Monthly Archives: October 2011
Seen at Xian’s Hong Kong Star Restaurant. Or ratS tnaruatseR, as it is.
1. Unexpected Unused Gazebos
2. Miniature Misplaced Gardens
3. Quite Strange Schedule Posters
4. Caves. Deep Wonderful Caves.
5. And then, most of all, this.
Oh, sweet sweet Seoul…
They even name their fast food restaurants after doctoral degrees.
Now that’s awesome.
Just off the beaches of Chennai, covered in crow guano, trash and cow dung, lies the creepily gorgeous ruins of the Snowball amusement park.
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North Korea isn’t all doom, gloom, and Kim Jong-il. Sure, there’s vile propaganda, rumors of grim brainwashing, concentration camps and endless misery. But there’s more!
Found this fellow in an alleyway behind my house the other day, roasting corn on the side of the road.
“What’s this machine called?” I asked. I was amazed, watching him flip the cobs from one tube to another, moving them closer and further from the flame below. Constantly he was rolling the tubes, handling the cooked corn with discarded husks.
He took a while to register the stupidity of the question, before answering, “It’s a roast corn machine.” (烤玉米机) Ah.
His awesomely rusty roast corn machine was screwed on top of a large beat-up tricycle, and powered by sticks of wood and wheels of coal.
“I built it himself,” he said. Not surprising — the chimney on the top of the machine was clearly banged together from spare bits of scrap metal. He sells 200 or more ears a day, he said, with a massive bag of uncooked ears at his feet. At 4 RMB a pop (60 cents), he sold 10 or 15 while we stood there.
(Also known as “The most bad-ass ‘donations please’ advertisement ever conceived” – io9)
Halfway between the hippie-mainstay Pondicherry and proto-Jonestown Auroville lies this incredible 15-foot-tall Indian shrine of some awful crime in progress.
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Yesterday morning, I exploded with glee when I realized our Pyongyang Too book had been covered in the wonderful Drawn & Quarterly — a whopping year ago!
Now if that wasn’t good enough, yesterday was also the release of the new issue of CityWeekend magazine, their back page a very fun article devoted to WooLand, me, and taxidermy! Nice!!! Thanks, CW!
Spotted earlier this week by reader Laurie London. (Thanks!)
The cultural revolution-era “Learning English” book blew my mind, but when I stumbled on this little “Learn Chinese” booklet the other day, I was touched. It represented such a different side of the Cultural Revolution.
Instead of war/hate/fear of the “Learn English” book, this one radiates with the hope, promise, and togetherness that was the one up-side of the cultural revolution. “Everyone was together then,” said a 96-year-old Maoist I met the other day. And these two kids really are.
The little Red Guard — maybe he’s a farmboy, or maybe he was sent down to work in the fields and learn from the people — cradles a rural Red Pioneer. They study characters together. “One… two… three…” “Tractor… atomizer… rice basket.”
The title, 农村儿童看图识字, means “Picture Cards for Rural Children.” One of Mao’s great plans was to educate the entire country and eradicate illiteracy. I don’t know if he really managed that — but this book was part of the effort.
There’s no publisher, date or price on the booklet, but it’s marked up with a child’s doodles, and held together with dusty string.
I laughed when I noticed the marijuana plant, or 麻, in the top left above.
“But doesn’t it make them go insane?” a Chinese coworker asked me, eyes wide, when the topic of smoking pot came up at work. “I hear it’s very dangerous,” another said. Except for a small crowd of dreadlocked Chinese hippies I hang out with sometimes, I know few locals who would admit to smoking up.
As a crop, though, you’ll find its shadow everywhere. In Guangzhou, we walked down an alleyway named “Sell Marijuana Street” (卖麻街). In Shenyang, at a national linguistic conference, my hotel grew tall and stinky plants just outside my window. And a junior farmer should definitely know how to read and write about what they grow.
After the insane Cultural Revolution restaurant menu, I didn’t think I’d ever be impressed by mistranslated food titles again. Boy, was I wrong.
Below are some of my new favorite dishes from our local duck restaurant.
One dish wasn’t mistranslated at all. And it’s my favorite… spicy, awesome, and a weird unexpected bone in the middle. Oh, yes….
As seen at JingZun Peking Duck Restaurant, No 6 Building Nouth [sic], Holiday Inn Express Opposite Chunxiu Road [sic], Chaoyang District, Beijing. 010-6417-4075.
61st 62nd birthday, China! (And happy 39th birthday, me!)
In honor of this grand celebration of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, today we decided to sift through the AsiaObscura archives, and return to our wildest, most popular China stories of 2011! And so, in order of pageviews….
6. The Sick Collector and his 2000 Shoes
What happens when you take one creepy old man, one disgruntled housewife, and a collection of bizarre tiny shoes? After marital discord, that is. This profile of Yang Shaorong and his sick fetish brought together pornography, Polyester, and sweet sick obsession into one strange little story.
5. China’s all-time favorite (and all-time darkest?) comic book: Sanmao
Not many foreigners know about Sanmao, but in China he’s bigger than Disney. He’s Bart Simpson, Richie Rich and Charlie Brown, rolled into one dark comic burrito of bloodshed and poverty. Sanmao is a work of Chinese art, and a seriously weird 1940s comic book.
4. Inspector Black Cat: China’s Gore-Soaked Answer to Tom & Jerry
While our Sanmao story drew big audiences, it was nothing compared to the fans of “Inspector Black Cat”–a 1980s kids cartoon that coupled Tarantino with Hanna-Barbera. Blood splats across the screen, cute baby pandas are gruesomely eaten, and swords slice through innocent diners… on daytime tv.
3. Wonderland: Beijing’s Abandoned Disneyland
Crumbling castle walls and turrets, on the road to the Great Wall of China. We spent a day exploring this gorgeously decrepit amusement park, a onetime challenger for Beijing’s best theme park, and found more than just near-death-trap wells.
2. Relive the Cultural Revolution (aka The Weirdest Dinner Theater in Beijing)
It’s the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, all rolled into one delicious meal. The chance to experience the beatings of teachers and parents, the melting of pots and pans, the years of starvation and decade of torture, and get dessert, too. As part of the same story, don’t miss the video of the dinner show, in which landlords are executed on stage to audience cheers, or the restaurant’s incredibly bad menu. What a night!
1. 19 Incredible Taoist Gods
And of course, the Taoist gods ended up the most popular China story on AsiaObscura this year. Like that’s any surprise? We’ve covered plenty of weird Taoist temples in these pages, but this piece on the amazing bad-ass sculptures really caught some attention. If you like those, don’t miss Terrible Moments from a Taoist Temple, in which the gods slice, dice, and saw their congregation in two. It’s unforgettable.
While those were the China stories that garnered the most pageviews this year, my favorite piece on China didn’t make the top five, or even the top ten…. And since it’s my birthday today, as well as China’s, here’s that one, too:
0. A Postcard from Erenhot
Few views, few shares, and almost no comments, but it’s an AsiaObscura must-read. It’s got smugglers, whores, and dog head for breakfast… and after all, what more could a visitor be looking for?