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Miscellaneous


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Love to Fear


Halloween is just around the corner – care for a scary story?

Love to Fear


Halloween is just around the corner – care for a scary story?

Lifestyle > Miscellaneous


 

Love to Fear

September 29, 2017 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

“Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses,” said the English author Neil Gaiman in a discussion at the TED 2014 conference in Vancouver. After the prolific writer recited a ghost story, he read a short essay titled “Ghosts in the Machine”, in which he affectionately contemplated the psychology of why we love ghost stories: 

“You ride the ghost train into the darkness, knowing that eventually the doors will open and you will step out into the daylight once again. It’s always reassuring to know that you’re still here, still safe. That nothing strange has happened, not really. It’s good to be a child again, for a little while, and to fear…”

The art of scary storytelling has been ritualised in many festive traditions during Halloween. From its ancient origins as the “dead-returning night” before the Celtic festival of Samhain some 2,000 years ago to All Hallows’ Eve in Christianity (formalised on October 31 by Pope Gregory IV in the 9th century), Halloween has evolved into a full-on party in the modern age, incorporating the nostalgia of ghost stories – and perhaps inspiring a little dread. 

This thrill of fear isn’t only something to be enjoyed during Halloween, of course. Once upon a time, we were all eager children, excitedly begging the adults in our families for a cracking story, be it a never-before-heard one or a true classic. Sometimes it’s not even about the story as much as it is sharing a memory of the storyteller’s vivid performance – and the harmless fear that’s often overcome by the overwhelming feelings of being together. 

As Gaiman concludes in his essay, fear taps into the baseless, ignoring the scariest things in our midst. “…Not governments, not regulations, not infidelities or accountants or distant wars, but ghosts and such things that don’t exist, and even if they do, can do nothing to hurt us.” Thrills, chills and a bit of harmless escapism – who could argue with that?

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So it’s about that time of the year to dust off some of those classic Halloween stories. Here’s a long-beloved one:

Long ago, there was a girl who always tied a yellow ribbon around her neck. A curious boy saw her and couldn’t help asking: “Why do you wear that ribbon?” “Someday, maybe I’ll tell you,” the girl said with a smile. They became best friends; one day, he asked again. “Maybe I’ll tell you another time,” the girl said. 

When they finished secondary school together, he asked her yet again. “Maybe I’ll tell you if we get married,” she replied. On the day he proposed, the man asked her the question. “Maybe I’ll tell you when we have kids,” the girl insisted. 

They raised two children and lived very happily for many years. But the man always had the question on his mind. “If you really love me, please don’t ask,” said the man’s wife. “Someday, I promise you’ll know.”

The man dropped the question, though deep in his heart he kept wondering. As they grew old together, the woman became ill and, on her deathbed, the man asked her the question for the last time. “Take the ribbon off, honey, and you’ll finally find out the answer,” she replied. 

The old man did – and his wife’s head fell off.

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Taobao Tips


If you’re too busy to purchase goods in person, online shopping is an ideal choice. As China’s largest e-commerce platform, Taobao has just about everything you could imagine. Make your shopping that much easier with these top tips

Taobao Tips


If you’re too busy to purchase goods in person, online shopping is an ideal choice. As China’s largest e-commerce platform, Taobao has just about everything you could imagine. Make your shopping that much easier with these top tips

Lifestyle > Miscellaneous


 

Taobao Tips

August 25, 2017 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

General

  • First and foremost, keep your expectations in check. The quality tends to match the price, so if you only look for products with the cheapest price tag, you probably won’t get a satisfactory purchase.


  • When you find your desired product, be patient and keep searching, because you can generally find the same products in different Taobao shops. If you don’t know which one to choose, select one at an average price – usually it will help you weed out poor-quality products.

Language

  • Taobao is only in Chinese and most of the sellers don’t speak English. If Chinese isn’t your forte, ask a friend for help or use a translation tool, although the latter may cause more confusion than is worthwhile.

Sizing

  • Prepare a ruler and pay attention to the size, quality, colour, stock and shipping information provided by the seller. If you can’t find the information or it isn’t clear enough, you’ll have to contact the seller through Aliwangwang – a live-chat program for Taobao.

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Images

  • Check if what’s shown is an image of the actual product. Some sellers will make it clear that it is, but for others, you’ll be able to tell from the photography style and the models. If there are detailed images, you can see the level of quality and craftsmanship.

  • Other images are just for reference. The real product won’t be as good as the images.

  • You can go to the “Feedback” section to see images posted by other buyers.

Payment

  • Hong Kong buyers can pay by Visa, Mastercard, Tap & Go, Octopus, Alipay Purchase Card, PPS and more.

Shipping

  • In urgent cases, or if the product is fragile or expensive and has a seven-day return policy, you can use a courier such as SF Express to ship to Hong Kong.

  • If it’s not a rush and you don’t have plans to return the product, it’s best to use the group shipping option. By combining all your purchases from Taobao together and shipping to Hong Kong in one go, it’s much cheaper than SF Express.

Tools

  • Use the “Find Similar” and “Find Same Design” functions. Through these, you’ll find different shops using the same product images and that are located close to each other, which likely means they have the same vendor. Then, you can choose the shop with the highest rating and the best feedback.

  • Detailed seller ratings over the past six months should have lots of red words and red arrows – that means the shop’s rating is better than its counterparts.

  • Use Aliwangwang to communicate with the sellers and keep records of your dealings. If there’s any disagreement or problems in future, Taobao officials will only acknowledge the Aliwangwang record.

  • Check feedback from previous buyers. Start with the bad and average reviews, and then go to the good ones. Chinese buyers generally leave very direct reviews; sometimes you can even find them arguing in the feedback section about the product quality. If there are no reviews, check the seller’s overall rating and make your decision based on that.

  • View questions or concerns left by previous buyers about a particular product in the “Ask Others” section. You can even ask your own questions and see if you can get replies from previous buyers.

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Alsobia Dianthiflora: The Lace Flower


Don’t have a balcony, but still want some cute plants to brighten up your space? No gardening experience? No problem. Discover the alluring lace flower known as alsobia dianthiflora. You can hang it or put it on your desk – it’s beautiful and, best of all, easy to maintain

Alsobia Dianthiflora: The Lace Flower


Don’t have a balcony, but still want some cute plants to brighten up your space? No gardening experience? No problem. Discover the alluring lace flower known as alsobia dianthiflora. You can hang it or put it on your desk – it’s beautiful and, best of all, easy to maintain

Lifestyle > Miscellaneous


 

Alsobia Dianthiflora: The Lace Flower

June 30, 2017 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

Soil

Between sandy and clay (air should be able to get to the roots)

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Light

Indoors, next to the window; bright, but no direct sunlight

Water

Normal to moist (pour until it comes out the hole at the bottom, at least once per week)

Pot

Plastic, pottery, porcelain, glass, etc. If there’s a hole at the bottom, it’s fine. 

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Romance in the Air


With Valentine’s Day nearly upon us, explore the widely varied rituals of courtship across different cultures – and species

Romance in the Air


With Valentine’s Day nearly upon us, explore the widely varied rituals of courtship across different cultures – and species

Lifestyle > Miscellaneous


 

Romance in the Air

February 3, 2017 / by China Daily

Courtship rituals have been practiced in many forms over the years. These behaviours aren’t exclusive to humans – there are similarities with mating rituals in the animal kingdom. For example, when a man attempts to gain the attention of a romantic partner, he might put on charming clothing and “flaunt his feathers” – just like a male peacock shows his ornamental feathers to attract a female peahen. Two people hold hands to convey a message of their close relationship, while African elephants caress each other and intertwine their trunks in the courtship phase. Couples have dinner together on a date, while many birds also share food in the name of romance. 

Numerous rituals showcase the basic instincts of all living creatures; for humans, however, the approaches tend to be a bit less clinical and a bit more fun. During the Victorian era, a pocket-sized calling card became part of the romance of courting. This custom began in France in the 1800s, and quickly spread across Europe and the US as a formal means to maintain social contacts. 

For a Victorian gentleman who aimed to start a conversation with a lovely lady, or simply wanted to walk her home, he would often use an acquaintance card. According to the Encyclopedia of Ephemera, the acquaintance card was “used by the less formal male in approaches to the less formal female. Given also as an ‘escort card’ or ‘invitation card’, the device commonly carried a brief message and a simple illustration. Flirtatious and fun, the acquaintance card brought levity to what otherwise might have seemed a more formal proposal. A common means of introduction, it was never taken too seriously.” 

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With gentle humour and directness, this romantic icebreaker was quite attractive to young women. Men would present a card with a cheeky message, such as “I am Sam Kahn. Who the devil are you?” Or he might just get straight to the point, asking “May I C U Home?” For those less restrained by convention, he might have put those heart-melting words in poetic form. “My heart to you is given / Oh! Do give yours to me / We’ll lock them up together / And throw away the key.” Or, perhaps you’d prefer the more suggestive approach: “Come and see our new lamp – you can turn it down so low that there is scarcely any light at all.” 

Interesting courtship rituals aren’t restricted to Victorian couples, either. In the 17th century, a Welshman would hand-carve a wooden spoon (called a “lovespoon”) as a sign of affection for his potential bride; the woman would wear the spoon around her neck if she felt the same way. In 19th-century rural Austria, young women would perform a ritual dance with apple slices lodged in their armpits – after the dance, she would give a slice to the man of her choice and, if interested in her, he would eat it. 

Even today, a variety of intriguing customs continue in Asia. For example, in southwest China, young singles of the Dai ethnic minority gather by the village bonfire at night; the men each choose a woman to serenade and, if she’s impressed, the woman will pull a small seat out from under her billowing skirt and invite him to sit down. And in one rural village in northwest Cambodia, the unmarried teenage daughters of the Kreung tribe are encouraged to explore sex with a variety of partners as they search for true love – in a “love hut” built by their parents behind their house.

While nowadays it seems the size of your bouquet or the value of your Valentine’s Day gift is all that matters, it certainly seems trite compared to those old-fashioned rituals. These fascinating customs laid the foundation for today’s romance – and some of them are still going strong. 

Images: Alan Mays; Getty Images

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Naughty or Nice


You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry – or you may get an unwanted visit from Krampus, the Christmas demon

Naughty or Nice


You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry – or you may get an unwanted visit from Krampus, the Christmas demon

Lifestyle > Miscellaneous


 

Naughty or Nice

December 9, 2016 / by Jon Braun

All around the world at Christmastime, children gleefully await the arrival of Santa Claus and a windfall of presents under the Christmas tree. Of course, that’s all well and good if you’ve been nice – but what if you were a naughty boy or girl this year? In the regions of Alpine Austria and southern Bavaria, that adds up to a terrifying visit from Krampus, the half-goat, half-demon sidekick to Saint Nick whose mission is to punish the misbehaved.

Krampus – whose name is derived from the Old High German word krampen, which means “claw” – is said to be the son of Hel, the god of the underworld in Norse mythology. Emerging from European pagan traditions, Krampus is a figure you’d be right to be scared of – no matter your age. With his flaming-coal eyes, matted fur, cloven hooves, snarled horns, long pointed tongue and jagged fangs, this “Evil Santa” appears on Krampusnacht, occurring the night before the Feast of Saint Nicholas.

Looks aren’t everything, of course.Krampus carries a basket or a sack, a set of shackles, a whip and a bundle of branches for the purpose of swatting naughty children. Sometimes alongside Saint Nick and sometimes solo, Krampus visits the local homes and businesses, handing out lumps of coal and birch bundles – a sobering reminder of the dire results of being naughty.

What’s that ominous basket for, you may ask? Why, it’s for carrying the bad children back to the pits of hell for all manner of torture. Adults, you’d be right to be scared out of your wits, too – in those particularly egregious cases of naughtiness, parent-napping is included in his repertoire as well.

Krampus has recently spread his reach around the world. He’s a frightening reminder to children everywhere that they’d better be on their best behaviour, no matter the season – because you never know when he’s going to show up on your doorstep. So which list are you on this year? Better check it twice…

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Top Dogs


More than just a friendly companion, the loyal dog has saved more human lives than we will ever know

Top Dogs


More than just a friendly companion, the loyal dog has saved more human lives than we will ever know

Lifestyle > Miscellaneous


 

Top Dogs

October 28, 2016 / by Peter Brown

From the family terrier frantically barking when a fire breaks out in the middle of the night to the rescue dogs who uncover earthquake survivors, our canine friends have saved countless lives over the centuries.

Search dogs play a vital role in rescue operations at disaster sites as they scamper through the rubble, their noses twitching as they try to pick up the scents of trapped victims. Historically, perhaps the most famous breed of heroic dog is the Saint Bernard, which for more than 150 years was used by Augustine monks to locate travellers buried in avalanches as they crossed the treacherous Alpine passes between Switzerland and Italy.

Not only trained rescue dogs save lives. Stories abound of pets who have saved family members from fires, drowning, snakes, aggressive animals, intruders and other kinds of threats. Of course, medical detection dogs are trained to be lifesavers – one British poodle named Nora is trained to alert her severely allergic owner if there is even the slightest trace of nuts in the air.

One of the most remarkable feats of canine heroism was carried out by a guide dog in the wake of the New York City attacks on September 11, 2001. Roselle, a Labrador, led her blind owner Michael Hingson and his coworkers through the smoke and chaos of a stairwell, down 78 floors of the World Trade Center North Tower; they reached the street just as the building collapsed.

So why do dogs want to save our lives? As members of rescue team Texas Task Force 1, K9 search specialist Bob Deeds and his Labrador Retriever, Kinsey, were part of the search operations at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. “Search dogs are trained to treat it as a game – once they locate the victim, they get play time with their handler as a reward, which is a great motivation for them,” he explains.

And what about pets? “Self-preservation is a big part of how they react in dangerous situations, but many dogs also overcome their instinct to flee and stay to protect their owners. So there are clearly strong feelings of attachment – even love – that make them do it.”

Next time your adorable pup is curled up next to you on the sofa, remember that they’re much more than a loving companion – they just might save your life one day.

Putting the bling and all the other luxuries aside, what would really make a dog happy if you wanted to spoil him? “Dogs appreciate interaction with humans, whether it is retrieving or finding something that is hidden, or learning behaviour like giving paw,” he says. “Anything that you can teach the dog that lets them interact with you in a positive way is definitely the best treat.”

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