Unique Things You'll Find in a Chinese House (The China Diaries, Day 23)

By Rutuja Bhagwat - June 05, 2014


Every house you visit in a foreign country will leave you with awe; it's the cultural innuendos and the many traditional ways of living that draw our attention and attracts our interest. My dad worked in Shanghai, China for over two years and so I had the opportunity of staying there for a month. Our apartment was quite modern with state-of-the-art facilities in a progressive housing complex with gardens dotted with flowers and fountains with little kids and their grandparents tottering around. In spite of the modernity, our apartment still had those hints that clearly suggested we were staying in a Chinese house. Just like you come across a small temple with pictures of gods and goddesses in Hindu houses in India or multiple crosses in Catholic homes or even the typical attar fragrance and frames adorned with Urdu writings in a Muslim home, you'd come across specific cultural detailing in Chinese homes as well.

I thought of sharing all these innuendos with you because though people visit Beijing and Shanghai as a tourist, I'm sure it is quite rare to step inside a local's house. So, what is it that sets apart the Chinese house from any other. Browse through the pictures to know.

The Living Room


The Chinese knot tassel
I came across such tasselled decor in many places throughout Shanghai. The knots with tassels are very popular and are used as gifts. There are different types of knots and even different colours are used to make them, however, the deep red colour is the most common. The knots symbolise luck and fortune and are essentially used as a decor piece to shoo away evil spirits (no wonder it was hung right in the living room near the door!). 
We bought ourselves some tassels from China, out of which, the largest one hangs in my room, the smaller one is in my parent's room, the one with the bell is in the car, and another unused piece is preserved as a gift.


The design on this carpet
I know mats and carpets are common everywhere in the world, but I am sure the design on this mat is a bit peculiar. I was first intrigued seeing its square shape and using it as a doormat was a little startling. Also, the deep red and blue combination I thought was noteworthy. 




The peephole
No, I've never seen a peephole like this. It has stars and crescent moons all over it. You need to open the flap in order to see through the hole. I haven't come across many peephole designs so can't really say how distinct this one is, but as for the knowledge I have, the peephole looks quite crafty. 


The God of Prosperity
I was not aware that this old man was a God of Prosperity. When we had hosted a party for my dad's colleagues in China, they were surprised to see these Chinese decorations in the living room. We immediately took the opportunity to ask what each decor meant. The God of Prosperity sure was smiling at us!


The Feng Shui Money Frog
How often have we seen a frog with a tail of a tadpole? The Feng Shui Money Frog is a mythological creature with three legs, one of which is a tadpole tail. It is placed in Chinese establishments to attract wealth and abundance. The frog has deep symbolic roots with amusing folklore behind it. The legend has it that the wife of one of the eight immortals stole the potion of immortality and consumed it, which later turned her into a three-legged frog. 
It is also said that the Money Frog benefits only those who share a spiritual connection with the frog.



The wall decor with Ancient Chinese script
When we asked my dad's colleagues about this particular decor, they said they could not read it as it was no ordinary script. These are Ancient Chinese characters not understood by many.




The sticker
Yet again, we could not decipher this but I'm supposing it was just an advertisement as we can clearly see contact numbers in the bottom. Yet I wonder, what sort of advertisement is this? Pest control? Who knows!


The Good Luck Frame
The Chinese clearly love to decorate their houses with decor pieces that bring luck, prosperity, and wealth to the family. This is yet another example of how spirituality plays a vital role in Chinese households. This frame with some Chinese characters is said to bring good fortune. 


Chandeliers with LED Lights
Of course, there are chandeliers everywhere, but LED chandeliers? Quite rare. The Chinese use LED lights in many electronics and gadgets. 


The multi-layered frame
This frame is not an ordinary frame. You can see immense amounts of hard work and creativity put behind it. Many materials are used including two types of wood and metal. Can you see the gorgeous design inside the heart? Also, check the beautiful metal designing that's going around in the border frame. 
I don't know the symbolic or spiritual significance, but I'm quite sure it has a lot to do with fortune, peace, and love. 



The Balcony


The red sticker
Yet another sticker with intricate Chinese design. There were two such stickers on the balcony door. I am yet to figure out what they mean.



The Chinese Guardian Lions aka Chinese Foo Dogs
These mythical creatures have been used in many art forms including interior designing and architecture. They symbolise prosperity and success, but above all, they symbolise guardianship. They're usually placed in pairs, representing yin and yang. These lions have a ball and a cub beneath their legs (however, the ones at our apartment were void of any). They are to be placed near a window or a door to protect the house from evil spirits. No wonder they were kept in the balcony!

Towards the Kitchen


The Kitchen Door with wooden framing
Our apartment in China had an open kitchen and was attached to the living room. However, to separate the kitchen, there was a sliding door. Kitchen doors are quite common but a glass door with wooden framing and an elegant display of Chinese characters is absolutely unique, and can be spotted only in China, I'm sure! 





The China Crockery
Last but not least---the china crockery. The list couldn't have been complete without the famous cutlery made out of bone-china. I'm confident even you might have it in your home! We usually take these out only when guests are over but imagine eating food in these every day! China bowls, china dishes, china spoons and more such china utensils! How very fancy!

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Read the previous day's diary: The Chinese Kid

Day 23

After finishing the blog, I slept right away! It felt good to sleep at 2:oo am. However, opening eyes before 11:30 the next morning was still difficult.



I woke up late and made tea for myself. Tea and biscuits, that was my breakfast. We spent our mornings watching the show Good Morning Pakistan.

The show was quite informative. Generally, after all the household work, when my mom rested, she switched on the TV, and coincidentally, almost every day, she switched to the ARY Digital channel. That day's topic was quite interesting–it was about children's health habits.

I learnt many things out of it, including tips related to health. I was engrossed in the show so much that I asked mom to cancel our shopping plan. After the show, we had lunch immediately and there was Biryani for lunch!

Post lunch, I started writing the blog. I didn't actually write, but just stared at the screen. (If you ask me to write a blog at any point of the day, I don't think I will be able to. I need a peaceful time to write. Every day I just hunt for this 'peaceful time', but in the end, I do it at nights anyway!)

Around 5:30 pm, I organized my luggage. (It was gradually getting closer to start back for Mumbai and I was sad.) I divided the constituents into five different piles:
  1. Used Clothes | The clothes I'd worn for day-outs fall under this category. I am sure I won't be repeating these as I had many pictures in those already!
  2. Reusable Clothes (Home clothes) | The pyjamas, t-shirts, jeans and shorts come under this category. I'll surely wear them again.
  3. Miscellaneous Items | Novels, chargers, clothes, stationary, tissues, etc. are a part of this pointer. There are just so many of these!
  4. Plastic Bags | God knows how but there were many plastic bags in my luggage. I kept them separate.
  5. The Soon-To-Use Items | All those t-shirts and tunics that I haven't worn come under this category. I'll wear them for the few days that are left in Shanghai. (OMG, I'm sobbing.)

The organization made me quite stressful and the room looked a lot messier. 

While I was piling the things into different categories, my dad came back from the office. We were going to Tesco located at the Shuidian Road (Lu) that evening.



After evening tea, we left for Tesco. We assumed the cab driver did not understand what we were saying so we showed him the translated address. The distance the internet told us was 18 minutes by car however we were just driving, trying to locate. And guess what? We couldn't find it!

While we were deciding what to do–whether to go back home or go somewhere else–we finally decided on a mall opposite to the Thumb Plaza. I came across Zara store there.
Sadly, I did not buy anything from Zara as my taste in clothes is a bit different than what they had on display.

So after Zara, Esprit, and a few more stores, we went to a departmental store named BIT. It was a very expensive shop with even the cheapest of things selling for a thousand rupees.
We bought four packets of chapattis, a milk carton, M&Ms and orange juice. In the bakery section, we purchased American Mud pastry.

After relaxing in its cafe, we started back for home. 

We heated the dinner my mom had cooked in the evening, following which, I cleaned my room. Seeing the number of things I had to carry back to India, I was startled! I only hoped I managed to fit all of that in.

Update: Right now I am on my bed and suddenly the temperature is rising. I just hope it doesn't rain tomorrow!

Goodnight x

Read the next day's diary: Oriental Pearl Tower Shanghai

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