Baisha Town West Village (白沙镇西村), a small village in the South of China, has produced an extraordinarily high number of inhabitants with a Ph.D. degree. Its story recently has become a popular topic on Chinese social media, after it was featured by the Guangzhou Daily and was forwarded by dozens of other Chinese media.
The village’s Ph.D. success once started 80 years ago, when the former headmaster of the local village primary school decided to study abroad; he wanted to contribute to his hometown through his studies. Dr. Huang Junjie was to become the first Ph.D. degree holder of the town. He became a role model for the village’s later generations.
Since then the number of Ph.D. holders soon increased. Now, some families even have three doctors within one generation.
The journey of pursuing a Ph.D. was full of hardship for Huang. The Guangzhou Daily conducted an interview with Huang Junjie’s grandson, Huang Zai, who now also works in the education sector. Sharing his grandfather’s story, he said that Huang, receiving no financial support from family, had to work while studying at Columbia University in New York.
After four years of hard work, he acquired a Ph.D. in Law, and then immediately returned to China. He later even became a professor and one of the three most famous lawyers in Guangzhou.
Another celebrity whom the villagers are proud of is James Wong Howe. He was a renowned Chinese-American cinematographer who worked on over 130 films in Hollywood. He was born and raised in this village and later moved to America with his father.
When Guangzhou Daily asked Huang Zai why he thinks Baisha Town West Village has become such a breeding ground for talent, he answered the village has a long tradition of promoting education: “There is an ancient saying that has been passed on from generation to generation in the village, ‘Even if the only rice we have can fit in a pen container, we will still make sure our children can study'(“笔筒装米, 也要教子读书”). In other words, we encourage education and persuade people to never give up on it no matter the situation.”
Huang Zai recalled his own experiences; his entire family advised him to take the National College Entrance Exam after the Cultural Revolution and to continue studying, even after failing the exam the first time. “Without their support and the social ethos in the village, I would have never achieved what I have right now.”
Another factor Huang Zai thinks contributed to the village’s successful inhabitants is that many of them came from overseas. While doing labor in foreign countries, they saw their education and recognized its importance. These overseas villagers contributed to the local education by starting their own private school by the end of the Qing Dynasty, donating their own ancestral halls and turning them into local primary schools where students were required to learn about morals and values, and were taught English.
Those who later studied and acquired their PhDs degrees never forgot about their roots, frequently donating money for the construction of schools, and holding lectures in their homeland.
Now, the government plans to help make the village more of a tourist destination, to introduce its story to the world. Many of the villagers are happy and honored that their town is now known as the “Ph.D. village,” as it was something they actively pursued.
The village of Yangtian in Liuyang City, Hunan province, is also famous for its 21 Ph.D. holders and hundreds of inhabitants with MA degrees. In Gu Yuantou, in Zhejiang’s Dong Yang City, the villagers are proud of their 25 Ph.D. holders and 553 university students out – their town only has 2200 inhabitants.
The majority of Weibo users praise the villagers’ determination to educate their children. There are also some netizens who say there must be a lot of pressure on those young villagers who do not pursue an academic degree.
Others jokingly say they are going to buy a house and move to Baisha for the village’s “good Feng Shui.”
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“The End of an Era”? – Beijing Bookworm Closes Its Doors
The Bookworm Beijing, at Nansanlitun Road, is a bookshop, library, bar, restaurant and events space that has become a center of cultural exchange for Beijing’s foreign community since 2005.
The location is a beating heart of Beijing’s literary world; a place where writers, journalists, students, diplomats, academics, and all kinds of people – both foreign and Chinese – come together to exchange knowledge, read, and sit down for a glass of wine.
Today, the Bookworm announced its sudden closure via WeChat, writing:
“It is with heavy hearts that we are forced to announce the impending closure of The Bookworm Beijing after 14 wonderful years in Courtyard No. 4 off SouthSanlitun Road. Despite our best efforts, we appear to have fallen prey to the ongoing cleanup of “illegal structures”, and we have not been able to secure an extension of our lease.”
The announcement further says that the location will be forced to suspend operations “most probably” as of Monday, November 11, and that the Bookworm will attempt to reorganize and find a new location.
News of the Bookworm’s closing has been becoming a topic of conversation on various social media sites from WeChat to Twitter and Weibo.
Famous Chinese journalist and author Luo Changping (罗昌平) writes on Weibo: “The Bookworm is forced to close! It used to be next door to my former office, and it was once like my living room. Sigh.”
Shanghai comedian Storm Xu called the closure of the Beijing Bookworm “the end of an era,” saying he looks back on many good memories there.
“They had many events, good food, special books; I used to go there a few times per year,” one person writes. “This really is so sad,” other Weibo users respond.
There are also various Weibo commenters who also mention that news of Bookworm’s closing comes just a day after the news that publisher of magazine-books and online bookseller Duku Books (读库) is forced to close its Beijing warehouse for the sixth time.
Over the past decade, many popular venues in Beijing have been forced to close their doors or relocate. Beijing hangouts such as Bed Bar, Salud, Vineyard Cafe, 2 Kolegas, Jiangjinjiuba, Mao Livehouse, Hercules, Aperativo, The Bridge Cafe, Great Leap Brewery Sanlitun, Jing-A Taproom 1949, and many others have all been closed over the past years.
Nightlife hotspot Sanlitun bar street was demolished and bricked up in 2017 as part of the mission of the city management to gentrify the area.
The demolishment of “illegal structures” in the city has been an ongoing effort of the local government for years. These efforts became especially visible in late 2017 when people in Beijing’s Daxing area faced a large-scale evacuation campaign after a big fire broke out there on November 18, killing 19 people.
The large-scale evacuation campaign was also expanded to other areas of Beijing in a campaign by the municipal authorities aimed at unlicensed developments to target “illegal structures” and “buildings with potential fire hazards.”
But many people on Weibo and WeChat questioned if the campaign was actually more about politics than about safety concerns – something that was strongly refuted by state media outlets at the time.
These questions will remain unanswered, also for the Bookworm. Is its closure really about closing down an “illegal structure,” or are there more politically-motivated considerations playing a role here? On Weibo, some commenters say the location is closed down for being a home of free discussions and “free thinking,” while others say that no matter what the place is, the building’s safety and legal status is what matters here.
Perhaps the future will tell. We surely hope the Bookworm will soon pop up and open its doors in another location very soon.
Those who are interested can support the Bookworm by coming by and buying books, which will be heavily discounted, until November 11.
By Manya Koetse
Images: Bookworm images by The Bookworm, edited by What’s on Weibo.
Sanlitun Image: Might have been taken by Manya in Beijing 2017, but we’re not 100% sure so let us know if we’re mistaken.
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Online Anger over Inappropriate Toast by Dutch Watch Brand Executive at Chinese Dinner Party
This is how NOT to do a toast in Dutch!
UPDATE: FYI – the videos relating to this incident have been taken offline after the publication of this article. There are no active video links in this article.
The Amsterdam-based watch & jewelry brand Rosefield has recently come under fire within the Chinese community in the Netherlands after a video went viral showing Rosefield’s CEO and its Head of Sourcing proposing an unusual toast at a Chinese dinner party.
The video, that was viewed over 173,000 times on Dutch site Dumpert.nl, shows a woman in a white blouse bringing out a toast, saying:
“In Dutch, we say ‘ganbei’ or ‘cheers’ in this way, and it would be nice if you all can say the same, we say: ‘dikke lul.‘”
The people at the table then proceed to toast saying “Dikke lul” – which, in fact, is not the Dutch word for ‘cheers’ but for ‘big dick,’ something that the Chinese people at the table are seemingly not aware of.
On WeChat, Chinese-language newspaper Asian News (华侨新天地) reported about the video and identified the Dutch woman and man at the table as the CPO and CEO of Rosefield Watches, a fast-growing luxury brand that is active in various countries.
Asian News describes the incident as a way of “ridiculing Chinese friends,” and writes it has triggered anger online.
Asian News (华侨新天地) is a Chinese language newspaper founded in 1992. It is mainly distributed in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. Its WeChat account has some 120,200 followers, and the post on the ‘cheers’ video was among its most-well read on WeChat this week.
The blog post noted that ever since the ‘dikke lul’ video has gone viral in the Netherlands, it has become one of the first results showing up when searching for the vulgar expression ‘dikke lul’ on Google.
Although it is not clear where the video was filmed and how it ended up on short video site Dumpert, it is rumored in WeChat groups that it was recorded during the Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair earlier this month, and that the Chinese guests are business relations of the Dutch brand (unconfirmed).
The comment section on the Dumpert site shows that although some Dutch commenters think the video is funny, there are many who find it “vulgar,” “rude,” and “distasteful.”
Although many (overseas) Chinese expressed anger in various WeChat groups – some expressing regret over a Rosefield watch they recently purchased – the Asia News blog does remind readers that we do not know the context of the video, and whether or not there was a certain pretext or common understanding to the joke.
Nevertheless, the blog states, this kind of behavior is not professional and if a company such as Rosefield wants to earn money in China, “it should also respect Chinese culture and people.”
Although there have been ample discussions about the controversial video on Wechat, there are no online discussions about this issue on Weibo at the time of writing.
Over the past year, many foreign brands became a focus for controversy in China.
In November of 2018, Italian fashion house D&G faced consumer outrage and backlash on Chinese social media for a video that was deemed ‘racist’ to China and for insulting remarks about Chinese people allegedly made by designer Stefano Gabbana.
Swiss investment bank UBS sparked controversy in June for a column which mentioned “Chinese pigs.”
Over this summer, various foreign companies apologized to China for listing ‘Hong Kong’ as a separate country or region on its websites and/or t-shirts.
Still curious about how to actually say ‘cheers’ in Dutch? It’s ‘proost’ and this is how you pronounce it correctly.
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