China-focused Satire, Social Commentary, Comics and More

Just Another Day at a Chinese School

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Ideas Like Plastic Bags

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Romance of the Western Chamber – a Review

An adaptation of a famous Yuan Dynasty play, the silent film Romance of the Western Chamber offers 45 minutes of jerking eastern theatrical acting, ridiculous head gear and awesome close-up clips of swords clashing. Sources tell us that the original version was nearly twice as long, but the remaining portion did not seem to need anything more. Here is the entire film in case your interest is piqued:

A scholar randomly stops at a monastery to study. There is a girl living there with her family. The scholar falls in love. Bandits come for the girl. “Whoever saves my daughter can have her hand in marriage,” says the mother. The scholar thinks hard. An idea! He sends a brave monk with a letter to a powerful general who comes and defeats the bandits. The scholar is happy and worn out. Crazy dream sequence. “Go pass your exams and my daughter is yours,” says the mother. How do you think it ends?

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INVISIBLE HAND OF MARKET FOUND IN CHINA!


Some Smoggy City, CHINA – While Americans bicker over economic policies and try to disagree on the best way to guide the nation toward prosperity, it seems the object of Adam Smith’s over-referenced phrase has floated across the Pacific to get itself dirty (quite literally) in a different kind of muck. Skeptics will no doubt raise some obvious questions:

1) What good would the invisible hand be in a communist country, where the common good must, by definition, come before the individual? While that is a nice sentiment, self-interest now reigns. The common good is still important, but it has been stripped of its old meaning to be more harmonious with other goods. The hand has been enlisted to guide people toward their own ambitions and desires – whether it be a new bicycle and a steady job or Hummer and designer dog jacket – while another hand, working in unison, waits ready to collect or to swat. It is in the interest of the individual not to be swatted, of course, which encourages one not to be too curious about where everyone is headed or whether or not anyone else is actually with them.

2) How could an “invisible” hand be perceived at all, let alone photographed? The answer to this question lies in the high levels of particulate matter in the air, which collect on the surface (invisible things still have form, remember) of the hand and makes it perceptible to the naked eye (consider what happens in Hollywood films when an invisible person puts on a raincoat or smokes a cigarette). Based on this phenomenon, some analysts suggest that with stricter environmental regulation the hand might actually remain invisible.

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This Ridiculous World Guide: China – Life Stages of a Modern Building

A building is a magical thing. However, as a resident, whether temporary or permanent, getting to know your own building can be confusing, if not scary. At times you may wonder what goes on within its walls, or below the floorboards. You may be concerned about the shifting of doors and cabinets, or the loosening of plumbing fixtures. Do not be ashamed. You are right to wonder. While we understand a little about how and why some buildings are constructed and what makes them deteriorate, much remains a mystery. In our neighborhood we are lucky enough to have three generations in close proximity, which allows us to observe the life cycle of the modern apartment building. Hopefully, through this study, we will come closer to understanding the peculiar nature of these structures, which some of us call home.

click photograph for full image

1. Here is an example of a brand new unit. Note the distinct shine of the tiles, the manufacturer’s wrappings still adorning its features. In fact, it is so new that it has not received its windows or its surrounding pavement, and stands awkwardly amidst its own excess material – but those things will come with time. Soon (sooner than you might expect), this building’s exterior will develop an unattractive sooty coat, and you may discover blackish stains forming below windows. All of this is perfectly natural and unavoidable, just standard signs of existence and occupation.

2. This building may appear very old, but it is not far beyond its adolescence. Unfortunately, the life expectancy for such a structure is currently very low. Note the gray streaks, the sagging paint, and the formations of mineral deposits left by internal water leakage – all signs of an inherent defect. From a distance you may be unable to determine its true color. Up close you may wonder how it stands. Its interior walls, once white, are now scuffed, stained, foot-printed and flaking. Upkeep seems to be a futile struggle – the building’s defense system can no longer repel the dust, there is no hope of retaining heat, and the pipes that carry things in and out must be held in place by crude cement.

3. Here you can see yet another stage of life: the building swaddled in green gaze to hide its nakedness, with a system of long poles to guide its physical development. The true miracle of construction occurs within, with dozens or more worker cells, sometimes referred to as migrant laborers, toiling long hours each day in order to bring this structure to a stage suitable for exposure to the elements. This birthing will come suddenly, and often in clusters of four or more, if not entire neighborhoods. Here we witness the stage of possibility, the stage at which it is difficult to imagine a thing is gray and forlorn as the elder units, a stage at which one can picture whatever one wants beneath the green covering. Appreciate this stage while it lasts.

Location: All over China
Cost: Free
Domestic Attention Level: Highest at the beginning of Stage 1
For more information on this topic: The Art of Architecture in 21st Century Urban China

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What We Could Sell if Only We Owned a Tricycle: Idea 18


Food We Thought Was Toilet Paper

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