Archive for Celestial Empire

Taoranting Park 陶然亭 swimming pool

陶然亭是清代名亭,现为中国四大历史名亭之一 Taoranting is the name of the Qing Dynasty pavilion, now a China one of the four historic Pavilion.
It’s just a stone throw away from Xiaoyi‘s apartment. We went there swimming from time to time. King had his yellow bathing suit. The third time we were there, the young eager life guard or door man said,
“I think it’s enough that he should change to a proper bathing suit.”

“Oh, it’s his bathing suit.” I wasn’t thinking straight.

The young man’s face turned red. “Don’t you think I’m a hicky. .. just because you’re from USA .. ”

Actually everyone wore speedo type of swimming wears in China, like the Europeans. Only the Americans who wears large shorts to the pool.

I tried to explain to the young man but he won’t hear it at all. He thought I insulted him. To make peace, I got King a speedo.

“Mom, it’s too small .. ” and he refused to wear it.

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She beats me ..

Beijing, July 26, 2003At a resort in Changping, Beijing, July 26, 2003

A great day: got to swim with Pumpkin!
Due to a conversation I had with the girls at the pool, Pumpkin decided to go for a life guard certificate. The class had began but the trainer said she could join mid way if she passed the try out. While waiting for the try out, I asked her to swim a little, with me. She readily agreed.
“Gosh, Mom, I haven’t swam perhaps since middle school.”
The middle and high schools share one pool and there are 4 school teams. Her middle school girls’ team falls into the same time slot as tennis. So after middle school she decided to give up swimming team for tennis.
Gosh, Love, that’s sad.
I’ve been trying to get them to swim .. don’t even get me started.
The pool was pretty empty so as soon as she got in, there we went. 25 yard, she beat me by couple of body lengths, effortlessly. Back again, she won hand down.
Soon she went off for the try out. For a rare moment, I stopped by the edge of the pool and recall the times .. a little water baby by birth .. I couldn’t suppress my smile. The very first time I took her to swim, she was only few months old. The moment we dip into the pool she maneuvered free out of my arms, just liked the way as soon as I put on a pair of skate, she went off without wasting a moment. As if she knew how to swim and skate, by birth. There was moments at our town pool when the life guard would pick on her height (too short for the main pool). She would tip toe trying to pass the height requirement. There was giggles when I did my flip turns and they sat at the edge: our arrangement that I played with them then they would sit and watch me do laps. Each turn would bring more laughter .. some sweet memory.

P.S. .. she didn’t go after all ..

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Room with a view

DSCN8963 DSCN8946

Le Meridien (Starwood) on Nanjing Road East in Shanghai. A great location, but the lobby is less than desirable. Stacks of moon cakes piled high, in prominent displayed near the entrance, and were being handed out. AT first I thought it were the guest who stays at the hotel. But after I walked a bit on the street did I realize what’s going on. Still, I didn’t understand why the hotel would want to get on distributing moon cake business.

DSCN8964The living room looks out to the east and the bathroom looks out to the Bund and beyond.
A while back, in a mocking article on New York magazine projected that by 2020, Americans would rush to China to find a job, like cute white college grad waiting at restaurants or being baby sitters who speak perfect Mandarin. Well, I don’t know if we need to wait that long. At one lounge at the hotel I spotted a tall and pretty cute blond among waiting staff. Was she a trainee of some sort, or just a back packer who would do anything to stretch her stay at a foreign city. Would people feel odd if a Chinese waiting at a hotel in Zambia?
This xiao long bao juicy dumpling tastes pretty good.

DSCN8387According to friends playing tennis in Shanghai can be a hassle and expensive proposition. So I largely wrote it off. Didn’t bring my gears. But then thought what’s the heck. Let’s try. Tried to line up with a coach who would provide me with a racket .. .. but that didn’t happen.
Then I spotted a tennis court from YZ’s apartment
“Yes you can play here.” He assured me.
I spotted few courts from this hotel .. don’t remember its name .. sorry senior moment ..
When I went to pick up Auntie Ida I found a cluster of courts in her gated community.
And the courts were empty too!

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China sports official skewered for criticizing skater who didn’t thank government after win

By ANITA CHANG, Associated Press

Last update: March 10, 2010 – 8:04 PM

BEIJING – It was a political gaffe for Chinese short track speedskater Zhou Yang — failing to thank her country and its government after winning two gold medals at the Vancouver Olympics.

But the 18-year-old is winning widespread support for her honesty and naivete, after being criticized by a top sports official this week for mentioning her parents in a post-win interview but failing to express gratitude for the Chinese sports system.

“How can somebody love their country if they don’t even love their parents?” China Youth Daily reporter Ma Jing wrote in an opinion piece published Tuesday, echoing the many online comments supporting Zhou in a case that is currently one of the hottest topics on Chinese internet sites.

Zhou won gold in the 1,500-meter race and the 3,000-meter relay in her Olympic debut. After her 1,500 win Feb. 20, a breathless Zhou told China Central Television: “It’s my dream. After winning the gold I might change a lot, become more confident and help my parents have a better life.”

She thanked her coach and teammates, but never mentioned the state-run sports system in which she had trained as an athlete for much of her life.

“It’s right to respect and thank your parents but you also have to have the country in your heart. The country must come first. Don’t just talk about your parents,” said Yu Zaiqing, deputy director of China’s General Administration of Sport, in widely reported comments earlier this week.

Yu, who is also an International Olympic Committee vice president, added that the sports system must step up “moral education” for athletes.

He’s been criticized in comments on countless Web sites, where many Chinese who are normally reticent to voice their opinions speak freely because of the anonymity found online. His entry on Baidu Baike, a site similar to Wikipedia, was temporarily changed to say “Yu Zaiqing, male … no mother and no father, raised by the Communist Party.”

Zhou’s family has defended her behavior, saying she is a young woman unfamiliar with the political demands facing Chinese athletes.

“Of course she’s naive! If she’s not naive why would she say something like that?” said Zhou’s aunt, surnamed Wang, who refused to give her name as is common among media-shy Chinese.

“Zhou Yang is very introverted, her life is eating, sleeping and training,” Wang told The Associated Press. “Of course her parents have sacrificed a lot, too.”

Yu’s remarks underscore the ties binding sports to politics in China, where youngsters picked for their athletic abilities and specific physical traits undergo years of grueling training, with the singular goal of “winning glory for the country.”

But Zhou appeared to be more concerned about her parents’ welfare than her country, a move that has struck a chord among Chinese whose deeply ingrained Confucian heritage highly values respect for elders.

“For a girl who has a humble wish to let her parents live a comfortable life, she was heroic in her struggle to win these two gold medals for China but then encountered such criticism,” wrote sports columnist Sa Fu of Chinese internet portal “This is the real humiliation for the country.”

Like many Chinese athletes, Zhou comes from a poor background. While parents hope their children can win Olympic medals and therefore financial awards, the payoff comes at a huge price. Before her two golds in Vancouver, Zhou was helping to support her disabled parents with her 500 yuan ($73) a month stipend.

She can now expect more than 1 million yuan ($150,000) in prize money to go with the new two-bedroom apartment that’s already been awarded to her parents in their hometown of Changchun in northeast China.

On Tuesday, officials tried to deflect criticism of Yu, who made his comments Sunday during a sports committee meeting of China’s top legislative advisory body. A fellow committee member said the group was discussing athletes in general and not Zhou specifically.

China’s General Administration of Sport did not respond to a faxed request for comment Tuesday.

And Zhou appeared to have learned her lesson in Chinese political correctness. Several Web sites on Tuesday carried comments attributed to the skater, in which she gave thanks to all the right people.

“I thank the country for providing us with excellent conditions, for giving us the excellent conditions for our Olympic campaign,” she was quoted as saying. “And I thank everyone who supported us, I thank our coaches, I thank the staff, and I thank my mom and dad.”


Associated Press researcher Xi Yue contributed to this report.

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Henin’s 6th Sense Tennis Academy: China

In September, Justine Henin’s 6th Sense Tennis Academy plans to open a branch at Potter’s Wheel International Sports Center in Beijing. It will join her original academy in Belgium and her U.S. academy at the Mission Inn Resort & Club north of Orlando, Florida. Like her other academies, this Chinese branch will adopt mini-tennis (the precursor to what is now being called QuickStart here in the U.S.) to introduce the game to very young players since this is the way Henin got her start and it will follow a philosophy of treating everyone with compassion and respect, regardless of their innate playing ability.

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Snow ..

USTA Jan 28, 2010I was going to cheer the first snow of the year, and decade. Then wondered if I am having the senior moment since I couldn’t remember for sure. Only 28 days.
Ok .. but I remembered that when I went in the USTA to play that early morning, it was dry. That’s for sure.
China Curtails Run of Avatar as It Fills Theaters, hoping the domestically produced biography of Confucius will gain some audience. Guess it’s a tough sell, even with Chow Yun-Fat.
Is Confucius becoming popular the same way Mao is nowadays?

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Jia Baoyu 贾宝玉

Jia Baoyu, literally “Precious Jade” and his surname is a homophone with “false” or “sham” is the principal character in the classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber.

Having a nervous breakdown few days ago during the first league match as captain, I experienced heart attack this afternoon, during a practice run. The great champ came to play, so did the 4.5 whom I kept on romancing him .. .. in the hope that he’ll get demoted next year to join our team. I don’t know about you but I was flattered by being just on the same court with those tennis royalties. I was so tense to the point of shxxless sugarless, more nervous than playing an actual match. Did I tell anyone that my hearing was diminishing? When my partner was telling me what to do, his voice was mostly lost in the bubble. I just kept on nodding rapidly like a woodpecker even I understood nothing or very little. Every time I shakily raised my rocket, trying to return a shot, I was either getting hit or hit it out, totally interrupting a nice flow of the game. If I was lucky, managed a return, it would cut the speed to half. Everyone stood still, waiting for it ..

Ok, joke aside, I was musing about why those high flying 4.0 bombers, the golden boys would want to play with us, the sissy girls (ok .. you girls are great .. not sissy .. only Irene .. no, not that Irene, this Irene ..) I think I figured it out today: they’re bunch of Precious Jades. Disagree? Look at my girls, don’t they look like modern Lin Meimei 林妹妹Daiyu 黛玉?

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[troubled] Water under the bridge

Out of blue, two days ago some family member of the players from Beijing Chaoyang tennis club contacted me:

Subject: Sunday in NY

Hi Irene,
Please don’t mind if I ask who paid for the tennis court that day, I need to know this because I was told that I need to pay for my share of the fee, and I am not even part of the tennis team.

Weird .. was my first reaction.

What’s going on? Why would anyone ask the family member to chip in to share the court cost? We all knew USTA paid for the two courts for two hours 10-12 noon. Since we had about two dozen players from both sides, soon we played on the next two courts. Four courts in total. In any sense, we, as the host, should pay for the court cost, if there were any, just like the lunch.

Who actually asked you to pay for it, and how much? I questioned the sender.

No reply.

(On that Sunday 8/30, as we were leaving the tennis club, one of my buddies mentioned that Sandy went to the front desk at the club and negoated the additional two courts and paid for it.)

To be sure, I forwarded the e-mail to Andy and one of the organizers for clarification. The organizer replied two days later:

Subject: Re: court fee for BJ club

Hey Irene,
When you raise questions, you have to be specific. I have no clue what you or your someone are referring to.
What court, which court, where, when ???

Sorry .. for being not clear and specific. I thought the initial e-mail/subject is self-explanatory.

From reading the e-mail I forwarded to you, I think the inquirer is asking about Sunday 8/30 at Roosevelt Island tennis club. Have any of catsny member asked the Chaoyang tennis club to share the court fees (original two and the addition two ??) in any way?
It sounds very odd.

Best regards

From the organizer:

C’mon, Irene, that was history and whatever happened, happened. It’s water under the bridge.
Just to clear your doubtful mind,
USTA paid 2 courts for Chaoyang Tennis Club as courtesy and we were arranged to play the friendly games with them.
Then, Tom the club manager came later and told me that we can use balance 2 courts for free as the courts were paid for by seasonal players who did not show up.
As such, we got to use balance 2 courts that day. No fees were paid to no one.
To my knowledge, no one asked anyone for money in any form. I, for one, did not pay out any fee to Tennis club for additional courts.
There might have been conversation among our players to suggest that we rent the 2 empty courts and everyone chip in for the cost. That’s my guessing.
Both your neighbor HL and PZ were there. If anyone asking for money, I should have know about it.

So, here you go. I hope this will satisfy the sender.

Now, I have a question for the Inquisitor that wasn’t being answered:
– Who asked for payment? More importantly, was the request made after the 8/30 event – That’s the root of the problem.

Will the Instigator share this info that started this flurry of e-mails exchanges?

I won’t be surprised to see that Chaoyang has as much politics as the catsny although I sincerely hope not. But .. coming to NY/USA isn’t a small deal, especially when China makes tennis/golf so out of reach for the masses.

It’s just a game. People. Lets KISS. Let’s forge friendship and promote sportsmanship.

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Noblized sports 贵族化

Played with Alex the assassin who’s game has improved a lot. I like to tease him .. wondering which temple he’s visiting in China 🙂 [to hone his tennis skills]. We won 2 sets to 1.

He knew the Chaoyang tennis club in Beijing well even he holes up in a podunk somewhere near Guangzhou.
RMB 50,000 annual due that only gives you the priority to book a court. Each hour cost US$100 – hope I got the figures right here.
That’s cheap.” compares to golf in China.
One golf club charges RMB 1,000,000 (life time) membership fee and each outing would cost about RMB 2,000 – 3,000.

His opinion is that China couldn’t produce top notch tennis/golf athletes was due to the 贵族化 the sports, making it prestigious and unreachable for the mass.

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A good skipper

Dear All,
By now I suppose you all know the ground rule of our club but I would like to remind you all of one very important issue: please bring your shuttlecocks.

We all know that feather shuttlecocks are expensive and they don’t last. For a 15 minute session, we probably use one to two shuttlecocks, or three at the most. With four players in each round of play on a court, it is not exactly necessary we need four shuttlecocks per session. However, no one can argue that it is fair that everyone contribute to the game. We are well aware that some of our members never bring a shuttlecock to the court and this has to stop.

From now on, everyone sign in and come to play on a court must provide a brand new feather shuttlecock. Anyone else on the court has the right to ask any other player on the court to show his/her new shuttlecock. One who fail to show his contribution of new feather shuttlecock may be asked to leave the court and his/her round of play will be skipped.

We always have had this practice but most of the time it has not been enforced and recently I heard a few complaints about members not contributing, causing some others to keep buying new shuttlecocks while other keep playing for free. We must enforce the one-birdie-one-person rule so everyone enjoy the game fair and square…

Not finding a place to buy feather shuttlecocks is not a valid excuse. We understand that badminton is not a very popular sport in the US therefore a few of our members buy shuttlecocks from China by bulk to share with other members, charging only a bear minimum to cover their cost. Anyone needs new shuttlecocks please contact Alex Cuan or Jing He. You may also go to any badminton clubs in NY to buy from them as well. Otherwise, if anyone has shuttlecocks for sale please also let me know…

If anyone do no believe this is fair, please come to me in person in any club evening.

Best Regards,


Petty? Yes. But to ensure the longevity of any social/grass root group we need someone like Sam. Set rules that apply to everyone, and follow through with it. Put the group first and I the last.

I’ve witnessed him wrestling with court sign up process – too many players with too few courts. He openly invited everyone to voice his/her concern/suggestion/solution and finally came up with the current system. Now I guess it’s the shuttlecocks time.

A little sideline: it’s amusing to see some tennis players whom I’ve been playing with for years, never once opened a can of balls. Don’t have balls? Hmmmmmmm.. They must be the firm believers that there is free lunch.

Anyway, I have been playing with Sam for years but we don’t invite each other to our own BBQs. Once I dared to nag him to stop smoking – it bothered me. There were many his friends around, he retorted in his booming voice, well .. little woman, pls mind your own business. He wasn’t joking.

Sam volunteers to run the badminton group in lower Manhattan in an effective manner, for years. He does a lot to make it fair and interesting, between setting/enforcing rules and soothe disputes. At year-end, he would collect money for the staff at the recreation center where they call it home. He has been at it for a long time, 4 years by now. He is well respected by his constituents so no one challenges him for this prestigious position because it’s a lot of hard work and painful headache, not to mention time consuming .. unless you have real love for it. The only reward is seeing this group has good time each time.

Any one who aspires to run a group should learn a thing or two from Sam. First put your personal agenda or benefit aside, do a string unattached job. When everyone sees your effort, unselfish effort, they will come, and reciprocate with respect and support.

Last week, Sam’s group started the second round of their league tournament (dreamed up by Sam, with inputs from everyone .. ) and from the scores, the three matches were very intensive, great time and games by all.

Match A1: 4 vs 15, ..
Game 1: 4, 21-18, 15
Game 2: 4, 21-23, 15
Game 3: 4, 23-21, 15

Match B1: 3 vs 5, ..
Game 1: 3, 21-13, 5
Game 2: 3, 16-21, 5
Game 3: 3, 21-13, 5

Match B2: 1 vs 8, ..
Game 1: 1, 21-14, 8
Game 2: 1, 10-21, 8
Game 2: 1, 24-22, 8

Last September he got 20 tickets to the WNBA game at the MSG, Madison Sq Garden. It was given to the group as whole. He announced it on the web and allotted them to the first 20 repliers.

During his reign so far, I could only recall one whiner who perhaps in desperate need of some attention. The trouble maker complained about something that’s neither made sense or out of line. After few polite e-mail exchanges, Sammy finally told the person .. be quiet. (No, Sam didn’t fine the person $1,500 as Roger was fined by USTA .. ) Players lined up behind him, because they could see Sam in it is NOT for himself.

Chaoyang and CatsNYOur group picture with Chaoyang at the end of a friendly game in New York.
The same could not be said for other groups.
It’s just happened, during the US Open, Chaoyang had extra 12 tickets and they gave to catsny since we entertained them for a friendly game on Sunday. I knew nothing about the tickets till an unhappy camper told me. To find out for myself, I asked the organizer who replied:

I received 6 day’s ans [sic .. and] 6 night’s tickets from Jennifer. I gave out to whomever wanted to go and kept 1 night ticket for myself.

How come I was never offered one?? Thought we’re friends 🙂

In all honesty, I don’t believe friends should get any priority or preferential treatment in a group setting. Fairness is the key. I added that just being factious. After all, I was part of the group, and I was indeed unaware of the tickets.

The organizer replied:

many said the sane [same] thing. Tickets came and go in no time. Just couldn’t keep everyone happy

Meanwhile, those few heading a group with clear mission statement, incurred many complains are wondering why they put in time and effort but were not appreciated.
Well, my suggestion is:
Stick to your mission statement, and review it often, and carry it out
Make it open and transparent, no back door dealings
Put the G – group first, I second if not last.

I’ve always felt a bit ambivalent about the motives of the xx organization. It seems they’re not aware of their own mission statement.

One successful sport league captain commented.

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