Old Nantong in October

Friend lived in this neighborhood 30 years ago, and we go back to everyone’s favorite wonton store. Someone recognizes her and yells: “Hey! Going to eat wonton?!” The store is +50 years old, has no logo, yet you need to queue to get your dish. Plus 15RMB for a bowl of pork wonton isn’t super […]

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A good look at China

路上,乡下,中国 Long rides on the National Day of the PRC are becoming a ritual. 136 km from Shanghai to Nantong today. My favorite part is always the ferry. Cars can choose one of two huge bridges, but not so much for bicycles. The Yangtze river is massive — and because all the passengers walk around […]

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Learning Chinese with Pokémon

After 3,5 years of Mandarin classes I took to Taobao to buy a gaming console to play Pokémon LeafGreen from 2004: 口袋妖怪-绿叶. Here I take you through the process and adventure of learning new words and catching Pokémon. Google spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1GhwzcucQiNB0QzTtAa7mc_Y_16YF0r1Ic9WH1ofS_tA/edit?usp=sharing Spreadsheet tip: – For Chinese to English, use a formula such as =GOOGLETRANSLATE(A1,”zh-CN”,”en”) – […]

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Tiger Cave Mountain

Goujian (who from 496–465 BC was the king of Yue) walked these hills a long time ago. The legend goes that a tiger jumped at him, roared three times and led him to this cave — declared a holy place by Goujian — now known as Tiger Cave (老虎洞) in Wenyan (闻堰镇) near Hangzhou. The […]

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An audience with Zhufa

We’re in Heshang (河上镇) — which basically means ’town on the river’ — and we’re here for the most famous of its 28,042 citizens: Mister Zhufa (朱法). Zhufa is 86 years old but still works every day, and he’s so famous that people drive from nearby provinces to get his advice on Traditional Chinese medicine […]

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Turtles and longevity

“I used to work on a boat and we often ate turtles. And I kept several as a pet. One I had for 50 years, but he grew so big and ate so much. Meat. Too expensive. I didn’t want him anymore, I just ate him. What would you do? Oh, release in the wild? […]

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Dutch dikes along Asian waters

Sometimes, a person does great things abroad and makes history — all while remaining virtually unknown in her or his home country. I guess this happens to some vloggers or gamers now, but my best example would be Henk Sneevliet (马林), who in 1921 guided the formation of the Communist Party of China. Except for […]

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The changing and unchanging of Sijing

Met again with my former design students in the old town of Sijing (古镇泗泾) in Shanghai’s Songjiang district. With the help of the local government, the area is being renovated into a cultural hub with their studio at the center. My former students may still call me 老师 (teacher) but we’re equals now. They’ve graduated, […]

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Shanghai before the foreigners

Open any history book or article about Shanghai and you’ll probably read something condescending along the lines of “Shanghai was a backwater fishing village until the foreigners came in the 19th century.” And it evokes a visual image of fishermen on the banks of an empty yet huge river delta, ready to be modeled by […]

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The ancient merchant trail

Chinese characters allow for elegant naming. Just take a character from each destination and add what it is. The highway from Jiading to Songjiang: 嘉松公路 (JiaSong Highway). The bridge from Suzhou to Nantong: 苏通桥 (SuTong Bridge). And there’s the HuiHang Ancient Road (微杭古道). The Hui is from Huizhou (徽州) in the Anhui province, the Hang […]

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