Sunday, July 4, 2010


I imagine this'll be the last post over here, we've packed up and left Nanjing so there is no more stuff to be reported on - or there is but whilst travelling I try not to spend too much time sat in front of my computer, as there tend to be more interesting things going on. For now I'm having a fabulous time in Xinjiang - the most western part of China, above Tibet. We're staying with a lovely young guy who will (major disasters aside) be the next governor of Xinjiang and his very rich parents. Bizarre as ever.

To round up, the scratchcard project never came through for me, however a few days ago I found a new sport - sweepstakes, 1元 in 250元 out. Now that's more like it.

And actually that's it. I can't promise I won't post anymore but I might not. So there.


Thursday, June 17, 2010


There is a reason I've not updated recently, it's this...

That's my HSK prep, it's this big exam that I've needed to learn at least 2,662 new words for. What you see is roughly 1400, the exam's on Sunday, there will be definite blagging and guesswork involved.

Some of the words are plain odd.

Some are repetitive beyond belief.

Others probably say a lot about Chinese history...

And then there are others that would bring a whole new meaning to having a slip of the tongue.

And I've yet to do G,H,I,J,K,X,Y and Z, so who knows what delights are in store.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Another absolute favorite was Denmark. The lovely lady on the door let us skip the queue as we'd taken the time to learn 'Kan du laden myen in' off a Danish mate - say it out loud and the meaning is fairly clear.
The Danes had really pulled out all the stops, they brought the Mermaid. Yup, the iconic Hans Christian Anderson Copenhagen harbour statue, biggest tourist attraction in Denmark, and they brought it to Shanghai. Awesome.

The whole pavilion was white and beautiful and the water was also brought over with the mermaid from Denmark - how cool is that? (It was in contrast to the Chileans who were masquerading Chinese soil as their own as China wouldn't let them bring Chilean soil..for whatever reason)

There were bikes you could ride all the way up and a curving bench with wiggles and loops in it the whole way up too.

And a fountain on the roof.

- The aggressive photographer was a constant feature of the weekend. At one point in Canada it almost got nasty when a few middle aged men with massive zooms wouldn't go away. I can see why famous people flip out at paparazzi. -

The whole pavilion was awesome though, aside from the bizarre smell. Which we later found out was from the industrial amounts of white paint they had to apply every night to keep the whole thing looking clean and white.


Probably the cheesiest pavilion we went to was Russia, which despite being minimalist and stylish on the outside was decorated like Pandora/Fern Gully on the inside. We made it in thanks to bumping into a pair of Nanda guys who had nicked a friends work pass, the queue was massive, who doesn't want to be in Avatar?


Cheesiness was fairly prevalent though, North Korea (I went to North Korea!!! sort of.) coming in a close second with 'The peoples paradise' which involved rainbows and a fountain full of naked and surprisingly well detailed children holding a dove, representing peace obviously...


The prize for full on weirdness definitely goes to Spain though. It involved a dancer, a ceiling covered in bones and a GIANT ANIMATRONIC BABY.

Two storeys of baby (if you look there's a little person by the baby's right hand -that's how big it was). It moved and grinned and looked old and young at the same time, they really didn't need the barrier, no one wanted to go near it anyways.


The lovely Helga got a full ten of us into Iceland simply by being Icelandic. Iceland had definitely struggled with the Expo thing, as Helga explained 'Yeah, it's a bit crap, we don't have money for this kind of thing'. The whole show was a big empty room with cliched roving shots of Iceland projected onto all four walls. It was however massively popular with the Chinese, for a very simple reason - they were capitalising on the Chinese interest in the ash cloud.




Bit of a fail in Tunisia where the fountain that was probably supposed to show the whole world coming together and appreciating Tunisian culture simply looked like a 'How to' missile bomb Tunisia from all over the world.



Angola had diamonds on display, plenty of Chinese people seemed to be getting pretty excited to see 'real' diamonds. Beth and I were less easily fooled.


As at Uni. as at Expo. I think Algeria has a problem with it's bins being nicked.


Lots of ice-cream at the bottom of the China pavilion - which was impressive on the outside (the European designed bit) and crap on the inside (the Chinese designed bit).


And one of my favorite little finds of the trip. A roomful of soldiers dedicatedly practising
'On your left'
'Go straight forward'
'Take the next right turn'
With arm signals and in perfect unison.


(Here actually has sensible pictures of the Expo - I really want people to be as excited about it as I was...)

expo Expo EXPO (the UK bit)

There's so much I want to blog about the Expo it's unreal. I really don't know where to start, the spare ice-creams outside the China pavilion, the Danish need for white paint, the terrible sadness of Turkmenistan, the Angolan 'diamonds' or the superb superbness of experience that was the UK pavilion. I need to sort my head out - professional blogging this is, I'm totally making it up as I go along.

Right. I should mention by the way I LOVED the expo. since we got back I've heard mixed reviews but I thought it was wicked and 2012 South Korea - I'm there.

We start with the best.

The UK pavilion is amazing. I'd been looking forward to seeing it for ages, the Expo or 世博会 as we call it out here has been bigged up so so much. It's like Shanghai's Olympics. The UK pavilion has dominated much of the news for being so splendidly unique it makes all the other pavilions look a bit samey.
Straight of we ran over to have a look, the queue was about 3 hours long so we thought we'd take a few photos and come back later. So we took a few photos.

As we were doing this we were approached by these two english gents:

With a whisper they asked where we were from, on hearing England they asked us to very subtly - without alerting the 3hour long queue of Chinese - follow them round to the back - where they let us in!

(it looks like CGI - in real life!)

And it was wonderful. The concept (as explained to us by a lovely Chinese studies student from Leeds - we get about a bit out here) was based on the seed banks that are in place in London, Edinburgh and Kunming (big city in the west of China). The whole structure was designed to look like a dandelion seed thing and the grey astro-turf stuff around the outside for people to sit on like the wrapping paper which had surrounded this present to China. The present being the cooperation of the seed bank project, and once the Expo is finished every single rod of the pavilion is being sent to a school in China as a gesture of friendship to China's youth. It is a wee bit melodramatic, but compared to other pavilions it was understated.

The inside of the pavilion was beautiful. Every rod from the outside stemmed in and the clear plastic acted like fibre optics lighting the inside with natural light. Set in the end of each rod were seeds.

Simple but beautifully effective. I tend towards nationalism pretty easily but I really felt proud to be part of a country that would send something so memorable and unique and bizarre as their emblem to the world.

So began the weekend of blagging. Watch this space.


P.S One of my favorite moments was finding this by the exit of the pavilion:

Professional, professional, professional but David Miliband gets attached with selotape. That'll be the Chinese influence.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Trodism cont.

Yes I have a new theme and I'm going to stick to it.
These two pieces were also from the graduate show we saw. In both I love the simplicity and cleanliness combined with total traditional chineseness and modern techniques.

My only slight problem with either (and especially the bottom one - which I prefer) is that they're so clean and efficient and modern, but still Chinese that they start to look a bit like corporate art. Just a little too perfect. There really is no winning huh?



Another weekend trip took us to the Nanjing Fine Arts Museum.
So far Chinese art has been a mixed bag. The 798 District and a few smaller areas in Beijing were immense, but that is where the most interesting and creative people come together and in relative freedom. More typically we visited a exhibition in Wuhan which was pretty depressing. It was the results of a national fine arts competition and it was everything you'd expect of Chinese art...

I'd like to think this was ironic....but the prevalence of similar pieces would indicate otherwise.

There were lots of happy poor people represented. Because the poor people in China are happy being poor.

There were some highlights, like this 'American Man'

And there were other interesting ones, but overall the artworks seemed so safe. Technically they were beautifully executed, but in a country so diverse and with so many big big problems having lots and lots of pictures of smiley minority groups was pointless and boring.

So I did not have high hopes for Nanjing. Luckily it turned out to be awesome. Hosted was the Nanjing Arts Institute graduates show. Straight from the start it was innovative and funny and covered so so many more aspects of modern Chinese life.

Some were a bit mental.

The fashion section was a surreal cross between the Queen Amidala-esque and princess prom gowns.

One of my favourites, this was so technically competent but understated.

In what we decided was a 'Mum' moment on entering the fine art gallery me and beth both breathed a 'Well, thank heavens they can actually draw'.

Another favourite for sheer surrealism this was what I like to think of as 'Attack of the lizards'. I'm not sure what the message was but it was fun.

Always good for a laugh was finding our mates Jess (top) and Sophie (bottom). The arts students are forever looking for white people to star in their works, unfortunately it's unpaid so not so popular.

There were some low points. Although very nicely painted I thought this was fairly uninspired. Taking a traditional Chinese scroll and whacking some modern women on top just seemed a bit obvious. It reminded me of in high school when we had to take a text and transform it into another genre. One of the girls in class took Pride and Prejudice and made it that hadn't been thought of before. On the other hand I hold originality in surreally high regard so I probably shouldn't be trusted.

This being China there was also the weird bit we totally couldn't understand. A group of security guards and random people fishing fish out of a sculpture and popping them in a bucket. A terribly interactive attempt at modern art? Cleaning up after sabotage? Taking them out for feeding? Who knows...

Overall a jolly good show that made me rather optimistic for the future of Chinese art.