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汉语水平考试 (HSK)

Posted by: zgarrett | October 20, 2010 | 3 Comments |


Last weekend I went to Portland to take the HSK, a test created by the Chinese government to test people’s proficiency in Mandarin. The test was developed in 1987 and by 2005 around 1 million people had taken it in over 120 countries. It is frequently compared to the TOEFL, which serves a similar purpose for people learning English. If you have a certificate from the HSK then many new opportunities in higher education and work open up in China. If your score is especially high then you stand a chance of being granted a scholarship from the Chinese government to study in China.

The levels of HSK tests are divided into three sections, containing two tests each. The elementary level has HSK 1 and 2, the intermediate has HSK 3 and 4, and advanced has 5 and 6. I decided to take the level 3 test, since this is what the people at the Confucius institute suggested as a first try. The test was divided into a listening section, a reading section, and a writing section. If you are in Chinese 331 then you shouldn’t have too much trouble with the listening, after all our classes have a pretty strong focus on listening. The reading section was also not very much trouble. All the characters in the reading questions were very common, but if you aren’t that confident that you know enough then you can find word lists on the internet. The writing section was the hardest because it contained characters that I didn’t know. Plus, I feel that grammar is one of my weakest points.

If you want to take the HSK I believe they will be holding it in Portland again in April. However, if you want to take the HSK 2 they will be offering it for free in November, just check you email.

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China’s Got Talent

Posted by: zgarrett | October 15, 2010 | 1 Comment |

You all probably know the concept behind the Got Talent tv shows. A lot of people perform their talents on stage in order to compete for a prize, which in America is a show on the Vegas Strip. The series was originally planned to air in England, but after some problems emerged postponing the show Simon Cowell decided to run the show in America. Now there are versions of the show all over the world, including China.

China’s first season of 中国达人秀 just came to an end and a disabled pianist named Liu Wei was the winner. Wei lost both of his arms during a childhood accident, but now plays the piano with his feet. To show everyone how far the human spirit can go to overcome adversity and to offer a little inspiration through the course of the day, here’s the video of the final performance.

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Gardens in my hometown-Yangzhou

Posted by: nshevche | October 6, 2010 | 2 Comments |

Some of us went to visit the Chinese Garden in Portland last weekend.The LANSUYUAN garden is a typical Suzhou style garden,while my hometown Yangzhou(扬州) is also very famous for its gardens.

Yangzhou,sitting on the northern bank of Yangzte River, is historically one of the wealthiest of China’s cities, known as various periods for its great merchant families, poets, painters, and scholars.As for gardens,my favorites are He-garden(何园) and Ge-garden(个园).

He-garden is honored as the LIVING WISDOM OF ORIENT.It is built by He Zhidiao, a 19th century Chinese envoy to France.The garden is famous for a 430m. (1,377 ft) two storied winding corridor, the walls of which are lined with stone tablets carved with lines of classical poetry, In the garden,there is also an open air theater set on an island in the middle of a fish pond.Here is one of my pictures of He-garden in winter.

Ge-garden is one of the four best gardens in China,and the magnum opus of private gardens in Qing Dynasty.It is well know as the only extant of gardening art for its Four-season rockeries.The architect of Ge-garden had distinguished the acuity of the figures and colors of rocks.In the garden,different prospects in four seasons are constructed with different rocks.The garden is designed by the great Qing Dynasty landscape painter Shi Tao for Wang Yingtai, an officer of the Qing imperial court, this garden takes its name from the shape of bamboo leaves which resemble the Chinese character ge-个.

In my own opinion,each garden in Yangzhou is unique.Most of them were designed by wealthy merchants who were also interested in literature,painting,calligraphy etc.The garden was not only their residence but also their backyard,where they could build their own world and enjoy their own four-season without disturbing.I’d rather say it was their fantasy land.

I hope you can go to my hometown some day,and wish you’ll love the gardens there.

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Portland Chinese Garden

Posted by: zgarrett | October 6, 2010 | 1 Comment |

On October 2nd the Chinese and Japanese students went to the Chinese and Japanese gardens in Portland. Portland and Suzhou are sister cities, so the Chinese garden is based on the gardens in Suzhou. One of the most noticeable structures in a Chinese garden is the buildings. When Americans think about gardens we think about plants and not buildings, but in China the garden was not just a place to look at nature, but also a place to live and relax. Because it was such a special place the builders took into consideration many important matters.

One of the other prominent features in a Chinese garden is rocks. Rocks, though seemingly mundane have great philosophical significance. The rocks in Chinese gardens are full of holes since they have been dug out from the bedrock of the lakes near Suzhou. The solid mass of rock represents the yang (the hard), while the holes represent the yin (the soft).

Another example in Chinese gardens of the yin yang mixture is bamboo. When the wind hits bamboo the trees will bend, but bamboo has the tensile strength of steel. It has the qualities of yin and yang that are considered in the construction of a Chinese garden.

Finally, Feng Shui is a major element in the garden and also in Portland itself. Feng Shui means literally wind and water. The idea being that if you construct your structure in a harmonious way the structure will be harmonious. The garden has as its center water, and the rocks throughout the garden represent mountains.

Here’s a special treat. Prof. Zhang brought his flute to the garden and played it overlooking the water. Sorry about the video quality, but I forgot to charge my camera before the trip so I had to use my phone.


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A Chinese singer –Xiao Juan

Posted by: hwen | October 1, 2010 | 3 Comments |

The first time I listened to Xiao Juan’s song was when I was chatting with one of my old friends. We were high school classmates and have known each other for many years. He said that I would like her songs when I was complaining that there wasn’t any nice singer in contemporary China. He was right, and I did like her voice. But I didn’t really listen to her after the conversation. When I visit China last Summer, I was living with a Chinese couple who just got married and started their new life. The husband said that I would like Xiao Juan’s songs too. They gave me a CD with the selections that they thought I would like. I brought the gift with me and the voice on that CD was the best gift among all the stuff and experience I brought back with me after the Summer. I like Xiao Juan’s voice.  While I need the rock music to cheer me up on the road, I also need Xiao Juan’s calm and clean voice to purify my anxious and busy mind from time to time.

Xiao Juan used to singing at the night clubs where artistis and literati like to hang out when they get a chance. She got famous before the industry found her. Actually she is still trying to stay away from the mass production and the music industry. Unlike many artists, Xiao Juan thinks it is great when people want to pirate her songs because she believes being pirated means that people love her voice and music. For her, industry only feeds people, but funs who find a singer through a different channel means they really like the singer and that’s the value of being an artist. She is happy that she can be appreciated by a community that really enjoys her voice by choices. Many people exchange the copies of her songs with their friends. Xiao Juan likes the songs written in 1970s and 1980s Taiwan as well as the songs written by American singwriters in the 1960s and 1970s. The people who like her songs are mostly literati, who love to share their new explorations that are outside of the chaotic media industry in China. Many foreign folk songs are Xiao Juan’s favorites. She loves people and the world, you will say, if you listen to her interpretations of the songs that have been familiar to many people from different places and generations. 

You might think it’s too quiet, but living in China, people often need to look for a voice that can be  this peaceful and clean.  I cannot find a clip that shows my favorite songs of Xiao Juan, but I did find this song that can give you a little bit sense about her style.

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Social Networking in China

Posted by: zgarrett | September 24, 2010 | 1 Comment |

Last semester I started using some Chinese social networking sites in order to improve my Chinese ability and meet Chinese people. My roommate, a Chinese TIUA student, told me about 人人网 (aka Xiaonei). Xiaonei is essentially facebook for China. As many of you may know, facebook is banned in China, which means that you have to jump the Great Firewall of China if you wish to check your facebook while you’re over there. Xiaonei is pretty easy to use, especially for us college students.
Most of what you’ll find on facebook you’ll also find on Xiaonei. It even has a Chinese version of farmville, which is called 人人农场. One of the cool features on Xiaonei is the journal feature, which allows you to keep a blog, which your friends can read and comment on. I love writing journal entries about philosophy in order to increase my vocabulary. I have learned a lot of interesting words from writing Chinese blog entries, some of which were vocabulary words I later came across in class. If you are inspired to create a Xiaonei profile, then add me as a friend. I use my Chinese name on Xiaonei, so just search for 高志和.
Another really cool social networking site used by a lot of Chinese people is qq.com, which is more of an instant messenger with a ton of apps. While I was in China this summer I would see billboards that included the companies phone number and qq number. When you first go to qq.com you will be greeted by a website that has a lot of Chinese on it. If you want the instant messenger you will want to go to webqq. If you want other things, such as email, music, or games then you can find those near the webqq button on the left side of the page. You can download most of these applications onto your computer or you can just access them on the webpage. If you decide to make a qq profile, then you can also add me on there. My qq number is 1480409240.
Now, for both of these you will need a good level of Chinese reading proficiency, or a lot of patience to look up the characters. If you lack both of these, then you could also find someone who does have the proper proficiency to help you make your profiles. All in all, if you do go to China you will likely create one of these profiles in order to chat with the friends you make abroad.



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Posted by: zgarrett | September 22, 2010 | 1 Comment |


If you didn’t make it to the first Chinese movie night, which includes all of the Chinese students :( , you should still watch 梅兰芳. Having watched the trailer I didn’t think I’d like the movie. Chinese opera just seemed like a ball of weirdness to me, but 梅兰芳 gave me a great look at the life of a Chinese opera performer. I still think that Chinese opera is rather strange, but this story is definitely an interesting one.

Mei Lanfang was an opera performer in the early 20th century, who rose to be the one of the most famous performers in China. He even did performances in Japan and America. When Japan conquered Beijing the Japanese officers requested that he sing for them, but he refused to sing for the duration of the war, finally returning to the stage after the Japanese surrendered.
Take a look at the trailer:

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Chinese Moon Festival-中秋节

Posted by: nshevche | September 21, 2010 | 1 Comment |


I’m the Chinese language assistant,Jia. I’ve met most of you who chose the Chinese class this semester. I hope you’ve had fun in our class during September.

Here comes the Moon Festival, which is also known as Mid-Autumn Festival.It is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is usually around late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. It is a date that parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar, when the moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest. The traditional food of this festival is the moon-cake, of which there are many different varieties.

This year,Moon Festival is on Sept. 22nd.Tomorrow,you can try to watch the moon and to find a rabbit which is called the Jade Rabbit in it.In the legend, three fairy sages transformed themselves into pitiful old men, and begged for food from a fox, a monkey, and a hare. The fox and the monkey both had food to give to the old men, but the hare, empty-handed, jumped into a blazing fire to offer his own flesh instead. The sages were so touched by the hare’s sacrifice and act of kindness that they let him live in the Moon Palace, where he became the “Jade Rabbit”.

Chinese people value this festival very much.They think it’s the perfect time for the whole family to gather together and have a dinner to enjoy the happiness.Here is a song called *The Bright Moon Will Bring My Love to You*(明月千里寄相思).I hope you will enjoy it just as I do.


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舞狮 The Lion Dance

Posted by: zgarrett | April 19, 2010 | 1 Comment |

One of the most common sights during Chinese New Year and some other Chinese festivals is the lion dance. Many people mistake the lion dance for the dragon dance, but they are quite different. The lion dance is performed by two people underneath a lion costume, who mimic the movements of a lion. The dragon dance, on the other hand, is performed by around 8-9 people who hold a dragon made of cloth on poles.
Both the lion and the dragon dances are traditionally performed by local Kung Fu schools, who consider the dances as part of their training curriculum. Many styles of Kung Fu have adopted the movements of animals to enhance their fighting techniques, including tigers, snakes, cranes, and praying mantises. By replicating the movements of the lion while practicing the lion dance, the practitioners are able to gain insight into new ways of fighting.
Just like how Kung Fu can be divided into two main categories, those of Northern and Southern Kung Fu, so too can lion dance performances. Northern lions tend to come in pairs and usually have long shaggy orange or red hair.
Southern lions come in a few different types that symbolize warriors from the Shu Han kingdom. The original three types were Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei. These three warriors swore fraternity in a peach garden before they went to suppress the Yellow Turban Rebellion at the fall of the Han Dynasty. Later three more types emerged, which symbolized Zhao Zilong, Huang Zhong, and Ma Chao; all three served as generals in Liu Bei’s army.
It is unknown how the lion dance began, but it is estimated to be around 1500 years old. One of the legends about the dance involves a monster terrorizing a village. The people eventually made a costume of a lion and mimicked its movements in order to frighten the monster.
I highly suggest going to see a lion dance performance next time you get a chance. And if you ever find yourself studying Kung Fu at a school that owns a lion, then I urge you to give learning the lion dance a try. Last year I finally got the opportunity at my school to perform the lion dance at the Dragon Boat Festival, and I had a lot of fun attempting to walk like a lion.

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孔子 Confucius

Posted by: zgarrett | March 16, 2010 | 1 Comment |

Released in Beijing on January 14th 孔子is a biographical film on the most famous Chinese philosopher. The movie follows Confucius through the second half of his life, the years after he became a teacher.
Confucius lived during the Warring States era of China before the founding of the Qin Dynasty. It was a time of great intellectual growth, which was called 诸子百家(The Hundred Schools of Thought). After the fall of the Qin Dynasty Confucianism, which formed after Confucius’ death, became one of the main schools of thought adopted by the rulers of China.
The movie does not focus on his philosophy very much, but the story does focus on the concept of 仁(humanity), which is prevalent in Confucius’ teachings. My only complaint with the movie was the sudden transition in time that occurs. In one scene Confucius has black hair, and a second later he has white hair.
I highly suggest you watch this great movie about a great man, though you will have to find your own way of watching the movie.

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