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Chinese Society

Hey everyone, today we are going to be discussing the social structure of China.

Beijing

Beijing is also a city of contrasts.  The political, educational and cultural center of China, the history of Beijing can be traced back over 3,000 years.  With such historical relics as the Forbidden City, the Ming Tombs, and the Great Wall in close proximity, Beijing is a place one can get in touch with the China of old.  However, with the recent economic progress and the frenzy of new construction and infrastructure for the 2008 Olympics, Beijing is now a changed city.

Family Life

Introduction: Families in China are generally still quite traditional, and the family is a focal point of life. Most holidays center around family gatherings and meals, and filial piety is an important and still is a very valid part of Chinese society.  In many cases, adult Chinese children will live with their parents (if their parents live in the same city), with the parents aiding them with household duties such as cooking and parenting.  Thus, though China is modernizing very quickly, traditional family values are still very strong.

Work Culture and Economy

Introduction: China’s economy is ranked number 3 in the world and is strong in manufacturing, being called by some ‘the world’s workshop’.   Almost every major multi-national company not only has an office in China; they deem China as vital to their global corporate strategies.  Though foreign companies account for a lot of business in China, the State-owned companies continued to dominate the list of the biggest companies in China, taking the top ten spots. Some well known multinational companies in China are Boeing, Volkswagon, Microsoft and Nokia.

This is just some of examples of what Chinese society is really like today! Be sure to explore more about this society to understand it more!

Chinese Cuisine part 2

Last week we discussed the basics of Chinese cuisine, well this week we are back to talk about our favorite subject some more, food! This week we will be discussing dishes we strongly recomend, and some other dishes that we recomend for the brave!

Top Chinese Foods to Try

  • 小 籠包 (xiǎolóngbāo) - Probably the most famous Shanghai dish: these small steamed dumplings are steamed in a basket and stuffed with meat and a tasty broth inside. The connoisseur bites a little hole into them first, sips the broth, then dips them in dark vinegar (醋 cu) to season the meat inside.
  • 油条 (yóutiáo) lit. oil stick - Long, deep-fried donut. A very popular breakfast in China. Typically consumed in the morning with soy milk (dou jiang 豆浆), the youtiao is a long, deep-fried stick of dough.
  • 羊肉串 (yángròu chuàn) Barbecued meat skewers (Typically from street vendors) - Generally made from lamb, these Xinjiang-style meat kebabs are delicious.
  • 拉面 (lāmiàn) Lanzhou-style lamian - Fresh hand-pulled noodles; look for a tiny restaurants with staff in Muslim dress. These fresh noodles have a flavor very atypical of most noodle dishes you will find in China.
  • 点 心 (diǎnxīn) Cantonese / Guangzhou / Hong Kong-style Dim Sum - The small snacks usually eaten for lunch/breakfast in these southern regions of China and in Hong Kong are a highlight.

Top 5 Chinese Foods for the Brave

  • Stinky Tofu - Locals will forever be asking you if you’ve tried this fermented tofu specialty, so you might as well cave and do the deed. Think ‘french cheese’ rather than ’smelly socks’ and you just might enjoy it.
  • Century Eggs - They’re not really a century old, though they do look it. Black, gelatinous, strong salty flavor… these delicacies are preserved in salt and ash for 100 days.
  • Drunken shrimp - Shrimp marinated live, and served live. Watch out for the splashing wine. You eat them after they drown.
  • Seahorse - Though it feels somehow wrong on many levels to eat cute animals that feature in Disney cartoons, at least you’ll have something to write home about.
  • Bird’s Nest Soup - Don’t let the saliva base of this broth turn you off from this healthful aphrodisiac.

Chinese Cuisine part 1

The focus of this lesson was to teach about Chinese cuisine
Basics of Chinese Cuisine

  • Many people are surprised on their arrival in China to find that what they thought was Chinese food is nowhere to be found.
  • Another challenge is that the names of Chinese dishes, even in Chinese, can be very cryptic, making ordering a challenge, even if you find a menu with English translations. Chinese dish names are generally completely irrelevant to the ingredients.
  • Rice is generally a staple of the south, with noodles featuring in as well.
  • Northern China features dishes made with wheat flour, such as noodles, dumplings, steamed buns, and thin pancakes.
  • Where meat is often the focal point of many western meals, it is the starch-rice or noodle-that is the starting point and palette for Chinese meals.

Regional Cuisines

  • There are 8 main regional cuisines in China; the flavors vary from hot and spicy, to sweet and oily, even pungent and sour.
  • The main cooking methods employed are stir-frying, deep-frying, steaming and stewing.
  • Chinese kitchens rarely have an oven, though there are various specialties that are roasted.

Famous Seasonal Dishes

  • The Hairy Crab of Shanghai comes into season in October/November. A local delicacy that is exported around the country and beyond. One of the most savored parts of the hairy crab are the sperm in the males, and the eggs in the females.
  • Hot pot is a warming food that is popular in the winter. A large pot of broth is set to boil, and the diners cook their own meats, vegetables and seafood by boiling them in the soup.
  • In mid-to-late September, the mid-autumn festival is celebrated. Mooncakes are ubiquitous at this time of year, and are gifted and re-gifted amongst friends, relatives and from employers to employees.
    • Mooncakes are round, like the moon, and have a pastry-like crust with a flavored filling; from lotus paste to sweet red bean; even salty egg yolks.

Table Etiquette

  • Chinese food is generally prepared in bite-sized pieces that can easily be picked up with chopsticks. A knife at the table is considered barbaric.
  • It is a demonstration of utmost hospitality and respect for the host to dish food onto his guest’s plate. Often, this will be done repeatedly, despite futile pleads on the eater’s part to being full.
  • It is fine to leave some food in one’s plate, as if one cleans the plate, it is a signal to the host to put more food onto it!
  • In China, dishes are served communally, and there are no serving spoons. The diners all use their own chopsticks to dip into the dishes.
  • Never stab your chopsticks into your rice bowl and leave them there. This is the worst of all Chinese dining faux pas, as it is related to a funeral tradition.

Food as Medicine

  • From bird’s nest soup to deer antlers, Chinese food therapy dates back as early as 2000 BC.

Well thats all we have for today! What is the most unique Chinese food you have ever eaten? Please leave us a comment and let us know!

Top 6 Must-Know Phrases (one for getting out of trouble…)

The following are 6 essential phrases guaranteed to be the best thing you ever learned in Chinese!

  1. 谢谢 (xièxie)  “Thanks.” The Chinese aren’t big on ‘please’, but they love thank you so much that they’ll often hit you with a barrage of it, ‘xiexiexiexiexiexiexiexie’.
  2. 听不懂 (tīngbùdǒng) “I don’t understand what you are saying.” This phrase is going to be your best friend, go-to and solace. 
  3. 你好 (nǐhǎo) “hello” If you don’t know it yet, we don’t know where you’ve been.
  4. 不知道 (bù zhīdào) “I don’t know.” You may hear this phrase more than use it, however learn from the Chinese how to bu zhidao every situation you wish to evade, play dumb about, or avoid.
  5. 不好意思 (bùhǎoyìsi) “Sorry.”  Buhaoyisi literally means ‘bad feeling’, and can be used to apologize to all the dainty toes your oversized foreign feet will step on in the crowded subway, to repent over some cultural faux pas you likely don’t know you’ve committed, or to just curry favor, in general.
  6. 让一下 (ràng yīxià) “Let me through.”  Buhaoyisi’s slightly stronger cousin. Use this when you’re trapped in a subway car and can’t get out, or stymied in your efforts to crowd-worm through a city of 18 million people.

There you go.  Just don’t blame us if #4 doesn’t work ;)

Top 5 MUST-Know Chinese Phrases

The following are 5 essential phrases guaranteed to be the best thing you ever learned in Chinese!

谢谢 (xièxie)  “Thanks.” The Chinese aren’t big on ‘please’, but they love thank you so much that they’ll often hit you with a barrage of it, ‘xiexiexiexiexiexiexiexie’.

听 不懂 (tīngbùdǒng) “I don’t understand what you are saying.” This phrase is going to be your best friend, go-to and solace.

你好 (nǐhǎo) “hello” If you don’t know it yet, we don’t know where you’ve been.

不 知道 (bù zhīdào) “I don’t know.” You may hear this phrase more than use it, however learn from the Chinese how to bu zhidao every situation you wish to evade, play dumb about, or avoid.

不好意思 (bùhǎoyìsi) “Sorry.”  Buhaoyisi literally means ‘bad feeling’, and can be used to apologize to all the dainty toes your oversized foreign feet will step on in the crowded subway, to repent over some cultural faux pas you likely don’t know you’ve committed, or to just curry favor, in general.

让 一下 (ràng yīxià) “Let me through.”  Buhaoyisi’s slightly stronger cousin. Use this when you’re trapped in a subway car and can’t get out, or stymied in your efforts to crowd-worm through a city of 18 million people.

We know we said top 5 phrases but all of these words are so important and usefull, we thought we would include all 6!

Learning Chinese Pronunciation Part 2

There are only six vowels used in pinyin, but they are combined to produce a lot of different sounds. we have a pinyin chart with clickable mp3 records of each of the sounds, to aid you in perfecting the pronunciation in the full lesson on ChineseClass101.com.

One of the more difficult Chinese vowel is the ‘u’ vowel sound. This ‘u’ sound is quite a nasal sound. It is said to be similar to the French ‘u’ and is made by pronouncing an ‘i’ when rounding the mouth.

Chinese has four different tones they are, five including the neutral tone:

  • The first tone is high and steady: ‘mā’
  • The second tone is a rising tone: ‘má’ and has intonation similar that that used in English to indicate a question, i.e. ‘huh?’
  • The third tone dips down slightly in the middle: ‘mǎ’. You can feel a slight vibration at the base of your throat when you are doing it correctly.
  • The fourth tone is falling, and falling fast. Sounds slightly angrier than the rest. ‘mà’.
  • Then we have the Switzerland of tones, being the neutral tone. Which is a relief, because it’s just… well. Neutral. No tone. ‘ma’.

There are some special circumstances that occur with certain combinations of tones that are together in a compound word or sentence. When two or more third tone characters occur in a row, the last of these remains a third tone, while the one(s) before it change to the second tone. If there are more than two third tones in a row, the final third tone in each series
remains a third tone, while the rest become 2nd tone.

Learning Chinese Pronunciation Part 1

The focus of this lesson is to learn about Chinese pronunciation.

Each Chinese character can be said to be a syllable. These syllables can be a stand-alone word, or they can be grouped together to make compound words. Each syllable, or character, in Chinese is made up of an initial and a final sound. These intials and finals can be combined to make up around 400 unique word sounds in Chinese.

Chinese uses a phonetic system called ‘pinyin’ to aid learners of Chinese in pronunciation. This pinyin uses Romanized letters to represent the sounds of Chinese. There are 21 initials in Chinese. This is the sound the word starts with. There are about 38 combinations of final sounds.

Some of the letters used to represent the sounds of Chinese are similar in pronunciation to their English counterparts. However there are some that are different. The ones that give some people trouble sometimes are as follows:

Z - the difference with the english ‘z’ is that this sound is made with your tongue touching the back of your upper teeth. This results in a more ‘dz’ sound.

C - sometimes confused with the ‘z’ sound, the ‘c’ is aspirated whereas the ‘z’ is not. Aspirated means that you let air out when producing this sound.

Zh -to make this sound the tip of the tongue is raised against the back of the gum ridge. It has a similar sound to the English ‘j’, but the retroflexive nature makes it much thicker.

CH - is similar to the English ‘Ch’ however the tip of the tongue is raised against the back of the gum ridge, as it is in the ‘zh’.

SH - is similar to the English ’sh’ however the tip of the tongue is raised against the back of the gum ridge, as it is in the ‘zh’ and ‘ch’.

X - it also seems similar to the English ’sh’ but it is in fact produced quite differently. You raise your tongue up and let the air squeeze out.

Q - it is in the range of the English ‘ch’ but different in that it is also produced in the same way as the x. you raise your tongue and let the air squeeze out.

R - this one is tough. Nothing like the English ‘r’, don’t be fooled by the use of the letter ‘r’. again, curled tongue, a zee-ish phenomenon.

Learn Chinese Direct from Beijing with ChineseClass101.com

Dear Chinese Students,

Today we’re pleased to announce the launch of ChineseClass101.com. This is a joint project between Popup Chinese and the folks at Innovative Language Learning.

If you’re familiar with the Innovative Language approach to teaching, you’ll know the strength of their materials has always been tight, step-by-step progressive lessons for beginners. At Popup Chinese, we’ve historically geared our materials towards more advanced students, so when we had the chance to cooperate with the Innovative team and work together to build something that could take advantage of the powerful system they’ve already built we leapt at the chance, and began work designing a focused and stepwise program for Mandarin instruction.

Although a few hints leaked out (*ahem*), for the past few months we’ve worked somewhat stealthily to build the best team possible for the task. You’ll find our progressive beginner lessons hosted by none other than the famous Frank Fradella. Other big names on our roster are Amber Scorah and of course everyone on our existing team like Echo Yao and Brendan O’Kane. This is a great team and I can say with confidence I’ve never worked with a stronger one. With more than 100 lessons on the new site, our content is off to a good start too. As Frank said once after a marathon recording session, “our first twenty lessons here teach more than I learned in a whole year studying elsewhere.”

We think this is a great step forward and look forward to hearing your feedback and thoughts as well. It is definitely a major step forward for Chinese language education online. There’s never been a better time to learn Chinese, or a better way to learn it online. Regardless of whether you’re an advanced independent learner or a total newbie, we hope you’ll enjoy the work we’ll be doing both here and at ChineseClass101. Thanks for your support, and 加油 everyone!

Best from Beijing,

David Lancashire

Best from New York,

Amber Scorah