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The Ten Marvelous Things You Can Get in China You Can’t Get in India

Beihai Park, Beijing by Micheal Kan/Flcker By Seema Rani Bhende

Nov. 20 – Following our articles on The Ten Things in India that You Can’t Get in China, The Ten Things in China that You Can’t Get in India and The Ten Marvelous Things You Can Get in India You Can’t Get in China we now look at the marvelous side of things from China’s perspective:

No one puts park space to better use than the Chinese. When visiting any city in China, every guidebook will point visitors to a number of beautiful parks within that locale. The Chinese place a high priority on Zen-like parks that are well maintained, clean and accessible to all people. You will find the Chinese, especially elders, walking and exercising in the parks, but parents beware, the free exercise equipment is for adults only and some playgrounds may have a 10 renminbi surcharge per child for use.

Many Chinese practice tai chi, walk backwards, play chess, fly kites and waltz for exercise and relaxation that makes parks a great place for people watching. Someone is always playing music in the park. You will often hear an interesting (disharmonic) symphony of erhus (traditional Chinese instrument), old ladies singing opera songs, and men drumming and playing violin.

Some of Beijing’s most famous parks include: Beihai Park, Ritan Park, Temple of Heaven, Jingshan Park, Zhongshan Park, Houhai Park, Chaoyang Park, and many more. More than 100 million tourists visit Beijing parks every year!

Photo by Samout3/FlckerImitation everything
Whether you are Chinese or a tourist, a visit to Beijing’s Silk Market is exhausting. The shopkeepers literally take hold of you – and practically your wallets – when your eyes even glance at one item in their booths. As most people know, the “Made in China” brand is far-reaching globally, but over the last two decades, China has nearly perfected the copying process of high-end luxury brands. One would hardly know there is a controversy surrounding trademark violations of these luxury products when shopping in China because of the countless tourists and locals buying fake Gucci, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and Cartier.

A decade ago, China was famous for having replicas of primarily designer bags and watches. Now, you can find nearly everything ranging from fake shoes, software, phones, key chains, and even high-end ski gear. And the savvy shopper knows there are tiers in finding a “good replica.” There are the truly “fake” products that spell Prada as “Pradi” and then there is the next level where the logos may be correct, but the inside label of a Armani suit will say “Made in China.” And then you get to the highest tier, what many seasoned shoppers refer to as the goods that “fell off the truck” that are practically the real thing with minor hiccups such as a faulty zipper or a small factory defect.

These products do not get sold in the big tourist markets but rather behind the scenes in offices buildings that are private, require appointments or knowing someone. You can buy a Marc Jacobs bag that usually retails for US$1200 for a bargain price of US$200. While by no means are we promoting the violation of these luxury brand trademarks, it is hard to find someone who visits China who does not partake or witness fanatical shopping. And don’t worry, if you run out of space, you can buy some “Tume” suitcases at Silk Market for less than 30 bucks.

Photo by Augapfel/FlckerTofu
Tofu originated in China but the date of origin is uncertain. The earliest existing document mentioning the term doufu is the Ch’ing I Lu (Seiiroku in Japanese), written by T’ao Ku about 950 A.D. There are many theories about the origin of tofu in China ranging from it happening by accident through coagulation to it being imported from Buddhist monks of India. Either way, the Chinese have truly perfected the art of making tofu and all sorts of delicious dishes using this vegetarian protein.

One can find a variety of tofu in China – some are grainy, some are big and creamy. Sometimes the tofu is sort of hard and small, other times it’s moist. Occasionally the tofu is like silk and simply falls apart. Some of my favorite tofu dishes include:

• Sichuan Ma-Po Tofu (Spicy Bean Curd with Beef)

• Hot and Sour Tofu Soup

• Clay Pot Tofu

• Dofu Cai Mian (tofu noodle with vegetables)

• Braised tofu skin

Chinese massage
Chinese massages rub you the right way. There are two types of traditional Chinese massage: tui na which focuses on pushing, stretching and kneading the muscle and zhi ya which focuses on pinching and pressing at acupressure points. Both are based on principles from traditional Chinese medicine.

Tui na dates back to the Shang Dynasty of China, 1700 BC. The massage was used to treat children’s diseases and digestive complaints in adults. It is a form of acupuncture that believes in the invisible passageways that run through the body and are the channels through which a vital energy called qi (pronounced “chee”) flow through.

In a typical session, you wear loose clothing, no shoes and lie on a table or floor mat. The practitioner examines the specific problems of your body and begins to apply a specific massage treatment. It may be important to learn the Mandarin words for “ow!” and “softer” before getting a traditional Chinese massage because with the language barrier foreign accents may be interpreted as pleasure sounds. Chinese massages are incredibly affordable and in many places US$15 can get you a one to two hour session.

Photo by kevinpoh/FlckerTerracotta warriors
Discovered in 1974 when a local farmer was digging a well, the Terracotta Army, buried in 210 BC with the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, is a breathtaking sight. The museum of the Terracotta Army is located in Xi’An in the Shanxi Province. The thousands of life-size figures each have unique faces along with hair and armor styles appropriate to their rank. The figures include strong warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians.

Current estimates indicate that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 100 chariots with 400 horses and 300 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits. The mausoleum created by Emperor Qin represented his ability to control the resources of the newly unified China and his attempt to recreate and maintain that empire in his afterlife. Emperor Qin died in 210 B.C. and the Qin Dynasty quickly extinguished within a few years by the Han Dynasty. The 700,000 government laborers and craftsmen were likely exhausted by the 38-year construction process of the mausoleum and were unable to put up a good fight.

China has been perfecting the art of dumpling making since the Song Dynasty. Chinese dumplings come in all sorts of shapes, colors and stuffing – some may be round or crescent-shaped, boiled or pan-fried. The filling may be sweet or savory, vegetarian or filled with meat and vegetables. Some of my most favorite dumplings include:

Photo by Andrew Turner/FlckerJiaozi – These crescent shaped dumplings with pleated edges are normally filled with meat, shrimp or vegetables. The filling ingredients are enclosed in a flour and water dough. Dumplings are frequently boiled, although they may also be pan-fried and taste delicious with vinegar, soy, or ginger dipping sauces.

Potstickers – The difference between jiaozi and potstickers comes down to how the dumpling is cooked. Potsticker dumplings are pan-fried on the bottom and then steamed. It’s traditional to flip them over before serving so that the browned, pan-fried side is on top.

Siu Mai – These mild tasting steamed dumplings come in a cup or basket shape, with the soft, puffy filling sticking out at the top. Traditionally they are filled with pork, although shrimp is also common.

Shanghai Steamed Buns -These are not buns at all, but meat or seafood filled dumplings that are famously flavorful. These steamed buns are recognizable for their unique design, as the filled wrapper is gather up into several folds prior to steaming.

Ayi means auntie in Mandarin but is also often used to refer to a housekeeper or maid.  It is a word that many foreigners learn soon after coming to China even if they pick up very little Chinese, simply because ayis are very affordable and greatly enhance your living experience. Initially some foreigners feel that hiring an ayi puts them into a position of power with vaguely imperialistic undertones. Or maybe they’re just uncomfortable having someone else clean up their mess. It is interesting, however, to watch these people evolve and become quite dependent on their ayi for day-to-day help.

Ayis are Wonder Women. Many are an all-in-one package and can cook, clean, and watch your kids all at the same time. Some ayis live in the homes of their clients and others come one to two times a week to do laundry and clean. Prices range for ayis depending if they are part-time, full-time, speak English, what city you live in, etc. I’ve heard rates range from US$2 an hour to a live-in ayi costing up to US$200-US$300 a month. When foreigners repatriate back to their home countries, its common for them to go through an “ayi withdrawal syndrome” where they need to relearn the basics like washing dishes, buying groceries and folding laundry on their own.

Green tea
Tea consumption originated in China more than 4000 years ago. Green tea is the most popular Chinese tea and is consumed in many ways – hot, cold, room temperature, in ice cream, and don’t forget the Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino. Ironically, Starbucks in China does not actually sell regular hot green tea. Go figure!

Green tea has a long list of health benefits, with some evidence suggesting regular green tea drinkers may have lower chances of heart disease and developing certain types of cancer. Chinese tea aids in digestion and reduces fatigue. Green tea has also been claimed useful for “weight loss management” which is one theory on why the Chinese, overall, are quite slender. And perhaps all the slurping burns some calories as well because the Chinese certainly enjoy elongated sips and slurps that end in loud “Ahhhhhsss” after nearly every sip.

Free wi-fi hotspots
China has the second largest number of wi-fi hotspots in the world – nearly 35,000 – and is adding more networks at a rapid pace. Best of all, most of the Wi-Fi access spots are free. China is a dream for the business traveler or independent consultant because most coffee shops, restaurants and hotel lobbies offer free internet connections and as noted in The Ten Marvelous Things You Can Get in India You Can’t Get in China, unless you belt out fuwuyuan to get the waiter’s attention, they won’t bother you and you can sit long as you like.

Starbucks China does not (yet) charge for internet usage but in the United States you need to purchase a Starbucks Card and buy credit that last only 30 days that gives only two hours per day of complimentary Wi-Fi access.

Photo by Robert Nyman/FlckerThe great wall
It would be an obvious omission to not mention the Great Wall of China when discussing the country’s marvels. The Great Wall winds its way across China covering over 4,000 miles (6,700 kilometers). While the latest construction occurred after 1368 during the Ming Dynasty, construction of the Great Wall began over 2,000 years ago. In fact, the Great Wall is actually made up of a number of interconnecting walls spanning China that different dynasties constructed over the years.

During its construction, the Great Wall was called “the longest cemetery on earth” because so many people died building it. Reportedly, it cost the lives of more than one million people.

While the Great Wall of China is not one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, it is one of the seven wonders of the medieval world. The most visited section of the Great Wall is in Badaling, outside Beijing, and was the first section of the wall to open to tourists in 1957. However, most informed tourists know to visit Mutianyu, located 70 kilometers northeast of Beijing, which is a much quieter, less crowded part of the wall.

Contrary to common belief, the Great Wall of China cannot be seen from space without aid. While it is a great symbol of national pride, China struggles with how to manage and protect it while controlling the mass-market development and touristic nature of the site. Two organizations, the China Great Wall Society and the International Friends of the Great Wall, are dedicated to preserving it.

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8 Responses to The Ten Marvelous Things You Can Get in China You Can’t Get in India

  1. 1.What about public toilets?
    2.What about quality Gymnasts?

  2. Seema Rani Bhende says:

    Captain Johann, excellent points. I do appreciate that most public toilets in China were cleaner and had toilet paper unlike most public restrooms in India.

  3. Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    The Gymnast (and overall international sporting situation as concerns India) is more related to the that that India is a democracy, and if the Government spent huge amounts (as China does) on a handful of athletes they’d probably be a huge reaction to that from the poor. Put simply, sporting achievements are just not a major governmental priority right now for India, and what success there has been has been privately, not state funded.

  4. Dear Ellis,
    India is a democrasy but it wastes more money on stupid things which doesnot promote sport nor health of average Indian like the one called Commenwealth games . Even here it cannot compete in athletics against Kenyans, ethiopeans or jamaicans.But it wills how some medals with dubious drug stained weighliftiers.I love my India and that is why i admire China for its overall growth in Health what to talk of sports like infant moratlity,girl child etc etc.
    Just socalled democrasy spends 1800 crores for this commonwealth games(tamasha for 20 days) while it spends just 487 crores over a space of 5 years plan on national mental health for a population of 1 billin!!!

  5. Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    Dear Captain Johann, Ellis can indeed be used as a first name, especially in Scandinavian nations and amongst some African-Americans, however in this instance it’s part of my surname. Chris is my first name, and I’d be pleased to have you call me that. Concerning the relationship between sport and politics – what can I say? Of course, you’re right, however a nation also needs to feel proud of its achievements. Beijing spent billions on it’s Olympics that could I’m sure have been used to lift 100 million living in Central China out of poverty, or to expand the number of special schools Beijing has from just 200 places to the statistically likely 250,000 thousand a city of its size probably needs. But children with autism are not a generally good symbol of a nations success, so they get ignored. If you want to help – may I suggest a charitable donation to somewhere you feel appropriate? – Thanks Chris

  6. Green Tea says:

    Green tea is very much available in India. In fact the Darjeeling variety is most popular among tea lovers.

  7. roland says:


    I thought it was foolish that China spent that much on the Olympics – squandering taxpayers’ hard earned money for rulers’ vanity. After I learned that it had earned the money back by the end of the process, not only didn’t I think they were foolish, but also did I think that they were audacious and brilliant. The Beijing Olympics was the most impressive Olympics by far. China had a nice coming out party, everyone had good time, and China became a better country as a result of having had the experience of hosting a Olympics, not to mention the positive PR effect on China and the effect on the pride of its citizens.

  8. Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    @Roland, I had a blast at the Beijing Olympics, it was just superb. Two weeks of pure bliss, brilliant and exciting. I’m looking forward to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October also. But the Chinese did a great job, it was a wonderful time. Thanks – Chris

Comments are closed.

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