This weekend, the seminal Beijing band Chui Wan will launch their (self-titled) second album after an extensive U.S tour. Their new single, The Sound of Wilderness, debuted on NPR last week - quite possibly a milestone for the Chinese indie scene. The album's highlights include the seven-minute closer "Beijing is Sinking", a swirling, chaotic song about staying afloat in a torrent of change. An apt metaphor, perhaps, for all the musicians in Beijing's fiercely iconoclastic indie underground. Initial reviews for the album are buoyant. It's seen as a coming-of-age moment for the band, for its influential record label Maybe Mars, and perhaps even for the small, vibrant Beijing indie community. So let's turn back the clock to the early 2000s, to post-SARS Beijing, and see how we got here. [more inside]
The Rat Tribe of Beijing. A photo-essay about diverse folks who live in former bomb shelters turned into private apartments underneath the streets of Beijing. By Al-Jazeera America.
"If all the other schools have a dome, then we’ve got to have a dome." Inside Beijing's airpocalypse, a city made 'almost uninhabitable' by pollution
"...With China’s growing economic weight, disposable income and willingness to engage internationally, its ability to radically transform the fortunes of small countries has seen many governments re-orientate their diplomatic endeavors away from traditional bases in the West.
"But with so few resources available to them, and so little political capital to bank on, these lonely diplomats face a struggle against limited budgets as they scrap for crumbs from the giant’s table."
A Chinese professor, Zhang Lin, has spent years building an actual mountain on top of an apartment building in Beijing, without ever having received a permit for the construction. Ceilings are cracking in the apartments of his downstairs neighbors.
Xiaoou is a Norwegian artist who raps in Mandarin Chinese about income inequality in China, his love for Beijing, and going through a breakup.
"Chinese citizens can file petitions about their grievance with so-called letters and visits offices of various levels of government organs and courts, a mechanism set up in the 1950s. Under the current system, the number of petitions filed during an official's tenure is used as a yardstick for performance evaluation, prompting local governments to use every means possible to stop petitioners and shuffle them home. It has become an open secret that local governments hire "black guards" in the capital to stop petitioners from filing a grievance, thus reducing the number of petitions that are recorded." -- A day in the life of a Beijing "black guard".
How Fast Can China Go? On June 30, China had the first official run of a $32 billion high-speed train line between Shanghai and Beijing. "Faster (820 miles in 288 minutes) and sleeker than any other, the needle-nosed CRH380A symbolizes China’s accelerating pace, even as it faces questions about safety, and taps into an ancient rivalry with Japan." On page four, the article discusses what happened less than a month afterwards on July 23rd: the country's first accident involving a bullet train that killed 40 people near Wenzhou. As a result, 54 high speed trains were recalled, train speeds were reduced and an overhaul of the high-speed rail system was launched by Chinese authorities. [more inside]
When Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was released from government custody it was with several conditions. Ai was slapped with a travel ban, was not to speak to the media about his detention and was banned from using social media. Since his release he has returned to Twitter, joined Google+, given an interview to a Party-run newspaper and on August 28 he published a piece in Newsweek that calls Beijing "a constant nightmare". [more inside]
China’s capital is restricting car numbers and pumping money into trains. Is it headed for a less congested future – or already a city beyond help?
Winter is here in the northern hemisphere and there is snow in many places, including China. In Beijing, heavy snows can stop the city but can’t stop the fun, as this snowman and snow sculpture collection shows.
Chairman Mao's Underground City is a pictorial travelogue of a small part of the tunnels that Chairman Mao had built under Beijing to serve as a nuclear fallout shelter. The intrepid urban explorers come across some surprising things. The complex, which was built by hand, could house three hundred thousand people for up to four months and had amenities such as restaurants, cinemas and roller rinks. Here's a short Travel Channel feature on the Underground City.
Beijing loves IKEA - but not for shopping. "Every weekend, thousands of looky-loos pour into the massive showroom to use the displays. Some hop into bed, slide under the covers and sneak a nap; others bring cameras and pose with the decor. Families while away the afternoon in the store for no other reason than to enjoy the air conditioning."
Beijing's underground: "Five years ago, none of my students at Tsinghua or Beida had any interest in what we would call countercultural stuff," says Michael Pettis, a finance professor at Beida's -- that is, Peking University's -- Guanghua School of Management who owns D-22 and the Maybe Mars label. Today Mr. Pettis estimates that a quarter of his students have been to rock clubs and maybe 5% to 10% "are really knowledgeable and sophisticated."
"Conquer English to Make China Stronger!" is the philosophy of Li Yang, founder of the Crazy English school (and style) of language, described by some as "English as a Shouted Language" for its main method of shouting English words in public to overcome shyness. Li Yang has achieved Elvis-like popularity in China, not just through his public lectures but also through the sales of books, media, teaching materials, and a memoir titled "I am Crazy, I Succeed". Li Yang's unorthodox methods - which include encouraging students to "lose face" and cope with embarrassment on the way to success - have earned him fame and fortune, including headlining the 5th Beijing Foreign Language Festival and being the main English teacher for China's Olympic volunteers. Li Yang's secret to success: "... to have them continuously paying—that’s the conclusion I’ve reached."
Some of the female Chinese gymnasts are apparently under-age. It wasn't their skulls, their chins or their eyes that gave them away: it was the internet.
Opening the Olympic Ceremony with a bow to ancient Chinese tradition, 2,008 Drummers on the traditional Fou drums. [more inside]
SexyBeiJin (性感北京) Weddings Gone Wild Beijing Vs. Hong Kong Lost in Translation The Lost in Translation piece (above) introduces Beijing folks and the English names they have chosen for themselves. One "auntie" goes by the name "Smacker" (it sounds nice), and so SexyBeijing develops an entirely new segment called Ask Smacker. Hosted by Anna Sophie Loewenberg, the show has a frequently updated blog and downloadable video and audio podcasts. [more inside]
The Olympic Boom is shaping a new Beijing. These fancy new venues and skyscrapers are being built largely by migrant workers facing a harsh reality. The non-stop construction has also threatened to make these "green games" brown. The city may be smoggy and mistreated migrant workery now, but don't you worry, a series of measures will be taken to curb the pollution for the events.
The new terminal at Beijing airport is big. No, wait, I mean it's REALLY BIG. That is, REALLY FUCKING BIG. And there's plenty of other massive construction projects underway in Beijing, many designed by European architects. Like they say, though, if you wanna make an omelette, you gotta break some eggs. And well, they seem to be doing a better job of that than these guys. [more inside]
As Beijing prepares for the Olympics next year it is trying to clean up some of the shadier sides of the city. Apparently, one way of doing this is going to the popular bar street, Sanlitun, and arresting and beating all the men who appear to be of African decent, even if one happens to be the son of a diplomat.
SimCity 2008, Scenario: Beijing. Prepare your city for the 2008 Olympics. Raze slums, build luxury hotels, and stadiums. Make the nation, and the world, proud!
An interesting collection of contemporary Chinese photography at “Meeting place Foto Fest Beijing 2006”. Among the 34 portfolios: Shackled prisoners, Children’s IDs, an actor awaiting his entrance by Luo Dan, the symmetrical works of Li Nan, images by Xu Yong and Li Yu. Many more inside. Click to enlarge. (Via)
In her autobiography, "Living History," Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton recounts how China's imprisonment of a prominent human rights activist, Harry Wu, caused a sensation in the United States and nearly derailed her plans to attend a United Nations women's conference held in Beijing in 1995. In the officially licensed Chinese edition of Mrs. Clinton's book, though, Mr. Wu makes just a cameo appearance. While named, he is otherwise identified only as a person who was "prosecuted for espionage and detained awaiting trial." But nearly everything Mrs. Clinton had to say about China, including descriptions of her own visits here, former President Bill Clinton's meetings with Chinese leaders and her criticisms of Communist Party social controls and human rights policies, has been shortened or selectively excerpted to remove commentary deemed offensive by Beijing. My question: is anybody other than Hillary really suprised by this?
Confucius is making a comeback at the Shengtao Experimental School north of Beijing, where the children of China's elite are once again studying the teachings of Confucius. It will be interesting to see what impact studying the classics has on the next generation of China's leaders.
Don't look behind that wall, Mr. Olympic inspector. In advance of the ongoing assesment by 17 Olympic inspectors, thousands of unwanted people have been tossed into a detention center in China, without trial. For a month, 500 to 600 people a day have been tossed in. Human Rights in China interviewed former inmates of the detention centre, and they reported
"There were no bathing facilities, food was poured from buckets and fought over by mice, and beatings with leather belts were common."Is this what China does to "put on its game face"?