Monthly Archives: April 2011

Modern Ruins, Theme Parks / ,

Another Abandoned Beijing Amusement Park

What is it with these half-built, then abandoned, Beijing amusement parks? We’re old fans of The Romance Park of the Heart, which is filled with Swiss chalets, Siamese pagodas, and packs of wild dogs looking to tear your legs off. But we kept hearing about another one, in the opposite direction… Wonderland!

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/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments
Chinglish / ,

16 Awesome Menu Items

A sampling from the menus we’ve seen in the last year….

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/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments
Holy Curiosities, The Occult /

The Modern Afterlife

With Melaka being a culture mix of Indian, Malay, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese, amongst others, local customs are very much honored and preserved. Buddhists, keeping up with modern times, offer their ancestors the very best in the afterlife. Apart from the expected cash to spend and incense to purify and keep them from harm, the modern dead are blessed with all of life’s daily amenities and enjoyments including cigarettes, a complete wardrobe, soda pop and beer, as well as lingerie and extra set of dentures, and the latest iPhone!

“I’m surprised you already have the iPhone4 here!”
“We have everything!”
“You really do!”
“Here, look at this!” the shopkeeper’s wife interjected and thrust into view a life-sized paper iPad (with faux leather case!)

Everything here is made of paper to be burned. It’ll end up in heaven with your ancestors, that way. The washing machine, the clothes, the iPhone, the old man. Okay, not the old man. He’s real.


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/ by The WooLand Hotel / 2 Comments
Uncategorized /

Happy Easter!

Here’s another lamb-alicious clip from the 1975 cultural revolution ballet, “Sons & Daughters of the Grassland.” Remember, while watching, that that lamb is a metaphor for something or other.  Oh, I’m probably imagining that.  Happy Easter, and enjoy!

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The Taxidermy Diaries / , ,

Easter at a Chinese Taxidermy School

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Holy Curiosities /

Celebrating Easter in China…

When you’re in a country that doesn’t officially celebrate Easter, like China, sometimes you get nervous.  Will the Easter Bunny get his visa yanked at the last-minute?  Are you sure those chocolate eggs are melamine-free?   Is the holiday even legal here?

Well, we had those same concerns too, but finally decided China’s gonna love Easter!

Good Friday
First, start your Easter right, with a large order of “Holy Fries” for Good Friday.  Weren’t chips Jesus’ favorite snack?  Even if they weren’t, they’ll go great with your Friday fish.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 3 Comments
Uncategorized /

AquaWeird in Qingdao

Yesterday I posted about the strange fish you’ll find in Qingdao’s Huilan Pavilion (as seen on every Qingdao and Tsingtao bottle of beer) — but that’s not all you’ll find inside.

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Extraordinary Eats, The Occult /

Lucky Fruit (and Ain’t So Lucky Fish)

Yesterday, these little nectarines showed up at the market. Dyed (branded? scalded? waxed? greased up with dirty stinking chemicals?) with Chinese characters, they read tall (高), shining (照), a thing (事) and happiness (喜).

“No, no, no,” said Echo, a good friend. “You’ve bought the wrong ones, and got them in the wrong order. They should read ‘吉星高照,’ which means ‘good luck.’ It’s an idiom.” (The ones I ended up with, ordered as below, read something like “tall photograph of a happy thing.”)

“Or maybe they’re trying to say ‘喜事高照,'” she mused. “It’s not so correct but it’d still make sense.”

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/ by Dean Pickles / 1 Comment
Other Obscura /

Happy 99th Birthday, Kim Il-sung!

Okay, I know he’s been dead for a long time — 17 years — but since he’s still the official (eternal!) president of North Korea. And he’d be 100 99 today!  So here are a handful of cute dear great pictures of the “Great Leader” (수령) from our last trip to the DPRK.

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Sweet Movies and Wild Books /

Kim Jong Il’s Remarkable Series of Books About Film

(Happy Kim Il Sung’s eternal birthday!)

Sergei Eisenstein wrote extensively on film theory.  As did Lloyd Kaufman.  So, knowing what a film buff Kim Jong Il is, I was proud to see he’d already hopped on that bandwagon. 


I recently picked up his fascinating 1987 treatise on filmmaking techniques, “The Cinema and Directing.” It’s short at only 69 pages (while he’s short at only 69– bam!), but he really knows how to pack in those anti-consumerist punches. 

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/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments
Theme Parks /

Tongzhou’s "Kids with Measles" Ride

I don’t know if I’d feel too comfortable getting close to these kids…. let alone allow my children to ride their backs…

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The Taxidermy Diaries / , ,

The Chinese Taxidermy Diaries: The Last Few Days

The taxidermy school days ended as they began: just plain weird.

On day seven, Teacher Liu defrosted four squirrels, patchy black and white rodents frozen together in a block of ice.  They looked a little like they were caught spooning in an ice storm.  But as they defrosted, and we worked on them, their hair fell out in large patches.

“They’ve been frozen too long,” said apprentice Xiao Long. 

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Modern Ruins, The Occult / ,

Fake Graveyards outside Beijing

The Beijing suburbs are expanding like mad.

We spent the last ten days living in a small Tongzhou village, an hour east of Beijing, and construction was non-stop. Every day we were there, a ramshackle house was torn down and replaced by a building site. New walls would go up in hours. Bricks and dust were everywhere. Often, a 4′ pile of sand would block our driveway. If we wanted to drive anywhere, the six of us would have to pick up shovels and move it ourselves. (The builders would hide around the corner, leaving only their shovels behind.)

Just beyond the village, though, there were mostly fields. At the ends of many of the fields were graves. Conical mounds of dirt, with an inscribed gravestone, sitting on top of the plough lines. Old women were squatting at the ends of the fields, planting new crops.

It seemed a strange place for graves, so we asked a local friend about them.

“Ha,” he laughed, “I don’t think those are real graves. There probably are no bodies down there.”

Fake graves? Outside our Tongzhou village??

“Yes. The villagers know that the land is going to be developed, and the government will only give them so much money. But if it’s a graveyard, they may pay more. So the local villagers build fake graves on their fields, to get more money. You know the expression ‘shǎjīng?’I didn’t.It means stupid-clever. That’s what they are. Shajing shajing.” He laughed at his own expression, as he repeated it again. “傻精傻精.”

It seemed strange to dedicate graves to government payouts. But just a few miles away, close enough to see if the pollution wasn’t too heavy, there were high rise apartment buildings. A short bus ride away, there was a new subway line. Two of my friends had recently bought houses near here. This land was no longer just for planting Chinese cabbage. It was becoming real estate.

(As usual, many of the pictures — and in this case, I think all of them — are by Woo.)

/ by Dean Pickles / 1 Comment