Friday, November 22, 2013

Did you Know!

Did you know...

1. Fortune Cookies weren't invented in China.  It was actually invented in California, as to who and when it was invented that seems to be debatable.  

2. Number 8 and 9 are considered lucky numbers in China. 

- A favorite one is 8.  In Cantonese (a Chinese dialect) sounds like "Fa", means wealth and prosperity.  And because what it sounds like, is a very popular number to purchase for cellphone, anniversary dates, and even license plates number as it protects the driver.  For example the 2008 Beijing Olympic Ceremony was chosen on the date October 8, 2008 (8/8/2008) for that example purpose, and on that year lots of woman either got married or had their kid.  

-  9 in Mandarin sounds like "Forever", a very good number for longevity of a person or a event or an item.  A overall positive number.

3. Number 4 is unlucky in China.  The number 4 in Chinese sounds like "death".  Since death bring sadness this number is avoided at all times in phone numbers, and especially building number or car license plate numbers.  

4. The most common Chinese last name is Li(李),  then Wang(王), then Zhang (张).   Mine is Ji(纪), and I can tell you it's equivalent to having an American first name Marlisa, not very common.  

5. Fashion is always a year and a half ahead of America in China.  I noticed every time I purchased clothing/jewelry/shoes when I am in China, that fashion doesn't become the fashion in America till a year or two afterward.  That's because clothing mostly are made in China, the fashion that is in this year is actually already out last year in China.  And that also depends on which state you are in America, states that are closer to the port where the shipments gets shipped in, such as California gets their new fashion a few months earlier than states such as Illinois. 

6. Today in China many Americanized fast food restaurants such as KFC, McDonald, and Pizza Hut cost more than a typical Chinese meal, and are considered a special treat for the family.  A medium sized cheese pizza from Pizza Hut would cost at least 100 yuan, which after conversion would be about $15.  Because the introduction of fast food into the Chinese diet, a lot of kids(the typical targeted audience at these fast food places) are over weight.  

7. Major cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Tianjin, etc.  has both christian and catholic churches for hundreds of foreigners that decide to make China their home.  These churches have different masses for English speaking and Chinese speaking attendees.  To accommodate families that have children, there is also a number of foreign schools for English speaking kids. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

One Child Policy - a new loosened policy started in 11/15/2013

I was so happy to hear this news that came out last week regarding the change of the One Child Policy in China.  To be more accurate I should rephrase it to China has loosen it's policy on the One Child Policy.  Perhaps it's my own excitement for personal reasons, or a feeling of sorrow for all of those couples that had to abort their 2nd child because of the old strict policy, I am glad mothers can finally have a say in having that second child. 

This policy had existed since 1979 to keep the population in check, and since then couples (not including ethnic minorities) in China could only have one child or face high taxes.  A lot of people try to get around this policy, some try to buy their way out, while others took their chances not having their child registered as their second kid.  But many resorted to abortions and the use of contraceptives. 

The emotional scars families goes through is very real in China.  Some people had to put their child in the adoption agency because they couldn't afford to pay extra tax for the second child.  In my case it happened In 1982 when I was born.  My dad had wanted a boy, like most people back in the days so the boy can pass on the families last name.  This was a old cultural belief that was imbedded in the Chinese society.  At the time my mother wanted a girl, and she was reluctant to check the gender of the child, as his family would have pressured her to get an abortion if the child was a girl.  So when I was born as a girl, his family wasn't happy.  They want a boy to pass on the family name, and traditionally as a girl I would have been part of my husbands family, and not been able to pass on my own last name.  Looking back now, that tradition was so outdated and placed it above hundreds of human lives that ended up in the orphanage.  I could have ended that way, but my mother refused any other way than raising me herself. 

I guess I could have been in the category of "Prince" and "Princesses" in China, if my parents didn't get divorced.  That is a popular word to describe the result of been an only child in a large family of two parents and four grandparents.  The gifts and attention these kids get is overwhelming, and so is the expectation of them to do well in school and in society.  Being an only child, in a neighborhood where everyone has only one child, everyone relates to each other and their experiences.  There are the good, and there are the bad.  Every year there is always a number of suicide attempts in prominent universities all over China, and many succeeded in their attempt.  The loose of their only child is devastating to these families, they had hopes and dreams for their child's 18+ years of their lives, and now because of pressure in school everything is gone.  I have only experienced up to fourth grade in china, and the pressure to do well in school was already there.  I can't imagine the pressure and mental stress to go all the way through high school and on to college/universities.  It takes a strong person not to break down, it must require some type of coping mechanism to take the mind away from the pressure.  I think that's why people in America think Chinese people are all smart, because majority of the Chinese that comes to America have gotten a higher education, and therefore knows how to cope with stress and keep pushing forward.

In America, being an only child is almost obsolete.  I remember in my high school sociology class, the teacher asked us to group ourselves based on the number of siblings in our family, out of 20 students I was one of two that was a single child in their family.  I know of only a handful of people that are a single child, and out of those people I was the only one that doesn't have any step sisters or brothers.  I hope those single child in China will have the chance to experience the positive and negative parts to having a sibling: To play nicely, having to share clothing(in some cases), to learn how to get along, to fight fair, and to accept they are not the only prince/princess in their families eye.  At least for now with this new policy the word "Aunt" and "Uncle" will not be totally lost in the Chinese dictionary, as I am sure also part of the reason why this policy was loosened up a bit.

For more information on this NEW loosened One Child Policy, go to

Thanks for stopping by, thanks for reading my blog.
Jennifer Chan

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tolerance and understanding

I was born and raised in China till I was 8 years old.  The only reason why I eventually moved to America at an age of 8 was because my mother went abroad to get her masters degree, and since then we have stay and lived here in America.  Just like any Americans I have went to elementary and secondary schools, and even got a bachelors degree in secondary education in math.  Took the constitution tests, served in the judiciary system of becoming a Juror, and voted.  I even talk without an accent, and uses slang words like "like" and "OMG" in my sentences.  I feel in terms of integrating myself in the American ways, I already immersed in it and more.  So you wouldn't think of me to make the statement "The color of my skin does make me feel as an outcast in the American Society".  Not everyone makes me feel that way, but enough to know this American Dream will tolerate, but will not fully accept every one and every race.

I want to share with you my feeling of being an Asian living in America, it is not easy.  I experienced it first hand when I first attended elementary school.  I attended a predominately Caucasian populated elementary school in Lombard, IL.  At that elementary school I was among a handful of Asian kids, and we stick out like a green thumb.  I was just a kid, like any kid that wanted to fit in in a new school.  In the playground I wanted to play with the Caucasian kids, so I would try to join their groups.  One of the 3rd or 4th grader girls though it would be funny to play a trick on me, so they told me I could join them, but on one condition - I had to go and talk to that group of boys .  So I did, but as I was talking to the boys and turned around to point to the girls, they started laughing at me.  I knew then they had tricked me and wanted a good laugh at my expense. 

Although a small incident, it was both mean spirited and obvious showed what they thought of me.  I knew if I was Caucasian I probably wouldn't had to experience that, and if I had known how to speak English I wouldn't have been called a "doll".  I would have a better chance been accepted if I looked more like everyone else.  I still remember that moment vividly, and it still hurt to know such a small incident long time ago could still put a pain in my heart.  It was unfortunate I had to through that, as adults we sometimes forget kids teasing could be the reason why a child retaliate, or why he/she doesn't want to go to school.  The kid is just a kid, small and innocent, and should not have to be a victim of teasing because of race.  Today I understand it better and realized their parents probably didn't know better therefore didn't teach their kids well.  But today we do know better, therefore should not let this happen to anyone.  

Where does tolerance of others come from? I think it comes from positive influences, in this case positive influences acknowledged of that culture.  To start that understanding I would like the media to share more positive shows and information about China.  Instead of always showing Americans in debt and borrowing money from China, why not show China's positive influences of respecting their elders.  I have seen so many times on the bus and on the train the same scenario, a pregnant lady or an elderly getting on the bus, and no one gets up.  I feel because Americans didn't have a historical background like China, everyone base their ethics believes on TV drama and celebrities.  People know instantly what Miley Cyrus did on the vmas compared to what is going on in Syria.  And I would love it someday when I see more Asians in TV and magazines, not as a ninja/kung fu character like in the movie "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" or owning a dry cleaning business or a store in Chinatown.  I just want an Asian person to be portrait normally in a show, although I know I could do a few karate chops, but majority of the times I am not doing that.  I think a normal Asian person in an American TV show would show everyone we are just like everyone else, with feelings but just with different skin color.

For those that are reading this and have traveled to China, I applaud you on your bravery.  For those that haven't, just do it.  Go out there and see for your self.  This isn't for me, it is for you to experience that moment when you first step foot in a country with people that doesn't look like you.  If you prefer  another country like Africa, Korean, Japan, India, do so.  I think everyone should do it at least once before they die, in my opinion it's in China, but that's because I am Chinese.  Please let me know what your take is on this, love to hear your opinion.

Thanks for stopping by, thanks for reading my blog!
Have a wonderful day!

Jennifer Chan

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans Day 2013!

Happy Veterans Day! 

Today we celebrate all the people that have served in the armed service.

I know a family member that have done that, my grandfather.  My grandfather was a general in the Nationalist Party in China, I found this out two month ago while writing my newsletter about my family during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.  He passed away a few years ago, not from years in the communist prison or the cultural revolution, but ironically because of carbon monoxide poisoning in his own home.
left to right: My Grandfather, me, my mother & grandmother
Here is a few paragraph talking about my grandfather, if you like to read more on our family during the Chinese Cultural Revolution please check out my newsletter

"By 1949 my grandfather had been elevated to the position of General in the Nationalist Party and was stationed at Beijing when the Communists won and liberated it.  This, among other liberated cities resulted in some 520,000 Nationalist Party members being killed, wounded, or captured by the communist.  My grandfather was among the captured.  To avoid any more bloodshed and fighting, an agreement was made between the two parties, which released my grandfather from his rank and sent him back home to live a normal life. 
During the next eight years he and my grandmother had three children, my mother in 1950, my aunt in 1952, and my uncle in 1957.  However, in 1958 during the purging of the rightist, the communist decided to go against the agreement with the Nationalist Party.  They put my grandfather on trial, found him guilty, and sent to prison for the next 15 years.  Harsh as it was, he was lucky to be in there closed in from the outside world, because during his prison years Chairman Mao was eliminating his enemies.  People like my grandfather were being ostracized and executed."

Ji (纪) Family Origin

In China’s ancient times, before the invention of computer and home library, and before records were kept on papers bind to form books, people memorized information’s to pass on to the next generations.  Such is the case with the popular text, Hundred Family Surnames.  This text originally contained 411 surnames, but was later expanded to 504.  Having been composed in the early Song Dynasty, it listed all the surnames – starting with the most important families in the empire at the time.  This text was a very important text back in the days, one many Chinese students memorize for their examination to the palace.   

My grandfather, like most elders in the ancient times was old schooled, and believed in testing his grandchildren through the task of memorization.  So when I was little he made both my younger guy cousin and me memorize the Hundred Family Surnames.  My cousin was more eager in this task than me, but by the time we got to ¼ of the way – the 122nd surname, a character stick out like a green thumb.  It was Ji, our last name.  The last name Ji came from my grandfather, and from what I can tell it all traced back to Shangdong Province.   

One of the versions I liked stated that I could be a descent from a royal family.  This version states that Ji is a separate lineage of the surname Jiang from the western Zhou Dynasty.  The story goes that during the Spring and Autumn Period in the western Zhou Dynasty, as a reward one of the descendent of the Yan Emperor was given the last name Ji to start his own kingdom.  Eventually the Ji Kingdom was destroyed by the Qi Kingdom, but since then the descendent of Ji has spread out in China and all over the world.  

 I have a map of the Ji clan today in China below.  The color represent the percentage of Ji in the Chinese population.  Base on the table on the bottom right, green represent 0, and then the darker the color the more percentage of people with the last name "Ji resides there.  Also Shangdong Province is in an area in the middle eastern area of China, if you look at the map it's a little lower of under the elbow of the area sticking out on the top right corner.  So it's not surprising that there is more people of last name Ji in the eastern part of China.  

I encourage everyone that's reading this to find out more of who you are, and where you came from.   For me it's definitely been an interesting year of looking back in the past of where my family came from, and how I identify myself based on the Chinese and American culture I have grown up with.  

Thanks for reading, and thanks for checking out my blog!
Jennifer Chan (Chan is my step fathers last name, I still love the Ji last name I was born with:)

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Hi friends:

I am so happy to start this new journey of blogging in the infinite world of world wide web.  As some of you might have already learned when you clicked on the About Me section on the right hand side, I am the director at the Chinese American Cultural Bridge Center where we take performance tours to China.  I get to spend wonderful summers and spring break with AMAZING and TALENTED student performance groups (choir, band, orchestra) in China, watching them performing and sharing their talents with the Chinese people.  There is no words to describe the amazing experience of watching a band playing on the great wall, and seeing in each of their faces the proud accomplishment they have achieved before they have turned 18.  I am pretty sure some of their parents have never traveled this far to China, and even if they had I bet they never played an instrument on the Great Wall of China.  That is AMAZING!

This blog is for me to share my passion of creating a once in a life time trip for those performance groups, and also to share about the destination these performers will be going to - China.  I will talk about the culture, religion, and even some travel bits.  I will also add in a little about myself, since I am Chinese and have family living in China.

I also have a e-newsletter I write for the CACBC, which comes out once every two month.  If you like to check it out go to

Jennifer Chan