Can a water dragon breathe fire when it’s wet? And other conundra

Letters from China

By Patrick Murphy – January 2012

The Chinese have an amazingly complicated calendar, but for all its sophistication and complexities you would think they could, at least, get the placement of Spring correct, right? Apparently not, as this is Chinese Spring. What we call “Chinese New Year” is called by the Chinese “Spring Festival.” Hello? It’s January. The days are short, the nights are long and it’s cold as a botch. Spring? Spring? The answer to the question, “Can 1.3 billion people get it wrong?” is a resounding “yes.” More

Edison Liu named president and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory

From the Jackson Laboratory

On August 26, The Jackson Laboratory named Edison Liu, M.D., as its new president and chief executive officer. Liu will officially begin his work at the Laboratory on Jan. 2, 2012.

Edison Liu

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Why I Love China, Reason #297

Letters from ChinaBy Patrick Murphy – April 2009

The internet in China, as everywhere, can be somewhat user unfriendly. Factor in technoglop in a foreign language (like “Make sure the subnet mask is disengaged”) and it becomes simply impossible to achieve connectivity unaided.

Not only was I faced with that challenge, but my old computer had become unstable. Knowing that we would be returning to our Beijing apartment for several years, I decided on this trip to acquire a desktop computer. More

Review: Chinese Measure Word Dictionary

Chinese Measure Word DictionaryChinese Measure Word Dictionary: A Chinese-English English-Chinese Usage Guide by Jiqing Fang and Michael Connelly (Boston: Cheng & Tsui, 2008)

Review by Craig Dietrich

CAFAM’s own Mike Connelly is co-author of a unique and just-published learning tool and reference guide for Chinese language learners. It has to do with “measure words.”

Measure words are found in many languages. Native speakers employ them without a second thought. When you go to get a “loaf” of bread, you never say, “Give me a bread.” You use the measure word “loaf.” Similarly with a “pair” of pants or a “grain” of sand. Now actually, the vast majority of English nouns, the ones that name individual things, don’t require measure words. You can simply say “a computer,” “a pen,” or “a horse.” More

The China Trade at the Penobscot Marine Museum

Betty Schopmeyer

Betty Schopmeyer, Education Director, Penobscot Marine Museum

The beautiful Penobscot Bay town of Searsport boasts many old homes dating from the great seafaring era. Here one can find the Penobscot Marine Museum. Its principal exhibits illuminate the industry of Penobscot Bay in the 19th century and illustrate life on one of the great square-rigged ships, and what it was like to visit China when it truly was exotic.

The Asian artifacts in Penobscot Marine Museum’s collection were donated by ship captains who brought back souvenirs and items to furnish their own homes.  Betty Schopmeyer, Education Coordinator, has furnished the following information to provide a small sense of what this museum offers.

For hundreds of years, Maine has built fine ships and produced extraordinary mariners. During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Maine vessels and captains participated in the trade with China, peaking after the Civil War. Maine was involved in the China Trade predominantly through shipbuilding and supply of master mariners. Mainers sometimes bought shares in ships owned predominantly by Boston and other outside merchants. Only a few Mainers, such as Portland ship builders Preble and Jewett, and Theodore Lyman of York owned their own ships in the China Trade:. Few, if any, Maine products were exported to the Far East. One exception was ice from the Kennebec River, which was carried to Calcutta, Bombay, and Batavia. More

The Empire Dine and Dance

By Craig Dietrich

CAFAM members will recall that, among the materials collected by Gary Libby about Chinese in Maine, is the story of the Empire Dine and Dance restaurant on the corner of Congress and Forest. An effort has been underway to install markers on certain Portland buildings such as this one, to commemorate these Chinese connections.

On October 18, 2008, (thanks to the cooperation of the present owner, Bill Umbel) the first such plaque was dedicated at the location of the Empire Dine and Dance.

An enthusiastic crowd gathered in the brilliant autumn sunshine to witness the proceedings. Professor Ahkau Ng, past president of CAFAM opened the ceremonies. Gary sketched the Empire’s history. Also present was Kuo-Tung Yang, Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, accompanied by his wife Ying-Chuan Chung. Refreshments were served. More

In China, you are “old”

By Craig Dietrich

In modern times as Chinese came into increasing contact with the outside world, they used several terms to refer to foreigners. These words reflect core cultural ideas, political climate, and degrees of familiarity.

One cardinal Chinese cultural distinction is nei-wai (inner-outer) or zhong-wai (central-peripheral). Nei-wai, for example, is used to talk about within-outside the family or within-outside a profession. Zhong-wai also means Chinese-foreign. China is Zhong-guo (Central Country), wai-guo is “foreign country.” A waiguoren (outside person) is a foreigner. More

Review: Journey to Xiamacun

By Mason Philip Smith (Provincial Press 2008)

Review by Craig Dietrich

Early in 2008 I received an email from my friend Ma Tongchun inviting me for lunch at his ancestral farm northwest of Kunming, Yunnan. So in May I returned to China, accompanied by Brian Dorsk a friend from Cape Elizabeth.

Before proceeding to Xiamacun, “Mr. Ma” accompanied us to Heijing, on the rail line between Kunming and Chengdu. This is one of the best-preserved, and little-touristed, towns in Yunnan. For over 1,000 years the surrounding hills were mined for salt. At its peak in the Ming Dynasty, Heijing provided more than 70% of the imperial salt. It is still small, with a single main street running parallel to the Longchuan River. The town combines a strong sense of history with a pleasing lack of commercialism. Popular with visitors from Kunming on weekends, it is a gem, a place lost in time, rarely visited by Westerners (although Marco Polo knew it). More

New Year in Beijing

By MC

We call it Chinese New Year, but they call it Spring Festival. I’ve argued with many Chinese over the years about this misnaming. I think it should be called Winter Festival, because the weather is always cold. “No, no,” they tell me. “Now it is Spring and it will soon be warm!”

One interesting thing I just learned is that until recently the Chinese did not use weeks. Weeks, with weekends, are a Western concept not used in China until the adoption of the universal calendar. The Chinese lunar calendar (also misnamed, as it doesn’t really match up with the lunar cycle– which is why the Chinese have not mere Leap Days, but entire Leap Months) simply started on chu-yi (Day One) and spun through until the end. There was no weekend of rest, just steady work or school, punctuated by the holidays. More

A Chinese-American Tragedy (1979-91)

By Gary Libby from the May 2008 CAFAM Newsletter

Portland area old timers will recall that, in 1979, a new kind of Chinese restaurant opened on Congress Street. It was called Hu Shang, and it offered a different menu from the familiar Cantonese-American fare, including Sichuan dishes that would set your mouth on fire. It quickly became one of Portland’s hottest restaurants, with customers lining up at the door.

The owners of that restaurant were two brothers, Ken and Henry Ng. While Henry worked the kitchen, handsome and personable Ken became the public face of “K & H Corp,” as their business was named. And a successful enterprise it was. By 1981, needing more space, they bought a building on Brown Street, with $75,000 cash down. They closed their Congress Street place and named the completely remodeled Brown Street restaurant “Hu Shang II.” The business continued to thrive. Two years later, in 1983, they opened Hu Shang III on Exchange Street, with a full bar and disco. The money poured in. More

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The Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine provides forums and outreach that promote cultural interchanges between the US and China.

Some rights reserved. Please share content responsibly. Banner image: Peonies, Yun Shouping (1633–1690), Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons. Produced by The Compass LLC.