葛岸 / Ge’an / Got’ngon : my ancestral village in Guangdong province

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Photo of Ge'an by jpsam on Flickr

Such a post, I am torn between doing it in English (larger audience) or French, because I am venturing the guess that many descendants of the village I will be talking about have immigrated to France, Canada, or another French-speaking country. This is because this village, Ge’an in Putonghua or Got’ngon in Cantonese dialect (葛岸 in Chinese characters), is where my paternal grandfather was born, before he left China for Antananarivo (Tananarive), Madagascar, where my father grew up before immigrating to Montreal, Canada. Like it’s frequently the case with immigration patterns, many of my grandfather’s fellow villagers settled in Madagascar and then moved on to somewhere else (just like how the Taishan wikipedia page claims that 75% of all Overseas Chinese in North America came from that small locality of now 1 million).

In 2005, I visited the village accompanied by one of my dad’s cousins living in Hong Kong. My first impression was that I would probably be willing to fork out a few thousand dollars to renovate the house, if I could make it into some sort of out-of-town chalet, if I were to live in Hong Kong one day (with as many “ifs”, you aren’t getting nowhere). The village is surrounded by fields, but outside the village proper, passes a highway. A few kilometres out, it was the city, and the Pearl River Delta Region, one of China’s most dynamic economic zone (because of Hong Kong, and money/influence from Overseas Chinese). We had late lunch in a restaurant in nearby town Lecong (樂從/乐从)

Cedric in 隔岸 (Ge'an / Got'ngon) in 2005

After the visit, I did not think of looking for the village again. Last spring, when I visited China, and Hong Kong, I ventured with the possibility of just dropping by. I did not, and went to Kaiping instead, on my three-day visit to Guangdong, and then the Shenzhen/Dongguan area.

Why I did not? Probably because it was just too much hassle asking relatives to show you around, and how to get there. This is certainly until I found out that Google Maps released detailed maps in China, sometime in July 2008, when Google teamed up with Chinese firm MapABC.com. It was the first time that users of Google Maps could see more than cities with no streets (with no names).

Ge'an temple by jpsam on Flickr

When my father went to China for the first time ever last year, he also snapped a picture in Ge’an of a public announcement board with the village name’s Chinese characters. With a little character-engineering with Zhongwen.com (don’t know any site for breaking down Chinese characters yet), I managed to find the pinyin for Ge’an (which I knew just approximately as “Cot’ngon”), and figured out how to input the characters on my computer. At that time, a year ago, I found a website at geanren.org (URL means basically “People of Ge’an”) that may not always be up, but which is a lousy-looking Java-backed site run by a dude whose last name is the same as mine…

Before then, we were always generally told that we came from Shunde (Seondak in Cantonese), a city of roughly 1.1 million, according to 2002 census data.

Incidentally, my maternal grandfather, who immigrated to Vietnam, came from a csomewhere in the city of Foshan, which is today the same administrative mega-city that gobbled up Shunde, a county-level city until 2002, and now a “district” of Foshan.

Thanks to Google Maps, I may now show the rest of (English-speaking) world where I come from and perhaps go back to with my own means.


View Larger Map

Specifically, Ge’an is a small village, in the district/city of Shunde, which is part of the prefecture-level city of Foshan.

From what I gathered in 2005, as my father’s cousin chattered with the relative leaving nearby, the idea of building a nice big house in the village is nothing new, as other “villagers” now actually live in villas that they built within the village.

New villas by the pond, by jpsam on Flickr

Except the 2005 photo of myself, the photos on this post were taken by my father.

« Chine Cinéma » at the Cinémathèque québécoise

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Chine Cinéma à la Cinémathèque québécoise

From September 2rd until November 30th, the Cinémathèque québécoise, on De Maisonneuve corner of St-Denis, will be presenting Chine Cinéma, a sort-of festival (but not really, because it spans three months…) of movies from the Chinese Mainland. Jia Zhangke will be particularly celebrated during the season, with all of his movies, including early short films that he made, such as Pickpocket (Xiao Wu), being shown.

I’d see all of them, if I could afford it (in time and money), but I’ve noted a couple of must-see films. In no particular order: All Tomorrow’s Parties (Mingri tianya) (which is by Nelson YU Lik-wai, not Diao Yinan, as noted in the online guide), a sort of dystopian future film, Summer Palace, some romantic film on backdrop of the 1989 near-revolution, She Is Automatic (a New Pants music video, ha-ha!), which is part of a series of animated shorts, Mid-Afternoon Barks, Fujian Blue, and Taishi Village, a documentary by Ai Xiaoming on one of the well-known cases of “mass incidents” in China.

Natural Q (自然捲) – C’est La Vie / 魚罐頭 / 30 years old hereafter

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自然捲 - C'est La Vie

Semaine du 26 août 2008 / Week of August 26th, 2008

Cette chronique hebdomadaire sur la musique indépendante chinoise est diffusée à Radio Centre-Ville (102.3FM), les mardis entre 22h30 et 23h30. L’émission complète est disponible sur ce fichier MP3, à partir du lendemain de l’émission.

This weekly segment on independent Chinese music is broadcasted every Tuesday between 10:30PM and 11:30PM on Radio Centre-Ville (102.3FM). The full-length show is available at this MP3 file, starting from the day following the show.

***

1. C’est La Vie
2. 魚罐頭 (canned fish)
3. 30 years old hereafter (live_acoustic)

My friend Jen recently left Montreal and gave me her copy of Natural Q‘s first album “C’est La Vie” that she used to own. It was a big indie hit in Taiwan and Chinese-speaking territories, and is, as it should, out of print. It was the first release by A Good Day Records, now a prominent independent label in Taiwan.

I failed to mention it when I recorded the segment last week, but Natural Q actually released a new album last month.

Natural Q as it was known in 2004 (or 2003, when it started) no longer existed after 2006, when female vocalist Waa and Chico split, with Chico keeping custody of the band’s name, and periodically releasing stuff afterwards. The third song (optional, depending on whether Goo Por Yvonne can fit it all) comes from such album, just called “Recycles”, and from Natural Q’s “solo” period.

I don’t know why they split, anyhow. So enlighten me, if you do know all the gossip.

(Song 魚罐頭, or “canned fish”, is the first song in Natural Q’s still-together second album, C’est La Vie 2.)

Maman, c’est fini! (the 2008 Olympiads, that is)

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Beijing 2008 Olympics @ Montréal Chinatown

It’s hard to believe that the Olympics are now finished! “F-I-NI, fini”, as you would say in the local idioms. This was a picture taken this Saturday of the outdoor presentation of the Radio-Canada’s coverage of the Beijing Games, from 9 to 9, in Parc Sun Yat-sen at the heart of Montreal’s Chinatown. It was a remarkable use of this public space, as people of all ages gathered to watch.

Beijing 2008 Olympics @ Montréal Chinatown

J’adore le vombrissement d’un scooter quand je me réveille le matin

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Taichung, Taiwan
Scooters à Taichung / Scooter in Taichung

This morning, on my way to work, I heard the vroom of a scooter. In Montreal, this may only happen in the four, five months when motorized bike riding isn’t a danger due to climatic hazards.

I like the sound because it reminds me of Asia, and especially Taiwan, where the scooter is king. Not so much of China, where its use in the city is either prohibited or costs so much in license that you’d be better to get a car. And it’s for a good reason too – any Chinese city would disappeared under an even thicker cloud of grayish pollution.

***

Ce matin, en me rendant au travail, j’ai entendu le vombrissement d’un scooter. À Montréal, ça peut seulement se produire dans les quatre ou cinq mois durant lesquels la conduite d’un bicycle motorisé n’est pas un danger lié à un climat hazardeux.

J’aime ce son parce que ça me rappelle l’Asie, et plus particulièrement Taiwan, où le scooter est roi. Pas trop la Chine, où son utilisation en ville est soit interdite ou que le coût élévé d’obtention d’un permis voudrait dire qu’il vaudrait mieux se procurer une voiture. Et il y a une bonne raison derrière ça : n’importe quelle ville chinoise disparaîtrait sous un nuage gris de polution encore plus épais.

Ourselves Beside Me

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Ourselves Beside Me's Li Yangfan

Semaine du 19 août 2008 / Week of August 19th, 2008

Cette chronique hebdomadaire sur la musique indépendante chinoise est diffusée à Radio Centre-Ville (102.3FM), les mardis entre 22h30 et 23h30. L’émission complète est disponible sur ce fichier MP3, à partir du lendemain de l’émission.

This weekly segment on independent Chinese music is broadcasted every Tuesday between 10:30PM and 11:30PM on Radio Centre-Ville (102.3FM). The full-length show is available at this MP3 file, starting from the day following the show.

***

Malheureusement, je déménage cette semaine, et mon nouveau service d’Internet (Bell Internet Total, pour ne pas le nommer), après un retard / erreur de livraison, ne pourra être activé avant peut-être de trois à six jours. Au moins, j’ai le dial-up (oui oui, j’ai un modem téléphone dans mon portable), alors je peux au moins vous écrire quelques mots sur Ourselves Beside Me, faute de pouvoir téléverser leur chansons…

Well, the songs that were played tonight were from a recording made by a friend’s friend’s friend (who are Chinese currently or formerly living in Beijing). Apparently, the CBC had a piece on rock music, specifically on the D-22. Despite being a relatively new band, Ourselves Beside Me (sic) are regulars at the live house in the northwestern district of universities (walking distance from Tsinghua and Beida, the two most prestigious Chinese universities). OBM started around the end of 2007, and I think that this recording was made during a show at the D-22 (or the Mao?) in the Spring.

OBM is characterized as a “post-punk revival band”. It does have a really classic sound. One band member was with Hang on the Box, but it sounds nothing like them. It’s more low-key than HotB – very good music to pass out on a couch with a couple of beer bottles under your belt.

I went to the D-22 as well, in mid-April, when OBM opened for Vancouver-based You Say Party! We Say Die! I recorded the whole show with my portable voice recorder. The quality isn’t great, but the recording of OBM’s performance is still up on this previous post. I’ll put up the songs if home Internet will finally arrive.

Carol Huynh wins first olympic gold for Canada

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Photo: Jeyhun Abdulla/Associated Press.

Eh bien, finalement une médaille pour le Canada! Et je me demandais bien si elle était d’origine chinoise: selon un article dans le Vancouver Sun, son père Viem est effectivement un Chinois du Vietnam. “Huynh”, ça donne “Huang” en mandarin ou “Wong” en cantonnais (黃, c’est le caractère pour “jaune”) – le même nom de famille que ma mère.

Mise à jour: En me réveillant le matin, j’apprends qu’elle a gagné l’or en battant la championne du monde Icho! L’or, en chinois, ça s’écrit 黃金 (huáng jīn), ou “jaune métal”!

***

Finally a medal for Canada! And I was wondering whether she was of Chinese origin, and according to a Vancouver Sun article, her dad Viem is indeed Chinese from Vietnam. “Huynh” gives “Huang” in mandarin, and “Wong” in Cantonese (黃 is the character for “yellow”) – my mother’s maiden name.

Update: As I woke up this morning, I find out that she wins gold by beating the wold champion Icho! Gold, in Chinese, is written 黃金 (huáng jīn), or “golden metal”!

Twelve live feeds from the Beijing Olympics for Canada

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Les Jeux olympiques de Pékin 2008 sur Radio-Canada.ca

One of the most interesting features of Radio-Canada’s Beijing 2008 website (the official national broadcaster for the Games in Canada) is the twelve live streams on its audio-video zone. They were splitted from the broadcasting centre in Montreal, and directly re-transmitted on the web, geo-localized for Canada. The “wall” of video previews below the video embed allows you to browse between the channels.

Perhaps what’s cool about these steams is the total absence of commenting on the eleven other feeds not currently being used for traditional television broadcast. On Sunday, I watched 3/4 of the USA-China game on channel #5, without hearing any of the commentators, emphasizing on the crowd’s reaction, and even what the players were saying/cursing on the court (and also the bad Chinese pop).

On Friday, I watched rowing competitions, baseball, softball, then a few judo matches. Without the commentators’ voiceovers, it almost makes you feel as if you were in the crowd in Beijing. I have a feeling that this is what the future of media tends towards: empowering audiences with omnipresence through one’s television screen (or computer monitor).

Click on this (if you are living in Canada):
http://pekin.radio-canada.ca/audio-video/

This is definitely one of the ground-breaking features coming from Radio-Canada.ca during these games (with daily interactive clips Les jeux dont vous êtes le héros) that CBC.ca or other larger media corporations just won’t offer.

À l’heure de la Chine : La liberté d’expression

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À l’heure de la Chine : Radio-Canada

La qualité de l’émission quotidienne présentée pendant les Jeux sur la télé de Radio-Canada m’impressionne grandement. On est à l’occasion critique envers la Chine, mais on le fait toujours vec les grains de sel qui s’imposent. Vraiment un chef-d’oeuvre de journalisme. (lien vers les émissions intégrales)

Dans l’émission d’aujourd’hui, Don Murray nous raconte bien comment les choses ont évolué en Chine, sans que ça ne soit tout à fait la totale libre expression. Dans la même veine, le blogueur de ESWN, me disait un peu en blague que si on choisissait dix articles sur un forum de discussion quelconque en Chine, et qu’on les postait sur un forum d’il y a 10 ans, sans doute que 9 sur 10 se feraient arrêter.

J’aurais bien aimé entendre parler du travail fait par le Southern Metropolis/Weekly, mais ça ira pour un autre reportage sans doute. Par exemple, ils ont récemment rencontré le fondateur sud-africain de Danwei.org, l’un des sites en anglais les plus lus de Chine, et prennent soin de rencontrer les gens qui font les news, comme le secrétaire de parti au Sichuan qui s’est promené à genoux, ou les supposés accusés dans l’affaire de Weng’an.

Et puis comme “observateur” des médias, je trouve que ça clenche bien la couverture en marge des jeux que fait les cousins de la CBC (en tout cas, de ce que je peux observer via le web).

Up the Yangtze is back at the AMC during the Olympics

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Sur le Yangzi / Up the Yangtze

If you didn’t see Canadian-born Chinese Yung Chang‘s film Up the Yangtze (Sur le Yangzi, en version française), here’s your chance:

Back by popular demand, Up the Yangtze will return to theatres this Friday August 15 for an open run at Montreal’s AMC Forum. The epic documentary provides another face to China not shown during the Olympic Games, exploring the lives of people living along the Yangtze River, forced to deal with flooding from the massive Three Gorges Dam.

The movie is presented in English with Mandarin subtitles. Dolby 5.1, 95 minutes, 35mm.