this is the archive for the ‘in china’ category:


li ziqi

i don’t remember how i discovered liziqi’s youtube channel awhile ago. li ziqi lives with her elderly grandma in rural sichuan, cooking and tending to their farm, and just making stuff the old fashioned way.

the expression “from scratch” is taken to a whole new level in these videos — making rice cakes involves planting the rice, harvesting and shelling it, before the rice is ready to be cooked. making a duvet starts with cotton seedlings.

the videos have barely any dialogue on them, just scenic landscapes, a quiet soundtrack and li ziqi doing her thing… but somehow they’re *so soothing*, and in such sharp contrast to today’s youtube trends… it’s impossible not to be a little hypnotized.

she learnt to cook with her grandpa when she was young, then did the odd job in the city to support the family, but came back to the mountains northwest of pingwu when her grandma got sick some years ago. when she was back, she started to do these videos, slowly showing the world what life was like in rural china. the result is a beautiful ode to the hard work of so many chinese farmers, almost made to look easy and romantic in these frames.

hanzillion, reloaded

some years ago, i thought i was done with chinese learning and dropped my long neglected hanzillion.com domain, where i used to post chinese characters (or hanzi) that i saw on the streets of shanghai… and then regretted it. by the time i checked on it again though, it had already been snatched by someone else. :(

early 2019 found me in the throes of re-learning all the characters, and it made me miss my little hanzi blog like crazy. patiently, i waited and waited, and eventually it paid off because we were able to get it again once it expired — victory! :D i’ve pointed the URL to a simple tumblr blog, and have been re-using old photos from our time in shanghai to post characters now and then. i hope i have enough photos to last until our next visit to asia!

feels really good to once again own the word hanzillion, a word i’ve made up over 10 years ago to describe all the zillion hanzi out there. :)

analogue wednesday #194

the view from our living room window, 10 years ago.

elevator talk

i don’t think i ever told this story, which happened to the boy when we were in shanghai. he was on our building’s elevator with a friend who was also a foreigner. a chinese couple entered the elevator mid-trip, pink cheeks and ruffled clothes.

“what will you tell your husband?”, asked the guy in chinese, while straightening his tie.
“i’ll make something up”, answered the woman.

the boy didn’t get the conversation, but his friend did and told us about it later, with much laughter.

foreign languages — they’re like an encryption protocol for your secrets… unless someone else has the key too. :)

starbucks abroad


i have a starbucks travel mug, which i got in china. it says shanghai in big letters, and i take it to class every day, filled with tea.
one day, a colleague asked me if i’d gone to starbucks in china, to which i replied that i did. they looked at my mug with disdain, and told me that they’d never do that, their voice dripping with moral superiority… it struck me as an odd thing to say, “i’d never do something”… how do they know?

i didn’t feel the need to justify myself to an almost stranger, but thought about it for a while… and then i realized we didn’t go to starbucks because we particularly liked their coffee (though i respect any brand that has the talent to pull a ‘red bean’ frappuccino…). we went there because it was familiar, and consistent. you know what you’re going to get, and how you’re going to get it – which at times was more than you could say for the rest of the places in the neighbourhood. we went there because when you’re out of your element, feeling misunderstood and lost, you want what is familiar and comfortable. big brands do consistency perfectly, and it can be very soothing.

this is what i should have told him. damned esprit d’escalier!