Miànzi: Face

Perhaps no other aspect of Chinese culture gets as much attention or is as difficult for foreigners to understand, as face. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like such a complicated subject. After all, the concept of ‘saving face’ seems like a general human principle, hardly unique to Chinese culture. We all think we know what…

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

To die, to sleep— No more—and by a sleep to say we end The heartache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to—‘tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished! All Shanghai expats have a favorite (and a less-than-favorite) cultural practice they can endlessly discuss – public pajama wearing, street food stalls, and bustling…

Three-Point Turn, Chinese Style

This is a photo celebration of the Chinese three-point turn. There’s no other driving strategy as predictable on Shanghai’s streets as this particular maneuver. A turn missed? (Why not just turn at the next block?) Evading congestion at the upcoming intersection? (There was congestion at the preceding intersection, too.) Left your oven on? (The ayi…

Life Elevated

Landing in Salt Lake City after a long flight from Shanghai is always breathtaking. The valley is wide open, the white salt flats make a striking contrast to the lake, with its hues of brown, blue, green, and red. The mountain ranges lining the valley are snow covered more often than not. Driving away from…

Dear Japan

I don’t know how else to say this: I’m in love. China pales in comparison to you, (not that I expected it to shine). Don’t feel bad; I’ve always had issues with China. I know you and China have had your differences too, (don’t forget, you’ve had differences with America as well), but you’ve come…

40 Ways to Know You’re Back in China

After a lovely holiday break, it’s back in Shanghai. There may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but I could only come up with forty ways to know you are back in China. Here’s something a little less thinky than the dog meat post. Your yoga class is on the 39th floor You think…

Tabletop Taboo

The close of 2017 brought an end to a turbulent year for dogs in the U.S. and Asia.  September was an especially beastly month, as Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump traded jabs back and forth. Kim compared Trump’s U.N. speech to the sound of a dog barking, and needled with a response to Trump’s…

China In Relief

I write this week from Singapore, a city-state that legislates politeness; the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act made it illegal to incite hostility toward most religious groups, and vandalism can beget a caning. Moreover, Singapore fines citizens for jaywalking, importing gum, littering, urinating in public and spitting, misdemeanors that throw China sharply into relief. Singapore is…

Regarding Wulumuqi

Wulumuqi Lu (pronounced WUL-u-MU-chi, or more authentically, UL-u-MU-chi) is the heart and soul of Shanghai’s Former French Concession. Linguistically speaking Wulumuqi is without question the best road name I’ve ever heard. If you say the word aloud—and you should—it will be instantly clear that this is another one of those words that grants pure phonetic…

Biggest, Tallest, Fastest, Highest: China’s Attempt to Beat Everyone

(or) How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Accept China China’s rapid modernization and the rise of its powerful new economy is a topic of deep anxiety for many Americans. The Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” had everything to do with China’s growing influence in Southeast Asia and its economic strength. For now, the US…