Ctripper posts come to us directly from the good folks at Ctrip, China's top online travel services provider (and proud sponsor of ChinaTravel.net). Stay tuned for Ctrip special offers, travel tips, news on new travel deals and products, and slices of life-in-China from Ctrip staff and interns. Here, Ctrip intern Kealy explores findings like none other that make living in China unique.... >>>
Two words for you: good luck.
After living in the country for nearly six months now, it seems that the more I see and learn about the country, the more I realize how little I truly understand. From the very beginning of my stay in China I found myself marveling over the diversity of life and culture, and confused over the strangeness and uniqueness of it all. More than anywhere else I’ve seen, China is a country of paradoxes— the very rich and the very poor, the very modern and the very traditional— and as such, it can often seem like another planet those trying to learn more.
So, to help those who, like me, are attempting to better understand this place called China, I’ve compiled a short list of some things I’ve come across that enhanced my perspective of the country and its people…
1. The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China From The Bottom Up, by Liao Yiwu
This book is AMAZING. Set up as a series of interviews between the author and various people on the margins of Chinese society, it offers a rare glimpse at China through Chinese eyes. It’s funny, quirky, shocking and heartbreaking, and I learned a lot about the hardship and injustices the country has experienced from Mao-era the present. If you live in China, plan to live in China, or have even a slight desire to understand China better, you MUST read this book. Read an excerpt here.
2. Infographics are always fun, courtesy of the Economist
China was recently projected to be the world’s biggest economy by 2030. But I feel this lovely info-graphic from the Economist does a good job of offering insight into what exactly that means for a country as large and diverse as China. It compares the GDP, population and exports of each Chinese province to a different country. Some provinces by themselves would hold their own in the global economy— Shanghai, for example, has a GDP-per-person as high as that of Saudi Arabia. Yet on the other hand, some provinces fall far below that— like the poorest province, Guizhou, which has an income level per person close to India’s.
3. Radio Free Asia
Radio Free Asia boasts “Fifteen years of bringing free press to closed societies” and is a vital supply for reporting on many of the human rights issues often glossed over by Chinese state-sanctioned news media.
4. Sexy Beijing (YouTube link)
Sexy Beijing is the YouTube Channel of Su Fei, a 20-something waiguoren (foreigner) living in Beijing. Her videos are hilarious and really capture some of China’s idiosyncrasies from a western perspective. Not to mention, her Chinese gives me hope and something to strive for when I’m struggling to stay awake during 8 a.m. Chinese class. This one about English names picked by Chinese locals is one of my favorites.
5. Parks in Shanghai (YouTube link)
Let me preface this by saying I love parks. At home, I go to the park all the time to walk or sit and read. So one day last fall I decided to walk to a local park here in Shanghai to find a quiet place to study. What I learned was that parks in China are entirely different than any park I have ever experienced in America. What I didn’t learn was anything in the textbook I brought with me. Far from tranquil bubbles of nature, parks here are like microcosms of Chinese society, teeming with life and activity— dancing, singing, card-playing, music, kite-flying and Tai Chi. If you want to get a glimpse at real Chinese social life, visiting a park is necessary. For those who can’t physically go, this video does a pretty good job of portraying the unique culture of your average Chinese park.
Looking for more? Check out part two!