Eating [+ Drinking] My Way Through China No. 9 // Yanjing + Baijiu
So, I would be remiss if I did not talk about the local “adult” beverages at some point during the gastronomy feature on this blog. I definitely think enjoying a local spirit or fermented liquid is part of learning about a culture. Since beer is as cheap as water here, and it almost tastes like it too, it accompanies most meals. At the same time, the beer is pretty homogenous. It is rather difficult to find anything but a light lagers like Yanjing and Tsingtao. It’s hard to complain about this when a 500mL big bottle of Yanjing will run anywhere between 4-10 rmb [66c – $1.40] at local restaurants.
Leland Berman and Nick Gervasi’s project looking at the San Lun Che [Three Wheel Bike] included converting the storage portion of the bike into a beer cooler/dispenser. In Use at a Burning [M]Eats Event.
The local liquor of choice in China is Baijiu, a clear rice wine distilled spirit that is 80-120 proof. It is enjoyed straight and at room temperature. On our first trip to visit the rural villages, the township leader welcomed us with a bottle of Baijiu from the Inner Mongolia region. Apparently, it is customary to make such offerings to guests. To thank the host, the guest is expected to drink an amount equal to what the host is consuming. If the guest is not up for the challenge, they must find a surrogate drinker to enjoy the beverage with the hostaccordingly. Gam Bei! [Mandarin for Bottoms Up!]
Observing China No.2: Chinese Cultural Norms
I have been thoroughly enjoying my time in China, but every once in a while the idiosyncrasies of Chinese culture here trend far past being simply bizarre. These are the situations that unfortunately push us all into “stage two” from time to time [our intra-program colloquial term for the loss of the excitement and desire that comes from being in a foreign place]. My personal Chinese Hit List includes street spitting, public urination, dog poop street mines, excessive drinking and smoking, parking on the sidewalk, and everyone’s favorite, the bang ye. I think it is easy to aptly describe these phenomena as inappropriate public actions, but they are not necessarily viewed in the same light here. As long as we can find a way to always find humor in these cultural norms and in the ways that China is not like where we are from, it will remain to be a thrilling place to explore.
A Sign of Inflation?
Visualization of where all the yuans are flowing.
The effect of China’s rapid urbanization will be felt around the world, even in developed countries where we might not expect the impact to be as pronounced.
While in Songzhuang, we also had the opportunity to see another “moving house.” Designed by a recent college graduate, this Egg Shaped House seeks to provide an affordable and transient home for a member of the Ant Tribe – a fascinating current urban phenomenon in China.
Songzhuang + The Case of the Moving Building
As part of our continuing work learning about Chinese Contemporary Art, Zhang Fang took us to visit the Songzhuang Artist Village. On the far east side of Beijing, this farming village has been emerging as the desired location for artist studio spaces and more recently galleries to show their work. Songzhuang differs from Caochangdi in the way that artists are literally constructing this village by building large studio compounds on former farmland, as opposed to the gradual transformation of Caochangdi’s urban fabric to also include spaces for art.
While in Songzhuang, we made a number of Architectural stops, including a stop at the Tongxian Gatehouse. The Gatehouse is a project by Office dA, a firm led by UM Taubman College Dean Monica Ponce de Leon and Nader Tehrani.
When we arrived we found a group of construction workers busy at the base of the building. Upon a closer look we realized that they had actually rigged a set up to move the entire house. Through a mandarin speaking student from SciArc we learned they are expanding the road and need to move the house farther from the street. Apparently it will take two days now that they have excavated around the building and set up the pneumatic pump system to push the house a few hundred meters farther from the street.
While I’m sure that the relocation of the house and studio will take its toll on the building’s integrity, I’m glad to see the artists are choosing to preserve this piece of contemporary architecture rather than simply demolish in light of the government mandate.
“Even at the initial speeds, they will take less than five hours to cover a distance comparable to New York to Atlanta — which requires nearly 18 hours on Amtrak.”
Research No. 3 // Chateau Laffitte
Every great city needs a place to get away from the noise and congestion of urban life, especially with the levels of smog here. In Beijing, most would flee to the Great Wall’s scenic mountains just north of town. Now, the nouveau riche Beijingers are instead picking up a set of golf clubs and making their way to a resort like Chateau Laffitte.
Upon returning from our research visit, we found an article about the hotel in the New York Times, which thoroughly chronicles the destructive efforts that occurred to make this venture possible. Note that we saw a photo of the developer with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett downstairs in the wine cellar.
There is an adjacent suburban housing development, mostly empty, but strictly guarded. I promise you we are still in China…