Search Results for: "china"

China then and now–Children

Recently Joann and I talked about the Esther Expedition at the monthly gathering of the China Outreach Ministries near the University of Minnesota. We’ve told our story several times to different groups, but this was the first time to a mainly Chinese audience.

We included a few slides of then-and-now photos– shots we took trying to duplicate pictures in Esther Nelson’s albums, 1924-1951.

Afterward, one Chinese student asked if we could show more of those. I promised him I’d post some. For today, I’ve gather some shots of children.

In the early 1930s, Esther wrote home asking if someone could send designs for a kiddie car that she could give a local woodworker. In December 1936, she wrote: I do have so much enjoyment at Christmas time in making things and giving to the children. I knit a couple of suits for two children, had two kiddie cars made for others . . . 

 nelson kiddie car









Here are a couple of kiddie cars in 2012:


Nelson Kiddie car








In Esther’s day, baskets carried many things, including babies. Today too.

nelson baby basket





Nelson baby basket IMG_9574








Baskets also weren’t and aren’t bad for keeping tabs on baby on the ground too.

Nelson baby basket









Little boys in every generation seem to be unsmiling about dressing up.

1940s. Photo by George Cole, colleague of Esther Nelson

1940s. Photo by George Cole, colleague of Esther Nelson












In cold weather, you still can see toddlers dressed in thick quilted clothes, chin to toe. And that’s indoors too where it may be as cold as outdoors. At this point, I’m going to mention something that will seem perfectly normal to most of my Chinese readers, and quite the opposite to most of the rest of you. Look at the red pants of the modern-day little girl. There’s a gap in the middle. She’s in church, so there’s cloth (the white center section) wadded in there, but otherwise, there’d be nothing–just an open middle from front waist to back waist, as you can see in last photo, taken last year.

Nelson quilted toddlers IMG_1229









Nelson toddler pants






Well, that’s all there is for today, so I guess there’s just one thing left to say:

The End.

The American in China diet

Addition: If you don’t apply #11, all may be lost–except weight, that is.

My month in China revealed to me a new weight loss plan. Yes, there are already too many diets out there, but hey, summer’s coming and we’re always hoping something new will make the difference this time. Also, I know there’s already a Chopsticks Diet. But that plan is Japanese and mine’s Chinese.

Here are the rules, based on eating at streetside cafes in Sichuan, China. Remember, in China, it’s family style all the way. (You’re on your own adapting the plan for home.)


1. Chopsticks are the only utensil you may use for eating, no matter how inept you are. In fact, the more likely you are to make a fool of yourself, the better. That in itself is an appetite inhibitor. No stabbing of food is allowed. The only exception to this chopsticks-only rule is that you may use a spoon for soup broth if a spoon is offered without your asking, and looking pitiful is not allowed. Also, there are no finger foods in this diet–chopsticks all the way. (Survival tip: Cheap wooden chopsticks have better friction than fancy plastic or ivory-looking ones.)

2. Eat from whatever you want that is put in front of you. But  don’t pig out on just one thing; remember all the dishes are for everyone. Be polite.

3. From the meat dishes, choose the pieces that aren’t mostly fat. Don’t worry, that’s not rude. Most of the Chinese friends at the table love the fat pieces.

4. If you have any say in what’s ordered at a restaurant, put in a request for vegetables. Even if they’re cooked in more oil than you’d normally use, they’re good for you and tasty. I loved the stir-fried greens.

5. There’s no clean-plate prize. You don’t have to eat all the rice that’s in the bowl at your place. But if you do, it’s no big deal. You don’t have to eat every  bite of every dish you try. But if you do, it’s no big deal.

6. Now, here’s a biggie. It goes against everything I’d tell you in any other cross-cultural situation. In this plan, you must hold onto every bit of American table manners you’ve learned. Do not adapt to Chinese table manners. Do not hold your rice bowl up to your mouth and slide the last bit of rice in with the side of your chopsticks. Do not hunch down with your chin practically in your bowl. Do not slurp up your noodles. If you don’t adapt to those Chinese styles, you’ll have to slow down to eat really carefully to keep from dropping rice and slippery potstickers and greasy sauce onto your shirt. The only exception to this anti-cultural rule is with a bowl of soup: After you’ve used your chopsticks to eat all the pieces, and if no spoon is offered for the broth, you may pick up the bowl and drink the broth.

7. Especially in Sichuan, go for the dishes that are at least one notch spicier than your comfort zone. This will numb your taste buds, which decreases appetite.

8. If food is offered that you’ve never eaten before, you must try it. That includes, but is not limited to: pig snout, deer tendons, cross-sections of octopus arms, fungus water. . . .

9. Here’s another biggie. When everyone else is finished eating, you’re done too. Put down those chopsticks, no matter how much you want more. If you’re still hungry, stop at the market on your way back to your hotel and pick up some fruit. You are not required to use chopsticks when you’re eating your fruit.

10. If you’re a tourist, I probably don’t need to add this, but I will anyway. Walk. Walk. Walk.

11. Eat Chinese meals. Do not set foot into an import shop, where you’ll find too many of the things that tempt you most. I don’t even dare name them.

So, to summarize the most important points:

  1. Use chopsticks only.
  2. Retain American table manners.
  3. Stop when everyone else is finished.
  4. Walk. Walk. Walk.
  5. Eat Chinese food.

* * * * *

Before you ask, yes I did follow this plan even before I identified it as a plan. And yes, I did drop some pounds. (Thanks for noticing, Char.)



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China now: “Green” Christmas lights

Joann Pittman is a news junkie–particularly news from China. That’s pretty good for me, getting myself oriented for our Esther Expedition in March.

I keep learning new things about China from her, for example this article and video revealing what may be happening to your discarded Christmas lights. Who knew!

China now: ping an ye (Silent Night)

Christmas? During Esther Nelson’s years in China, no one knew anything about Christmas except western foreigners. And besides missionaries and the handful of Chinese converts to Christianity, no one would have been worshiping the Christ of Christmas.

But things have changed dramatically since then, even since as recently as 1997. Joann Pittman describes Silent Night, as Christmas is called in China.

The day is well known now, but still only a handful (comparatively) worship the Jesus whose day it is.


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How big is China?

We’ve  got a large map on the wall that faces me when I’m sitting in “my” seat in the living room. I look at it a lot, so I should have known the answer to Joann’s question:  How big is China?

But I didn’t. Do you?

Check out Joann’s “picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words” answer.

DG in China

With my eyes on China, this blog post from Desiring God caught my eye this morning. Now to watch out for the announcement of the first DG book published in China!

Easy armchair travel to China

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of my preparation for writing Esther Nelson’s story is not necessarily directly about her. Some of my reading is about China or Sichuan, in particular, from the time when she lived there–1924-1951.

Another good source of atmosphere and sense of place and culture is movies, especially ones that are made in China by Chinese people. This means subtitles, but if I’m going to be visiting, isn’t that part of the place and culture too–Chinese language that I can’t understand? (Not much anyway, but Joann’s Survival Chinese Lessons should help me be not totally at a loss.)

Not One LessBut movies. Here are a couple that will take you to China with me. Not One Less has a contemporary setting which seems far from contemporary, but that seems to be the nature of much of rural China. I fell in love with the 13-year-old main character. I was amazed to realize that none of the actors is professional.

The Road HomeThe basic setting of The Road Home also is contemporary, but most of the story is a flashback to earlier days. It’s interesting to observe that live in the village a couple of generations ago is not very different than now. But even more entrancing is the gentle romance of the new teacher and a young woman of the village.

Both are available on DVD, but can be streamed for free by Amazon Prime members and otherwise for a small rental fee.

China and Christmas

At, I wrote how Esther Nelson is affecting my Christmas, and how China is playing into it all.

Esther Expedition: “Begging us not to go”

Esther Expedition

What remains of the life and ministry of Esther Nelson and her fellow missionaries? That is one of the big questions I had in mind throughout our Esther Expedition in China in March.

Of all the places where Esther Nelson lived and worked, Huili seems to have the healthiest, most thriving church. Even though we know God works in many ways to build his church, the missionaries are certainly part of the heritage in Huili.

The number of meeting points is one measure of the life of the church. In a town the size of Huili these days, there is probably only one registered church, if any at all. The government may grant permission for the church to have meeting points where one of the church’s pastors preaches periodically.

The pastor named 11 towns where there are meeting points of the Huili church. Ideally, each of these has a local leader who teaches when the pastor isn’t there. This is an amazing number for a rather isolated town.

Old women staring at us. Imagine what a curiosity Esther must have seemed.

Two of those meeting points are in towns that Esther names–“outstations” where she went with the gospel, and where the gospel is still spoken at the church’s meeting point.

Traveling the road between Xichang and Huili, we stopped and walked along the old main street of Yimen, which Esther called Emen (photos). We were the only foreigners there and it’s not likely there have been many in the years since Esther trekked 18-20 rugged miles over the mountains to get there and to walk along that same street.


May 5, 1949 – Huili

Well, I have done some visiting around of late.  I took [a nice long walk] to Emen, fifty li north of us. My coolie woman and her son came with me. Emen [Yimen] is just a small village of but one street long. Most of the people living there are tillers of the land, some are inn keepers, others are business men, but they all need the Lord tho they do not realize it.

The afternoon of our arrival we rested. The next morning I was out on the street early talking to the people and children. They were interested and listened earnestly. I talked until my throat was dry and harsh. Then I went for a little rest. Later my woman and I went out around the village visiting the homes ’round about.  Some places we came to, they begged us to tell them more, begging us not to go, but when we must go, they asked us to come again. We gave tracts and gospels to those who could read and they were delighted to get them.

Perhaps Esther’s testimony there is part of the reason a Gospel witness remains in Yimen.

My travel photos may be viewed at my Shutterfly Share Site.
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Esther Expedition: Huili — Esther’s house?

My laptop is living up to its name by sitting in my lap while I sit on the love seat in my living room. So it’s a good time for some virtual travel. One virtue of virtual travel is that we can be together in Europe one moment, and then fly the next moment to China.

A few days ago I heard of someone who was in China and would be traveling to Huili, Sichuan Province. She is related to one of the families who was serving there at the same time as Esther Nelson. Esther was there  1948-1951.

Sending some Huili information to her reminded me that I hadn’t yet uploaded any of my photos from Huili or posted anything here about that significant place.

Today, let’s just visit the church.

The Huili  church building is entered through the courtyard behind some businesses that face the street. The church owns the businesses (one is called the Gospel Snack Shop or

something like that) and rents them for income.

We showed up without notice just when a small meeting was about to begin in the balcony area. We were greeted first with kindly curiosity. Their interest and enthusiasm grew as we explained our reason for being there and showed them the “Esther Nelson’s China” photobook that traveled in the back pocket of my vest.

They told us that there had been an old missionary house where the altar of the church is now, and they thought that must have where Esther Nelson and Flora Mae Duncan lived.

Perhaps that was Esther’s house, but I’m not sure becasue a letter from that time says they lived in a house behind the chapel, which was a different building.

Around town later, we showed a 1949 photo of the chapel building and asked a number of people in the streets or in shops where the chapel building was–the former bank building that the Baptists bought to use for classes and other gatherings besides the usual church services.
Finally, someone put the pieces together and pointed us to a place a few hundred yards down the street from the church building. The old building isn’t there any more, but in the courtyard, you can see the top edge of an old house over a wall. It’s in the right place, in the right courtyard behind the former site of the right building, so it might have been Esther’s house. It wasn’t accessible at the time I spotted it.

White building is where chapel used to be

Roof of old house, just visible over long low wall







And there are more Huili Church photos too.


My travel photos may be viewed at my Shutterfly Share Site.
Subscribe to Tell Me When To Pack. Use the links to the right or click here.
If you make a purchase after you click on some of the product links in a post or after you use an on-line shopping link in the sidebar, I receive a small commission, which costs you nothing extra. I recommend only items that I think will be of interest to my readers and that I probably have used personally or wish I had.
I hope you’ll also visit my other blog–