So you've been to the Panda Base. You've waved and called out to the pandas in a vain attempt to get their attention. You've even climbed over the railing and hugged one, only to have one of the panda keepers lecture you about appropriate behavior in a panda research center. Now there's something even better. The Chengdu Panda Base recently revealed plans to begin looking for six temporary panda keepers from around the world, starting in August. Unfortunately, details are still vague. All we know is that the keepers must be "bright, articulate, and engaging," and that they will "blog to millions of people around the world" and "assist researchers and scientists." How the lucky individuals will get millions of people to read their blogs wasn't specified.
In more somber panda news, giant panda Yinghua of the Beijing Zoo is in mourning after she accidentally crushed her cub to death last Saturday. According to the Zhang Jinguo, the zoo's vice president, Yinghua's baby was resting on her lower jaw and making milk-related sounds. Her mother responded by turning toward the sound, squashing the baby beneath her massive head. Zhang blamed the death on Yinghua's lack of child-rearing experience.
The municipal governments of Sichuan held a contest last Monday to see which city could cram the most people into a public pool, and Suining (pictured) emerged the clear victor. Actually, this is just a picture of people trying to cool down amid China's current heat wave, which is causing electricity shortages as people crank up their ACs and sending doctors more and more dehydration and heat stroke cases. The temperature in Beijing has reached its hottest since 1951, and we are told to be on "yellow-alert."
The Qiang people of Beichuan held a ceremony in reception of a Canadian totem pole last week. A delegation including Governor-General Michaelle Jean and Grand Chief Edward John of the Tl'azt'en Nation delivered the pole. A photograph of the destruction in Beichuan, a city that was completely leveled by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, inspired the First Nations Summit in Canada to commission the totem pole's design and construction.
Society & Culture
Gender confusion in China: a spate of men posing as women has entered Chinese media, particularly via TV's singing and talent show "Happy Boy." Ten contestants on the all-male show performed in drag, and some were so convincing the judges had to see their IDs. The two "flowery boys" Shanghai Daily interviewed were both from Sichuan. These men—one of whom identifies himself as "100-percent male," the other of whom identifies more as female—both became internet stars after their respective performances. Shanghai Daily points to this as a sign of China's increasing tolerance, but also notes that China has a tradition of theatrical cross-dressing dating back thousands of years.
There are also times when having an ID card that doesn't match your apparent gender can be a disadvantage. When Sichuan native Huang Wei, 22, underwent surgery to change her gender, something went wrong. Instead of changing her sexual organs from male to female, the surgery left her with no sexual organs at all. Ostensibly because the operation failed, her ID card still lists her as "male." Huang Wei dropped out of school and moved to Shenzhen after the surgery, where her ID card has made it virtually impossible to get a job. Maybe the doctor that botched her surgery the first time should help her do the surgery again.
Chengdu is home to Sichuan's first Alcoholics Anonymous program and China's first Narcotics Anonymous program, both started at West China Hospital in 2006. The Alcoholics Anonymous group has had modest success (compared to the NA group, at least), attracting 15 to 20 members at each meeting. But compared to the reported tens of millions of alcoholics in China, it's a drop in the bucket. People's Daily Online interviews doctors and researchers about the forces behind alcoholism in China, and why it is so difficult to treat.
It is well known that the only way to get Americans to accept foreign foods is to give the food a form Americans already recognize. Anyway, you would think so. Associated Press writer Ted Anthony has designed something called the "Old Chengdu Snack Burger." It basically amounts to Sichuan-style pork, which is then grilled and put on a bun for an "American backyard burger" aesthetic. But maybe the most American thing about the burgers is that they are referred to as a "snack."
When you want good wasabi with your sushi, make sure to reach for the Japanese S&B brand. Unless, of course, the 'S' in 'S&B' has an extra squiggle on top, in which case you are probably not holding real wasabi at all. Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries have been investigating cases of products being sold in China with packaging almost identical to that from Japan, including fake wasabi in Chengdu. Aside from miniscule design variations, tiny fine print is often the only way to distinguish the authentic from the fake—if the fine print is there at all.
Construction & Development
A revision to land-requisition law that was expected to take effect in June has been delayed and shows no sign of progress. Eight Peking University law professors proposed the revision following a series of violent evictions around the end of last year, including one self-immolation. The changes would prohibit forced demolitions unless they serve the "public interest," guarantee market-based compensation, and require 90 percent of residents to agree to the terms of compensation before demolition would be allowed. Jiang Ming'an, one of the eight professors, said that resistance from local governments—who gain much of their revenue from selling properties acquired by forced eviction and demolition—is the main reason for the delay.
Foxconn, a giant contract electronics manufacturer with clients including Apple Computer, has announced plans to open a new RMB34 billion factory in Chengdu. A wave of suicides and wage increases in its current production base in Shenzhen may have prompted the company to shift its resources farther inland, where it will once again lower the minimum salary. The new factory will initially employ 100,000 workers, although some of them will be relocated from the original plant in Shenzhen.
After three years under construction, Tibet's fourth public airport opened last Thursday in Ngari, in the west of Tibet. Flights will arrive in Ngari from Chengdu (via Lhasa) twice weekly, and will reduce the travel time from three to four days by car down to one and a half hours. But at nearly RMB2,600 for a one-way flight from Ngari to Lhasa, the tickets are expensive in an area where the per capita income is little over RMB3,000.