Posts Tagged ‘Learn Chinese Class’

Chinese Reading -街头艺术面面观(图)- Learn Chinese Class

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

The Cheapest Gig in Town


Definition 定义解读

A busker is someone who performs music or an act on the street. The most common kind of busker plays a guitar. Passers-by will drop money into his/her guitar case. However, players of other instruments, from the classical violin to the handsaw, are also buskers. In fact, any kind of street performance can be regarded as a form of busking. This includes fire-breathers, jugglers, storytellers, mime artists and dancers.


Busking and The City 街头表演与城市

In some cities busking requires a permit while in others it is tolerated as long as it doesn’t ①interfere with noise and traffic regulations.


In Europe, city authorities generally welcome buskers. It is believed that in busy city-centre areas street performers create a festive and lively atmosphere that helps to attract more visitors and shoppers. As passers-by stop to enjoy street performances, they are more likely to take notice of the nearby shops and businesses, and to make more purchases.


Chinese Reading -The Lost Heart of Asia- Learn Chinese Class

Friday, November 25th, 2011

The Lost Heart of Asia


By Colin Thubron


The following passage is an extract from The Lost Heart of Asia by British travel writer Colin Thubron. In this book, Thubron travels through the countries of Central Asia shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In this extract, Thubron describes his first evening in the city of Mari, in Turkmenistan.



Eastward from Ashkhabad my train lumbered across a region of oases where rivers dropped out of Iran to die in the Turcoman desert. In one window the Kopet Dagh mountains lurched darkly out of haze, and repeated themselves in thinning colours far into the sky. Beyondthe other rolled a grey-green savannah, gashed with poppies. Over this immensity the sky curved like a frescoed ceiling, where flotillas of white and grey clouds floated on separate winds.


Once or twice under the foothills I glimpsed the mound of a kurgan, broken open like the lips of a volcano – the burial-place of a tribal chief, perhaps, or the milestone of some lost nomad advance. Along this narrow littoral, a century ago, the Tekke Turcomans had grazed their camels and tough Argamak horses, and tilled the soil around forty-three earthen fortresses. Now the Karakum canal ran down from the Oxus through villages with old, despairing names such as ‘Dead-End’ and ‘Cursed-by-God’, and fed collective farms of wheat and cotton.


The train was like a town on the move. In its cubicles the close-tiered bunks were stacked with Russian factory workers and gangs of gossiping Turcomans. Grimy windows soured the world outside with their own fog, and a stench of urine rose from the washrooms. But a boisterous freedom was in the air. Everyone was in passage, lightly uprooted. They gobbled salads and tore at scraggy chicken, played cards raucously together and pampered each other’s children, until the afternoon lunch-break lulled them into sleep. Then the stained railway mattresses were deployed over the bunks, and the corridor became a tangle of arms and projecting feet in frayed socks. From a tundra of sheets poked the beards of Turcoman farmers, and the weathered heads of soldiers resting on their caps. Matriarchs on their way to visit relatives in the next oasis lay mounded under blankets or quilted coats, and young women curled up with their children in their arms and their scarves swept over their faces.


Two hundred miles east of Ashkhabad, where the soil shelved into ridges of scrub-speckled sand, a harsh wind sprang up. It whined against our windows and liquefied the plain and sky to a single, yellowed light. Suddenly ploughed tracts and irrigation channels appeared, and the glisten of flooded rice-fields; and cranes preceded the suburbs of Mari. I had time for a spy’s glimpse into backyards – a view of cherished private plots and straggling geese – before we jolted to a halt.


Mari was a scrawl over the oasis, built piecemeal in a pallid, dead brick. Between flat-blocks and bungalows I tramped towards a heart which was not there. I found a bleak hotel. Towards evening, sitting in its hall before a black-and-white-television, I heard that Najibullah had been deposed in Afghanistan. But there was nobody in the lobby with whom to share this; and the news went on. With a dim dissociation, as if I were receiving reports from a distant planet, I heard that the Danes had rejected the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and that there was to be a memorial concert for Freddie Mercury at Wembley.


But nothing from the outlandish present seemed real that night. It was the past which impinged. Somewhere on the fringe of this unlovely town lay the ruined caravan-city of Merv, lodestar of the Silk Road for two thousand years, and capital of the gifted and tragic Seljuk Turks: a rich city, sometimes cultivated and benignly powerful, which had nurtured its heterogeneous citizens in a common passion for trade.


I wandered out into the warm night of Mari. The few street-lamps shed down squalor. The only open restaurant served coarse vegetable soups, with lumps of mutton and goat in sticky rice. I padded down unlit alleys towards a thread of music, and emerged beneath flat-blocks to see a floodlit wedding feast. The guests were sitting at long trestle tables under a ceiling of vines, or dancing in a clearing of beaten earth. I watched them from the darkness. They seemed to be celebrating with an isolated fragility. They danced all together with their arms dangled above their heads. They might have been actors on a faraway stage. Nothing seemed solid. Distance muted the gorging and tippling at the table to an elfin conviviality. The speeches and the clash of toasts dwindled to murmuring and tinkling. The women shimmered in claret-coloured velvets and harlequin headscarves, and the young men flaunted black bomber-jackets and flared jeans.


Adding to the strangeness, there were Russians among them: big, blond men who danced, and affectionate young women kissing their Turcoman friends. They swayed and sang faintly to the plangent music – Turc and Slav together – in a tableau of fairytale unity.


I wanted to believe in this unity. The material divide between conqueror and conquered had always been slim here, so that the poorer people, I thought, might painlessly integrate. But the Russian’s conviction of their cultural superiority, and the Turcomans’ deep conservatism, ①played havoc with this hope. Safar had told me that it was almost unknown for a Turcoman family to yield its daughter to a Russian man. So, as I watched, the feasting and dancing assumed the make-believe of an advertisement, and I was not surprised when the Russian guests departed early, their presence a fleeting token, while the Turcomans danced on into the night.



Colin Thubron is a highly praised travel writer whose works are admired for their originality and depth of knowledge. In The Lost Heart of Asia he explores Central Asia at a time of transition and uncertainty. With the dazzling glories of its past seemingly abandoned and its future in doubt, the region is a fascinating destination which Thubron not only deeply understands, but also manages to capture so masterfully in words.


Thubron has an impeccable grasp of the history of the region and its relevance to the present day. More importantly, he has the uncanny skill of being able to convey this knowledge to the reader in a way that is so casual that it does not disrupt the fluidity of the prose and, somehow, this history doesn’t lose its sense of mystery and romance in the process.


In this extract, we get a taste of this style. As he gazes out of the train window his observations takes the reader on a journey from the nomadic tribes of the past to the industrial landscape of the present.


Thubron is a true traveler. He is detached from the environment he is voyaging in and relates it to the reader in a way that makes reading his words more akin to watching these scenes in front of our own eyes. On the train, we observe the other passengers as if through a camera. The wedding feast is a perfect example of this. Standing afar and in the dark, Thubron observes the scene and presents it to us so vividly that long after reading it the image stays fresh in the mind.


The Lost Heart of Asia is an example of a style of travel writing that is original and intense. Few of its contemporary counterparts can come close.


Chinese Reading -旅游黄金周- Learn Chinese Class

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Golden Travel Week旅游黄金周


October Destinations 十月胜地

Some suggestions for the October break.


Korea 韩国

Enjoy the crimson autumn scenery of Korea’s many national parks and mountains. ①Top it off with a shopping spree in Seoul. Best of all, it’s only a short flight from Beijing.


Rome 罗马

All the romance of an ancient city with the pulse of a modern metropolis, Rome is not just a museum of outstanding architecture; it is a lively, bustling, lived-in city. October is a perfect time to visit, weather wise, and no matter what time of year you go, you’ll end up as fat as a fool from Italy’s world famous cuisine.


Switzerland 瑞士

If you hanker for the great outdoors, it would be hard to beat Switzerland. The autumn temperatures are quite comfortable. For the more energetic, there are wonderful opportunities for skiing, snowboarding and hiking. Nonetheless, Switzerland can be an expensive destination.


New Zealand


For a relatively small country New Zealand has a very diverse range of scenery, culture and activities. In October there are three major food and wine festivals. New Zealand has mild weather all year, although it can be quite changeable.

虽然新西兰的国土面积相对较小,但景致、文化和活动的种类却异常繁多。10月,这里将举行三大美食和饮酒节。新西兰的气候全年温和,只不过变化有些过于频繁。London 伦敦

London is one of the most famous capitals in the world. Cosmopolitan and dynamic, it can still satisfy those ②thirsting for tradition. Although autumn is the off-season for tourism, London is still a very expensive city to visit. If you go in October you had better bring an umbrella!


Sri Lanka 斯里兰卡

Now that its civil war is behind it, many tourists are rediscovering Sri Lanka. ‘The Pearl of the Orient’ can boast tropical scenery, exotic wildlife, exciting festivals, friendly people and low costs. The peak season in Sri Lanka is from December to March. October will be less crowded and cheaper. However, it is important to be aware that some regions are still dangerous.


Bilingual Time talked to Wang Lei and Mike Dundas about their travel experiences. Wang Lei is from Beijing and recently travelled in Britain. Mike is from the U.S.A. and works as an English teacher in China. The following is an interview based on their conversation. The full audio version of this interview can be found on this issue’s CD.


Rudi: Recently, you just came back from a holiday in Britain. Would you like to describe that for our readers?


WL: I was in England for three weeks. It was the summer, so it was really nice. It was really sunny, and it didn’t rain a lot. It was quite nice.


Rudi: Where did you go in England?


WL: I went to London, and I went to Yorkshire, Liverpool and the New Forest.


Rudi: Which place impressed you the most?


WL: I think, Yorkshire and the New Forest.


Rudi: Why?


WL: Yorkshire was really hilly. We were driving there and it was quite impressive. And the New Forest because compared with Beijing it was so clean, the air you know. It was so green everywhere and quite relaxing.


Rudi: What about London? Did you like that?


WL: I think maybe because I went to London during the summer holidays, so it was really crowded. There were so many tourists. London is a big modern city and there are a lot of nice things to see. I went to Russell Square, London Bridge, and I saw the London Eye and the National Museum. It was really nice.


Rudi: Do you think that the average Chinese tourist would enjoy travelling in Britain?


WL: I think so, yeah. There were many Chinese tourists there.


Rudi: What do you think would be the main attractions for Chinese tourists in the U.K.?


WL: I think many people, maybe ninety percent, they’re going to go to London, because it’s the capital and has Buckingham Palace and London Bridge, you know, famous places. But I think the countryside is quite nice too. If you can rent a car it’s really nice to drive there, to relax and see the views.


Rudi:If you had some friends who are going to travel to Britain, what advice would you give them before they went?


WL: I think the first thing is don’t go there when it’s a really busy time. Go there, maybe Christmas and in June or May, a really nice season and not very crowded. And I think it’s really nice if you can rent a car and drive. Britain is not very big, so you can drive along the road and stop wherever you want and see some nice places.


Rudi:What are your plans for the October holiday this year?


WL: I haven’t decided yet. I want to go somewhere quiet and relaxing. In October, Chinese people have a week holiday. The thing is, many places of interest have so many people. It’s not very good for a holiday. Everywhere there are people, it’s crowded and it’s not good. I want to go to someplace near Beijing, somewhere really small.


Rudi:Thank you very much.


WL: Thank you, you’re welcome.


Rudi:Mike, you’ve been in China a few years now. You must have been travelling at some time. What places have you been to?


Mike: I’ve done extensive travelling. I’ve been to many places in the northeast and the southwest, and also to Xinjiang in the northwest. The best place I’ve ever been in China, so far, was Yading Nature Preserve (Mike points to a map of China on his wall) here in southwest Sichuan. Right there, in this place called Daocheng. It was beautiful, but it was very difficult to get to. It was ③out of the way in the mountains.


Rudi:What was it that impressed you about this place?


Mike:Just the natural beauty of it, to tell you the truth. It had sweeping grasslands and alpine mountains, like snow covered, serious Himalayan style alpine mountains. And it’s virtually untouched. No tourists go there because it’s so hard to get to. There’s no way to get there other than to ride a bus for sixteen hours a day for two days straight and then get a jeep for another day and ride horseback for five or six hours to get to this monastery. So it was a long ride.


Rudi:What time of year did you go there?




Rudi:What is your plan for the National Day holiday this year?


Mike:The plan is to stay home for this October holiday. Because the holidays offer me a chance to work more, while everybody else is taking a vacation. And also the academic schedule gives me a few days here, a few days there, to travel, apart from the normal national holidays. So, it is better for me to stay home during the national holidays and to travel at different times when there’s fewer people out there.


Rudi:Have you travelled with Chinese friends?


Mike:Yes. I have travelled a lot with Chinese friends. In fact, almost all my travelling was done with Chinese friends; it made it so much easier.


Rudi:Do you think the style of travelling is different?


Mike:The style of travelling around China is definitely different than travelling in the U.S. The travelling I’ve done around the U.S. was much more organized and planned in advance. It’s easier in China

to sort of make your plan up as you go along, to have a general idea about what region you want to be in, but not to book any hotel reservations in advance, not to book any train tickets too far in advance, because there’s so much out there to do that you never know when you might change your mind along the way. It’s better to have a much loser travel strategy in China than it would be, I think, in the United States, where you could plan with a lot more certainty.