Vocab for Breathing Healthy in Beijing


great wall of china

Here are a few basic vocabulary words about health and air pollution that you can use in everyday conversation.

breathe 呼吸 (hū xī)

air quality 空气质量 (kōng qì zhí liàng)

air quality index (AQI) 大气质量指数 (dà qì zhí liàng zhĭ shù)

clean air 清新 (qīng xīn) or 干净的空气 (gān jìng de kōng qì)

fresh air 新鲜空气 (xīn xiān kōng qì)

air pollution 空气污染 (kōng qì wū răn)

particulates 微粒 (wéi lì) or 颗粒 (kē lì)

dust 灰尘 (huī chén)

HEPA High-Efficiency Particulate Air 高效能粒子空气 (gāo xiào néng lì zĭ kōng qì)

HEPA filter 高效过滤网 (gāo xiào guò lǜ wăng)

Air purifier 空气净化器 (kōng qì jìng huà qì)

mask 口罩 (kŏu zhào)

lungs 肺 (fèi)


Goobo: “The air is so clean today! Let’s go for a picnic at the park. The fresh air and the scenery will do your lungs good.”


Palunka: “Are you kidding me? The air is SO polluted today. Stay inside and turn on your air purifier.”


Goobo: “But the AQI reported in the paper is fine. Besides, I haven’t changed the filter in a long time.”


Palunka: “Then we’re going to buy a filter right now. Put on your mask. It’s dusty outside. Let’s go!”


growing cleaner air in your home

Money Plant

There are at least three ways to combat air pollution in your home and outdoors – air filters 空气净化器 (kōng qì jìng huà qì), houseplants 室内植物 (shì nèi zhí wù), and masks 口罩 (kŏu zhào). Most of these options aren’t portable, but check out low-cost ways to help you stay healthy at the MyHealth Beijing blog.

Fight “Crazy Bad” Air Pollution — Cheaply

MyHealth Beijing


a refreshing and wild trip into Tian Shan mountain of Xinjiang

Tian Shan of Xinjiang

As I can see in Beijing,  all expatriates like to travel.  When living in Beijing for awhile, you’ve seen the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.  Have you ever wanted to get out of the big city and go on trips which are designed to encourage, support and renew your life. I know a friend who started JWA Trip here in Beijing and bring people on backpacking trips into Tian Shan mountain of Xinjiang. They will go to the few remaining unspoiled locations in Xinjiang and experience the beauty of wilderness.

One of trips they are doing is the adult backpacking trip, is a ten day backpacking trip that begins and ends in Urumqi, Xinjiang. Upon your arrival in Urumqi, your trip includes all transportation, lodging, food, and equipment for your ten day journey.

After transit through Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang’s Uyghur Autonomous Region, you will spend 8 days, 7 nights backpacking through the Tian Shan mountain range. In the Celestial Mountains; a seldom-traveled range that could easily be mistaken for the Swiss Alps, you will travel through untouched high mountain meadows, spruce-fir forests, waterfalls, rivers, and alpine lakes. As you experience one of China’s few remaining unspoiled locations you will practice a variety of wilderness skills such as navigation, back-country cooking, camp-site management, safe travel techniques, and leadership.

Tian Shan mountain of Xinjiang

 So if you wanted to go on trips for a refreshing and adventurous experience,  The JWA ten days backpacking trip into Tian Shan mountain which will be a trip you would like, here is more information about their trips this summer


Thanks JWA for those beautiful pictures, here are a few more:

Lastly, here are a few more helpful information provided by JWA:

• Each participant will be carrying a backpack that weighs between 40 and 50 pounds, filled with personal gear, group gear, food and water.

• Hiking will take place between the elevations of 4500 and 12,000 feet. Because of this, we ask that each participant set personal exercise goals for themselves. Strength and speed are of little importance when backpacking, though building up your endurance will increase your level of enjoyment while on the trail. Running three miles, three to four times a week will best prepare you for your Journey Adventure.

• The weather in Xinjiang is wonderful in June, July, and August. Due to the varied elevation at which you will travel, you can expect to encounter temperatures as low as 40°F at night and as high as 90°F during the day. For most of your time in the mountains, the temperatures should be between 60°F and 85°F . Average rainfall is around 1 inch or less per month in Xinjiang. However, additional rainfall often results in mountainous environments. Wind can also be a factor in the mountains with average wind speeds around 11 mph.

• In the months of June, July, and August, there will be daylight from around 6:30am to 9:30pm.

• There will be a maximum of 12 participants in each group, in addition to the 2-3 guides.


How to get a Chinese visa with the least amount of money

The other day, I received a friend’s newsletter which shared a very helpful tip about how you can extend your Chinese visa with the least amount of money.  As a Chinese language school in Beijing, we often need to provide visa or extend visa for our students. Just last week, we helped one student extend her visa which cost about 1500 RMB in total for another 3 months visa, it took her about 2-3 hours to finish the visa extension process including traffic time on subway.

If you follow the way mentioned in the newsletter, it would cost about 800 RMB  , however, you will need to take train and spend one night in Erlian.  Below is the tip my friend shared and step by step information how you can get your visa extended.


First, head to the Beijing Railway Station and hop on the K23 to Erlian/Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It leaves at 8AM on Mon/Tues/Wed and arrives in the border town Erlian at about 8:30PM that night. Cost for your hard sleeper: about 148 kuai.

You’ll have to spend the night in Erlian, so head to one of the hotels across from the train station. Rooms range from 80 kuai to 150 kuai per night. For dinner, the “ganguo” (dry pot) at the restaurant near the bus station is pretty good (40 – 80 kuai).

Unless you want to see the sights (there’s a dinosaur museum that is supposed to be interesting), just hop in the cab the next morning and tell the driver that you want to go to the “guomen” (the border). Cost of the ride: 10 kuai.

You have to buy a ticket to cross the border (5 kuai). You then hitch a ride in a dilapidated jeep to drive you from China to Mongolia (50 kuai one way, which is unfortunately the “foreigner price”. Cabs can’t drive you to the border). You’ll get out and go through both customs, get your stamp in Mongolia and then turn around and enter back into China, where you hop in another jeep for another 50 kuai.

Given the limited return options for the train (it leaves for Beijing only late Thurs and Sun nights), most people opt to take the sleeper bus leaving a few times every day (220 kuai).

Total cost of your visa run: less than 800 kuai.


My friend’s newsletter called Expat Package which is a weekly newsletter about life in Beijing. If you are interested in received more tips from him, you can sign up for his free newsletter here:  http://www.expatpackage.com


Problem Capsule in China

Right now, one of the biggest news here in China is about Problem Capsule – 问题胶囊 (wèn tí jiāo nánɡ )which was being discovered recently. The problem is about corporate use of industrial gelatin production of hollow capsules. Here is one of most recent news video report on Problem Capsule:


If you are in China or coming in China soon, here are some Capsules found as Problem Capsule – 问题胶囊 (wèn tí jiāo nánɡ ), please try not to take them or take your own necessary medication with you from your own Country.


脑康泰胶囊 – (nǎo kānɡ tài jiāo nánɡ);
愈伤灵胶囊 – (yù shānɡ línɡ jiāo nánɡ );
盆炎净胶囊 – (pén yán jìnɡ jiāo nánɡ );
苍耳子鼻炎胶囊 – (cānɡ ěr zǐ bí yán jiāo nánɡ );
通便灵胶囊 – (tōnɡ biàn línɡ jiāo nánɡ );
炎立消胶囊 – (yán lì xiāo jiāo nánɡ )
人工牛黄硝唑胶囊 – (rén ɡōnɡ niú huánɡ xiāo zuò jiāo nánɡ )
阿莫西林胶囊 – (ā mò xī lín jiāo nánɡ ) - unfortunately I took some a few weeks before. :cry:
诺氟沙星胶囊 – (nuò fú shā xīnɡ jiāo nánɡ );
羚羊感冒胶囊 – (línɡ yánɡ ɡǎn mào jiāo nánɡ )
抗病毒胶囊 – (kànɡ bìnɡ dú jiāo nánɡ );
清热通淋胶囊 – (qīnɡ rè tōnɡ lín jiāo nánɡ );
胃康灵胶囊 – (wèi kānɡ línɡ jiāo nánɡ )
Have you ever thought you would put your life in such risk when you come to China?

Breathing in Beijing: Air Pollution in Beijing – Fact or Fiction?

A few days ago, I received a newsletter email from Beijing United Hospital which talked about some facts and fictions about air pollution in Beijing, since it’s a hot topic which everybody’s been talking or caring about, specially, those who are living in Beijing or planning to visit Beijing, I thought it would be good to repost it below.—–

Air pollution ( 空气污染 – kōnɡ qì wū rǎn ) ​is an unfortunate reality for all of us in China as only 1% of all cities meet the World Health Organization’s guidelines for healthy air. Beijing’s air is particularly notorious (and is worse than Shanghai or Guangzhou), but Beijing actually isn’t near the top 10 of the world’s most polluted cities. This fact shows that air pollution, far from just a China problem, is all too common in most developing countries, especially India.

Recently, the Chinese press greatly expanded their coverage of air pollution. However, there are still quite a few myths and misperceptions about air pollution, which I would like to attempt to clarify below. My ultimate goal is to provide the evidence so that we can make healthcare decisions based on facts, not fiction.

Fact or Fiction: A day of breathing Beijing air is like smoking a pack of cigarettes.

This is fiction. I often hear apocalyptic statements about air pollution, especially the idea that breathing Beijing’s air is like smoking a pack a day. This statement is a bit extreme. I did my own data analysis and found that the total amount of small air particles (PM2.5) we breathe each day is far less than one pack. In fact, it is only 1/6 of one cigarette. This amount of exposure is about the same as secondhand smoke. That finding surprised me, but I think the larger message is that any amount of smoking, even “light” smoking, is far more serious and lethal than living in the heaviest pollution in the world. From this perspective, perhaps Chinese public health would benefit more from drastically reducing smoking rates than from focusing on expensive industrial fixes to lower ambient pollution.

Fact or Fiction: Living long-term in polluted cities shortens life expectancy​.

This is fact, but with many caveats. Living in any city with high air pollution does reduce life expectancy, but every city in the world affects your health in good and bad ways. Living long -term (more than six years) in a city with air similar to Beijing gives you a 32-49% increased risk of pollution-related death than living in a city that has perfectly clean air. It’s important to consider the risk in the context of compare this risk to other cities. For example, residents of Los Angeles have a 16% greater risk, while citizens of Paris and San Francisco have a 20% and 13% greater risk, respectively.

Fact or Fiction: Children’s lungs are more vulnerable to air pollution.

This is an unfortunate fact. The better studies, especially a few from Los Angeles school systems, have shown air pollution can cause small but permanent lung damage to a growing child’s lungs. This is actually my main concern here in China, and I hope all parents take this risk seriously and reduce their children’s risks as much as much as possible, especially ​by buying a good HEPA-certified (HEPA = high-efficiency particulate air) air purifier for their child’s bedroom. These filters, when used in small rooms with the doors closed, can filter up to 99 percent of air particles. I also feel that all school systems should have an air pollution action plan, which limits outdoor activities depending on the hourly Air Quality Index.

Fact or Fiction: Air purifiers are effective in reducing your exposure.

This is a fact, and that’s good news for those of us who feel helpless about air pollution. We tend to focus on the outdoor air quality, but don’t forget that we all spend about 90% of our lives indoors. Indoor air pollution is likely to be about 50-80% of outdoor levels. So while you may feel helpless about air pollution, you still have control over 90% of your exposure. That control mostly involves good quality indoor air purifier systems, whether stand-alone or built into your central HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning). I consider air purifiers a wise investment. These HEPA filters are rated to filter out more than 99% of all particles larger than 0.3 microns, which covers not only the most dangerous particles but also viruses, bacteria and many dangerous indoor chemicals. I’ve done some real-world testing on a few of the most popular brands and found that all models were extremely efficient in small rooms with doors closed, removing 95-99% of all particles. That means that even on “crazy bad” nights, your bedroom will be a safe oasis. Simply running a good purifier at night automatically decreases your lifetime exposure to pollution by one-third — in any city you live in.​​

To summarize, I’ve lived in Beijing for more than five years practicing Family Medicine, and while I do take air pollution seriously, I feel that my quality of life and overall health are very high here in China. Don’t panic. Acknowledge the facts. And be smart about air pollution.

To give the credit to Beijing United Hospital and Dr.Saint Cyr who wrote this post, here is the original post: http://beijing.ufh.com.cn/en/health-information/health-line/68/Breathing/


Christmas in Beijing – a 外国人 (wàiguórén – foreigner’s) perspective

We had not lived here long by the time Christmas came round last year, but I don’t remember there being very much in the way of Christmas things about, a few small decorations, but not much else. So this year, we were not expecting too many things to be happening to remind us about Christmas, but we have realised that, in some ways, we were very wrong!

From a commercial side at least, it seems that here in the area where 1 on 1 is, Christmas is a fairly big thing. The first thing that gave us a clue was when various shops started to put some decorations in their windows. Then the supermarkets (超市- short for 超级市场 – well we are studying Chinese after all!) started to sell Christmas decorations and trees. Seeing lots (and I mean lots!) of shop assistants wearing ‘Santa’ hats is something we are finding pretty strange, but perhaps most strange is to hear the music that is played in many of the places we go, that certainly I as a westerner can’t keep myself from humming along to. The songs range from older classic secular Christmas themed songs to modern Christmas themed songs (What I think of as the very British ‘Do They Know it’s Christmas’ being the one I was most surprised by). There are also scores of traditional Christmas Carols (with great lyrics!) to be heard – perhaps even more so than we would have heard in shops at home!

When it comes to personal homes we, unsurprisingly, have not seen much in the way of evidence of Christmas coming. The only obvious Christmas tree we have seen in a home is in that of a Westerner. Speaking to some Chinese friends, some feel that Christmas is important, but for others, they like the excuse to get together with their friends, but beyond that it is not important. We have already been to two Christmas parties, with a lot of Chinese friends there, and have another one to go to yet, so this does seem to be true!


My impression of cars in China

If you have never been to China, or haven’t been here for a few years for those who have then the image you have of china might be a little outdated. Previously it has been a common perception of china in the west that china is a country of bicycles. But if you come to Beijing today, you see a much different picture. Car ownership is huge in China, but the surprising thing is not the quantity of cars – though rush hour around Zhongguancun has to be seen to be believed, but the quality of cars.

Around Wudaokou where our Chinese language school is based it is really not uncommon to see lots of new cars being well cared for, but as well as plenty of mid range cars it is reasonably common to see top of the range BMW’s and, Porche Cayenne and Range Rovers. This is a not the image I had of modern china.

China is such a large population with increasing prosperity that many a car maker is looking to make the most of this market, and this even includes the niche car markers. At the Shanghai motor show http://www.autoshanghai.org/en/ taking place this week both Ferrari and Lambourghini are advertising their latest cars to potential customers.

Language tips:

Ferrari:法拉利 (fǎ lā lì)

Lambourghini:兰博基尼 (lán bó jī ní)


Tips on How To Prepare For a Beijing Winter

Image from: http://www.snapshotjourneys.com/

As the cold winter weather begins to set in on Beijing, we’d like to give all of you newcomers some tips on how to prepare for and survive the bitter cold weather that we get here. The winter season in Beijing is long and arduous, and temperatures start to drop from the beginning of November, and only begin to warm up towards the end of March. It’s important to be well prepared from the outset of the cold season though, since the heating system doesn’t usually kick-in until the 15th of November in Beijing, but nonetheless temperatures can begin to drop to 0° Celsius in the evenings before heating gets switched on.

The temperature averaged -7° Celsius in December last year, and -9° Celsius in January, but this doesn’t take into account the wind chill factor, which can drop the temperature several more degrees. The weather here is not only cold, but also very dry, and chapped lips and dry itchy skin can also cause those with sensitive skin a lot of irritation, so it’s important to use some moisturizer and chap-stick to alleviate the irritation.

With all that said, here are some tips that will hopefully help you prepare for the winter season in Beijing:

Layering is important.

Wear base-layer thermal underwear, an insulating layer such as a hoodie, or fleece jacket, and then also an outer layer that will help to break the wind. Layering is also important because you can quickly run into situations where you go indoors and if you’re too hot, you can just take off your outer layer, but not expose yourself too much to risk catching a cold.


Drink lots of water, use moisturizer lotion, and also chap-stick.

It’s not only important to use external lotions, but staying hydrated in the dry Beijing winter also helps your skin to stay moisturized.







Neck and head protection.

Getting a scarf or a neck gaiter can not only help to keep the wind out of your jacket, but getting a beanie or hat can help to keep you warmer than you think, as about 20% of heat loss is from your head alone[1]. You can pick up a neck gaiter on TaoBao.






Despite the discomfort that the winter season brings, there’s a lot to do around Beijing during this time, there are skiing and snowboarding resorts not too far from the Beijing city, ice skating on several of Beijing’s lakes, and the Olympic park and water-cube is transformed into a winter snow park. Winter activities and recommendations will be another post though.

If you have any of your own winter preparation tips on how to stay warm in Beijing, please do share them with us!

1. Bookspan, Jolie. Healthline. http://www.healthline.com/blogs/exercise_fitness/2009/03/do-you-lose-most-of-your-heat-through.html


Traveling to Beijing – What to bring on your trip?

Packing for Beijing

I never enjoy packing for a trip overseas- there’s always the constant wonder of: “did I over-pack?”, or “am I forgetting something?” After overhearing some friends talking about the ‘must-have’ items for their trip here to Beijing, I thought it would be good to have a quick post highlighting some things that we were glad to bring over, or wished that we had stuck in our suitcase.


Starting off with keeping your health in check, it’s recommended that you bring a small bag of basic medications such as Aspirin, Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Imodium, NyQuil/DayQuil, band-aids, and Neosporin. It is possible to get most of these drugs (or local forms of them) in Beijing, it’s best to have a small stash ready for when you need to use it. It’s no fun trying to run around Beijing looking for medication when you’re already feeling under the weather.


I want to say that it isn’t a huge issue regarding finding hygiene products here in Beijing, but then again, I’m a guy and I use pretty much anything that I can find, as long as it gets me clean. I have heard that specific western skin products and lotions aren’t available here though, so if you have specific dermatology needs, then it’d be best to bring your lotions from back home.

One thing that does need mentioning though, is that dental floss is somewhat hard to find in the local marts. So unless you are fortunate to have a BHG supermarket or Carrefour close by your apartment in Beijing, it could be hard to come by.

Another seemingly common item for westerners, that (unfortunately) isn’t commonly available here in Beijing are deodarants and anti-perspirants. It’s quite a pity that this isn’t a cultural norm here, since the summer heat brings out the worst odors in the crowded public transportation systems in Beijing.


It’s fine to pack light regarding clothing, since you can always pick up more attire here if needed; you just won’t find your usual Gap, Banana Republic, J. Crew, etc. stores here- though Beijing does have it’s Gap equivalent called Uniqlo.

The seasons to be aware of in Beijing are summer and  winter. The summers are swelteringly hot and humid, so you’ll want to make sure to pack short and t-shirts; but the winters are frigidly cold, so you’ll want to make sure to pack one set of base layers, and outer layers. You can purchase thermal under-layers almost anywhere here, and if you’re not planning to be in Beijing for many winters, you can also pick up cheap knock-off winter gear at the fake markets (YaShow [雅秀 ya3xiu4] and Silk Street [秀水街 xiu4shui3jie1]) that will last you a year or so. However, if you’re going to need something to last you through several winters, it’s best to pick up a good jacket or outer-layer back at home, since many of the brand name stores here are marked up considerably.

Something that also needs mentioning, however, is that size labeling here doesn’t match up with size labeling in the US, so be sure to try on whatever you’re wanting to purchase. Also, US extra-large sizes and tall-and-long sizes aren’t easy to come by here either. Note that this also applies to large shoe sizes. You have been warned.

Electronics and Internet:

The general rule about electronics is: “all (name-brand) computers and electronics (MP3 payers, cameras, phones etc.) are marked up by at least $100USD [and smaller electronics, marked up by respective amounts]“, so purchase whatever electronics you need from home, though you can also head over to Hong Kong to make any electronics purchases as well if you’re already planning to make a trip there.

If you’re a Facebook and Twitter addict, and must have access to these social networks, getting set up with a VPN is the way to go- you can still purchase your VPN after you arrive in China, though it would be wise to start reading up on some of the services available. Three of the popular VPN services are: Strong VPN, WiTopia, and Invisible Browsing VPN.

Additional Items:

Two books that I would recommend to help you hit the ground running when you arrive, are the Insider’s Guide to Beijing, and the Mandarin Phrasebook.

Also, get plugged in with other Beijing expats at: theBeijinger, Chinese-Forums, and City Weekend Beijing

That’s got most things covered. If you think that we’ve missed anything out, please do share with the rest of us in the comments!