The Nanfang / Blog

Chinese Toddler’s Crotchless Pants So Shocking in America That Woman Calls Police

Posted: 11/6/2014 9:05 am

A kid wearing open-seat pants on the street in China

Yes, a pair of crotchless pants, also known as ‘open-seat pants’ that have a split in the crotch for toddlers, has become a contentious issue in the United States.

The sight of a toddler wearing them in Monterey Park, California was so shocking to some American onlookers that one American woman reported the run-in to the local police.

When police arrived and learned that the onesie is mainly to used to enable kids to answer nature’s calls easier and faster, the newspaper wrote that “the police couldn’t just believe what they hear.” However, when reached by a Chinese media outlet, the local police authority said they have yet to confirm the authenticity of the report.

The pants, which are ubiquitous in China, remain contentious even here, Nanfang Net reported. The anti open-crotch pants camp argues that the exposure is unhygienic and makes the child vulnerable to accidents such as boiling water and sharp knives.

One commentator named Daniel wrote, “wearing open-seat pants will indulge the kids to do their business anytime and anywhere they want.” Others argued that this outfit might draw pedophiles. Another commenter said, “there are so many perverts out there. Once the kids get hurt, you won’t even have time to cry.”

Those who are defensive about the look link it to Chinese culture (though our own research can’t find any particular cultural connection) and threw barbs at “narrow-minded” Americans. A user called Eternal commented, “For those who run naked for some holidays, what grounds you have to criticise us? Open-seat pants are a part of Chinese culture. What the heck do you know?”

Others even argued from an environmental point of view. 知雨 wrote, “wearing open-seat pants spared the use of so many pampers. (Do you know) how much waste we managed to save? Support tradition.”

Photos: Chaos taipei, Zhihuimami


400 Million People in China Can’t Speak The National Language

Posted: 09/23/2014 12:45 pm
david beckham chinese writing

David Beckham doesn’t speak Chinese, but it’s written on him.

Putonghua, or Mandarin, has been pushed by authorities in Beijing as a national language to resolve communication problems stemming from a multitude of regional dialects. The idea is no matter what your native tongue, you’ll be able to do business in Putonghua. But while it may seem like everybody now speaks it, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Approximately 400 million Chinese citizens, or about 30 percent of the population, do not have the ability to converse in Putonghua, reports Xinhua News Network. The claim was made by Li Weihong, Deputy director of the National Education Department and head of the National Language Writing Work Committee, at an activity to promote Putonghua.

Li clarified that 70 percent of China’s population has acceptable Putonghua ability, and that 95 percent of the population can read Chinese characters. However, Li warned that only 10 percent of Chinese are actually fluent in Putonghua, and that modern spoken vernacular is taking over literary Chinese.

The government justifies its expansion of Putonghua to “(eliminate) the estrangement between dialects for the sake of social communication”, but some regions and cultures naturally view a top-down, Beijing-pushed national language as a threat to local culture.

That is particularly acute here in Guangdong, where Cantonese seems to be continually under threat. A rumor that local news programming would drop Cantonese anchors in favor of Putonghua speakers has caused outrage in the province. But this isn’t the only pocket of resistance. A Shanghai subway driver was reported to be making announcements in Shanghainese, in defiance of an order to use Putonghua. And it’s not as though these fears are unfounded: the Manchu minority that once ruled all of China is now down to its last two native speakers.

Nevertheless, despite its position as the official language, Putonghua still faces challenges of its own. A generation of computer and mobile phone use has resulted in writing skills being atrophied, with many born-and-raised Chinese people forgetting how to write certain characters. This may be the inspiration behind a currently televised competition simply about writing in Chinese.

Putonghua remains such a problem for many of its users that there are regular Weibo posts that teach Chinese the proper usage of commonly mispronounced characters.

But the biggest threat to Putonghua may be lurking from within. For a generation, Chinese students have been valiantly trying to learn to read and speak English. The efforts so far have produced a basic enough understanding to create the memes “ungelibable” and “no zuo no die“, an improper use of Chinglish for comedic effect. Yet, one day, enough Chinese may learn English well enough to give the official language a run for its money.

[h/t Sinocism]

Photo: ahradio


Explore Your Chinese Childhood with These Japanese Icons

Posted: 06/2/2014 4:11 pm

childhood memor japanese culture anime cartoon herosInternational Children’s Day took place this past Sunday, June 1, a day to raise awareness for important children’s issues like child labor, human trafficking and child abuse once the very important business of dancing and singing is first completed.

As we slowly wind down this Dragon Boat Holiday, we thought we’d share this Weibo post shared by none other than the People’s Daily Online in celebration of this day.childhood memor japanese culture anime cartoon heros

The People’s Daily Online said:

#Hello again, childhood: Come on and take a look; can you find your childhood in here?

The accompanying photo is a cool art poster consisting of a stellar line-up of several cartoon figures, and a quick glance reveals some top names: Doramon, Pokemon, Dragonball Z, Astroboy, Totoro, Initial D, Sailor Moon… everyone and everything that was cool for a kid in the last thirty years that also happened to be imported from across the sea.

Yes, it’s a pure nostalgia trip for many of the readers of the People’s Daily Online. With so many amazing Japanese anime and cartoons, it’s hard to imagine Chinese not getting sentimental over these childhood favorites.

You may not be Chinese, but can you find your childhood in here? Take a look!childhood memor japanese culture anime cartoon heros

* Note: We’re not entirely sure, but this page in Japanese may be pointing out the same thing. And if someone can help us identify the artist of this collection of childhood Japanese memories, we’d appreciate it.

Photo: People’s Daily Online via Weibo


Korean drama craze is hurting Chinese culture, says Guangdong official

Posted: 03/3/2014 6:57 am

Ever wonder why Chinese TV rom-coms fall short? Well according to Xu Qinsong, president of Guangdong Painting Academy and a delegate to the CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference), the Chinese obsession with Korean dramas is to blame.

“The Korean drama craze no longer just concerns Korean TV. It is resulting in a lack of confidence in our own culture,” said Xu speaking with Dayoo Net on March 2. According to Xu, in the interests of promoting traditional Chinese culture, Chinese television should tell more Guangdong stories, as well as greater China’s stories. Most Chinese TV dramas are poorly written and lack creativity, he added.

China’s poor TV drama quality is no secret. Most of the TV dramas produced by the country are ignored by viewers, who are increasingly opting for American, British and Korean television. The popular US drama, “House of Cards”, has several high-profile Chinese viewers, such as Wang Qishan (王岐山), China’s Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

The country’s disappointing TV dramas even promoted scathing comments from an op-ed in the China Daily. It wrote:

Chinese TV screens are flooded by knock-off and/or poorly made soap operas. Most of the Chinese TV dramas either distort the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, which is a distortion of history, or blindly copy foreign programs. The lack of good stories has of late resulted in loads of TV series on time travel or fights in the harems of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) emperors. These, in short, are the bane of Chinese TV productions.

The Guangdong official’s comments came after a hit Korean drama called “My Love from the Star” wrapped up its last episode in late February. The show, which tells the story of a top Korean actress who falls in love with an alien boyfriend, was watched more than one billion times online in China, according to

The Korean drama has even given rise to food joints that are selling fried chicken and beer in Beijing. It had scenes of the leading female character having beer and chicken to celebrate the first snow. One woman in Chongqing broke up with her boyfriend after he refused to buy her chicken and beer at midnight. Another woman from Chongqing almost had a miscarriage when binging on fried chicken and beer while watching the drama.

The question is: will Chinese TV respond to the criticism? Is better television right around the corner? Stay tuned…

Photo from The Wall Street Journal 


Shenzhen gets set for Ramadan, Iftar dinners planned

Posted: 07/10/2013 6:00 am

Ramadan is celebrated by Muslims around the world on the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Shenzhen, which is home to many Muslims, will also be marking the occasion. Every day during this month, Muslims around the world spend the daylight hours in a complete fast physically and mentally. It is a complete commitment to refocusing.

After a day of fasting, they usually will break the fast with a special gathering for dinner called an Iftar. A few places around Shenzhen are offering a very inexpensive Iftar dinners this year. You might want to try Dewan-E-Khass which has a promotion for Iftar. 43RMB for a buffet dinner. For details check out the promotion here.

Ramadan Schedule:



Jesse Appell of Gangnam parody “Laowai Style” talks to The Nanfang about comedy

Posted: 07/2/2013 1:00 pm

Last year, Fulbright scholar Jesse Appell became an online sensation in China when his music video “Laowai Style” went viral. Since then, he has continued to develop his art and entertain more Chinese people, and China hands, with his talent.

Recently, after seeing an impressive stand-up act he gave at the Bookworm in Beijing, The Nanfang asked him to take time to chat. He kindly agreed.

Like the conversation itself, this write-up may meander at times because it’s difficult to stay on topic when you talk with somebody who has so many interesting things to say.

We started off discussing how stand-up comedy, as we know it in the West, is very different to the Chinese tradition of xiangsheng, which is usually translated as “crosstalk.”

One difference is in the audience-performer dynamic. In crosstalk, Appell said, the audience dynamic is more similar to a play, where the audience is expecting to be engaged but does not actively engage themselves. In stand-up comedy, the comedian’s persona is more often than not an everyman, lessening the distance between performer and audience. For this reason, direct bridge-building between performer and audience is a lot more common in Western stand-up comedy. Many young Chinese comedians who are attracted to the Western way of doing things enjoy this more direct engagement.

We then discussed how simply talking about how he’s a laowai has become central to his act. “There are two things to say about this,” he said. “Number 1, I wish it wasn’t the case. Number 2, we have no choice.”

Unlike in America, if a person who doesn’t look Chinese speaks the language and shows knowledge of the culture, people can’t get past the fact that they want to know why, Appell opined. The result is that people are curious about how and where that person learned these things, and that curiosity colors and overwhelms the reaction to laugh. “You have to get this out of the way at the start of the show, you have to acknowledge the fact that you’re a Laowai speaking Chinese,” he said.

However, unlike the CCTV comedy “Laowai Laile” he avoids jokes that revolve around the limitations of his Chinese or his understanding of China.

“Ultimately, my hope is to show through comedy that foreigners can and do understand China, so telling stories about how I misspoke one time or found myself in an awkward situation because of lack of knowledge about Chinese culture doesn’t help with that,” Appell said.

Despite his unwillingness to pander, Appell takes pride in the inoffensiveness of “Laowai Style” in the eyes of the Chinese viewer. There are many things that foreigners can’t be joke about in China, including making offensive implications about their host country and its government. And so creating comedy that engages people has been a challenge. Yet continutes to think of comedy as a force that transcends cultures.

Appell added that the reason many foreigners will speak the language well but never blend in in China is due to lack of understanding of the culture and how body-language works, he said.

We hope that Jesse can continue to learn enough to enlighten us and make us laugh for many years to come.


Foreigners in Guangzhou launch event to help lesbians meet

Posted: 05/15/2013 11:00 am

Where in Guangzhou can girls who like girls meet other girls?

Last month a lesbian couple made headlines for walking down a street in Guangzhou wearing wedding dresses. In January, Shenzhen hosted the first public wedding between two women in mainland China.

Despite some progress, for lesbians, the situation on the ground remains difficult. This was hinted at when a lesbian couple was turned away from a registry office in the city in February.

Some expats might have come up with a solution.

Last month, 32-year-old English teacher Lisa and her friend Jamie were struck by the lack of venues at which lesbians can hang out. This particular discussion led to the conception of an event for lesbians which will be held at the Kiwi Lounge this coming Saturday, May 18. It will provide an opportunity for women to meet other women in a safe and fun environment.

In Guangzhou, homosexual-friendly bars are mostly geared to men. 24 year-old Huizhou native Rachel thinks the misogyny of wider society has had a rippling effect on the LGBT community.

Rachel is a lesbian and has only come out to her closest friends and brother. Her parents are still unaware.

Rachel realized as early as elementary school that she liked girls. Being in a small town, no information about homosexuality was available to her. Rachel encountered a lot of name-calling and bullying while growing up. Even her own father made fun of her. But this didn’t stop her from having her first relationship with a girl in high school.

In China, some closeted gays and lesbians pursue heterosexual relationships, and even get married. Shenzhen Daily did a feature on the subject in 2011. Some of these married homosexuals have affairs with members of their own sex. Rachel thinks this is even worse.

Lisa is a proud lesbian. But living in China, “people aren’t as understanding about the queer lifestyle.”

Lisa grew up in Toronto, Canada, a city that is known for supporting its LGBT community. But even in Toronto, bars frequented by lesbians tend not to last because, according to Lisa, lesbians do not go out as much as gay men.

Rachel’s journey into accepting herself has been a long one. Her involvement with a lesbian group called “广州女友组” or “Girlfriends Group” has helped her gain the strength that she needs.  Rachel’s girlfriend is the President of the group and they’ve been living together for more than a year. She hopes that one day their mutual love will be recognized by society.

Rachel’s parents are kind, but remain conservative. Her parents believe that “a girl should marry a boy”; something they point out to Rachel whenever they have a chance. Their attitude has created tension in their family, and as a result, Rachel has yet to come out to her parents. For now, Rachel says she prefers to be scolded by her parents because she respects them.

The Kiwi Lounge event commences this Saturday (May 18) and the organizers hope to make it a monthly event. Entrance is free. Lisa says the event doesn’t need to be flashy. “We just need a venue to which people can go and mingle with kindred spirits,” she says.

A poster for the event


Founder of Guangzhou’s creative “Original Element” thinks city’s art scene set to flourish

Posted: 04/5/2013 4:46 pm

On a grisly wet morning, I find myself standing at the foot of a bright red banner displaying the words “Original Element”, followed by its Chinese spelling cramped underneath. This imposing sign opens the path towards one of Guangzhou’s last remaining art scenes, a business that is slowly receding, mostly unnoticed, at the hands of the government.

Modern art, in its diverse shapes and forms, has been slowly growing over the past few years, fed by a new promise of future liberalization and inspiration from its already developed Hong Kong counterpart. New artists rising from a “massive” underground subculture are breaking the conceptual and commercial barriers once closely guarded by the system. However, while the inspiration and content are there, pulsing and ready to burst, the ground seems to be crumbling beneath their feet.

A new breed of visionary artists is being hounded out of their rented spaces by the government. Old factories and industrial zones, rebuilt from scratch and transformed into booming, colourful headquarters of modern art are being yet again demolished and replaced by financial centres.

However, one man is doing his best to prevent this from happening.

Hugo, Chairman of SILO Creative Community, spread out a protective wing for Guangzhou’s art community and invested in Original Element Creative Park, an art centre coming to life at the heart of Liwan District in Guangzhou.

“All these resources have to form an industry of change,” he says, calmly looking outside the window of his office-turned-living room. Much like his business, the room, raised beyond street level on the rooftop of one of the centre’s under-construction buildings, is a splash of colour in the midst of a grey, seemingly decaying area.

A businessman at heart, he describes his native Guangzhou as “a very pragmatic and realistic city.”

“It took China 30 years to catch up with Europe’s developments. We spent the past developing the economy. Now, we can take a break and think about what life is about and how we want to spend it,” he says, with the help of our translator.

And the best way to start enjoying the already comfortable economic position of this continuously developing metropolis is to give art a chance.

Hugo is already giving it more than just that. With a personal investment of RMB150 million, he is revamping South China’s first brewery and turning it into a vibrant, welcoming art scene.

Outside in the pouring rain, the metallic blows of hammers and the sharp roars of machinery are diligently echoing his promise. Original Element, taken over by SILO Creative Community two years ago, already encompasses a range of art galleries, studios, expensive brand shops, and a sleek, cutting-edge restaurant. This makes for 80 per cent of the space, already established and attracting young audiences. The rest is to be developed within six months, about the same amount of time Hugo thinks it will take to start making a profit.

“The money-making part hasn’t started yet,” he says with a smile. When I marvel at this, he explains his faith in his investment. Having rented the place for the next 20 years, OE is only in its infancy.

It occurs to me that while other renowned art spaces, such as Redtory, are being constantly brought down and facing closure, 20 years from now, this small industrial-looking art district will be the last one standing, a single splash of colour on the city’s grey canvass.

Confronted with this image, Hugo laughs in disbelief.

“People think the creative industry is about places, but it is not; it’s about platforms. So it doesn’t really matter that the government is taking all these spaces back, because there are alternative platforms, such as the digital medium, for artists to express themselves, and that’s the key.”

Hugo’s unshaken belief in the art community’s potential is inspiring. After travelling around the world, including four years spent in Canada, he returned to China, confident that culture will enter a golden age within the next 10 years. His confidence is based on continual observation of Hong Kong, which is pushing new boundaries in terms of its art scene.

Soon, Guangdong will import the same openness, he thinks, especially in terms of modern dance, a form of art in which Guangzhou is already leading.

“China is opening up, mainly politically,” he says. “What you can see around you now is chaos everywhere. But art needs chaos for inspiration and that can be translated as a huge potential for the art world.”

OE is unique in many ways, including how it conducts its business. Artists are charged lower rents for their spaces in an encouraging and supportive gesture. Moreover, the performers are given a free hand: management mostly stays away from the creative process, allowing them to curate their own shows in the way they deem appropriate.

Without doubt, the whole business strikes me as a daring project. Is this a form of dissidence in itself? Hugo shakes his head dismissively.

“Artists don’t have time for revolutions,” he said.

“Sometimes, art can be a form of dissidence, but only in the hands of artists like Ai Weiwei. But these artists, like everyone else, want to survive. So they are not going to kill themselves by involving themselves in politically heavy art.”

However, he does mention a recent “angry exhibition” by a Chinese oil painter. The message, he says, can be interpreted only from an emotional point of view.

As the cold rain outside dies down, we start our descent back in the streets with Hugo explaining that art is the venture of emotions.

If this is true, the current developments are predicting a powerful emotional storm that will sweep Guangzhou in the near future.

Address: Original Element Creative Park, No 63, Xizeng Lu, Liwan District, Guangzhou (Exit D, Xicun Station, Line 5)

原创元素创意园, 广州市荔湾区西增路63号


Guangzhou’s most popular culture park, Redtory, to be demolished

Posted: 03/26/2013 7:00 am

Redtory, a culture park which was converted from an abandoned tin can factory in 2009, is set to be demolished within six years to make way for the expansion of Guangzhou’s International Finance City, XKB reports.

After Liao Xinbo, the deputy head of Guangzhou’s Sanitation Bureau announced that the park would be demolished, there was much discussion among netizens and the original post has already been forwarded over 2000 times.

One netizen summed up the general mood by saying that Guangzhou would lose its raison d’etre if it becomes just another metropolis like Shanghai or New York.

An official in Tianhe District told the newspaper that the western section of the 7.5 square kilometre financial district will be further developed but it is not yet 100% certain whether it will be necessary to demolish Redtory.


Guangzhou sex festival coming in October

Posted: 08/17/2012 10:37 am

Guangzhou is becoming notorious for its Sex & Culture Festival, which washes up on our shores once a year.  There are actually several sex festivals in China, but for some reason the Guangzhou version has become the largest and most famous.

China Daily notes the festival will open in October:

The 10th edition of the festival will host a variety of activities like exhibitions of 100 ancient sexrelics, sexology forums, and lingerie catwalk shows from October 6 to 8, with organizers hopingto attract visitors during the National Day holiday.

Zhu Jiaming, deputy director of the organizing committee, said the event will also feature twophoto exhibitions of AIDS-related subjects designed to present the spread of sexuallytransmitted diseases.

That all sounds very cultural and high-minded, but the reality might be a bit different. Alex Hofford, a renowned local photographer, attended the event in 2009 (his excellent photo album from the event is here).  He seemed to indicate there was less “culture” in the Sex & Culture Festival, and a little more of the “sex”:

Ostensibly, the expo is supposed to be about sex education, but somehow over the years it has degenerated into a perv fest. The biggest draw for most fair-goers seemed to be the ‘lingerie show’, where middle-aged men appear to be the main demographic.

Middle-aged men, who, strangely enough, came equipped with a wide variety of cameras, hand-held mobile devices and camera phones.

As one progressed through the sex education area the items on display got stranger still. Large posters of naked women’s bodies, cropped at the head and the knee. The whole series was on display. Photos of human females. All in a state of undress. From the cradle to the grave. Each snapshot of a human female taken at one decade intervals from birth, the saggy boob poster above being the last in the series. The full series, not seen here, includes large framed posters of material which could be construed, in some circles, (Interpol?), as child porn. Now I’m a huge advocate of press/internet freedom, but I have to draw the line somewhere. I will most definitely not be posting photos of people looking at large photos of naked children here. Then the exhibition got even wierder, as if that was possible.

You can read Hofford’s full take here. (Adam Minter, a freelance reporter based in Shanghai, also blogged about the 2009 show here.)

Regardless of its lewd nature, the event is popular. Organizers say more than 3 million people have attended the festival since it launched in 2003.

Anybody interested in being The Nanfang’s correspondent/photographer for this year’s event?

Our own Danny Lee went to last year’s Sex & Culture Festival, and took the photos below:

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