Monthly Archives: February 2008

In Beijing


I’m here, alive and well. All of my blogs were inaccessible to me for the last few days, but for some reason I can get to them today. Hopefully, I will be able to post normally in future!

Beijing is great, as always. I haven’t ventured very far, only as far as Wudaokou, which is not very far at all. I was right to think that I would be snowed under by work; I can see this being the case for the next few weeks. Only after that is regular practice, and lessons, going to be likely – but by then, it might be warm enough… the transition from hot and humid Singapore to very cold and very dry Beijing always takes a while to recover from!

Category: Beijing



  • I have my visa. It says it’s valid for “000” days after my arrival in China. I will worry about this when I get there.
  • I am not packed, and I appear to be quite a bit over my weight allowance. I may worry about this only after I get to the airport; alternatively, I may have a panic attack tomorrow and just throw piles of clothing away on the basis that it will be cheaper to just buy new stuff once I arrive in Beijing. Actually, that’s probably true.
  • If my flight goes according to schedule (and I’m flying Garuda International [long story], so crashing and burning instead is a statistical possibility, if not likelihood), I will arrive in Beijing at approximately 8am. I have a staff meeting scheduled at 10am. The drive from the airport to Wudaokou takes approximately one hour.
  • Today was the final day of the Chinese New Year celebrations. I had intended to get a lot of packing and apartment cleaning done today, but I wound up following Chin Woo’s lion dancers around instead. I shot a lot of video, but the drumming was so loud in the enclosed mall spaces where they were performing that it completely overwhelmed the microphone on my camera, which recorded only static. A friend kindly gave me cotton wool to stuff in my ears; they still hurt, but without that cotton wool I think I might be deaf by now. Those drums are LOUD! Master Zhou turns out to be a lion dancer as well. They all switch around between playing the lion, beating the drums and cymbals, and so on. Some of the video is ok, even if the sound is fubar’d; I also got some good still shots. We ended up watching some other troupes perform in or around Keong Saik Road; one had a lion that did its dance while it clambered up a pole. The other had two lions, followed up with a (very good) dragon dance, and finished up with a flag dance – this being the kind of flag that’s about the size of a dinghy’s sail, and attached to a pole that the dancers balance on their chin, etc.
  • One of the Chin Woo lion dancers is the spirit medium I’ve previously mentioned. He had invited me to go to the temple with him over the festival period, to watch the spirit possessions, but I just didn’t have time. That’s a real pity; I know I will look back and regret it 🙁 Anyway,he mentioned that the General tried to possess him during on of the dances, but he managed to resist. (Don’t visualise the General as a warrior in armour; it turns out to be only a rank; I was told some more about his appearance, but I don’t feel I should repeat it – sorry!).

This, I guess, will be my last post on this blog for a while; I don’t know how long it will be before ‘I’m online in Beijing, and it will probably be a much longer time before I start doing martial arts stuff again… it’s COLD there these days, won’t be going outdoors to practice much! Still, keep an eye on this place, I’ll be back as soon as I can!

TCM and Alzheimer’s


Q: What’s the biggest obstacle to finding a possible cure for Alzheimer’s Disease?

A: The traffic in Shanghai.

Only a few days ago, I was writing about how Traditional Chinese Medicine has been found to be useful in IVF.

Today’s London Times has even bigger news: it’s very likely that TCM can help to treat, or even cure, Alzheimer’s Disease.

Key quotes for me:

“China is going like gang-busters, particularly if you’re thinking in terms of medicine and pharmaceuticals. In many cases their labs are as good, if not better, than labs here or in the US. A lot of Chinese scientists also are moving back. When you ask them why, they say it’s too good a place not to be right now.”


“I think it just takes a little bit of open-mindedness.”

There are two lessons here: first, China is going to be huge in the pharmaceuticals industry. Second, TCM may not be phrased in the language and concepts of Western medicine, but at some point the doubters will have to accept that the Chinese are neither stupid nor primitive and, over 4000 years of civilization, have actually learned something about treating disease and maintaining health. The fact that TCM uses a different paradigm does not invalidate it. Sadly, the vitriol has already begun to appear in the article’s comments section.

Heh. Although I have to give the Times kudos for publishing this article, I do have to wonder why it appeared in the Women’s section!

Category: Miscellaneous, TCM

Duxton Plain Park


I thought I ought to post a few pictures of where I’ve been practicing over the last two years… who knows when the next time will be!

Duxton Plain Park follows the path of an old railway line; it runs from near the port up into Chinatown, running parallel to Keong Saik Road. It’s split in the middle by Neil Road; an underpass connects the two parts of the park. These pictures were taken from the road.

This first picture shows the part where I’ve gone to practice solo. The concrete court at the centre of the photo is ‘my’ spot. The cats like it at night because the concrete retains warmth, which is why I often have to step over prostrate kittehs while I’m doing my taiji!


On the other side of the bridge is the area where Chin Woo practice. They have a sign on the bridge:


This last photo shows that side of the park. The area nearest the camera is the Chin Woo training ground; no-one else is allowed to practice martial arts there, including me! They’ve paid to have floodlights installed here, which are turned on when they are training (they’re not on in this shot). I have my baguazhang lessons with Master Zhou on this side as well, but right at the other end, outside the Chin Woo ‘zone’. The white ‘wall’ on the right is temporary, hiding a construction site where new public housing apartments are being built. By the time I get back from Beijing, they’ll probably be completed and occupied – and I expect the new residents will be complaining about Chin Woo’s drumming 😉


Sorted for visa…


Well, after the alarm of yesterday, I went back to the embassy to try and clarify the situation. I was there just after 8am; they open at 9, but I was determined to be early this time! There were only a dozen or so people there before me, so I got served pretty quickly when they did open.

I think that the woman I dealt with yesterday must have been in a really bad mood or something. The young lady I spoke to today couldn’t have been more helpful. Yes, there is a form; I could get a copy from the reception desk. The examination could only be done at Singapore General Hospital. It would be ready for collection in the middle of next week, which would mean coming to apply for the visa on Thursday – the day before I fly – and paying a bit extra for same-day processing… She told that when I did come back, I should come straight to her window, no need to take a ticket and wait! Oh, and the scanned copies of the documents would be fine, no problem at all. (Although, having spoken to the university yesterday, the originals are already on their way with Fedex).

She even suggested that it might be easier for me if I just go to Beijing on a tourist visa, and get it converted to a working visa after I get there – and get the medical check done there as well. Perhaps this is what the university meant…

Still, I’m not really keen on assuming that would go smoothly – the last thing I would want is to be stuck in China unable to work because of some problem…. Plus, when it comes to medical issues, I want to be sure I can communicate fluently with the doctor (not that I anticipate any problem, but still…) So, I headed straight to SGH (which is just around the corner from my apartment) and got the checkup done there and then. It’ll be ready next Wednesday, and maybe sooner.

Relief… what a pity I got someone so unhelpful yesterday!

Category: Blogging, Miscellaneous



Since I’ll be working for a university in China, I need to get a working visa, category Z. The people in Beijing sent me scanned copies of my formal invitation letter, and of the ‘Foreign Expert’ document. I also need a medical certificate, but they just said I could get that sorted out when I get there.

So, yesterday I went to the Chinese Embassy. It was the first day that they were open after the Chinese New Year holiday, so it was very crowded. On top of that, the woman who was giving out the queue tickets must have chosen one from the bottom of the pile – I was waiting for a couple of hours, by which time most of the hundreds of other people had gone.

When I got to the window, I was told that I need the original documents, not scanned copies. Plus I have to get the medical examination done here, and I can’t get the visa unless I include a medical certificate with my application.

Off I go to my doctor. What, he asks, is the medical certificate supposed to say? Good question, that. I’d assumed – this being Singapore, with people going to and from China all the time – that he would know, and that it would be a fairly easy procedure. Apparently not, though. Hours of Googling simply inform me that there’s no standard form, and only give me a few ideas of what it’s meant to say. Nobody answers the phone at the embassy when I call to ask them.

I contact Beijing. Oh, they say, the embassy in Singapore must be very strict; most of their foreign teachers, coming from Western countries, don’t have this problem. They all get their medicals done in Beijing.

But, they can’t tell me either exactly what I’m meant to say in this medical certificate. I assume it’s to show no HIV/AIDS, and no TB; that’s what Google suggests. Time is short, though, and I don’t want to turn up next week with an invalid certificate, have more problems at the Embassy, and find myself visaless.

So, it’s back to the Embassy this morning, to queue again (hopefully not for so long today) and clarify this. Then back to the doctor….

Category: Beijing, Miscellaneous

69. Those who aid and deliver

Those who aid and deliver the suffering are bodhisattvas, and those in the throes of suffering are great bodhisattvas.

Master Sheng Yen.

Category: 108 paths, Buddhism, Ch'an

TCM, acupuncture and IVF


A lot of people I knew in the UK were extremely sceptical about Chinese medicine – and that’s putting it politely. The Observer, a Sunday broadsheet newspaper, ran a column on TCM for a couple of years, written by Stephen Russell under the pseudonym ‘Barefoot Doctor‘. He didn’t do the cause much good, as you’ll see if your read the wikipedia article, but his column was actually pretty good – but caused much hilarity amongst some of my friends, who found ideas such as “the eyes are the flower of the liver” to be preposterous…

It seems that TCM is actually gaining more credibility in the West, though. When I went back to visit my parents after several years away from the UK, I was astonished to see a TCM herbal medicine store on Cardiff’s main shopping street (I didn’t think to ask at the time who their market was, though).

Today’s Times also has a really interesting piece – apparently, acupuncture can raise the success rate of IVF by 65%.

Raffles Hospital here in Singapore is also now pioneering a lot of TCM treatments, using China-trained physicians – which is perhaps a bit of a turnaround, as Western medicine has always been Singapore’s preferred standard.

This is a trend to watch; I wonder if we will in the future see qigong treaments becoming more widespread?

Category: Qigong, TCM


Happy New Year


新年快乐, everybody!

The Straits Times today described the incoming year of the Rat as “a year of renewal, a year in which it is good to embark on change. Or  change of direction“.

Well, I hope so. Today I paid for my flight to Beijing. I’m on leave for most of the next two weeks, during which time I’ll be frantically preparing for the new job – and, in addition, trying to sort out what I’ll be doing when I come back to Singapore in the summer!

I’m really looking forward to spending time back in the ‘Jing; apart from the job, I hope to use it to effect a general repositioning career-wise… I hope the year of the (Stainless Steel?) Rat will be auspicious!

Category: Beijing, Change

68. As long as we still have breath


As long as we still have breath, we have boundless hope, and the breath we have is the greatest wealth.

Master Sheng Yen

Category: 108 paths, Buddhism, Ch'an