Hello from the “Roaming Unicycling Ambassador”
Here is a report on my trip to China, from June 30 to July 8, where I
engaged in various unicycle promoting activities in my new job as the
Executive Director of International Development:
1. Unicycling in Nanking 2. Meeting with CUA in Beijing 3. UNICON X racing results, finally! 4. China Team to Unicon XI 5. Korea Team to Unicon XI 6. China Team to World Games 7. Exporting Chinese unicycles
Hopefully, you will have the patience to read through this report.
Comments are welcome.
UNICYCLING IN NANKING
I am sure that everyone one has heard of Nanking, a city of around six
million (near Shanghai) where the Japanese committed unspeakable
atrocities in the late thirties (more on this later if you are
I went to the central plaza of Nanking and used my usual techniques
for starting unicycling in a new city (or country) where I have no
contacts. (toward evening as in the day the intense heat reaches 40
degree centigrade). I rode around a bit in the plaza, and soon enough
10, 20 and eventually a couple of hundred people were standing around
watching my show. A couple of things that never fail to work is taking
a kid on your shoulders and kickup mounts.
One thing led to another and a few people were trying to learn. I got
one college student almost riding, and a few more strongly interested.
Three of us went off to McDonald’s and planned the establishment of a
Nanking Branch of the CUA.
Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of my demonstration in Nanking but
here is something similar. A few days later I performed in Tiananmen
then Wangfujing, a beautiful shopping center in the heart of Beijing.
You can see the pictures at:
I followed this up in Beijing by arranging for them to get unicycles
and help in setting up and organizing unicycling activities in
Nanking. Fortunately, one of the fellows knows some English and has
email. His name is Jiang Shan (surname preceeds first name in
Chinese and I follow convention). His email address is
email@example.com. The second fellow’s name is Han Chengkai (he has
no email). I just called Jiang Shan from Japan and Zhang and I are
helping him get organized. I wish them both success in getting
unicycling off the ground in Nanking.
To see all the pictures of my trip (including my visit to the Memorial
Hall of the Nanking Massacre), go to:
MEETNG WITH CUA IN BEIJING
The CUA was nice enough to put me up in a government hotel in central
Beijing. Zhang Shuxiao, the vice president of CUA, had a couple of
meetings. Unfotunately, CUA preside not Chen Zhenhui was not available
at the time. But Zhang Shuxiao is the main force behind unicycling in
China and the meeting was successful.
Here is a picture of us a real good pizza shop in central Beijing:
Below is a summary of our discussions.
UNICON X RESULTS
The looooong awaited racing results for UNICPON X are safely in my hands, and a copy is on its way by airmail to Andy Cotter as I write. Zhang assured me that it reflects the latest changes, including the many changes made by handwritng on the last day in the hotel lobby. But that nevertheless there are some inaccuracies left. I am tried to get an electronic version -- no luck yet but there is some hope. I guess if people want copies they should turn to Andy.... Of course I can send too but airmail from Japan is kind of expensive.
CHINA TEAM TO UNICON XI
I discussed Unicon XI with Zhang and encouraged him to help organize a large China Team. He said he would be happy to do so, and said that he estimates the team will consist of about 30 members. I gave him the provisional materials prepared by Tom Daniels and explained the event. As soon as I get something more official I will translate it into Chinese and have it distributed among Chinese unicyclists.
KOREA TEAM TO UNICON XI
Zhang Shuxiao told me that a unicycle company in China exported 1000 unicycles to Korea last month. It was done through a trade company and is difficult for him to find out the names of the people involved in Korea, but he is trying. I plan to go to Korea next month in an attempt to make contacts there and organize a Korea Team to Unicon XI. I have a couple of people investigating the Korean Internet for contacts. Sadly, we lost all contact with the Korean who attended Unicon III in Tokyo on 1987 (I tried unsuccessfully several times). If anyone has any leads whatsoever about unicyclists in Korea, I would very much appreciate it if you could send me the information.
CHINA TEAM TO WORLD GAMES
There is a chance that Zhang Shuxiao will take two or three unicyclists with him to attend the World Games Unicycle Convention. I have prepared letters of invitation and am helping the Chinese participate.
EXPORTING CHINESE UNICYCLES
There are at least two unicycle factories in China: one in Hebei and
one in Shanghai. They do not export to the west, according to Zhang
Shuxiao, because the quality is not high enough. Eventually they will
improve the quality and plan to export.
This bring to an end the report on my China trip. If you have read this
far and are not bored, below is a report on my impressions on how China
has changed, unrelated to unicycling itself.
— WHERE HAVE ALL THE COMRADES GONE? ---- – Some random thoughts on how
China has changed –
I am sitting in a restaurant at the Nanking Airport waiting for my plane
to Beijing This is my sixth trip to China and I have put down some random
impressions on how China has changed. If you are interested in China
please read on – if not, I apologize for the spam. My comments refer to
(big) city life – I know it is different in remote areas.
15. Where have all the comrades gone? 16. Cell phones, McDonald's and smoke everywhere 17. Energy, energy, and more energy 18. The true meaning of savagery 19. Diannao and Jisuanji - the changing linguistic landscape
- WHERE HAVE ALL THE COMRADES GONE?
One thing you immediately notice, if you are as interested in Chinese as I
am, is that almost no one uses “Tongzhi” (‘Comrade’), the hallmark of the
Communist Party, any more. This seems to have disappeared, at least in the
cities, along with those drab, gray and gloomy ‘Mao suits’ (I think that’s
what you call them).
Both men and women wear bright, colorful clothes, and shops carry plenty
of the latest fashion goods from Paris and Milano… The men are tall
and handsome, the women elegant and beautiful. It seems to me that the
women go up one notch in beauty every time I visit China – I should visit
- CELL PHONES, MCDONALD’S AND SMOKE EVERYWHERE
For better or for worse, at least on the surface, China is becoming
increasingly Westernized. McDonald’s (‘mai3-dang1-lao2’) are extremely
popular (always full, it seems, with long lines), and the number of
bicycles, though still high, seems to have dropped sharply and replaced by
zillions of cars belching out their favorite pollutants.
Cell phones (shou3-ji1) seem incredibly popular. Someone told me that
there are more cell phones in China than any other country in the
As incredible as it may seem, smoking seems to be even more popular than
in Japan, which is already as bad as you can imagine. As an aside, I just
read that about 10,000,000 die yearly from smoking.
After Nanking (“the Southern Capital”) I went to Beijing (“the Northern
Capital”), which is more beautiful than ever. Every time I come there are
new modern buildings, well designed and colorful. Sadly, the traditional
side streets (hu2-tong4) are slowly but surely being torn down, taking
with it that special flavor of the days of yore. The airports (I’ve been
to four so far) are excellent – clean, well designed, convenient.
In contrast to the modernization, you still do see poverty on the
streets – beggars and homeless people – but it seems to be less than
before. Some people say that the hallmark of a developed country is
clean toilets, and those have been getting better. But I did run into a
few of the smelly ones (this is a euphemism for “revolting stench”, in
case you wonder).
- ENERGY, ENERGY, AND MORE ENERGY
China is in a state of dynamic change. I feel tremendous energy
everywhere. The economy is healthy and vigorous, new construction work is
going on everywhere, and prices have one clear direction – up, up, up.
China is no longer a “cheap” country for travelers. A cup of coffee at
the airport restau rant I am now in costs about $3.15 (though admittedly
coffee is a luxury item and airports are expensive). Taxis are still
cheap, and “normal” hotels reasonable, though the better hotels are
(almost) as expensive as in Japan and Europe…
What I felt very clearly is the strong energy from people. They seem
fully alive and express their emotions clearly – joy, anger (not
infrequent), sadness etc. This is in marked contrast with the very low
human energy in Japan – a Japanese woman in an ashram in India where
I once meditated described the Japanese as a “nation of dead bodies”
– this “wears exaggeration on its sleeve”, but I know exactly what
- THE TRUE MEANING OF SAVAGERY
I doubt if there is anyone who has never heard of massacres and
atrocities performed by the Japanese in Nanking in the late thirties. You
may even have read the famous book, “The Rape of Nanking”, which I
believe was banned in Japan for a while.
I made it a point to visit the huge memorial and museum in honor of the
300,000 Chinese slaughtered by the Japanese. I was told by some that in
actual fact the number is closer to 900,000, though 300,000 is the
official figure. Speaking of numbers, one of the exhibits there said that
35,000,000 (count those zeros) Chinese lives were lost during the
Japanese occupation. The highest number I ever heard is 21,000,000.
At any rate, what the Japanese did in China. both in terms of “quality”
and quantity, almost makes Hitler look like a saint. Such words as
“massacre”, “savagery”, “cruelty” are mere words – seeing those exhibits
with my own eyes was revolting and even more shocking than the Yad Vashem
Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
What really angers me is that even today there are Japanese who deny the
Nanking massacre ever happened, and as you no doubt know the Japanese
government refuses to write the truth in Japanese textbooks.
“Those who forget history are bound to repeat it” (I think that was what
Churchill said.). There was a enormous sign at the entrance to the
memorial with the Chinese equivalent. I wish that those Japanese who deny
Nanking go to that memorial and see it with their own eyes.
I pray for the souls of those viciously slaughtered at the hands of the
Japanese in Nanking.
- DIANNAO AND JISUANJI – THE CHANGING LINGUISTIC LANDSCAPE
The archetypical example we always use for C2C is JISUANJI (Simplified
Chinese) versus DIANNAO (Traditional Chinese) for ‘computer’. This is no
longer true. DIANNAO, at least in spoken Chinese, is as common or even
more common than JISUANJI. Perhaps a better example to use would be
‘software’, RUANJIAN in the mainland and Hong Kong, and RUANTI in Taiwan.
RUANTI is never used in the mainland (though sometimes it is used in HK),
so it is a good example.
A fascinating word I saw in a big department store in the center of
Nanking was: ‘ke3-kuai4-li4’. Now think a bit – does this remind you of
some English word? The characters, literally, mean ‘able-quick-stand’. If
you use your phonetic imagination you will see how this sounds
approximately like “QUICKLY”, apparently the name of a fast-food stand in
the department store!
To my surprise, I noticed that TC is, if not ‘alive and well’, is at
least ‘alive’ in mainland China, especially in signs. For example, one
sign at the airport shop VOGUE had SHI2-SHANG4, with SHI2 ‘time’
written in TC.
Stay on top, Jack Halpern Executive Director for International Development
International Unicycling Federation, Inc. Website: http://www.kanji.org