Spotlight on Mark Levine

Who is Mark Levine?

A spotlight on Mark Levine, whom I have known for years.
In his own words:
I am an American sociologist who has lived in China since 2005. Since arriving I have taught at a number of different universities but my main teaching job since 2007 has been at Minzu University of China in Beijing. I currently teach Public Speaking, American Culture and Oral English.
I am a guitarist/songwriter/singer. I have written more than 60 (English-language) songs about life in China and have performed the and many Chinese songs in 10 Chinese Provinces. I have performed before several audiences of more than 50,000 people, sung at The National Center for the Performing Arts and Beijing’s MasterCard Center as well as in bars, factories, fields and 20 Chinese weddings. My performances have been seen on more than a dozen different Chinese TV stations.
In Side Out is a musical duo that I have formed with Chinese folk musician Fu Han. Ms. Fu performs on her er-hu (a two-string, bowed Chinese instrument) and I play guitar. Singing both Chinese and English-language songs, we share the vocals.
My book, Stories from My Chinese Journey, was published in China by New World Press in April 2014.

Hilton Hotel with FCGroup

On 23 December 2014, one of the many events with a spotlight on Mark Levine. The FCGroup has been the leading networking event group in Beijing. That event was again in the Zeta Bar of the Hilton Hotel.

Beijing Foreign Studies University

On 22 April 2016, at BFS, the evening “East meets West” featured a program by Mark Levine and Fu Han, attended by some well-know Chinese and foreign guests.
Among the foreign guests several winners of the China Friendship award, and also the famous Isabel Crook, our CCTV host Edwin Maher, Michael Crook and many others. See also the picture with Ms. Huang Huanbi, the wife of late Israel Epstein.
Mark also presented his book “Stories from My Chinese Journey”.

Chongyang Festival

I have invited Mark afew times at the official Chongyang Festival celebration. I still hope I can have him at the next celebration so he can sing his Chongyangjie song.
See here the clip he made about the Festival:

See here one of the celebrations:

The 6th Chongyang Festival in Diaoyutai State Guesthouse

Private concert by Peter Ritzen

At the home of Peter Ritzen

Another private concert by Peter Ritzen in his Shunyi residence, for a small circle of friends.
This time a selection of Chopin, Bach, Liszt and more.
And the candles? Well, part of the storytelling by Peter, one piece was performed with candlelight only!
After the concert, a nice buffet was served.

A glimpse of his new symphony

Peter has composed a new symphony that he will publicly perform in Vienna (Musikverein) on 5 August, with a large orchestra, choir and organ. Title: Die Wildrose. Includes a German version of the Flemish song “Daar is maar één Land” from Anton van Wilderode.
Here a small sample, with Stella singing the German version.

The Wiener Musikverein, commonly shortened to Musikverein, is a concert hall in the Innere Stadt borough of Vienna, Austria. It is the home of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. The “Great Hall” (Großer Saal), due to its highly regarded acoustics, is considered one of the finest concert halls in the world.
“Daar is maar één land dat mijn land kan zijn” (1983) is from Cyriel Paul Coupé (28 June 1918 – 15 June 1998), a Belgian writer and poet, also known by the pseudonym Anton van Wilderode.

Some Chinese understand humor

Jokes are not universal

Some Chinese understand humor that matches our Western norms. Agreed, the guy is an overseas Chinese and I am not sure Mainland Chinese would get the jokes. Reason why there is an important tip for foreigners in China: avoid telling jokes as it can lead to serious misunderstandings.

Thanks to WeChat

On one of the WeChat groups I found this video, hilarious: “Don’t Skip the Sex Talk”, by Jinx Yeo. The video:

And see his Facebook page, where you find more videos:

For those without VPN, see here the video:

A little secret

This year I hope I can finish and publish my book about … jokes. It will not be for a Chinese readership as the jokes are basically Anglo-Saxon.

Edwin Maher in Internations Book Club

Edwin Maher, a CCTV celebrity

On Sunday 25 September we had to honor to welcome Edwin Maher in our Internations Beijing Book Reading group, to discuss his latest book “Caught on CCTV”.
I remember one of my Old China Hands lunches (Edwin is a regular), when some of our Chinese clients were having a lunch at Morel’s at the same time. We told them some ambassadors were in our lunch and if they wanted to greet them – and take a picture. Good idea till they spotted Edwin sitting there, they did not want to know about whatever ambassador: they only wanted to see Edwin and take a picture.
It says a lot about Edwin who has an impressive career in CCTV as the host for the English news.
So, happy he took some time on his Sunday before another CCTV appearance.

Edwin Maher, the author

I am fortunate to have his two books, all a present from Edwin and signed by him. His first “My China Daily” was very well received, my wife said “You see this is what and how you should write”. Yes boss.
The book we discussed was his recent Caught on CCTV.

A history of CCTV: Caught on CCTV

When I started reading the book, I was immediately shocked. He dedicated the book to Yan Yinan, a CRI reporter with whom I worked for over a year, nearly every week, for interviews on the 2008 Olympics. She was a superb girl and when she left us, many like me were shocked.

As a writer myself I was amazed on how Edwin managed to keep track of all the little details on what happened in CCTV. Did he run the HR department? Bribe the HR director? Well, he did it the Chinese way (as I learned soon after landing here myself): he always carried a notebook writing down everything. But he beats me by far by his incredible detail.
So, the book might be at times a bit heavy, like a sort of Encyclopedia, reminding me of my own book. It is however an important historical document, it will be a legacy for all later to have the insights on how CCTV became what is is today.
I found back a number of CCTV hosts who interviewed me over the years…

Edwin writes with a healthy sense of humor but carefully navigates all “sensitive” topics one might look for.

As I understood he wrote the book on his MacBook Air, much like I often do. And he was clever to use a text software instead of the usual MS Word (it is more appropriate for publishing).

All love Edwin Maher

Our discussion was very lively and most wanted an autograph in his book, and the picture of course. Edwin was as usual so patient and friendly to satisfy everybody.
The pictures talk for themselves…

(Note: this post also appears on

Pipa concert and a famous Chinese painter

Artist Liu Yaming, famous oil painter

On 15 May 2016 we were invited for a special concert at the studio building of a famous painter, Liu Yaming. The large building functions as a gallery and has workshops, reception areas and a small auditorium. The area is called Qiaozi International Village Arts District, Qiaozi Art Commune. It is located about an hour’s drive north of Beijing, in a mostly rural and mountainous area called Huairou, home to several national parks, nature reserves, and ski resorts. Qiaozi is a small arts community and populated by established artists, architects and filmmakers. Artists like Shen Shaomin (who hosts the 4A residency), and Qu Yan, (who organizes the XuCun residency) live and work there. Several (oil) painters have their studio in the area; the buildings are all pretty big. Not your poor artist corner! See some of the buildings as well as some of the many paintings hanging around in the house.

The artist was born in 1962 in Neijiang in Sichuan province. He is best known for his somber, evocative oil paintings of female figures. Liu’s paintings focus on a single female figure, usually looking straight at the viewer without a smile. This moody, mysterious atmosphere is heightened by the hazy backdrops he paints the women in. In this piece, though he uses multiple colors in the background, the pinks, yellows, and blues are murky and painted in almost nebulous shapes. In contrast to the backgrounds, the subjects are painted in exceptional detail, which contributes to a sense of individuality and personality unique to each piece.
See more:

The location of the concert also has one of his famous paintings, a huge Dante / Inferno kind of somber piece. On the left side, other large paintings.

Zhang Hongyan, an outstanding Chinese pipa performer

The concert focused on the pipa.
The pipa (pronounced “pee-paa”) is a four-stringed lute, one of the oldest Chinese musical instruments with over 2000 years of history. The concert showed several different types. None had the bent neck: all were straight.
The star was Zhang Hongyan, an outstanding Chinese pipa performer, teacher, Professor at the Central Conservatory, supervisor of MA students and member of the Chinese Association for Cultural Development. Zhang Hongyan trained at the University of Columbia in the USA.

Zhang Hongyan graduated from the Central Conservatory and attained her Master’s degree. Zhang Hongyan is one of the finest pipa performers and teachers. Her rich repertoire includes works by many composers. Zhang Hongyan frequently performs at the world’s most prestigious concert halls, in New York, Berlin, Vienna, Washington, Beijing and many other.

After the concert we were invited to a buffet, on the rooftop, with a great view on the countryside.