An Endless Supply of Free Movies

Coming to China I knew there would be a lot of fake goods available for purchase.  I remember coming to Beijing when I was little and always returning with a stash of DVDs that had recently come out.  When most people think of China, they naturally think of inferior products and goods.

 

But it turns out it is not just physical goods that can be consumed so cheaply here.  The other day, I was thinking about watching a movie with my language partner.  As I tried to find a suitable movie on my computer, she suggested we find a movie online.  All she had to do was go to Baidu (essentially the Chinese version of Google) and search for a Chinese movie.  Essentially any Chinese movie you could think of appeared on this website.  I was amazed by how easily accessible these movies were.  All it took was a few clicks on one of the country’s largest search engines and suddenly thousands of movies were available for me to watch.  I was even able to find some American movies (like Lion King and Mulan).  This really emphasized to me how little intellectual property rights are held up here in China.

As we saw in The River Runs Black, this could be a problem in the future for China’s economy.  While it definitely brings up problems of copyright infringement, it also acts as a deterrent for multi-national corporations considering entering the country.  If a high-tech company wants to enter China, they must worry about their new and innovative technologies and ideas being leaked out or stolen by competitors in their field. (Loc 3892).

 

I believe that this issue of intellectual property rights is becoming much more of a factor in our world now that essentially everything is going digital now.  If China wants to be taken seriously as a world power, they must bring up their standards and begin to crack down on this issue.  I am not sure if this is something that would need to be done by the central government in Beijing or individual local governments.  But I think it’s something that should be fixed.  Doing business in China shouldn’t be about getting an inferior product for as cheap as you can.  We’ll see how things change in the near future.

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

“阿姨,请给我买单!” “Ayi, Please bring me the check!”

Yesterday, I was enjoying a sushi dinner when I heard one of the other customers call the server 阿姨 (auntie). She would reply by calling all of the customers 孩子(child). While it would not be uncommon to hear a waitress in the States be called Mama, or something similar, this got me thinking about names and the ways that they are used differently between cultures.

As we discussed in class last week, I’ve found it interesting to see how different people address each other in various cultures. While I can’t say exactly how people interact in other cultures, I know that the Chinese way of viewing other people you know is to treat people like family. Growing up, I was always told to address people older than me as Uncle John or Auntie Gina. Whenever my friends came to my house, my mom always reminded them to call her Auntie Katharine. Even if it was the first time I had a friend over, they’d immediately be treated like family. My mom would bring out fifteen different snacks, and come check on us even five minutes to make sure we were eating. When I asked my mom to let us hang out in peace later that evening, she told me that it was important to make our guests feel at home at all times. She made it clear to me that I should always be sure to make my guests feel at home, and that giving them food was a great way to do this.

For little children, I’ve noticed that is also very common to use terms like 哥哥 (gege, older brother) and 弟弟 (didi, younger brother). Back home, when I went over to my friend’s house, her cousins were often there. While I had no relation to them, it was common for them to call me Gege Alex. During my time here in China, I’ve noticed this happen as well. One time when we were playing Frisbee on the Guang Hwa Lou lawn, a little boy approached my friend and me. He asked her if he could join us. While we were playing, I noticed that my friend would address the boy as 小弟弟(little brother). He referred to her as 姐姐 (older sister). While I’m sure these names were simply used as a sign of respect and not out of the ordinary, it surprised me when I first heard them.

While I cannot say from personal experience what relationships are like in other cultures, I’ve found it interesting to see how people here in China interact with others around them. It’s been fun to compare what I see here with many of the customs I grew up with back home. There are many simple things that I’ve gotten used to doing that I did not realize were more Chinese than Western. While I’ve often done them out of habit, now I am getting a chance to see people around me doing similar things. I’m excited to learn more about the Chinese culture and the small easily forgotten aspects of everyday life.

Cupping in China

During my time in Chaozhou, I had the opportunity to visit a hot springs.  While at the hot springs, we were treated to many of the extra cost perks, such as the fish pool and the molten lava area.  Unfortunately, my group had too many people and so we could not all receive massages from the limited number of staff available.  We decided our trip leader, Edward, was most deserving of a massage and so he disappeared into the back room.  When we met up with him an hour or so later, Edward seemed very relaxed.  He then proceeded to show us his back.  During his massage, he had decided to also get a cupping treatment.  Essentially, the masseuse had placed many glasses all over his back and lit the tops on fire.  The cups act as suction devices as all the air is removed.  This creates large round marks all over the receiver’s back.

When we asked Edward what this was for, he began to explain to us the concept of yin and yang.  He told us that each person has a natural yin and yang but that the two can easily get out of balance.  This can happen from too much stress in your life, or a myriad of other causes.  When you eat too much spicy food or simply have too much anger and stress bottled up inside, your yang will overpower your yin. Supposedly, when you have too much yang your breath will begin to smell.  The cupping treatment is done to help remove the yang from your body and restore the natural balance of yin and yang.

When looking at this technique, and other traditional Chinese medicine techniques, it is interesting to see the fine line between science and religion that many attempt to draw.  These ways of doing medicine from so long ago are based on ideas of yin, yang, and qi, which all seem to be not provable through scientific methods.  Yet they also seem to work in healing many sicknesses and ailments. On top of this, many of these traditions have been built on religion.  As Palmer tells us:

Attempts to secularize the techniques cannot obliterate a millennia-long history of their being embedded in religion. The lineages of which many masters are the inheritors, the religious symbolism of the classical texts describing the techniques, and the magical content of the kung fu films and novels that permeate Chinese pop culture, all conspire to make the religious roots of Chinese body traditions resurface. (p 102)

No matter how hard we try, people will continue to eat special herbs or practice daily routines that they believe will help them live a healthier life.  While they may believe in modern science, people also tend to believe whatever helps heal them the fastest.  If their ancestors relied on a certain God or herb to get better, why shouldn’t they do the same?

The Chinese way of examining the body and health is definitely an interesting one.  I find it fascinating to hear about the one spot on my foot that will relieve my headaches or a certain herb that will clear my sinuses.  But after seeing up and close two people who have received a cupping treatment (Edward and Tommy), I’ve decided my yang will have to stay too high because I don’t plan to have cups lit on my back anytime soon.

Who Am I?

What does it mean to have an identity? How do we choose to self identify? For the first 18 years of my life, this question rarely crossed my mind. I was in a community of people similar to me and never though to question who I was or what made up my identity.Moving to Davidson definitely changed the way I viewed myself. Suddenly I was a minority and didn’t feel like I fit in with everyone else. I found myself craving the food from back home. Just 2 months before, I had taken such little things as this for granted. I ate what I had been eating for 18 years and simply took it for granted. It amazed me how much less happy I could be when I did not have a simple bowl of rice, meat, and vegetables for weeks at a time. I began to question who I was. I knew that I was American. I also knew that I was Asian. But what did it mean to be Asian-American? How could I blend these cultures together and be happy with who I was?

This question would come up frequently in my everyday life. There was more than one occasion when I was spending time with friends and a simple Asian stereotype came up. “Why are all Asians so smart” or “Dang, you Asians are so good at ping pong”. While these comments were meant playfully and not meant to cause harm, they hit me differently than they had in the past. When I was back home and surrounded by people just like me, it was easy to joke about silly stereotypes. But when it was just one other person and me and the joke was about us, suddenly I didn’t feel so comfortable. I wasn’t sure why, but it felt as if this was an attack on my identity and on me personally. I did not have the same comfort level in my new environment and thus simple jokes about my identity made me question myself.

While I’ve started to become more confident with my identity and what it means to be “Asian-American” while in America, coming to China has caused me to ask an entirely different question about identity. When I am walking around the streets or entering a shop, people view me as a native Chinese person. But the moment I open my mouth, it is clear to them I am a foreigner. My lack of oral Chinese skills has created a large gap between my ancestral roots and me. I find myself longing to be able to hold a conversation with a friend or simply have an argument with a shopkeeper with making myself look illiterate. There is little more embarrassing than having someone stare at you, wondering why you can’t speak to him or her. It is as if something is wrong with me because I can’t speak my “native language”. To many people, I have the look of a Chinese person and thus should be able to express myself as a Chinese person.

So if I often feel like a minority back in America but also feel like I don’t quite belong in China, then where do I truly belong? This is something I hope to figure out. I know that learning the language will be a start to help me bridge the two cultures. Once I achieve this goal, I hope to interact with people more and continue to soak up the culture of my ancestors so that I can one day not only better understand what it means to be Asian-American, but also understand what it means to just be me.

The World Wide Web

I’ve never considered myself a good blogger. While I own a personal blog and have posted on it from time to time, I’ve always had trouble getting my thoughts down on paper.  I’ve had moments when I wanted to write pages and pages about Jeremy Lin and the “Linsanity” debate or about my experiences as an Asian American.  Yet after thinking and preparing to write these posts, I found that I could not get myself to type these posts out.  After considering why I could not get my thoughts onto my blog, I realized what was stopping me.

The Internet is a big and scary thing.  I knew that once I put my ideas up on the web, they would be out there for all to see.  Anyone could read, comment, or judge me based on what I wrote.  This simple thought scared me.  It is true that the Internet is one of the most powerful tools we have.  If you’d like to know which actors starred in the Harry Potter movies or find out the birthday of our 22nd president, these answers are literally a click away.  Or if you’d like to find your long lost kindergarten friend, chances are Facebook will help you find them.

But how much do we really know about the Internet?  How long will the little bits of information that we post online stay out there, floating around in some mysterious space? Every month or two a story will come out about a man who lost his job because of a dumb status update on Twitter or a wild picture of his party the night before on Facebook.  The Internet is helpful but also a very powerful tool.

While most of the world has the ability to do almost anything they want on the Internet, this is not the case in China.  “The Great Firewall” which blocks websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube limits Chinese Internet users.  This display of censorship show just how powerful the Internet can be.  The Chinese government is afraid of negative press coming from these websites.  They know that having open access to the web will cause people to point out the downfalls of the government and could potentially lead to protests in the future.

But while many sites are blocked by the “Firewall”, this does not mean that they are inaccessible.  Computer savvy individuals (or those with smart friends) can use Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, to mask the computer’s location and make the user appear to be somewhere else.  A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation about VPNs with my mom.  She asked me why more people didn’t use VPNs, consider how easy they are to download and use.  After asking a few of my Chinese friends about this, I came up with a general answer to her question.

First off, you must know about a VPN to use one.  While simply downloading a VPN and using it in China may seem like a no-brainer to an ex-pat who has been told about the work-around by friends, many Chinese citizens likely have not been exposed to them.  Those who have are likely from urban areas like Shanghai or Beijing and have been introduced to VPNs by a co-worker or friend. According to Jeffrey Wasserstrom, “This creates another divide among Internet users in China, separating those who are versed in using such techniques from those who are not.   (p. 86).  While there is a class of Internet users in China who have more access, my second point explains why I believe this divide is a small one.

Second, and more importantly, using VPNs can become very inconvenient and unnecessary to many Chinese locals.  To a Chinese student, having a Facebook may not be very useful if none of their other fellow classmates have one.  Personally, I created a RenRen (the Chinese equivalent to Facebook), but since I only have 12 friends, it is almost pointless for me to ever sign on.  I think many Chinese students must view Facebook in a similar way.  It is simply easier to use a site such as Weibo where everyone in your social circle is connected, without having to go through the hassle of connecting with a VPN.

Now while we may have different ways of accessing our friends and social circles, I think one thing is clear.  The Internet is a key component to all of our lives and will stay that way for a long time.

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