Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

November 11, 2016

Seven Years in China-A New York Times Co-ed piece (2008)


After attending the spectacular closing ceremony at the Beijing Olympics and feeling the vibrations from hundreds of Chinese drummers pulsating in my own chest, I was tempted to conclude two things: “Holy mackerel, the energy coming out of this country is unrivaled.” And, two: “We are so cooked. Start teaching your kids Mandarin.”

However, I’ve learned over the years not to over-interpret any two-week event. Olympics don’t change history. They are mere snapshots — a country posing in its Sunday bests for all the world too see. But, as snapshots go, the one China presented through the Olympics was enormously powerful — and it’s one that Americans need to reflect upon this election season.

China did not build the magnificent $43 billion infrastructure for these games, or put on the unparalleled opening and closing ceremonies, simply by the dumb luck of discovering oil. No, it was the culmination of seven years of national investment, planning, concentrated state power, national mobilization and hard work.

Seven years … Seven years … Oh, that’s right. China was awarded these Olympic Games on July 13, 2001 — just two months before 9/11.

As I sat in my seat at the Bird’s Nest, watching thousands of Chinese dancers, drummers, singers and acrobats on stilts perform their magic at the closing ceremony, I couldn’t help but reflect on how China and America have spent the last seven years: China has been preparing for the Olympics; we’ve been preparing for Al Qaeda. They’ve been building better stadiums, subways, airports, roads and parks. And we’ve been building better metal detectors, armored Humvees and pilotless drones.

The difference is starting to show. Just compare arriving at La Guardia’s dumpy terminal in New York City and driving through the crumbling infrastructure into Manhattan with arriving at Shanghai’s sleek airport and taking the 220-mile-per-hour magnetic levitation train, which uses electromagnetic propulsion instead of steel wheels and tracks, to get to town in a blink.

Then ask yourself: Who is living in the third world country?

Yes, if you drive an hour out of Beijing, you meet the vast dirt-poor third world of China. But here’s what’s new: The rich parts of China, the modern parts of Beijing or Shanghai or Dalian, are now more state of the art than rich America. The buildings are architecturally more interesting, the wireless networks more sophisticated, the roads and trains more efficient and nicer. And, I repeat, they did not get all this by discovering oil. They got it by digging inside themselves.

I realize the differences: We were attacked on 9/11; they were not. We have real enemies; theirs are small and mostly domestic. We had to respond to 9/11 at least by eliminating the Al Qaeda base in Afghanistan and investing in tighter homeland security. They could avoid foreign entanglements. Trying to build democracy in Iraq, though, which I supported, was a war of choice and is unlikely to ever produce anything equal to its huge price tag.

But the first rule of holes is that when you’re in one, stop digging. When you see how much modern infrastructure has been built in China since 2001, under the banner of the Olympics, and you see how much infrastructure has been postponed in America since 2001, under the banner of the war on terrorism, it’s clear that the next seven years need to be devoted to nation-building in America.

We need to finish our business in Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible, which is why it is a travesty that the Iraqi Parliament has gone on vacation while 130,000 U.S. troops are standing guard. We can no longer afford to postpone our nation-building while Iraqis squabble over whether to do theirs.

A lot of people are now advising Barack Obama to get dirty with John McCain. Sure, fight fire with fire. That’s necessary, but it is not sufficient.

Obama got this far because many voters projected onto him that he could be the leader of an American renewal. They know we need nation-building at home now — not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, not in Georgia, but in America. Obama cannot lose that theme.

He cannot let Republicans make this election about who is tough enough to stand up to Russia or bin Laden. It has to be about who is strong enough, focused enough, creative enough and unifying enough to get Americans to rebuild America. The next president can have all the foreign affairs experience in the world, but it will be useless, utterly useless, if we, as a country, are weak.

Obama is more right than he knows when he proclaims that this is “our” moment, this is “our” time. But it is our time to get back to work on the only home we have, our time for nation-building in America. I never want to tell my girls — and I’m sure Obama feels the same about his — that they have to go to China to see the future.

May 18, 2016

Tool to see words in context

When you are learning new vocabulary, you want to see a lot of sentence examples that show you the form and meaning of the vocabulary and see how people use them.

This website,, is very useful because you can enter a Chinese word and it will give you a list of English-Chinese sentence examples based on natural language corpus.

Give it a try. 🙂 Happy learning~~~~


April 14, 2016

Chinese Lunar New Year Greeting

Suggestions for classroom:

1) activate schema: show Chinese New Year iconic images such as the couplets, the upside-down “福”, family dinner tables, etc. Ask students to complete the sentence, “在中国新年,人们____________________。” This practices simple sentence structures and verb phrases.”

2) Group-work: Present a transcript of Mark Zuckerberg’s Chinese wishes (with characters and Pinyin) and have students work in groups to try to sound out the words.

3) Bring class together to cover any new vocabulary and sentence patterns in the transcript they are not familiar with.

4) Show the video clip and watch together. Discuss the video, such as “do you think Mark Zuckerberg’s tone affects his comprehensibility?” ”

5) Practice: have students imagine they will pose as family and greet their friends or family in China and make a video greeting. Have them choose their addressee, write up the script, and act out either in class or video-taking themselves.

Tip: if your classroom has no Internet connection to show youtube videos in class, you can download youtube clips with a youtube video downloader app for firefox.  Search in google and you will find the app. Download the clip as MP4 which can be played by most video players.

September 23, 2015

Happy Moon Festival! 中秋节快乐!


I made some mooncakes myself. 😉

The moon festival is a beautiful festival full of poetry and elegance. The traditions include eating the moon cakes and appreciating the moon with the family. The festival falls on August 15 on the Lunar Calendar, exactly the middle of the autumn, thus 中秋节 -mid-autumn festival. This year, it falls on Sunday Sept 27!

Key practices:

  1. What to eat: moon cakes: date paste filling, lotus seed paste filling; nuts filling; some regions (in southern China) also do meat fillings. / seasonal fruit such as watermelon, pears (but do not share a pear with your family because the word for “pear” in Chinese is “li”, which has the same sound as the word for 离separation!); salted peanuts, tea.
  2. What to do: family reunion; appreciating the moon, which is best done at a waterfront, so one can see the reflections of the moon.Better yet, have some flute or string music instruments play live~~~ 🙂
  3. fables behind the festival: this festival is said to be based on the ancient story of Hou Yi 后羿 and his beautiful wife, Chang-e 嫦娥 who flew to the moon.

Below are two good and fun clips in English telling the background of this festival and about the moon cakes. Good story re-telling. The third one is a description of the festival in Mandarin Chinese.

The following song, sung by the late Teresa Teng, is based on a classic Chinese poem of the Song Dynasty by Su Shi 苏轼。

September 13, 2015

How difficult is Chinese?

Link to the Ranking:    (Gist: The Foreign Servies Institute, FSI, designated Chinese as a “Category Five” language, along with Korean, etc. as the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers.)

September 13, 2015

Learning Chinese Online

if you are looking for online Chinese courses, esp. high school students interested in AP Chinese, below are a few places: 

September 12, 2015

CCTV’s Chinese Learning Video Series

Depending on your level and interest, you can find some very good materials here. The themes range from Kungfu to travel to everyday life, news, and cultural customs and festivals. Take a look. Perhaps you can listen to them during your commute!) l

August 30, 2015

Bruce Lee’s Audition in 1965

This footage has Chinese subtitles. The translation is not entirely precise but pretty decent.

August 29, 2015

“China Aerial” (by National Geographic)

Teaching ideas:

suitable for an advanced level, language and culture course. For the Unit on geography. Have students watch the documentary and zero in on one particular geo location of their interest. Explore it in detail in groups. Create a wiki page introducing the location. Assign similar components for the wiki page so groups will be able to hold similar expectations and control the extensiveness of the project.

Language practice can be embedded. For example, have students translate some parts and compare them with the subtitle provided on the screen.

August 29, 2015

“The Many Lives Along the Yangtze River”

This is a recent feature by Peter Hessler in New Yorker.

Link is

Teaching ideas:

  • 1) translating parts of the feature;
  • 2) comparing the river to lives along the Mississippi  (this is for much advanced group).
  • 3) exploring the works by Peter Hessler and having students present and create wiki–China from the eyes of a western journalist.
Abdulaziz/Yangtze River - PB. Caption: Boats trawling for seaweed and shrimp. Honghu, China, 2015. Credit line: Mustafah Abdulaziz / WWF-UK

Abdulaziz/Yangtze River – PB.
Caption: Boats trawling for seaweed and shrimp. Honghu, China, 2015.
Credit line: Mustafah Abdulaziz / WWF-UK