Monthly Archives: April 2014

Apr 26

Obama Offers Ambiguous Backing of Japan on Senkaku Islands, Resurrects 2013 Syria Argument

By Mitchell Blatt | Foreign Affairs

President Obama expressed the “We Didn’t Start the Fire” doctrine during his visit in Tokyo, stating that the Senkaku Islands, disputed by China but administered by Japan, would fall under the U.S.-Japan security agreement if China claimed them by force, but the strength of his support remains very ambiguous.

He stated that the agreement covers the islands, but he stressed that the agreement precedes him.

“Let me reiterate that our treaty commitments to Japan’s security are absolute and article five covers all territories under Japan’s administration including the Senkaku islands.” (CNBC)

“The treaty between the U.S. and Japan preceded my birth, so obviously this isn’t the red line that I’m drawing.” (Japan Today)

He didn’t start the fire. It was always burning since the U.S. and Japan signed the revised Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan in 1960. The flames were lit in 1938 when the Second Sino-Japanese War began. Or in 1931 when Japan invaded Manchuria. Or in 1894 when Japan won the First Sino-Japanese War and took the Senkaku Islands along with some imperialist possessions. The point is historic events have a relation on today, and we didn’t cause them!Continue reading

Apr 22

Happy Festival of Tin Hau’s Birthday!

By Mitchell Blatt | Culture , Travel

It’s Tin Hau’s birthday today in Hong Kong (and everywhere else, even if most people don’t know about it). Unfortunately, I’m in mainland China right now, in one of those places where people don’t know or care about it. But I was in Hong Kong for most of 2013, and let me tell you about Tin Hau.


Tin Hau (天后 – Mandarin: Tian Hou), known in mainland China as Matsu (媽祖), is a goddess of the sea who is said to protect fisherman and others. There are over 70 Tin Hau temples on Hong Kong, the earliest dating back to 1012 (and later rebuilt) at Joss House Bay.

As legend has it, Tin Hau is the spirit of Lin Moniang, an adept swimmer who would help guide fisherman to shore in bad weather. She was said to have been born on Meizhou Island in Fujian on the 23rd day of the third lunar month in 960. The 23rd day of the third lunar month is today, so Tin Hau is 1,053.

According to Larry Salibra, the CEO of Pay4Bugs, adherents and celebrators were parading down a street in the New Territories all morning, starting at midnight.

Continue reading

Apr 14

The Strangest Food Yet: Chicken Egg With Embryo

By Mitchell Blatt | Food and Leisure

The English text on the menu said “egg with legs”. The Chinese text wasn’t much more reassuring. Huo zhuzi (活珠子) translates to “living bead”. What it is is a chicken egg with a partially developed embryo.


One look at it, and I probably wouldn’t have decided to eat it if I wasn’t with some Chinese friends. In fact, I wouldn’t have even known about it if they didn’t tell me about it. When I posted a picture of it to WeChat, a Chinese social network app, a friend from Hong Kong asked what it was. It is a specialty food of Nanjing and not very popular in China outside of Nanjing. (A related food, the balut, is eaten in the Philippines and southeast Asia.)

Of course, it’s not a terribly strange food for Nanjing people, but it’s unique enough that Nanjing people know it is strange for foreigners. With that said, it isn’t the worst tasting food I’ve eaten either. In fact, it was actually kind of good. I mean, it tasted basically like an egg, anyway, and the partial embryo tasted like meat.

To eat it, you are supposed to crack the top of the shell and then suck the soupy liquid out of it then put some salt and spices on the partially developed embryo and eat the yellow of the egg. Leave the hard white part at the bottom.

If you are in Nanjing and want to try it–or other Nanjing local foods–I would recommend Nanjing Da Pai Dang (南京大排档). The chain has restaurants all over the city, and all of them are decorated with lanterns and rustic wooden tables like the set of a Zhang Yimou film (i.e. old fashioned Chinese country houses).

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Mitchell Blatt is an intrepid travel writer, and an author of two top China guidebooks, who brings his readers deep into the cultures of the places he explores. Subscribe now to get real stories of real people in real places around the world delivered right to your inbox.