Italian and Korean atmosphere
Beijing, 25th of June
Italian culture in Beijing
With the World Cup (shi4 jie4 bei1) starting, there has been a great interest in world culture in Beijing of late and recently I went with some friends to an Italian cultural music festival in Chao Yang Park. There are not many parks in Beijing and most of them charge an admission fee (men2 piao4) of about 10-20Yuan. Beijing has a large Italian contingent, most of whom are working and studying Chinese and there are loads of Italian restaurants offering favourites like Spaghetti and Pizza. There is an ongoing debate here between Italians and Chinese as to whose food is the best in the world. These debates can get really lively especially when the Chinese claim that they invented Spaghetti as Marco Polo "stole" the recipe during his travels to China! The music festival lasted the whole week and on the day I went, a lovely warm Saturday, it was dedicated to folk music from the city of Lecce - which on a map of Italy is the "heel" of the "boot". I really enjoyed the live music and wasn't alone. Hundreds of Chinese people including lots of families came from all over Beijing to watch, listen and dance to the lively rhythms of Lecce. Beijingers really have a great enthusiasm and appreciation for live music.
Due to its large population of foreign students, Wu Dao Kou is proving to be a fantastic place to watch the World Cup. The best spot is called the "Beer Garden" which is an outside bar, selling cheap beer (4Yuan a pint) and a delicious selection of food including Muslim Kebabs (from the Chinese Muslim province of Xing Jiang), fried rice (chao3 fan4) and chips (shu4 tiao2). The bar covers a huge space complete with tables, chairs and a huge screen on which the World Cup games are shown. Due to the time-difference in Asia (ya4 Zhou1), most of the games are shown late at night with the first game starting at 9pm and the last game starting at 3am! This fact however has not stopped the beer garden for filling up to "standing room only" proportions, and me and my friends usually have to get there an hour before each game just to get a seat. In fact the front few tables are now only availably by reservation.
During games the atmosphere (qi4 fen1) is quite fantastic as students from all over the world cheer on their respective teams. There are loads of Germans, Italians, Mexicans, Brazilians, Japanese, Africans, Swedes, Koreans and of course English out-here so it really has a special feel. In addition the Chinese have a great passion for the World Cup and the country is totally caught up in World Cup fever. This is particularly impressive especially as the Chinese team didn't qualify. Yet still, men, women and children all have interest in the likes of 'Ballack, Beckham, Henry and Ronaldhino.
Last week after Koreas 2-1 victory against Togo there was a huge celebration in Wu Dao Kou, with delighted Korean fans (han2 guo2 qiu2 mi2) taking to the streets, wearing their national red colours, flags in hand. The local Chinese police (jing3 cha2) however were not impressed and so Korean games were banned from being screened at the beer garden. To my knowledge the celebrations were all good natured and really helped bring the World Cup to Beijing, so I was a bit disappointed by this decision. Korea have since been knocked out of the competition, so I'm sure the local police are breathing a sigh of relief.
Editor's note: Chris is writing Chinese words in 'Pinyin', Latin script, using numbers that indicate the tone of the word. Find out more with our course Real Chinese.
Sent by: Chris