Shanghai Pathways Blog

Understand ​China​ ​From the Local ​Perspect​ive

History of Jesuits in China – Part 2

The frontispiece of Athanasius Kircher’s 1667 China Illustrata, depicting the Jesuit founders Francis Xavier and Ignatius of Loyola adoring the monogram of Christ in Heaven while Johann Adam Schall von Bell and Matteo Ricci labor on the China mission.

1685 The first Chinese priest, Gregory Luo Wenzao, OP (1616-1691), is consecrated a Roman Catholic bishop in China. It was not until 1926 that other Chinese priests were consecrated bishops.

The six newly ordained Chinese bishops in Rome after their consecration by Pope Pius XI in 1926. The Chinese bishops are the three men to the far left and far right.

1692 Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) publishes an edict that expresses toleration of Christianity in China. The edict stated that “all temples dedicated to the Lord of heaven, in whatever place they may be found, ought to be preserved, and that it may be permitted to all who wish to worship this God to enter these temples, offer him incense, and perform the ceremonies practiced according to ancient custom by the Christians. Therefore, let no one henceforth offer them any opposition.”

LE COMTE, LOUIS DANIEL Memoirs and Observations Topographical Made in a Late Journey Through the Empire of China,1698.

What eventually put the brakes on Jesuit and Christian influence in China was a bitter controversy within the Catholic Church. The Jesuit missionaries contended that the Chinese public rites and the so-called ancestor worship were only civil in nature and not religious, while the missionaries of other orders insisted they were religious in nature and therefore Catholics should not take part in them.

Church of the Savior, or Xishiku cathedral 救世主堂.

1706 Emperor Kangxi retracts his support of Catholicism because of the Catholic debates over whether the traditional Chinese rites may be allowed for Christians. Most Roman Catholic missionaries are expelled from China.

Life And Works Of Confucius, 1687.

1715 Pope Clement XI in Rome decrees that the Chinese public rites and the so-called ancestor worship are idolatrous and must be strictly forbidden. This was the beginning of a long period of persecution and suppression of Christianity and the influence of the Jesuits outside of Beijing diminished greatly. (Pope Clement’s decree was reaffirmed in a decree of Pope Benedict XIV in 1742. It wasn’t until 1939 that Pope Pius XII finally rectified the decision and rescinded the prohibition.)

History of Jesuits in China – Part 1

Anyone who seriously studies recent China history, its first steps toward the modern world and its place on the international stage will encounter frequent mentions of “western learning”, “western scholars” and “western missionaries”. Among these references one will often find the “Society of Jesus” and “Jesuits”. Most people can guess that these names are somehow connected to Christianity, but beyond this they have little idea.

The Society of Jesus is a religious order of the Catholic Church. The priests and brothers who are its members, commonly called “Jesuits”, are not monks who spend their entire lives in the confines of their monasteries. Quite the opposite, they go to wherever they are needed, use whatever method they feel they can morally use to propagate the gospel and be of service to others.

1540 The Society of Jesus is founded by a Spanish Basque St. Ignatius Loyola 依那爵·罗耀拉. Practically from its beginning, China was a part of its missionary plan.

1542 The founder’s closest friend and dearest companion, St. Francis Xavier 圣方济各·沙勿略, who was to become known as the Apostle of East Asia, sets sail from Portugal first to India, then to Malacca and to Japan, until finally he is on a small island off the coast of China knocking on the door of the nation he most wanted to enter. Death overtook him in 1552 before his dream could be realized.

1552 Perhaps as a special gesture of divine providence, in the very year Francis Xavier died his successor is born, Matteo Ricci 利玛窦, who at the age of 30 manages to enter Canton in 1583 and then after 18 years of wandering in the south finally reachs Beijing in 1601. For 10 years through his formidable knowledge of mathematics and astronomy and his strenuous efforts to assimilate Chinese culture, Ricci’s rectitude and religious fervor were admired by all and deeply impressed the intellectuals. His substantial efforts to promote the exchange of eastern and western ideas led them to realize the interaction of mind and spirit. He shared with them the love of God for all men and for their salvation. The way Ricci conducted himself as a missionary has been followed by all the Jesuits who succeeded him. During the past several centuries, the Society of Jesus from beginning to end has played an important role in dialogue and interaction with Chinese culture, education and religion.

1644 In the first year of the Ching Dynasty, the Shunzhi Emperor orders the missionaries to retain their previous important positions. For instance, Johann Adam Schall von Bell 汤若望 for eighteen years was in charge of the Observatory, achieving the highest possible rank of Guanglu Mandarin(光禄大夫). During the time of the Shunzhi Emperor, about 150,000 Chinese were baptized. By the time of the Kangxi Emperor there were 270,000. (During this time there were already other missionaries besides Jesuits in China.)

1669 Kangxi Emperor appoints the Belgian Jesuit Ferdinand Verbiest 南怀仁 to take charge of the Beijing Observatory. During the Late Ming and Early Ching Dynasties, the influence of the Jesuits was not just religious. Most important perhaps was their introduction of western science, reform of the astronomical calendar, geography, mathematics, medicine, and physics, as well as philosophy, western liturgical music, art, and language. 

Many scholars of Chinese history have said that if the influence of the missionaries in the late Ming and Early Ching periods had been allowed to continue, the course of China’s later history would have been quite different, its entrance into the modern world sooner and the influence of China on the world much greater.

Stories of Chinese Porcelain

​Porcelain, also called Chinese ceramics, is one of humanity’s most ancient inventions. The stories behind this unique and exquisite material are fascinating, detailing how it made its way across the globe and gave the modern world the word “china”. 

The most important difference between pottery, primitive porcelain and real porcelain is temperature.

Porcelain was developed from pottery. China is the 1st country in the world to burn out porcelain. Around the Shang Dynasty, Chinese people were able to fire primitive porcelain. And the real successful firing of porcelain was in the Eastern Han Dynasty

In the Northern and Southern Dynasties, a new breakthrough is the white porcelain. Celadon contains green, blue, yellow, turquoise, and cyan; black porcelain contains brown and black; white porcelain may also be slightly yellow or slightly green.

The difference between them is the iron content in the glaze. 

In ancient times, the raw material ratio and temperature could not be controlled very well, so the glaze color was unstable and had strong randomness.

In the Tang Dynasty, white porcelain reached a point where it could compete with celadon, forming a situation of “South Qing North White“. The southern was Yue Kiln in Zhejiang, and the northern was from Xing Kiln in Hebei. 

There is a famous “Tang Sancai” in the Tang Dynasty. However, it is a kind of pottery fired at low temperature but it has multiple colors.

In the Song Dynasty, the famous “five famous kilns” are Ru, Guan, Brother, Jun and Ding.

“Ru Kiln, Guan Kiln, Ge Kiln and Jun Kiln” all belong to the celadon family, while “Ding Kiln” is mainly white porcelain.

The special one is Jun Kiln. The color of the glaze is determined by the iron content in it, and Jun Kiln added a little copper on this basis. As a result, it turned out a gradual purple red color. People praised Jun Kiln. as “one color into the kiln, come out with a million colors.” “入窑一色,出窑万彩”

Story of Hyland “Bud” Lyon


因为爱情,1934年海岚·里昂(Hyland “Bud” Lyon,1908~1973)不远万里从美国来到大洋彼岸的中国,只为追随爱慕已久的好莱坞明星克莱尔(Dee St.Claire)1925年到1934期间,里昂曾在好莱坞担任过普通演员、特技演员。移居中国之前,他在洛杉矶近郊的柏班克担任专业飞机维修师。P.S.照片里的他真的很帅~ 偷偷流口水。。。







Hyland “Bud” Lyon was a Hollywood stunt man, racecar driver and auto mechanic who became an expert in airplane mechanics in Burbank, Calif., before following a showgirl to Shanghai in late 1934. Once in China, Lyon landed a job as a mechanic for the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), and joined a small community of Americans and other ex-pats who were building China’s nascent aviation industry. Less than a year after his arrival, Lyon was offered a job as mechanic and co-pilot for Zhang Xueliang, [also spelled Chang Hsueh-liang] known as the “Young Marshal,” a Manchurian warlord who was one of Chiang Kai-shek’s most trusted generals.  Zhang was also, however, an outspoken opponent of any appeasement toward Japan.


In April of 1936, unbeknownst to Chiang Kai-shek, Zhang met with Zhou Enlai to negotiate an end to hostilities between the Communists and the Nationalists.  Throughout that year, secret discussions continued, and Zhang’s behavior raised Chiang’s suspicions.  In December of 1936, Chiang Kai-shek flew to Xi’an to test the loyalty of the Kuomintang (KMT) forces under Zhang, and to personally lead an attack on nearby Communist forces. Zhang Xueliang and another General, Yang Hucheng, tried desperately to convince Chiang to join forces with the Communist army to resist the Japanese. When they were unable to elicit a compromise, they took matters into their own hands, and on December 12, 1936, Zhang and his forces stormed Chiang’s headquarters and arrested Chiang, triggering the Xi’an Incident.  

The Xi’an incident was reported at the time as a treasonous coup by Zhang, but it is fairer to describe it as a “forced negotiation process.” Chiang Kai-shek was kept under house arrest for nearly two weeks, during which time Zhang and Yang asked the Communists to send a delegation to Xi’an to discuss the fate of China.  For much of the time Chiang resisted negotiations, until it became clear that his life and freedom depended upon it.  


On December 17, the CPC delegation, including Zhou Enlai, arrived, but negotiations with Chiang were not fruitful. On December 22, Madame Chiang Kai-shek and her brother T.V. Soong arrived to continue negotiations, and on December 24, an informal agreement was reached (though Chiang Kai-shek never officially signed any peace documents). Hostilities between the two sides, however, immediately ceased, allowing for a successful resistance to Japan.

After Chiang’s release, Zhang Xueliang was arrested, tried in a military court, and sentenced to 10 years for his part in the incident, though he wound up spending nearly the rest of his life (until 1989) under house arrest. In the immediate aftermath of the Xi’an incident, Zhang asked Hyland “Bud” Lyon to act as bodyguard to his wife, Edith Chao, and young son, Bobby.  For the next five years, while Zhang was in prison in Shanghai, Lyon piloted the family about, took care of many important domestic transactions and accompanied them on their travels. It is likely that in addition to his duties as a pilot and bodyguard, Lyon also worked for the O.S.S. during this period. He finally left China in 1941, returning to Los Angeles with six steamer trunks full of his personal collection of photography and documents, in addition to a small lockbox of documents.

KFC Pro – Fast Food Revolution

I have to admit that as a Chinese born in the 80s, I do have a complicated “love and hate” relation ship with KFC. It is the very first Western fast food company in China since 1987.  Now has 5,138 outlets in China as of 2017.

Basicly, a good treat in my childhood means going to KFC and order a set of fried chicken… KFC also have tried very hard to approach the Chinese market including offerings such as congee and ‘fungus salad’ and local creations such as the ‘Chizza’ (chicken pizza). Continue reading “KFC Pro – Fast Food Revolution”

The Changing Generation

Yesterday I visited a friend and bought her 6 years old daughter an expensive Mickey Mouse toy from Disney Land.

She just looked at it for one second and then walked a way.


Why this kid doesn’t like Mickey Mouse?  When I was a kid, having a Mickey Mouse would make me feel happy for weeks. Then I realized that she probably has never watched any episodes about the mickey mouse on TV.

Her favourite Chinese cartoon episode is called Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf


Her favourite western episode is My Little Pony


Brand can get old

I made a mistake by assumming kids will always like Mickey Mouse, but it is actually not the case, people in my generation used to watch 2 episodes of Mickey Mouse everyday after school for many years.

Now Disney Land spents billions of dollars in building parks but they forgot to ccoupy the screens.

The real value is not Mickey Mouse, it is the screens and the limited attention of young childern.

Continue reading “The Changing Generation”

Story of Chinese Freshwater Pearls


A long time ago, I got a pearl necklace from my mother. The pearl looks like tiny rices and now it is as old as me…..well, it is at least 20 years old 😉

Since I have been taking quite a few groups to see the pearl harvesting and the pearl factory, my interests towards the freshwater pearl started to grow more and more.And the more I understand it, the more I felt that the change of pearls is almost like the change of China. From low-end products and copy foreign ideas to innovation and become a leader in the industry. Continue reading “Story of Chinese Freshwater Pearls”

Plastic China


Currently the most popular documentary movie in China. The Douban rating for this movie is 9.5, compare with the average Chinese movie rating is just around 5 this year.  Continue reading “Plastic China”

Chinese Woman’s Beauty Change


It is always interesting to see how beauty standards have changed in a country through history.  Beauty does not has a fixed look. It very much depends on when and where you lived. Continue reading “Chinese Woman’s Beauty Change”

The Wechat Era

The New York Times is right about wechat is a “monster” app. As a Chinese person, I am just so addicted to wechat, it is helpful and amazing as it gets more and more interesting every day to watch this app grow and change. Continue reading “The Wechat Era”

Chinese Style Blind Dating


A new dating show is sparking huge controversy online after inviting bachelors’ parents to judge if a candidate is a good match for their son, leaving the audience questioning whether Chinese men are overindulged and their families meddle too much in marriage. Continue reading “Chinese Style Blind Dating”

Chinese Netizens View Towards Donald Trump


The U.S. Presidential election on Nov. 8 was more closely observed in China than any in history. That’s because Chinese people have more personal experience with U.S. life than ever before, from an enormous increase in Chinese visitors stateside — from 400,000 in 2007 toover 2.5 million in 2015, to the rapidly growing ranks of Chinese students at U.S. colleges and universities, a number now exceeding 300,000. Continue reading “Chinese Netizens View Towards Donald Trump”

Women’s Life & Trends in China – Part 1

traditional chinese women

When a son is born,
Let him sleep on the bed,
Clothe him with fine clothes,
And give him jade to play…
When a daughter is born,
Let her sleep on the ground,
Wrap her in common wrappings,
And give broken tiles to play…

From the Book of Songs (1000 – 700 B.C.) Continue reading “Women’s Life & Trends in China – Part 1”

Chinese Parenting Style

Chinese Parenting Style

“Not to lose at the start-point of your children’ is somehow an alarm clock ringing to parents at all the time. In Chinese context, education is a business with the whole family as cooperators.” Continue reading “Chinese Parenting Style”

The Empress of China – Wu Zetian


The Chinese TV drama The Empress of China is hot among audiences recently. Actress Fan Bingbing, who plays the role of Empress Wu Zetian, is a fabulous beauty.

Continue reading “The Empress of China – Wu Zetian”

China’s Idea of Beauty


There is an old Chinese saying; “There are no ugly women in the world, only lazy women in the world.”

Right before the Chinese New Year, my friend Judy told me that she is going to make some changes on her face, I was shocked and confused at the same time. She is already considered as a beauty in all Chinese standards – tall (168cm) with slim figures, super white skin, a ‘melon seed face’ (the English translation would be an oval face, but with a pointed chin), big eyes and small nose with a high nose bridge.

In short, I don’t think that her face needed any extra work. But human nature is never satisfied with what we have. With Judy’s big eye, she wish to forever remove the eye bags, and a cheek filler procedure to add more youth to her face.

After 3 days, she achieved her goal and looked even more beautiful. But the reason why she did this to herself is because her boyfriend told her that she is not pretty enough.

While I mainly using my leg for walk and occasionally running, I was never aware that my two legs could actually qualify as a pair of luxury items – In my friend’s word: “Janny, it is so unfair that I paid over USD2,000 to lose weight and reduced only 1cm of my fat leg, but people like you were just born with a pair of perfectly formed and shapely legs.”

Whenever I think about this, I have to laugh as it looks like I saved a lot of money because I don’t need to pay for my legs. I always admire people who wanted to do more and be better, but I feel that every woman is beautiful, in her own way. No matter if you are fat or thin, white or black, big eyed or small eyed… the beauty is within…. and people should learn that just because a woman is beautiful on the outside does not mean she is beautiful on the inside.

Chinese standards of female attractiveness emphasize height (165 to 170cm), an oval face, long straight hair, wafer-like thinness, a pale complexion, a complete absence of moles and freckles, large eyes with a double-fold or crease in the eyelids, and a pronounced bridge of the nose. Unfortunately, most of these features are not characteristically Chinese at all. The average height of Chinese women is 160cm (about 5′ 3″) as compared to 170cm (about 5′ 7″) for Chinese men.

Modern women in China are evaluated on physical appearance and overall attractiveness against standards of beauty that are based primarily on Western (European) facial features. The most desirable look is actually based on the Japanese animated cute girl – with big eyes, pointed chin, long legs and a very slim body but attached with D size cups.

In their quest to attain these features, more than 30,000 Chinese women flocked to just one public hospital in Shanghai alone over the course of a single year for cosmetic surgical procedures that mostly included blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), rhinoplasty (nose job), malar augmentation (cheek implants), and augmentation mammoplasty. Cosmetic surgery is a USD2.5 billion a year industry in China, and it is growing at a pace of 20 percent a year according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Nationwide most of those having cosmetic surgery fell into two groups: women in their 20s hoping to give their careers a lift or landing a good husband, and women in their 40s who want to look younger. By some estimates about 3 million cosmetic surgery operations are performed every year in China. This is an extraordinary leap from virtually no cosmetic surgery in the 1980s. At the No. 9 People’s Hospital in Shanghai, a double fold operation cost around USD360. Breasts implants cost around USD2,500.

Chinese people believe, “Bigger eyes make you look more awake, more beautiful.” Double slit operations aim to make the eyes pop out and look rounder and more Caucasian.

Due to the “big eye” phenomenon, Johnson and Johnson even created Circle lenses (Meitong), cosmetic contacts which make the eyes appear bigger, brighter, more colorful, and more prominent. These contact lenses don’t correct vision but make the iris of your eye look bigger thereby giving the illusion of having larger eyes. The center of these lenses are transparent, allowing the user to see through them clearly, but there is a color ring around this optical zone that extends out into the white part of the eye. Apparently, the perception of a larger iris equates to the perception of a larger eye. The promise is that you can have larger looking eyes without surgery.

I can’t help but wonder where does this image of beauty coming from? Why some men in China prefer women to be a beauty not to be intelligent. Is it because of their own low self-confidence? Or they can’t have a woman who is more than just a pretty face?

When I started to write about this article, I decided to get my male friends involved. Asking them what they think is beautiful. Surprisingly, none of them showed interests in dating a girl who wears these “big eye” contact lenses. One guy said “I’m afraid they looked quite unnatural and it reminds me of a doll with flat shiny eyes. It sent shivers down my spine.” They actually prefer more nature look and think personality is far more important in a relation-ship than anything else.

So it looks like the guys I have been with are indeed not so superficial, perhaps that’s why I keep them around?! It is so important for me to be with someone who makes me feel good about myself and appreciate what I have.

If you really interested in checking out the standard China Beauty and finding out what type of man are with them, visiting the following places:

The PuLi Hotel and Spa

1 ChangDe Road, JingAn District

Shangri-La, West Shanghai

1218 Middle Yan’an Road

Shanghai IFC

8 Century Avenue, Pudong

From a Chinese Perspective, What Makes a Good Woman?


A few months ago, I saw a Chinese article about what makes a good woman. In short, it says that most of the Chinese men wanted a traditional type of Chinese women as their wife.


“Never open to other people, never open to other man, never go out.

Should give son to the family

Never be angry, always soft and smiling to the man

Never does house work wrong, never burn food”

Over 90% of the Chinese men sadly admitted that they had never met such a woman in their life. Perhaps such a women simply does not exist in the real world.

My first reaction towards it was “Seriously? Are we really living in the 21st century or is it the dark-ages all over again?”

But then, most of my Chinese male friends wish that modern Chinese women can turn back to being traditional again. A common belief is that good Chinese women are not expected to be dominant in the family and capable of everything. Being able to navigate flexibly between appearing strong and weak is thought to be the key of feminine radiance and attraction – not a women who overtakes a man’s capabilites.

In the patriarchal Chinese society, the traditional ideology was that a good woman should follow the “three submissions and four virtues.” The three submissions were that a woman was expected to loyally submit first to her father as his daughter, then to her husband as his wife and to her adult son (the family heir on the death of her husband). The four virtues were women’s virtue (fu de), women’s speech (fu yan), women’s appearance (fu rong) and women’s work (fu gong).

For centuries, the family household in Chinese society was separated between the inner (nei) quarters for the women and the outer (wai) quarters for the men. Outside affairs were not to be discussed in the women’s quarters and inside affairs were not to be spoken of outside the inner quarters.

Therefore, most people believe in the stereotype of good Chinese women, those who are soft, demure, reserved, shy, alluring, and near ethereal-like creatures. But in reality, lots of modern Chinese women are really strong-willed and some men find out that sweet looking Chinese women can even be dragon ladies.

Many Chinese women today enjoy new personal freedoms that were previously, up until very recently, denied to them. Historically in China only the number of a man’s sons would be used to refer to the size of his family. When a woman married, she was expected to leave her family to live with her husband in his hometown, where the wife was subordinate to the whims of her mother-in-law.

Huge change happened following the advent of the 1979 single-child policy. This policy  led to a shortage of prospective daughters-in-law (with parents favoring sons in the womb) and has also produced a generation of doted-upon only-children, many of whom happen to be girls. As a family’s only child, girls are pampered and spoiled in the same way as the boys, especially in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Deprived of sons, parents and grandparents heaped their high expectations on daughters and grand-daughters. The ambitions of Chinese women remain curtailed by family though. It is them, more than men, that are expected to care for aging parents — an entrenched cultural bias.

In China, “the ethos of the last 30 years is that to get rich is glorious, that instinct is surprisingly gender neutral.”

Born as a Shanghai woman, I never experienced gender inequality in my life or know anyone who had a bad family experience just because she is a girl. Being a Shanghai girl, we were the only beloved ones and people expected us to be better than our parents. Since a very young age I never ever hid my desire of wanting to excel in school and getting rich in life. Therefore I worked extremely hard and tried my best to have a great career.

To understand what happened with the good Chinese woman, consider these numbers:

  • The number of Chinese women in senior management positions has recently doubled, with 51% of those jobs held by females, in this China stands alone in Asia.
  • Some 550 publicly-traded companies or about 21% have women on their boards. Shenzhen based Ceetop Inc. and China Teletech Holding Inc. are two of the four companies in the world with all-female boards.
  • Half of the world’s self-made female billionaires are Chinese.

This big change has also happened in rural areas. Chang’s book Factory Girls(2008) explores the lives of the factory girls who had migrated from their villages to operate the assembly lines that produce the clothes we wear, the computer parts we need, the shoes, hats, handbags, games, and gadgets that make the Western world go round. They work up to 13 hours a day, live in cold, dirty, overcrowded dormitories and eat poor food. They have no free time, health insurance, holidays or pension provision beyond the paltry state minimum. Five years ago their average wage was between 500 and 800 yuan a month. Today, a shortage of labor means that young women in their 20s, the elite of the migrant workforce, can earn five times as much, or more.

They return to their villages at New Year bearing gifts: anoraks; trainers; sweets; and toys for the children; pretty jackets for their mothers. They also inject unprecedented sums of money into the rural economy. Young unmarried women now subsidize their parents, pay for the education of younger brothers and sisters, distribute handouts to elderly relatives, and command growing respect from the village as well as from their families. Some go back home to settle, bringing capital and putting up glass and stone two storey houses in the country. Factory girls may look victimized to outsiders who take them to be helpless, ill-paid and insecure, easy prey to sexual and financial exploitation, stuck on the lowest and most vulnerable level of society. But that’s not how these woman see themselves. In their own eyes they are proud, resourceful, energetic risk-takers at the cutting edge of a social revolution.

In Evan Osnos’s book Age of Ambition, he noted a large number of ground-breaking women in 21st century China. One real human story tells of Gong Haiyan, born small and sickly in a rural village, her leg and face later crushed in a tractor accident. Despite all that, Gong couldn’t repress her entrepreneurial gene. As a child, she bought and resold ice pops to villagers, mapping out a route of likely buyers and noting, “Whatever you do, you have to be strategic.”

Her mother was so dedicated to her daughter’s education after the tractor accident that she carried her up and down the stairs to classes. Gong later worked on a Panasonic assembly-line before returning to school and excelling in college. Considered ugly and unable to find a mate, she launched an online dating service, thereby breaking into the male-dominated high-tech world. By 2010, she was known as China’s number one matchmaker. She took her company public on NASDAQ and ended the day worth $77 million, shared with… yes, she found one – her husband.

Another one is SOHO China CEO Zhang Xin, the real estate developer who is transforming Beijing’s skyline. Zhang spent her teenage years on a Hong Kong assembly line but eventually made her way to the New York and prominent UK universities, then onto Goldman Sachs.

New job opportunities, better access to education and more equal positions in family life are creating a modern Chinese woman. Like China’s men in this age of self-creation, these Chinese women defied a history that told them never to try. The once “yellowed pearls” are now shining like diamonds!

Writing this article, I felt that perhaps most Chinese men are not yet ready for the modern Chinese woman – the first female generation of the single-child policy. The change is not just in the culture, dress codes, money and social aspirations of the younger Chinese women, it is in their mindset. For the first time in Chinese history women put themselves first, not their man or their relationship. They are now living the sort of lives that men have done for centuries. Who can blame them.

Women have changed. Men now need to as well.

Becoming a “Leftover Women”

Following last year’s article – ‘The Unmarried Crisis in China’, my editor asked me to write another story on the topic of the “leftover women”.

In the beginning, I was not sure what to write about. Then I started to wonder who actually created this crazy concept in China? The research came back with big surprises. In 2007, the Women’s Federation defined “leftover” women (sheng nu) as unmarried women over the age of 27, and China’s Ministry of Education added the term to its official lexicon.

Since then, the Women’s Federation Website has run a number of articles stigmatizing educated women who are still single. Their articles’ headlines scream out like sensational tabloids: “Overcoming the Big Four Emotional Blocks: Leftover Women Can Breakout of Being Single.” “Eight Simple Moves to Escape the Leftover Women Trap.” And my personal favorite: “Do Leftover Women Really Deserve Our Sympathy?”

Ironically, the Women’s Federation is supposedly responsible for “protecting women’s rights and interests.” But instead, they wrote the following:

Pretty girls don’t need a lot of education to marry into a rich and powerful family, but girls with an average or ugly appearance will find it difficult, these kinds of girls hope to further their education in order to increase their competitiveness. The tragedy is, they don’t realize that as women age, they are worth less and less, so by the time they get their M.A. or Ph.D., they are already old, like yellowed pearls.

The above article was actually published on International Women’s Day, 2011 – a day that should have been talking about women’s economic and political achievements. The state media began very aggressively pushing women who are educated and still single, by telling them that they need to lower their sights when they’re choosing a husband, or time will run out for them and they’ll be single forever.

Being over 27, I don’t plan to be single and die alone. But I also don’t wish to jump on the marriage train with Mr “So-so”. In short, I am very well educated and way too independent to be brainwashed by any propaganda.

It is actually very ironic that this entire campaign is targeting so-called “leftover women”, when demographically, there are actually tens of millions of men in China who won’t be able to find brides, and even feel they have to buy brides from countries like Vietnam. According to the State Council, a sex-ratio imbalance causes a threat to social stability and lowers the quality of the general population, which makes it hard to meet the requirements needed for fierce competition and for national strength.

The Chinese government is very worried that educated women are not going to marry at all. It really wants women like me, in particular, to get married and have a child – no more one child policy, better to have two children now. Therefore, the State Council appointed the Women’s Federation as a primary implementer of its population planning policy.

What better way to upgrade population quality than to frighten “high-quality leftover” women into marrying and having a child for the good of the nation?

The main reason many girls become leftover women is that their standards for a partner are too high If girls are not too picky, finding a partner should be as easy as blowing away a speck of dust

The Women’s Federation columns on sheng nu all share the same goal; convince single, educated women to stop being so ambitious and get married immediately. They even list helpful tips, such as “seduce but don’t pester” and “be persistent but not willful”:

When holding out for a man, if you say he must be rich and brilliant, romantic and hardworking … this is just being willful. Does this kind of perfect man exist? Maybe he does exist, but why on earth would he want to marry you?

And once a “leftover” woman finds marital bliss, what should she do if her husband has an affair?

When you find out that he is having an affair, you may be in a towering rage, but you must know that if you make a fuss, you are denying the man face … No man is capable of spending a lifetime being loyal to an outmoded wife who never changes … Try changing your hairstyle or your fashion. Women must constantly change for the better.

In short, it’s the woman’s fault for refusing to get married, and once she is married, it’s the woman’s fault if her husband has an affair. Of course.

As a child who was brought up in the communist system, I used to look up to Chairman Mao as a God, I used to believe everything in this country is correct and perfect – well, they fooled me once.

During my 20s, I spent the majority of my time learning, traveling and most of all pursuing a good career. By now, I have my own company, make more money than the average man and have a lot of interesting friends who inspire me and keep me busy. Looking back, I don’t think I would have been wise enough to make a good choice, for finding a man who I could spend the rest of my life with, because I didn’t even know what kind of life I wanted at that young age.

Now at 30, I have a bit more experience to know what the most important qualities of a lifelong partner are. Also now, I find myself more popular and patient and much more willing to learn and understand how to interact in a relation-ship. Very luckily, my parents never pushed me into marriage or set up any blind dating for me.

Here comes the question. What does a “leftover woman” really want in a man? Or why aren’t they married?

I believe there are quite a lot of reasons and possible answers, but certainly it is because women’s status is improving compared to the past. Not only can women take care of the household work, but a woman can also run a business, drive a car, repair machines, and now it is even possible to have a baby by browsing through a sperm bank’s catalog! Instead of the “WE” thinking, the Chinese woman is now much more “ME” thinking.

If marriage is good for me, then I’ll marry, if marriage is not good for me, why should I? I will only marry if a man can give me A LOT of love or A LOT of money!

My friend Lily, who is 36 years old, very pretty and successful, said, after a 10 year long marriage, she divorced her husband because he did not give her love or money. She realized that this would never change, and she doesn’t want to stay with the “mistake” for ever.

To end our story and give some advice/hope to the men, here is an interesting suggestion from a famous talk show in China.

‘For men to remember, if a women is looking for money, and you can give her enough money, then she wont be unhappy if you have affairs with other women. If a women is looking for love, and you give her enough love, then she wont look down on you because you dont have enough money. If you cant give her money or love, but ask her to accept your flirting, laziness and cheating. Then I am sorry, what you need is an idiot.’

Incense – A Gife of The Orient

Chinese Incense Ceremony 11

Incense in China is known as xiang. It is composed of aromatic plant materials and some essential oils. For over two thousand years, the Chinese have used incense in religious ceremonies, ancestor veneration, traditional Chinese medicine, and daily life. To most of the modern Chinese people, the culture of incense is always connected with tradition and rather limited to an image of the burning incense sticks inside temples – a symbol of the faithful prayer rising in heaven. However, fashion and beliefs change fast in China, especially among the rich and famous. Just a few years ago, drinking 50 year old pu’er tea and sipping expensive French wine was the ultimate life style. Now, the Chinese elite has moved on to embrace incense and the calming world of Zen. After all, Chinese incense is known to attract divinity – who could resist such an idea?


The release of fragrant smoke when it is burned creates a spiritual atmosphere and masks unpleasant odors. The smoke and fragrance produced aids prayer and helps the believer feel that their worship is sacred and holy.

TIME KEEPING DEVICESChinese Incense Ceremony 7

Along with the introduction of Buddhism in China came calibrated incense sticks and incense clocks. The first written record of them was by the poet Yu JianWu, “By burning incense we know the o’clock of the night, with graduated candles we confirm the tally of the watches.”


Just like with tea and calligraphy, the Chinese developed a sophisticated art form with incense burning called xiangdao. It involves various paraphernalia and utensils in ceramic containers used to burn the incense. Examples include tongs, spatulas, special moulds to create ideograms with incense powder etc., all placed on a special, small table. It is most often used as an enhancement of a personal space to accompany other arts such as tea drinking and guqin playing. Xiangdao enthusiasts seek to finely tune their sense of smell – they play games to see who can Chinese Incense Ceremony 9identify subtle differences between varieties of incense, similar to a wine expert who can distinguish the vintage of a wine from smell and taste.


Some incense woods are extremely rare. For example, agarwood is a prized wood for incense that comes from two endangered species of tree. It’s separated into 6 grades according to its aromatic properties. Agarwood is normally a light color. However, when it’s attacked by mold, the tree releases a dark protecting resin. The aroma of this resin has been prized in Asia since ancient times. Top grade agarwood is saturated in resin, making it hard, dark and aromatic. It costs about $165 US per gram. By comparison, the current price of 24K gold is around $40 US per gram. Most Chinese people have never smelled incense that’s more expensive than gold. The majority of incense sold in Japan is made from more common woods such as sandalwood. By now you must wondering what kind of people are involved in the incense business in Shanghai?

20141110_SEA_incense_0083-37  INCENSE MAKER – MR CHEN

Born into a wealthy traditional Chinese family, Chen Lei made up his mind in childhood, not to follow his parent’s profession as a traditional Chinese medicine doctor. In fact, he didn’t want to work at all! But after making his fortune from running different businesses, he acquired the expensive hobby of collecting high quality incense and ironically his medical background helped him better understand the connection between incense fragrance and how it can benefit people’s health. Retiring very young, he devoted his time and passion to creating a research center for Chinese incense and offering classes to people who wish to learn about it.

THE SCHOlAR OF INCENSE20141110_SEA_incense_0083-232

Zhou Rong Qiao appears to be an idealistic intellectual who is into anything related to Chinese culture. Known as a famous publisher and writer, incense to him is something spiritual which can inspire his writing. His dream is to complete a masterpiece of traditional Chinese incense history, and he is working on it right now. Zhou also owns an incense store in the French Concession area, a popular spot for local writers and intellectuals.

20141110_SEA_incense_0083-289INCENSE TEA MASTER

Zhou Qiong loves Chinese tea but her favorite day to day tea is actually made from incense. Every day, before going to sleep, she puts a slice of incense wood into warm water, boils it for 15 minutes to develop the essences of the fine incense in the water. She uses the incense tea to balance her Qi and energy, it has a warming effect and is especially good for women who have cold hands and feet.

TCM – A Positive Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease


I first noticed my mother’s slowing body movement three years ago. She’s the kind of person who doesn’t spend any money on herself, so it took my father and I over three months to persuade her to visit the hospital.

There, we learnt about Parkinson’s disease. The doctor said that there is no cure for Parkinson’s and every word from him sounded like a death sentence. The solution was to take drugs and increase the dosage over time, but no matter what you do, it will only get worse and the drugs come with many side effects. This came as a massive shock – the thought that my mother would ever get this disease had never entered my head. I had a horrible image replaying in my mind of my mother unable to walk with me again, sadly sitting in a wheelchair. It was as if my mother’s life had been taken away from me. After countless consultations at different hospitals, my mother was in denial, then became extremely upset and lost hope. At this point, I started to look at alternative treatments, trying my best to help her out.


You may think it strange but most Chinese people have never had acupuncture. Ever since the Communist Party’s take over, Traditional Chinese Medicine has been disregarded as primitive witchcraft and almost no Chinese even consider it. Everyone wants a quick cure – fast food style treatment. After learning some of the basics from my teacher Lijie, I decided to give it a try and do acupuncture on my mother’s hand which always shakes. After just one month, her swollen hand went back to normal, and slowly the dark skin color on her hand also disappeared. Right now, you wouldn’t even notice that she has Parkinson’s Disease.

I still remember the first time I put the needle on her hand, she couldn’t feel the needle at all. Now, after 12 months she has sensation back and the acupuncture treatment has reduced from once every two days to once every two weeks.


Moxibustion is a Traditional Chinese Medicine therapy using moxa which is made from dried mugwort. It is primarily used to treat a deficiency of yang energy in the body. Yang energy governs movement and warmth. A deficiency of yang results in cold symptoms.

Since my mother’s body has become slow and inflexible, she always has very cold hands and feet. I chose to use stick moxa as a primary treatment due to the fact that it actually adds yang qi to the body. For around three months, my mother’s hands and feet have become warm again and she never feels “chilled to the bone”, or “cold in the heart” as we say in Chinese.


My mother used to hide the disease from those around her but as time goes on she has started to openly discuss her Parkinson’s with anyone who asks. Sharing her experiences, doing regular exercise and meeting new people has helped her. It was a matter of luck that we met the Qi Gong teacher, Yuan Feng, who was extraordinarily patient with mom. The Qigong Horse Stance helped her with chronic back problems and strengthening her legs. It relieves back pain by realigning the vertebrae, thereby relieving pressure, correcting posture, and allowing the chi energy to flow smoothly through the spinal column, thus healing scoliosis and a host of other back problems. Apart from the above treatment, my mother takes coconut oil to prevent shaking, has a Chinese massage once a week, together with Gua sha and Cupping to help her energy flow.

Parkinson’s Disease took my mother’s normal life away, but has given her back a new one. My family used to be secondary to my work, but now comes first. Because of my mother’s health, I’ve been forced to slow down, lead a healthier lifestyle, learn traditional Chinese medicine and enter a world which is alien to most people. I’ve learned you have to work with Parkinson’s, not against it.

I don’t think too far ahead, but for now, I’m by my mother’s side. She is getting better and is not in a wheelchair. Life is good.

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