From Shenzhen

Special Economic Zone (China SEZ)

Dim Sum Surprise

I was having lunch at Jin Yue Xuan 金悦轩 dim sum restaurant in Futian (Shenzhen) recently when I noticed something unusual out of the corner of my eye; all the chefs were women. The world of professional cooking is traditionally dominated by men, you only have to look at the celebrity chefs on TV to see the unequal proportions, and in China even more so. Read more

Is Foxconn Skynet?

Foxconn is the largest manufacturer of electronics worldwide and companies like Apple and Dell contract them to build/assemble their products at huge factories in places like Shenzhen. They employee over 800,000 people in mainland china alone and a spate of recent suicides have brought into question their employment practices. Read more

PechaKucha Night Shenzhen

The words “culture” and “Shenzhen” are rarely heard together in the same sentence, such is the nature of a young city of immigrants who have come to make their fortune. This isn’t to say there is no culture in Shenzhen but it can be hard to find. One place trying to invigorate Shenzhen’s art scene is OCT-LOFT in Nanshan district where old factory buildings have been renovated into a modern art and cultural center (somewhat similar to Beijing’s 798 district). Read more

Expat Subculture (and why I dislike it)

If you’ve lived abroad long enough you’ve undoubtedly encountered other foreigners who are also there either by choice (like myself) or because they’ve been sent there by their employer. In my experience a lot of them tend to fall into 1 of 2 categories – those who go out of their way to integrate with the local culture and those who band together and try to recreate a feeling of “home” while constantly moaning about how much it isn’t. Read more

Shenilicious Urbanity

One thing Shenzhen is not noted for is its architecture. If ever you wanted to see a vision of communist urban planning turned into a nightmare of concrete uniformity then this is the place to come. It’s like a bunch of uninspired architects were given a massive budget and then vomited a million lifeless tower blocks over green pastures turning them grey. Read more

CNY 2010 Fireworks in Shenzhen

Last night the streets of Shenzhen were filled with the sight, sound, and unmistakable aroma of millions of fireworks being set off by people across the city as China saw in the Year of the Tiger with a bang. As with many activities here, the more noise, the more luck it’s supposed to bring. Shortly before midnight I took to the streets with my camera to capture the action (while trying to avoid getting my head blown off): Read more

2010 More! More! More!

Looking back at 2009 I’d probably characterize it as my year of travel and exploration in China – I took 24 flights and was privileged to visit and stay in many amazing places I had never been before. Along the way I’ve learnt a huge amount about Chinese culture which continues to fascinate and bewilder me in equal measure. Having become familiar with where things are and how things work, life in Shenzhen has become fairly routine. Given my list of goals last year I thought it was about time to review them and set some new ones for the coming twenty ten:

2009 goals in review:

  • Gain basic fluency in Mandarinfailed (while my vocab has improved grammar is still non-existant)
  • Improve photography skills – achieved (although I’ve still got a long way to go I’m quite happy with my results recently)
  • Get fitter through more regular exercise – moderate improvement (but need to schedule more regular activities)
  • Cook more – achieved (and learnt a few new dishes along the way)
  • Stay focused and filter out distractions – failed (I read more than ever and have way too many projects on the go)
  • Redesign blog template – achieved (you’re looking at it now)

3.5 out of 6 isn’t too bad in my book but the language part is rather frustrating.

2010 goals:

  • Create and stick to a schedule for language learning and fitness
  • Start a business of some sort and see it through (more on this later)
  • Improve writing skills and user participation in blog
  • Create more video content and how-to guides
  • Visit Japan – something I’ve wanted to do for many years
  • Learn how to cope with stress better (and sleep more!)

Finally I’d like to say a BIG thank you to everyone who reads Randomwire – this year traffic has nearly doubled and my only wish is that I had time to write more content for it. In an ideal world I’d love to be able to do this full-time in some capacity but for now it’ll continue as a labour of love blissfully free of ads (although if anyone is interested in sponsorship do get in touch).

As with last year I’ll leave you with an appropriately titled track from the ever-manic Capsule:

A very Happy New Year to all 🙂

Bian Lian “Face Changing” Performance

Ba Guo Shu Feng Restaurant

Last Friday after work I went out for a friends birthday at a Sichuanese restaurant called “Ba Guo Shu Feng” in Shenzhen. Situated in a rather up-market shopping mall the interior was very nicely done with traditional decoration and ornate lanterns hanging from wooden panelled walls.

Very Spicy

As you might expect all the dishes were very spicy. We tried eggplant, beef with vegetables, dumplings, noodles and a sort of salad (top right) which turned out to be one of the hottest things I’d ever had!  All the food was pretty good and beautifully presented although a strong stomach is needed for all the chillies.


During the evening the restaurant also had a performance of “Bian Lian” (meaning “face-changing”) which is an ancient Chinese dramatic art that involves performers wearing brightly coloured costumes and moving to quick, dramatic music. They also wear vividly coloured masks, which they change within a fraction of a second. It’s quite an impressive feat which is hard to capture as they move so fast!

Green Face

The changing faces reflect a character’s mood: for instance, red represents anger and black represents extreme fury. The exact method by which the performers change the face is a closely guarded secret that is passed down from generation to generation (males only) although it is believed that most involve wearing silk masks in layers which can be pulled off one by one.

The Food Was VERY Spicy

After changing faces the performer proceeded to fire breath as well which felt somewhat dangerous in an enclosed wooden space but thankfully China hasn’t quite caught onto “health and safety” regulations  yet. A fun evening was had by all 🙂