Patriotic Chinese Kindergarten Kungfu — lyrics & video for 精忠报国 by 屠洪纲

kindergartenkungfu01crop.PNG Patriotic Chinese Kindergarten Kungfu    lyrics & video for 精忠报国 by 屠洪纲

Our 4-year-old goes to an all-Chinese preschool, where I also teach. We’re the only foreigners. The 5 and 6-year-olds do this as a regular exercise routine:

It’s a song about complete devotion and loyalty to China, which in English could be “Dedication and Loyalty to the Country” or “Serve the Country with Utmost Loyalty”. The title is a reference to famous historical-mythical General Yue Fei’s tattoo. He was traitorously executed and posthumously has come to epitomize loyalty to China. The Wikipedia article is worth a read, as this song has all kinds of historical/cultural associations.

Here’s the mp3 and Chinese lyrics (mouseover for pronunciation!) with English translation (mostly someone else’s). Music videos here (youtube) and here (youku).

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

报国 by 洪纲

狼烟江山
The fire beacon rises, look toward the rivers and mountains of the north

Dragons’ puffs and horses’ neighs are like blows of a frosted sword
黄河茫茫
Hearts as boundless as the water of the Yellow River
二十纵横
Who defies the length and breadth of the past twenty years?

Wild hatred where my sword points
多少手足
Countless brothers, loyal souls, bones buried in unfamiliar lands

What regret is it to die a hundred times protecting family and country?
叹惜无语血泪
Enduring sighs of regret, speechless, tears of blood fill the eyes
马蹄
Horses’ hooves go south, the people look toward the north
青黄飞扬
Toward the north the grass yellows, dust flying up
守土开疆
I’m willing to guard this territory and re-claim the land
堂堂中国四方
Grand China will make all sides bring tribute

Some interesting notes on this song here:

Many people in the west believe that Chinese are in general motivated by an irrational nationalism cultivated by the communist party to secure its political hold on the country. This is why some of the protests by Chinese nationals overseas have been labeled as “rebirth of the red guards”. Personally, I think this misunderstanding reflects a lack of knowledge about Chinese history, which in the thousand years past have been filled with foreign invasions and civil wars. We Chinese are peace lovers, but our own history has taught us that unification as a country, especially in the face of foreign threats has always been the prerequisite for a peaceful life.

This music video is by the singer Tu HongGang, who was trained as a Beijing opera singer, but turned into a pop singer in the late 80′s and early 90′s. The song is entitled 精忠报国, which translates to ‘dedication and loyalty to the country,’ or ‘serve the country with the utmost loyalty.’ The phrase by itself originates from the story of Yue Fei, “a famous Chinese patriot and military general who fought for the Southern Song Dynasty against the Jurchen armies of the Jin Dynasty. Since his political execution by the traitor Qin Hui, Yue Fei has evolved into the standard model of loyalty in Chinese culture.” According to legends, his mother tattooed these four characters across his back before he left home to join the army in 1122. More on his story can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yue_Fei

Note the first picture on the right, which shows the statue of Yue Fei, from the Yue Fei Mausoleum in Hangzhou. The four characters on his banner say, Huan Wo He Shan , or “Give back my rivers and mountains”.

I love the song (and the singer!) very much, I feel it echoes much of the patriotism which Chinese holds as part of our cultural identity.

kindergartenkungfu02crop Patriotic Chinese Kindergarten Kungfu    lyrics & video for 精忠报国 by 屠洪纲

More Chinese music (many with lyrics & guitar chords!):

Chinese New Year:

Christmas:

KTV!

Foreign baby in China essentials: DIY AIR PURIFIERS

(It’s been a while since I cried on the blog about China’s air pollution. But this time we have a solution! Your salvation is at hand…)

 Foreign baby in China essentials: DIY AIR PURIFIERS Foreign baby in China essentials: DIY AIR PURIFIERS
Out our windows in Tianjin.

Our first child spent her first month outside the womb in neonatal intensive care. We brought her to China as a 4-month-old. As soon as we’d landed in Beijing the passengers sitting around us started muttering about “…污染…!” because the smog made it hard to see the terminal from the plane. Part of me wanted to take our little preemie right back to Canada.

Air purifiers were on our original list of Foreign Baby in China Essentials (along with imported formula, VPNs and friendly stranger finger shields). But I never wrote the air purifiers post because we quickly discovered that air purifiers are insultingly expensive.

Instead we moved to a less polluted city. But triple-digit air pollution is still not uncommon in Qingdao (you can see and smell anything over 100), and we do get the occasional 400 or 500+ days. Here’s what 172 looks like on a cloudless day in our neighbourhood (that mountain on the left should be crystal clear):

airlastweek172 Foreign baby in China essentials: DIY AIR PURIFIERS

It’s always bothered me that we weren’t doing anything about the air aside from an outrageous amount of air-friendly house plants, especially for our kids. But thanks to PhD student Thomas Talhelm, now we can. Why I did not think of this myself I’ll never know. That’s the Fulbright scholar difference, I guess.

badbadevil Foreign baby in China essentials: DIY AIR PURIFIERS
(Click for a larger view.)

DIY AIR PURIFIERS

If you can handle between $200 to $2000+ per room for commercial air purifiers, yay for you. But that’s tough to swallow for middle class peasants people like us, despite the real worry of raising young children in truly dystopic air quality. Thankfully, it’s cheap and easy to build your own air purifiers that apparently work at least as well.

CHEAP
Buy a pre-assembled kit from Mssr. Talhelm for .. wait for it … 33 bucks (200元). Or get the filters and fans yourself on taobao (if you have taobao kungfu like Jessica) for 50元 less per unit. We’ve made four.

EASY
Buying the kit is obviously the most convenient way to go. But either way, a monkey could assemble these things. All you have to do is stick a HEPA filter onto the front of a fan. See how to build one here and here. You need: a fan, pliers/scissors, HEPA filter, and a strap.

easyair Foreign baby in China essentials: DIY AIR PURIFIERS

WORKS
“But but but… with DIY purifiers you don’t get the monitoring electronics or the aesthetics or the ionizer or all the other things we’re selling that you didn’t know you needed!” Ok, but do they work? The proles People like us are willing to sacrifice peripherals to save hundreds of dollars.

According to the results of Talhelm’s tests, which are easily reproducible for anyone who doesn’t trust people who sell things (if anyone does do their own tests please let me know!), our $25 air purifiers perform as good and possibly even better than commercial units where it counts.

diypurifiertestresults Foreign baby in China essentials: DIY AIR PURIFIERS
(Click for the full test results.)

Despite what the high prices suggest, air purifiers aren’t magic. They blow the air in your room through a filter. It’s not like doing rocket science or trying to figure out how to make your 4-year-old not get up to pee 500 times a night.

Here’s one of ours, which cost $25:

ours Foreign baby in China essentials: DIY AIR PURIFIERS

‘If there is hope,’ wrote Winston, ‘it lies in the proles.’

About China’s apocalyptic air quality:

About having a Foreign Baby/Kid in China:

warningsmall Foreign baby in China essentials: DIY AIR PURIFIERSmapsmall Foreign baby in China essentials: DIY AIR PURIFIERS
(Click to get the free China Air Pollution app.)

Pro-life in abortion-saturated China — What do you do?

(Before we begin…)

memorialforunbornchildren Pro life in abortion saturated China    What do you do?

  • If you or someone you’re close to has had an abortion, there is loving, compassionate help available here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
  • If you work in the abortion industry, there are former industry workers who will help you quit (quietly or as a whistle-blower), find a new job, and even provide legal help if needed.
  • If you’re pregnant and want help, you can find everything from a listening ear to a maternity home here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

(If you know of other crisis pregnancy or post-abortion resources, please let me know!)

* * * * *

Abortion-saturated China

If you don’t read Chinese, what would you assume this ad — with it’s heart-shaped-hand-enveloped unborn child — is for?

chineseforloveabortionadcrop Pro life in abortion saturated China    What do you do?
Painless Abortion Surgery 无痛人流术
Give love the safest guarantee 给爱最安全的保障
Because of love — for / give the unmet child 因为爱——给未谋面的孩子
Ultimately / in the end, the best gift 最后,最好的礼物

Chinese abortion rates are so high that Chinese temporary residents skew their host countries’ abortion stats. “Pro-life” encompasses more issues than abortion, issues for which China also provides plenty of fodder (China executes more people than pretty much everyone else, for example). But I’m betting abortion is the one that’s most in-your-face.

The reasons for this are many: a big, bold abortion industry + general aversions toward the Pill or condoms + zero support for unwed mothers + the One Child Policy + male chauvinism + collectivist identity that doesn’t recognize the inherent worth or intrinsic rights of the human individual + abortion as an enhancement of China’s ongoing legacy of infanticide + poor sex ed + casual attitudes toward abortion… Point being that the chances of personally encountering abortion-related situations in China are very, very high, whether your looking for them or not.

dismembermentiswrongextremists Pro life in abortion saturated China    What do you do?

For example, here’s a conversation a new coworker of mine had at her preschool branch just last week, on her 5th day in China:

Today the girls learned I had a huge family [she has 9 siblings]. One responded, “Your mother is very lucky, I dream of having many children in the next life.” Another responded that she already had her first child and needed to go have an abortion, do I have advice for her? Ahhh, what?!! I was like, “Oh, no! Are you sad?” She said, “Yes,” but remained totally expressionless, no big deal attitude and then kept on doing whatever she had been doing.

Imagine: it’s your 5th day in China, you’ve just learned “你好” and “谢谢“, you’re jet-lagged like anything, and a coworker asks you for advice on her impending One-Child Policy-mandated abortion.

Pro Life conscience, Abortion-saturated China

embryology textbook Pro life in abortion saturated China    What do you do?

For those of you who realize that the unborn are living human individuals and who believe in universal human rights, that denying basic human rights to an entire class of human beings for the purpose of legalizing their slaughter by the millions is a gross injustice; and that offering (for a fee) to dismember alive or chemically burn to death the babies of women in hardship enables, perpetuates and profits from systemic inequality and male chauvinism, here are some questions (others are welcome to comment, too):

How do you handle living in this abortion-saturated society? What do you do? If you’re semi-literate you’ve seen the “3-minute” “painless” abortion ads. If you have Chinese friends you’ve probably had or at least overheard deceptively casual “Oh I’ve gotta go get an abortion”-type conversations. How do you respond? How do you think you should respond? How do you wish you’d responded differently in the past? Do you know of resources or opportunities for people who want to help (pregnancy and maternity support charities, adoption route options, sex education projects, etc.)? Contact me personally if you don’t want the information out in public.

peopleandchoices275 Pro life in abortion saturated China    What do you do?womendeservebetter275 Pro life in abortion saturated China    What do you do?

Some of our own abortion-in-China stories (more are on the way), including a hospital experience and some translated conversations and advertising are here:

Abortion & China:

How to scandalize your Chinese neighbours: Evil stepmother edition

Brace yourself; we’re going down the cross-cultural rabbit hole.

China’s Good Samaritan Exception

As you may have heard, Mainland Chinese are (in)famous for not being Good Samaritans; they really don’t want to get entangled in some other family’s problems. Domestic abuse, public medical emergencies, blatant pickpocketing — if it’s not their family, it’s not their problem, and it’s too risky to get involved anyway. But I’ve found an exception to this rule: our kids.

What happened yesterday is a prime example. Jessica took the girls to play outside while I was teaching. It was pushing 34′C and neighbour kids were playing in some water on the sidewalk and invited ours to play. Scandal ensued.

Pop Quiz: Spot the Scandal

Now, Chinese culture pop quiz: Why is this stranger grabbing our kid?

help How to scandalize your Chinese neighbours: Evil stepmother edition

There are clues in the photo. But there’s nothing special about the water (the pipe delivering potable water to the building sprung a leak, so free clean water!) or the ground; it’s just kids playing in water on the sidewalk. But if China had a Child Protective Services and Chinese people cared to use it, they’d consider calling it on account of our horrible parenting on display in this picture.

The parents and grandparents (not all the kids & caregivers are pictured) were visibly disturbed and provoked to intervene more than once when Jessica didn’t stop K, our youngest, from sitting down on the wet sidewalk. They’d try to stand her up, and she’d just give them a look and sit back down (notice the stools in the picture). And of course they hassled Jessica about it. According to our language tutor, if a Chinese person let her kid play this way, neighbours would gossip that she can’t be the biological mother (妈妈), that she must be a stepmother (后妈后娘) because only an uncaring non-relative would let a kid do that. “She just doesn’t look after her!” (不怎么) is what they actually said in front of Jessica.

Oh, I… see.

Of course, Jessica asked questions to get them to explain. She knows a good educational entertainment opportunity when she sees it.

Jessica: “What’s the matter with her sitting down?”

Neighbours (looking like Jessica has three heads): “Dampness! Moistness!” ( / 湿)

Jessica: “So? What will happen?”

Neighbours: “She’ll get sick!” (得病)

Jessica: “You mean she’ll get a cold?”

Neighbours: “No!”

Jessica: “Then what sickness?”

Neighbours: “Her bones will get sore.” Then they quickly discuss what the proper term is, and say: “Rheumatism!” (风湿症)

As with a great many of the stark, mutually-appalling Chinese v. North American parenting differences, this one is rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). By TCM I mean the health theory (学术理论中医学)), not Chinese herbs (中药) like ginseng or specific applications (具体应用) like acupuncture (针灸), guasha (刮痧), or fire cupping (拔罐).

TCM is a fundamental given for the Chinese, part of their basic fabric of reality. And it’s so deeply culturally determined that it’s virtually incomprehensible to Westerners. (Fun game: If you want to get yourself patronized like a silly little child, go explain to a Chinese friend how TCM is make-believe and inferior to Western medical science.) But I won’t let a little thing like that stop me from trying to explain! :)

The problem is, according to the popular TCM understanding of our neighbours and of our sharp and foreigner-accustomed language tutor (I could write several posts on the reasons she gives for her real or imagined ailments), if our daughter sits in the water on a bricked sidewalk, she’ll get Damp (). (Well, shoot dang! No kidding. She might get wet, too. Maybe even soaked!) But they don’t mean damp like what you’re thinking; it’s more like damp+. Being affected by Damp Air (潮气) is a particular TCM health condition; Damp involves but is not entirely reducible to the purely physical/material/scientifically investigate-able and explainable phenomenon we think of. Ditto for related TCM concepts like Cold () and Moist (湿) and Wind (), all of which can get into your body in some nonspecific unobservable way and give you future health problems. Maybe like cooties? With Chinese characteristics?

The fear is that because of the water and the material that bricks are made of, Cold Air (寒气) could get into our daughter’s body or bones (身体/骨骼). She would therefore “get/receive/be subjected to Cold” (受寒). This would cause her to get sick (得病), not in the sense of “catch a cold” (curious we say it that way, eh?), but in the specific sense that Cold entering her bones when she was almost 1-and-a-half-years-old will cause her to have rheumatism when she’s old.

Anyway, this little episode is interesting to me for a couple reasons: the TCM stuff, but also because it’s a situation in which normal Chinese people actually intervene on a regular basis. I wonder if us being foreigners makes them more or less willing to intervene like this.

More about being a bad parent in China:

About getting involved in other people’s business:

And about TCM:

If China confuses adult foreigners, what about their kids?

Jessica and our oldest had this conversation this morning:

L: “Mommy, do you remember when you were talking about how Daddy was born in the horse’s ears?”
Jessica: “What? Can you say that again?”
L: “The horse’s ears…Daddy was born there. And you said that I went to the hospital and was born in the cow’s ears.”
Jessica: “Are you telling silly stories again, L?”
L: “Mommy, no! You said it!!! I was born in the ear of the cow!!!”
Jessica (pieces finally colliding together): “Oh! L, I said you were born in the YEAR of the cow. And Daddy was born in the YEAR of the sheep. And Mommy was born in the YEAR of the horse. And K was born in the YEAR of the dragon.”
L: “Are you sure I wasn’t born in the cow’s ear?”

A then a few minutes later from L: “Are there really dragons?”

For more stuff along these lines, try these topics:

kinpagoda If China confuses adult foreigners, what about their kids?

Cross-Cultural Perspective 101: the feeling is mutual

It’s a matter of perspective, you see:

youpoowhere2 Cross Cultural Perspective 101: the feeling is mutual

“Don’t make me play with that disgusting foreign kid, Grandma! Those barbarians poo in their pants!”

“Wait, you mean you Chinese kids poo on the ground?”

Next time you’re appalled by Chinese people (or any other culture’s people) because they’re doing something that any halfway intelligent and nominally decent person would know not to do, just remember chances are high they feel they same way about you, and not always without reason.

More about where to poo:

P.S. — And just for kicks, here’s the poop in the potty song (also here – open then scroll down to For The Kids III).
P.P.S. — For the record: I don’t think everything boils down to perspective; it’s not all relative. But a large amount of what we assume about the world — like much of what’s barbaric and what’s civilized, sit-downs or squatties — certainly is.

Our 4-yr-old in her Chinese preschool’s Flag-Raising Ceremony

Our daughter goes to a local, all-Chinese preschool. We live in the neighbourhood and I’m their 外教。 She started last November but unlike most kids who go all day five days a week, she only goes mornings on Mon/Wed/Fri. We’re the only foreigners. This week she got to participate in the Monday morning flag-raising ceremony.

IMG 2080 Our 4 yr old in her Chinese preschools Flag Raising Ceremony

They deliberately put her in the class with the nicest teachers, who don’t criticize and shame and negatively compare and threaten as per normal in China (and like in the other classes). As the English teacher, I’m in each of the seven classes every morning so it’s easy for me to compare their discipline and teaching styles.

IMG 2090 Our 4 yr old in her Chinese preschools Flag Raising Ceremony

It seems like participating in this event and celebrating her birthday, which means going through the birthday kid routine that all the other kids go through on their birthdays, have gone a long way toward her fitting in — both in how she feels and how the other kids relate to her. Maybe it’s made everyone realize more that she’s a student, too, and not just some weird visitor. And of course it helps that her Chinese is way better now than when she started.

IMG 2104 Our 4 yr old in her Chinese preschools Flag Raising Ceremony

The chain is owned by an American/Chinese couple who are our friends and members of our NGO. This means I have way more leverage to address issues than I normally would, so this is an exceptional situation for us. I don’t know what we’d do if our only options were normal preschools. Even for the most cross-culturally savvy families, sometimes putting a foreign kid in a Chinese preschool just doesn’t work. There are endless possibilities for deal-breaking conflict.

IMG 2110 Our 4 yr old in her Chinese preschools Flag Raising Ceremony

Their sashes say “I’m a little flag-bearer” 旗手。 Here’s the video of her little performance:

(Part of being at this local Chinese preschool is a horrible, disorganized sound system. Normally this doesn’t matter, because the point of a Chinese sound system is not to clearly amplify speech or music; it’s to make noise so that events feel more 热闹。 On this day, the mics they first tried to use at the base of the flagpole were set to broadcast inside the school instead of outside. But the other mics that do broadcast through the outdoor speakers couldn’t reach all the way to the flagpole, so they moved the kids over to one side. And then the batteries were worn out and fuzzy and loose. But anyway… :)

She said:

大家刚刚一首歌
我的幼儿园
幼儿园朋友
唱歌跳舞
大家一起快乐

Which means:

Hi, everybody! I’m Lu Xinyu from Little Class 2. I just turned 4. I want to sing a song for you:
I love my preschool
At preschool there are lots of friends
There’s singing and dancing
Everybody’s happy together

This was our first day, at the end of October:

firstdayofschool Our 4 yr old in her Chinese preschools Flag Raising Ceremony

More Chinese preschool stuff: