My recent trip to China has definitely been an interesting cultural experience. While I’m no ethnographer on young people in China like my friend Christina, I want to capture little snippets of a subculture I am familiar with: Magic the Gathering.

Magic has a healthy following in China. Wizards prints a lot of Chinese Magic cards and brands Magic as 万智牌 (wànzhìpái). Even my favorite online Chinese annotator will translate 万智牌 as Magic. 万 means “ten thousand” or “many”, 智 is a combination of “knoweldge”, “widsom” and “intellect”, and 牌 here is “cards”. So Magic is literally a card game of many wits. How cute.

Since I play quite a bit of Magic locally, I wanted spectate a Magic event in China, to see what’s different and what’s cross cultural.

First stop was to find a friendly local game store. Game stores are the heart of local Magic communities, supplying cards and hosting Wizards sanctioned events.

While I’m impressed to find games stores in China listed on Wizard’s official store locator, the website didn’t load for me while I was there, because they use Google Maps. Google services are generally heavily throttled in China, slowed to the point that they’re unusable. (I made the decision to visit a game store last minute while I was in China, so I didn’t have the luxury of researching before my trip).

I found forum posts about game stores on Baidu and listings on a site that hasn’t been updated since 2013, but they didn’t seem reliable. I ended up going on Reddit and meeting an American Magic player living in the local area.

He took me to SGM 桌游俱乐部 (SGM board game club).

SGM

SGM sign up close

SGM is seclusively tucked away behind a shopping center. It is one the third floor of a mixed-use building, where residential apartments neighbor commercial offices, with little transition in between. One door could lead to a doctor’s office while the next could be someone’s home. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a mixed-used building before, but I hear they’re not uncommon in China.

inside

The inside of SGM feels a little like being inside a large apartment that’s chalked full of Magic decor. It’s definitely a smaller game store that can probably seat a maximum of 30 players at a time. My favorite part of the store was the table on the balcony, for those who prefer the outdoors.

balcony

SGM is pretty update in terms of the latest Magic products. They give out the latest promo cards at Friday Night Magic events and has all the latest sets. Since Magic is becoming more popular, they’re getting more Chinese cards instead of English ones. Previously, the first Modern Masters sets they got were in English, but the second Modern Masters were all in Chinese.

Unfortunately, due to my crazy schedule (and poor planning), I visited SGM on a quiet night where only a couple of friends were playing. I was a little sad that I didn’t get to talk to the Friday Night Magic crowd, but I had fun playing a couple rounds of EDH Magic. From what I hear, local Magic is highly competitive. I’m not too surprised since, for the young people, they’re brought up in a highly competitive environment focused on the 高考 (gāokǎo), the college entrance exam that’s the sole determinator of which college they’ll attend.

EDH

Probably because we were playing with a German expat and a Chinese student, each of the decks we played with had a mix of German, English, and Chinese cards. While it felt natural to have multilingual decks there, I remembered I’ve never seen any non-English cards in a deck here. I was a little sad how monolingual we are in the States.

Overall, it was a really neat trip. Definitely not what I expected, though I’m not sure what I expected. I’m really happy I got to see a local game store in China and of course, always happy to play some Magic. I was really excited to finally play with Olivia Voldaren, which is an absurdly strong card. I sculpted a little token of her a while ago, for exactly EHD games.

Yay Magic!

Congratulations Ray and Shu!

Last weekend, I attended Ray and Shu’s wedding in China. It was a beautiful event and an awesome cultural experience.

On the morning of the wedding, there was 抢妻 (qiǎngqī), where Ray and his groomsmen push their way into Shu’s room, guarded by her bridesmaids and friends.

push
After answering trivia about Shu and doling out 红包(hóngbāo, red envelopes filled with money) to the bridal party, Ray is finally allowed to see Shu.

He proceeds to put golden slippers on her and link the heels together with golden chains.

goldenslippers

Next, the parents of the bride and groom offer well wishes through a tea ceremony and Ray and Shu share some 汤圆 (tāngyuán, soupy glutinous rice balls).

riceballs

Ray and Shu are then whisked away to a park for photographs. There’s even a drone taking aerial shots!

drone
When they return, the ceremony begins. Friends and relatives fill a banquet hall and give 红包 (hóngbāo) to the couple.

hongbao

The ceremony was lovely and I’ll post pictures when I get them.
I was the ring bearer!

After the ceremony, there was a feast with all sorts of amazing dishes like roasted duck and various fish. I got to try some 白酒 (báijiǔ, fire water), something I’m been meaning to do ever since I read the Serious Eats article. It was fiercely aromatic and alcoholic. I only tried a thimble-full, but man was it strong.

firewater

When the feast concluded, everyone retreated to a gaming room to play mahjong.

Overall it was a really fun event. While there were Western influences (such as Ray’s tuxedo and Shu’s white dress and the exchange of vows and rings), it was also very Chinese (抢妻, 红包, banquet, and mahjong). I found it interesting that while there were cake for dessert, it lacked any ceremonial significance. Even more interesting was the fact Ray and Shu consider their entire event a Western affair, and “not traditional at all”.

Anyhoo, Ray and Shu, I wish you the best in your new life together and 白头偕老!

merrelle

Recently, Harry and I have gone hiking a lot. He convinced me to buy a pair of Merrell hiking boots, and boy what a great investment they were.

I initially thought hiking boots wouldn’t make that much of a difference, but they totally do! They provide a lot of ankle support and traction, which assuages a lot of my anxiety about slipping to my doom.

If you’re a small woman who’s new to hiking (like me), then the Merrell Moab is a fine choice. It’s very comfortable and not that heavy. It’ll make your hiking trips a lot more fun.

About 2 years I first learned of 3D Hubs. It didn’t impress me very much. What I thought was just another startup trying to capitalize on idle 3D printers turned out to explode in a very quick time frame.

3D Hubs isn’t just a marketplace. It fosters communities. I believe that community focus is what propelled it levels above their competition.

It took me a while to realize I’m not their target audience. Sure, I love 3D printing and have traditionally outsourced the printing to online services. What I wanted was cheap and high quality prints from industrial machines. What 3D Hubs provided was locally made prototypes and a platform to exchange ideas about 3D printing. Their strong Meetup presence is a beacon for novices and a magnet for enthusiasts.

As long as they keep the community spirit alive, I think 3D Hubs will keep goin’ strong.