The rarer nature becomes, the more distant we become of it

This is one of the many paragraphs from ‘H is for Hawk‘ by Helen Macdonald that stood out for me and still lingers in my mind weeks after reading it: “I think of what wild animals are in our imagination. And how they are disappearing — not just from the wild, but from people’s everyday […]

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My Chinese parents

(Originally posted on Seventy-Magazine.) I’d like to give an insight on China’s ‘silver generation’, because while China’s younger generations are often in the spotlight, its senior citizens are largely ignored — despite its 150 million ‘members’ having a combined annual income of around 300-400 billion RMB. But instead of some board generalisations, here’s a slice of life […]

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Zwolle in Shanghai

This vinyl record made it to Shanghai and that’s a miracle. It makes me wonder about how this music was composed around 250 years ago in a candle-lit room in Germany, and played over 60 years ago by an Englishman visiting a small city in post-war Netherlands. I wonder about the church that was built […]

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Take a photo of your supermarket

This morning I watched Michael Palin visiting Shanghai in 1988. He just walks around the city of 12 million people and it’s fascinating. At three minutes there’s a car trying to get through a narrow street. At five minutes, a Chinese medicine store. At six, a Chinese duo speaking English and telling Palin they like […]

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The difference between “wang” and “woef”

I’ve now taken two months of Mandarin classes, and last week our teacher taught us the words for cat (māo) and dog (gǒu) — and as a sort of fun extracurricular, she also explained the sounds they make: “miaow” and “wang” — or rather; how those sounds are perceived by Chinese. In the Netherlands, a […]

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Through the open doorway

(A version of this also appeared on China Daily.) I find debates on objective reality not in the least useful, because eventually you arrive at the question whether all of the truths on which we base ourselves are true. And the answer has to be yes. Even if the truths we hold true would be […]

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China’s young identity market

(Originally posted on Seventy-Magazine.) It’s hard to imagine how different China was only fifty years ago. Chinese people largely dressed the same, ate the same food in cantinas and decorated their homes in similar fashion. Few brands were known, most originating from before the Japanese Occupation, the civil war and the tumultuous 50s, 60s and […]

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The blank canvas that is Shanghai

(Originally posted on Seventy-Magazine.) When you look down at the city from the 121st floor of the Shanghai Tower, it’s as if you’re looking at a computer simulation. The view that houses 24 million people is insane. Across all horizons, the skyline is filled with exotic skyscrapers and thousands of high rise apartment buildings, nearly […]

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One big café

There’s anonymity in crowds. The urban cacophony of Shanghai creates a wall of sound that absorbs everything. It’s pleasant, like a big café. And with a population of 24 million citizens, you never have to worry about onlookers, because you’re likely to never see them again. When someone cuts you off in traffic, there’s no […]

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Waves

Last week was China’s ‘Golden Week’, when the country goes on a collective holiday. Traffic jams and popular tourist destinations are filled with crowds. So too on Nantong’s Mount Lang, its pagoda providing a view across the city and the Yangtze river. I explored the place and behind the facade, I found this trashed frame with […]

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