“Have you ever been to the US?”
“I set up a kite exhibition in Hawaii as a part of a US-China cultural exchange program. Some of the local schools that participated thought it was really interesting, so they invited me to teach at their school. Altogether, I have taught over 700 students how to make Chinese kites in over 25 countries…but Hawaii is still my favorite.
…Would you like to know more?”
“There is a particular way people used to fly kites. First, you need to form a line of 10 men, each 10 meters apart to hold up a different part of the kite. The oldest man in front runs a few steps and throws the kite up in the air. The young men follow his lead. Once the kite is off the ground, it should be really noisy as it catches the wind and rises steadily off the ground. If the kite has a smooth takeoff, it is considered a good year for harvest. If the kite falls, it is considered a bad year for harvest.”
“I’ve lived in China for over 10 years but I’m originally from Pennsylvania. A lot of my friends ask me how I get around in China. I remind them that I’m 10% Chinese and tell them it’s in my blood.”
“It’s OK! I know a lot of foreigners are scared of the way taxi drivers drive here but I’m telling you it is okay!! There is so much traffic here. China has so many people… I’m constantly paying attention and thinking up new routes to take. Look out your window: the crowd over there can make up a country!”
“I know what you’re thinking! Why aren’t we like a lot of old Chinese people who like to do tai chi, play ping pong, or sing in the park? We don’t have a very good answer. It started out as just a way to stay in shape but we really started to enjoy playing basketball. We come here to play almost every day
…since you’re taking our photo, are we going to go viral in America? (laughs) We’re just kidding!”
“For my birthday one year my best friend gave me a present in this gigantic box. I was really impressed. I was excited to tear it open, but inside I found a slightly smaller box. That box held two more boxes which I opened and was extremely surprised when I found that all I got was a pair of underwear!”
“Were you angry at your friend?”
“Nope, I thought it was great! It was really funny. It made my day.”
Kim Chen wrote a new post, The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Fantasy of China 2 years ago
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute’s annual benefit gala in New York City marks one of the most fashionable nights of the year, and this year all eyes were on China.
Several famous Americans created media buzz by wearing ostentatious dresses and accessories that reflected their interpretations of the theme for 2015: “China Through the Looking Glass”. Soon after Rihanna walked the red carpet in a dress reminiscent of a famous Chinese snack, the jian bing (煎饼), dozens of memes comparing it to the Chinese egg crepe were already making the rounds online. Although some people poked fun at her dress, she was one of the only non-Asian American celebrities who chose to wear a dress made by a Chinese designer (Guo Pei, who has dressed stars such as Fan Bingbing and Zhang Ziyi) .
Although there is some doubt about the exhibition promoting ‘Orientalism’ (a sometimes harmful form of cultural appropriation and/or misinterpretation of Asian cultures) instead of Chinese culture, the fact that China is now the focus of such a media-heavy, high-fashion event is exciting.
Andrew Bolton, curator for “China: Through the Looking Glass,” answers these doubts by describing this year’s exhibition as a dialogue between the East and the West. He emphasizes that the exhibition does not aim to represent China directly, but instead create conversations between couture creations and iconic Chinese objects. He highlights the fact that in recent years, China has been a primary source of inspiration for Western fashion.
“[American] interest in China has amplified in the last few years… a lot of designers who are looking to show [their designs] in China are also engaging in Chinese history and creating thoughtful meditations on the history of China through their fashions.”
Mr. Bolton acknowledges that the exhibition is a glance at China through a Western lens. He describes it as ‘a fantasy of China.’ Although the exhibition does not showcase China per se, it does create conversation about how China is portrayed in the United States. China has been and still is represented from a Western perspective in American media and mainstream culture, but now, people are beginning to acknowledge that fact.“China: Through the Looking Glass” is not a representation of Chinese culture but, more accurately, an appreciation of and a growing curiosity towards Chinese culture.
It is encouraging to see highly publicized American events like the Met Gala showcase aspects of cultural exchange between US and China by spotlighting Chinese culture, celebrities, and designers. However, it is also important to acknowledge that our understanding of China from an unfiltered perspective is limited, especially in the media. As Pengyous, we should be excited to see a highly covered event such as the Met Gala creating meaningful discussion about how China has been, is, and should be depicted in American culture.
What was your favorite outfit at the event? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Kim Chen wrote a new post, SERIES: Pengyous of Beijing– Snapshots of Tianjin and Guangxi 2 years ago
I extended enough money to pay for two orders of 煎饼 (jian bing). but she pushed it away.
“No, share this one. The snacks here are delicious. You’re going to need to save room in your stomachs for fried rice cakes and 包子 (baozi)! Here, I’ll cut this one in half for the two of you to share.”
“My brother and I have been talking about going to Guilin since we were in elementary school. We’ve always been amazed by the photographs and postcards, but seeing it in person was truly something else. It’s always great to be reminded of just how diverse, expansive, and beautiful China is; I think that, more than anything else, is what keeps us so interested in this country, and what keeps drawing us back.”
It began to storm as we got off the river raft from 兴平 to 大河背. An elderly woman and her son saw us walking in the rain and invited us into their hotel (bottom right).
“Come hide from the rain in here! I will get chairs. Do you all need some warm cups of water? Do you have umbrellas? Make sure you are very careful when you are walking around, the ground is slippery in the rain!”
“Do you guys want to learn Kung Fu? I can teach you.”
“Then, put your phones down and stand up! I learned these moves from watching TV.”
“Wow you’re pretty talented.”
“Of course I am!”
“We are all from Waseda University in Japan. We met during orientation and realized we all came to study abroad in China for similar reasons”
“Our university back home is prestigious but it isn’t as interesting. Our second language is Chinese and rent here is a lot cheaper.”
I (Kim) was about to miss my train from Tianjin to Shanghai. But, thankfully he let me share a taxi with him. He works in Tianjin and goes home to visit his family in Shanghai once a month. He was in the middle of telling me about famous places to visit in Shanghai when his mom called him on the phone.
He said to her: “I’m showing a foreigner around, so I may be home a little later.”
“Do you have a 4?”
“What about a 4?”
“I said, NO!”