Carpool lane in China

I am back in Shanghai for Chinese New Year. This year 31st Jan is the New Year, and 30th is the New Year's Eve. Usually during the week before New Year, many workers who don't permanently live in Shanghai go back to their hometown. Guess how is the population decreased? It's one-third to half. That means, during the "Golden week" after New Year, the traffic pressure is much lower than the rest of the year. Driving becomes much more convenient than public transportation during this time period.

So I rented a car.

After drove for a couple days, there is one thing to mention. We actually have a "diamond sign" on the road. The diamond sign is exactly the same as the "carpool lane sign" in United States. But does it also means carpool?

Short answer is NO. There is no carpool lane in China.

Actually I don't recall the meaning of that diamond sign. I don't even remember whether it appeared in the driving license exam. Then I did a little research. It turns out that the diamond sign means "slow down", usually before a crosswalk. It is probably equivalent to "PED XING" sign in California.

Well, I would say it is useless, since no one obeys it. The driving culture in China is that people who walk in street should be careful of the cars passing by, not the other way around. Most drivers don't wait before a crosswalk until it is clear. They always try to squeeze into the crowd and make room for them to go through. Sometimes they have to do so, because of the traffic.

In a word, just ignore the diamond sign when you drive in China.

How context dependent is Chinese language

One difficulty of Chinese language is that a word may have different meanings in different scenarios, and depends on how and where you say it. Here is a typical example:

The term "方便" (pronounced as "fang bian") usually means "convenient". In a normal scenario, the following sentence means "It is convenient to pay by credit card":

Scenario 1: 用(to use)信用卡(credit card)付款(to pay)很(very)方便(convenient)。

This is the most common usage. But it has other usages. For example, when you make a phone call to your friend to ask some question, not an urgent question. At the beginning of the conversation, you want to know if he is free to talk or not. You may ask:

Scenario 2: 你(you)现在(now)说话(to speak)方便(available)吗(modal particle for question)?

Here "方便" is interpreted as "available". The sentence can also be interpreted as "Is it a convenient time to talk now?". Okay, not far from the original meaning, still  acceptable.

Let's see the third one. You wanna go to toilet when you are eating with friends. If you don't want to mention the word "toilet" or related terms, since it is a eating time, you could say:

Scenario 3: 我(I)要(would like)去(to)方便(go to toilet)一下(for a moment)。

This is equivalent to "I want to pee", but in a polite way.

Still feeling good? Okay, let's combine scenario 2 and 3. Consider the following sentence:

当(when)你(you)方便(available)的时候(time),我(I)想(want)和你(with you)商量(discuss)件事(one thing)。

If you put replace "available" with "to pee" in the sentence above, it can make perfect sense in certain cases. But in most case, it means "available". Don't get confused when some body talks to you like that.

Keep calm. Chinese is not that difficult 😛

Man-in-the-middle attack in Bitcoin trading

This post is to prevent man-in-the-middle attack in Bitcoin trading. Please read carefully before you make a deposit.

The attack is usually done in this way:
1. A scammer contacts you on a trading website (say, and wants to sell you some bitcoins;
2. After you initialize the trade with him, the scammer contacts me to buy the same amount of bitcoins;
3. I give the scammer my bank account as a normal trade procedure, and then the scammer gives that bank account to you;
4. You make a deposit/transfer to my bank account;
5. I receive the money, and release bitcoins;
6. The scammer gets bitcoins for free and then disappears;
7. You loose money. I loose reputation and probably get investigated by police. Or, I return your money, and loose bitcoins, since bitcoin transaction is not reversible.

If you are asked to make a deposit/transfer to a bank account with holder name "Shuhai Shen", please make sure you put the following link in the transaction message (e.g., "Reason for payment" field):

In this way I know that you have read this document, and you intentionally transfer the money to me.

If you didn't do that, I am holding to right to do an ID check, or simply return your funds and close the trade.

Ü in Chinese

Yes, we do have letter "Ü" in Chinese Pinyin. It pronounces exactly the same as Ü in German, and has only this pronunciations in any combinations.

There is one interesting difference though. "Ü" in Pinyin can sometimes be written as "U", the 21st letter in English alphabet. When written as "U", it still pronounces as Ü. This causes some confusion to read Chinese names in English form.

The rule is simple (at least for Chinese people). When "U" in a combination is not pronounceable, it pronounces as "Ü". For example, the "u" in "Yu" pronounces as "ü", same for "Xu", and "Jue". If you found a Chinese name containing "u" and hard pronounceable, just try "ü".

In documentation, usually we use the letter "v" to replace "ü", since there is no letter "v" in Pinyin. For example, "Lü" is written as "Lv". This is a quick and simple solution for standard US keyboard. Since May 15 2012, China gov starts to use "yu" to present "ü" in the new version of Chinese passport. So "Lü" is written as "Lyu" now.

7-day-long holiday for National Day

Tomorrow is the National Day of China. We get a 7 days long holiday for that. (Except for those people in servicing industry which usually has different vacation policy.) We call it literally "7 days long holiday" (七天长假) of "National Day Fest" (国庆节). The time of this holiday varies each year. In 2013, it is from 1st Oct to 7th Oct.

The interesting thing is that, we don't get this holiday for free. The holiday by law lasts only 3 days. How about the rest? It is "moved" from surrounding weekends. For example, 30th Sept and 12th Oct become working day this year. They are switched with 4th and 7th Oct, which makes the holiday lasting for 7 days.

The 7-day-long holiday for Chinese New Year is a similar arrangement.

What do we do in the holiday? Many people will go out for travel. Since people usually stay at home for the New Year holiday, this is the only chance (for most people) to travel for 7 days. A normal employee in China gets 5 to 10 days as annual leave (and probably can't take them at once). This long holiday becomes a treasure. Tourist cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou, becomes very crowded during this time period. More and more people choose to go abroad to avoid seeing nothing but people.

Enjoy the holiday 🙂