Beyond the Parasol Trees: Life in China

Beyond the Parasol Trees: Life in China
China: Menyuan, Qinghai province.

It has been difficult for me, in the days since the 2016 Presidential election, to remain neutral on the state of our country in this blog. I never intended for this to be a political or societal platform. But if I am seeking honesty and insight from the people I interview, I think it is only right to return the favor.

I am still angry, still frightened, and still saddened by the election of Donald Trump. Nothing he has said or done since his election has quelled those emotions. In fact, the announcement of his recent cabinet appointments and his comments on foreign policy have only flamed my fears.

He will never, however, stop me from reaching out into the world. For believing in the basic goodness of its citizens. For being curious about the people who live in the far corners of this planet. Decent, concerned people who want the best for themselves and the people they love.

People like Ying.

About Ying 

I met Ying through Peace, a dear friend’s daughter-in-law. Peace is Ying’s daughter and only child. Thank you, Peace, for helping translate questions for your father and me.

Ying and his wife live in Beijing, three miles from Tian’an men Square. Peace, her husband, and their baby live in the United States.

Before retiring, Ying worked as a mechanic in China. Today, he rises at 8 or 9, then goes for a morning walk.  Afterwards, he and wife go grocery shopping. In the afternoon, they drive to visit their siblings. Both Ying and his wife come from large families.

After an afternoon nap, Ying practices his calligraphy while his wife reads. Following dinner, they go for a long walk and get read to talk to their daughter, via Skype.

They talk to her every day.

My Conversation with Ying

(All photos supplied by Ying, Peace, and their family)

Please look out a window in your home and describe what you see.

We live on the 4th floor. From our windows, we can see several really big Chinese parasol trees. Right now, we are in the beginning of the fall season and the leaves are still thick and green.

What languages do you speak?

I speak Chinese (Mandarin). I did not learn English when I was young. Instead, I learnt Russian. Surprisingly, I can still remember some dialogue in my textbook, even though it was more than 50 years ago.

What is the most unusual or unique thing about where you live?

I guess one thing is that you need to win the lottery to buy a car. They limit the license plates, so you can buy a car but without a plate. Without a plate, you can only keep your car in your driveway.

What would you like the world to know about China?

We are very friendly people. We are really nice to foreigners.

Come here to visit China.


What is a myth or stereotype about China that you would like to correct?

Chinese medicine is real. There is good clinical evidence showing that. Just recently, there is a first Chinese medicine that just got approved by FDA.

What is your favorite time of year in China and why? Please describe it.

Fall, Sep-Oct. Not cold nor hot. Not too dry nor humid. Perfect weather. Not a lot of pollution either, which is really rare. But this is only about Beijing. Not sure about other cities.

Qinghai Lake

Qinghai Lake

If I came to your home for dinner, what would you serve me?

Noodles. Dumplings. Chinese pancakes. I am good at using flours to make dishes.

Who is a Chinese person you admire or are inspired by?

Mao. No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes. I think you guys only focus on the wrong doing that he did, ignoring what he actually brought to China.

What brings you joy?

Playing cards(or mahjong) with my families.

What frightens you?

Death.. I am already 65 years old but the thought of death still frightens me.

What does China do well? What could it do better?

Fundamental education before college.

Try to focus more on developing skills for kids, let them learn how to study instead of just teaching them knowledge.

What is your opinion of the United States?

A free country: politics, religion.

In terms of natural beauty, what is most beautiful about China?

We have some really beautiful mountains.

Qilian, Qinghai province

Qilian, Qinghai province

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