Posted by: Kash Farooq | April 27, 2011

China mixed bag: censorship, barbecued scorpions, Traditional Chinese Medicine and adult nappies

Censorship in action

I was watching CNN news and the presenter said:

 “fears are growing over the missing Chinese artist…”

Then the screen went blank and stayed blank for 3 minutes. Can you imagine the number of people monitoring all foreign language TV channels with fingers poised over the “mute” button? I wonder if they have “censor of the month” for the quickest reaction times?

Twitter is blocked in China. Try to use your Twitter phone app via hotel WiFi and it just times out. I could access Twitter via my 3G Kindle, though.

However, Internet access is unrestricted in Hong Kong, despite China taking back control of it from Britain in 1997. At the time of the hand over, China agreed that it would not make any changes to the free-market economy of Hong Kong, or to the social and legal systems, for 50 years. China refers to this as “One country, two systems”.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture and Reflexology is everywhere. The population really does appear to believe in it all. Even the doctor on our Yangtze cruise ship was a TCM practitioner (more on this in a later blog post. “Doctor George” deserves a blog post of his own. I attended a very interesting lecture given by him on the first day of the cruise).

You see advertisements everywhere:

Reflexology Advertising

I even got to see a giant comedy foot:

Reflexology Advertising (Giant Foot)

The number of times I was told by a guide that you can access liver or kidney problems through the foot was startling.

It appears as though a big dose of skepticism is severely needed…but a quick Google search brings back zero results for “Skeptic groups in China”. Though, I’m not sure how the Chinese authorities would react to the appearance of such a group (is TCM still heavily promoted by the government?).

Reminding me of the recent controversial exhibition at the  “British Science Wooseum“, I saw several museum displays explaining how Western and Chinese Medicine differs, and explaining what qi is.

The One Child Policy

A family ticket to get into a tourist attraction equals 2 adults and 1 child.

The one child policy is causing problems – there are now 5 boys for every 4 girls (parents have been aborting girls after the sex of the foetus has been determined).

It is estimated that there will be 30 million bachelors in the next few years.

Food and Drink

I have seen live scorpions wriggling on barbeque sticks ready for cooking.

Barbecue Scorpions

I have also seen ‘wine’ jars filled with snakes or huge centipedes (for additional flavour).

Snake wine in China

No, I didn’t try either.

Tours and Factory Visits

Tour guides take you to a lot of ‘museums’ – i.e factories with a shop attached. You are quickly rushed through the museum bit so that they can get you to the shop.

I’m pretty sure that they have to… At the end of each tour segment we had to complete a government tourism form to give marks out of 5 for the tour guide and had to state how many factory shops the tour guide had taken us to.


Tourist areas are not cheap. Or not as cheap as I thought they would be. £3 or £4 for a drink in the touristy places.

However, get off the beaten track and it is very cheap. Get a suit for £7-8, a silk cushion cover for 80p or a can of beer in a supermarket for 20p! Even so, prices have been soaring over the last few years. The guides tell us that food prices have tripled recently.

Buildings and Architecture

The number of animal statues on a roof indicate the importance of the building:

Animal Statues on a Roof

Bamboo scaffolding! It’s strong, light and plentiful, so why not?


Apparently you can buy adult nappies for those particularly long and extremely busy train journeys.



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