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Lesson Transcript

Amber: Hey everybody. Welcome back to All About Chinese. The Chinese lessons where you get to learn about the real China. I’m Amber.
Victor: 大家好 (dàjiā hǎo), I’m Victor.
Amber: And today is Lesson 6 in our series and it’s Test Your China Knowledge.
Victor: So I’m pretty nervous today.
Amber: Oh, yes, because there is going to be a test.
Victor: A test already. Doing it the Chinese style.
Amber: Yes, that’s very Chinese in itself, because the Chinese love tests. And of course, Victor, what kind of language course would be complete without a test?
Victor: Yeah, definitely. But it’s not going to be that hard, right?
Amber: Yeah, this is different. This is a fun test.
Victor: And if you pass, you get to move to the next lesson.
Amber: And if you don’t pass, you also get to move to the next lesson. So no pressure. We all know some things about China.
Victor: The crowdedness, food…
Amber: Yeah. The Olympics, of course, fortune cookies, you can see The Great Wall from the Moon, or do we? Do we know? We’re going to find out today.
Victor: Yeah. So five things about China that you have to know.
Amber: Yes, because learning Chinese is so much more than learning a language. You have to learn some other things too.
Victor: And it’s really a way of life. And it’s a way of thinking.
Amber: Yes, a very crowded way of life, the way of life in China. OK, so, Victor, since you’re Chinese I think you should set the example for the students, and you have to take the test, not me.
Victor: Ok, alright.
Amber: So I'm going to be the tester, you’re going to be the testee.
Victor: Ok, go right ahead.

Lesson focus

Amber: Ok, so let’s just get into it, Victor. First question. What percentage of China’s 1.3 billion people live in urban areas?
Victor: Wow, can I phone a friend?
Amber: There’s no lifeline available.
Victor: Well, last time I checked, I know there were about 70% of people who lived in rural areas, so I think I'm going to go with 40% who live in urban areas.
Amber: Correct. Yay! One out of one, not bad.
Victor: One star.
Amber: And you know what’s interesting about that? 40%, that’s tons. How many million people is that?
Victor: There’s 600 million.
Amber: Wow.
Victor: Almost.
Amber: People live in cities in China.
Victor: Just below 600 million people.
Amber: That is crazy. And did you know that it is estimated that by 2010, it will exceed 50%.
Victor: Yeah, I guess that’s why the Shanghai World Expo has the theme “Better City. Better Life”.
Amber: That’s right, because most people do live in the cities, or almost most. Ok, well, here’s an interesting fact. Did you know that the population of Shanghai alone is roughly equivalent to the entire population of Portugal and Switzerland combined?
Victor: That’s pretty crazy.
Amber: It is kind of crazy. And I remember that in Taiwan alone, they almost have the same population as Canada. A little bit less. That’s crazy.
Victor: Yeah, that is.
Amber: Yeah, ok. Now that we’re on the subject of geography, I mean, geography test is appropriate. But did you know that China’s population accounts for about a fifth of the world’s population
, but it has less than tenth of the world’s arable land?
Victor: Yeah, that’s why you see all those rice paddies on the sides of the hill.
Amber: Yeah, you can tell in China, when you go to the countryside, they’re using every square inch of space.
Victor: I guess just to put things into perspective here, China and the US kind of have a comparable land area. But only about one third of Chinese land is actually inhabitable.
Amber: Wow, the student becomes the teacher.
Victor: Just a little extra. And the Chinese population is four times as much as the US one.
Amber: Wow.
Victor: So you’re squeezing all those people in a third of the area. That’s why it’s so crowded there.
Amber: It’s amazing, amazing.
Victor: Yeah, think about that. Another cool thing about China is the diversity, not only in people, but also in languages and the climate.
Amber: Yeah, when people think of China, a lot of people think of the famous things like the Goby Desert or the Mountain Regions of Tibet, but a lot of people don’t know that China even has its very own Hawaii.
Victor: Yeah, and that is 省 (shěng) province. It’s really beautiful there.
Amber: Have you been there, Victor?
Victor: I have not, but I’d like to go.
Amber: Yes. Well, it’s claimed to be the Hawaii of China, but I think maybe it’s yet to be seen.
Victor: I’ve seen pictures…
Amber: It looks nice.
Victor: They seem very incredible.
Amber: But yeah, it’s a very tropical island with beaches. So what you have is 哈尔滨 (Hā'ěrbīn), in the North, where it’s sub-Arctic, freezing.
Victor: All the way to the hot and humid areas with monsoons and heat.
Amber: Yeah. And I don’t know if everyone’s heard, but there’s these famous five fiery furnaces of China. Five cities in China that are so hot, they’re called furnaces. And they’re not exaggerating. But I thought every Chinese city I’ve ever been in, in summer, was the furnace. Like, “Is this one of the furnaces?” Like, “No, no, no. This is not one of the… This is one of the…” I don’t know. Everything feels like a furnace, basically, in China, in summer.
Victor: It’s very hot.
Amber: Ok, let’s move on a little bit more about the geography of China. Listen carefully, Victor. China has the following number of provinces – multiple choice – A. 22 B. 23 C. 34.
Victor: Ok, I’m going to rely back onto my elementary school geography lesson, so I’m going to say…
Amber: Going way back, Victor.
Victor: 34. 34.
Amber: Yay! You’re right. Wow. You validated yourself as a legitimate Chinese person. What I think is amazing is that after living in China for six years, every once in a while, someone would bring up another province that I hadn’t heard of. So you think you would know all the provinces, but yeah, there’s just so many that sometimes someone will just be like, “Oh, I’m from so and so place.” And you’re like, “What?”
Victor: Yeah, this is starting to feel like I’m in Chinese school again. So let’s move onto something more fun.
Amber: Ok, well… I have a pop culture question. It’s more about modern China. That’s probably more fun for you. And you can give us all kinds of insight. Ok, so a lot of people know that a lot of things about Chinese history, that they’ve learned from you, Victor, 5,000 years, etc.
Victor: 5,000 years, yes. Remember that.
Amber: Yes. But people aren’t familiar with the culture of today so much, right? So here’s pop culture question. I'm going to name three people. One is a famous singer, the next is a sports star, and finally a politician. And what you have to do is match the person with their profession.
Victor: Sure. Hit me.
Amber: Ok. Ok, the first one. 王菲 (Wángfēi).
Victor: Oh, that one’s really easy. She’s a very famous singer.
Amber: Yes, my favorite singer in Chinese.
Victor: She’s very, very good.
Amber: Yeah, well that’s the easy part. But this is the real test. Now you have to sing one line from her song.
Victor: Really?
Amber: I’m not joking.
Victor: I will start singing.
Amber: Ok. No, wait, you have to.
Victor: I’ll save that for karaoke night, for karaoke night.
Amber: Come on.
Victor: No, no, no. It’s ok.
Amber: Ok. 王菲 (Wángfēi) is one of my favorite Chinese singers. She’s quite cool and she’s kind of edgy, but she’s also famous, like you said, for being an actress. She’s been in a few of Wong Kar-Wai movies.
Victor: Yeah, like 2046 and Chalking Express.
Amber: Yeah. What do you think of that movie, Victor? Do you like Wong Kar-Wai?
Victor: I thought it was artsy. It didn’t make too much sense to me, but it was artsy.
Amber: Yeah, they’re pretty good. Anyways, her songs are great.
Victor: Ok, so who’s next?
Amber: Ok, here’s a really hard one. 刘翔 (Liúxiáng).
Victor: Oh, he is like a national hero. He’s a very famous hurtle.
Amber: Yes, and both Victor and I were at the Olympics, so of course we were obsessed with 刘翔 (Liúxiáng), right?
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: But yeah, he’s pretty much a god in China, I would say. He broke the world record, in case anyone doesn’t know, for the 110 meter hurdles. And no Chinese man had ever done that before, one in Athletics.
Victor: I think Asian, in general.
Amber: Even Asian. Wow.
Victor: I think. That’s why he was so big.
Amber: Yeah. So if you ever see a Chinese guy on a billboard in China, and you don’t know who it is, it’s probably 刘翔 (Liúxiáng).
Victor: Yeah, it probably is.
Amber: Yeah, because if it’s not Yao Ming, then it’s probably 刘翔 (Liúxiáng). Ok, so next one. Moving one, maybe not quite as fun, but he’s obviously the politician since the last one that we’re mentioning, but you have to tell us what his position is, ok, Victor?
Victor: Sure.
Amber: Ok. Here it is, 胡景涛 (Hújǐngtāo).
Victor: Oh, that’s a very easy one for Chinese people or people around the world.
Amber: Wait, wait, wait. Can you say his name properly, though? Cause I feel like I don’t say it right.
Victor: 胡景涛 (Hújǐngtāo).
Amber: Ok, thank you.
Victor: He is the President of the People’s Republic of China.
Amber: Right. Ok, so politics is kind of boring. So now we’re going to move on to something more nice, is that a lot of people want to learn Chinese so they can travel in China, not so they can learn about Chinese politics. So what, Victor, are the top three travel destinations in China.
Victor: I would say Beijing, definitely, that’s favorite, and Shanghai and Shiyan.
Amber: Right. You’re so smart.
Victor: You would think that you knew the answers before the show. But that question, I think, is a little subjective. It’s hard to really say what people’s top three favorite places are. So I'm going to ask a real Chinese person, you Victor, what do you think the best three places are? You already said you like Beijing the best. Do you agree with the Xi’an and Shanghai?
Victor: Oh, definitely. I mean I think these are really good places, especially for first time visitor to see, to get a good overview of China.
Amber: Yeah, what about some smaller places? Some people I know really like Yangsuo which is right by Guilin.
Victor: Suzhou, Hangzhou, Sichuan is also very nice.
Amber: Ok, next question, moving along. Now, we learned in the first intro lesson that one of the top five reasons to learn Chinese is to get rich, right?
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: So we have to have a question about China’s economy.
Victor: Yeah, that’s a very important topic.
Amber: Ok, so here it is, the economic question. Victor, what year did the economic reforms that transformed China’s economy into a market-oriented economy take place in? Was it before you were born, maybe?
Victor: I think so. So I kind of rode the wave. I think that will be 1978.
Amber: Yes, correct again.
Victor: Yes, once again.
Amber: Yay! Victor’s so smart. Yeah, well, it’s true that China’s economy is really amazing. And, did you know, Victor, that over the past 17 years, that China’s economy has grown, on average, by more than 10% a year?
Victor: That’s pretty amazing. Nowadays, you see less and less bicycles and more and more fancy cars.
Amber: Yeah, it’s so true. It’s very evident that the economy is definitely growing, people are making more money. In fact, I almost got run over by a Ferrari on the streets of Shanghai once, while riding my bike.
Victor: Oh, that’s crazy.
Amber: And the guy, I think, he probably went from bicycle to Ferrari, because he could not drive at all, but he had this Ferrari. I’m sure it was his first car and his first driver’s license.
Victor: Yes. Sadly, the bicycle filled streets are getting fewer and fewer slowly.
Amber: Yeah, I think there’s something very atmospheric about the bicycles on the streets of China. But yeah, more and more cars. Ok, now, best question of the day. I think that by now, more than a few people might know that there’s a couple urban myths about China that have been debunked.
Victor: Yeah. And one of them being that you can see the Great Wall from the Moon with the naked eye.
Amber: Yes.
Victor: There have been reports that repute that belief.
Amber: So how do we know that it’s not true, Victor? It was a Chinese astronaut that confirmed it, so we know it’s definitely not true.
Victor: According to some reports, yes. But it’s still a very spectacular piece of architecture. I think, if you get to go to China, definitely check it out.
Amber: Yes, I’ve been there. It’s really amazing. Now I'm going to test you, Victor. Here are two statements, you have to tell me which is true and which is false.
Victor: Ok, ready.
Amber: Number one. Every morning, school children in China have to do eye exercises led by the teacher, as part of the curriculum. Or two. Fortune cookies are a Chinese dessert.
Victor: Ok, this is… I’m glad you actually brought this up because it’s going to be disappointing for some people, the second one is false. There are no fortune cookies in China.
Amber: It’s very true. There really are not.
Victor: Yeah, and it’s interesting that you brought up the first one, cause I remember doing those eye exercises when I was a kid, in China, in school.
Amber: And do you wear glasses today, Victor?
Victor: I don’t.
Amber: Contact lenses?
Victor: No.
Amber: You’re the only Chinese person I know that doesn’t wear glasses or contacts.
Victor: Well, I used to. But my eyesight is pretty good, so I don’t have to.
Amber: Wait, you used to? You mean you got laser eye surgery?
Victor: No, no, no, no, no. It’s just not bad enough that I don’t just…
Amber: The eye exercises cured you.
Victor: They’re very, very interesting.
Amber: Ok, Victor can teach anyone who wants to know the eye exercises, but it’s very interesting. It’s quite relaxing, I’ve done it myself. There’s sort of eye ball rolling, and some pressure points, pushing different areas.
Victor: Yeah, it’s kind of like eye massage.
Amber: Yeah, basically eye massage. Yeah, it’s great. Ok, so the thing is – let’s get back to the fortune cookies – is that Chinese desserts… I mean, Chinese aren’t big on dessert as it is, so I think that’s why the fortune cookie got invented, actually, in the States, because the people are more into dessert. I mean, Chinese desserts are not really welcomed by Westerners so much.
Victor: Chinese desserts use a lot of beans and corn. And we kind of think of them as dessert food, and sometimes fungus too.
Amber: Yes. Actually I kind of like the fungus dessert. It’s like cloud ear right?
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: Yeah, I like that. Yeah. So basically I think, if you think of Chinese desserts, they have every ingredient that a Westerner would never conceive of putting in their mouth as a dessert. But I think they’re a lot healthier, that’s why I actually like Chinese desserts.
Victor: My favorite is egg tarts.
Amber: Egg tarts.
Victor: You can actually get them too in the US.
Amber: Those are very, very famous.
Victor: Yeah, very nice.
Amber: Yeah, they’re good. Now, as far as the fortune cookies, I don’t know if everyone knows, but it was actually a Japanese guy, in San Francisco, at a tea garden, that is the first person who invented the fortune cookie.
Victor: I think they kind of copied a little traditional Japanese dessert.
Amber: Yeah, that’s right, some kind of a cookie. And that was way back in supposedly, like, the 1890s or early 1900s, but really it’s weird, because you think that Chinese people would totally love that idea. Fortune cookie, like…
Victor: Although I do think that Chinese people take fortunes much more seriously, so it’s not something you can just laugh about after a meal. So you have to go to a temple on auspicious dates and pray to get it. So it’s not something you just open it up at dinner table, and then laugh about it afterwards. Yeah.
Amber: Ah, no wonder. You totally solved the riddle.
Victor: My observation.
Amber: Cause even the guy who… there was a Brooklyn based fortune cookie manufacture, he tried to introduce fortune cookies in China, and he opened a factory even in China, and eventually he had to close it down. He had to take off. It makes sense now.


Victor: So how do you think I did, Amber?
Amber: I think you passed. I mean, you got all the questions right. You’re Chinese, it’s easy for you. Well, hopefully, our listeners also had the chance to test their China knowledge. And I think probably everyone did really well, except maybe the fortune cookie one. A lot of people don’t know about the eye massaged. Ok, well, as for China, this is only the very tip of all the interesting things about China that you’ll find out as you experience and learn the language and the culture first hand. So Victor and I, Chinese expert, Victor, and me, I don’t know what I am, are here to help you every…
Victor: Maybe ambassador.
Amber: Yeah, I'm the ambassador. You’re right, the Chinese ambassador. And we’ll be here every step of the journey to help you and share our experiences too.
Victor: Yeah. And everyone can share your interesting!