The Complex Evolution of Sex in China

October 10, 2012

A Guest Post by Richard Burger of The Peking Duck

One of the questions I hear the most is whether the Chinese people’s attitude toward sex is conservative or open-minded. And the answer is that it’s complicated.

First, there is more than one China: there’s rich China and poor China, urban and rural China, young China and older China.

Generalizations are tricky, and there always have to be qualifiers. It’s safe to say that in the larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai people are far less hung up than they were about sex twenty years ago.

Even in most of the second-tier cities you’ll find gay bars, sex shops, young couples holding hands and a lot of young people finding one-night stands over the Internet.

Sexologist Li Yinhe estimates that more than 50 percent of young urban Chinese have premarital sex, something that was unheard of thirty-five years ago. In the countryside that number is probably far lower, but most young people are leaving their rural hometowns to find work in the larger cities.

At the same time, however, traditional Chinese beliefs still hold sway over many of these young people.

For example, sex is not something you talk about openly.

In addition, when it comes time to choose a spouse, nearly all young Chinese will include their parents in the process, striving to make it a family decision.

Many if not most husbands still place a high premium on virginity and expect to see blood on the sheets the night of their honeymoon. This attitude is so fixed that every year hundreds of thousands of Chinese women have an operation to restore their hymens, or buy inexpensive artificial hymens that seep artificial blood.

This is an anomaly: more Chinese young people are having premarital sex yet men still expect their wives to be virgins.

China is in a tug of war between its conservative past and the lure of Western-style sexual freedom.

Looking at the trends and how quickly China’s sexual revolution has progressed, I would have to predict that sexual openness and tolerance will increase, and eventually China will shake off the vestiges of the sexual puritanism that prevailed under Mao.

However, for now, sex remains a touchy subject, even in the cities. Sex education, for example, is mandatory but often biology teachers who are supposed to teach it are too squeamish and simply skip to the next chapter. When they do teach this subject, the focus is on biology and anatomy, with little or no reference to contraception or sexual morality, such as the woman’s right to say no.

Here, too, there are signs of improvement in the larger cities, but it is very slow going. Sex remains a taboo subject that most Chinese are not comfortable discussing outside of their bedroom.

Discover more of China’s Sexual Revolution

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China’s sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

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China’s Noodle Culture

September 18, 2012

China has a unique food culture. My wife loves noodles. I’ve followed her down narrow Shanghai streets to a famous won-ton and noodle shop on the corner of Chang-le and Shang-yang Road. The front is open and the ceiling low with each narrow table crowded with Chinese sitting on small chairs shoveling noodles in with chopsticks.

My wife orders a small bowl of noodles with peanut sauce for me and a bowl of blood soup and another bowl of noodles with spicy hot Sichuan peppercorn sauce for her.  As she eats, sweat beads her face but there is not one word of complaint—not one sign that she suffers. Instead, this seriously satisfied look spreads across her face as if she has entered a Chinese noodle heaven.

When we are visiting Nanjing Road in Shanghai between People Square and the Bund, we always stop at the same food shop where my wife orders steaming hot noodles with the same peppercorn sauce, and I order deep fried, fresh chou dofu (stinky tofu) with the same sauce that makes me sweat.

At celebration feasts, a wider variety of food will be served from whole fish, crab, a variety of vegetable dishes and tofu.

Discover China’s Invasion of Fat from the West

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Shanghai Teahouse

June 20, 2012

This is where I enjoy shopping when in Shanghai.

It wasn’t crowded yet!

The Huxinting Teahouse has been around for awhile (several centuries–it was restored in 1784).  This pavilion was turned into the tea house in 1855. Nice place to stop and have a cup of tea.  Go early.  It gets crowded.


famous Shanghai tea house on the water

The area in Shanghai around the Huxinting Teahouse is a good place to shop. Many small shops. Do not pay asking price. Be willing to bargain.  Start low and meet in the middle. Don’t be too cheap either.

Shopping before it gets crowded.

The following video gives you a musical tour of the sights of Shanghai’s Old District including Yu Yuan Garden and Huxinting Tea House.

For more about Shanghai, also see:
Shanghai
Shanghai’s History & Culture
Shanghai Huangpu River Tour
Eating Gourmet in Shanghai
Chinese Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Note: This edited and revised post first appeared on February 20, 2010 (Note: the author took the photos but did not produce the video)


What do Shanghai’s IKEA and Cupid have in common?

June 19, 2012

IKEA seems to have been adopted by the Chinese. Back in November 2010, I wrote IKEA Sleepover in Beijing about IKEA’s Chinese fans that loved the place so much, it became a favorite spot to take a nap.

Recently, I discovered that IKEA in Shanghai is where retired, singles seek love while drinking free coffee.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the dating hot-spot for senior citizens who are out either looking for love or new friends, is none other than the Swedish furniture manufacturer.

Then in November 2011, NPR.org reported, “Twice a week, hundreds of Shanghai residents who have formed an informal lonely hearts club of sorts gather at the cafeteria of the Swedish furniture megastore for free coffee and conversation.

“The pensioners begin arriving around 1 in the afternoon and fill nearly 20 tables in the store cafeteria. They sit for hours drinking coffee, gossiping and subtly checking each other out.” If you click on NPR’s link above, you may listen to the story.

Global Post.com says, “Unlike bars or dance clubs, the atmosphere at IKEA is casual and non-threatening. It makes it easy for the seniors, who show up in groups of 70 to 700 people, to chat over a cup of coffee. And because IKEA serves free coffee to anybody carrying an IKEA Family membership card, some of the seniors don’t even have to pay for their cup. Zhou Hong works at IKEA as a card swiper, and she told The Wall Street Journal that on average, she hands out around 500 cups of coffee each time the seniors meet.”

However, IKEA isn’t the only one playing the role of a cupid in China. China’s postal service also plays cupid. Yahoo.com says, “Who would have thought that Beijing’s publicly run postal service would try to play cupid and save marriages from the “seven-year itch” (the critical point when, some say, a spouse’s eyes begin to wander)?”

But what about IKEA?  Is IKEA losing money giving away free coffee to help fill lonely hearts with caffeinated love?

According to the numbers, no.

In fact, IKEA is doing great. Three of its five largest stores are in China, and IKEA reported that in 2011, its net profits rose 10.3% to $3.85 billion with its biggest gains in Russia, China and Poland.

Maybe handing out free coffee to lonely seniors was a good idea.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Americans doing Business in China – Part 12/16

March 3, 2012

Note from Blog host — another example of East meets West through business and trade: China Tour Online.com says of Pizza Hut in Shanghai, “Good dining environment and palatable pizza with tasty side dishes. It is always crowded during dining time, you need to wait in line. The recommended food include pizza, roast chicken wing, clam soup and cakes.”

WeninChina.com says, “Pizza Hut entered (China) in 1990 and has steadily grown to 520 restaurants in 2011.”

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Guest Post by Bob Grant — publisher/editor for Speak Without Interruption, an international online magazine.

(Note: The photos included with this guest post are from my collection. Click on Originally Published to see more from Bob Grant.)

One of the aspects of my trips to China, that I truly enjoyed, was seeing all of the flowers, greenery, and gardens along the way. I wanted to specifically mention this fact, and state, the photos you might have seen of typical Chinese landscapes are true.

In fact, there were many more beautiful sights – of plants and flowers – than I had anticipated. I saw them in cities – in the country – in hotels – in restaurants – in offices – and other places too numerous to mention. Our office was in southern China – with a tropical climate – so there were flowers and greenery there any time of the year I visited.

As you go farther north, in China, there are the four seasons; however, even when it was too cold for outdoor plants there were many indoor ones wherever I went.

I do not enjoy planting or maintaining plants but I certainly like looking at them. The growing scenery I saw in China always gave me a feeling of tranquility.

I had once thought about buying a condo in Shenzhen so I could stay longer when I visited. One of the condos had a small patio (this was a multistoried condo building) and each patio came with a beautifully planted garden with flowers, plants, and trees. It was a place where I would have enjoyed going every evening and just sitting. It was covered so I could have enjoyed it in most types of weather.

Because I never stayed in the Western type hotels – rather staying where my Chinese associates stayed – I was treated to a unique insight on how some of the Chinese population lived.

Some of the hotels – where I stayed – were literally right next to apartment buildings. I could actually look out my window into those apartments.

I can’t say that I saw anything “personal” in nature but I did get to see how some Chinese decorated their apartments and balconies. I could also see the gardens many planted on the rooftops of their apartment buildings. Staying in those places certainly gave me even more appreciation of the Chinese people in that I saw a side of their lives that most “Westerners” would never see unless they stayed in places where I stayed.

I will always have fond memories of the many beautiful things I saw growing in China – it is a picture that will remain with me forever.

Note from Blog host – If you plan to do business in China, I recommend visiting the China Law Blog first.

Continued March 4, 2012 in Americans working in China – Part 13 (a guest post) or return to Part 11

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Note:  This guest post first appeared on March 17, 2010


Power from Hydrogen – Will it be the fuel of the future?

November 9, 2011

Most China watchers know China’s central government plans years ahead, which is why empty cities are being built across China to be ready and waiting when hundreds of millions more rural Chinese migrate to urban China where higher-paying jobs in addition to a better, more modern lifestyle may be found.

In addition, when China decides to move, it moves fast, which is witnessed by China leading the world in solar and wind generated energy manufacturing. China also has about half the world’s hydroelectric power plants and is building safer Thorium and uranium pebble-bed reactors besides replacing old-coal burning power plants with new, modern facilities that reduce carbon emissions dramatically. I wrote about this in Doing Mankind a Favor.


1958 film of the test fuel-cell tractor designed and tested by Allis-Chalmers

In 2001, we saw the beginning of the evolution of hydrogen fuel use in China when the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) announced it intends to make China globally competitive in the field of hydrogen technology.

In 2004, The International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy (iphe) said, “Promoted and funded by China MOST and Beijing Municipal Government, the construction of Beijing Hydrogen Park was initiated.”

By 2005, Tongji University and SFCV had successfully developed three generations of fuel cell power train-system platforms and 13 prototype fuel cell passenger cars.


December 2007, the Science Channel reports on the Hydrogen Fuel Cell electric bike

Then in 2006, People.com reported, China opened its first hydrogen fueling station, which was operated in a joint venture with British Petroleum (BP). The Chinese partner, SinoHytec, is an enterprise linked to Tsinghua University—which is considered the MIT of China.

In addition, in 2006, three Daimler-Chrysler made fuel cell buses went into trial operation in Beijing and five vehicles made by Tsinghua University were tested.

In 2007, the Anting Hydrogen Refueling Station was co-built by Tongji University, Shanghai Aerospace Energy Co., and Shanghai Sunwise Energy System Co. and the station will be used as part of the Global Environment Facility/United Nations Development Programme Fuel Cell Bus Demonstration Program Phase II.


February 2010, CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout talks to Taras Wankewycz about a new hydrogen fuel cell refueling station for the home.

In 2008, twenty Lingyu fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) were successfully demonstrated at the Beijing Olympic Games.

In 2010, a fleet of more than 50 hydrogen fuel cell shuttle vehicles transported athletes and government officials at the Asian Games and Asian Para Games in Guangzhou City, China.

In fact, May 2011, TechCrunch.com reported America’s first pipeline-fed, retail hydrogen fueling station opened in Torrance, California, within Los Angeles to provide hydrogen for fuel cell and hybrid vehicles in the area.

A handful of hydrogen fuel cell black cabs have already hit the streets in London. Hydrogen fuel cell forklifts are already widely available, and used in warehouse fleets from Wal-Mart to Whole Foods. Fuel cell cars — promised by manufacturers including Toyota, Daimler, GM, Honda, and Hyundai — not slated for mass-market availability until 2015, though.


April 2011, China welcomes the Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell World Drive

Supergen Fuel Cells Consortium says by 2015, production from top automakers will likely reach just under 58,000 units in that year and accelerate rapidly from there. Early sales will be focused on areas where infrastructure investments have been or are being made, such as the United States (primarily California and the New York City region); Germany; Scandinavia; Japan (mainly Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Fukuoka); South Korea (primarily around Seoul); and Shanghai, China.

According to a report from Pike Research, more than 5,200 hydrogen-fueling stations will be operational worldwide by 2020, up from just 200 in 2010, and estimates the market for fuel-cell technology in the Asia-Pacific region will reach $6.7 billion by 2017. Japan, South Korea and China are quickly becoming leaders in the fuel cell industry through their investments in and adoption of the technology.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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China’s E-Bike Revolution

August 26, 2011

China is swarming with E-bikes that are basically pedal powered machines with an electric boost. These E-bikes are common in Beijing and Shanghai.

There are also E-scooters with heavier motors that are capable of doing speeds of 30 mph or faster.

According to Time Magazine, “The relative simplicity of the machines and their components has encouraged a huge number of e-bike companies to open in China.

“In 2006,” Time Magazine reported, “there were 2,700 licensed manufacturers, and countless additional smaller shops. Rising to the top of the heap is not easy.

“Leading manufacturer Xinri (the name means “new day”) was founded in 1999 by Zhang Chongshun, an auto parts factory executive who recognized the potential of the field. In its first year, Xinri built less than 1,000 bikes; last year it churned out 1.6 million.”

According to Next Big Future, 140 million e-bikes were sold in China in 2010, and for 2011, those sales are projected to reach 167 million with increasing sales each year.

In addition, The Economist reports, “the (Chinese) government also wants to encourage electric bicycles to curb the pollution and congestion created by other vehicles…The authorities are also trying to make e-bikes themselves greener: manufacturers are being compelled to invest in lighter materials and to replace lead-acid batteries with lithium ones.”

Discover China’s Going Green Challenge

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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