Travel is my driving force in life, and although I have had the privilege of visiting 30 countries so far, my heart will always remain in India...
China is a country of traditions. The most well-known of all are definitely the very family-orientated festivities of New Year's Day, with the dance of the lion, marked by loud music and fireworks to keep evil spirits away. There is also the festivity consisting of burning money (paper notes) or images representing consumer products on the day of the dead to help them have a pleasant stay in the other world.
Morning walkers will meet men practicing Taï Chi Chuan (relaxing gymnastics) both on the Shanghai Bund or in the parks of Beijing or Kunming. Old people cultivate their passion for birds, pampered in a cage. Singing competitions are organised all day long. A passion for playing games is also ever-present, from Chinese draughts to mah jong, cards, or billiards disputed on the pavement. With regard to music, although the Beijing Opera is no longer interesting for anyone apart from tourists, the young people, on the other hand, are mad about karaoke (even the smallest towns have their own hall). Western-style dancing is also popular. The pleasure of dancing a fox-trot and a rumba at the foot of the Forbidden City, before office hours, has been unfailing for a dozen years!
Amongst the habits and customs of the country, the Chinese population loves exchanging visiting cards on meeting. So you can use yours intentionally. The exchange is made with the two hands. The family name always precedes the first name. Use of the latter is reserved for close members of the family. The Chinese also exchange presents wrapped in bright red paper. Etiquette requires that the receiver does not open it in front of the giver, but later. It is bad form to thank someone profusely. Our advice: if you are inclined to offer a Chinese person a present, never choose a watch. The homonym of this word means 'burial' in Cantonese. Similarly, items that cut (knives, scissors) have a negative meaning, such as the rupture of a friendship, for example.
-'Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress' by Dai Sijie who narrates her life during the Cultural Revolution, a classic for understanding Chinese society in the 16th century.
-'Chinese Painting' by Emmanuelle Lesbre and Liu Jianlong. A rediscovery of Chinese painting with almost 300 unpublished works from Chinese collections. 2004 Art Book Prize - The Year of China.
-'Ancient China' by Emmanuelle Lesbre and Marie Laureillard. Archaeological excavation work has unearthed dozens of burial places for princes dating from 1,500 BC. Tombs constructed like funeral palaces.
-'Hot Wok' by Ken Hom. Published in February 2005. Culinary advisor to various restaurants in Asia and Europe, the author is well-known for his television cookery programmes broadcast in England by the BBC. The work presents simple recipes from basic and elaborate dishes.-'Yangtze Jiang' by Philip Wilkinson. The Yangtze Jiang crosses the whole of China. This work follows the course of the Long River, born in the mountains of Tibet, which extends to the plains of eastern China.
-Mandarin Phrase Book
'Suzhou River' by Lou Ye, the first Chinese film to win a prize at the 2000 Paris Film Festival.
'Farewell my concubine' by Chen Kaige, Palme d'or in 1993.
'The blue Kite' on the tragic years of the cultural revolution, by Tian Zhuang-Zhuang.
'The Last Emperor' by B. Bertolucci.
'Ri Ri Ye Ye' (Day and Night) by the director Wang Chao (prizewinner in November 2004 at the 3 Continents Festival - F3C - in Nantes). A trip to the heart of rural China in a small mining town, reflecting the economic and social upheavals of contemporary China. Also see 'The Anyang Orphan' (2001), by the same director.
'Shower' by Zhang Yang. This film is about ancestral bathing customs, the 'Quingshui'.
'Women from the Lake of Scented Souls' by Xie Fei. Unusual portrait of a Chinese woman in the 80s (Golden Bear at the Festival of Berlin in 1999)
'An Answer From heaven' by Wang Junzheng. Youth prize at the Berlin Festival in 1993.
Work by Zhang Yimou: 'Red Sorghum', 'Wives and Concubines' and 'Qiu Ju, a Chinese woman'.
'Hero', an epic relating the history of China to the 'Period of the Warrior States' between 475 and 221 BC. This film won an award in Berlin (2004), and was nominated for an Oscar and the Golden Globe for the best foreign film.
'The House of Flying Daggers'