Beijing has a variety of delicious foods waiting to be consumed. While some have a reputation of having tasty dishes, others maintain well-hidden and yet to be discovered. With thousands of restaurants in the city, ranging from little no-name stalls like xiaochi’s(小吃), literally meaning “Little Eats” to well-known chains like Haidilao (海底劳), Beijing offers countless options, both domestic and international.

So when it comes to writing about what to eat in Beijing, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Since most of us live in Haidian District, the foods I will be mentioning are not only worth a try, but are also relatively close to your home. Due to the massive surface area that is considered Beijing city, these places are in no means “conveniently” located and at most, require some form of public transportation and like all cities, a bit of walking. Below is a short-list of restaurants and descriptions of various Chinese cuisines.

Served in a pineapple!

Yunnan Cuisine – Known for its usage of southeast Asian spices such as red chilies and lemongrass, Yunnan food varies quite far from your typical Chinese food. From pineapple rice to fish cooked in a banana leaf, Yunnan food experiments with various flavors in their dishes that you may not be able to try outside of China. In addition, their “Under the Bridge” glass noodles (过桥米线)are great for Beijing’s cold and dry winter. (Note: Not every Yunnanese restaurant has “Under the Bridge” noodles! Make sure to check out their menu first.)

Best around: Dali Renjia 大理人家, (80 Baochao Hutong, Dongcheng, Beijing, China)
Local alternative: Golden Phoenix 金孔雀德宏傣家风味餐厅, (Weigong Street, China, Beijing, Haidian)

Stir-fry galore. YUM!

Sichuan Cuisine – Ever eaten “Kung Pao chicken?” Well, it originates from China’s southwestern province of Sichuan. If you are a “spicy” enthusiast, you cannot leave the country without having tried Sichuan food. Often referred to as, “Sze-chuaun” in most places outside of China, the cuisine is known for their bold flavors including those derived from garlic, star anise, scallion, chili oil, and chili peppers – specifically the infamous Sichuan pepper, or Huajiao (花椒).To give you an idea how spicy it is, truck drivers who often work around the clock chew on huajiao to stay alert. No need for caffeine here!

My personal favorite part of Sichuan cuisine is Malaxiangguo (麻辣香锅),which is basically hot pot, without the soup. You get to pick all the ingredients and the degree of spiciness you want. The kitchen throws it all together in a big wok, adds all the Sichuan spices, and serves it in a huge bowl.

Best around: Chuanban (5 Gongyuan Toutiao, Jianguomennei Dajie, near Chang’an Grand Theater). This restaurant is affiliated with the Sichuan Provincial Government Office and is known for its authenticity and spiciness. Using imported ingredients from the home province, this place is voted high for being one of the top Sichuan restaurant in Beijing.
Local alternative: Spice Spirit (麻辣诱惑)and Lao Che Ji(老车记) – Both restaurants are chains. The closest Spice Spirit to the school is on the 5th floor of the Xizhimen Mall, where the Xizhimen subway station is also located. The nearest Lao Che Ji is on the 5th floor of the U-Center Mall in Wudaokou.

More chuar, please.

Xinjiang/Uyghur Cuisine – As a highly Muslim-populated province, the food is predominantly halal, making Xinjiang cuisine truly unique to its region. The food is characterized by mutton, beef, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, peppers, chicken, and spices including cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper, and sultana. On the streets of Beijing, you’ll often see a red neon sign for kebabs in Chinese, chuan串. This is one of Xinjiang cuisine’s primary dishes. Because Uyghurs traditionally eat with their hands, instead of chopsticks, their primary staple is naan, a type of Central-Asian-style baked flatbread.

Best around: Crescent Moon 弯弯月亮 (16 Dongsi Liutiao, Dongcheng District, 东城区东四北大街六条16号)

Xinjiang restaurants are everywhere if you look carefully. The closest one to me is downstairs from my apartment complex, but it’s quite small and overpriced. So here is the alternative I would choose:

The Muslim Canteen (穆思林餐厅) at the Beijing Language and Culture University also known as BLCU. 15 Xueyuan Lu, Haidian District (inside BLCU south gate and to the left),海淀区学院路15号(北京语言大学内)

Are you drooling yet?

Cantonese Cuisine – If you have eaten in a Chinatown in a big North American city such as New York City or Toronto, you most likely had Cantonese food. Unlike Sichuan or Yunnan cuisine, Cantonese food relies primary on the flavors of the main ingredients, rather than spices. Cantonese food ranges from slow-cooked soups to dim sum (点心), which literally translates to “touch your heart.” These hearty dishes are usually bite-sized portions; they are designed as such so a person can taste a variety of dishes including turnip cakes, dumplings, barbecue pork buns among other delicious treats. It is customary for Cantonese people to get dim sum and drink tea with their family and friends. This is known as “yum cha,” literally meaning “drink tea” in Cantonese.

A lot of the hotels in Beijing have Cantonese food, but most of them are insanely overpriced and at the end of the day, not really worth it.

Best around: Lei Garden (3/F, Jinbao Tower, 89 Jinbao Jie, 金宝街89号金宝大厦3层)

I’ve yet to try this place out because it’s in the Wangfujing area; however, many expat magazines and websites have rated this as one of the top places to go for dim sum, which is offered daily from 11:30AM to 2:00PM. Due to its popularity, you may want to make a reservation before heading here for the weekend.

Local alternative: Yue (粤) at the Sheraton Hotel (36 North Third Ring East Road, Dongcheng District, Beijing)
Although this place is by no means close to my home, I am willing to go a little farther for good dim sum. Being a Hongkie, I am quite picky about the quality of Cantonese food and am willing to travel a bit. While Yue is by no means the best in town, it has good quality food because it is inside a 4-star hotel. On the weekends, Yue offers an all-you-can-eat dim-sum buffet for 123 RMB. The amount served is usually based on the number of people in your party. So 2 people = 2 BBQ pork buns. This way, you don’t waste food! When you’re finished, just order more! The catch is the price of the beverages. Water is free, but be careful because there is a 15% surcharge for drinks. The last time I went, they had a special on tea: 10 RMB/person for 1 pot + the surcharge. Yum cha isn’t really the same without the tea….so treat yo’ self!

Since Beijing’s specialty dishes and restaurants are deserving of its own post, you will have to wait to read about it. If you have been wanting to learn Chinese or brush up on your reading skills, here’s your chance.

Looking for food?

The website www.dianping.com is China’s version of Yelp! It has listings of restaurants by cuisine and by area in addition to hotels, shops, cafes, among others places of leisure and entertainment. It also provides important information including a restaurant’s phone number, delivery number, address, map, and reviews. It’s quite helpful when you want to try something new. If anything, it’s an incentive to learn Chinese!


Spring is finally here and despite the occasional high pollution levels, Beijing is quite beautiful during this time of year. With leaves turning green and flowers blossoming, the sky is filled with white cotton fuzz. Beijing is known for its “Spring Snow.” Shortly after World War II, the government planted hundreds of poplar and willow trees because of their fast growth, heartiness, and ability to help reduce air pollution. These trees also grow well in Beijing’s dry climate. For those with bad allergies, the spring snow makes a second come back in May, releasing what are known as “willow catkins.” So beware! Although this year’s winter was more bearable, many of the old and the young stayed indoors. With temperatures rising up to the high 70s already, the streets are filled with people, especially on the weekends.

If you’re planning to do something for the upcoming weekends, this post will give you some ideas for places to shop until you drop. In the bustling capital of China, Beijing is known for its abundance of delightful shopping areas. However, they are known for their narrow aisles and lack of good air ventilation. Please be aware of  these factors before you enter a market! 

A search on Google will bring you to the more touristy places including Yaxiu [or Yashow] Market, Silk Street, Market, and Hong Qiao (Pearl Market) among various others. However, the vendors at these places expect foreigners and will make bargaining more difficult. On the other hand, I have an expat friend that swears by the Silk Market due to her long-term relationship with specific vendors. That said, below are markets that are frequently visited by locals and are lesser known to foreigners. 

The Zoo Wholesale Market (动物园服装批发市场) – Conveniently located across The Beijing Zoo, the Zoo Market is very popular among locals. Since it is a wholesale market comprised of 7 separate markets, many of the vendors from the more touristy markets get their products from here! The most popular ones are Julong, Tuanlegong, and Shiji Tianle. It is highly advisable to go on a weekday or very early in the morning on a weekend. This market sells everything from clothes, bags, shoes, to accessories for men and women. It is rumored that the Zoo Market will be relocated soon due to the overcrowding and traffic jams in the area. So it’s best to check it out soon!

Hours: 9:00AM-4:30Pm
Directions: Take subway line 4 to Beijing Zoo Station. Take Exit C and walk east about 100m towards KFC and McDonald’s.

Wudaokou Market (五道口服装市场) – Wudaokou is the heart of the university area, which means a cheap shopping place must be close-by. The market has four floors and is packed with a variety of trendy clothing. Many of the funky and flashier styles have been adapted from Korean and/or Japanese designs.  They offer clothing, undergarments, shoes, bags, accessories, cosmetics, and household trinkets. They’re expecting foreign students so make sure to bargain!

Hours: 9:00AM – 7:30PM
Directions: Take subway line 13 to Wudaokou Station. Take any exit and head northeast. It is on a the corner of Xueyuan Lu and Beisihuan Lu.(学院路和北四环路十字路口的东北角)

Xidan Commercial Street (西单商业街) – Xidan is one of Beijing’s most popular places for shopping because it’s a commercial and business center. It is an area jam-packed with malls, markets, restaurants, and of course, tons of people! This area alone can take you days to cover all of its grounds. So don’t be disappointed if you haven’t seen it all! After reading a few reviews, it seems the Minority World Market (西单明珠商场) is one of the more popular destinations. Don’t be fooled by the name; there are actually no ethnic goods sold here. It is actually a five-story market packed with clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, and of course, trinkets.

Hours: 9AM-7PM
Directions: Take subway line 1 or 4 to the Xidan Station. Take Exit A and walk approximately 5 minutes towards the Xidan Square, between 77th Street Plaza and Xidan Shopping Center (西单民族大世界商场, 西城区西单广场绿地北侧(77街和西单购物中心之间.

Panjiayuan Antiques Market a.k.a. the Dirt Market (潘家园旧货市场 ) -This massive, open air market sells everything from porcelain china, vintage photographs to life-sized statues. At 48,500 square meters, it is no surprise that it houses over 3,000 stalls and is one of the biggest markets in China and most likely, Asia.

It is very difficult to tell the difference between a fake product and a real one. Again, be sure to bargain hard! I found this website particularly helpful and informative in regards to bargaining and avoiding fakes.

Hours: Monday – Friday (8:30AM-6:00PM); Saturday & Sunday (4:30AM-6:00PM)
Directions: Take subway Line 10 to Panjiayuan Station. Walk east of the Panjiayuan Bridge on the Third Ring Road for approximately 100 meters. It is just east of Longtan Park.

For your convenience,  I have also provided some tips that you may want to be mindful of in order to make your experience more enjoyable!

  • Bring cash because most places do not take credits cards. Make sure you have some change so you do not need to pay vendors with 100 RMB bills.
  • Bargain for everything. – Try not to mentally convert prices into USD or CND! Prices will always be lower than prices back home. Always bargain for the “best” or “lowest” price.
  • Bring your own shopping bags; the bags that vendors often provide are cheap and prone to fall apart.
  • Beware of pickpockets; markets are infamous for inexperienced shoppers. For women, make sure your bag is closed at all times. For men, make sure to put your wallet in a safe pocket.
  • Keep in mind that the items at the markets are often reproductions, counterfeit, or pirated. If you are paying 60 RMB (around 10 USD) for a cardigan, it is highly unlikely that it is Zara.
  • Most “antiques” or “vintage” items are reproductions of the real thing.
  • You may want to learn simple Chinese phrases like “How much money?”, “What is your lowest/best price?” and numbers beforehand because most vendors will not speak English. The other option is to take someone who speaks Chinese. 
  • Go with an open-mind and low expectations. Going to a shopping market in Beijing is truly a cultural experience. You may be stared at for your foreign features and inability to speak Chinese. Don’t see it as an offense; people are merely intrigued and curious. They just express it differently.
  • Most importantly, have fun!

Welcome back to Beijing, everyone!

With a month of R&R under our belts, some of you may be looking to get back into a regular workout routine. With the pollution above 200 for the past 2 weeks, it is recommended to avoid outdoor activities. That said, we want to deter from seasonal affective disorder and stay healthy, active, and social. Although there are hundreds of places you can go to in Beijing for a good workout, the places and the people I am recommending are mainly for the teachers in the housing provided by the school.


Maya Does Yoga – As most of you may know, one of own Carden staff members is a 200-hour certified yoga instructor. This past winter vacation, Maya received her teacher training in New Zealand and will be opening up classes in her home. Maya’s classes are dynamic and fun. She concentrates on the importance of the fundamentals of yoga in hopes to provide her students with a strong foundation and an acute awareness of their bodies. With a focus on alignment, Maya takes the time to explain each asana (pose) and to make adjustments when necessary. Her classes are suitable to people of all levels, from beginners who are merely curious to intermediates who are looking to build strength and gain flexibility. Her studio is clean, spacious, and often smells of relaxing essential oils. It also comfortably holds up to 8 people and is conveniently located in Wudaokou.

For more information, email her directly.
Email: mayadoesyoga@gmail.com
Times: 5:30-7:00 (M, T, Th, and F)


International Beijing Shuai Jiao Martial Arts Club – 

Shuai jiao (摔跤 or 摔角) is the general Mandarin Chinese term used today for any form of wrestling, both inside and outside of China. There are various styles of Chinese wrestling, but the Beijing style stems from the Manchu Buku style that was practiced by the Imperial Guards Brigade who were responsible for protecting the Emperor and the royal family during the Qing Dynasty. The main characteristic of the Beijing style is the use of the legs to kick and off-balance opponents, and the use of arm locks.

The best part of the club is not only the company of some of our wonderful Carden staff members, but also Coach Liu Zu Guang. Coach Liu is a five-time consecutive winner of the Beijing city championship in the heavyweight division. If this isn’t enough to convince you to at least try it out, then you should check out some of the photos and videos on their Facebook website. Coach Liu’s mastery of the sports’ technique and ability to effectively teach them has gained international attention. Last spring, he and two members of the Beijing club were invited to lead a seminar in Athens, Greece for the Greek Shuai Jiao Union. This spring, they will be returning to Athens to lead a few public seminars, as well as private teacher trainings.

Location: Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU or 北京语言大学)
Time: 5:00-7:30PM (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays)
Website: https://www.facebook.com/InternationalBeijingShuaiJiaoMartialArtsClub?ref=br_tf


Yoga with Yonnie – Yonnie is Beijing’s only registered Yoga Alliance 500-hour yoga instructor. Her dedication and passion for yoga is evident in her continual training in India, where she travels every 6 months. Yonnie is sensitive to others’ needs and will cater your weekly practices accordingly. Her knowledge of human anatomy and physiology is vast; she will always give you an extensive answer to your question. If you thought yoga equated to merely stretching, think again my friends. Her classes will challenge you and make you aware of muscles you never knew existed! For those interested in yoga therapy, she also offers private classes (individual or group) and can tailor them to suit your body. With a maximum of 6 people in a class, Yonnie gives you the full attention that your body deserves.

She was also recently featured in Beijing’s Time Out magazine for tips on relieving back and shoulder pain.Check it out.

For more info, contact her directly.
Website: www.yonniefung.com
Email: yogawithyonnie@gmail.com


Zumba with Terry – I have seen several adds for this Zumba class in Beijing’s City Weekend. For those of you who don’t know what Zumba is, it is a dance fitness program incorporating dance and aerobic elements. Zumba exploded in popularity in the mid 2000s; According to the official Zumba Fitness website, “approximately 14 million people take weekly Zumba classes in over 140,000 locations across more than 185 countries.” Even the First Lady Michelle Obama has included Zumba into her Let’s Move campaign. 

Time: 6:50PM (every Friday)
Location: Peking University, No.5 Yiheyuan Road
Fee: FREE to the public!



For those of you living in school provided housing, there are gyms close to your neighborhood. Some of you may not have noticed it or have had issues communicating with the staff due to limited Chinese. Below are either gym names or locations that you may want to check out for monthly/yearly memberships.

For teachers living in 曙光花园 (Shuguang Huayuan) or 金牙园 (Jinyayuan), here are two options:

  1. 顶级健身 (Dingji Fitness) – This gym is located in the Shuguang Huayuan complex.
    Location:  望河园 (Wangheyuan) Building 5
    Contact number: +86 10 8845 8080
    Map: https://plus.google.com/109075145261689451005/about?gl=US&hl=en
  2. 十二星座健身俱乐部(Twelve Stars Gym) – This gym is located just north of the Jinyayuan complex.
    Location: Inside the Chengpinjianzhu complex 诚品建筑小区.

For teachers living by the 金源新燕沙购物中心 (Golden Resources Mall), here is the main option:

Check the 6th floor of the mall for 红人运动俱乐部. According to some veteran teachers, this gym has a much nicer space and has better equipment. However, it is also more expensive than the others that I have mentioned.

Most of these gyms also have a swimming pool. You can either sign up for a gym membership including access to the  pool or you can sign up just to swim. It typically costs anywhere from 40-70 RMB per swim and access to the locker room. I personally prefer the BLCU one due to its chlorine level and length (25 meters).

Many of our veteran teachers who live in the area probably have a gym membership. Don’t be afraid to ask them about it! They can give you their personal review of the place and a general idea of where it is located.

SO there is no excuse not to get on a mat, get on a treadmill, or jump into a pool! Spring is approaching and in order to stay healthy, exercise is the key!


Happy New Year everyone and welcome to 2014!

December is one of the busiest months at Carden China. In preparations for the annual Christmas ceremony, staff-wide Christmas dinner, Secret Santa, and other festivities, the Chinese and foreign staff have been very preoccupied. The holiday season has come and gone quickly. With Chinese New Year around the corner, everyone is now preparing for their month long vacation. Many of the foreign teachers travel to Southeast Asia to escape from Beijing’s dry and cold climate and of course, the cacophony of fireworks. Others return to North America to visit family and friends. Unlike the majority of schools in China, our department offers time off before and after the duration of Chinese New Year (CNY), which lasts approximately 15 days.

The Chinese have traditionally used the lunisolar calendar to determine the dates of CNY each year. Because CNY is dependent on the winter solstice, it usually falls on the second new moon, between January 20 and February 21. New Year festivities traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue till the fifteenth. CNY is celebrated in various places including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, various Chinatowns, and other countries that have a large population of Chinese people.

This year Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is on Friday, January 31st. The year 4712 begins the Year of the Horse. Those born in a horse year are said to be “cheerful, skillful with money, perceptive, witty, talented and good with their hands.” (http://www.infoplease.com/spot/chinesenewyear1.html).

The image of the horse is drawn using the traditional Chinese character for horse (馬).


In my family, it is tradition that we read everyone’s fortune aloud to see what the new year will bring. Usually these readings are excerpts of books written by famous Chinese fortune-tellers who use Bazi (八字), a method that takes the hour of one’s birth, day, month, and year to calculate their fate.  This method is also often used by Chinese matchmakers to determine peoples’ wedding dates.

Every family has created their own regional customs and traditions. One of the most important traditions is to gather together with your family for the reunion dinner on the evening preceding Chinese New Year’s day. Food has always been an important part of my family and it is an essential part of the celebration of the new year. Almost every dish at the table is symbolic of something. Noodles symbolize longevity; Fish is eaten because the Chinese word for it  (yu), sounds similar to the word for “abundance” and “wealth”; Chicken is also popular because it symbolizes a happy marriage and the coming together of families. It is also usually served whole because chicken is viewed as an amalgamation of the dragon and the phoenix, emphasizing family unity. Dinner is also usually eaten on a round table with a Lazy Susan because the circular shape represents unity in Chinese culture.

It is also traditional for families to thoroughly cleanse the house before New Year’s day to get rid of any lingering ill-fortune. However, on New Year’s day and the following days, it is inadvisable to clean again because the new year brings in good luck.

Always use two hands to receive a red envelope or YOU WILL BRING DISHONOR TO YOUR FAMILY. (Seriously)

According to Chinese folklore and legend, red symbolizes vitality and the element of “fire”; with this energy, one can drive away bad luck. Thus, during CNY, people typically wear red clothes; it is also customary to wear new clothes to represent a clean slate, the beginning of a new year. In addition, red envelopes are passed out because it is viewed as “lucky money.” People are given red envelopes until they are married. Once married, he or she is then responsible for handing out red envelopes to others.

Here in Beijing, regulations in regards to fireworks are rarely enforced, especially around the holiday. Fireworks are constantly lit and can be heard most of the day. It is an ancient custom rooted in the belief that the crackling flames and the sound would drive away evil spirits.

On the  fifteenth day of the first lunar month, the lantern festival is held. Although it is the last day of CNY, it is also the first full moon of the year. Lanterns come in different shapes and sizes. They are customarily red; but growing up in Hong Kong, I can fondly remember my plastic cartoon dragon lantern – powered by a battery. People would walk around the neighborhood with lanterns, spend time with their families and gaze upon the beautiful full moon.

Lanterns, everywhere!

On this day, it is also tradition to eat rice dumplings, known as yuanxiao or tangyuan. These glutinous rice dumplings are composed of glutinous rice flour with various fillings. The most common filling is sesame paste, which is made with ground black sesame seeds mixed with sugar and lard. It can be boiled, fried, or steamed. The word tangyuan has a similar pronunciation with tuanyuan, which means “reunion.” Again, we see the symbolic meaning of food and its importance to the Chinese. People eat them not only because they represent union and harmony, but also because they are delicious!  (My sister begs to differ and refused to eat them while growing up, breaking my poor grandma’s heart because she made them from scratch.)

It’s an acquired taste.

As for me, I’m the rebellious one in the family and will not be going to Hong Kong or America to visit my family. Instead, I will be traveling to Vietnam and enjoying some delicious pho, Vietnamese coffee, beach weather, and of course, the company of good friends.

Safe travels to those who are leaving the country! For those who are staying, I urge you to enjoy and partake in the Chinese New Year festivities! Wear red, buy some fireworks, and eat some tangyuan!

Enjoy your vacation and see you in the Year of the Horse,



Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” During the process of learning Chinese, it is good to keep this quote in mind. Like most languages, Chinese is not something you pick up in a day, a week, or even a month. It takes a lot of patience and discipline.

Many new teachers this year have asked me about places to study Chinese in Beijing. Since most Chinese people do not speak English, learning basic conversational Chinese is important and very helpful. Luckily, the subway system has romanticized pinyin to help foreigners get to the places they need to be; however, other forms of public transportation such as buses and taxies have not yet adopted pinyin. When studying Chinese, I recommend learning simple conversational terms and phrases using pinyin. Once you get a feel for the language, studying will get easier. If you are determined to learn the language, then you can progress into learning the characters, grammar structures, and all that jazz.

The Chinese language has many different varieties, of which Mandarin is one. Mandarin is also known as “Putonghua” (Common Language) or “Guoyu” (National Language). It is the official language of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan).  Chinese is often perceived by native speakers as dialects of a single Chinese language. However, many linguists and sinologists consider this to be incorrect because most the Chinese “dialects” are mutually intelligible due to differences in pronunciation, grammar, and lexicon.  Therefore, the varieties of the Chinese language can technically be defined as separate languages. For example, Cantonese – the lingua franca of Guangdong Province, Hong Kong, and Macau has nine tones and is typically written in traditional Chinese. On the contrary, Mandarin only has four tones and is written in simplified Chinese.

The Origin and Evolution of Chinese Characters

The Origin and Evolution of Chinese Characters

The following methods to studying Chinese that I am recommending will teach the standardized form of Chinese – Putonghua and its written form, Zhongwen.

1-on-1 Tutoring

If you want the full attention of your teacher, the best way to learn Chinese is to find a native Chinese speaker who is willing to tutor you. In the past, many of our Chinese teachers at school have done 1-on-1 tutoring with our foreign teachers. If you have already built a good rapport with your TA, you should ask her if she has free time to tutor you. If she does not have time, you can also check out the Classified section under The Beijinger (http://www.thebeijinger.com). Many foreigners and Chinese people create a profile and use this website as a platform to communicate. Some of our foreign staff have found their tutors and language partners using this website. Another way to find tutors is to check foreign areas for advertisements. Wudaokou’s Bridge Cafe always has fliers on their bulletin board. Compensation is dependent on your personal preferences. For example, if your tutor is meeting you in your home, it is likely she will ask for a little more. However, if you are willing to compromise regarding the location, the average rate is approximately 60 RMB per hour. This price is negotiable and is not a standard rate.

Language Partners

If you would like this to be a reciprocal experience, you can always try finding a language partner. While tutoring requires a fee, having a language partner is free. The exchange is your knowledge of English as a native speaker. It is reciprocal 1-on-1 tutoring. There is always someone out there who wants to learn English as much as you want to learn Chinese. Beijing is a city of about 20.7 million people; you are sure to find a language partner if you put in the effort. Again, check the Beijinger and foreign areas for posts. Chinese Teachers might also be interested in this form of cultural exchange as many of them want to continue their studies in the English language. As always, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Global Village School, Wudaokou, Haidian District   

Global Village is a popular Chinese language learning school in Wudaokou; this area has the largest population of university students in Beijing. The school is Korean-owned and is very accommodating to foreigners. Some of their office representatives can speak basic English and can help you sign up for classes. It is located just west of the Wudaokou subway stop on the south side of Chengfu Road. If you copy and paste the Chinese characters for the name of the school, a google map will pop up. Make sure the school is in Haidian District because the other one is located across town in Chaoyang District’s Wangjing. Most of their classes are around 35 RMB per drop-in class. However, if you sign up for 10 or more classes, each class is only 30 RMB. If you notify them of your absence in advance (around 24-hours), they allow their students to make-up their sessions in another class or in the same class scheduled at a different time. If you do not notify them at all, you lose the 30 RMB and cannot make it up. If you are new to the school, they also give you a free class. This way, you can observe their teacher’s methods, the class size, and get a good feel for their classes before paying for a packaged deal. They are fairly strict about these policies and abide by them carefully.


Look for this logo when you enter the building.

For beginners, their lessons are paced fairly fast. So, if you are looking to do only one class a week, I would not recommend taking beginners’ classes here because it would require much catching up on the side. For people who want structure, consistency, and more discipline for their studies, Global Village can provide that for you. I would recommend trying their free class and seeing it for yourself.

I personally very much enjoyed the Advanced Reading class; we read the daily newspaper and discussed the jargon, the content of the articles, and its relevance to present day Chinese society. The teacher was well-versed in media jargon and was very helpful when presented with questions. He was informative and gave profound insight into the part of Chinese society that foreigners rarely see. With a consistent group of students in class, he opened up to us and shared his raw opinion about the Chinese government. He is one of the most educated and non-PC people that I have met in Beijing. Since I have not taken the other language classes, I cannot speak for them. However, I have based these evaluations from other foreign teachers’ experiences at the school.

1on1 Mandarin,
Wudaokou, Haidian District

1on1 Mandarin is a Chinese language school located in the same building as The Global Village School. I first heard about this school at one of Beijing’s expat career fairs. The school is managed by foreigners from the UK and the US.  Their website is not only in English, but they also provide their contact information, directions, and all the relevant information you need to know to get started. Although their rate is quite high, they arrange everything for you. In addition, they offer four different types of classes: One on one Chinese class, Friends Chinese class, Door to Door Chinese class, and Skype Chinese class.

For more information regarding this school, check out their website at http://www.1on1mandarin.com


Some of 1 on 1 Mandarin’s staff members

Culture Yard, Shique Hutong, Dongcheng District    

Culture Yard is not only a language school, it is also a cultural center. They offer space “for filmmakers to present their films and engage in conversations with the audience.” They have movie nights every month with an entry fee between 30-60 RMB. Their center is unique because it is located in the heart of Beijing, in a quaint hutong off of Line 5’s Beixinqiao Station. They cater to all levels of Chinese and offer different level group courses including Intensive Courses, Evening Courses, Chinese Through Media Courses, Survival Courses, Characters Course, and Individual Chinese Classes. Please check out their foreign-friendly website for the details: http://cultureyard.net/homepage/

There are clearly numerous schools to choose from in Beijing. The list would go on forever if I had to write about all of them. Please check The Beijinger and the City Weekend magazines if you want to learn more about the variety of language schools around the big city. You can find these magazines in Sanlitun’s Element Fresh restaurant, Wudaokou’s LUSH cafe, and other places geared towards foreigners. Each school offers a different environment and caters to all levels of Chinese. What defines a good program or an effective learning method is really dependent on your personal preferences and the time you put into studying.

This is an exciting time for you as you begin your first steps in learning a new language. While you are here, why not pick up an extra skill?

Fun fact: About one-fifth of the world’s population speaks some form of Chinese as their first language. 

The good news is, your days of pantomiming will soon be over!

Best of luck to you and your journey of a thousand miles,

As the season begins to change, germs start to make their way into warm homes, such as our bodies. Since many of our foreign staff are getting sick, I felt the need to share some of my remedies because there is medicine readily available at your local pharmacy and you might not even know it! When we get sick, our first instinct is to turn to our go-to meds and comfort foods. It’s what we know and how we handle things when we are home. However, part of the living abroad experience is to get ourselves out of that comfort zone and try new things. Being sick and how we handle it is definitely part of that too.

The truth is, you will get sick in Beijing. No matter how much you much Vitamin-C you intake or how much Purell you use on your hands, every child is a disease bag and sickness is simply inevitable. For those of you who are the exception and have amazing immune systems, you can stop reading now because none of this applies to you!

As a Hongkie (a person who originated from Hong Kong), I was brought up with a mixture of Chinese and Western medicine. I never truly appreciated my knowledge of Chinese remedies until I came to Beijing. It was such a relief to recognize something amid the many bottles and boxes. However, incoming foreigners are now in luck! Over the three and a half years that I’ve been here, there has been a significant increase of Western goods at local pharmacies and even supermarkets.

Here are some of my tips and Chinese alternatives on staying healthy during this fall and winter season in Beijing.

1) Stay hydrated! – We often forget how much energy we exert when we teach. Beijing is very dry so make sure you’re drinking a lot of fluids.

My favorite drink when I am sick is ginger, lemon, and honey tea. I juice the ginger and lemon; add honey and hot water to produce a tasty Vitamin-C filled mixture to soothe my throat. However, if you are too tired to make anything, you should get yourself some Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa. This natural herbal syrup can be added to hot water or taken directly. Make sure to get the one from Hong Kong, which is around 40 kuai because there are now cheaper knock-off brands available. Feel free to try them, but I am a loyal consumer of Nin Jiom due to its delicious taste.

Try not to get too addicted!

2) Vitamin-C is your friend. Go to your local supermarket and stock up on oranges and lemons. The pharmacy also has effervescent pills with Vitamin C. The box usually has both English and Chinese on it because it’s a Western-brand called Redoxon. In Chinese, it’s called 力度伸. There are other brands available, especially at foreign supermarkets such as D-Mart or Spring Market in Wudaokou.

3) Can’t breathe? Get some Tiger Balm. It’s the Chinese version of Vicks. It helps with headaches, breathing, and even mosquito bites! Don’t rub it near your eyes. Use it under your nose, chest, temple, and throat areas only! There are two kinds of Tiger Balm: red (hot) and white (cold). I don’t think there is much of a difference, but I have been using the white one most of my life and it works wonders. Make sure to pack it on your next vacation because they help a TON with mosquito bites. The Chinese for it is 虎标万金油.


The Cure-All

4)In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), when you get a cold, you need to remove the “heat” out of your system. One way to do this is to take some 感冒清热颗粒. One box contains several packs; one pack makes one cup of this “dirt tea.” Mix one bag of the brownish-yellow granules with hot water. You can drink this when you start to feel under the weather and continue to drink it if you get sick. It helps with headache, fever, chills, general aching, runny nose, cough, and dryness of the throat. It’s not as tasty as Pei Pa Koa, but if you’re sick, you probably can’t taste anything anyway. Why not give this a try? I’ve actually grown quite fond of the taste myself.

Maya (veteran teacher): “I call it ‘dirt tea’. Is that off-putting?”

Many of you have asked me about where to find lozenges. I intended to dedicate a portion of this post to antidotes for sore throats, but the Beijinger beat me to it. The foreign magazine did a survey for the tastiest lozenge in Beijing. (not the best remedy, the tastiest.)

The winner? Halls Extra Strong. You can find it at Aushan or at the local supermarket across the street from school. Ask a veteran teacher if you have trouble finding the store. The Chinese for it is 荷氏.

“It tastes like antiseptic applied to the tongue.” – a taste tester from the Beijinger

For those of you who are curious, the other competing brands included: Wang Lao Ji (王老吉), Ricola (elderflower flavor), Golden Throat Lozenge (mulberry and chrysanthemum flavor), Vicks VapoDrops (cherry flavor), Vivil (black currant flavor), and Pan Gaoshou (loquat flavor). For more insight, check out the November issue of the Beijinger.

Hopefully your process of searching for medicine will be painless and will merely involve some pantomiming. For those with little to no Chinese under their belts, I highly recommend bringing pictures with you.

These are some of the signs you will see when you are looking for a pharmacy.

Hope you all stay warm and healthy in these upcoming months!


October Holiday

After a year long hiatus, the Carden China blog is back and here to stay.

            Every year, Carden China’s foreign and Chinese teachers are given a holiday in the beginning of October. This holiday is known as National Day of the People’s Republic of China; it typically lasts for 7-8 days. However, holidays in China are often made-up on the weekends. Thus, our awkward work week began on a Tuesday and ended on a Saturday.

           Although our foreign staff consists of all North Americans, we still take advantage of this holiday to relax, have fun, and travel domestically and internationally. Since many locals in Beijing are not natives of the big capital, many Chinese people take this rare opportunity to return to their hometowns and visit family. It is advisable to make advance bookings for one’s travels because the prices of tickets and hotels go up and places become extremely crowded. On my way to Rome this October holiday, the immigration area was engulfed by a sea of tourists. With no distinct lines, the wait took over 2 hours. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that Beijing is a city of 20 million people out of the 1.35 billion in China. In the last 10 years, there has been an increase in the middle to upper class echelons of Chinese society. As a result, in 2012, the Chinese overtook Americans and Germans as the world’s top tourism spenders with the total of 83 million people spending a record-breaking number of $102 billion in international tourism. With so many Chinese tourists abroad, the Chinese government created its first tourism law to address various issues pertaining to “appropriate” behavior and conduct while traveling. Not surprisingly, the law came into effect this past National holiday, the most traveled holiday in the country, next to Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). For more insight, check out CNN’s article:  http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/03/travel/new-china-tourism-law/index.html?iref=allsearch

           For those who choose to remain in Beijing, the traditional festivities of National Day begin with the ceremonial raising of the Chinese national flag in Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world. It is preceded by a national parade. As an American, I envision parades to be a jamboree filled with tons of floats, various performances, marching bands, and live music among many others. However, the parade of China’s National Day is not your annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; it is something of greater magnitude and national pride. It is a means to display the Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army’s achievements while featuring thousands of marching soldiers in various formations. It is also a large exhibition of the country’s military forces which include tanks, fighter flights, and nuclear missiles. In the evening, a majestic demonstration is held as hundreds of fireworks are cast off into the sky as government officials partake in a regal state dinner. It is impossible to truly visualize the grandeur of the event until you see it for yourself. However, I would advise to simply watch it on your television as security is extremely tight around this time. As a Laowai (foreigner), you are sure to stick out among the crowd.


(2009 – The 60th anniversary of National Day)

The Brief History of National Day

           The nerdy side of me wants to explain why this day is important. With a population of 1.35 billion people, the Chinese government doesn’t give days off easily. (For those of you who are curious, there are no such things are “snow days” here.)  So here is a super brief history of how National Day came to fruition.

           After the Qing Dynasty collapsed in 1911, the country was torn apart by warlords.  Sun Yat-sen became the leader of the anti-monarchist group known as the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomingtang).Under the leadership of Sun Yat-sen and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, who turned to foreign powers for help, the KMT was able to overthrown these warlords and unify the country. Following the Warlord era, the Communist Party (CCP) was established in 1921. The subsequent decades became a struggle for power as both parties claimed to be the legitimate government of the country. A civil war broke out between the two forces; it lasted a gruesome 23 years with intermittent horrific events such as the Japanese invasion in 1937. After the revered leader Mao Zedong’s victorious battles against the KMT, Chiang Kai-shek and those loyal to him fled to Taiwan.

           At three o’clock on October 1, 1949 in the midst of 300,000 people, Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People’s Republic of China and waved the first five-star Chinese flag. Today, Mao’s picture still hangs in front of Forbidden City as a reminder of his glory. Sixty-four years later, his presence continues to resonate eerily in front of Tiananmen Square.

Forbidden City

(Soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army standing in front of Forbidden City)