Guizhou and then Qingdao

Posted in Articles, Images, Uncategorized on June 17, 2011 by ideendiebstahl

I recently embarked upon a journey to the good old mainland. First I went to Guizhou, a place I had never visited before. Of course my flight from Shenzhen to Guiyang was delayed by 2 hours. Paul rightly called them “Peasant Airlines”. I don’t even want to count how many hours I have spent in various airports across China in the last few months… But anyway. I met a nice guy on the plane who had a driver picking him up from Guiyang airport and who could give me a lift to the hotel, so I saved the cap money. Guiyang was nice. A small city (in Chinese terms), but friendly (from what I could tell). Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time the next day, just enough to take a little walk along the river and to look at the (newly established?) “theme park” temple. The most exciting scene was an old couple playing (practising) Erhu and Violin right in front of it. Didn’t expect to see this here.

Then we went to Kaili, an even smaller town. I was preparing myself for a 原生态 feast but ended up singing with a bunch of old people first in some mountain park and then in another “theme park”, this time not a temple but a sort of ethnic museum (in the making). They had prepared a feast and designed a programme for the day and of course somewhere on the list there were 外国人. The songs they sang were a mix of ethnic tunes, revolutionary classics and pop songs. What fascinated me was their skills in organising themselves. What appeared to be a kindergarten-like mess, a hopeless mayhem always magically got disentangled and things just worked out.

And the food was good. Two yuppies (or 暴发户) took us to a restaurant slightly outside Kaili, wow! On my last day, Paul took me a to an almost equally good (and probably 10 times as cheap) 老百姓 place which had equally wonderful food!!!

Interesting was the ethnic identity issue. The old people singing and dancing were a mix of Dong, Miao and Han but no one seemed to really stress their ethnic identity that much (only when we had food at someone’s home, they seemed to emphasise the Dong food identity). Yet, when we were taken around the local university, 凯里学院, a hopeless vestige of true socialism with Chinese characteristics, everything was suddenly about ethnic identity, about authenticity, about being 汉化 (sinicised) etc. I felt sorry for the girls in ethnic dresses (were they Miao or Dong? I cannot recall) who had clearly been chosen for their looks and were to be trained as the new generation of “happy harmonious minorities” appearing on 春节连晚会 and other similar events. I asked which department had most students and it seemed that arts and music (what the ethnic minorities are of course best at) were the biggest departments, perhaps on a level with the Chinese department… interesting…

Here are some photos…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Qingdao will follow shortly…


Something to read

Posted in Articles on February 19, 2011 by ideendiebstahl

About Mu Xiaoping and Mu Jintao…by Perry Link

Middle East Revolutions: The View from China

And how the Dalai Lama communicates with Chinese netizens…also by Perry Link

Talking About Tibet: An Open Dialogue Between Chinese Citizens and the Dalai Lama

Oriental Music

Posted in Music on November 22, 2010 by ideendiebstahl

The other day I read somewhere that there is no Orient. Despite the fact that I would probably agree with this statement, I am now going to post some oriental music just in case there unexpectedly turns out to be such a thing as the Orient. The first song is by Chuanzi (川子) and it’s called Xingfuli (幸福里). The lyrics are funny and couldn’t be any more oriental (see below)


叫幸福里 四万多一平米


我很生气 真的很生气
我很生气 真的很生气




Oriental Pictures Part 2

Posted in Images on August 1, 2010 by ideendiebstahl

The Orient in the Orient

The Orient in Frankfurt 2

Oriental Pictures Part 1

Posted in Images on December 27, 2009 by ideendiebstahl

The Orient in London

The Orient in Malta

The Orient in Frankfurt

The Orient in London

The Catholic Orient in Lyon

The Catholic Orient in Lyon

The Orient in Frankfurt

Posted in Blogroll on November 19, 2009 by ideendiebstahl

I spent four entire days at the Frankfurt Book fair with China as the guest of honour; it is time to reflect.

Cultural exchange between China and Germany (or more generally the West) was the main theme of this year’s book fair. We were to learn more about China and China was to learn more about us. That this is much easier in theory than in practice is nothing new and was once more proven right during the lead-up to the fair when the German organisers and Chinese officials fought a verbal battle over the invitations of two “dissident” writers. The China Beat sarcastically refers to the chaos preceding the book fair as the “Frankfurt book mess”.

Despite all efforts to foster “cultural exchange” and mutual understanding between the two countries, the fair seemed predestined to be a breeding ground for scandals. In fact, people seemed to yearn for the big scandal. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung sounded almost disappointed when during the opening ceremony “the expected scandal did not occur” and provokingly asked: “is it a scandal that there was no scandal?” It felt typically “Western” to fly high the big flag of “cultural exchange” and simultaneously hope for nothing but scandals and heated political debates. For many of us in Germany and possibly for many in other “Western” countries, cultural exchange means telling the Chinese that their government is corrupt, authoritarian and spurning human rights. The Chinese, on the other hand, understand “cultural exchange” as a means to present their five thousand years of beautiful culture and history. Politics and other rather “sensitive” topics are rarely found on the “cultural exchange” agenda of the Chinese. The book fair could hardly reconcile those different understandings of “cultural exchange”. Whereas the Chinese entertained pavilions exhibiting “the beautiful essence of intangible cultural heritage” or showcasing in great detail the beauty of Chinese characters including exhibitions titled “charming China”, German organisers arranged events dealing with human rights, democracy, social unrest and other “hot topics”. It became apparent that simply within the realm of “cultural exchange” and the differing understandings of it, there actually exists a huge cultural gap between China and the West. How is cultural exchange possible if we cannot even agree on what cultural exchange means…

Nevertheless, I set out to investigate. I embarked upon a journey through the eight exhibition halls (three floors in each hall!!!) of the book fair looking for cultural exchange between China and Germany (or the West). A quick flick through the 707 pages long “events within the fair” brochure was enough to spot THE event, which, judging from its title would hold all the answers to my questions: “the similarities and differences between Eastern and Western Culture”. It was a podium discussion between the founder of the very first Goethe Institute in China, Michael Kahn-Ackermann and the vice-director of the Confucius Institute Hamburg, Mr. Wang Hongtu and turned out to be more about differences than similarities. Mr. Ackermann talked about Chinese women not at all being “gentle and sweet” (温柔可爱) as it is often falsely assumed in the West, but in fact quite determined and strong and he suggested that any man who wants a successful career and big money should marry a Chinese woman. Furthermore, he made it clear from the very beginning that in his view, cultural differences are good and natural and should never be fully overcome. He then also internalised his own claims giving Mr. Wang Hongtu little opportunity to express his views and when he did, it seemed rather out of context. Mr. Wang Hongtu and Mr. Ackermann pretty much talked passed each other for an entire hour. Not so much their words than their helpless behaviour in trying to practice “cultural exchange” revealed the deeply embedded differences between them. But the discussion did not help identify what those differences were.

Shortly after, I walked past the Chinese pavilion and what I saw was a group of young children shouting “Shan” (mountain) or “Zhongguo” (China) into microphones. It must have been one of these events promoting the Chinese language. Interestingly, the majority of people in the audience were Chinese…

Meanwhile, I practiced my very own “cultural exchange” by eating a good old Frankfurter Bratwurst with mustard while listening to a Beijing Opera performance on the very big exhibition square. Then I set out to attend the next highlight: “Sinology in Europe and Modern China”. And it did turn out to be a true highlight. Three sinologists from different countries gave an outlook on the subject sinology, which wasn’t anything new but pleasantly non-political in comparison to much I had been confronted with so far. I was already getting excited and thought I had finally found a platform that practiced “true” cultural exchange. But I was soon to be disappointed. It was remarkable that all three (non-Chinese!!!) speakers gave their talks in excellent Mandarin. Among them was the Dutch sinologist Kristofer Schipper, who is one of the directing editors of the recent “Wujing Project” funded by the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing, which is working on a new translation of “The Five Classics” (五经) into English and other languages. Mr. Schipper was a truly fascinating person and his love and dedication for and knowledge of China and Chinese culture became highly visible. I was astounded, even shocked when after over an hour of highly intellectual and profound exchanges between Chinese and European scholars about translating “The Five Classics”, which in the eyes of many is regarded as the epitome of so-called traditional Chinese culture, for the very last question, a Chinese lady in the back row got up and asked: “since Westerners never understand China as much as the Chinese understand the West, what ways would there be to more profoundly introduce the West to Chinese culture?”

I felt empty… true cultural exchange seemed to be quite impossible. It almost felt like that people were trying hard to portray their differences so as to avoid having to admit that they are actually quite similar…

Posted in Images on September 22, 2009 by ideendiebstahl