to respond to any crisis that occurred, and always exceeded expectations. He was extremely popular with his coworkers, always shared jokes, drinks, and laughs. And a manly man of the truest sense who did not mind going into danger.
Then we found out about Ella. Ella was a French girl who studied in Shanghai. Blonde hair, with the face of an angel. She, in her beautiful sky-blue dress, just did not fit in amongst the backdrop of the harsh ruggedness of the northern borderlands, their ravines of carved rocks and the huge diesel excavators belching acrid smoke into the winter sky. But there she stood, amongst the flashing lights of the rescue trucks and running figures of shouting paramedics and military men, tears streaming down her face.
Ella had met Wei when he was working in a bakery in Shanghai’s Meilong district. She had been living in Shanghai for just over 4 months, pursuing a career in the performing arts. Which was exactly the point of their first conversation, while he tried to fill orders and clean kitchenware at the same time. Their mutual understanding of English helped them out in miraculous ways. Wei loved Chinese TV serials, and the two of them talked about acting and movies in general. Their first conversation became the one of many. They began to see each other outside of work. Usually Wei would take Ella to one of the more traditional restaurants in the area and they would spend long hours simply walking around the town or watch the city skyline from the banks of the Suzhou River. Wei showed genuine care and concern for her, even going of his way to place his jacket over her when a freak snow squall began to blow one day as they tried to make it back home. Despite Ella’s insisting that she was not cold even though all she had was a light sweater, Wei told her to keep the jacket on. He said nothing, even though his shivering betrayed his true condition. But he did not say anything else. And he did not say anything else to suggest that their friendship may progress to anything else. Even though now they began to walk hand in hand and every time they said their goodbye in front of her apartment, he would kiss her hand and press it against his face for a long moment before turning to leave. And each day, Ella would look forward to spending more time with Wei, as we found out afterward. He in turn, as well, and on multiple occasions, showing more concern for her well being than his own. Even though deep inside, Ella yearned for the day Wei would ask her the question, that question never came.
One day, Wei told Ella that he planned to get a “real job” instead of the chump change that retail and food service always is. When she asked him what he meant, he told her that he had scored a position as a tunnel excavator in a firm that was blasting megatons of metallic ore from the long extinct volcanic ridges of the northern high country. He would be leaving soon, embarking by train to his new place of employment up in the country where people always referred to as the “meeting place between Heaven and Earth. He told her that he will write often. The one thing he said before leaving was that “Ella, if you ever feel lonely, depressed or that something in the world is letting you down, don’t, because I will always care about you and be there for you”.
Seven months after Wei had started working in Lower Mongolia and just 2 days after Ella had received his last letter, Wei was rousted from sleep one night by the team foreman. Wei had excelled as a worker and did not hesitate to be coached in a new position as equipment maintainer and diesel mechanic trainee. Well on this particular night in the bleak February of 1997, watchmen had reported smelling hydrocarbon fumes coming from the entrance of a newly dug set of tunnels. One suspected that maybe one of the big Tilley lamps used to illuminate the grounds was leaking from a faulty valve. Wei was told to inspect the premises and check for any sign of trouble. As a backup, Wei had two of the team excavators to go with him in case he need help moving something.
He did not see anything out of place as he went deeper into the shaft, even though the rancid odor of mercaptan was almost unbearable. Then he remembered that no power had been connected to this set of shafts yet and propane was still being used for illumination in the outer vestibule of the tunnel. The black hoses of the mainline led further back into the shaft, and in one of the recesses dug into the walls of the corridor, a large metal door, partly off its hinges and now unmovable due to it being wedged against the mouth of the recess, lay between him and the bulk tanks that supplied the gas to the mantles of the overhead fixtures. The stench was the most profound here and Wei decided that this metal slab had to be removed so he could look at the tanks. Despite the combined efforts of three muscular men, that damned slab just would not budge. Cursing whichever idiot had apparently rammed the door with a hi-lo machine and never bothered to report it, Wei had the door handles attached to a winch that one of the men outside had brought, mounted on the front bumper of a 500 HP FAW ore loader. The chains now connected, Wei signaled for the man in the truck to start the winch motor.
The winch had proved to be extremely effective at removing the obstruction, but it was not really built for this type of work. As a matter of fact, the winch was designed for shunting disabled vehicles or railcars that had no motive power and must be moved immediately. It was entirely too powerful, and before the cries of the frantic men in the tunnel had reached the driver to shut off the engine, the door, along with a section of the wall, had exploded free and was now hurtling towards the opening of the shaft, bulldozing everything in it’s path. The several hundred pound payload struck the support beams of the shaft and they came tumbling down, bringing rocks and cement thundering to the floor. By the time the loader operator had engaged the emergency shutoff and cut the engine, the entire crew of the sector had stumbled out of their bunks, watching a pillar of dust rise from the place where the new shafts had been.
They, the experts in their suits and the military engineers in their green uniforms, had told us that it was by a stroke of luck that the leaking propane had not detonated. That if it did, the firestorm would have jeopardized the lives of everyone in that sector. But was it really good luck for the family members of the four workmen that were in the tunnel when the winch and it’s payload had turned the tunnel into the bore of a monstrous cannon? For the next several days, men, women and children gathered at the mine entrance as rescuers frantically tried to remove the multiple tons of debris that now blocked the shafts. Among those crying for their beloved husbands and sons was a beautiful young French woman named Ella, who had arrived from Shanghai as soon as my uncle had sorted through Wei’s emergency contacts and saw the number listed among those of his immediate family.
They had found him by then, his body crushed into an unrecognizable mass by the tons of cement and steel that came down from the tunnel’s overhead supports. My uncle stood there and watched as Ella, sobbing hysterically, had ran to the tent where the corpses were stored, only to be carried back to the perimeter entrance by soldiers and firemen.
It took this incident, and several more after that, before China’s government began a nationwide campaign to address the lack of regard for safety that existed in a lot of the heavy industrial settings, most particularly in the mining sector. As to Ella, my uncle had never heard from her again, although an English speaking member of the work team had tried to console her when she had arrived at the mine, telling her that Wei was the best worker this company has ever hired. Loyal, faithful, and badass to the core.
I had never met this Wei, and only have heard stories from my Uncle, when I would go visit his ranch house in the borderlands, and we would head to the saloon and guzzle down our favorite whiskeys. I would tell my uncle about my life in the USA, and how the great the hunting and fishing was in the hill country of western Pennsylvania. I would tell him about the guns, the bows, the snowmobiles and the winter nights around campfires with my backcountry friends after a day of stalking for bucks with our scoped Winchesters. He in turn, would tell me about the hardassed old guys in his neck of the mountains that still built bows of steel and bronze that could bring down elephants. But more often than not, he would tell about Wei, and how no one in the team knew he fell in love with a French woman. Whiskey is my favorite drink. In fact, it is the one of the only things I love to drink. The other being hill country homebrew straight from the cabin distilleries of the Appalachian. But no matter how warm the alcohol flowing through my bloodstream makes me feel, I cannot bring myself to think about just what went through Wei’s head the second he realized that something had gone truly and terribly wrong down in that dark and cold shaft deep in the cliff.
Raymond Chen is the author of the graphic novel “Borderlands”, a story about a Chinese student and his beloved Peruvian wife. His harrowing journey through a landscape of death and brutality would become the fight for the survival of an entire nation. The novel is available to read at no charge here: http://blueskycountry.tumblr.com.
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