Rooster Unites #Family from Two Continents: From #Asia to #Europe

Welcome to Birmingham!

The dumplings were wrapped by three ladies from two generations, my sister-in-law Shirley, my niece Anna and myself, then being boiled and pan-fried by my husband John in our house in Sutton Coldfield. It was Chinese New Year’s Eve and a welcome meal was to be served to some very special guests from afar.

For the first time in my 28 years living in the UK, my brother Brad and his family of four (minus his eldest daughter Xiao Ke who is studying in Canada, hence her absence), including his son Ding-Dang came to visit us, on an auspicious and special occasion.

Ask any Chinese person, she or he will tell you just how important Chinese New Year is for families. Every year at this time, in order to spend time with their families and loved ones, millions of Chinese people are on the move, by air, road, train or water.

My brother’s family is among the 6 million travellers abroad

They have travelled by Air and Land to come to Europe/UK

So here they were in Birmingham, a family reunion which I never even dreamt of happening, actually took place. The timing could not have been better.

2016 has been a trying year, on both macro and micro levels, and one day I will share just how trying it is in my work in progress, a book of fiction which I am working on. So my brother’s family visit provided a welcome distraction for all the other BS which we can do without.

Food will always feature prominently in any Chinese celebrations, and especially so during CNY. We had a few meals out in Birmingham’s fabulous China Town, as well as in an English pub when we visited two of Brad’s old friends in Solihull. You can’t possibly have a celebration without eating and cooking a lot of food, both in terms of variety and quantity.

Welcome Dinner at home in Sutton Coldfield

Fabulous food at Chinese Tasty Restaurant

Brad was reunited with Old Friends Ying and Lin in Solihull

The weather had not been great, and Brad’s family had been travelling for two weeks in Continental Europe when they arrived. So we did not do much sightseeing. Anna and Ding-Dang loved feeding our animal neighbours, swans, ducks, pigeons and seagulls.

Our friendly neighbour the Swan family lined up to welcome the guests from afar

The Swan family lined up to say goodbye too!

We also did what the Chinese people love to do the most: eating great food.

So I cooked and cooked during the last few days, from Chinese style roast beef, steamed sea bass to home-made dumplings. For the special CNY Eve, we did something fun. Instead of coins (not safe for small children, as is the case with Ding-Dang), we hid almonds in two lucky dumplings.

Which ones are lucky dumplings? Take your pick!

Guess who were the two people who had the chance to consume the lucky dumplings?

John was one of them, and rightly so. We are hoping that the year of Rooster will indeed bring us a little more luck than the year before, and hopefully by the time I write a New Year blog next year at this time, I will be able to confirm that lucky dumplings actually work! 😉

As this post is going live, Brad and his family are flying to Frankfurt via London Heathrow. I wish them a pleasant flight and a safe passage home to China in the next couple of days, rejoining the millions of fellow Chinese people on the move across borders and oceans.

Anna, Junying and Shirley on the train to Birmingham

John, Brad and Ding-Dang on the same train

Posted in China & East Asia, Food & Cuisine, Social Media & Photography, Travel Logs, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goodbye Year of Monkey and Hello Year of Fire #Rooster #CNY

Celebrating CNY with Ren Jie

Do you know all the twelve animal signs of Chinese astrology? Do you know that the Year of Monkey is near its tail and the Rooster is crowing, ushering in a new dawn, fresh aspirations and great hopes for the coming year?

What does it mean for be born as a Rooster according to the Chinese traditions? As some of you know, the Chinese zodiac has a cycle of 12 years, each year being represented by a different animal, as well as five basic elements, Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. 2017 is Fire. How exciting!

Chinese astrologers will tell you that people born in the Year of Rooster are hardworking, resourceful, courageous and talented, with powerful personalities, and notoriously dominant. Ha, no wonder I had such huge clashes with my Mother when I was younger. She is a Water Rooster apparently. Guess Water does not go too well with a fiery Aries either :-).

Whoever designed this poster made a typing error – Snake and Rooster are very different animals 🙂

Last year around this time, I organised the biggest Chinese New Year celebration BCU has ever seen, the first of its kind. It was attended by around 300 students and members of staff, and everyone present remembered it fondly. No exception for me. There is a link below to my blog sharing snippets of that day. The Monkey was a joyful symbol, and it was fun to mark it with people from all over the world, especially some of the visiting academics from China, my friends.

#BirminghamCityUniversity Celebrates #ChineseNewYear 伯明翰城市大学师生欢聚一堂庆新春

Conference on Chinese Culture and Education

Well attended by staff and students

My little helpers in making it happen!

Special visitor Dr Yeh From Taiwan and visiting academics Wang Wei, Tian Yuan and other friends

A number of people have asked me if we are doing anything similar this year. Due to unforeseen obstacles, we won’t be having one, not in such a big scale anyway. I will, however, celebrate it with a small circle of family and friends. I have a very pleasant surprise in store in the coming week, which I will share with you soon.

Visiting Academics Darcy and Jennifer Performed during the Festivities

Food, Glorious Food!

So what are you going to do? If you are living in a city like Birmingham, or anywhere else in the UK, you can head to China Town where cheerful lion dances and other celebrations will feature on the days leading towards and after the official Spring Festival, which falls on the 28th of January 2017. Mark it in your diary.

We also know that Chinese people are generally obsessed with food, and even more so at this time of the year. If you want to try anything at home, you can get a few interesting ideas from my previous blog here: Traditional Chinese New Year Treats

Finally, let’s draw a line under the year of Monkey, and may we put the trials and tribulations behind. Let’s greet the Year of Rooster with anticipation, faith and good hope. May the Rooster bring you love, luck and everything you wish for!

Happy New Year!

Posted in Arts & Culture, China & East Asia, Education, Social Media & Photography, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#Animal Kingdom (1) – A Modern #Fable

Have you read The Animal Farm and The Jungle Book?

I hope that you will enjoy pictures of English Countryside, of Nature and animals, some are cute, others are naughty, some we love, others we loathe.

Beautiful English Countryside

Who will be King in the Jungle?


Have we learnt anything from the Jungle Book?

Chiru is a Tibetan Antelope


This Panda can put on a good show!


Would you keep a Chihuahua as pet?

Pandas are National Treasure of China and they are protected!

The Animal Kingdom is thriving!


What do you think of the Animal Farm by George Orwell?

Posted in China & East Asia, Economics & Society, Humour & Satire, Reading & Writing, Short Stories, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Controversial Conversation on #Corruption in Different Cultural Contexts

How corrupt is your country and countrymen?

“I was talking to a Brit the other day and I mentioned that a couple of people we know are corrupt. She seemed surprised that I used the word corrupt;” She said.

“Oh yes, your average British person do not like to hear anything that is not the norm, Corruption is not the norm, and it’s nasty, even if they know that it’s true,” He nodded.

“Why?” She asked, “Because they are too polite to face the ugly truth or they simply do not see people who are corrupt?”

“I think that a lot of people, especially those in the academic and university environment, try to look away from such behaviour, pretending that it doesn’t exist.”

“Well, I guess many British people think that corruption exist in other countries, such as China or Africa.” She continued, “In China, if I say someone is corrupt, people would ask how corrupt, to what extent? Corruption is so pervasive and wide-spread, and everyone knows it. There is no surprise, and to a certain extent, tolerance and acceptance. People with power are meant to be corrupt. Otherwise why do they pursue power in the first place? To serve the people?”

“Ha. Corrupt people don’t serve people. All they serve is themselves, their pockets and their ego. Nothing else. You and I know people just like that.”

“Exactly. Like employing and promoting people who are their friends even though they are not qualified, and paying their friends large sums of money out of public funds, and so on and so forth. Oh yes, we know dodgy people like that. ”

UK has one of the toughest anti corruption laws, and corrupt individuals could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment, unlimited fines and closing down of companies.

“In some countries, these crook deeds are the norm, not exception, but here in the UK, it is more discreet and hidden, hence out of sight,, out of mind. Most people mind their own business, and in a sense, this makes it easy for the corruption to take place and for corrupt people to get away with it.” He is a Brit and knows what he’s talking about.

“I also think that the majority of British people take it for granted that people they work with will abide by the rules and regulations, and there are consequences if they don’t.” She has worked in a Britain long enough to know. That is one of the reasons she chose to live and work in the UK.

“Unfortunately here come some unscrupulous people who think that we Brits are stupid to stick to the rules and they decide to take risks, breaking the rules for their own gain. Of course, they think that they are clever, almost to the extent of being arrogant. You know WHAT I am talking about.”

“I even know WHO you are talking about. Oh yes, they think they are really smart, and everyone else is dumb, until, of course, they are caught out.”

“IF they are caught. As we know, in China, corrupt individuals would get a Life Sentence or the death penalty, with the bill for the bullets sent to the family. What do you think is the punishment for such people in the UK?”

“Good question. I am not sure, really. I guess it depends on the severity of the offence and how big are the financial gains.”

Following their conversation, she went online and did some research. Apparently, the UK ranked very low in terms of corruption and high being “very clean”, sitting pretty at 14, out of 175 countries being measured by Transparency International.

She picked up the conversation with him later.

“Out of 175 countries, where do you think UK and China sit in the table to between ‘highly corrupt’ to ‘very clean”?

“I would say that UK is about 15, and China is somewhere in the middle, like 80.”

“Very close, although there are people challenging the accuracy of the index. Which country is at the bottom?”


“Not far off, actually. It’s Somalia.”

“Corruption in African countries is pretty widespread. Not much gets done without a bribe or “incentive”of some kind, especially where government officials are concerned. It all depends on your definition of corruption. Corruption is all relative to the standards that we set. It’s like environmental standards, sometimes it depends on policing and how much purity you can afford. Developing countries do not put much effort into combatting pollution – either physical or moral.”

We must report and fight corruption!

“Recently South Koreans staged a number of protests in Seoul which brought the President Park Geun-hye into a serious scandal and subsequent impeachment. Half a million South Koreas were in demonstrations and they were so organised and orderly. If public protests were legally allowed in some East Asian countries, I wonder how many protests and how wide spread there might be.”

Sobering thought, that is.

Well done to the South Koreans! Corruption is a deadly cancer!

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