Shila Mathew, MD

Board Certified Psychiatrist, Medical Acupuncture, Integrative Medicine

Articles and Resources of Interest

China Experience

by Ajit Sen

Editor's Note:

This describes the experience of Mr. Sen when he visited China for the first time in 2000. We have provided the entire article, although our objective is to provide you with the health aspects rather than business aspects as Mr. Sen notes. One thing that impressed me in reading this article is that the health of Chinese can be attributed to every aspect of their lives, viz., discipline, attention to Fen Shui principles, exercise and recreation as part of everyday living, and, of course food, and diet. If you are in a hurry and do not have time to read and enjoy the long article, please skip to the bottom and read about the diet and medicine. Many people are under the mistaken notion that Chinese eat the fried, fat and salt laden foods they see served at Chinese restaurants in the US. They don't. That is only for the obese Americans!

At Chongquang China the Custom officer had a welcome smile, helped us to lift our luggage, and helped us to pass on quickly. (China welcomes visitors/business people, unlike in India where they see each foreigner with suspicion and someone to fleece). We meet our host a tea company executive right next to Customs gate. At 8.30 pm he was still neat & perfect in grey business suit, white shirt, and tie, speaking in his broken English. We felt underdressed in casuals after a 36 hours journey from India. We had known that my destination Rongfa was another town 130 km away from Chongquang (former Capital of Old China), so I asked where we are staying tonight, and what time we visit the factory tomorrow. He politely informed that we will go to Rongfa town right away where General Director is waiting to join us for dinner, and that the taxi is waiting. Within minutes we were in a Volkswagen taxi (gas driven) on a 6 lane highway. There was no traffic jam, no red light, and in flat 50 minutes we were at Rongfa straigt to the dining hall of a middle class restaurant. Roads were dream highway with bold directions at every cross, my escort the export manager kept in touch with the director on his cell phone on the total stretch. No drop in signal anywhere.

Chinese eat early so 9.30 dinner was late by their standard, but the host were perfect and language no barrier to the nice evening together. After dinner we were ceremoniously reached at the town hotel for a good night sleep. Rongfa is a small tea town in southern China. However there were several hotels perfect & cozy, cheap and each well made with a well done dining hall. Town square were neat and most roads wide and some under construction being expanded. The GM of the tea company we met himself drove the pick up truck with tea leaves, when he met us to discuss business and machinery! Directorís wife was the Chief accountant, and Export Mangers wife we learnt worked at the Volkswagen car factory. Directorís son was made to cancel his school (std 9th) to meet us, practice his English and understand Indian / foreigners. In the evening post dinner we had this young boy & his 2 classmate girls join us for a long walk to the hotel just to converse in English. One of the girls aged 13 was a school teacherís daughter, then my daughters age, said she wanted to manage a business when she grew up, she is learning English to travel to US but will come back to do business from home town! (Most of girls at that age would say they want to become school teacher!)

The saying, "Business is there in every house (Niche Dukan upar Makan)" is true of all Chinese. Quality, productivity and business is in their blood whether boys or girls. At a trinket shop I saw a grandmother, mother, and teenage daughter selling wares at the same counter. (In India anyone working to earn below 25 is a taboo. Watching TV and lazing is not!). [ In Vietnam I had seen Director National Tea Boardís young daughter working as a helper in tea dept for tea tasting room! ]

To my profession Chinese tea estates were also unique. I saw workers cleaning weeds at 6 pm on the hills, engrossed in their work, no supervisor at site. (In India they pack up at 3pm or earlier if not supervised). On enquiring about good looking workers' houses approx 1000 sq ft double storey with prefabricated doors and windows. I learnt that those houses cost about Rs 40000 (US$ 800). Neighbors help a couple to erect a house, all labor is society provided. Only material has to be paid for.

We took a bus back to Chongquang from Rongfa for a different experience. The driver was in neat suit & tie. He drove well, roads were flawless and in this daytime journey I saw China as truly a god own country. Fertile land, water bodies and rivulets well spread, every inch planted with vegetables or crop, so much so that as close to 12Ē from highway we saw vegetables planted, no space was wasted. There was no sign of poverty or people in blue Mao collar that we are made to believe in China thru our West bias English text books. I bought a packet of boiled peanut from a street vendor at the bus station, the packing was better than any food or cosmetic product packed in India. Bus was full of friendly people, two graduate looking young men did not allow us to lift our luggage but saw us up to the taxi stand negotiated with the lady cab driver and informed us not to pay more than a sum. 50% of the taxi drivers in China are young women, well groomed, red lipstick, dangling ear rings, cell phone et all, but very professional and skilled road negotiators

Back at Chongquang we chose a Chinese hotel for the local experience over Holiday Inn. The Chinese Hotel was indeed beautiful and very cozy. From 18th floor of the hotel the town looked well manicured. At 7 in the morning we were woken up with the hum of the town. We saw men and women walking in large numbers all well attired for work walking to offices / workplaces. (Untidy / tattered clothes / jeans / faded clothes is against Feng Shui principles). Chinese eat breakfast at 6 am, lunch at 11 am and dinner at 6 pm, food timings are strictly maintained at home, hotels, offices or shops. Work starts early and finishes by 4 pm, after which the entire nation devotes their time in entertainment. Walking to the town square is common; each town square is large and meant to seat thousands, all Govt buildings, banks & large offices open their compound to public in the evening and all buildings get well lit to add to the glow of town. There were no dark corners or ally; even lonely streets are well lit. All major buildings are lit daily as if celebrations are on. Karaoke, tea bars, TV games, music, dancing or just joy walking, fruit snacking or shopping continues till mid night. Hair dressing and beauty parlors start in the evening and continue till mid night! Chinese like the fresh mowed look all the time, and spend a great deal of time on health and body care.

Chinese airports were too good to believe, immaculately clean, no queue, only one security check when one enters main airport gate, after which no frisking, opening of luggage. Airport staff we met came to each waiting passengerís seat to check tickets, and to issue boarding passes after which one goes without any queue. Planes were neat. For the 1st time I saw stethoscope type stereo headphone with no wire! On the flight between Chongquang and Hang Zhou I won a flight Tambola that gave me 30% off on my next ticket on the same route. Happy but without use of winning I gave my winning ticket to my next seat Chinaman. There was a loud appreciation, all passengers and attendants appreciated India. I was pleased, I still carry my next seat Chinamanís visiting card, he carries mine in English, both cant read each other's card but I saw without English the Chinese was no less intelligent or responsible than me.

At Hang Zhou, hotels offered 40% discount for business Visa. Businessmen are welcome in China. We got a decent 4 star hotel at Rs 1200 (US$25) that was well facilitated. The bed linen was so soft that we went half the town searching for the same. (Indian Hotels charge mind boggling prices to foreigners). Hang Zhou Lake, where Marco polo once visited, was heavenly. A Walk around this 2 km wide lake was cool, safe and healthy. The entire lake side had manicured walkways, every place was clean, short eats and drinks were in plenty aside the walkway. Tea was more prevalent than Beer. The Tea Exposition in Hang Zhou was an eye opener. Besides tea art, calligraphy, porcelain silk, etc. were displayed. What we see in rest of the world is 10% what China actually produces. Tea Sells with wine and I saw tea at prices of Rs 7000/kg (US$150/kg) being sold in plenty, and, believe me, Chinese buy them. Shopping at Hang Zhou was memorable. I still cherish the woolen suit purchased from a Mall at Rs 3000 (US$65) only, fitting immaculately Italian, which gave me a free tie & a free dinner at the Mallís cafeteria!.

Internet and telephones were well connected to all over China & to the world. Call rates were reportedly uniform & very low. Each family member, young or old, had a cell phone. Men and women both work on equal terms at every job place including security services.

A train journey from Hang Zhou to Shanghai was very cozy. Newly built train station was like an airport and trains equally neat. We took the journey in soft seat coach that had 196 seats ( 2 X 2 seat around a table each). It had clean cloth seat covers and crochet table cloth each. A stewardess in well groomed dress with cross band and cap welcomed us, checked tickets, and showed us our seats. The same stewardess sold games, magazines, tea, food packets, picked cups and disposable plates in polythene bag, straightened table cloths, washed toilets, ate her food, adjusted her lipstick and was ready to bid her goodbye to all passenger with a smile at the next station, and repeat the chores. Passengers were equally cooperative and clean.

The restaurants were nice, clean and large. Chinese eat out a lot, there is always some chicken, duck, pork or fish, but it is fruit & green vegetables they eat in plenty. No sweets and no salt based diet keep them healthy. What looked popular & good I ate in a restaurant, was a plate of bitter gourd steamed with light spice, a spinach variety leaves in light soya sauce, roots of a jungle shrub, pumpkin seeds etc. Food at any restaurant we saw was fresh, never reheated, that retained all the colors of veggies. It is interesting to note that Rice is not offered in the beginning but last at a meal, and custom demand guest say no. Yes means that host is so poor and he has not been able to offer you enough dishes that the guest had to have rice (just to fill the stomach)! It may be noted that Chinese meal does not have bread, noodles are rare, no pudding, so sweets, no dessert, no butter, no dairy product, no oily masala (spices), no potatoes. Quality of their normal food is what gives them their healthy skin and hair.

Donít believe your TV that Chinese only eat snakes and insects, yes at some specialty restaurants some do it as a medicine, but it is the healthy non oily fresh food with lots of veggies that keeps them fit. Salt is almost nil in Chinese food. Most food is just steamed. The soup is actually the water in which food is cooked fresh on the table. It is served in bowls instead of water. Tea is served after 15 minutes of the meal. There are almost no fat people in China. Only persons I saw fat were foreigner near a MacDonald shop that recently had opened in Shanghai (possibly under some trade treaty). Regrettably MacDonaldís and Pizza huts are trying to propagate fries, potatoes and aerated sweetened drinks in a country that has done well without these fatty stuff. Doctors are almost non existent in China, Few doctors we saw on the road in white coat were trying to woo walkers next to a rare medicine shop. Acupressure and acupuncture are not only effective but, believe me, it works, although Chinese rarely need medical help like rest of the world. Heart disease, blood pressure and osteoporosis are almost non existent in China. Of course good tea helps.

Chinese wake up early. From dawn, people of all age walk, jog, light play or dance on the street next to their home to keep fit. No wonder a 25 years old looks 15, 35 looks 25 and 55 looks 35. Chinese donít seem to age, right food keeps them agile. Little wonder they are doing so well in all works, production or games. Police men could be seen at places but they were always friendly and helpful.

See Also:

More Inspirational and Informative articles can be found at Holistic Living

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About The Author:

Mr. Ajit Sen is a business man from India and travels all over the world on business. This article is an excerpt from a  travelogue he wrote to his classmates at Indian Institute of Technology, ranked as one of the top engineering schools in the world.


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