Posts Tagged ‘shanghai’


Photo: Hanjun
Music director Long Yu with the Shanghai Symphony  This orchestra carried on straight through World War I and World War II. During the Cultural Revolution, they had to play folk songs and songs of revolution. But they played.

This past August the Shanghai Symphony came to Chicago. And thanks to coverage of the visit, I learned something new about a Chinese city I visited in 2007.

Howard Reich interviewed the symphony’s conductor at the Chicago Tribune. “When the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra makes its Chicago-area debut Aug. 16 at the Ravinia Festival, no one will be prouder of the occasion than its music director, Long Yu.

“For to him, the Shanghai ensemble will be more than just a visitor from the other side of the world – it will be bringing with it a legacy stretching back to 1879, when it was established under a previous name.

“ ‘This is the first orchestra not only in China, but in the Far East,’ says Yu, speaking by phone from Hong Kong. …

“In effect, adds Yu, this orchestra ‘introduced most of the classical music to China and to Asia.’ …

“ ‘There is something wrong about how the Western world – I don’t speak about the United States only – the Western world is taking for granted our culture,’ [Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti] said. ‘In China, where we performed in this big (arts) center – where they have theater, concert halls and drama – that is so modern and fantastic, they told me that they are building a new hall!’ …

“Few could have envisioned such an embrace of Western classical music when the Shanghai ensemble was founded. But equally remarkable is the fact that it has survived through so many political, social and cultural upheavals.

“ ‘You can see this orchestra for 140 years, you can find all the programs through the First (World) War, Second (World) War, Cultural Revolution and till today – they have not stopped playing concerts,’ says Yu.

‘Especially during the Cultural Revolution, they still played! They did function in the Cultural Revolution – Chinese folk songs, but they still played. …

“ ‘Today it sounds like a very crazy idea. But during the years of the Cultural Revolution in China, it was fashionable to punish people for learning too much Beethoven, Bach and Mozart. I graduated from high school (in 1970) having been trained as a pianist, but my studies were interrupted, and I was sent to the rice fields for four years of physical labor. The government felt they needed to purify my soul, and they believed physical labor was the best way.’

“Musicians who nurtured Western culture suffered severely. Yang Bingsun, the Central Philharmonic Orchestra of China’s concertmaster, spent ‘nine years and four months in prison, my fingers constantly being injured because I was forced to work in cement,’ he told me in 1987. …

“What a difference a few decades make: In May, the First China International Music Competition launched in Beijing with an unprecedented first prize: $150,000 plus professional career management for three years (second and third prizes were $75,000 and $30,000). … Why have the Chinese put so much muscle behind classical music?

“ ‘To be placed on the international music map in a very serious way,’ Richard Rodzinski, the contest’s general director, told me earlier this year.

“Which helps explain why conductor Yu and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra are bringing their wares here. …

“For his Ravinia program, he’ll feature cellist Alisa Weilerstein in Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and Qigang Chen’s ‘Wu Xing (The Five Elements),’ a kind of East-meets-West program. But unlike some observers, Yu sees fewer distinctions between music-making in the two hemispheres.

“ ‘I don’t like to put Western music or Eastern music, Western culture or Eastern culture’ in categories, he says. ‘People ask me what is the difference between Chinese orchestras and Western orchestras? Basically, no difference. Eastern and Western orchestras do the same things, we teach every orchestra the same way, we rehearse the same way, we do the same programs.’ ”

More at the Chicago Tribune, here.

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Photo: Wikimedia
People who practice reflexology believe that stimulating different zones of the foot improve the function of different organs of the body.

In tai chi, we’ve learned to get the circulation going in our feet by kneading so-called pressure points and massaging from sole to calf. Although I am not sure I buy into the ancient Chinese view that massaging different zones on the foot affect particular organs and improve overall health, I certainly think that stimulating the blood flow in feet is a good idea, especially if you have circulation issues.

Recently, I decided to try a local reflexology place and see if my feet felt happy afterward.

They did.

I had experienced this treatment only once before, in 2007, when my husband was working in Shanghai and I was visiting. Walking around the French Quarter, I came upon a sandwich board outside a storefront. It said “foot massage.” I thought, “Why not?” I was shown along a dark corridor lined with cubicles, not quite sure what I was getting into. In one cubicle, I sat back and took off my shoes and socks. I remember a window. A young woman who spoke no English got to work, first soaking my tired tourist feet. The massage involved her really pressing hard on the pressure points. We communicated with sign language and friendly smiles, and I think we each found the other rather exotic. My feet liked the experience.

My recent experience was both the same and different. The staff spoke a little more English, but not a lot more. The cubicles were dimly lit and comfortable. A bucket of hot water for the feet started off the relaxation process. Soft music played. At first it sounded Chinese, then morphed into “Danny Boy.” I think I dozed off. The pressure that the young woman applied to my feet was gentler than in Shanghai. Very nice. My husband summed it up with an apt quote: “Be jubilant my feet!”

You can read up on the theory behind reflexology at Wikipedia, here. Far be it from me to question ancient Chinese medicine, but whether or not different parts of your sole improve the functioning of kidneys, liver, digestion, etc., I’m pretty sure that, first, reflexology does no harm.

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Libraries are busting out all over. We’ve blogged about the Little Free Library in Cambridge as well as Sam and Leslie Davol’s uni, which got invited to Kazakhstan — not to mention a library housed in an unused pay phone shelter.

Now it seems that a subway system in China is getting into the act.

Writes Zhang Kun at China Daily, “Shanghai’s Metro Line 2 is turning a new page with a library taking literally an online approach. Passengers will be able to select a book at one station, and return it to any of the other stations with customized bookshelves.

“Readers do not have to pay a deposit or any rent for the books and magazines they take. Instead, they are encouraged to donate 1 yuan (16 US cents) to charity at the bookshelf.

” ‘Now you can read a real book, rather than staring at the cellphone through the metro ride,’ said Zou Shuxian, a spokeswoman for the Aizhi bookstore, which initiated the project jointly with Hujiang.com” and the Metro Line.

“The Chinese Academy of Press and Publication released a survey recently that said the general public between the ages of 18 to 70 read 4.39 books in 2012, much fewer than in Western countries.”

The library “has been a resounding success with office workers. Waiting lines have developed during rush hour. … All the books have green tape on the cover to inform people about the program [and] to remind people it is borrowed and should be returned.”

I myself find it essential to have a book with me whenever I take the subway, but that’s largely because I ride the oldest system in America and it’s always breaking down.

My husband, who lived in Shanghai for about a year, says subways there are fast and efficient. I don’t think book lovers will have time to finish their books before their last stop. A lot of green tapes will be going home with commuters. You can’t keep a book lover down.

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I first read about Oliver Radtke and his website dedicated to preserving Chinglish in around 2006. Radtke was alarmed that some of the more charming English translations of signs were disappearing in China prior to the Beijing Olympics. He elicited the help of international visitors to China, requesting them to e-mail their pictures to him for posting. As I went to Shanghai in early 2007, I was able to join the fun. Radtke used a photograph I took of an escalator sign in his first Chinglish book.

My sign said “Keep your legs.” Other samples included signs in parks, like “Show mercy to the slender grass.” Menus, of course, were great hunting grounds, and Radtke posted numerous examples, including “man and wife lung slice” and “advantageous noodle.”

Radtke doesn’t have a corner on the market,, though. Many people have been having fun with Chinglish over the years. Read more at Wikipedia.

Of course, I would sound much more ridiculous trying to speak or write Chinese — or any other language, for that matter. I admire anyone who launches into such foreign terrain. But I do think there is something fascinating and instructive about how speakers of other native tongues use one’s language. I always appreciate the more awkward translations for how they show a different culture’s thinking.

For video examples, see youtube.

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