Yin and Yang

2015-05-12 20.29.58It is a mysterious fact that in China beer can be had warm or cold. Once The Family found that her beer was cool but not cold. She asked the waiter to give her a colder beer. A long confused interval later the waiter went away with the offending bottle and brought back a warm beer. Now when The Family insisted that she did not want this but a cold beer, there was utter consternation. Other waiters were called in to resolve the issue. A few of the patrons got involved and eventually we got back the cool beer and a jug of ice. Now I have learnt to write and say cold (lerng in Mandarin) and live with luke-cold beer.

There is a similar cultural confusion about water. Plain water in restaurants is always served piping hot. When you ask for water (shui in Mandarin) it comes steaming in glasses. Tea is not always served freshly infused and hot. In fast food places (read lunch-time noodle restaurants) tea will be sweet and canned. If you think you can get away by asking for it hot (tang in Mandarin), prepare to be surprised: you will get the same can at room temperature.

2015-05-19 19.48.51I realized this one afternoon when we went out for a quick lunch with one of our hosts. We ordered tea and got cans of sweet and cold green tea. Our hosts said she wanted a warm can because this is not good for us. My colleague, also a foreigner, said he’s had it without facing problems. Then our host said "This is because you are male. Males are yang, and they have heat. For a woman it is not good to have cold, because women are Yin". None of us had an appropriate reply for this.

Beliefs in traditional ways of thinking about health and medicines runs deep, and is strongly tied to how you eat and drink. We were offered medicines which would keep our liver from getting "fatty". I asked whether diet would help, but I was told that for liver there is no diet. It will take us long to understand this aspect of Chinese living.

Author: I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

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