I've been in the ancient capital of Xi'an for a couple of days for Spring Festival, which was mostly a last minute trip. It's an interesting city, world's apart in many ways from Beijing, and has been a bit surprising. Terracotta warriors, the oldest mosque in China, ancient city walls... Pictures will follow.

Tomorrow we'll return to Beijing by bus, nearly two dozen hours of sitting...



The year of the bull! It's Chinese new year again, meaning I've been in Beijing for two years now. Very incredible.

So everyone, eat fish or koi shaped rice cakes, hang a portrait of the god of prosperity, 财神 (Cai Shen), tape an upside down “福” character on your front door, light off fireworks to scare off demons, give younger family members red, cash-filled envelopes, eat dumplings, hang out with your family, eat something sweet, tip well, clean your house...

So, repeat after me, 春节快乐!(Chun1 jie2 kuai4 le!) Or try, CHUN GEA K-WHY LUH!


Figure drawing class

Responding to the raised prices and lifeless models of our previous school's classes, we've set up a weekly figure drawing class on our 2nd floor with rotating models. I put up an ad on Chinese and expat sites and received a number of possible models, enough to cover the next few weeks, or at least starting again after Spring Festival. These are the drawings from the first class.

Class went well with eight students in attendance and an initially nervous, but quickly comfortable model.

你好中国朋友门!如果您住在北京想这样人体模特的工作,发我个email。因为是裸体的姿势所以不要害羞吧! 一次是三个小时/一共150块钱一次。男人女人都可以,没有经验的话也没问题。[rosscharris@gmail.com]


~ Recently... ~


Emilie, Silvia, Ariel, Guy and I at 一品粥.

Flowering plum.



Emilie's peeled oranges.

Ariel photographed me.
(courtesy of Emilie


Last night, Guy, Emilie, Sofie and I went to Stone Boat Cafe to see Wu Fei, a Brooklyn based experimental guzheng player. Her music was really interesting, with a great mix of soft sounds and then sudden violence. She had one too many glasses of red wine by the end of the night, so she tipsily played around with different ideas as she improvised pieces using audience participation. Fun!

昨晚 Guy, Emilie, Sofie 和我去石船吧听一个古筝音乐家叫
布鲁克林住的弹古筝非常有意思,又 experimental 的声,又标新立异的种类音乐。她弹的音乐一面温和一面猛力;有相反的方面。她喝醉了之后就问观众参加做声。好玩啊!


Zhou Xuan

Zhou Xuan is the famous "songbird of Shanghai," a wonderful singer most active in the 30s. The following is from a movie I haven't yet seen, but it's her signature song. The song is a dramatic love song sung in a modern Chinese operatic style, so the tones may differ from the actual character. I'm working on memorizing and translating it, so below are characters and pinyin for anyone studying and wanting to sing along and study with me.


tiān yá ya hǎi jiǎo mì ya mì zhī yīn


xiǎo meì meì chàng gē láng zòu qín


láng ya zán men liǎ shì yī tiáo xīn


ài ya ài ya láng ya zán men liǎ shi yī tiáo xīn


jiā shān ya běi wàng leì ya leì zhān jīn

xiǎo meì meì xiǎng láng zhí dào jīn


láng ya huàn nàn zhī jiāo ēn ài shēn


ài ya ài ya láng ya huàn nàn zhī jiāo ēn ài shēn


rén shēng ya shéi bù xī ya xī qīng chūn


xiǎo meì meì sì xiàn láng sì zhēn


láng ya chuān zài yī qǐ bù lí fēn


ài ya ài ya láng ya chuān zài yī qǐ bù lí fēn


(My translation attempt. 如果有人会翻译的话请我帮忙吧。)

At the cape at the ends of the earth, I listen to the sea for answers.
A girl sings a song, A boy offers a qin.*
The boy and I are together as one.
Oh love, love, oh, the boy and I are together as one.
In the north mountain house I wait and weep onto my gown.**
The girl still longs for her boy today.
The boy experiences the tribulations of a deep love.
Life does not spare or pity youth.
The girl is like a thread, the boy a needle.
The boy sews us together so we cannot part.
Oh love, love, oh, the boy sews us together so we cannot part.

*A qin is a Chinese stringed instrument
**"Jiashan" could be a town name rather than a "mountain house."


屠宰 (slaughter)
24 x 18 1/2 cm

屠宰 (slaughter)
50 x 40 cm

grouped together


These are two paintings I've recently completed. They're based on photos I posted earlier last month of a lamb being killed outside my house. I actually like the paintings now more than the pictures of the event, and they are more loose than I've been allowing myself to paint lately.


(Radish and bacon soup)

you will need

one large daikon radish (sliced thin and halved)
four strips of bacon
juice of one lemon
splash of soy sauce
splash of Chinese cooking wine
bit of fresh pepper
salt to taste

stock ingredients
around a 1/2 lb of assorted duck or chicken parts
knob of ginger
two star anise
small stick of cinnamon
4-5 dried black mushrooms
1/2 cup of dried, shredded seaweed
one tablespoon of mini dried shrimp
one teaspoon of salt


In advance, add stock ingredients to a slow cooker along with three to four cups of water. Cook for around six hours. Drain and keep stock.

Cook bacon in the bottom of a heavy, Teflon-less pot. Once crispy, remove and set aside then deglaze with a slash of Chinese wine and scrape the fond. Lower heat. Add stock broth and two additional cups of water. Add diced radish and cover, cooking on low for about thirty minutes. Add soy sauce, salt, pepper, bacon pieces and lemon juice and cook for just a couple of minutes. Serves four.


Beijing winter essentials

1 ~ long underwear
2 ~ gloves
3 ~ hat
4 ~ scarf
5 ~ sheepskin insoles
6 ~ humidifier
7 ~ slippers
8 ~ lint brush
9 ~ various lotions
10 ~ lip balm



A couple of days ago my friend Guy and I went to find abandoned sites around the top of line 13, a suburban subway line that winds through empty patches of farmland, piles of rubble, villages, apartments, old danwei collectives and factories. We found a demolished playground attached to an aging, Soviet-style apartment complex and a working construction site, with tons of piled equipment, pipes, garbage and littered pre-fab temporary housing.


Shanghai 2009

...temples, cold walks on West Lake, green tea, happy meals, half-off sales, soup filled dumplings, mishaps, foot massages, ear candling, catching colds, counting down the new year, loft bed, Chinese medicine, Zhou Xuan's voice, family, oversized sweaters, chats, yellow underwear, horror movies, homemade French fries, plastic Christmas trees, Cuban candies...

Thank you for a wonderful trip.



Daily walk.

Line 2.



A Shanghai temple.


Incense offerings in a Hangzhou temple.

Mom and Leif at tea plantations in Hangzhou.


My loft bed.

Bird at a Shanghai market.