Beijing is ready for Spring Festival

Mass migration

Beijing is ready for Spring Festival while the biggest world mass migration starts with Chinese people traveling to celebrate Chinese New Year with their families, or simply going on vacation.

I never leave Beijing during the “Golden Week” of October 1, May 1, Spring Festival (the holiday period for Chinese New Year). Railway stations and highways (certainly), and airports (sometimes) are plain chaos. Meanwhile Beijing is ready for Spring Festival for those clever people who stay and will enjoy a quiet city.

Fairs Open with Festive Shopping Experiences in Beijing

Shopping for festive goods at fairs is an essential part of this holiday. Beijing offers a variety of options, combining both modern and traditional fairs to explore.
Over 300 merchants at the Workers’ Stadium are offering a diverse array of products till 6 February. These include a wide range of traditional festive goods like bacon, dried fruits and nuts, as well as tea and even furniture. There are also specialties hailing from various regions across China, such as rice from Wuchang, oysters from Rushan, coconut powder from Hainan, beef jerky from Inner Mongolia, as well as exotic products like Russian chocolate, Ugandan coffee, Ghanaian cocoa butter, and Moldovan red wine.

Both my wife and I went exploring the market. I tasted the BBQ skewers at the stands outside of the covered market. My wife bought a full trolley of sausages, seaweed, and pressed donkey head (my daily breakfast).
Another famous fair is at the National Agricultural Exhibition Center, also until 6 February, I did not visit as I guess it is pretty similar.
The traditional “Beijing New Year Goods Fair” is a treasure trove of agricultural and other products, ranging from dried mushrooms from northeastern China to seafood delicacies from southern China, and from beef and mutton from Inner Mongolia to tonic products from Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan. And also nuts, snacks, sweets, pastries, tea, seafood, and more from various provinces and cities across China.

Festive decorations

Taikooli in Sanlitun is featuring Legoland and yes there is a Lego Dragon!

Our Worker’s Stadium Avenue has festive decoration including images of leaves projected on the sidewalks.

That is in the Chaoyang section, the Dongcheng section seems to have a smaller budget… and less lights…

Old China Hands lunch 5 January

Our members are travelling (or sick)

Our Old China Hands lunch 5 January saw a turnout of 28, not bad as many were still on holiday travel, USA, Europe, Philippines… And three were sick. Yeah I am still stuck in Beijing. Happy 2024 to all!
We had a guest of honor, our (new) Belgian ambassador who finally made it.

Together with Allan I informed our friends about the unfortunate situation of Peter Hogg who had a very bad fall and is still in intensive care. We hope he can recover, his family has arrived in Beijing to take care of him.
All pretty happy with the great lunch, well except one who shocked others with his negative comments… Oh well.
The dessert was “île flotante”, a very classic French dessert. A floating island or île flottante consists of meringue floating on crème anglaise (a vanilla custard). The meringue used is baked in a bain-marie. It may be served at room temperature or chilled.

Mr. Trains is now also Mr. Chinglish

David Feng continues with his train reporting and has started a Substack Newsletter about trains.
He has recently joined a team of experts in Beijing tasked with standardizing foreign-language (especially English) signage and drafting and implementing translation norms, as well as getting rid of Chinglish — a committee he calls tongue-in-cheek the “Chinglish committee”.
This committee of experts, part of City Hall’s Foreign Affairs office, deliberates and approves guidelines and norms regarding translation in standardized signage, and acts as a higher authority to determining “what’s right” versus “what’s wrong” when it comes to translations. The panel of experts drafted China’s first local norms on bilingual (English and Chinese) signage in 2006, and has just completed a review of these norms, updating and refining standards.
Now being transformed as a “think tank” of top language experts in Beijing, membership is exclusive to, and consists of, the best-in-class of language professionals. Well-known Mark Levine and Michael Crook are also members.
David records 20+ years of commitment to identifying and rooting out Chinglish (e.g. his Everyday Rail English campaign) and is kind of a real polyglot.

The organization: Experts from the Beijing Municipal Government’s Foreign Affairs Office’s Translation Review Expert Database. In Chinese called 北京市政府外办重点语种译审专家库专家.

Next lunch

Our next lunch is planned for 2 February, ahead of Chinese New Year. Renaat will make “Galette des Rois”. The Belgian Embassy already celebrated Galette des Rois.
Morel’s will be closed from 5 to 12 February, opening on Valentine Day 14 February.

Official holidays are from 10 to 17 February. CNY is on 10 February, starting the Year of the Dragon.

China National Opera House

Concert in the new Opera House

On 10 December 2023 I visited for the first time the China National Opera House, located near my home near Worker’s Gymnasium. The address: 115 Dongzhong Street, just south of Fuhua Building near the Second Ring Road.
The concert was performed by the Beijing China Philharmonic Orchestra (北京华夏爱乐乐团) and featured the themes of famous movies, my favorite being the James Bond theme. See the program in Chinese with an online translation.

The opera house is impressive, great architecture, modern and super clean. The acoustics are simply astonishing.
See the inside.
At first it seemed a bit empty but later many spectators filled the house and they were enthusiastic listeners. I was the only foreigner …
See part of the performance with the enthusiastic public.

China National Opera House background

The China National Opera House is affiliated with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. It was founded in 1952 and was formerly known as the Yan’an Central Orchestra and the Luyi Art Troupe.
On April 20, 2022, a press conference was held at the newly built Opera House. The total construction area of the theater is 41,000 sqm.
On May 1, 2022, the National Opera House officially opened to the public.
On the evening of July 6, 2022, the opening concert of the National Opera House Theater was performed.
See some screenshots of the online articles about the House, in Chinese.
See also Wikipedia.
If you are in China, some of the links above need a backdoor…

Belgian conductors in China

Peter Ritzen

Belgian conductors in China are lately in the news. I have mentioned several times my friend Peter Ritzen. You can search for him in this website, see this post among others.
Peter also performed in Suzhou on 22 November 2023, see the announcement and the introduction in Chinese. In November he had one more TV interview, on CCTV4.
He has concluded his contract in Chongqing and is now relocating to Beijing but he will perform in Chongqing and Chengdu in January 2024.
He also plans to perform at the Belgian embassy during the visit of the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, in January 2024.
I am also happy to congratulate Peter for his nomination as Foreign member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts.

Kris Stroobants

Other conductor is Kris Stroobants who is also well-known. He headed the Royal Belgian Philharmonic Orchestra during a tour in China in December 2023, a large group of 60 who performed in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Yantai, Zibo, Suzhou, Zhengzhou, Jiaxing and other cities. The tour was successful until most caught a cold and performance in Shijiazhuang (I think) had to be canceled… Details of the tour remained a bit confusing. The Belgian embassy had no idea about it all.

Royal Belgian Philharmonic Orchestra

The Royal Belgian Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1740. Its predecessor was the Cracow Royal Vatican Music Ceremony Choir in Rome. After Belgium became independent, the orchestra became the only European-level national court philharmonic orchestra in the Kingdom of Belgium with a history of more than 400 years in Europe. At the same time, it is also the only large-scale symphony orchestra designated by the Pope to professionally perform the music of the Royal Holy See, and the only symphony orchestra in the Kingdom of Belgium selected as the EU-level royal orchestra!
As a representative of the Belgian royal music, the Royal Belgian Philharmonic Orchestra serves the Belgian royal family in national projects such as visits, receptions, and banquets, and participates in various artistic diplomacy of European royal families.

Old China Hands lunch 1 December

Nice crowd
Our Old China Hands lunch 1 December saw a nice turnout of 34 despite the last minute cancellation of some busy members.
Nothing special to report except that all were having a great time to chat and enjoy the food of Morel’s Restaurant. Renaat always prepares a special menu for our group.

It is the last lunch of 2023 and the next one is planned for 5 January 2024.
We wish all of our members great and happy Holiday season, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!
Looking forward to see all of you in the next year.