How to: Chinese Motorcycle License

If you’ve lived in Beijing for very long, you know that transportation for trips out to the Great Wall or the countryside can be expensive, or inconvenient. So my wife and I decided to purchase a car. I already had my Chinese driver’s license, so we registered in the lottery (摇号) having convinced ourselves we would eventually be granted a license plate. However, three years later, many of our local friends had been granted plates, but we had given up. What other recourse did we have? We could rent cars when needed, but that was a hassle, or we could borrow cars from our Chinese friends, which we had done on a number of occasions, but that’s just not the same as packing for two or three nights and heading out to the countryside on a whim.

The solution for us was a Chinese motorcycle license (摩托车驾照).  There is no lottery for a motorcycle license plate, and no restrictions (限号) likely the weekly one day restrictions automobiles have to deal with. We both decided this was a brilliant idea, the only problem was, I had no experience on a motorcycle, and no foreign license I could use to avoid formal training class in Beijing. How did I get through the process? This blog is the story of my own experience with the process, and the result.

The steps:

In order to apply for a motorcycle license, China law requires that you either hold a Chinese drivers license for one year or can prove you have an overseas motorcycle license. So if you don’t have a motorcycle license from your home country you must first provide the necessary documents for your drivers license application at the Chinese equivalent of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), International Department (北京车辆管理所涉外管理科)near Shibalidianqiao (十八里店桥). These include your current Passport and current Resident permit with a minimum validity of 90 days, a valid drivers license issued from your home country with a certified translation, four 1” photos with white background, and a health certificate issued by an approved hospital. Bring several copies of each when you make you application.

You can get your health certificate at almost any local hospital, which I found very simple to retain for my original Chinese drivers license at the Sino-Japanese Friendship hospital International Department. I just told them what I needed, provided a photo (this is in addition to the 4 required with the application), had a hearing and vision test, and was on my way with health certificate in hand.

Submit all of these documents along with several copies of each and the current application fee to the DMV and sign up for a test date. The test for either a regular drivers license or motorcycle license consists of 100 test questions that are taken from a much larger selection of questions. Be sure to purchase a copy of the test questions and answers available in English at the DMV and allow enough time to study well when you sign up for a test date. There are several hundred questions to study, and 90% is the minimum passing score, so be prepared. Your test will be taken on a computer system that will give you your score immediately. Assuming you pass the first time, you can go back to the front desk and either arrange for your license to be mailed to you, or in some cases, you can wait for them to prepare it and take it with you.

If you’re among those who already have a motorcycle license from your home country, then you can follow all of the instructions above, with the exception that you must apply for the motorcycle test. This test also consists of 100 questions chosen from a list of over 400 multiple choice and true/false questions. Take note that the test is only available in Chinese. But if you read some Chinese, and are determined to pass, then you can take advantage of an app that has all of the test questions and also includes practice tests. You can find the app at www.jiakebaodian.com . This app was a lifesaver for me as it provided the opportunity to learn all the characters I was lacking to read well enough to pass the test.

The rest of the story.

So once the decision was made, I began to research the motorcycle license process. Having passed the English test a few years earlier, and so now qualified to apply for the motorcycle license, I was thinking “how hard can this be”. I was soon to be enlightened. So in addition to having retained a drivers license, I was now required to not only pass the 100 question motorcycle test, but also had to take a practical riding class and pass a riding test. The practical riding course was by far the most interesting and enjoyable part of the process.

Foreigners are require to sign up for the riding course at the Laoshan jiaxiao (老山驾校). You can see their website at http://www.laoshanjiaxiao.com and find their address just north of line 1 using your favorite maps app. I suggest you make a stop on the way and get your physical exam report at the nearby hospital (石景山医院).You want to head over to east entrance where you can find the physical exam department (体检). They first asked for a photo and an application, which I filled out in a couple of minutes. I then stepped over to the left where a nurse examined me along with an older Chinese gentleman. We both looked at a few pages in a book to check for colorblindness, followed by the vision chart. She then sent me next door to pay 10RMB, after which I returned with a receipt to pick up my completed exam form.

It’s about a brisk 15-minute walk from the hospital to the school. You can take a taxi up there, but it may take a while if you want to take a taxi back as the school is a bit secluded. I walked in with great confidence, submitted my documents to the school (all the same as those required for the drivers license) and was then asked  how well I could read Chinese, “你的汉子怎么样”, I was shocked to learn that the motorcycle test was only available in Chinese. I’d been studying an English version, but later learned the test had been revised and was no longer available in English. To be honest, I was certain as I paid for the course that I would not be back to take it. Another surprise was that foreigners don’t pay the same fee as the locals. At first I thought this unfair, but as I went through the process I realized Laoshan has to provide more services for foreigners. Below is an overview of the process. You can see that you have to pass a 50 question test before you can schedule your riding class, but you have to pay for the classes in advance of the first test. On the way home I sent a message to my wife that it would be a miracle if I got my license. I still believe it was a miracle.

1)   Prepare all the required documents, photos, translation and copies.

2)   Get a physical exam certificate.

3)   Go to the Laoshan school with all of the above and pay for the course.

4)   Get a phone call from Laoshan school to meet them at the DMV and sign up for the first 50 question test. There representative will be there as scheduled to help you get signed up for your test.

5)   Go back and pass the test.

6)   Take your test results back to the Laoshan school and wait 2-3 days for them to call you with your class dates. Note that when you sign up for class you have the choice of weekend classes or a 5-day midweek morning class.

7)   Take the riding course and pass the riding test.

8)   Go back to the Laoshan office with your results (note that only foreigners have to follow this process). They will call you in a few days to let you know when you can go back to the DMV to sign up for your final test.

9)   Go back to the DMV at the designated time, pass your test, and either wait for your license or arrange for them to mail it to you.

A few days later I got the call from Laoshan to meet their representative at the DMV. As it turned out, there were two of us there to register for our first test. I set mine test date up for a two week delay figuring I needed as much time as possible to prepare for the test, but I still had no idea how exactly to prepare. After we had both set our test dates the other student asked our rep the key question “What is the best way to study for the test”, she was a bit perplexed at the question, “You don’t know about the app?”, I should have known, there seems to be an app for everything these days, why not one that includes everything you need to study for your Chinese motorcycle license.

As it turns out, the app did not work on my iPhone, but they also have a website that works just the same (http://www.laoshanjiaxiao.com), or even better for me when studying at my desk with my laptop. So over the next two weeks I spent many long hours reviewing all the answers to both the multiple choice and true/false questions. I then used the practice test function. This was no longer about freedom for my wife and I to travel, it was more about the challenge of passing the test.

On test day my wife came along for moral support. You basically just need to show up a few minutes before the test. There are usually quite a few folks waiting. When the test time comes an official will make an announcement and everyone will head upstairs to the testing room. I needed some help finding the motorcycle test on their computer system, but once situated I rolled through my 50 questions in about 12 minutes, missing one question. I was out so quickly my wife thought something had gone wrong. We had experienced the first miracle in the process.

We then went directly to Laoshan and showed them my test result. They were a bit surprised, which was an encouraging reaction. They called me a couple days later with the start date and basic information for the riding course. The only items I was required to bring were all my documents, including the receipt for my payment, and a helmet.

My first class started at 8AM on a beautiful Spring Monday morning. After passing the first test, I was really excited to get started riding. I’d only borrowed a motorcycle for 30 minutes so I could teach myself how to use the controls, shift, etc. This proved extremely helpful as our instructor didn’t do much instructing. He did a roll call, walked us through the course we would be tested on that Friday, showed us how to start the old 70cc bikes we would be using all week, assigned us riding partners for taking turns through the week, and then watched us for a few minutes as we took our turns going through the course. For the better part of our first 3 days he left us alone to figure things out for ourselves, coming back now and then to make sure we hadn’t destroyed any equipment. There were sixteen of us in the class with 8 motorcycles going through the course. On the first day he told us that the law required us each to be there on time each day and to practice until 12PM. There were several students who asked if they had to come every day, and he just repeated himself. In the end, most of us were there every day, but a few only showed up now and then. For the most part, in the end, it didn’t matter what technique we used, it was about getting through the course without any of our mistakes being noticed.

On Thursday our instructor had us line up our bikes and ourselves up just as we would be for the police officer who would be arriving to observe us the next day. His main point was that we should do our best, and if we made any mistakes and the officer asked us how it went we should just pretend it went fine and tell him so. If he asked us twice, we were to tell him we made a small mistake, in which case he could still pass us or give us a second chance.

We were all lined up and ready to go when the officer showed up. He gave us some simple instruction and then we got started. It was surreal. Here we were, 16 of us testing for a motorcycle license and about 10 more testing for a sidecar license. There were at least 3 of us on the course at any given time with the officer speaking with each of us and signing us off as we finished. That is one pre-occupied officer, sitting in his car, facing away from half of the course, and trying to observe all of us…impossible doesn’t describe the conditions. Several made mistakes, some of them fairly major, but he didn’t catch any of them. Needless to say, everyone passed on the first try.

The officer then excused me to go to the office (all the locals then had to go to the local DMV office and immediately take their test). At the office they confirmed my results and once again told me they would be in touch to tell me when I could go back and sign up for my last test.

About a week later I was back at the DMV, but this time I wanted to test as soon as possible. I continued to practice for the test, and when the time came I passed with a 100% score in about 10 minutes. 30 minutes later I had my license in hand and my wife and I were on our way home to celebrate. A completed miracle.

There is much more to this story with respect to my Laoshan school experience. My fellow students were incredibly helpful and great fun to be with. We still have a Wechat group that stays in touch. Some of them go on rides together and all of them have treated the laowai (老外) like I was their mascot.

Photo Apr 28, 4 08 00 PM

My wife and I have also really enjoyed the freedom our Suzuki GW250 has given us. We ride it everywhere, but mostly out to the north of Beijing. Road fees are the same as for cars, but that and fuel costs are very inexpensive compared with hiring a driver or renting a car.

This is a friend who has a sweet little B&B out near Mutianyu Great Wall

This is a friend who has a sweet little B&B out near Mutianyu Great Wall

I’ve since also tested for and retained my motorcycle license in my home state. Someday, when we move back to the USA, I’m hoping to ride there too.

As the owner/manager of 1on1Mandarin I do reap special benefits. Our teachers and staff are always will to see their laoban and all of our foreign staff and Chinese language students succeed. www.1on1mandarin.com

 

Chinese History Podcast review

Learning Chinese history 101

We have previously mentioned on this blog the importance of understanding culture , and how understanding history is an important part of understanding culture. Having had time to listen to more of the Chinese History Podcasts by Laszlo Montgomery, then I am happy to continue to recommend the podcasts series.

There are other ways of getting up to speed on your Chinese history, but Laszlo’s easy way of narrating, depth of research, and making a story out of the details makes it a good option for me.

However, with each podcast episode being 30 minutes long, and there already being over a hundred podcasts in the series, some readers may find it helpful to be pointed to the podcasts that are particularly relevant and helpful for understanding current Chinese culture and attitudes.

 

China History Podcast Screen shot

Recommended Episodes

Of the recent podcasts I have listened to then in my opinion, the following episodes were particularly interesting

  • CHP-048 The Founding of the CCP
  • CHP-053 China in the Early 1920s
  • CHP-055 The Shanghai Massacre 1927
  • CHP-056 China and Japan 1895-1945
  • CHP 058 Sir Robert Hart

(Prior to this, Laszlo had been concentrating on doing broad Summaries of each dynasty starting with the Qin dynasty (episode 2), and finishing with the Qing Dynasty (episodes 35-41), but it is now that he is covering the events of the 20th Century that the history becomes particularly relevant. )

China history podcast on itunes

Useful lesson for language students

The episode on Sir Robert Hart contains a helpful reminder for all us language students: succeeding in China is not just about becoming fluent in the language. Sir Robert Hart succeeded where his predecessor (Horatio Nelson Lay) failed despite both these men became entirely fluent in Chinese. The key reason for this disparity is that it seems that Hart made the effort to really understand the culture and have respect for the people he was working with, which Horatio Nelson Lay failed to do.

You can listen to the full story play on iTunes, or via the China history podcast website. Let us know what you think.

Top 5 Chinese video websites

Note: There are many changes about Chinese video websites since I wrote last post “Top 3 Chinese video websites” almost two years ago, so I’d like to write some updates on this post and will try to cover all the popular video sites in China. Hope those video sites, not only for fun, but also will be helpful resources for you to learn Chinese and practice your Chinese listening skills.

1. Youku video http://www.youku.com/

I personally like Youku the most because of its video content,  speed, clean design and the least amount of embedded ads, I think it’s one of the best video websites here in China.

2.  http://tv.sohu.com/

It’s owned by Sohu.com, also great video content, high quality movies, TV shows, one of the most popular video sites in China.

3.  http://www.iqiyi.com/

It’s run by Baidu, even though Baidu entered this video market later than others,  iqiyi.com started with only high quality video route, now it’s becoming popular now, again great video content and video quality.

4.  http://v.qq.com/

I think if you know a little bit China, you should at least heard of QQ which is  the No.1 and most popular instant messenger in China and has hundreds of million active users.  With that being said, QQ video sites quickly and easily became the most visited video site because of it’s enormous active users.

5.  http://video.sina.com.cn/

It’s owned by Sina.com.cn, a lot of video content, I often watch sports video on  Sina Video site,  I feel like it has more sports video than other video sites, that is one thing I like it about. And you probably heard of Sina Weibo (Chinese version Twitter), it’s became one of big thing in China now, I may write another post about Weibo later.

These are the top five video sites in China I personally visit most frequently.  You may heard of other video sites from other people or elsewhere, however,  I would not to recommend them at all because of their crappy content or ugly ads.

And above 5 video sites covers latest news videos, movies, TV shows, sports videos, technology,  music and much more,  These websites would not only be helpful for practicing your Chinese listening skills, but also for providing you with another means through which you can better understand China.

So go ahead check out yourself, I hope you find something fun and useful. Let me know in comment if there is a particular video you try to find.

 

a great Chinese video player

 As I mentioned in previous post,  today I’d like to share more about the  Chinese video player-Splayer, it’s neat, safe and really high performance  video player I’ve ever used.  It has many great features, and the one feature I like most is that it automatically matches and downloads movies subtitles itself from shooter.cn, so you don’t need to find the movie subtitle manually  yourself.

What can it do for learning Chinese? You probably heard from other Chinese learners that it’s great way to learn Chinese by watching Chinese movies, so if you are planing to do so, then this video player can do you a great help by using its subtitle automatic download and almost all the Chinese movies has both English and Chinese subtitles which download from shooter.cn.  I believe you can learn some real Chinese by learning from Chinese movies.

FYI, here is the post about downloading Chinese movie subtitles from shooter if you want to know more.

Other great features about this video player are smooth playback, low consumption, HD quality, Intelligent subtitle display technology and clean/beautiful interface.

More detail information about Splayer and downloading this video player, can be found here: http://splayer.org/index.en.html

Hope you find this post helpful, please let me know if you run into any problem or need any help with finding a certain Chinese movie.

 

Zhongwen: A Chinese Pop Up Translator for Chrome

Here’s another one for all you Chinese-learning Google Chrome users out there- this follows suit after our previous post about the Perapera-kun Chinese translator plugin for Firefox. Likewise, Zhongwen is a Google Chrome extension that brings up pop-up translations of Chinese characters and words from webpages that you are browsing.

 

The Zhongwen plugin translates both traditional and simplified Chinese characters into English, and uses the popular CEDICT Chinese English dictionary to do so. Most importantly, it also shows the Hanyu Pinyin along both the simplified and traditional characters.

Installing the Zhongwen plugin is quite a bit easier than the Perapera-kun plugin. All you need to do is navigate to the Zhongwen plugin page and click install; no separate dictionary file installation is required. Activating the plugin for use just requires you to click the plugin button in your browser, and mousing over Chinese characters will automatically call the translation popup to show.

Zhongwen Google Chrome Chinese Dictionary Popup Extension

 

Zhongwen Google Chrome Chinese Dictionary Popup Extension

 

To get started with the Zhongwen Extension:

1. Get the Google Chrome browser

2. Install the Zhongwen Extension

Happy surfing!

功夫梦 – The Karate Kid Streaming Online

For those who have yet to watch the latest 2010 remake of the 1984 “The Karate Kid”, you can stream it for free through QiYi.com (奇艺 qi2yi4); though I feel that the movie title should be changed to “The Kung Fu Kid”, since the Chinese title of the movie is 功夫梦  (gong1fu meng4 – aka: dreaming of Kung Fu), and the martial art in the movie is no longer the Japanese Karate, but the Chinese Kung Fu- but that’s just me =)


I hadn’t heard of QiYi before, so I did a bit of research, and I found out that the difference between qiyi.com and other mainland online streaming video services, such as tudou.com and youku.com, is that QiYi aims to gather all of its video content through legal means through several copyright intermediary sources. This also allows QiYi to obtain higher quality and resolution videos, which is pretty nice if you’re wanting to project a movie on a screen to watch with friends.

Here’s the direct link to The Karate Kid on QiYi.com
(http://www.qiyi.com/dianying/20100725/n26619.html)

By the way, if you are those who would like to learn Chinese by watching movies, I’d recommend a product launched recently, it’s great option for those who wanted to learn Chinese in a casual and fun way.

Perapera-kun: A Chinese Pop Up Translator for Firefox

I wanted to highlight an awesome translator pop-up tool for those who use the Firefox internet browser, called Perapera-kun. Perapera-kun is an extension add-on for Firefox that acts as a pop-up translator for Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, into English or German. I haven’t tried out the Korean, Japanese, or German dictionaries, but the Chinese-to-English dictionary provides translated meanings of words, and also the pinyin pronunciation of the word. This is a great tool to have if you’re wanting to venture into the Chinese net-space to browse some local BBS forums or news sites.

 

 

To get started with Perapera-kun:

1. Get the Firefox browser

2. Install the Perapera-kun add-on

3. Install the Chinese-to-English dictionary file

(Note: The Perapera-kun website is hosted on a WordPress site, which is blocked by the Chinese firewall. Here is a direct link to the Chinese-to-English dictionary file)

Happy surfing!

A high-quality Chinese video website


Today,  we are introducing to you a high-quality Chinese video site: 奇艺(qí yì). It’s like Hulu.com in China. Their video quality is quite good, and stands out from other video sites in China. What’s more, they have many legal copies and full length movies, TV dramas and documentary films you can watch online for free. Please check it out at Qiyi video – www.qiyi.com.

We have a post about other Chinese video websites here, covering Youku.com, 56.com and Ku6.com. Among those four video sites, we would recommend Youku.com and Qiyi.com (they’re just like the Chinese version of Youtube and Hulu).

Mostly importantly, you can get access to tons of video resources to help you practice your Chinese listening and speaking.  Hope this post is helpful and let us know if you find anything interesting.

How to learn Chinese guide

Free Chinese language study guide available for download in pdf format. This useful Chinese study guide covers topics such as learning strategies, learning styles, maintaining motivation, overcoming barriers, memorizing vocabulary, and other issues in the study of Mandarin. Now freely available online with hard copies available at our Beijing Chinese language school.  Please feel free to share with your friends.