Shanghai Pathways Blog

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


December 2011

No Shooting at Temple

Found it in LinyinTemple – the oldest temple in south of China, over 1300 years old, apparently they don’t want you to shoot(taking photos) at their special temple shop.

Please Vote for Me

It’s about the class monitor elections for a class of Chinese elementary school students in Wuhan.  On a philosophical level, it’s about elections, choice, and the extent to which people manipulate systems.

Actually it is a lot of fun to watch the Chinese 3rd grade students elect their leaders. There are three children involved in the film’s class monitor race: Luo Lei, the incumbent, Cheng Cheng, a chunky little guy with his eyes on the prize, and Xiaofei, a sweet girl whose mother teaches music at the school. Cheng Cheng is the nastiest of the bunch, displaying a disturbing amount of political verve for an eight-year-old. From one day to the next, the same kid will change their loyalty based solely on who’s been the nicest to them that day—whether it’s Luo Lei giving out goodies in class, or Cheng Cheng reminding them that Luo Lei frequently beats them up for disobeying. It gets really confusing once the winner of the election is declared—the classmates don’t know whether they should be crying in sympathy for the losers, or cheering for the one who succeeded, so they do both. And in the end, one of them was able to win by giving everyone a mooncake coupon after the final speech. 

Well, it seems so true that democracy is based on popularity which breeds corruption.

Today, a friend asked me “What is the most popular thing in the world?”

Guess what is the answer?

Guns to Noodles


During a dinner, a friend shared an amazing story with me about Lanzhou La-mian (hand-stretched noodles).

In a country that bans gun ownership, Hualong, in Qinghai Province, was once notorious as China’s “capital of illegal guns.” It is an impoverished county with a predominantly Hui population, a Muslim ethnic group in China. There are 250,000 residents and about 37 percent of them lived under the state poverty line, or with an annual income less than 1,196 yuan, by the end of 2009.

Locals say many of their fathers’ generation had worked in ammunition factories during the reign of the warlords, before the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The factories were closed, but employees took home their skills. Gun trade prospered in the 1990s as strong demand pushed up gun prices on the black market.

The “Made in Hualong” brand is well-known in the criminal circle. A pistol can sell for around 20,000 yuan (2,941 U.S. dollars) in coastal cities of affluent east China, about 20 times the cost of its manufacture.

In order to stop the gun trade, Chinese Gov started a successful campaign to help impoverished farmers start up Muslim beef noodle restaurants which become the key to stopping gun-related crime and poverty – the government began to train jobless locals as la-mian chefs in 2007. In just three months, the trainees can learn the magic of hand stretching and a recipe for tasty noodle soups.

Loans are also given to families wanting to run la-mian stalls in big cities. Liaison offices have been set up across the country to help migrants adapt to their new environment — from getting a business license to sending their kids to good schools.

Therefore Hualong has become China’s major source of chefs making “la-mian” hand-stretched noodles — popular in many Chinese cities. There are about 10,000 la-mian stalls and restaurants are run by Hualong chefs in 210 cities across the country. And the number is growing.

About 67,000 Hualong people are in the la-mian business and they are expected to wire home a combined income of 300 million yuan by the end of this year.

Ma Helu, who runs a 70-square-meter la-mian stall in east China’s Nanjing City, says life is good as the family of four can earn 70,000 yuan (10,500 dollars) a year after paying rent and daily expenses.

In Hualong, the la-mian business appears to be the recipe to wealth, officials say, and the gun problem serves as the barometer to measure the success of the la-mian drive.

I wish I knew

The name of this film comes from a really old Shanghai song, it is about the past of the city and many of its amazing stories. The more I gets to know it, the more unknown I felt. I think I will NEVER get tired of Shanghai.

I Wish I Knew, it was directed by famous Chinese director Jia Zhangke.  The focus of the film is on understanding Shanghai’s recent history through interviews with people closely related to the past and present stories of this city.  Jia selected 18 individuals to follow, from a pop star to the grandchild of China’s most influential general.  This film won the Keno Pen Award from the Montreal International Documentary Festival.

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