happy new year 2014!

I know . . . I know. No more radio silence! I promise we have some toasty specials for you this Chinese New Year . . . the weather’s unforgiving, but you won’t regret it. Good food solves everything. 🙂

From 30 January until 2 February (ahem, I know that’s tomorrow), we’ve got some brand spankin’ new specials to ring in the lunar new year. Check ’em out!

Mei Shung's Chinese New Year 2014 specials menu

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petition to b&n to pull blog on chinese bootlegged books

Today I began the morning as I often do: perusing social media and checking out articles and other information I wanted to reference later on when I’d have the time to read. I came across this fun article on Barnes & Noble’s blog on why adults (ahem, like me) can put away their “YA shame,” that is, embarrassment over the fact that they still read young adult novels. I enjoyed this quick read, tweeted about it, and saw in the right-hand column that there was also a recent blog post about the bestselling 50 Shades phenomenon hitting China.

handcuffs

Not only in reference to 50 Shades; you know who they’re *really* for.

Now, I won’t touch the 50 Shades trilogy, in English or in any other language, but the headline grabbed me enough for me to check it out. The result? I spent the rest of my time at home before leaving for my personal training session in the afternoon in a huff.

The problems I have with this blog post all have to do with its author’s obvious lack of basic research. The strikes are twofold:

  1. She refers to the translations being smuggled from Taiwan into China as having been  “translated into Taiwanese.” All right — first off — a quick lesson here. Technically, there is no such thing as “speaking Chinese,” as Chinese is essentially a written language. All languages under the Chinese linguistic umbrella are pretty much written the same — the different regions simply pronounce the words differently. In fact, there is some disagreement among linguists as to whether to call it “Chinese language” or, more confusingly, “Chinese languages,” because of all the regional dialects. Additionally, the national languages of both China and Taiwan is Mandarin!
    .
    I won’t bore you with the scientific nerdy stuff that goes into the differences between languages and dialects, but think about this: If Taiwanese were a separate language completely from Chinese, just how would the Chinese be able to read said “Taiwanese” copies of the book? That’s right . . . just as no standard American would be expected to blow up black-marketed copies of fiction imported here from Brazil, if in fact Taiwanese were a different language entirely, the Chinese would not be able to comfortably read it.
    .
    Furthermore, as it turns out (and I only found this out a couple years ago when my cousin’s family came to visit), there is more than one Taiwanese dialect. The one my family speaks is the version common to Taipei. So when it comes to talking about a written book being translated into what is essentially only a spoken dialect, you can understand my confusion. Until I realized she was just lazy (keep reading).
    .
    Now, I could perhaps forgive the writer of the article for not knowing that Taiwanese in fact is not its own separate written language, if not for . . .

    Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 6.32.22 PM

    Image courtesy of http://bit.ly/11cYf5h

  2. She refers to Chinese currency as “yen.” Now, if I’m mistaken and it is actually clear to others that she suddenly COMPLETELY SWAPPED COUNTRIES to Japan, which for me was never once mentioned otherwise in the article, then that’s my bad. My problem with her talking “yen” when meaning to talk “yuan” (actual Chinese money) is the negligence that implies that hey, it’s still an Asian currency — after all, aren’t all Asians the same?
    .
    This is precisely the battle that we must beat every day. Look, even I had to look up Chinese currency myself, because I’ve never been to China, nor have my parents. When we talk about prices in their homeland, it’s always the New Taiwan dollar. But when it comes to perpetuating the ignorant grouping of “all Asians” as one and the same? That’s like calling Canadians, Americans, and Mexicans all the same thing because we happen to occupy the same continent, regardless of governments and culture.

I’ll point out as well that I only know what I do about the written Chinese language being more or less standard across dialects because I remember this fact surprising me when I took an Asian studies class as an undergrad. (I’m a writer; you can hardly fault me for taking an unnatural interest in the nature of words!) I checked my facts doubly before I made any snarky comments on the blog — there is nothing worse, after all, than someone who corrects others with the wrong information — and this is officially my complaint against this article . . . no, this writer.

This article makes several entities look bad besides its author: It represents Barnes & Noble, a national brand that I have VERY regularly supported since the early naughts (as I call the beginning of the 2000s); non-Asians and some of their not-so-savory decisions to classify Asians as one indistinguishable group of people; Americans, because after all this time this ignorance should not still exist; and writers BECAUSE YOU SHOULD NEVER PUBLISH SOMETHING WITHOUT GETTING YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT . . .

This all just reminds me of that huge scandal that hit Kitchen-Aid with their (now dismissed) social media marketer who tweeted an unspeakably insensitive remark during the presidential debates.

Having both mistakes present in the same article is just about the highest level of writing faux pas I’ve ever seen. It takes away everyone’s credibility (not to mention — and I kid, here — the Chinese people who are gobbling up that literary monstrosity!), and nobody wins.

Barnes & Noble, I love you, but please, for the sake of diplomacy and respect to the Chinese, Taiwanese, and Asians at large . . . take down the article, or at the very least, edit it.

stephanie’s shanghai affair, part two

Follow-up to previous post: My sister, Stephanie (whom I call Moose, but never mind), recently returned from an eight-day trip to Shanghai. Since she has her own (fashion) blog at The Naked Canvas, I’ve asked for her permission to repost her Shanghai posts onto our Mei Shung blog. For more images, please visit the original post.

Can you imagine going on holiday to London and not making a trip to see Big Ben? What about Paris sans Eiffel Tower? Sounds like madness, right? Well, you can’t visit Shanghai without stopping by the Bund. Sure, it screams tourist attraction, but you can’t help but gawk in awe and wonder when you stand before the majestic skyline, especially at night.

As a native Chicagoan, I naturally hold the Sears Tower (not the Willis Tower) very near and dear to my heart, but I have to admit that the Shanghai World Financial Center (see that bottle cap-looking building on the right?) puts the Sears Tower to shame. [Pamela’s note: *GASP* It so does NOT!] But enough about the Bund, I don’t want Chicago finding out I had a weeklong affair with Shanghai, hehe O:)

This was my first full day in China, so I wanted to keep my outfit comfortable and casual. I styled my look around my new two-toned trench (as seen on Devon Rachel), which was the perfect lightweight coat for sightseeing. For footwear, I couldn’t be more pleased these Cole Haan boots. These were the only “walking shoes” I brought with me on my trip, and they definitely served me well. I splurged a bit on these leather  and suede babies, but they are honestly the most comfortable and durable boots I’ve ever owned. Kudos, Cole Haan!

More to come from Shanghai! 🙂

Moose 1

Moose 2

Moose 3

Moose 4

 

stephanie’s shanghai affair, part one

My sister, Stephanie (whom I call Moose, but never mind), recently returned from an eight-day trip to Shanghai. Since she has her own (fashion) blog at The Naked Canvas, I’ve asked for her permission to repost her Shanghai posts onto our Mei Shung blog. For more images, please visit the original post.

Shanghai Lights

Hello there! Or should I say 你好? I regrettably report that I am back in the States  (i.e., back to reality). I spent the last week visiting my friend Mason who is studying in Shanghai, and the experience was nothing short of incredible.  Since this was my first time in China, I visited venues that equally showcased the glitz and glamour of the city as well as neighborhoods that revealed the humble way of life of the locals.

Street food vendors and shops were aplenty (and not to mention CHEAP)–my tummy got a little bit spoiled abroad O:) In short, I sort of fell in love with Shanghai. A week just wasn’t enough. Anyone discovered a way to apparate yet?

Stay tuned for [outfit of the day] posts! Here are a few of the highlights from my trip:

SH 1

 

SH 2

SH 3

SH 4.jpg

SH 7

SH 8

SH 9

 

SH10

SH11

SH12

SH13

SH14

SH15

SH16

2013 is the year of the snake

water snake

Since I posted rather extensively last year about the history of Chinese New Year (also known as the Spring Festival), you can refer to those posts, or this other (non-Wikipedia) article I found, to learn about the holiday or brush up on your trivia:

what to eat on chinese new year

happy new year

china holidays

Just for fun and variety, I thought we could go into another fun aspect that the (lunar) new year brings: the Chinese zodiac!

Currently, we’re still in the year of the dragon, but as this year comes to a close, the Chinese are preparing for little snake babies. Incidentally, I found out through reading Jeff Primack’s Mastering 5 Elements that the Chinese believe so strongly in their zodiac and “mystical” things of this nature that there are times of the year where sales of birth control-related goods skyrocket and also when they go dry. This is probably less so for given animals, but more so in the less-known elemental phases of the earth:

metal

metal

Fire

Fire

tree
tree

water
water

earth
earth

These five elements are what the book Mastering 5 Elements is based upon, but instead of “tree,” some sources prefer to use the term “wood.” Now, Chinese astrology can actually get pretty complex, integrating the elements with each animal sign (of which there are 12 — see picture below) with Chinese philosophy (yin and yang), medicine, and divination (for long-winded, more thorough explanations, see this article). This is a lot to swallow for those of us accustomed to simple astrological signs and traits (like me), so I won’t go into it. Suffice it to say that the elements and animal signs overlap, creating a sort of “compound” sign.

So this year, we are entering the age of the water snake. Coincidentally, this is the exact same time my mother was born.

According to chinesezodiac.com, the Water Snake is:

influential, motivated, insightful, and highly intellectual … These snakes work well with others and enjoy being recognized and rewarded. They’ll reveal feelings to those closest to them, but no one else.

If you’re curious to know more about Chinese astrology, there are plenty of books and Internet sources to calculate precisely what sign your birthdate fell under. (I, personally, am a water boar.)

I’ll leave you with this well-wishing Chinese New Year 2013 video (not ours):

looks like we’re still here (dongzhi festival)

Well, we braced ourselves for the Mayan apocolypse, and it seems things are still intact.

From http://bit.ly/X4UEV2

From http://bit.ly/X4UEV2 — such drama!

What better time for another cultural lesson?

Apparently, the Chinese Winter Solstice Festival, also known as the Dongzhi Festival (the “extreme of winter”), happens today. In certain parts of China, such as Guangdong and Canton, the Winter Solstice Festival rivals — and sometimes even surpasses — the celebration of the lunar New Year (the one coming up in February) in importance! Thanks to my friend Robert, for cluing me in, when my own parents are too busy planning for Western holidays in Chicago to give me a heads up. 🙂 (Robert is married to a Chinese woman.) Evidently, some people treat the Winter Solstice as the dawning of a new year instead of waiting around for Chinese New Year. A little confusing for a “hybrid” like me, but anyway . . .

The Winter Solstice, to recap for those of us rusty on our astronomy, is the day when one hemisphere of the Earth (north or south) is farthest away from the sun, resulting in the longest period of nighttime. It usually marks the first official day of winter (at least, here), roughly around the 21st each December. This year, it’s today! The upside of the solstice — and yes, we have summer solstices, too (incidentally flipped on the hemisphere opposite ours) — is that it’s precisely when these long winter nights have peaked, and days start getting longer as we transition back into the warmer months.

In ancient Chinese “yin-yang” philosophy, the Winter Solstice symbolizes the restoration of balance within the cosmos. It’s the time when positive yang energy re-enters, and, consequently, the return of warmth?

yin yang

Photo courtesy of http://bit.ly/RYWDJ6

Just like our traditional Western holidays, the Dongzhi Festival is a time of family reunion and eating. (Interestingly, people of the same last names are also expected to gather at this time. Must be fun for all those Chens out there.) The food associated with the Winter Solstice Festival is, true to Chinese mentalities of, um, just never quite living up to expectation (what? I said nothing), meant to remind us that we are now a year older and should strive for improvement during the new year.

What exactly are these shame-inducing goods?

Photo credit to the Taiwan Culture Portal

Photo credit to the Taiwan Culture Portal

They eat tangyuan, which are essentially little dumpling balls, made of glutinous flour and stuffed with sesame paste, peanut powder, or even plain. They’re then cooked and served in a sweet soup or broth. According to the Taiwan Culture Portal:

This festive food is eaten for several symbolic reasons. The word “tang” means “soup” and the word “yuan” means “round” or “ball,” and when the two words are combined, the phrase is similar in sound with the term for “reuniting” (tuan yuan) in Mandarin Chinese.

And what’s a celebration without a little mythology and sacrifice? I hear the Taiwanese also select a few tangyuan, in the shape of sacrificial animals (chicken, sheep, duck, etc.) to stick to the back of chairs, windows, and doors — this is an offering to ancestors, as well as a type of talisman to protect against evil that might come to harm the kids.

In Taiwan, also, it is a time to enjoy what’s known as “tonic foods,” which are meant to help immunity and keep you strong during the frigid winter months. These include different types of hot pot (loosely described by yours truly as a Chinese version of fondue) — which, now that I mention it, I’m happy to say my parents are thinking about making hot pot available to you fine ladies and gents sometime soon (probably in the new year — the Western one, that is)!

None of this could have been written (by me, anyway) without the help of Wikipedia or the Taiwan Culture Portal — so please check them out if you would like to learn more about the specifics of the festival.

Hope to see you soon as the days start getting longer!

(guest post) a sister’s say on labor day

As promised, here is the article my sister Moose (“Stephanie”) wrote on our Labor Day in Chinatown for her fashion blog, which you can access at The Naked Canvas.

Labor Day is a holiday that is typically associated with barbecues, the beach, shopping, and just downright relaxing.  So where did I go to celebrate this ’murican day off?  Chinatown, of course 😛 I joined my family on a trip to this Chicago neighborhood to do a bit of shopping (both grocery and window), strolling, and to escape the humidity with a nice, refreshing bubble tea.

I spent a lot of time in Chinatown as a child, tagging along with my mom to buy bits and bobs from the grocery stores, stocking up on my favorite gummy candies and baked goodies, getting haircuts, grabbing bites to eat, attending festivals, etc.  As I got older, I made fewer and fewer trips to this neighborhood, so this was a quaint, nostalgic trip back.

My usual go-to oufit for hot, sticky days tends to revolve around tank tops and high-waisted shorts with minimal accessories (In this case, “minimal” means a huge gold elephant grazing my declate . . .) I wear this particular tank top way too often.  So often that I’m surprised it hasn’t unraveled into one long strand of thread by now.  I’ve worn this same tank and short combination in a previous post (here) during my trip to Minneapolis, but I styled it with different accessories.

Hopefully the summer heat will fizzle in the month to come, and we can embrace the fall weather (and fashion!).  How did you spend your Labor Day?

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