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  Beijing Scene



Spicy Love Soup
In the 1990s, opium-laced hotpot was the mind-altering fondue of choice among the masses. But in the swinging first decade of the twenty-first century, hotpot spiked with the potency drug Viagra has swelled in popularity.

The potent repast is the aphrodisiac of choice among locals in the southwestern province of Sichuan, Life Times newspaper reports. Viagra, known in Mandarin as weige (literally "big brother"), has skyrocketed in popularity in China since being introduced in the late 1990s. A whole cottage industry in imitation Western and traditional Chinese potency drugs has grown up as a result. But this is the first time that the potency drug has been used in Chinese cuisine.

Sichuan restaurants offer at least 40 different variations of "Viagra hotpot," and charge as much as RMB2000 per pot, according to the newspaper. Sichuan province is the traditional cradle of Chinese hotpot cuisine. Hotpot is a communal dish in which various sliced meats and vegetables are cooked in a pot of boiling stock. Sichuan is renowned for its four-alarm, spicy version of the dish.

The spiked stews have aroused so much interest that owners have created a series of guidelines for those who order them. For example, men and women must eat separately, except in the case of couples who are served special "family" hotpots. Also, no more than four people are allowed to eat from one pot. According to the proprietors quoted, these guidelines are necessary for the drug to produce its full effect.

Change-A-Money?
A Chinese matron was recently bilked out of RMB60,000 (US$7,500) by a man posing as a monk who claimed he could magically change small bills into ones with much larger face values.

The woman, sporting a bandage on her injured left arm, was approached in a market in the Guangdong province city of Yangjiang by a middle-aged man pretending to be a doctor, according to a report in the Beijing Evening News.

The "doctor" brought her to a hotel room where she met another man dressed as a monk. While the "monk" began applying a piece of ginger to her hand, he told her he had mystical powers and could increase the value of small bills. As proof, he asked the woman to place a RMB5 bill, a RMB1 bill and a RMB.1 bill on the floor. Then he asked her to close her eyes as he chanted.

When she opened her eyes she found her money had turned into a RMB100 bill, RMB50 bill and RMB1 bill respectively. Without thinking twice she went and withdrew RMB60,000 from her bank account and returned with the bag of cash to the hotel room.

The ritual began again. When she opened her eyes the bag had doubled in size. From the top she could see a RMB100 bill where a RMB5 bill had been. Excitedly, she thanked the monk and ran home. When she opened the bag, the contents were mystical indeed - the bag was filled with nothing but one RMB100 bill and fake paper money used by the Chinese as traditional burnt offerings to the dead.

Sexless Students
A nationwide survey of Chinese teenagers shows that the vast majority of mainland adolescents consider sex "revolting and disgraceful," and associate the act with shame, disgust, pain and suffering. The survey also reveals limited knowledge and extensive misinformation about sex among Chinese youth, according to the official Life Times newspaper.

The survey, carried out in large cities nationwide including Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, shows that fully two-thirds of Chinese teenagers polled "consider sex revolting and disgraceful." Only one-third consider it a natural, healthy act.

When asked about sex, the majority of youngsters, all middle school and high school students, said they associate sex with shame, disgust, pain and suffering.

The survey revealed that students living in economically better-developed southern coastal provinces are generally better informed about the facts of life than their adolescent counterparts in comparatively poorer northern China. Age was also a factor as 46 percent of high school students surveyed listed sex as a normal act.

However, on the whole, Chinese children scored well below the international average on general knowledge of the facts of human sexuality . Major sources of information listed were school, media, and family.

At least one educator is citing the survey as a wake-up call for sex education reform, the report says. Wang Yamei, a Beijing middle school teacher, says that although middle school lasts for six years, there is only one government-approved book that deals with sex education. Wang says that both the textbook and sex education curriculum lack depth and are not taken seriously by students.

It Pays to Say I'm Sorry
China's first company devoted to making formal apologies for others opened recently in the Sichuan province municipality of Chongqing (formerly Chungking).
A woman by the name of Xiang Nushi has founded the "Xiang Apologizing Company" to help businesses and individuals make amends for their public gaffes. When asked about the idea, Xiang says that in a country where "face-saving" is a crucial element in business negotiations, many people are still unsure how to deal with the public after making an embarrassing or damaging mistake. On behalf of the client, "Xiang Apologizing Company" can send flowers or postcards, write letters, and make obsequious phone calls to make amends. Extra services include counseling sessions for business executives on how to become "less boastful."

Peculiar Pets
Fashion has always been a fickle industry and the most recent trend to hit Beijing only confirms this. Whereas 1999 saw a marked increase in the number of first-time female pet owners, this year more and more women are buying bizarre and exotic pets.

Workers at the Beijing Animal Shelter, a veterinary clinic originally established to rescue homeless animals, say the shelter now resembles a circus of "strange critters." In addition to the standard dogs, cats, snakes, pigeons and parrots, the center has also seen a large number of turtles, snakes, lizards, and even koala bears come through their doors.

PRC Net Guide
According to a report issued recently by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing the continuing explosive growth of the Chinese Internet is making massive amounts of information about all aspects of Chinese politics, economics, science and technology readily available. The report is available at
http://www. usembassy-china.org.cn/english/sandt/netgood.html. Students of the Internet and of the Chinese language will find recent guides to Chinese Internet resources helpful. Search engines on full-text newspaper websites such as the People's Daily's make it easy to track statements by leaders, their biographical information and specific issues. A quick search of the People's Daily website for the week after the Chinese New Year holiday turned up four articles containing "Jiang Zemin" and two articles containing "Zhu Rongji." This report introduces several books on Internet resources, information security/hacking, and electronic commerce that have appeared in China over the past several months.

Although the net itself remains the best guide to the net, these books are guides to many resources including newspapers, bulletin boards, radio stations, databases and software, that will be useful to all students of China and the Chinese language.

Online Car Rental
Beijing city dwellers can rent a car via the Internet at http://www.shouqi.com.cn. This is the first e-commerce webpage providing car-rental service to local customers. With 33 kinds of local and imported cars, the products are displayed with exterior, interior decoration, technical data and rental fee etc. In addition, a new transportation service will be offered in providing vehicles for conferences, group traveling, and wedding ceremonies.
- Beijing Daily


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