how many pigs today? (day 5 of 9)

China Trip – Day 5 of 9

In traditional Chinese culture, people greet each other by asking: “Have you eaten yet?” or in Shanghainese “侬吃了伐?” I don’t think this greeting is still used among the younger generation Chinese; at least I have not been greeted this way for as long as I could remember.

I, however, invented a different greeting during this trip to Shanghai.

Let me give you some background first. Huangpu River is the largest river that flows through Shanghai into the East China Sea. It is also a major source of the city’s drinking water. See my picture below, taken from Bund, looking out to Pudong on the other side of the Huangpu River. Can you imagine Pudong was just farmlands and warehouses and was virtually flat only 20 years ago? But I digressed. According to Baidu, the Chinese Google, dead pigs regularly float down the Huangpu River. This March though, it had made news finally because too many pigs came downstream. BBC first reported this on March 11th.

When I arrived in Shanghai a couple of days later, this was one of the first news stories I heard. My friend J.Y. immediately warned me not to drink tap water, as if I would ever do such a thing even without the pig story. And the number of pigs being fished out of the river were increasing daily. When I first arrived, it was 2,000 pigs and it was a big news then. When I left Shanghai 9 days later, the count had already gone up to 10,164 pigs.

So instead of greeting people with “Have you eaten yet?”, I greeted people with “How many pigs today, do you know?” And I had gotten great responses. People would pause for a second after receiving such an unexpected greeting, and instantly accepted me with knowing smiles as one of the locals/insiders and not that of a visitor. 😀

There were various responses to this issue, but what I liked most were the following two:

1. This shows progress in China, that the living standard is higher now even in the poorest areas, so that the dead pigs ended up in the Huangpu River and not in someone’s belly.
2. This shows progress in China, that news like this is actually made available to the public and not suppressed.

Bottom line, the dead pigs symbolize the progress in China!



Author’s Note: I stopped writing posts on day 5. It was hard to be motivated to write everyday when there was no way to post due to the Great Firewall. I’m making up the missing posts now. This one is written on 3/25/13 and will be backdated to 3/17/13.


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