Category Archives: China

Foxconn doing what it can.

Apple said today that they’re quite pleased with how Foxconn (the maker of the iPad) responded to the series of 12 suicides last year at their mega-factory/dormitory complex in Taipei… they’ve put up nets to catch jumpers (which reminds me of the Golden Gate Bridge fence controversy), created a 24-hour suicide hotline, and hired psychologists. And like Jobbs said last year Foxconn’s suicide rate is still 1/4 of the rate in the States… but it still freaks us Westerners out to think that the 400,000 people who work there live in dorms that look like a submarine and rarely leave their employer’s property; not only do they live a stone’s throw from where they work, but there are grocery stores and movie theaters in the complex as well. But maybe all this is not much different than a mining town? And then there is the work itself which seems like it would be mind-numbingly boring, but likely not as dangerous as going underground several miles. And did I mention how much I love cooking with my iPad?

Feng shui advisor loses world’s biggest probate dispute over pigtail fortune.

Wang's nickname was "Little Sweetie" thanks to her love of pigtails, miniskirts and bobby socks. (AP)

I’m sure you’ve all heard of feng shui, but you wouldn’t believe how seriously everyone takes it over here… lots of  our friends won’t rent an apartment until their feng shui master has been through it and people won’t move on just any day–it has to be a date vetted by the master. It’s serious stuff. So it comes as no surprise that when the richest woman in China’s husband was kidnapped, a feng shui advisor was hired to help dig him up… but the rest of the story… well all I can say you really can’t make this stuff up! And only in China. Excerpted from the Reuters story.

Nina Wang’s former feng shui adviser and lover Tony Chan lost a bid for her $12 billion estate, with Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal upholding a ruling that a will in his favor was forged and the property should go to charity.

Chan claimed Wang left him her fortune after a 15-year intimate relationship that began when he was hired to help find her kidnapped husband Teddy, with whom she built Chinachem into one of Hong Kong’s biggest closely held developers.

The fight is quite similar to the fight Wang waged to get control of her husband’s will in 2005 overturning rulings by lower courts in 2002 and 2004 that gave the fortune to her father-in-law, Wang Din-shin. Wang was also arrested during her dispute over the title to the property on charges she forged the will. Police dropped the charges after the Court of Final Appeal’s ruling.

Her pigtails were submitted as evidence by Mr. Chan in the case--apparently Wang had cut them off and given them to him as a gift. (Getty images)

Wang, who died of uterine cancer at the age of 69 in 2007, had no children. She married Teddy in 1955 at the age of 18. The couple turned a Shanghai paint and chemical business, started by Teddy’s father, into a property developer with a portfolio including the Chinachem twin towers and Chinachem Exchange Square.

Teddy Wang was kidnapped in 1983 and again in 1990. He wasn’t returned after the second abduction even though his wife paid part of the ransom. One of the captured kidnappers said Teddy Wang’s body was dumped into the sea from a small boat.

Wang leaving court in 2005. (Reuters.)

Nina ran Chinachem using a power of attorney, insisting Teddy was alive. When her father-in-law had Teddy legally declared dead in 1999, she said Teddy had made her his heir in a new will signed just before his kidnapping. Chan, who is married with three children, was hired by Wang in 1992 to help find her husband by using the Chinese geomantic practice of feng shui, according to Lam’s judgment. Chan dug holes at various sites owned by Chinachem for seven years, and received about HK$2.1 billion from her between 2005 and 2006. Chan testified at last year’s trial that his sexual relationship with Wang began a month after they met.

The head of Chinachem’s Charitable Foundation gave out chocolates yesterday to reporters to celebrate his–and hopefully the poor will who will also benefit from the–billion dollar victory.

Fake wine.

(Chine Photos / Getty Images)

And when I say fake I don’t mean that the grapes have been doctored, I mean that they’ve taken alcohol and food coloring, mixed them together in a lab, plunked it into a bottle, labeled it as some fine vintage and shipped it off to some unsuspecting Chinese person who has only tried wine a few times in their life and has no clue. Some interesting quotes from a farmer, who was the main source in a recent South China Morning Post article about Changli – a small coastal county in Hebei , China’s equivalent of France’s Bordeaux region.

‘Eighty per cent of the wines made by these wineries were not 100 per cent grape juice.’

‘To make wine, you need three to four months to extract and ferment the grapes. Not even the most frugal workshop owner can make a bottle of wine for less than 12 yuan (US $1.50). All you have to do is mix water with chemicals, and overnight you’ll see a profit.’

‘I can promise you that if you buy a bottle of wine for less than 30 yuan in Beijing, it must be fake.’

As the Chinese get wealthier, they have been snapping up Western goods at insane rates… they’ve single-handedly driven the price of Bordeaux worldwide through the roof. Wineries in France are now saying that their most important market is China, even before France!! The article goes on to summarize why the Chinese are so hesitant to trust local products:

The result is yet another blow to public confidence in the mainland’s food safety standards – an issue that came into the spotlight two years ago when powdered baby formula made from milk adulterated with the industrial chemical melamine to boost its protein level made 300,000 babies ill and killed at least six. However, how long it will take for Changli – once China’s wine-making hope – to shed its label as a fake wine production hub is anyone’s guess.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year from Vietnam! While it is the Year of the Rabbit in China, here in Vietnam it is the Year of the Cat. According to legend, the cat was left out of the Chinese zodiac because the rat tricked the cat into missing Buddha’s call for the animals to come hear their assigned year. The rabbit is believed to be one of the happiest signs, with people born in that year renowned for their kindness, reliability and loyalty, though with an air of mystery and propensity to cry… while people born in the Year of the Cat are said to be smooth talkers, talented, and good students. They are known for being patient and waiting for good conditions before taking action.

Chinese New Year is the most important holiday of the year here. It is akin to Thanksgiving, when everyone returns home and all the stores shut down. The first day is reserved for just family and dragon dances (see the pictures at our hotel).
On the second day people daughters get to visit their families and on the third day everyone visits their colleagues, teachers, and friends. The first visitor to one’s home in the New Year is extremely important because they bring either good or bad luck.; they are looking for the right combination of age, business experience, and luck in their previous year. They take this so seriously they may actually lock the door on you. As you’ve probably heard, red envelopes are also huge as the giving of money expresses the wish that the recipient have good luck in the coming year.
Since the Chinese like numerous blossoms on a branch, the many buds of the pussy willow make it a favorite flower New Year’s and we’ve seen them all over. When the buds begin shooting green sprouts, the Chinese see the sign of growth as a sign of prosperity. There have been some really neat arrangements… and now I’m thinking it might be fun to have some around the house!


Mummy no show.

At the request of Chinese officials, the 3,800-year-old mummy from Western China pictured below and other key parts of the “Secrets of the Silk Road” exhibit will not appear as scheduled in Penn’s Archaelogy museum… I wonder why not… especially because the exhibit has already showed in Texas and California.

“The mummies are particularly fascinating because they have Caucasian features, proving that populations migrated eastward from Europe and brought their customs and skills with them.”

Is it weird for me to say that I think this mummy is almost pretty? Such nice cheekbones and proportions.

Ferrari piano.


The Chinese are calling this $300,000 US piano a Rolls-Royce Piano, which I really don’t understand, because all of its design mirrors a Ferrari.
Here you can see a girl playing it yesterday in the Deji Square in Nanjing, East China’s Jiangsu province, probably for some New Year’s celebrations. It really is true that the Chinese think everything is better red.

[Photo/Xinhua from the China Daily]

Chinese New Year’s Limoge gifts.

Chinese New Year is just around the corner and when looking for a commemorative gift, I always think of Limoges. This Chinoiserie Rabbit is perfect for this year where we’re seeing bunnies everywhere, while the Tangerine is lucky here in China any time of year… in fact, there are now tangerine sculptures all over town. Here are some shots of the Mr.’s lobby:

I hope we get to eat all of these fruits after New Year’s has past?!

But back to the Limoges… I just love that they are hand painted and that there is always a surprise inside.

Limoges also have their roots in China because they are made from porcelain, which the Chinese invented. Marco Polo discovered it in China, where he named it porcelain–Latin for seashell.  The purest kaolin (a clay mineral that is the secret ingredient in porcelain) mine in Europe was discovered in Limoge in 1765, hence the name for these delightful objects.

I love them so much I’ve started a little collection for my SIL — I get her one for her birthday or Christmas every year that has something to do with what she is loving right then, like a puppy for when she got her dog, or a typewriter for all of the writing she actually did for awhile on an actual typewriter, which I just thought was so cool!