Monday, March 30, 2009

Photos from my client last week

I had a very busy week. Three groups of clients came to Beijing last week. Every client was happy with my work. One of the clients came here for only two days. I took him to the Great Wall, Ming tombs, Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven.
He was so happy to see those places in Beijing. He is a very good photographer I think!
Please take a look below at the photos taken by him!

This is me at the Forbidden City moat.

Glazed tile with mandarin ducks and lotus in the Forbidden City.

One of my favorite treasure in the Forbidden City.

A corner wall in the City

A copper crane standing front of the hall.

A corner wall again, the wall always with yellow on the top and red with the wall.

National flag on the Tiananmen Square.

The Tower of Buddhist Incense in the Summer Palace.

Summer Palace again.

The Ming Tomb

The Soul Tower in the Chang Tomb.

The Empress crown.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rights of Spring‏ (Part 2)

The need to carry on the fight for rights can also be said for the much more recent promotion (hardly a fight) of gay and lesbian rights. At least the word for homosexual appears in the media now, though very often in a negative way in connection with Aids. One recent popular film, "If You Are The One" even had a small but openly gay role, though it was tinged with rather camp behaviour, thereby reinforcing negative stereotypes of gays. Interestingly, one of the most popular skits in the traditional Chinese New Year's Eve TV show this year featured a young (straight) male waiter, acting in a very obviously effeminate, camp way. However, most Chinese viewers just see a funny character, and would not even have thought of the role as gay, just as they would see men dressing as females in traditional Beijing Opera as perfectly 'normal'. Being gay or lesbian is still unacceptable to most parents who want their children to marry and continue the family line. So strong is this family pressure that online advertisements appeared before Chinese New Year for hiring 'temporary partners' for single people in the cities who then take these pseudo-partners home to show to their parents. This forces many gays into sham marriages, leading to happy parents perhaps but tragically unhappy husbands and wives.

In refreshing contrast to this silence and invisibility, a few brave gays and lesbians dressed up recently as 'married couples' in order to publicise legalisation of gay marriage and the lack of gay rights in general. They gave out roses in the recently renovated Qianmen area close to Tiananmen Square, just behind Mao's mausoleum, where Mao was probably turning in his coffin. There was a certain amount of publicity in the local media, and also many puzzled locals who did not understand what all the fuss was about. This event caused a lot of debate on the internet (as did theTV skit above). On the China Central TV website, an online survey held just after the ' gay marriages' attracted over 82,000 respondents. The results showed 76% accepting gays and lesbians, 93% supporting legalisation of gay marriage and 93% with gay/lesbian friends. These of course represent the views of the up and coming younger generation in China, and not of mainstream society.

It seems that most gays would prefer to lead a quiet discreet life in the shadows and would never dream of taking part in such a publicity event. The government also seems to prefer this, since award winning gay films such as Lan Yu (set and filmed in Beijing) and Brokeback Mountain are still not allowed to be shown in public cinemas (of course pirate copies are available everywhere!). Most gays stay in the closet, and it is this 'invisibility' that reinforces the discrimination against gays and lesbians, and makes the growing Aids problem even more difficult to tackle. So the fight for gay rights carries on.

And for those of you who are men, gay or otherwise, did you know that there is an International Men's Day? Now there's something to celebrate, but not until November 19th.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Rights of Spring‏ (Part 1)

Spring is in the air at last. Not that there are blue skies or flowers in bud, it's just that daytime temperatures are almost into double figures (centrigrade), and bulky down jackets are gradually giving way to more shapely outer garments. Fresh strawberries have been available in the local market for some time, and more seasonal vegetables and fruit are on offer.

It's high time, since it's been a month or so since the official start of Spring, 'li chun' ,on the Chinese calendar. Ten days ago we celebrated the 'long taitou' (rise of the dragon's head) or Spring Dragon Festival on the second day of the second month, when farmers offer a pig's head to the Dragon King in charge of spring rains so as to get a good harvest. People eat spring pancakes ('chun bing'), a cousin of the spring roll, representing the dragon's scales, or noodles representing the dragon's beard, to mark the occasion. It's also considered a lucky day to get your haircut. A few days ago it was 'jing zhe' on the Chinese calendar, marking the time when all creatures great and small start to come out of hibernation.
The ice on small ponds and canals has already melted. Meanwhile, all big lakes such as at Houhai which were designated skating areas are now out of bounds. The small lake in our compound is still partially frozen over but even the few daring kids here have stopped walking across it as visible black holes appear in the thick ice. Some keen local fishermen have managed to make holes in the ice cover of the nearby Grand Canal and stand there patiently waiting for fish to bite. Yes spring is in the air, and in the water as well!
March 8th marks International Women's Day, so I want to talk about women's rights (Part 1) and also gay rights (Part 2). It's interesting to note that according to the offical International Women's Day website, there will be over 150 events marking the occasion in USA where the whole thing started 100 years ago, more than 200 events in the UK, and only 4 in China, (but I think that is more to do with lack of information on China than lack of interest here). China has always strongly promoted women's rights since 1949 when the Communist government took over.
Mao said "women hold up half the sky' and they certainly seem to do at least half the work! However, as the country has moved from a planned to a market econony, so has the nature of the holiday. What used to be a whole day of special events for female employees organised by the State employer, with free cinema tickets and tea parties, has now been devalued into at most half a day's holiday - work permitting! This year the ‘holiday’ falls on a Sunday, so employers are making even less effort and it's up to the commercial world of shops, restaurants, spas and beauty salons to drum up business by giving gifts or discounts to lure the female consumers.

Women's social status has changed a lot since Confucian times which forced women to be subservient to 3 generations of men, as dutiful daughter, wife and mother. I have met lots of powerful women officials and managers in China and we see more female engineers and bus drivers than in the West. However, traditions are hard to change, especially in the countryside, and in many homes, women still play the role of a traditional wife and mother. Furthermore, despite all the rhetoric, there is less evidence of equality in politics, as is clear in the recent ongoing meetings of the National People's Congress (annual parliament meeting) where female delegates and goverment leaders account for far less than half (less than 20%) of the total. This may be due in part to the fact that less than 20% of Party members are females. Before you shake your heads in disapproval, do you know what the corresponding percentages are for the US House of Representatives, or UK House of Commons ? Well, they are actually surprisingly similar!

Hillary Clinton said during her recent Beijing visit to a Women Leaders Forum, 'change comes from millions of little decisions made by courageous individuals'. And so the fight for women's rights carries on. (end of part 1).