Articles By: James Jeffrey
When a woman wears a Chinese qipao—pronounced “tee-pow”—people notice its distinctive design. A tight-fitting dress that usually falls above the knees or ankles, the close fitted neck and buttons for doing it up along one side of the body make the qipao unique. Although a dress with traditional roots, Chinese women haven’t always been permitted to wear it.
The bartender poured and the lemon peel danced in the cocktail glass, as the six-piece jazz band played “Shanghai at Night”—a tune all the rage in the 1930s—for an audience seeking a sense of Old Shanghai. If anyone could deliver, it’s the Old Jazz Band. Known throughout Shanghai and beyond, the band—average age of 75-years-old—has played the famous Peace Hotel over parts of four decades.
When shopping at Home Depot, most Americans don’t give much thought to the origins of the lightbulbs they buy beyond the perhaps half-formed notion that somewhere a giant machine is churning them out at the push of a button. Come to China’s eastern countryside, however, and you’ll find a dramatically different reality within factories like the one at Tai Yang village west of Hangzhou, where workers assemble 300,000 lightbulbs a month—by hand.
With music blaring from speakers connected to a laptop and strobe lights flashing, women lined up facing the same direction in four evenly spaced rows. Dancing in unison under the night sky, they stepped right, spun around, and put a hand out to the side. Texas-style line dancing? Not by a long shot.
The poetry of Walt Whitman has lasted more than 150 years. The poetry of Shakespeare more than 400. Both are outdone by the Chinese poet Qu Yuan, who wrote more than 2,000 years ago and is still remembered in China where a major national holiday, the Dragon Boat Festival, is held annually in his honor.
Sunrise, June 3: A phalanx of People’s Liberation Army soldiers marched in quick step from Beijing’s Forbidden City, escorting the Chinese national flag onto the broad expanse of Tiananmen Square. Despite the early hour, thousands of onlookers watched as the crack, green-suited honor guard hoisted the colors.
St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, like Christianity in general, appears to be endorsed by the Chinese Communist Party’s rule. Yet some Christians can still be subjected to harassment and aren’t free to worship, and what’s permissible is based on a stark line drawn by Chinese authorities between official and non-official churches—even within the same denomination.
He looked back at me seeming taken aback, his hair disheveled, his face scruffy and his eyes wild. Yet it was only my reflection in the mirror. The face of a man who’d spent more than a month in China as part of a University of Texas-Austin Maymester program.