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Shanghai 5 - My Apartment


Chinese Zodiac




(The 12 Animals Representing Years)





The mouse, or rat, is the first in the cycle of 12 animals representing years. The others are chronologically, the buffalo or ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog and the pig. So how come animals designate years? Why 12, no more, no less? And why these specific animals?

There are different explanations about their origin. A popular legend says, long ago, a certain god ordered all the animals to pay him a visit on New Year' s Day, that is the first day of the first lunar month. He said he would give the first 12 animals to come the title "King of the Animal World" and let each hold the title for one year. The New Year visit-to-the-god story explains how the unpleasant mouse managed to become the first of the 12. As the story goes, when the Ox heard of the God' s decree, he said to himself: "It’s a long journey to visit that God. I’m not a fast traveller so I'd better start early." So he set out on the eve of the Lunar New Year. The Mouse heard the Ox and jumped onto his back, without being noticed. The Ox, sweating all over, was so glad to be the first to arrive at the God's place. But just as he was about to express his New Year greetings to the God, the Mouse jumped down over the Ox's head and became the first to kowtow to the God. So he was appointed the first King of the Animals and consequently, the first of the 12 animals to designate years. Now you may be wondering why there is no Year of the Cat, especially since cats have been popular as pets for thousands of years in china as well as in many other countries. Well, in the legend, the Cat failed to be chosen because he was a day late getting to God's place. The Mouse had played a trick on him. He lied to the Cat, telling him the wrong date for the competition. The Cat was not pleased and has hated the Mouse ever since.

A more convincing theory maintains that using animals to symbolize years began from totems of minority peoples in ancient times. Different tribes had different animals as their totems. Gradually, these animals were used as a means to remember the years. Alongside the increasing exchanges between the hinterland and the border regions, the custom of using animals to designate years made its way to the hinterland and was adopted by the Han people, the largest national group in China. At that time, the Hans were using the 10 Heavenly Stems and the 12 Earthly Branches to designate years. They took one from each series to make a pair for one year and developed a system based on a 60-year cycle. Every 60 years it is back to square one and the cycle begins again. When the method of using animals to represent years was introduced into the hinterland, the ancient Chinese married them to the 12 Earthly Branches, one to each; so 12 animals were used. Animals officially began to be used to designate years during the Later Han of the Five Dynasties Period a little more than 1, 000 years ago.

The Earthly Branches are divided into two categories: Yin and Yang. Each of them is paired with an animal of the same "gender". The gender of the animal is determined by the number of a specific part of its body. Odd numbers are Yang and even numbers are Yin. The tiger, the dragon, the monkey and the dog all have five toes on each foot or paw, and the horse has one hoof. So we know they are Yang animals. The cloven-hoofed species such as the ox, the goat and the pig fall into the Yin category because their hoofs are divided into two parts. The rooster is also Yin since it has four toes on each foot. The rabbit has two upper lips and the snake has a two-point forked tongue. So they are Yin, too. The mouse could had been a problem as it has four toes on each fore leg and five on each hind leg. It has both Yin and Yang qualities and there seemed to be no place to put it. Fortunately, the first of the earthly Branches, Zi, can be considered both Yin and Yang. The Branches were also used to designate days and hours, and when symbolizing the hours, this branch covers a period from eleven in the evening to one o' clock in the morning. PM is Yin and Am is Yang. So the mouse goes together with this first branch. It is this double-gender feature, a kind of split personality, you might say, that makes the little mouse the leader among his colleagues.

Your Chinese Horoscope:

Born in 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
Born in 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
Born in 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
Born in 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
You are imaginative, charming, and truly generous to the person you love. However, you have a tendency to be quick-tempered and overly critical. You are also inclined to be somewhat of an opportunist. Born under this sign, you should be happy in sales or as a writer, critic, or publicist.
A born leader, you inspire confidence from all around you. You are conservative, methodical, and good with your hands. Guard against being chauvinistic and always demanding your own way. The Buffalo would be successful as a skilled surgeon, general, or hairdresser.
You are sensitive, emotional, and capable of great love. However, you have a tendency to get carried away and be stubborn about what you think is right; often seen as a "Hothead" or rebel. Your sign shows you would be excellent as a boss, explorer, race car driver or matador.
You are the kind of person that people like to be around, affectionate, obliging, and always pleasant. You have a tendency, though, to get too sentimental and seem superficial. Being cautious and conservative, you are successful in business but would also make a good lawyer, diplomat, or actor.
Dragon Snake Horse Goat
Born in 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
Born in 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
Born in 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
Born in 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
Full of vitality and enthusiasm, the Dragon is a popular individual even with the reputation of being foolhardy and a 'big mouth' at times. You are intelligent, gifted, and a perfectionist but these qualities make you unduly demanding on others. You would be well-suited to be an artist, priest, or politician.
Rich in wisdom and charm, you are romantic and deep thinking and your intuition guides you strongly. Avoid procrastination and your stingy attitude towards money. Keep your sense of humour about life. The Snake would be most content as a teacher, philosopher, writer, psychiatrist, or fortune-teller.
Your capacity for hard work is amazing. You are your own person - very independent. While intelligent and friendly, you have a strong streak of selfishness and sharp cunning and should guard against being egotistical. Your sign suggests success as an adventurer, scientist, poet, or politician.
Except for the knack of always getting off on the wrong foot with people, the Goat can be charming company. You are elegant and artistic but the first to complain about things. Put aside your pessimism and worry, and try to be less dependent on material comforts. You would be best as an actor, gardener, or beachcomber.
Monkey Rooster Dog Pig
Born in 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016
Born in 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017
Born in 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018
Born in 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019
You are very intelligent and a very clever wit. Because of your extraordinary nature and magnetic personality, you are always well-liked. The Monkey, however, must guard against being an opportunist and distrustful of other people. Your sign promises success in any field you try.
The Rooster is a hard worker; shrewd and definite in decision making; often speaking his mind. Because of this, you tend to seem boastful to others. You are a dreamer, flashy dresser, and extravagent to an extreme. Born under this sign you would be happy as a restaurant owner, publicist, soldier or world-traveller.
The Dog will never let you down. Born under this sign you are honest, and faithful to those you love. You are, however, plagued by constant worry, a sharp tongue, and a tendency to be a fault-finder. You would make an excellent businessman, activist, teacher or secret-agent.
You are a splendid companion, an intellectual with a very strong need to set difficult goals and carry them out. You are sincere, tolerant, and honest but by expecting the same from others, you are incredibly naive. Your quest for material goods could be your downfall. The Pig would be best in the arts as an entertainer, or possibly a lawyer.

Tradition says I must write a report showing my apartment! I was VERY lucky in Thailand, to find a really nice place, and it was obvious my place here would never be as good. Indeed, the first apartment I went in here was bug-riddled and quite off-putting, so I swopped the three bedroom, two bathroom for this much smaller apartment. Having said that, I do live alone, so there is still ample space, and no bugs!! My "belongings" from Thailand finally arrived at the beginning of November, and everything is now unpacked and in a home! The only thing I still need to get is a "tree" or two… I need some nice big plants! I’m really pleased with what I have now, hope you like it too!

The Compound

Almost all developments in Shanghai are "compounds". That means a collection of high rises or villas, or both, within a "confined area" with a gate and security. The compound I am in, "Apple Court" is a combination of two high-rises and a number of villas, with a central gym/pool complex. This photo was taken when the pool was closed for winter… usually it looks great with the sunloungers out and the fountain on! As I am now on the 9th floor of one of the high-rises, the view from my balcony looks out across the city. (Looks good at night too with all the lights).


Although the complex is a fair distance from the city centre, I have the advantage of a busstop immediately opposite the complex gate, which goes via Carefour (the main supermarket) and links to two of the three metro lines that crisscross the city, so getting around is pretty easy. Both the bus and the metro accept a Shanghai travel card, and prices are 15p on the bus and 20p on the metro – so it’s cheap and convenient. To travel to/from school I have my bicycle, which was an absolute bargain. Cycles are heavily subsidised by the government, and so my 21 gear bicycle, brand new, cost me just £14. Shanghai has cycle lanes on all main roads, so although its still an ‘experience’, cycling is certainly not a problem. Of course I may change my mind and decide to use taxis when the snow arrives!


The Rooms

A small entrance area with shoe cabinet leads into the main living area. Dining table at one end, settees and balcony at the other. The bookcases and cd racks etc are all mine, but the sofas / dining table chairs / tv table etc all belong to the apartment. Floors are all laminate flooring, so it’s fresh, clean, and easy to clean (very easy to clean in fact, as a nice lady comes twice a week to do it all for me!!!!). The kitchen is pretty old-fashioned, and has no oven, but a microwave was provided together with a washing machine and a tumble dryer. There is certainly plenty of kitchen cupboard and drawer space, something I was desperately short of in Thailand.

The bathroom is fine, small, but clean and tidy. My only "winge" is the lack of water pressure means the shower is little more than a dribble. If I knew I was staying here some time, I would investigate the cost of investing in a "Power Shower" as I really do love a proper shower, but the apartment contracts are just for one year, and there is talk of school buying apartments for teachers so they don’t have to pay rent.

Bedrooms are of a good size, with useful wardrobe and shelving space which I supplemented with a set of drawers. The computer desk is of course mine! The first two photos are of the "guest room"

(anyone fancy visiting?), the last two are of my room. (Of course, if you are female, young and attractive, I may let you share as long as you don’t tell my mum!). So there you have it, my apartment in Shanghai. On a serious note, do let me know if you’d like to visit. One friend is already booked, but there are plenty of weeks in a year, and I do have room!

Take care and Keep in touch!



People ask me what there is to do in Shanghai, so I thought I would highlight the amazing diversity of ‘cultural’ activity here in Shanghai. The Chinese LOVE culture, but it doesn’t have to be Chinese culture, so anything that represents the traditions or cultures / beliefs of any nation or religion, is welcome in China, and usually finds it way to Shanghai. Of course, Chinese culture is predominant, but fascinating!

I have been to the theatre twice since arriving in Shanghai, and by describing the two ‘shows’, you begin to appreciate the diversity I am referring to.


Everybody is kung-fu fighting

The Shaolin Monks' Wheel of Life show puts 1,500 years of martial arts history on stage


Shaolin Monks 1"I asked myself, why? Why would peaceful monks want to split foot-thick blocks with their bare hands?" says Steve Nolan, the producer of the Shaolin Monks' Shaolin: Wheel of Life show. Before Nolan's trip to China, an emissary had arrived in London. "The Abbot of the Shaolin Temple had sent a Chinese entrepreneur who turned up at the Royal Albert Hall trying to book it for a Shaolin demonstration," Nolan says. "They were very keen to get performing, so I was drafted in to help."

Nolan felt it would be a shame to have just a demonstration. "It could have been the Hounslow Kung Fu Club for all you knew," he says. He set about turning the monks' katas (movements) into a stage show. He added a narrative structure which, in its latest incarnation, features 25 monks, four actors and three musicians telling the history of kung fu. There is no doubt that this is a full-on martial-arts show, and it draws a large following of such fans. Shaolin Monks 2But last year dance critics reviewed the Shaolin Monks because, when they are not jumping or breaking iron bars across their heads or having wooden staves shattered against their chests, their movements are animal-like - graceful and ethereal.

The show was truly amazing, the kung-fu was real enough, but it was the mix of colours, actions, dance and choreography that really appealed to me! These are all real monks from the Shaolin kung-fu school in Northern China. The troupe have toured the world, performing in London, New York and across the US and Europe as well as here in their native China.

While most of the monks in the show are in their twenties, there are one or two ‘masters’ in their sixties or more, and the "stars" of the shows are the real youngsters, maybe 8 years old, but already well stepped in the Shaolin way of life! If the show comes near you – catch it, you’ll be surprised how much you enjoy it!

So, my first night at the theatre in China was a real Chinese experience! My next one was certainly not!


River Dance 1River Dance 2


The "Riverdance" spectacular began life as a 7 minute slot in the Eurovision Song Contest when it was hosted by Ireland, and served to introduce Irish dance across Europe. The response was unbelievable, and the end result is a full show, performed by two full troupes continuously around the world. "Riverdance" was chosen this year to be the opening act of the Shanghai International Dance Festival.

Its impossible to describe this show… the instruments, the choral voices, the lighting and costume colours only go to enhance what has to be the best demonstration of Irish tap to be found anywhere! All I can suggest is go to see the show! Or failing that, if you come and visit me, you can watch the DVD – a poor second best!



Anyway – only two trips to the theatre, and already – such diversity! I do have tickets to go to the theatre twice in November too, both times to concerts. Again, demonstrating the diversity of what is available in Shanghai (as well as my own unusual tastes!!), the first of the concerts is a classical performance by the Vienna Boys Choir … and the second is Mariah Carey!

It’s all available in Shanghai!





Thanks for checking out my blog! Please come back soon for more news and pics from our life.
I‘m Trevor
Let Me Tell You About Myself

I'm half a century old, and have been teaching for a quarter of a century! I have the most beautiful wife, and the best-behaved child ever, and life is good!

I have been living in Singapore for getting on for ten years, having also lived and worked in the UK, Europe, Middle East and other parts of Asia.

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Trevor Hughes

Hi, I'm a British teacher living in Singapore. This blog is to share my daily life and trips. Enjoy!.


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