Review and gift idea: Sleeping Chinese

Before I forget… It’s that time of the year when The System forces virtually all of us, in however small a way, to partake in an act of collective insanity: the purchasing of things no-one needs for people who don’t want them. Even those of us who are by nature far too cool to be sucked into such a wasteful farce often find ourselves with no choice but to get one or two bits of junk to wrap up and pass on simply because life’s too short, and it’s the course of least resistance when the alternative is being considered a leper or, even worse, causing others who gleefully succumb to the madness to lose face.

The main beneficiaries of this tortuous sacrificial ritual (that’s hard-earned cash you’re handing over) are the manufacturers of Ferrero Rocher, the spherical chocolate sweet that tells the recipient you consider him or her a total bore unworthy of even a shred of respect more than it takes to step into a 7-Eleven for 20 seconds at the last minute. (An interesting PhD thesis would involve sampling a cross-section of the million boxes of these things changing hands at Christmas to see what percentage have gone stale. My own taste-tests suggest large-scale recycling is going on.)

Other big winners from the seasonal lunacy inevitably include our local friendly landlords, renting out precious parcels of the Big Lychee’s scarce space to such contributors to human progress and happiness as Papyrus, a store in IFC Mall selling an ‘exceptional collection of social expression products from the very best resources’ – ugly and overpriced stationery, in plain English. (Presumably, this being 2010-11, people use the embossed, lavender-scented, Regent Blue Ecruwhite (‘a stunning frame for your words’) for shopping lists.

There is, however, an alternative. It is Sleeping Chinese by Bernd Hagemann – a book full of photos of PRC citizens indulging in extreme napping. Sensitive types might feel slightly dubious about this work on the grounds that it could cause offence: it contains, after all, nothing but noble sons of the Yellow Emperor being caught looking ridiculous on camera by a German. The author maintains that he took up his hobby to provide a juxtaposition to the image of the Middle Kingdom as an awakening, and even threatening, mighty superpower.

I tested it over the weekend on a Beijing native who laughed out loud throughout. It also gets a stamp of approval from the primary organ of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, which would not look kindly on anything that might hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. Maybe it is an exceptionally subtle bit of ‘soft-power’ propaganda to counteract Beijing’s recent string of foreign relations lapses from the Diaoyu-Senkakus to the Nobel Peace Prize. Even if they build an aircraft carrier, they’ll all be slumped on the flight deck, snoring.

The book doesn’t answer the question of why (let alone how) so many people in China snooze in the open during daylight hours. Were all of the photos taken during the early afternoon, post-lunch siesta that even some Hong Kong office workers still enjoy – a hangover from schooldays when it was compulsory? Is it extreme overwork? Or a complete lack of employment?

More to chew over than a tinfoil-wrapped chocolate hazelnut, at least.

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3 Responses to Review and gift idea: Sleeping Chinese

  1. Maugrim says:

    To travel on a bus in the morning rush hour is to enter some twilight zone world, where I swear, the only person not sleeping on the crowded bus was me. HK’ers have some magical powers whereby they can snooze, not drool or do the head lol thing, awakening when their stop is reached.

    I think the reason is that HK’ers lead ‘busy’ lifestyles where many refuse to get a good 8 hours sleep for fear that they will miss out on something, for example 2 hours of Mah Jong. HK’ers are heavily into opportunity cost. Lost sleep can be easily made up during ‘down time’ on a bus. Its also like parents who place times tables next to the toilet so that Ah Ming can practice his maths while on the job. Practical and amusing at the same time.

  2. Curious says:

    No wonder people wander around in their pyjamas…

  3. the sixth wife of dickson poon says:

    once I’d removed the classy tinfoil wrapper I put the cocoa confection between my teeth and I heard the crisp outer layer seductively crack, my mouth was filled with the sensation of luscious chocolate and an exotic nutty flavor, elegant yet sensual. immediately I was transported back to that romantic Christmas in 1994 when I received my very first box of….(to be continued)

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