Weekly #9 Five China stories you need to read: Travel across 100 cities by bus; Financier wins Hugo Award; Translator and his young followers; Young lottery-buyers; Golden fall in Beijing
Hello, I hope you've had a wonderful week. I'm delighted to see that many of you have expressed your enjoyment of my new YouTube show, "One Day in China." I'm aware there's ample room for improvement, and I'm committed to elevating it to the next level. Episode 2 is set for release next Friday, and I'm eager to see if you'll like it just as much.
In this weekly roundup, we captures the essential similarities between the different age brackets in China. Three individuals, all born in 1990s "90后", navigate their ways to deal with the reality, either by writing science fiction in their off hours or by traveling across more than a hundred cities by bus. We also feature a 63-year-old university adjunct mentor, selling his publications in the subway stations.
Last but not least, as Beijing enters its most picturesque season, we are delighted to present you some photos of a university where a couple of GRR's co-editors lives and works. After all, nature never fails people.
32-year-old Liu travelled across 100+ cities from Macao to Beijing, by bus. How did he make it?
A 63-year-old uni adjunct mentor decided to sell his books in the subway. Why did he influence so many youngsters?
A financier born in the 1990s wins the Hugo Award - annual award for the best sci-fi
How does lottery offer emotional values to youngsters?
Take a Look: Beijing welcomes another golden fall
Subscribe GRR newsletter for free to get a glimpse into the priorities of both the leadership and the general public in China.
1.Fifty thousand people accompany him on the bus ride 五万人陪他坐公交车
Overview: 71 days, 226 buses, 100+ cities and 5,345 bus stops. Liu Huaqiang, a 32-year-old native of Sichuan, chose to take buses from Macao all the way to Beijing. Liu also turned his travel into a captivating live-streaming event, drawing in an audience of fifty thousand virtual travelers to join him on this intrepid bus odyssey. This article comes from 极昼工作室 Perpetual Light Studio, a WeChat blog that is under Chinese internet company Sohu.
Liu published his travelling plans on bilibili, China's answer to Youtube
The longest bus journey I have ever taken was on C621A in Jining, east China's Shandong Province, spanning nearly 120 kilometers and taking over three hours to complete. Impressively, the driver managed the entire journey without a restroom break. The most luxurious ride I've experienced was on an autonomous bus in Zhengzhou, central China's Henan Province. With a simple reservation made through my phone, the bus would arrive at the designated stop, though it wasn’t entirely unmanned, as staff were present to ensure passengers didn't interfere with the vehicle's operations.
The single longest stretch between two stops I've encountered was in southwest China's Chongqing on Bus No. 974, where one segment extended over 20 kilometers. In Zhao'an County, southeast China's Fujian Province, there's a unique form of public transport: a small Wuling vehicle with only six seats. [GRR note: Wuling is a Chinese manufacturer of automobiles] I rode it in 2021 and again this year, and on both occasions, I was the sole passenger. Astonishingly, the driver remembered me and asked if I had been on the bus two years prior.
Traveling by bus transforms the previously two-dimensional locations on a map in my mind into a vivid, three-dimensional reality. On one occasion, as I journeyed, in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, from Baoji to Tongguan, I came to truly comprehend the meaning of "eight hundred li of Qin Chuan" [GRR note: 八百里秦川 "Eight hundred li of Qin Chuan" is a special alluvial plain formed by the Wei River in the northern part of the Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi Province. It is one of the birthplaces of the Chinese nation]. Each time I beheld a mountain, I couldn't help but wonder: Could this be another part of the Qinling Mountains?
My 2016 trip to Shanxi was a point-to-point journey. Back then, my impression was that the streets of northern cities were quite chaotic. However, after exploring Shanxi by bus, my view completely changed. The province was delightful, boasting numerous "one-yuan buses" that extended their services to rural areas for just one yuan. Furthermore, many county-level cities in Shanxi offered free bus services, which I found utterly astonishing.
There's a unique satisfaction in witnessing sights unseen through other modes of travel and discovering things beyond one's awareness. In Penglai, east China's Shandong Province, I took a bus that wound through villages and past mounds of corn, jostling along the undulating mountain roads. In Gaoyi, north China's Hebei Province, an area known for its sheep, I actually waited for and caught a bus. I was the sole passenger, prompting viewers in my live stream to ask if it was all staged.
I've even experienced Chengdu's 3 a.m. night buses, where, including myself, there were only 14 passengers, many of whom were designated drivers and people just getting off work. Along the way, I saw breakfast carts serving food, people starting their morning runs, and others waiting with their luggage — over 400 people in my live stream that day said they wanted to stay with me until the end.
Now, my public transportation travel QQ group [GRR note: QQ is an instant messaging software service in China] boasts over 1,800 members, 70 percent of whom were born after the year 2000 and many of whom are bus enthusiasts. Just a few days ago, a member from Changzhi, north China's Shanxi Province, mentioned that they followed a route I shared and took a weekend trip to Handan by bus, only to find that some fares had increased by one yuan. Some students really embrace frugal travel, staying in youth hostels or sleeping in internet cafes or KFC restaurants overnight.
Bus enthusiasts have shared why they hold sentimental feelings towards buses: growing up in the city, taking the bus was a part of family outings. Parents would give their children small cameras to capture street views and different models of buses. These photographs now serve as historical records of urban development. As the economy grows, new routes slowly connect, making bus travel increasingly accessible. However, this might change in a few decades when, perhaps due to population decline, routes diminish and this mode of travel becomes impractical.
The bus tickets Liu ever bought
Comments: As a greater variety of transportation options arise, each boasting ever-greater speeds, the choice to travel by bus has taken on a luxurious quality. Liu's odyssey is more than a travelogue; it's a narrative of endurance, exploration, and the shared human experience.
2. The "translator" who sells books at the subway: young people travel miles to find him 这个“翻译家”在地铁摆摊卖书，年轻人千里寻他
Overview: In southwest China's Chongqing, 63-year-old Wang Chuanzhou, an adjunct mentor at Chongqing Normal University, gained internet fame for selling his self-published translations at a subway station. Known for his dedication and mentorship to youth, Wang embodies perseverance in pursuing his literary passions despite skepticism, inspiring many with his story.
The article comes from 冰点周刊 Freezing Point Weely. Started in 1995, Freezing Point is a weekly supplement to China Youth Daily. The Weekly holds the belief that "News endures well beyond a single day."
Wang Chuanzhou chats with young people at the subway station
But Wang Chuanzhou hadn't anticipated that one day the publishing house would deliver the books to his home, stating that if they were not going to help with sales, he would have to sell them himself. Faced with the mountainous stack of books at home, Wang Chuanzhou was troubled. He distributed over 20 books to friends and relatives; aside from two family members who praised the writing, most recipients never mentioned the books again.
There were still over 900 books left, and giving them to acquaintances felt somewhat like showing off. He was also reluctant to ask his students to purchase them. After much deliberation, he decided to sell the books to "genuine readers."
Wang Chuanzhou recounted that when he announced his intention to sell the books, his family objected, believing that "setting up a stall in an era when print is in decline wouldn't be effective" and that "selling books was disgraceful." He too experienced "a great deal of inner turmoil."
He recalled that several times he left home to sell the books, only to turn back midway.
He chose to sell the books at a subway station because of the dense flow of people, unlike in squares where "people scatter in all directions," and because it was free from car exhaust pollution, making it possible to sell "throughout the whole year."
He mentioned that labeling the event as "Translator's Signature Promotion Session" was meant to draw the attention of passersby, providing a pretext to sell books. Often, he wasn't able to sell for long before the subway station staff would ask him to leave. He didn't take offense; if one location was off-limits, he would move to another. If selling was prohibited everywhere in one station, he would head to the neighboring Huangnibang subway station.
While selling books, Wang Chuanzhou enjoyed observing the passersby, most of whom appeared anxious and hurried. He encountered a university student ready to buy a book who, after half an hour, still couldn't comprehend its content. Wang Chuanzhou asked her what she was up to recently, and she responded that she was job-hunting, extremely stressed, and couldn't settle down to read.
Several bewildered young people hoped to find direction at his book stall. Wang Tong felt that employers don't nurture their employees, only caring about whether the work is completed. What saddened him more was that in all his years of working, no company had ever paid social insurance for him. Sometimes, his salary wasn't sufficient to cover his daily expenses. He regretted not studying hard during his high school years, leading to feelings of inferiority and depression.
Liu Si felt that no one could tell him "how life should be led." In college, he considered switching to a literature major but was uncertain about his future in that field. Considering his average family background, switching majors might mean taking on more risk, which his family might not understand, so he stuck with computer science. Now, he wanted to pursue literature but feared he couldn't sustain himself through writing.
Wang Chuanzhou sympathized with the two confused and conflicted young people. As part of the first batch of university students after the resumption of the National College Entrance Examination, he considered himself fortunate to have caught the wave of reform and opening up and the rise of joint ventures, which led him to a career in translation. "Whichever organization I approached needed my skills," he reflected. But now, university graduates face many uncertainties in finding employment.
In Wang Chuanzhou's view, the young people's confusion stems from "a lack of life's hardening," and it's also a consequence of education by schools and parents. "They're unwilling to do exhausting work, and the good jobs are inaccessible."
He encouraged young people to explore more paths. "If you don't explore, you could face mental health issues and head in a negative direction." He shared about a reader who, without a university education, went to Central Asia to mine. Another reader drove heavy trucks in Indonesia and earned a considerable income. "The world is vast; there are many ways for the youth to live their lives."
The message from Wang to the book purchaser: 只要努力，你就会成为你想成为的人 As long as you work hard, you will become the person you want to be.
Comments: Wang's journey reflects the profound impact of perseverance and the pursuit of one's passions, regardless of age or societal expectations. His influence as a mentor, extending beyond academia into the realms of personal ambition and determination, is a powerful reminder of the enduring significance of mentors in shaping lives and inspiring youth, who may be struggling in today's job market.
3.A bank employee born in the 1990s wins the Hugo Award: a financier by day, a writer by night 招商银行90后员工获得雨果奖：白天做金融 晚上写小说
Overview: 海涯 Hai Ya (which means sea and cliff in Chinese, a pen name), an employee of China Merchants Bank, won a Hugo Award, one of the highest awards in the world of science fiction on 21 October. His work "The Space-Time Painter" won the "Best Novelette Award" at the World Science Fiction Convention in Chengdu. He also became the third Chinese science fiction writer to win the Hugo Award for his work after Liu Cixin and Hao Jin.
The article comes from the WeChat blog of 中国基金报 China Fund, a newspaper that focuses on news from the financial world.
When I was a child, the bookstore in my hometown constructed a secret garden in my mind, to which only I had access. In this garden, science fiction was the most beautiful scenery. Now that I've left my hometown and embarked on an ordinary yet busy life in the big city, we must remain faithful to our dreams while dealing with reality.
Every day, I count my time and income. However, on my way home from work, amidst the daily overtime, I find a moment to gaze up at the starry sky. These were once two unrelated, parallel worlds, but here in Chengdu, they have merged, and my dreams have found their place in reality.
During an interview, Hai Ya said, "I have very little time to write a novel. It's normal for me to arrive home at 11 p.m. Even on weekends, I frequently work overtime. However, when I go home at night, I spend my time writing while others may on their phones or watch short videos. The discipline and sense of purpose I developed in my job have also helped me."
Hai Ya mentioned that due to a busy work schedule and other reasons, his writing speed is still slow, and it takes about two to three months to write 20,000 words. Self-discipline is his way of coping with a lack of time. He sets a writing plan in advance and follows it rigorously. “For example, if I decide to write 1,000 words today, I must write 1,000 words in full.”
Comments: Stereotype believes that people who deal with numbers every day, including financial workers, often lack humanistic feelings. But Hai Ya has proved with his actions that work and life hobbies can be two parallel lines that do not interfere with each other. In an interview, he mentioned that the origin of Hai Ya's pen name was the ancient poem "If you have friends who know your heart, distance cannot keep you apart", which implies empathy for every sci-fi fan.
4. Young lottery-buyers: dealing anxiety with controlled uncertainty 买彩票的年轻人：用确定的不确定性对抗焦虑
Overview: In the first half of 2023, lottery sales in China saw a significant increase. Young people have also started to view scratch-off lottery tickets as a trendy form of entertainment. But unlike the older players, they don't necessarily expect to get rich overnight by buying lottery tickets, but hope to ease the pressure of life in this way.
This article comes from the WeChat blog of 南方人物周刊 Nan Fang People, a magazine that records the people who have made a significant impact on China's progress and people's lives.
Many people lined up outside a sports lottery outlet
The latest data released by the Ministry of Finance on June 30 reveals that the total sales of lottery tickets from January to May are 225.17 billion yuan (about 30.78 U.S. dollars, representing a year-on-year growth of 50 percent. Notably, the sales of sports lottery and instant lottery tickets have been particularly remarkable. In May alone, the sales of instant lottery tickets reached 9.78 billion yuan, marking a 92.3 percent year-on-year increase.
彩票销量大增，有如下原因，一方面，这个是彩票销售为应对新冠疫情，加速拓展渠道，发掘新的购彩群体的结果；更是因为即开型彩票拥有投入相对较小、操作简单有趣、反馈即时的特点，在这轮社交网络的助推下，被包裹上新潮时尚的糖衣，为年轻群体提供了一个可以自主叠加短暂幻想的情绪出口。 The surge in lottery ticket sales can be attributed to the following reasons. On one hand, it is a result of the lottery industry's response to the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding distribution channels and finding potential lottery-buyers. Furthermore, it is due to the characteristics of instant lottery tickets, which require relatively small investments, simple rules, and immediate feedback. Fueled by the influence of social media, lotteries have become a fashionable product, serving as an outlet for young people to indulge in their momentary fantasies.
Although Lin Xia, a 25-year-old kindergarten teacher, has only been exposed to lottery tickets for a month, she admits feeling somewhat "addicted." On hot afternoons when she doesn't want to go out, she asks delivery guys to bring her a couple of lotteries on their way. The latest time was after 1 a.m. and the shops downstairs were closed, so Lin searched for other nearby lottery shops on the map and drove there with her friend.
Lin doesn't believe that her "addiction" is driven by a desire to strike it rich through lottery winnings. While the walls of the lottery store downstairs do display tickets of past customers who won big prizes, with the largest being 250,000 yuan, but Lin doesn't pay much attention to this. In the past month, the biggest prize she has witnessed someone redeem was 200 yuan. She wasn't sure if the little pieces of paper people glimpsed in the queue were just a promotional tool for businesses.
"I've never really thought about hitting the jackpot because the odds are too small, but I just can't control myself to buy it," says Lin. The most lucrative hours for the lottery shop downstairs are in the evening after work, where many young people gather to buy tickets. Lin, who works as a kindergarten teacher, can relate to this need for a form of stress relief.
However, what frustrates Lin is that this once "cost-effective" method of stress relief is now gradually pushing her budget limits. She says, "The store I frequently visit hasn't had 5 or 10 yuan scratch-off tickets for nearly two weeks now. Even buying single tickets starts at 20 yuan. If I buy two 50-yuan tickets, I might lose 100 yuan in no time. It's quite heartbreaking."
Lin asked the store owner about this, and the response was, "The cheaper ones are out of stock." She even began to suspect if this is a marketing strategy to lure people in with cheap scratch-off tickets, and and then raise the price when people are “hooked”.
Another disappointment for her is her recent bad luck. She says, "In the past, I used to win 10 or 25 yuan several times when I bought 5-yuan tickets, but my luck hasn't been good lately." Lin Xia did not calculate the input-output ratio of the past month on the lottery. She says, "If I keep buying and keep losing, at a certain point, I might just quit."
Comments: Although the lottery is not a new thing, the reason for this lottery boom is different from the past. For young people, buying a lottery ticket is not about getting rich overnight, but about quick and affordable self-satisfaction. This is similar to the "lipstick effect" mentioned in economics, that is, in times of economic downturn, lipstick, as a cheap luxury, can bring more psychological comfort to the buyer.
5. Beijing welcomes another golden fall 11月，北外含秋量100%
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
— John Keats, To Autumn
A soft crunch of the piles of leaves underfoot feels like fall in a way that few things do. This November, Beijing gets dressed in kaleidoscopic hues again. A palette of multi-shaded pink, red, orange and brown glows in the soft, sweet sunlight, alluring sightseers to a leisured city walk or an adventure into nature.
Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU), where one of GRR's co-editors lives and works, is not exempt from this golden dress code. This tiny but wondrous campus is now covered with honey and flame, perfect for these hardworking learners to take a promenade, enjoy an afternoon tea and spend their best time of youth.
The school library of BFSU, with the word "library" in hundreds of languages carved on the outer wall, is a must-see spot on the campus and the best location for viewing fall colors
Autumn leaves don't fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.
— Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing
For more photos, you can check out this WeChat blog of BFSU.