The story of Chinese 11.11

“淘宝双十一”的图片搜索结果

In Chinese, November 11 is now called ‘双十一购物狂欢节'(double eleven shopping carnival). Before it was named ‘光棍节'(single’s day), because the numerical appearance of this date, 1111, is just like the singles with no one to hug.

Both of the names are not official. In fact, it is even not a holiday! But it is special enough and worth this article.

All started in 1990s. The origin of the Single’s day has been lost. It is generally accepted that it started from the campus of Chinese university, where getting rid of the single status is a constant conversation topic among male students. One day, someone proposed to held activities on 11.11, in order to create oppotunities for the singles to find the right one to date. Then with the popularity of the internet, this idea quickly spreaded across the country. 11.11 immediately becomes an important day for both the male and female singles, and they name it the Single’s day.

Ways to celebrate the day were then diversed. Those who have a crush on a girl would take risk to ask her out, and then make a profession. It is a risk, because the answer of the girl can be a no. Otherwise, the boy and the girl can have the chance to celebrate this day for the following years as their romantic anniversary. Those who have no one to confess would spend the day with their single friends or alone. Dating parties are held for those who look forward to get rid of their single status.

In any case, however, the Single’s day is not a happy day, comparing to the Valentine’s Day. It reminds the singles that they are not loved. What a sad and undeniable fact!

Somehow, businesses found their oppotunities from it. In Nov. 11, 2009, Taobao/Tianmao, Alibaba’s e-shopping platform, started the first online promotion event. It was a great success. People do need shopping to heal themselves:b! Other e-businesses then followed. Even the offline shopping centers have sales on this day in recent years. To compete with Alibaba, JD.com set another e-shopping carnival on Juin 18 since 2010,  which is the day that JD.com was initiated. This is how we have two shopping festivals in China, and one of them is originally the Single’s day.

People love sales. With the same sum of money, more things can be bought. This is one of the most economic things in the world! The only annoying fact is that, a lot of the online promotions are exaggerated. For example, they sell a pair of shoes at 499 RMB, describing its original price as 1000 RMB. It seems a very good discount. But if you follow the price weeks before, you would probably find the real original price is just 550 RMB.

Luckily, there are brands which indeed provide real promotions, such as UNIQLO. A lot of my friends like this brand. Each year, they start to prepare for the sales very early, in order to succeed in buying their fovarite articles with a lower price. Firstly, they add their favorite and to-be-discounted UNIQLO articles in the e-cart in advance; Secondly, they stay up until 24h of Nov. 10 which is the start of the carnival; Thirdly, they must click the ‘order’ button as fast as they can once the sales starts, because the stock can be sold out within several seconds.  

Engineers of the e-shopping platform also stay up, in order to make sure the system is not down during the carnival. I have a friend who works for Alibaba’s e-business sector. At the night of Nov. 10 of each year, he and his colleagues stay up very late to make sure the system works well. After the first(the biggest) wave of ordering, they set up tents in the office, have a short sleep and continue to work the next day. According to my friend, he is proud of his job.

Still, people do not forget the original meaning of this date. Couples go out to celebrate their relationship, dating parties are held to create the future couples and the singles make their profession to the one they have a crush on. This is why I lost one of my male friends ten days ago.

Beijing, the heaven and the hell (2)

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Views from my office with clear and polluted weathers

When I realized the bad sides of Beijing, I had already lived here for more than one year, happily. You see, it always takes time to get comprehensive knowledge about anything (or any person).

Maybe I am exaggerating to mention hell in the title. But the following aspects of Beijing,  really drived me crazy from time to time. Lets start from one of them.

THE POLLUTION

My company owns an office block in the north west area of Beijing. My office is on the 12th floor of one of the buildings which have floor-to-ceiling windows. When the weather is clear, I can see very far, even the beautiful mountains in the north west direction. When the pollution comes, however, it feels like that a gray bowl is inverted over the region and all the beautiful scenes are blocked out.

Fortunately, not every day is a polluted day. In fact, out of the whole year, days with really beautiful blue sky  are quite a lot. The reason that make these days happen is mainly the wind. When the wind stops, the pollution returns without any delay.

Because of the pollution, businessmen earn more money by selling the masks and air cleaner.

There is also a weird policy released by the government: if one buys the air cleaner, the government gives him(her) up to 800 RMB of allowance, which is called energy-saving and emission-reduction allowance. I did not understand this policy, because I think if each family in this city uses air cleaner, more electricity will be consumed; then more energy(from thermal power, for example) has to be consumed to generate more electricity. I do not see at which point that buying an air cleaner is energy-saving and emission-reduction.

But for my family’s health, I bought an air cleaner any way, and received about 80 RMB of allowance from the government.

THE CROWDED SUBWAY AND OTHER PUBLIC PLACES

It does not mean that I had never been to a crowded place. Years ago, I lived in Hong Kong. With its 1,106 km2 land and more than 7,000,000 habitants, the city is indeed crowded. But it has everything well organized, and people are aware of the others in any case. I also visited a lot of famous places of the world in their tourist seasons. According to these experiences, being with a crowd only mean that I have to wait for what I want.

It was in Beijing, then in the other cities of China, I found that it could also be miserable in a crowd. In the morning or evening’s subway,  you have to be strong, so that you can force your way into the subway, avoid to be squeezed out at the wrong stop and fight your way out finally, without losing your shoes or crying;  You have to be very patient to keep saying ‘excuse me’ to the people who stand on the right site of escalators, so that you can arrive at the office on time;  You also have to accept the fact that people may push you to find their way!

If it is at some tourist site or for celebrating a festival, such crowding could be very dangerous. Some of you may know the deadly stampede occured in Shanghai on December 31, 2014. That accident shocked the country, but similar(fortunately not deadly) crowding still exist here and there. Two month ago, I companied my parents to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors. It was the holiday season, a lot of visitors entered into the pavillion, crazily squeezed to the front of the statues, with arms held high and cameras in their hands. My aged parents and I were among them and could not even control our way. Finaly we managed to get out of the crowd and decided to just stop the visit. (PS: Terra Cotta Warriors are not in Beijing, but the similar scenario can happen in any popular tourist place of China)

I heard travelers from the other cities compliment on the politeness and kindness of Beijing people, many times. Indeed, in public, it can be often seen that people in need are taken care of by others; people apologize sincerely for the inconvenience they caused to others. But this is only real when there is no crowding.

UNSAFE FOOD AND FAKE PRODUCT

Chemicals are abused to make the vegerables, fuits, cereals, sea food, animals grow faster and bigger; Unsafe oil is used by the restaurant to cook; Fake products are sold with much cheaper price on the internet. Everyone tells so. But are these true? Is the apple I am eating filled with cyclamate? Did they apply contraceptive to the cucumbers I bought? I dont know, and I can not know. They just look like what they should look like!

I don’t think that I have any other choice if the food is really unsafe and the products are really fake. So I still buy things from the local market, and I get used to shopping from the internet because of the convenience. But I do have some fear. I am afraid that one day, some horrible side effect of what I ate and what I used would come to me. If it really happens, that will be the hell!

Beijing, the heaven and the hell (1)

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The forbidden city in a cloudy summer day (Author: EnidYang)

Two years ago, I finished my PhD study in France and came back to China. After a long period of living alone abroad, with the fact that I just finished a thesis, I found myself much comfortable and relaxed in Chine. But the pollution was very depressing. It often overwhelmed the north part of China, especially the region of Beijing, when there is no wind blowing from the north.

I decided to find a job and live in Beijing. Because my life at that moment was a mess, staying in Beijing could make everything easier. Looking back to that decision now, I can realize what a big decision it is! But we can never know it before.

Being a Chinese who never saw the famous Great wall and the real Terra Cotta Warriors,  I know little about my own country and culture. This is partially because I was burdened with heavy load of study before I went to France. Therefore, living Beijing was exiting. All is new to me!

IT IS EASY TO FIND A JOB IN BEIJING

Without much difficulty, I got a good job offer from an IT company. It was surprising, because I did not expect my PhD degree to be valued in Chinese industry. As I later witnessed, the computer science industry has been thriving in this country, especially in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. IT Enterprises were very hungry to hire good developers and researchers to create new products or provide better services. News of start-ups are everywhere. It is not surprising that a more-than-one-year ‘old’ employee receives one to two calls per week from headhunters. The salary, surely, is much higher than the average (even though much lower than the house price:b)

Even in the fields which are less paid, finding a job is not so difficult. Take my young sister as an example. She graduated as a bachelor in industrial design from a just-so-so university of Beijing, and got several job offers in a short time. The only problem of her profession is that, in the very beginning, one can not earn much. The salary has to be increased slowly with experiences.  Instead, in IT industry, one’s salary could be doubled or tripled within one or two years.

LIFE IS VERY CONVENIENT

Every one is benefiting from IT and other high-technologies.

Internet based services are everywhere. With them, I can avoid a lot of life routines. I don’t have to go to the supermarket or shopping mall except I want to kill time. E-business is very well developed here. If I need something, I can book it from the internet (lets say in the morning), and I can receive it very soon (probably in the afternoon depending on the E-business company and the express company).  If I dont like what I bought, I can choose to return it(in whole for sure! fresh food can not be returned!) in 7 days without any reason.

I don’s have to go to the back frequently to withdraw cash, online payment is supported almost everywhere. So to go around, I don’s to worry if I have enough cash or credit card with me,  it is enough to have a smart phone which has online payment app installed (weixin or zhifubao).

The transportation system is also well developed. I remember that ten years ago, from Xi’an to Beijing, it takes more than 10 hours of train. But now, still with train, it can spend only 5 hours.

And for eating, never worry about it. Beijing is the center of Chinese cuisine. One can have almost whatever you can find in the other places of Chine. For entertainment and cultural events, don’t worry too. This city can keep surprising you with its rich culture.

I WAS HAPPY LIVING IN THIS CITY

I enjoyed a lot my new job, mainly because I could finally touch something practical with my theoretical knowledge and I have a group of nice, young and funny geeks as my colleagues. I love geeks, and I already met a lot during my PhD. This kind of enjoying more or less helped me quickly adapt to the high-rhythm working style which I thought I would never live with.  Besides, I continued to enjoy the comfort with the familiar language, food, and music. I also enjoyed a lot having my family and old friends so close to me.

Meanwhile, I have full of new things to explore in the city.  When the wind blows from the north,  and the sky shows its blue face(sometimes decorated with some white puffy clouds), Beijing becomes one of the most beautiful city of the world.  In the city center, though a lot of old buildings were destroyed, the remaining is still magnificent.  The Chinese style architecture, simple but meaningful designs, treasures from the old time, together with the rich history of this country and this city, attract me deeply. After visiting so many churches/palaces, and seeing so many paintings in Europe,  for the first time, I found my own culture is so interesting.

Outside of the old city, located a lot of parks, commercial centers and office areas, around which modern Chinese people(including me) live their lives.  I like a lot the Chinese parks, where you can really feel people living: the retired women dance traditional or modern dances, men do traditional Chinese sports, a band give its regular show just for fun, young people do jogging and families play with their kids.

With a curious mind, I spent a very happy first year at Beijing, and I almost thought that I made a really good decision to stay.

But, every story has a BUT.  I will write this BUT part in the next article.