I only have one more full day in China, and then I come home to U.S. soil! I am so excited to get back to Massachusetts, see family and friends, and enjoy all of the American treats that I’ve missed. Even so, there are many things that I will miss about being here (that I can’t buy in a market to bring home). What I’ll miss most is the way that Chinese people think differently. Most places around the world have been colonized by Europeans at some point in their history, like the United States. China is one of the few places on the planet that avoided European influence until much more recently. As a result, the Chinese do many things differently than we do in the United States. Many of their methods are very innovative, and make me think, “Why don’t we do that too?” Here are my top ten favorite Chinese Innovations:
1. The Water Clock – The Chinese invented the water clock in ancient times, possibly even more than 6,000 years ago. It uses flowing water to measure time. As you can see in the video, when the water level rises to a certain point, it makes the man chime. The Chinese also used the sun and fire to measure time (you’ve probably seen a sundial and the incense clock is pictured in a previous post).
2. Bar Code Lockers – Why bother with a locker key? At the Wu-Mart Supermarket here, push a button to open a locker and a little bar code prints out. You can put your bags in there while you shop, and then use the bar code to open your locker after.
3. Misting Ads – On hot days, you can stand in front of advertisements and get misted with water. It makes you much more likely to read the ad!
4. Sensing Escalators – Some escalators here slow down when not in use. What a great way to save energy!
5. Dumplings – They are delicious and shouldn’t we all eat more of them? You can put anything inside. At one restaurant, I filmed the chefs making their masterpieces. Maybe I can practice at home using this as a model:
6. Informative and Fun Subway Signs – In addition to showing cartoons and other TV on the subway, the signs on the subway cars give very helpful information, such as what stop you are currently at, and which side the door will open on. In Boston, I am always having to guess which way the door will open.
7. Accessibility for the Blind — Here in China, blind people have it much easier. The money is all different in size, so a blind person can feel the difference between a 100 yuan bill and a 5 yuan bill. Also, there is braille on the end of the hand railings at each subway stop, so that they know which exit to use.
8. High Speed Trains — We rode the fast train from Beijing to Shanghai. It traveled over 300 km per hour and took 5 hours when the regular train took 14 hours. Even though it was a lot slower, the sleeper train was fun too, because we got to make friends with some cabin-mates. After we got off the overnight train, an attendant came around and flipped all the seats manually, so the train could go the other direction. Trains are a great way to travel, and I wish we had more of them in the U.S.!
9. Mega-Sized Restaurants — There are huge complex-type restaurants here with many floors. The nice ones have hallways with private rooms for each table. When you arrive, the host will show you to your room, like in a hotel, and that room is yours for the evening. There are almost always enormous “lazy susans” for sharing food.
10. Peking Duck — Beijing’s old name was Peking, and duck is very popular here. I heard about a restaurant where you get a number code for your duck when you eat there. Afterwards, you can look up your duck online and read about its life — where it lived, how old it was when it died, and more. I think this is a great idea, so that people appreciate their food more! Even if you don’t go to this fancy place, you still appreciate the whole duck. They serve it all, even the head, and then after you eat the meat, the chef makes a soup out of the carcass. It’s delicious!
If you could bring one of these innovations back to the United States, which one would you bring?