I spend quite a bit of time on flights to and from China and I always watch a Chinese movie. Partly to practise, partly to learn about Chinese culture. And hey, in an airplane, I am your captive audience!
Some of these movies I’ve loved. Some not so much. Let me start with my favourite so far: Free and Easy, or ‘Relaxed and Happy’ in the Chinese title. Nobody is relaxed or happy in this very funny, dark comedy by director Jun Geng. In a snowy dismall little nowhere town somewhere in China a soap salesman comes to to town to stir up trouble with his very special soaps.
I really enjoyed the view it gave me of more or less normal Chinese life: most movies they show in the airplane are either period dramas featuring concubines stabbing each other in the back in endless squabbles or romantic comedies where everybody does something in advertising and lives in fabulous appartments right in the middle of Shanghai. So yay, can’t wait to see more of Geng Jun’s work!
I have been dabbling in learning Chinese, or Putongua, the Common Language, for about two years now and it is HARD. I speak six other languages with ease, but Chinese has me working hard. Very, very hard.
I am getting somewhere though! WHere a year ago I couldn’t even order tea in a tea shop – true story! Extremely frustrating! – I can now explain that I don’t eat meat, that I like my tea hot, not cold, that I am looking for milk/the toilet/dumplings.
So as with most things worth doing it just takes some determination and with these tips you should be on your way as well!
Very helpful, and the Panda gets so happy when you are doing well it really lifts my spirits every time he says ‘you rock’.
Great: it also helps you write Chinese characters and practise your vocabulary.
Gotta love ‘m, I used them to improve my Spanish and I am now trying Chinese as well. I actually prefer ChineseSkill, because for example when you are learning a new character DuoLingo doesn’t tell you what it means. ChineseSkill does. Also, DuoLingo is a lot harder. Really, I feel like I have missed a step or two every time I move to the next subject. The little owl does occasionally pop up to say I am doing well, bless him.
It’s more gamified, you get a card, and you have to memorise it. I really like what they do visually, the way they try and help you remember by working the Chinese chaqracter into the picture: well done guys!!!
And it’s quite fun.
Which is the best? If you are going to do only one, I’d go with ChineseSkills. But ideally: use all of them, and podcasts and tvseries and music as well. It takes time to learn a language, find the way that works for you!
If you have been to China recently there is no getting away from mooncakes. Which is not a bad thing, as mooncakes are a delightful aspect of Chinese culture and they come in many shapes and sizes!
So what IS a mooncake? Well, the 月饼 or yuè bĭng is a little pastry filled with sweet or savoury stuffing depending on which part of China you are in. The designs are often very intricate, the taste can be an acquired one if you weren’t born to it. For instance, the one from Suzhou is often savoury one, known for its very flaky dough and here’s the recipe for Mooncake filled with pork. There are also sweet Suzhou mooncakes, but this is the famous one.
If you’d prefer a vegetarian version there’s a recipe here with lotus paste.
The Mooncake tradition is all to do with the Mid-Autumn Harvest Festival or 中秋节. The idea is to gather with your family, make pretty lanterns, gaze at the moon and share mooncakes. Not a bad way to party!
Wujiang is one of the five urban districts in Suzhou with a population of 1.5 million people. Lots of lovely little markets, including this one!
Tongli, or Tong-Li, is one of China’s prettiest water towns. Over 1000 years old it is chocolate box (or perhaps that should be Mooncake box?) pretty. During the weekends the place is packed, but during the week and especially at night you can have the place entirely to yourself. If you can’t get enough, we recommend the Moonlight Inn, which is an affordable and quaint hotel with an internal carp pond. Don’t expect anybody to speak English though, we spoke to the owner via WeChat, that worked very well!