Chinese Culture: Parks

If you are looking for a place to go where you get to experience Chinese culture, look no further than your local Chinese city park. It is here amongst nature that you will the Chinese cultural traits of: collectiveness and elements of Qi.

img_4243Collectiveness: the park is where groups of people congregate- to dance, to sing, to play sport- usually badminton, table tennis, basketball or a form of volleyball with your feet. This mentality of being part of a larger collective unit underpins the Chinese practice of guanxi, face and the family-principled society.

Qi: The park is a place to practice Qi Gong and Tai Qi Chuan. These artistic flowing movements are the basis of Kung Fu. Chinese people believe water defeats a rock, if you are able to allow an opponent to slip off you, they fill be defeated. Tai Qi is practiced in parks because of the intertwining with nature. The Taoist methodology believes there is a union with the body and nature and states that nature will take its natural course.

I believe these two characteristics are fundamental belief systems for Chinese people and the park is a good place to see them

As for my favourite park: Ritan. It is where a group of Tai Qi Chuna practicers took me in and taught me the virtues of ‘eating the noodles’ to fend off opponents!

Advertisements

MoBike Less Problems

I don’t usually love brands or follow companies religiously, but MoBike is different. Before explaining why here are the bare essentials of MoBike.

MoBike is a bike-sharing App that allows you to access the use of MoBike’s fleet of bicycles around the city. A MoBike is found using the app’s GPS location device. To ride the bike, you scan the QR code found above the back wheel, once your phone acknowledges the bike the lock will automatically come off to open  and free up the back wheel. You are then charged RMB0.5(5pence) for 30 minutes of cycling. To park the bike, you find a free space on a curb, then you lock the lock on the back wheel.

mobile-china-bike-sharing-app-photo-3

MoBike in my eyes has transcended being a brand, it is a lifestyle choice, a city accessory. The beauty of it is its simplicity, its carbon-neutral option, its cool chic yet sturdy design.

In August 2016 it launched in Beijing. Like wild fire, they were all over the city within days.

I had a head-start on this craze. The weekend before I had been down in Shanghai, the first city it launched in (despite being a Beijing company). So enamoured by its design and simplicity, the trip was fondly remembered for downloading this app, paying the 299RMB deposit and trying it out this technological masterpiece for the first time.

So why am I such a fan?

  1. Cool look. The first version of the MoBike was a BMX style model that you see above you. Although riding it was heavy on your thighs, they looked appealing and the rider looked cool. There are many other bike-sharing App companies in China, the biggest competitor being Ofo. I believe MoBike has stolen the market and my heart because of this first version that made riders stand out on the street.
  2. Adaptability. Extended on to Point 1 is MoBike’s willingness to bring out a new style of bike to manage the problem of its first version being tough on your thighs and also being quite pricey. Their MoBike Lite is not only cheaper to use but a much more comfortable ride.
  3. Environmental Footprint. It is a success of the modern day market. Previously the Government had been putting out  bike-sharing stands that were a good initiative but frankly no-one used. Then through ingenuity of its Chinese and former Uber executive founders, the market has given us a better option. The city and its inhabitants can move without making a carbon footprint. The company is making a real impact on city mobility.
  4.  Navigation. What the the government scheme bike stand lacked was a location sensor, you need only take one look on your phone to find a MoBike. There are now 100,000 bikes in each of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, plus they have also launched in 13 other cities in China, soon to be Singapore and further abroad. You do not need to go far to find one.
  5. The last-mile. This is the problem which the company promotes itself at solving and boy it does. Ever been late for a meeting/class/ date? or perhaps you just want to get to a club/concert/ your home a little faster than your legs can carry? By transporting MoBikes strategic points (subway stations), MoBike allows its uses to cut the time of that last mile, giving you back your time.
  6. Chinese. It is often a critique aimed at China’s home grown production, that the country has produced too few Global Brands. This is changing with the likes of HuaWei, Lenovo, XiaoMi etc. However I think MoBike is a brand, that can Go Global*. I also believe is a world changing device because of the impact it has on people’s lives in a city in an urbanising world. It makes it all the more special that it is from China.

 

*There is the problem that all payments for the bike are taken through WeChat.

Women’s Role in China

(While interviewing a University girl:) When men have been drinking they come out with a set of definitions for women. Lovers are “swordfish”, tasty but with sharp bones. “Personal secretaries” are “carp”, the longer you stew them, the more flavour they have. Other men’s wives are “Japanese puffer fish”, trying a mouthful could be the end of you, but risking death is a source of pride. And for their own wives, they are salt cod, because it keeps for a long time and when there in no other food, salt cod is cheap and convenient’

Xinran: The Good Women of China

As adjudged by the above text from Xinran’s revealing and far-reaching book, Chinese women’s social status was very low in the past in China. Women would have no legal rights,  no choice on education or career pathway and little of a societal role.

This is an issue that fluctuated in the 20th century, pre1949, women were either wives or concubines. This led to the horrific, I mean horrific practice of  food binding, that was deemed as beautiful as women appeared as an almost mythical lotus-like creature that would  walk with her dainty footsteps across the Chinese courtyards.

Modernisation came late to China and the role of the women has significantly changed. Mao to his credit emphatically said that women held up half the sky and removed the food binding and other prostitution practices. The opening of the market in the 1980’s and the one child policy reversed this trend as women found themselves a desirable sex.  Women head leading-companies, lead delegations and have much more of a voice across the whole of society.

For me, the women rights movement is more visible in Beijing than in any other city I’ve lived in, probably because there is still such a need for it. Its hard to judge on how this has changed policy at government or corporate or high level, but there is a spreading awareness for women’s issues.

timg

Below are five initiatives I’ve come across since being here:

Beijing Women’s Network

Starting in 2015, this group has grown from an initial 12 sitting around a table to encompass a group of 1200. The Founders Kristen Carusos, Samantha Kwok and Jessie Wang, have engaged this audience by providing fortnightly Spotlight Dinners and monthly business and personal development events. (The latter is open to all members of the public). As a regular visitor to their  sessions I

Women’s Watch

One of the first companies I came across in the hunt to find new Host Companies was Women’s Watch. Li Xia is a retired lawyer who has set up an NGO practice to defend the rights of women in rural areas. Societies outside of the city still persist with age-old traditional views of women that cause them to be mistreated.

Women Entrepreneurs

Set up by Wen Li. Who for want of a better word is pretty direct and has good ideals. She openly criticised the BWN for not achieving alot. She aims with this entrepreneurial platform to incubate young talents. The proof is in the pudding, but with her apparent Government connections and her convinced nature I’m sure something will come of

img_4017

Interviewing Wen Li in December

Starfish Project

Great institution that helps women on the streets to achieve a more meaningful life. The charity openly offers women positions at their office in Wangjing to be educated and to make jewellery that gets sold in the U.S.

Crossroads Centre

Host an annual Beijing Womens Film Festival that gets international coverage and attracts film producers to come to Beijing to show their work. On a day-to-day basis they raise human equality issues to consulates as well as hosting weekly events.

 

For a country to be fully modernised and developed it has to readily accept all different societal groups. Women’s involvement is readily coercive, interdependent with others and in my mind they are the most effective/practical people of getting things done properlhy and efficiently.

 

 

A Zhende 啊真的 Oh Really?

 

My agenda in writing this blog is to give a wider audience an understanding of the goings on in China.

For others it is to have an ‘Oh really?’ moment, to learn something new or to be surprised by a new way of seeing something. Learning how to live in a different manner is the essential skill you learn when you choose to live away.

landscape of modern city ,beijing

Beijing, the capital of China, wasn’t on my world life map when I was younger. It wasn’t even on my mind to live here when I’d come back to China a second or even third China following a year in Shanghai, detailed in another blog.

Contrary to the above picture, I initially viewed the city as cold, vast, and smoggy. I’m happy that these thoughts have now subsided. I now believe it to be full of stories, communal and niche.

For me being planted here is a natural progression of jobs, mindsets and time. My motivation for staying is the pace, the lessons and the attitude.

So this is how Beijing ticks in my eyes….