School of Hard Knocks

Small article from’s legal section. It’s sort of a Dear Abby about corporal punishment in schools. Speaking to Japanese, Korean, and Chinese friends, the situation with physical punishment in East Asian schools is similar to that in America–namely, it on the whole doesn’t exist anymore. Mostly because of complaints from parents and legal issues. But I don’t know what the teacher in this article did exactly.


Corporal Punishment Led Student to Illness, Should the School Bear Full Responsibility?

Ming is an elementary school’s fourth grader who was punished for an hour by Liu Mou, a physical education teacher, for being unruly during class. Afterwards Ming became psychologically depressed, and was evaluated as schizophrenic by a legal medical expert . Ming’s parents went to the school demanding that it bear responsibility for compensation. Is this reasonable?

Ni Changli, lawyer, responds: If, after going through a hearing and investigation by the people’s court, it is determined that there exists a necessary causal relationship between Ming’s schizophrenia and the teacher’s corporal punishment, then the school should bear the responsibility of compensation. Objectively speaking, there could be a certain relationship between Ming’s ailment and his personality, the pressures of studying, and the parents’ methods of discipline, etc. The teacher’s punishment was only one factor, and the school should bear a certain proportion of the responsibility.


I wonder how it turned out, and what “proportion of responsibility” there is for pushing a borderline schizophrenic, if such was the case, over the edge?

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Hard Seat

I brought an old newspaper (Jan 18, 2007) to read back to front during my break in the States. I found a very interesting editorial about the Chinese rail system and Chinese behavior in the train stations and on the train. I should spend more time reading these editorials rather than dwelling on the international section. Written by a guy named Chang Ping down in Guangzhou.


Distrusted Trains Bring Tragedy

My own experience tells me that in chaotically managed train stations, and on the distrusted trains, civilized people can also become uncivilized.

On January 13th, at the Wuhu Train Station (Anhui Province), after a female college student was crowded off the train platform, she was crushed in half by a train that had not yet stopped. Most Chinese are able to imagine that type of frenzied crowding, and they can all believe that this wasn’t an especially unbelievable accident. The next day, at the Changsha Train Station, over a hundred ticket-holding university students were thrown off the train and left ignored in the wintry wind. After the matter the railroad explained that it happened because the train was overcapacity, but there wasn’t even a single sentence of apology. (From yesterday’s “Guangzhou Daily”) That last affair is really the explanation for the first tragedy as well, which is simply that the railroad enterprise’s service is weakening people’s confidence in it.

On the internet many people discuss the quality of our citizens. They think that unfortunate female college student was killed by passengers of low quality (素质,in Chinese this “quality” refers to a person’s all-around character, if they have “quality” they have integrity, act civilized, and are generally worthy people), passengers who don’t understand how to line up in a civilized manner. But this is missing the point. First of all, even if a problem exists with the passengers’ quality, it wasn’t inborn, it was brought about by society and especially by the oversights in railroad service. Secondly, these same people, if they were to travel by plane, are unlikely to act the same way in the departure lounge.

The airline companies’ service also has many problems, but there is still a basic lower limit to it, and most passengers know this. If a ticket is bought it means they can get on the plane. If they are unable to board because the plane is overweight, airline companies at the very least have to explain, apologize, make a transfer, or even provide compensation. Whether it’s a plane ticket or a train ticket, it’s just a paper contract, it’s the carrier’s promise of conveyance and service. But if there isn’t even that basic promise of conveyance, then why have to buy a ticket? What’s absurd is that the affair at the Changsha Train Station shows that passengers didn’t receive this sort of promise from the Department of Railway Transport. They knew that only having a ticket wasn’t enough, they still had to run and push, otherwise they might not be able to board the train, and even then, if they got on the train they might be forced off. In this type of situation, can one hold such high expectations for the quality of our citizens?

Don’t consider this to be only a special accident due to the increased Spring Festival rail traffic (春运 - literally “spring transport” is the special Chinese term for the huge increase in railway passengers that occurs during the Spring Festival, the biggest holiday of the year), a few railroad enterprises’ services are consistently slack. I myself, because of a slight fear of heights, like to choose to ride by train for business trips or for traveling. I’ve never been through the Spring Festival jostle, and almost never traveled during the “golden vacation period”, but in the train station I frequently swear that the next time I will definitely suffer through the plane ride. Last summer I was at the Changsha Train Station, and right upon entering the waiting room that arid heat, the filthiness, the stench and the clamor, it was enough to make me nauseous. The train was delayed, but there wasn’t any notification. In front of the ticket-checking station there was a long and abnormally crowded line. I went to the fee-collecting so-called “VIP Waiting Room” (actually it’s just separate thoroughfare that allows one to board the train ahead of time, and is also unavoidably crowded), but the attendants attitude was poor, and I was so angry I went back to the other waiting room. Upon arriving at the back of the long line, I stood there for a while until discovering that it was already the ticket-checking line for another train, and the one I wanted had already quietly left. At this point you cannot count on having anyone come and help you, you can just go to the ticket hall and return your ticket for half price. If you want to ask anything more, the ticket attendant won’t bother with you. In this type of environment, can you refuse a little crowding?

I’ve ridden European and American trains many times, and I have no choice but to “worship foreign things” (崇洋媚外 - literally ‘worship ocean fawn on outside’, that ocean is also carries connotations of the West, a pretty cool chengyu all in all I think) and pledge to you that it absolutely is a treat. You don’t have to worry about people carrying a megaphone and shouting at you, you don’t have to worry about people forcing you off the train, you don’t have to worry about people selling fake or poor quality goods on the train, you don’t have to worry if the dining car’s food is expensive and unpalatable. You can choose different companies, nitpicking over their service’s quality, the train schedule and travel quality. You can go so far as to refuse a certain company because you don’t like their ads or symbol. In this kind of environment, why bother doing any frenzied crowding? Unless of course you’re doing some sort of behavioral art, to sympathize with and in support of China’s passengers.

My own experience has told me that in a chaotically managed train station, on a distrusted train, civilized people can become uncivilized. In in this sense, poor railroad service to a certain degree actually is a “degenerating machine” of our citizens’ quality.


I liked this article, it gave me a better perspective of the situation, although I’ve never actually ridden on trains in China where I’ve seen people kicked off. Unbelievably crowded, yes, but never to the point where I’ve not had my ticket honored. I would believe that it happens at some times and places though. Now if someone would just write one about the crowding and line cutting at the post office and cafeteria.

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Here’s a short article I’m reading for my Newspaper class, it’s about some good old-fashioned American moon exploration.


America’s New Lunar Exploration Plans Will “Dissect” the Moon

- Two satellites will survey the moon while orbiting, in order to explore its internal structure and history of evolution.

Xinhua Press.
America’s NASA made a new press release on the 11th, stating that the United States will be putting a new lunar exploration project into effect, the objective being to survey the moon’s internal structure and evolutionary history.

- The probe is expected to launch in 2011

The full name of the new lunar exploration project is “Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory”, according to the English words the abbreviated name is GRAIL. NASA says that the entire project is estimated to cost about U.S. $375 million, and the probe is expected to lift off into space in 2011, with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory responsible for managing and running the project.
The official release says that the GRAIL project will employ a twin satellite-probe system. After the two satellite-probes separate one will follow behind the other in lunar orbit for several months of flight, and will measure the moons gravity field with an “unprecedented degree of accuracy”. According to the gravity field information, scientists will be able to thoroughly analyze the moon from crust to core, revealing the moon’s surface and subterranean structure, and thus will obtain second hand information about the lunar interior’s thermal evolutionary history.
NASA says that the GRAIL project’s survey data will also help answer a few long-standing and difficult questions about the moon, and will give scientists a better understanding of the earth and even provide new hints about the formation of the solar system’s other rocky planets.
NASA’s assistant administrator responsible for scientific surveys, 艾伦-斯特恩(Allen Stein?), said that they will use innovative technologies from earth surveys in the lunar survey field, and that this is only the first step, and they will attempt to use them in the surveys of Mars or other planets.

- A foreshadowing of a “return to the moon”

According to the United States’ “New Space Exploration Plan”, Americans will “return to the moon” before 2020. Prior to this, NASA already has plans to launch a “Lunar Survey Orbital Flyer” in 2008, which will circle the moon for a year in the least, and which will mainly carry out choosing landing locations and other such activities for the America’s successive manned and unmanned lunar exploration projects. The GRAIL project will be a project foreshadowing the American “return to the moon”.


Recently my Newspaper teacher made some offhand remark about not being so trusting of American space technology, especially after the Challenger explosion (she might have been referring to the Columbia disaster, she only mentioned one, but didn’t attach a name or time). Which was one of the few times in class I’ve gotten a little peeved about something said about America. Anyway, I’ve since let it go. But talk about being ignorant.

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New Project!

I’ve decided to put a little more time into translating and less into reading, which is what I’ve been doing most recently. So I will be slowly translating this book on Zen I picked up, called “Ch’an Talk” or “About Ch’an”, not sure how to best translate it at the moment, maybe after translating more of it the name will clear itself up.

Anyhow, here’s the first bit, I think I’ll try and do a minimum of a page a day.


Publisher’s Note

Ch’an is the largest school of Chinese Buddhism, and is unique in its human attitude, its system of values, its aesthetic appeal, and its method of thinking. For both courtly and common figures in ancient times, especially the literati class, it had a very far-ranging and profound influence, and formed an indissoluble bond with China’s ideological and cultural history. Researching Ch’an’s formation, development, and evolution, and investigating the characteristics of its every period, has become a major undertaking of the scholarly research world. This book is an introduction to early Ch’an Buddhism’s personages and events, and was written by the celebrated scholar Mr. Nan Huaijin. It is easy to understand, concise and to the point, and is suitable for those new to the subject. The author and the original publishing unit, the Taiwan Ancient Culture Enterprise Company, have authorized the revision and reprinting of the 1994 edition for research purposes.


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Paint By Numbers

I’m preparing a short presentation on Chinese painting for my China Survey class, so here’s an excerpt from the textbook’s section on painting, which describes some of the features of Chinese painting in comparison to its Western counterpart.


Looking over the history of the Chinese art of painting, we can divide genres of traditional Chinese paintings in the following ways, among others: in subject matter, they can be classed into portraits, landscapes, or flower-and-bird paintings; in technique and method, they can be split into detailed brushwork paintings and freehand paintings. Detailed brushwork painting refers to paintings with neat and careful depictions, and with meticulous coloring. Freehand painting denotes the use of free, easy, and succinct brushwork, and in delineating an object’s figure, the emphasis is on expressing the artist’s creative feeling. If one were to compare traditional Chinese painting and traditional Western painting as a whole, Chinese traditional painting clearly possesses the following characteristics:

First, the prominence of lines. Traditional Chinese painting, from the very beginning, already relied on lines to depict form. Even afterwards, there were very few works that didn’t employ the use of lines; it could be said that traditional Chinese painting is basically a linear art. On the other hand, in traditional Western oil paintings and watercolors, the expression of form mainly relies on the light and shade of levels of colors, and there can even be a total absence of lines. Precisely because of this, Western painting particularly emphasizes the spreading and arrangement of color, while Chinese painting emphasizes the application of pen and ink–“Pen and Ink Technique”.

Second, the importance of likeness in spirit. During the Southern Dynasties period (420-589 CE), China’s first painting theorist, Xie He (谢赫), presented the “Six Principles of Painting”. Among these principles, the first required the expression of the image’s tone and vitality; the second required brushwork to have inherently strong, calligraphic strokes, the third principle, finally, is the precision of the subject being painted. That is to say, Xie He put “spiritual likeness” at the head, and “physical likeness” secondarily after that. Xie He’s artistic theory became the rule in Chinese painting. For instance, when painting a portrait, it’s not simply a matter of painting a person’s appearance. Rather, it is more important to portray the person’s expression and personality through their exterior, making the character more vivid and full of implication. But in traditional Western paintings, the changes in the light and color of the persons or scenery are what are pursued, along with the temporal and spatial effects of day and night, indoors and outdoors, etc. They possess a more realistic and three dimensional feeling.

Third, the integration of poetry, writing, and painting. In the West, though poetry and painting are sister arts, even if a painting itself might greatly possess poetic significance, that meaning is very rarely inscribed on the painting itself. The reason being that in the West there is no calligraphic art that can stand between poetry and painting as a harmonizing intermediary. China’s calligraphy itself possesses artistic beauty, so it is often used at add poetic accompaniment to a painting, linking poetry, writing, and painting. This creates an effect of “poetry in painting, and painting in poetry”, and gives the art more creative concept and emotional influence than a simple painting.

Although China and the West both practice the art of painting, in style and technique they are truly different. Through understanding the history of Chinese painting and the characteristics of Chinese and Western painting, it is possible to have a deeper recognition of Chinese painting as a variety of culture, and promote the improvement of one’s ability to appreciate art.


I’m just doing my presentation on landscape paintings, basically drawing on the textbook and supplementing that with what I learned in my Chinese Art History class back at school. It’s a powerpoint presentation, and I want to finish it off with some pictures by Zhang Hongtu (张宏图), who is probably my favorite painter from that class. His website is, which I actually can’t get to from here in Beijing, because it’s blocked.

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Not Quite

Here is an excerpt from my Survey of China class’s textbook. We’re blazing through the economics chapter at this point.


Although the agriculture of the New China has made great advancements in the past fifty-odd years, it is still in a backwards state compared to the rest of the world. Aside from the relatively poor natural conditions and frequent droughts and floods, other main problems include: having a low level of mechanization, lacking widespread scientific and technological methods, having yet to break away from the state of being “at the mercy of the elements”, having a reliance on physical labor, and having a low rate of production. For example, America’s national territory covers an area about the same size as China’s, however the natural conditions and the modernization of the agricultural industry are much better than China’s. Their agricultural population is only 3% of the total population, and yet they sustain a 97% non-agricultural population. On average, every year each agricultural workforce produces over 7,000 kg of grain, and the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of grain. The ratio of Japan’s farming population and city population is 1:10; the farming population’s 10% sustains the city populations 90%, and the yearly average of grain produced by the agricultural workforces is 2,850 kg. But as for China, in 2002 the ration of farming and city populations rose to 6.1:3.9, and the yearly average of grain produced by agricultural workforces is only 1000 kg. This indicates that the level of China’s agricultural development is still very low, and that there are heavy responsibilities to bear on a long road towards agricultural modernization.


So, translation-wise, I’m not sure how to translate …劳动力生产的… because those numbers up there (7,000 kg, 2,850 kg, etc.) are correct, but there is no way these countries produce that little grain a year. That 劳动力 must not mean labor in general, but a certain type of unit of labor. I don’t know what that would be, because obviously farming is done way differently in say, America and China.

I wouldn’t say I trust this book entirely, we’ve also done chapters on history, politics, and minorities, and there is a ton of stuff that is just not mentioned, or if mentioned definitely puts the Party spin on it. Some information escapes unscathed, like the first chapter we had on geographical features of China, and probably the above paragraph, which I include just because it’s interesting. But otherwise everything else we’ve learned can’t be described in its entirety for political reasons. So I really have no idea what the entirety is.

I bet Chinese people normally get better information; they’re not stupid and know how to find the truth if they’re looking for it, China isn’t Eastasia. This book is just a brief 180 page introduction to everything about China and it’s geared towards foreign students. So the information in this book probably isn’t even what Chinese people actually know or have access to. It’s like the distilled essence of the Party line that they want to feed to foreigners. Sometimes I really can’t stand reading it. If I have time maybe I’ll pick up a college level modern history text and see what that says.

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