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[ By | 28 Jun 2009 | No Comment ]
Martial arts dreams: Qiu Bao endures despite tough conditions

In hopes of becoming the next Bruce Lee, 10-year-old Qiu Bao endures demanding training at the Zhao Changjun Wushu Institute, a martial arts school located in the suburbs of Xi’an. For Qiu and his classmates, the tough conditions represent a test of character in a hoped-for tradeoff for a better future.

With a half-dozen ceiling fans pushing around the hot, humid air in the school gymnasium, Qiu does his best to keep up with the grueling daily routine. He dashes down a strip of burgundy carpet, sweat pouring off his face, leaps in the air, sticks his landing and returns to the back of the line to repeat the process.

But the heat and exertion take their toll. During a subsequent drill, Qiu falls, hitting the ground with a loud thump. Hastily righting himself, he steals an apprehensive look at his two trainers. Then, in the last group routine before a break, he lags behind the other students, clearly exhausted, with bruises visible on his slim legs. Yet by the end of the drill, he manages to stand straight and tall, ultimately triumphing over his shortcomings… Shortcomings will have to disappear if Qiu hopes to ever prove that he can master this demanding vocation.

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[ By | 27 Jun 2009 | 2 Comments ]
China’s gay community: Despite promising steps, the road ahead remains uncertain

When Professor Gao Yanming began teaching at Fudan University’s School of Public Health 10 years ago, the idea of teaching a course with the word “homosexual” in the title was unthinkable. Today, however, Gao teaches “Homosexual Health and Social Science”– the first gay-related course to be offered at a Chinese university.

The reason for this dramatic turnaround is difficult to pinpoint, but people familiar with gay and lesbian issues in China – gay and straight, locals and foreigners – voice the opinion that the West’s increasing openness about LGBT people and culture has had an impact.

“You can’t deny that Western culture, which is always pushing the bar, has something to do with it,” said Chris Xu, a gay Shanghai man. “I doubt being gay in China would be any more accepted if America [had] made no progress for tolerance in the past couple of decades.” Ironically, homosexuality in China is celebrated in the country’s ancient art. . . .

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[ By | 5 Jun 2009 | No Comment ]
The Ragman cometh

Pick virtually any neighborhood in sprawling Beijing and you will find tricycles resembling miniature pickup trucks trundling down the narrow streets, stacked high with cardboard, plastic bottles, newspapers and other refuse. Each member of this ragtag fleet is on its way to a local recycling center somewhere – often little more than a cramped room where recyclables are processed. For the past 10 years, Shan Hong Jun has operated one such center on an alleyway off Houhai, a Beijing tourist district. But business has been difficult of late. . . .