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Posts Tagged ‘Shanghai’

Trip to China (2)

Friday, May 17th, 2013

After spending five days with family in Changchun, we went to Hangzhou, making a quick stop in Shanghai. We were supposed to meet our close friend Mary in Shanghai and do the rest of the sightseeing together, but the bird flu in southern China, including the cities we planned to visit, made her stay put in Chicago.

Restaurants in Shanghai were packed—no sign of concern for bird flu, though a couple of American expatriates we met for dinner told us restaurants were not serving chicken at the moment. Brian and his wife Pat treated us to a wonderful meal at Ye Shanghai in Xintiandi. Lisa missed her flight connection in Beijing—not changing her watch to local time and rushing to the boarding gate 15 minutes too late. She missed dinner and more importantly, talking to Brian and Pat about their experience in China.

West Lake

West Lake

We stayed at the Marriott Hotel in city center and took the fast train to Hangzhou the following morning. I was pleasantly surprised that it only took us only an hour to reach Hangzhou.

Xiao Qiu, our tour guide, was waiting for us at the train station with a driver and mini van. The perfect temperature of 70 degrees and humility made a drastic contrast to the dry and dusty air in Changchun, and the lustrous green in the city made it immediately appealing. Our driver proudly told us that Hangzhou is one of the most beautiful cities in China, with ample variety of trees along the streets. We checked into the J.W. Marriott Hotel, and Xiao Qiu took us to a signature restaurant. Despite the local specialty of chicken and duck, we carefully avoided all poultry, but did try the famous Dong Po Pork—fat but delicious!

Qiu Jin's statue by West Lake

Qiu Jin‘s statue by West Lake

We spent the afternoon walking along West Lake and took a boat ride to observe the sceneries along the shore. I’ve learned about the beauty of West Lake from poetry since I was a child and was expecting to see an impressive sight. But nothing prepared me to the vastness of the lake, and the grand scale of the well maintained gardens surrounding it. Different colors of flowers and tree leaves added more pleasure to the eye, and the lustrous spring greens were intoxicating. We walked the legendary bridges and stopped by various statues, including that of Qiu Jin, the first feminist in China.

In the following two days, Xiao Qiu took us to Lingyin Temple, Tiger-dug Spring (the best pairing with Longjin Tea, Hangzhou’s specialty), Yue Fei Monument, and the Wetland where we discovered a small museum for the studies of the classic vernacular novel Dream of the Red Chamber. I didn’t know the original story took place in this area and the comparison of real life characters with those in the novel was eye-opening.  We also took a boat ride on the Grand Canal, the longest in the world (From Beijing to Hangzhou, over 1,100 miles) and watched the busy traffic of cargo barges moving back and forth along the Canal, as they did for more than a thousand years.

We couldn’t leave Hangzhou without taking another long walk by the West Lake.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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A young woman’s advice

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

yu juan1I recently received a heart-wrenching story of a 32-year-old Chinese woman from a friend. It came as a PowerPoint slide. It touched me and compelled me to appreciate each day from a deeper level.

The woman’s name is Yu Juan, a teacher at Fudan University in Shanghai. She came from a working family and studied hard to obtain her master’s degree in Norway and Ph. D in China. The mother of a two-year-old son and wife of a college professor, she was making inroads in her own career. In December 2009, however, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and was given a year and a half to live. As she fought her battle with cancer, she began to blog about her feelings, struggles, and reflections on her life. Her postings became viral and touched many readers. After she passed away, in less than the time she was predicted to live, her writings were collected in a book titled “… this unfinished life – recollections of a mother, wife, and daughter”.

yu juan2Yu Juan was a high achiever, racing with time to get her education and advance her career. “I spent more than 20 years to get my education,” she wrote. “I rarely go to bed before midnight.”

Suddenly being forced to face a very limited time to live, she realized that she could let go of her pursuits and find joy and happiness in her daily life.

“Life is one-way street. Once passed, there is no way back,” she wrote.

She urged everyone to ponder the meaning of life.

“I want to provide a better life for my parents and child, yet in the end, I realize that they’d be happy if I could simply survive,” she continued.

She described her own life like a busy bird flying from one destination to another under tremendous self-imposed pressure.

“I set the goal to finish my Ph. D ahead of time,” she wrote. “I was miserable when I failed. Who cares if I got my degree a year earlier or not?”

She called upon people, especially the young, to stop and ponder and search for a more meaningful and happy life instead of busily and blindly pursuing certain goals.

The very notion of having a limited short time to live, therefore, being forced to choose how to spend the precious remaining days stopped me in my tracks.

It is not that I don’t know we all have a limited time to live. But a life span of seven or eight or nine decades seems to be a long one.

The alarm sounds off when I try to think in terms of days, months, or even a year or two.  If that were the case, would I be living differently? I wondered. Would I look at things from a different perspective?

I know I would.

And I think many of us would, too.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into a feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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A New Toy

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

By Jian Ping


My new toy

Two weeks ago, I bought a MacBook Pro laptop, completing my shifting to Apple products from iPhone, iPad, and finally a computer.


The latest step was made necessary by my new initiative to release books I had acquired and will continue to acquire from publisher(s) in China. I’m excited to make my contribution in bridging cultural differences and promoting cross-cultural communications/understanding by releasing books under MoraQuest, the company I founded two years ago.

The first book I selected during my June trip to China was titled China in the Next 30 Years, a wonderful collection of essays written by more than a dozen Chinese and Western scholars who predict the economic, political, and agricultural development of China in 30 years. I found it very informative and the perspectives from both Chinese and Westerners provided various balanced and in-depth views.


A powerful tool

Armed with my new toy, I learned the basics of page layout and cover design by using Pages, the equivalent of Word in Microsoft Office. I took one-to-one tutoring at the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue and spent hours laboring over templates and graphics and the color “inspector”. I must admit I was and still am quite “technology” challenged. I put aside everything else, including blogging, and “fought” my through step of the way, day and night. For two weeks, I slept four or five hours a day. After many trials and errors. I finally created a file with hyperlinks that would allow readers to click on the table of contents in PDF or ePub files, the basic requirements to release the title in digital format at the three key e-retailers, namely, Amazon, B& and iStore. I’ve made one round of revision shortly after loading up the files. There are still minor issues, I’m sure, that will be brought to my attention. But the digital book is available for sale online now!



A new release in digital format

A few people who read the book generously endorsed it, including Robert Herbold, retired COO of Microsoft. Mr. Herbold wrote in his testimonial: “China has made huge progress over the past 30 years. In this book, some of the world’s best visionaries examine if and how China can now transition to a genuine global leader. I highly recommend this very interesting collection of viewpoints.”


My new toy has helped me embark on a new endeavor. I’ve acquired two more books focused on China issues, mostly its political and democratic systems. They were both written by Westerners and were quite critical of China. I am impressed that these books were released in China, in both Chinese and English. If my newly learned skills doesn’t fail me, I should be able to release these books in the next few weeks.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit, for more information. Mulberry Child has been made into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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Visiting China—Two Days in Shanghai

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Shanghai Museum

It’s been more than five years since my last visit to Shanghai. I could hardly recognize the city. There are a few places such as the Shanghai Museum and the Shanghai Arts Museum, both located at the People’s Square, that I wanted to see. So I started from there.

Over the past few days, I had realized that every park, temple, or special site that I visited was imposing hefty entry fees. I was prepared to pay, only to be pleasantly surprised that both museums were free. I spent hours in there, savoring the exhibits from relics of jade, ceramic, money, to calligraphy, digital photo and embroidery. They were eye-opening and impressive.

Worshippers at Jing An Temple

To get a better feel of the city, I walked along Nanjing Road next to the Art Museum all the way to Jing An Temple, about a couple of miles. Nanjing Road is a major shopping street, a large section of it close to Huangpu River is pedestrians only. I noticed that all the major international brands, such as Gucci and Cartier, have glamorous shops there. Then, in the midst of the metropolitan clamor stood Jing An Temple, with many believers of Buddhism and well-wishers burning incense or praying. A peaceful view, except that many people, especially the young, rushed in, kneeled down, threw some money into the donation boxes, and in a matter of minutes, were on their feet to leave. Watching them, I was disturbed by the seemingly pragmatic nature of their actions.

A trendy bar at Tianzifang

I got together with my friend Jamason, a native from Shanghai who lives in Chicago now. He happened to be in town to visit his mother. Jamason graciously took up the role of host: he showed me Tianzifang, a local district that had preserved all the old buildings and lanes, but had transformed itself to a trendy place with all the contemporary bars, restaurants, and small shops, quite an amazing site. To make comparison, he also took me to another district called New World, which, in a similar style, created an aura of old Shanghai, but had everything in a much grander scale. A large “tent” was set up at the entrance to the area, with two guards by its door. Inside, a post-modern exhibition created a surreal feeling, just like the drastic changes and happenings in the city. A couple of blocks away, a two-story Apple Store was packed with young people. I had never seen an Apple store of this size.

Inside the exhibition "tent" at New World

Jamason took me to a local restaurant to try some typical Shanghai “snack food”: steamed stuffed-buns, pot-stickers and noodles. From there, we walked to a rooftop bar by the Huangpu River. The temperature was in the upper 70s and the skyscrapers lit up the sky and the river. I would not have found this place without him, for there was no sign on the street, or even at the entrance of the building, to indicate such a nice place was located on the top. Apparently enough people knew its existence, for the place was packed.    

I left Shanghai for Chengdu the next day, with a longing to come back to the city and explore more.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit, for more information. Mulberry Child has been turned into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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Modern sculpture from Shanghai World Expo to be placed in Chicago

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

by Jian Ping

Stone Talk by Yu Jiyong

A Chinese sculpture, which serves as the good will and relationship between Shanghai and Chicago, will soon find its way to a new home in a park in Chicago.

Stone Talk, a sculpture of column made of stainless steel and granite, is the brain child of well-known artist, Yu Jiyong. It was one of the sculptures displayed at the Shanghai World Expo. The City of Chicago has recently accepted a sculpture as a gift from Shanghai, one of its sister cities in China.

“The sculpture has the elements of earth and metal,” said Bill Spence, Co-chair of the China Committee, Chicago Sister Cities International. “To me, it symbolizes a mix of the new and the old, a dramatic combination of the new China and the old cultural tradition that dates back to five thousand years. It’s a representation of modern China.”

The discussion of having one of the sculptures from the Shanghai World Expo installed in Chicago started when former Chicago Mayor Daley visited Shanghai in September last year. Stone Talk, a straight column that represents “unity, harmony and growth” is selected among five pieces of sculpture that were offered for consideration by Shanghai.

“It’s a very beautiful artwork,” said Jerry Fogelson, Founder and President of Fogelson Companies and Co-chairman and CEO of the Central Station Development Corporation. Fogelson, one of the most successful real estate developers in Chicago, has offered to cover the transportation to move the sculpture from Shanghai to Chicago.

Fogelson plans to place the sculpture in a park in the Central Station area of the city.

“The sculpture has many features that will go well with this area,” Fogelson said. “It’s vertical, the tower of strength. It radiates the right, powerful feeling, and it’s welcoming.”

In recent years, the Central Station has become Chicago’s premier lakefront neighborhood. Many Asians, especially Chinese, have moved into this area.

 “The sculpture symbolizes the relationship between China and the United States,” Fogelson continued. “We’d like to turn the Mark Twin Park at Indiana and 16th Streat in Central Station into a Chinese garden that will be designed to prominently feature the sculpture.”

The sculpture Stone Talk is currently on display at the site of the Shanghai World Expo and will soon be shipped to Chicago.  

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit or for more information. Mulberry Child has been turned into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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Swinging Shanghai Gala

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

By Jian Ping

Bill Spence (left) and Steve Fisher and Lisa Xia, co-chair of the event, speaking at the Gala

The Swinging Shanghai Gala, an annual fundraising event organized by the China Committee, Chicago Sister Cities International, was held at Maxim’s last Wednesday, May 25. It was an evening of fun and networking. Many Committee members and their guests attended the gathering.

The China Committee gave recognition and honor to the University of Chicago for its “wisdom of establishing the Beijing Center.”

“University of Chicago is a major Chicago institution,” Bill Spence, Co-Chair of the China Committee, said at the Gala. “The Beijing Center not only serves as a center for scholars, but it can also be used for business and cultural exchange programs and meetings.”

Louis, Lisa and Jennifer posing for a snap shot at the Gala

Spence praised University of Chicago’s (UChicago) long history of involvement with China. He pointed out that the reputation of UChicago would help draw renowned scholars around the world to the Center and also attract Chinese policy makers and scholars to Chicago.

Judith Farguhar, Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, received the plaque of recognition on behalf of UChicago.

“University of Chicago has rich and deep connections with China for many years,” she said. “The Beijing Center is a wonderful conduit to widening and deepening these connections and exchange programs.”

The annual gala was a great success. Many members and local businesses donated items for auction, which include luxury hotel stays in Shanghai and Chicago; tickets to concerts, sports events, and golf outings; classes for language and cultural studies, including a 10-week, 3-hour/week course from the Asian

Members and guests enjoying an evening of wine, beer (including Tsingtao Beer from China), and delicious food at Maxim's

Classics Program at the Graham School, UChicago. Proceeds from the auction will support the Committee’s activities in “strengthening the partnerships among business, government, cultural and educational institutions” between Chicago and its two China sister cities, Shanghai and Shenyang.

Tabitha Mui played Gu Zeng (古筝), a traditional Chinese music instrument, throughout the evening. Artists from the Hip Hop ChicaGO, organized by the Center for Asian Arts and Media at Columbia College, also entertained the guests with their performance.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. The book has been developed into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011. Visit, for more information.

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“International Breakfast”

Friday, February 18th, 2011

by Jian Ping

Chicago Sister Cities International (CSCI) hosted its third annual “International Breakfast” yesterday at the Cultural Center. All attendees were members of CSCI or the Chicago Consular Corps (CCC), including representatives of all General Consulates located in Chicago. The large Yates Gallery on the 4th floor of the

Me with Mayor Daley

Cultural Center was completely full. Samuel Scott, Chairman of CSCI made the introduction and Patricia Maza-Pittsford, Dean, CCC and Consul General of El Salvador, gave a keynote address.

The highlight of the event, however, was Mayor Richard Daley’s welcome remarks. Since this was his last speech to this assembly as Chicago Mayor, the audience gave him a standing ovation as he walked to the podium and another standing ovation when he finished speaking. Mayor Daley played a key role in developing CSCI. In 1960, Mayor Richard J. Daley, his father, signed the first Sister Cities agreement with Warsaw, Poland. Since then, Chicago has established relationships with 28 cities all over the world, including Shenyang and Shanghai, Paris, Athens, Moscow and Delhi. Among them, the agreements with more than 20 cities were signed by the current Mayor who had recently announced he would not run for re-election this month.

The 3rd Annual Int'l Breakfast, CSCI

CSCI has many committees working on issues related to education, business, healthcare, and cultural exchange programs. I’ve been a member of the China Committee for about ten years and enjoyed working on business and cultural exchange programs. I was thrilled to hear Mayor Daley announced that Chicago would be “the most China-friendly city” during the recent visit of President Hu Jintao to Chicago. Having experienced many political movements during my growing up years in China, I had never been a fan to politicians or government officials. But yesterday, feeling nostalgic even before Mayor Daley steps down, I stood by his side and took a photo with him!

Hope CSCI will continue to flourish.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. For more information, visit, Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentary film by director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

Events at Chicago Sister Cities International

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural Center

The China Committee of the Chicago Sister Cities International held two large events yesterday—The Green Energy and Technology Summit at the Cultural Center during the day and the Shanghai Gala, an annual fundraising event at Maxim’s in the evening. A delegation of 30 people consisted of government officials and business executives from Shanghai, Chicago’s sister city in China, met with their U.S. counterparts and joined the Gala.   

I volunteered to be an interpreter for the one-on-one meetings between company representatives from the two countries. Each 15-minute pre-assigned meeting moved smoothly. Among the crowd, I noticed a friend who came at my suggestion—he runs a successful family business in construction. I was pleased to learn that he met with a solar energy company during the “match” session and had scheduled another private meeting with the company the following day.

At the Shanghai Gala, I sat by a Shanghai city government official. We chatted about their trip the delegation would go to Montreal, a sister city of Shanghai in Canada, for another similar meeting. Despite the rainy and windy weather in the last couple of days, he marveled at the contemporary look, cleanliness and beauty of Chicago. We also chatted about a variety of issues in China, from the current school reform, migrate workers and their children’s education, the care for elders, to corruption. He was open and straightforward. I was impressed and gained a deeper understanding of the scale of changes, not just economically, but also culturally and socially, in China.

Exchange programs like this expand business relationship and understanding between the two countries. The Chicago Sister Cities International did a wonderful job in organizing such an event, and more, extended its hospitality by inviting all the Shanghai delegation members as guests to the evening Gala. And I am proud to say that my daughter Lisa, who works for the Chicago Sister Cities, played a key role in putting the events together. I observed her greeting guests and taking care of logistic issues from a distance. She was professional, poised and beautiful. From time to time, she sought me out and introduced me to some guests she wanted me to meet. I knew she had worked very hard on these events. The night before the events, she, along with several co-workers and China Committee members, worked to the wee hours in the morning. She showed no sign of fatigue, however, and I was filled with pride. When four fellow China Committee members came to me through the evening to tell me how they enjoyed working with Lisa, I beamed with delight. They used terms such as “smart, hard-working, efficient, reliable, and fun to work with” to describe Lisa. That ended my busy day with a perfect touch.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China