Shanghai Pathways Blog

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


January 2012

Learn Chinese Cooking – Fried Rice

“Have you eaten already?” is a popular greeting among the Chinese. Although it may sound awkward to westerners, when you meet local Chinese, it is one of the unavoidable first greetings. You might think, “Why do you ask me if I have eaten or not?” Perhaps you are wondering if Chinese people want to treat you for a dinner. Well, this sentence is just a polite way to start a conversation – the same thing as saying, “Hi or Hello” in English.

China is a country that pays great attention to courtesy, and the Chinese food culture is deeply rooted in its history. Confucius (551-479 B.C.) said, “The path to your friend’s heart and soul begins from your cooking.” Even now in modern days, dining is still a major “marketing event” to Chinese families, as it is a time when all the family members get together, share feelings and exchange information. Since meals are an important part of life in China, many important business deals are also done at the dinner table.   

Difference between Chinese & Western food

Cuisine in China is a harmonious integration of color, taste and presentation. The Chinese believe the following characteristics outline the basic differences between Chinese and Western food:

·         Several dishes in a meal

·         Diverse and sophisticated

·         Nutritionally balanced

·         Healthy and tasteful

How to cook

Cooking Chinese food is not difficult. The two most important tools in Chinese cooking are a hot stove and a sharp knife. Following the basic cooking rules below, you can master Chinese cooking and surprise your friends.

·         Balance the meat and vegetables in a dish, so that there are an interesting variety of flavors, textures, and colors.

·         Drain tofu before using, so it can absorb the other flavors in the dish.

·         Cut the meat into uniform pieces so that it will cook more evenly.

·         When adding oil for stir-frying, drizzle the oil down sides of the wok.

·         When deep-frying, determine if the oil is hot enough by simply putting a chopstick in the wok. When the oil sizzles around it, you can begin adding the food.

·         When a recipe says to add soya sauce, always use light soy sauce, not the dark one. Dark soya sauce is usually for cooking meat.

·         If preparing stir-fried meat and vegetables, stir-fry the meat first and set it aside. Normally, you will return it to the wok with a sauce during the final stages of cooking.

·         When stir-frying vegetables, cook the toughest and thickest vegetables for a longer period than the softer, leafy vegetables.

·         Always use fresh ginger, not powdered.

·         Use sugar as a substitute for MSG (Monosodium Glutamate).

Start with Fried Rice

Whenever I travel to visit friends, the simplest dish to prepare is Fried Rice – a dish that is always well appreciated. You can’t go wrong with the recipe and everyone can make it work! The following is a basic recipe for fried rice that you can alter to suit your taste.


1 – 2 green onions, as desired

2 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

4 tablespoons oil for stir-frying, or as needed

4 cups cold cooked rice, or you can reduce the amount as needed

1 – 2 tablespoons light soy sauce or oyster sauce, as desired


Wash and chop the green onion. Lightly beat the eggs with the salt and pepper.

Heat a wok or frying pan and add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the eggs. Cook the eggs by stirring until they are lightly scrambled, but not too dry. Remove the eggs and clean out the pan.

Add 2 tablespoons oil. Add the rice. Stir-fry for a few minutes, using chopsticks or a wooden spoon to break it apart. Stir in the soy sauce or oyster sauce as desired.

When the rice is heated through, add the scrambled egg back into the pan. Mix thoroughly. Stir in the green onion. Serve hot.


If you like, feel free to add different vegetables such as tomatoes or potatoes. Remember to cut them into small bite-sized pieces, stir-frying the vegetables first, and setting aside for later mixing.

Chinese Red Envelopes

For Chinese New Year, instead of wrapped-up presents, Chinese children are given cold hard cash inside red envelopes for good luck.

We are practical people.  And who doesn’t like money? 

The tradition of red envelopes comes from a story about a demon who was vanquished during the Sung Dynasty. A young man with a magic sword defeated a demon that was menacing a town. The grateful town presented him with money in a red envelope to reward him for his deed. The color red is associated with happiness and good luck in Chinese tradition. The money was called yāsuì qián (压岁钱), meaning “money warding off evil spirits”, and was believed to protect the kids from sickness and death.

Red envelopes are presented as gifts on occasions that range from birthdays to the Chinese Lunar New Year. They can also be presented at weddings, or simply given at the beginning of a new endeavor, such as starting college. In a professional context, Chinese employers will give their employees a year-end bonus in a red envelope.

I could still recall the excitement on Chinese New Year’s eve: after the big family dinner, my grand parents, uncles and aunties will hand me red envelopes with money filled inside. And my parents would always tell me to save it so I can use the money when I become a big girl.

Of course, every other adult that I meet during the 15 days Chinese new year holiday was expected to give me a red envelope, so there was times that I suddenly filled with a lot of money in my pocket and it became necessary for me to open a bank account for saving…my dreams then were to spend all of these money on some fancy/silly things one day….

The more red envelopes you get, the higher your net worth becomes, that is, until your mother takes them all away and telling you that “I will save it for you!”

Guess what? You will never see these money again.

When money is involved, things become a bit more complicated than usual. As a kid, you will develop a sense regarding who is your favorite aunt or uncle – the one who’s known to give out generous amount in their red envelopes. As soon as the holiday started, you will find ways to visit them by asking your parents indirect questions such as,

“When are we going to visit this or that uncle/aunt?”

And then deny vehemently when your mother accuses you of wanting to visit them simply for the big, fat red envelope you know you’ll be getting.

Later on, your parents will start to tell you that when you grown up, it will be your turn to give others the red envelopes. You also will try and hide your disappointment when your mother strikes some stupid deal with an aunt of yours to NOT give red envelopes to each other’s children.

In China, it was not polit to open the gifts in front of people, and of course you should not opening the envelopes in front of the relatives out of courtesy. Therefore I would stash the red envelopes away, in the pocket of my jacket, then spending the rest of that day thinking of those envelopes and HOW MUCH MONEY in each of them lingered. 

Nowadays, things are so different, I become the ones who will give out money and trying to figure out what is the right amount – when I did the Chinese New Year talk for the Swedish Club in Shanghai, this was a popular question. An even-numbered amount of money is seen as luckier than an odd-numbered amount. The number 4 should be avoided as it has the same sound as “death” in Chinese. In the past, it was okay to give RMB200 in the red envelope, but according to the news report this year, the amount increased to RMB600 due to the living increasing cost in Shanghai.

On China

Started to pay attention to Henry Kissinger after I read an interview artical about him from the RUI magazine, which regarded him as the high-level diplomatic contact between US and China for more than two decades. So his English book about China remains an interests to me ever since.

In this fascinating, shrewd and sometimes perverse new book, it gave people a great understanding about China’s diplomatic history and the development for the past 50 years(with the view of an American). I totally loved the very beginning part of the book which tries to show how the history of China, both ancient and more recent, has shaped its foreign policy and attitudes toward the West, a true master piece with history which was unknown to me  in the past.

In this sweeping and insightful history, Henry Kissinger turns for the first time at book-length to a country he has known intimately for decades, and whose modern relations with the West he helped shape. Drawing on historical records as well as his conversations with Chinese leaders over the past forty years, Kissinger examines how China has approached diplomacy, strategy, and negotiation throughout its history, and reflects on the consequences for the global balance of power in the 21st century.

High-Speed Rail in China

High-speed rail in China refers to any commercial train service in the China with an average speed of 200 km/h (124 mph) or higher. By that measure, China has the world’s longest high-speed rail (HSR) network with about 9,676 km of routes in service as of June 2011 including 3,515 km of rail lines with top speeds of 350 km/h (186 mph). In 2010, the BBC reported that by 2012, China was expected to have more high-speed railway track than the rest of the world combined.

China’s high speed rail expansion is entirely managed, planned and financed by the government. In response to the global economic recession, the government accelerated the pace of HSR expansion to stimulate economic growth. According to China Securities Journal, China plans to invest $451 to $602 billion in its high-speed rail network between 2011 to 2015.

The real-name train ticket policy has been applicable to high speed and bullet trains (C, G, D trains) since June, 2011. From January 1, 2012, this policy applies to all trains in China. The real-name train ticket policy is taken to relieve the difficulty in buying train tickets and effectively stop scalpers who profit a lot in trading train tickets especially during the Spring Festival travel rush every year. Passengers should buy train tickets and get on trains with the presentation of their own valid ID certificates or passport. One valid certificate is allowed to buy one ticket on the same date and in the same train, except for tickets of children with accompanying adults. 

Shanghai is in high-speed heaven: it not only boasts a Maglev, but also features direct HSR links to all major cities in the Yangtze River Delta region.

Here are some of my favorite HSR lines: 

Shanghai – Suzhou
Ticket price: RMB 41-65
Time: Around 30 minutes

Shanghai – Hangzhou
Ticket price: RMB 82-131 
Time: Around 60 minutes

Ticket price: RMB 135-233
Time: Around 90 minutes

Ticket price: RMB 555-935
Time: Around 5 hours

Learn Chinese Cooking – Everything about Jiaozi

Jiaozi (JOW-zah) a Chinese dumpling, is a traditional Chinese food—one of the most widely loved foods in northern China. It typically consists of a ground meat and/or vegetable filling wrapped into a thinly rolled piece of dough, which is then sealed by pressing the edges together or by crimping. Now Jiaozi is widely spread to Japan, Eastern and Western Asia. This is because of many reasons. Here is a list of them.

The Chinese New Year – Spring Festival

The custom of making jiaozi a special dish during the Spring Festival, or the Chinese Lunar New Year, started in the Ming Dynasty, some 500 to 600 years ago. The reason is simple. In ancient China, yuan bao was used as currency before the use of jiao zi paper money. The appearance of jiaozi looks like the V-shape gold and silver ingots known as yuan bao. As the Spring Festival marks the start of a new year and eating the dumplings during the Spring Festival is a metaphor for eating money, people hope that it will bring prosperity and good luck for the forthcoming year. Although time has changed, the tradition has remained, today, jiaozi is considered more as a sign of blessing than of fortune.

History of Jiaozi

In ancient times, Jiaozi’s shape looks like a horn, was called ‘Jiao” (literally “horn”). It was also called “bianshi” (literally “flat food”) due to its flat shape. The term jiao zi has multiple meanings, one of the meanings means “midnight or the end and the beginning of time.” This is why the jiaozi are made the midnight of the last day of the passing lunar year and Chinese people eat it right between eleven pm and one am. Another meaning of the term comes from the literal translation to “sleep together and have sons” which is a long lost good wish for a family. Not only does the shape of the jiao zi resemble the golden ingots, it also represents a crescent moon and symbolizes the hope for a year of plenty. Occasionally people will add specific fillings to select dumplings in order to symbolize certain wishes. Those who receive sweets will have a sweeter life, peanuts symbolize long life, and dates and chestnuts represent the imminent arrival of a son. Because the word “dates” is homonymic with the word “early” in Chinese, so are chestnuts, the syllable “zi” is homonymic with children. The tremendous amount of food prepared at this time was meant to symbolize abundance of wealth in the household.

Rich Chinese families in ancient times would add gold, silver, and other precious stones in their dumplings. To get one of these dumplings was considered good luck. Later this transitioned to adding coins in the dumplings. Copper coins, for example, meant that one would never lack money. In contemporary times, only a few coins were washed and add to the batch of dumplings, the person who discovers the coin would enjoy good luck and make a lot of money in the coming year.

Delicacy & One For All

Chinese dumpling is a delicious food. You can make a variety of Chinese dumplings using different fillings based on your taste and how various ingredients mixed together by you.

Usually when you have Chinese dumpling for dinner, you will not have to cook anything else except for some big occasions. The dumpling itself is good enough for dinner. This is one of the advantages of Chinese dumpling over other foods, though it may take longer to make them.

How to make Jiaozi

Like most Chinese people, I started making jiaozi when I was a little kid in my family. In the beginning, it is more like a game than prepare food. My mom would give me some pre-made dumpling skinsso I do not make a mass with the dough and flour. Just stuff the filling on top of the dumplingskins, fold and close it together, well, it may not look as pretty as my mom’s jiaozi, but it is done and that is what all counts, easy! Most Chinese like me know how to make jiaozi but not many are good at making the skins, which is the hardest part of making dumplings.

Making the Dough & Dumpling Skins:

–  2 1/2 C unsifted flour

–  1/2 tsp. salt

–  1 C boiling water

–  1 Tbsp. lard, cut up into little pieces

Mix the flour and salt. Add the boiling water and stir with chopsticks. Add the lard. Knead all and let rest on a plastic counter under a bowl for 20 minutes.

To make dumpling skins: Break off a piece of the dough the size of 1 teaspoon. Keep the rest of the dough under the bowl. Roll the dough into a ball and then roll out into a 3-inch circle. You may need extra flour for this. Or, use a tortilla press that has been very lightly oiled with peanut oil on a paper towel. This gets you going and the rest of the rolling is easy. To store skins until use, dust each skin lightly with flour and stack on top of one another.

If you are pressed for time, you may want to purchase a package of pre-made dumpling skins (the round ones) from any local Chinese supermarket. Don’t buy the square ones–those are for won-tons!

Making the Filling:

–  1 cup finely chopped Napa cabbage

–  1 lb. lean ground pork

–  2 Tbsp. light soy sauce

–  2 Tbsp. dry sherry

–  1 tsp. freshly grated ginger

–  1/2 tsp. ground white pepper

–  1 Tbsp. sesame oil

–  Pinch of sugar

–  1 Tbsp. chopped green onion

–  1 egg white

–  1 Tbsp. cornstarch

–  1 tsp. salt

–  4 Tbsp. medium chopped bamboo shoots or water chestnuts (optional)

–  2 cloves garlic, crushed

Sprinkle salt on chopped cabbage and let sit in a colander for 30 min. Squeeze dry (either by hand or in a potato ricer) and place into bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix well. Also add a splash of chili paste, to taste.


–  Place dumpling skin in the palm of your hand. Dip a finger in cold water and wet the edges of the dumpling skin.

–  Spoon a lump of filling (approx. 1 Tbsp.) into the middle of the skin.

–  Fold dumpling in half. Pinch top of semi-circle together.

–  Push in on both sides of dumpling, so that the dumpling should look like the letter “I” from the top.

–  Bend one half of each “top” of the “I” and press against middle edge of dumpling. Seal all edges of dumpling.

–  Your dumpling should look like a half-moon with a big bulge in the middle!

– To cook, drop into a big pot of boiling water under they float to the surface. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.


Savory Chinese Money by Arthur Wang, Eimi Watanabe, Alex Lee, Arlene Kim, Hsiang June Chou>

Chinese Dumpling <>

Brits Get Rich in China

Perfect documentary to watch during the weekend, not strictly a serious finance documentary, but particularly relevant in these times as China progresses in its economic evolution, and some parts of this documentary is so real and funny. Indeed, China is becoming increasingly important in global business, and particularly in global finance and investing. China has seen wild gyrations in its stock market, and has rewarded many investors, but what is it really like doing business in China?

The documentary follows 3 British entrepreneurs who go to China to make their fortunes. For those with any interest in China it is a very interesting and at times entertaining film. It reveals how tough doing business in China can be, but it also shows the rewards and triumph of those who make a real go of it. If you’re investing in China or thinking about business in China then you must see this documentary.

YIN-YANG and Five Elements

Different than the horoscope in the West, Chinese people put their fate at the hands of the YIN-YANG scholars as it is deeply rooted in the Taoism, they believed that there are two natural, complementary and contradictory forces in our universe.  Because humans are in charge of all the living species, therefore the third one is named Human. YIN represents the female, negative, darkness, softness, moisture, night-time, even numbers and docile aspects of things. YANG represents the male, positive, brightness, hardness, dryness, day-time, odd numbers and dominant aspects. YIN and YANG are continually in the state of flux and always looking for the BALANCE point. One moves , the other responses. 

These scholars also believed that our universe consisted of five basic elements, which are Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth (Soil). Everything, including humans, in the universe (between Heaven and Earth) must have a relationship with these five elements. So they tried to apply the five elements not only to every physical thing in the world, but also to the Colors, Directions, Seasons and Sounds. They even applied to the Years, Months, Days, Hours, Minutes and Seconds of the  Chinese Calendar. People are able to know their five-element weights from their birth date and time. Based on the combination of these five-element weights plus the concept of the natural phenomenon, they can tell the rise and fall of human destiny (fate) cycle. The “element” in Chinese also means MOVEMENT, CHANGEABLE and DEVELOPMENT. If you want to be a lucky person, you have to move to an environment to bring your five elements into balance. 

For example, trees have their own growth cycle in between Heaven and Earth. Humans must have life cycles similar to those of trees. The seasonal changes affect the growth of trees. Trees grow faster in the spring and slower in the fall. The environmental changes also affect the life of trees. Without adequate sunshine, trees grow too slowly. Too much heat, trees will be dried out. Without water, trees cannot grow. Too much water, trees will be uprooted and afloat. Insufficient earth, tree will not grow tall….

The human life cycle is also affected by the same seasonal and environmental changes. The seasonal changes come from the Sun and Moon which are the clock for the calendars. The Chinese calendar is designed from Sun and Moon plus the Stem-Branch (concept from trees) cycle. Chinese YIN-YANG scholars have for thousands of years applied the Five Elements on the Chinese Stem-Branch calendar. This way humans get their Five Element weights using their birth date and time.

When the seasons and environment change, the Five Elements have certain responses. Humans respond in a similar way. The YIN-YANG scholars made predictions on the human life cycle, from birth to death, by using this natural phenomenon.

Chinese Money Habits – The Salary Question

If you ask a Chinese person in China how much money he or she makes, odds are that person will tell you. Because you are living in a culture where it’s ok for someone to ask you your salary within 5 minutes of meeting you, and that opens up all sorts of doors. It’s like you get this secret peek into the financial lives of everyone you meet, and IT’S OK!

Discussing one’s income is not always a matter of bragging because not everyone is rich. Most of the time Chinese people do this as a way of getting to know another person. Once you speak to people and find out their income they tell you more about how they live.  It is not a rude or bad thing in Chinese culture to talk about money, and sometimes good comes out of it. For example, people might help you to secure a raise after they found out that you are underpaid.

This Chinese money habit may be related to the fact that in the past the gap between people’s salaries was not so large. For instance, some people talk freely about this with their colleagues. Or when friends meet they might discuss whether their incomes have increased or not. If you do not really want to tell people how much money you make, you can give a vague answer like, ‘not much’.

Believe it or not, recently it’s common that some young people would show their salaries on the internet. They may put information about their basic wage, allowance, bonus etc. This helps people learn the income differences among various jobs.

If your friend’s income is very low, they would feel the situation was unfair, rather than feel embarrassed. For instance, the income of those working in the field of telecommunications, the oil industry or electricity industry enjoy at least four times the salary of those common textile workers. But anyway, it’s a way of learning about other people’s lives. Otherwise you’d never know about it.

Meltdown: The Secret History of the Global Financial Collapse

2011 is a very interesting year but there are many questions left behind in China, one major question is WHEN or IF the house price in Shanghai is ever going to meltdown?

Six months ago, Shanghai’s property market was the hottest on the planet. The story was compelling: the most dynamic city in the most dynamic economy, with affluent Chinese from both the mainland and abroad eager to pour their capital into the latest deal. Even foreigners were getting into the act: Morgan Stanley was part of a $90 million real estate fund for Shanghai, and individual Americans were plunking down their bucks for Shanghai flats and houses.

The whole world, it seemed, wanted in on the game. Who cared if speculators were buying and selling apartments within days? Prices had been clocking 30% annual increases from 2002 on.  

To stop the increase, real estate control measures was applied among major cities  in April 2011, and Shanghai is the latest victim of the government’s effort to cool a rocketing economy. Today, not only have prices of some luxury apartments dropped by as much as 30%, but sales volume is off by 70%. A deal on an apartment at Rainbow City Apartment complex: $1,840 per square meter, down from $2,215 in March.

As in every real estate bust, buyers are waiting for prices to fall further, while sellers are unwilling to make additional cuts for fear of fueling the downward spiral. 

So who’s going to blink first? We will discover the answer in 2012 and it is a good time to review what happened in 2008.

Doc Zone has traveled the world – from Wall Street to Dubai to China – to investigate The Secret History of the Global Financial Collapse. Meltdown is the story of the bankers who crashed the world, the leaders who struggled to save it and the ordinary families who got crushed.

September 2008 launched an extraordinary chain of events: General Motors, the world’s largest company, went bust. Washington Mutual became the world’s largest bank failure. Lehman Brothers became the world’s largest bankruptcy ever – The damage quickly spread around the world, shattering global confidence in the fundamental structures of the international economy.

Meltdown also tells the stories of desperate foreclosed homeowners in California, disillusioned autoworkers at the end of the line in Ontario and furious workers in France who shocked the world by kidnapping their own bosses.

1. The Men Who Crashed the World. Greed and recklessness by the titans of Wall Street triggers the largest financial crash since the Great Depression. It’s left to US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, himself a former Wall Street banker, to try and avert further disaster.

2. A Global Tsunami. The meltdown’s devastation ripples around the world from California to Iceland and China. Facing economic ruin, desperate world leaders are at each other’s throats.

3. Paying the Price. The victims of the meltdown fight back. In Iceland, protesters force a government to fall. In Canada, ripped off autoworkers occupy their plant. And in France, furious union members kidnap their bosses.

4. After the Fall. Investigators begin to sift through the meltdown’s rubble. Shaken world leaders question the very foundations of modern capitalism while asking: could it all happen again?

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