Mr. Bing’s Jianbing in New York City

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Dec 112016
 

I recently read about Brian Goldberg in my school’s alumni magazine. Turns out he studied in Beijing in 1998:

Every morning before class, Goldberg would visit the bicycle-drawn carts selling jianbing: savory crepes stuffed with scrambled egg, sesame seeds, scallions, hoisin sauce, chili paste, cilantro, and crunchy wontons.

…When Goldberg came home, his heart wasn’t in medicine anymore. He finished his BA, then enrolled in a master’s program in East Asian languages and cultures at Columbia. Though he mostly focused on film, he took one class at the business school, where he wrote a very early draft of a business plan to bring jianbing to New York.

“I was ready to start Mr Bing fifteen years ago,” Goldberg says. “But a few other things got in the way.”

Here’s a Chinese-language news story about his Hong Kong branch:

Soon afterwards he took the idea to New York:

In July, New York magazine named the jianbing the city’s “Cheap Eat of the Year” — and business is thriving. At present, Mr Bing is a mobile cart and caterer, appearing at street fairs and corporate functions.

Wu Fei Performance + Interview on WUOT

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Dec 072016
 

Wu Fei continues to make news in Tennessee. Recently she was interviewed by the University of Tennessee’s WUOT radio station.

From Beijing to Nashville, Wu Fei has redefined Chinese classical music. From collaborations with John Zorn to Abigial Washburn, she has opened up what the guzheng can bring to modern music. Wu Fei performs live in the studio and discusses the magic of her instrument. She will be back in Knoxville this spring as part of the Big Ears Festival.

Listen to the full performance and interview here.

The interview was conducted by none other than local music legend Todd Steed, who has a China connection of his own.

 

Wu Fei, Nashville’s Guzheng Prodigy

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Oct 062016
 

Great cover story in the Nashville edition of Native magazine:

The Odyssey of Wu

A recent Nashville transplant, Wu is both a futuristic visionary and an expert on ancient Chinese folk music. If that’s not enough, she also plays in an experimental Chinese-Appalachian folk duo with banjo extraordinaire Abigail Washburn. If that’s really, really not enough, she also collaborates with Washburn and Kai Welch on a Chinese operatic/’80s electronica/Uyghur desert folk project called The Wu Force. Her path from Beijing to Nashville is nothing short of an epic adventure of human awakening and expression. It’s almost as if you need a musical time-traveling machine to get a grip on her understanding of music.

Check out Ms Wu’s website as well.

Poaching Ginseng for the Chinese Market

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Sep 072016
 

Wild ginseng grows in Tennessee, especially in and around the Smokies. There is a huge demand for wild ginseng in China. Inevitably, this leads to illegal ginseng poaching. I have heard a few complaints in Tennessee about the problem over the years, but this year there have been a series of stories in larger media outlets, including this feature story in Foreign Policy:

The global market for ginseng root, popularly used as an herbal supplement, is estimated at more than $2 billion. Long a staple of traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng products are also ubiquitous in Korea and increasingly popular in Singapore, Malaysia, and other countries with large ethnic Chinese populations….

Due to centuries of overharvesting, however, wild roots are rare commodities. In East Asia, native stocks are nearly extinct; in China and Russia, they are banned from being traded. The only other place where ginseng is indigenous is the eastern half of North America, where it grows amid ferns, trillium, bloodroot, and other low-lying vegetation. Concerned about overharvesting, Canada has prohibited the sale of wild roots. In the United States, it’s still legal — but scientists have observed stocks in Appalachia, where ginseng once flourished, dipping over the last decade.

This sounds like an interesting business meeting:

Three years ago, a man saying he worked for Hang Fat, one of China’s biggest ginseng wholesalers, showed up in Boone: “skinny jeans, little 20-year-old, earrings all in his ear,” Cornett recalls. Once a small family firm that traded in deer antlers and shark fins, Hang Fat has carved out a niche over the past two decades by importing American ginseng, sorting and grading it based on quality, then shipping it to mainland China. Between 2011 and 2013, according to an internal business prospectus, Hang Fat’s net profits rose an average of 70 percent annually.

After the Chinese businessman arrived on Cornett’s doorstep, he took pictures of the roots on offer, sent them to his boss, and quickly closed the deal on a purchase. Cornett hopes selling his homegrown crop will eventually be so easy — if he can get it safely to market….

There is at least one way to legally make money from this whole mess, however:

To tackle poaching in the 800-square-mile Great Smoky Mountains National Park, plant-protection specialist Jim Corbin has devised a reddish dye to mark ginseng roots that is visible only under black light. His team has dyed more than 43,000 plants to date. Between 2010 and 2014, the NPS says Corbin’s system helped convict more than 40 poachers who tried to sell illegally foraged roots.

New Chinese History Book from University of Tennessee Professor Charles Sanft

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Apr 202016
 

Associate Professor of History Charles Sanft received the Jefferson Prize for helping to put UT on the map in the field of Chinese history….

He has published “Communication and Cooperation in Early Imperial China,” a detailed study with the SUNY Press Chinese Philosophy and Culture Series. He currently is working on a second book, which addresses literacy in early China….

He also is working to develop a program for students to study in China.

Faculty Receive Awards at Annual Chancellor’s Honors Banquet

The Musical Career of Belle James in China

 China-Tennessee  Comments Off on The Musical Career of Belle James in China
Feb 112015
 

These days I get a steady stream of news about business, academic, and cultural connections between Tennessee and China. This was not always the case, of course. Because of World War II, for example, there was an entire generation of Tennesseans who went to China, fought there, and occasionally stayed.

But by far the most consistent connection has been with religious missionaries, who have been going to China from Tennessee since at least the middle of the nineteenth century. Belle James is a more recent example:

James started working as a ballet accompanist when she was 16 and was teaching piano in her native Malaysia by the time she was 18. After earning her bachelor’s degree in piano performance, James put her musical career on hold for seven years when she and her husband moved to China. Then one day she got a call that a professional soprano from Denmark needed an accompanist for a recital, and “everything opened up,” James remembers.

She spent the next seven years playing for professional singers who visited China and producing musical events, the most important of which was a 2010 Christmas concert of Handel’s “Messiah” sung by the Chinese minority people, the Miao. “We made history that day,” says James, noting China is a Communist country where preaching was not allowed at the service. “It was very cold that day, zero degrees, and still 3,000 people came.”

Another treasured memory is of a Tibetan monk who attended one of her worship concerts in China. “When I started to play the piano, he said, ‘I saw a vision of lotus flowers floating down from heaven, and I could smell them, too,'” James remembers. “At the end, he came forward and accepted Christ. I didn’t do anything. I said, ‘I’m just going to play and bless somebody with my music.'”

关田纳西州最有爱的10件事

 China-Tennessee  Comments Off on 关田纳西州最有爱的10件事
Dec 082014
 

A list of someone’s “Ten Loveliest Things about Tennessee“, written more from a resident’s perspective than that of a traveler:

1. 个人空间

不同于纽约——个人空间是一种稀有特权,田纳西州的纳什维尔(Nashville, Tennessee)拥有大量的空间,让你能在咖啡馆、在你住的地方甚至于大自然中都拥有自己的世界。
2. 南方早餐

纳什维尔无爱咖啡馆(Loveless Cafe)拥有真正的南方早餐——独特的乡村魅力和美味食物。自制果酱、辛苦制作的饼干和最新鲜的炸鸡这些美味都是田纳西州的特色。华夫松饼店(Waffle House)特别适合在星期六深夜去吃个夜宵:让人垂涎三尺的甜腻、超级便宜以及24小时营业都是。

The article appears to be based on “11 Things You Miss About the South When You Move to New York,”an article written by a former Nashville resident.