So we’ve moved to Qingdao. And we’ve started using Instagram. Our actual Instagram feeds are private because they have lots of family pictures, but you can see all our public China Instagram fun at ChinaHopeLive.Tumblr.com. And here’s the RSS feed.
Below are some screen stills and scene clips that some friends and I were extras in for the Jackie Chan/Chinese propaganda film “1911″ 《辛亥革命》.
For some photos from filming and info about the 1911 Revolution, see:
You can see all the photos and screen stills at the photo gallery:
1911 movie: Denver Library scene (YouTube)
1911 movie: Sun Zhongshan speech (YouTube)
It’s maybe not as big as that other big propaganda movie from this year, “The Founding of the Party,” because without the Party reality itself would cease to exist and Sun Yat-sen was into some stuff that the Party doesn’t really go for, but this is still big stuff. “1911″ is a big-budget Jackie Chan Chinese propaganda epic commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1911 Revolution (辛亥革命, see below for historical info/links), with “over 70 famous Chinese actors” including Winston Chao (赵文瑄) as Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) and Lǐ Bīngbīng (李冰冰) as Jackie Chan’s wife.
And we were extras for two days of filming! Or, some friends and I were; Jessica had to stay home. So if we’re reeeally lucky I or someone we know will get part of an appendage in the background of a scene for a split-second.
On our first day of filming they needed foreigners to be political delegates for a scene where Sun Yatsen gives the speech announcing that he’s giving up the presidency of the brand new republic (knowing that he can’t retain power due to Yuan Shikai). Basically we stood around, and occasionally they filmed us standing around, clapping for Winston Chao/Sun Yat-sen, and acting surprised when he makes his announcement.
The second day was better: we were foreigners sitting in the “Colorado Denver Public Library”. Sun Yatsen is in the States on a fundraising trip. He comes into the library, starts reading the paper and discovers in the headlines that revolution has broken out in China. He chokes on his food in surprise, and we foreigners look up from our books at the disturbance.
Here are a couple photos, with more in the photo gallery.
More photos in the photo gallery!
The 1911 Revolution marked the official end of five million years of unbroken imperial rule in China (this other propaganda movie is about the unification of China and the beginning of imperial rule). For a quick history lesson:
And here’s an intro to the battle between Taiwan and China over the 1911 historical narrative:
“”The left, in the sense of representing anti-dem0cr@tic dictatorship, does not own revolutionary legitimacy in China,” said David Kelly, research director at China Policy in Beijing and a visiting professor at Peking University. “The anniversary of 1911 brings into play the fundamental decision between social dem0cr@cy and revolutionary dictatorship.”"
If any interesting movie reviews come out, or if we get some incriminating screen stills, I’ll post them here.
The movie’s out, and you can see video clips of the scenes we’re in and screen stills of us in action here:
The photo gallery has been updated with all the new screen stills.
Last night was The Lantern Festival 元宵节, the final night of Spring Festival 春节 and that means the last night of fireworks(!), so this morning it’s finally all quiet on the eastern front.
We joined the happy crowds last night on Tianjin’s frozen Haihe river 海河 near Ancient Culture Street 古文化街 and launched a couple “wish lanterns” 许愿灯 (usually called 孔明灯) — the candle-powered sky lanterns you’ve probably seen pictures of.
These pictures aren’t great, but it was actually a pretty fun scene. Hundreds, maybe thousands of lanterns were floating around, fireworks up and down the river, lots of people having fun, etc.
Ok, the pictures really aren’t that great, but all those little dots in the sky are lanterns. It looked cool, I promise. Just look at the photos and use your imagination.
You can actually see it better in the video clip below.
Some of the flaming lanterns got stuck in trees, and every so often one would come hurtling down to the ice in a blazing arc of glory. We even launched a couple:
These were the only lanterns to be found at Tianjin’s Ancient Culture Street 古文化街，which was a bit of a disappointment considering it was the LANTERN Festival, but it was still fun to launch fire hazards into the night sky from down on the river. We’ll definitely do this again next time we get the chance!
You can browse the rest of our Spring Festival fun here.
Figuring out how publicly break cultural norms in a foreign society isn’t always easy, especially when the norms you want to break involve volatile situations that spring on you without warning.
I’m walking back to work from lunch and pass a group of older middle-aged people watching a man and a woman duke it out on the sidewalk. It’s not your typical vegetable market screaming match; they are full-on kicking and punching each other, furious and out of control. The guy is bigger and has the upper hand. Obviously I’m not going to just walk on by when a woman is literally getting beaten right in front of me.
But the tricky thing is, interfering in this sort of thing has huge potential to instantly make the situation worse and get the third party in a lot of trouble, which is partly why Mainland Chinese typically won’t interfere even in really bad situations. And adding to other people’s grief just so you can play hero is really selfish. Today’s situation is even trickier because this woman is asking for it. I don’t mean she deserves it. I mean that after the guy lands a couple punches or kicks he turns his back to her and starts walking away, but she chases after him, punches him in the face from behind, and provokes another couple haymakers in response. Anger can apparently override our survival instinct, or — and this is more likely — she could actually be trying to get him to beat her up. She might not want anyone to intervene because by provoking the violent man and deliberately making her situation worse she scores more pity points with onlookers or family members. And in their dispute’s bigger picture, winning over the relevant people probably matters more to her than a few bruises.
Anyway, that’s what I see happening in the few seconds from the time I notice them to the time I make it over to stand in between them. I don’t touch or even try to directly engage either one. The sudden presence of a foreigner who appears to not know the ‘rules’ for handling this sort of situation (which are: Don’t Get Involved) seems to throw them off their game a bit — either one would now have to go right over me to get at the other. It’s awkward, but it works. They give it up after a few choice parting words and walk away in opposite directions.
Intervening (or not) in public situations in China is a perennial topic among foreigners, partly because there seem to be more opportunities to do so here, and partly because the typical Mainland Chinese response to such situations scandalizes the resident lǎowàis. Not even the police are willing to get involved in domestic violence; it’s considered a private family thing, never mind if the victims are unable or unwilling to defend themselves. I’ve written before asking about culturally-intelligible, or at least effective, ways to break the ‘rules’ in hazardous situations where you feel compelled to do so. It’d be nice if life gave you a heads up when these situations are headed your way, so you had time to think about what to do instead of having to just act in the moment.
Other adventures in sticking our noses into other people’s volatile business in China:
P.S. – This post is brought to you by the verbs 干涉: to interfere, to meddle; and 管: to manage, to control, to take care of. (I was using 干涉 when telling this story to some students this afternoon, and they said I should use 管 instead because 干涉 sounded too formal.)
We stepped off the Great Wall onto a terraced mountainside, and then followed a narrow farmers’ path through a corn jungle down to a village in the valley.
Photo Gallery: Mountainside Great Wall Corn Jungle Village Hike
Along the way a woman invited us into her hillside home to have look around.
Click a photo to go to the photo gallery.
We’ve done this hike before, but never when the crops were above our heads. The previous galleries have better village shots and people shots, especially this one: Happy Forest village — 2008 June 6
Summer is just about done, so here’s a photo gallery of “our” Tianjin covering the first half of 2010 (Spring Festival to present): Tianjin 2010 — Spring & Summer. There’s lots to see, like these grandmas in the park having a group eyeball-rubbing session:
The photos come from all over: partially abandoned and bulldozed hutongs in Tianjin’s less developed districts, the Great Wall in northern Tianjin, street markets, etc.
Click a photo to go to our Tianjin 2010 — Spring & Summer gallery.
Switch to our mobile site