Going to the Movies? How to use Your Smart Phone to Buy Discount Movie Tickets

My wife and I have lived in Beijing for several years. Over the years we’ve had many friends venture to the movies theaters to watch the latest hits while we stayed home and enjoyed the savings of 10RMB DVDs. Now certainly there is a worthwhile savings for those who are patient enough to wait for a quality copy to come out to the dwindling number of DVD stores, but we all know that going to the theater is just not the same experience. There’s just something about the big screen, especially in 3D that blows away the home viewing experience.


A few months ago a local friend gave us some free movie tickets. Another friend then told me about an app that would allow a view of all the current movies and where they were playing. I then chose a 3D movie I knew my life would love to see for her birthday, but you guessed it, the free tickets were for 2D movies. I was now finally motivated, I had to have those tickets, but the price! So I asked another friend and they told me about the app. I actually bought the tickets while standing in line at the theater and saved substantially at the counter.


So, if you have an interest in either watching Chinese or Western movies (in their original language) in Beijing, with the original voice soundtrack, and don’t mind or actually would enjoy practicing your Chinese reading by following the Chinese subtitles, then this app is a must. The app is free and is called Mtime, or in pinyin – shiguangwang (时光网). Below is the step-by-step process for downloading and using Mtime.


Note that these directions are specific to making your purchase using a Chinese bankcard.


1)   Download the app and open it.


2)   The Home page is at center bottom and the current movie list is displayed with a customer rating from 1-10 (this post will not go into what the other bottom tabs are for).



3)   Scroll through and pick the movie you’re interested in.


4)   Push the orange purchase ticket (购票) tab.


5)   Here you will have a choice of dates at the top and below a scroll down for movie theaters showing your movie pick. I prefer to narrow the options by tapping the middle green circle tab (地区) so I can choose theaters in my district. If you’re in Chaoyang District you might want to choose the second tab for your nearby (附近) theaters.


6)   Scroll down and select the tab for your choice of theaters.



7)   You will see optional show times and prices for your movie tickets. Touch the tab for your preferred show time.


8)   Reserve your seat(s) by touching the seats you prefer. You can touch and order as many seats as you want from those that have not been reserved. The seats you reserve will appear orange while the rest are blue. The bottom will display the row (排) and seat numbers (座). When you’re finished you can press the orange next (下一步) button.



9)   Enter the cell phone number and password you would like to use (there should be at least one numerical digit).


10)  Now push the light blue register tab (免费注册) (In the future, once you’ve registered, you can tap the log in (登录) tab, that is, assuming it remembers your phone number).



11) Enter your phone number and your preferred password, then push the tab to obtain your verification number (获取验证吗) and you will receive a text with your verification code.


12) Enter the code and push the (提交) tab.



13) You get a pop up window that asks you to confirm that you want to go forward. Touch the definitely (确定) tab if you definitely want the tickets.


14) Now you have two choices, either registering your email address or cell phone. If you want to order tickets only with your phone, then touch the submit (提交) tab (this post only follows the track of using your cell phone).



15) You will get a screen that confirms you order and the amount. If it all looks right tap next (下一步).


16) Now you have a choice of payment options. The simplest is to use the Union Pay online option (使用银联在线付款) which is the second orange tab.



17) Now enter your bankcard number and touch “next”. You will get a second window. Enter your pin# and your registered phone number and then touch the orange SMS tab. You should receive a text with the required SMS number. Enter the number and touch “Start Pay”.


18) When processing is complete, Mtime should hold a record of your ticket purchase. You should also receive a text with the purchase details. You can show either of these at the ticket window to receive your tickets.



Of course I accept no responsibility for the accuracy of this post, or any losses you may incur as a result of following the above instructions.


There you have it. Enjoy your movie!

How many characters do you need to read a Chinese newspaper

When I first started learning Chinese then every new character learnt was a success. When I reached the 100 characters benchmark, I was really pleased, but I knew I had a long way to go because I had heard before that you needed 2000 characters to read a newspaper.

Well we have been studying for over a year now and we are probably able to recognise well over 1000 distinct characters with a good idea of both their meaning and their pronunciation. So, to have an idea of my progress, I thought I would have a go at seeing how much that allowed me to understand of a news article.

To do this I went to baidu news (baidu is the Chinese equivalent of google), and went to their international news section, and picked out the first two paragraphs from their leading article. Those two paragraphs are reproduced below. Characters highlighted in red are those that I definitely don’t recognise.

有关“中国要返数十名北者”的消息近日被 韩国体热炒。据韩国《东亚日报》2月24日报道,韩国 政府和在野党目前正考虑给在中国被并 面临被强制返的“脱北者”发行“韩国民证明书”,支持他们的韩国行。

根据韩国政策员长李英的介绍,韩国新世界党23日在国会了有外交通商部长官金成一部次官金天植参加的党政议会,讨论了上对策。韩国党政还决定,将向 中国派朝野都参加的 国会代表团,也决定向中国的“红十字会”发出请求,要 求对“脱北者”的人道性待遇 给予支持。

Initially the result might look quite encouraging. Only 14 characters out of 197 suggests that we can understand a remarkable 93% of the content!?

However, although each Chinese characters has a specific meaning, the majority of Chinese words in use today are not expressed by a single character but by characters in combination of two or three together.

For instance, the very first word in the article is “有关”. Most students studying chinese will be very familiar with both these characters “有” meaning to have, 关 meaning any of: to close, to shut off, concerning, or a mountain pass. But 有关 to me is a new word meaning “concerning”. Simple enough, but until you have learnt it, then it is as easy to wrongly read that as “have closed”, “have shut of”, or even “I have a mountain pass”.

If we look at the text again, but now taking into account which words rather than characters are new to me then a much more realistic picture emerges: characters which I don’t know are highlighted in red, words I don’t know in purple.

有关“中国要返数十名北者”的消息近日被 韩国热炒。据韩国《东亚日报》2月24日报道,韩国 政府和在野党目前正考虑给在中国被并面被强制返的“脱北者”发行“韩国民证明书”,支持他们的韩国行。

根据韩国政策员长李的介绍,韩国新世界党23日在国会了有外交通商部长官金成一部次官金天植参加的党政议会,讨论了上对策。韩国党政还决定,将向 中国派朝野都参加的 国会代表团,也决定向中国的“红十字会”发出请求,要 求对“脱北者”的人道性待遇 给予支持

It is now clear that there isn’t a single sentence that I can completely understand. Of course, there are mitigating factors here. This article contains words relating to international politics that are not included in Chinese 101, and it also contains people’s names, which also aren’t of a first priority for a language student.

Overall though, I am encouraged. I could understand enough of the article to have an idea what it was talking about, even if I wasn’t picking up the details. It is also clear to me that whilst it is important to continue building up your knowledge of distinct characters, the language learner needs to also be building a much wider vocabulary using compound characters. Jia you.



Skritter review – a great way of learning how to write Chinese characters

Learning how to write Chinese characters is hard, and we can use all the help we can get. Skritter (http://www.skritter.cn) is a website that uses some clever web coding to create a novel way of helping you learn characters.

The strongest feature of Skritter in my opinion is its tool for Chinese character writing with real time feedback. This is unique as far as I am aware. When you draw a character the strokes you have drawn ‘fall’ into the right place – so every time you make a stroke a little too short, or forget the hook, or make it too straight – it will show you immediately what it should look like, and then let you continue on with writing the other strokes. Similarly, it will let you know if the stroke is in the wrong order, or wrong direction. It will even give you a hint if you are completely stuck as to which stroke comes next. Using Skritter has taught me that I have been writing the liang of piao liang (漂亮 – beautiful) wrong for months. I had been putting 儿 for the last two strokes instead of 几, and skritter would not let me get away with it!

Skritter is full of other useful features that should aid the language learner such as an inbuilt Spaced Repetition System, Audio reinforcement, and character decompositions, and user created mnenomics (see http://www.skritter.cn/pricing for a full list). Alongside which the studying is very customizable, allowing you to focus on exactly what you need whether that is just writing, or if reading and remembering the correct tone are also important to you.

However, to be honest, I am not going to be using it beyond the free trial. Partly that is due to the monthly fee ($10), but also I have already been learning for a while and I have found a set of other resources that provide almost all the features that Skritter provides.

But if you are new to learning to write Chinese characters, then it could be an excellent place for you to start. Skritter is not free, but they do let you have a two week free trial to experiment to see if it works for you. Hope this Skritter review helpful for those who want to give it try.
Learn Chinese Characters

How to learn Chinese characters (p-1)

If you are a westerner then learning Chinese characters is going to be hard and require months and years of study. But there are many things you can do to make the task slightly easier. One resource that I have been recently using is a book called “Rembering Simplified Hanzi 1” by Heisig and Richardson.

It is not a cheap book, but the book’s subtitle tells you why it could be invaluable: “How not to forget the meaning and writing of Chinese characters”. You see it can be relatively easy to learn a new character, you look at it, hide it, and then draw it a few times and in theory you have learnt it – but the hard part is remembering that same character later on.

Now Heisig’s approach is slower but more efficient! When learning each character you will spend more time learning it than with the first approach, but you save time in the long run because having learnt it once you don’t forget it, either to read or to write. A remarkable claim!

A further claim of Heisig is that “if you were to study them full time, there is no reason why all 1,500 characters in Book 1 could not be learned successfully in four to five weeks”.

The key to Heisig’s approach is that he gives you stories that stick in your mind that relate the meaning of the character to the component parts. The stories are purposefully vivid and unbelievable, but that makes them very simple to remember, and as long as you remember the crazy story then the character is straightforward to write. Therefore his book systematically teaches characters so that new characters build upon the previously learnt characters.

Below is the link of the book 《Rembering Simplified Hanzi》on Amazon.

Remembering Simplified Hanzi: Book 1, How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Chinese CharactersLearn Chinese Books)



Chinese Character of the week – 糟糕:‘Oh no!How terrible’!

My favourite Chinese character of this week:

Zāo gāo 糟糕

‘Oh no!’ ‘How terrible!’

Have I had a bad week? Well, no, not really, but I did have a ‘糟糕’ moment related to trying (and I use that word deliberately!) to bake a cake in a toaster oven.

Although it seems like a pretty complicated (or messy!) character on first look, breaking it down into it’s two parts really helped me…

Zāo 糟 on it’s own has a number of meanings, one of which is to be in a mess/in a terrible state.

Gāo 糕 on it’s own however, means cake!

Since more than one of my 糟糕 moments have been related to cooking, it seemed a good enough reason to have this as my character for this week! (More on the joys of toaster oven cooking another time!!)


Chinese character of the week:打针 -to have an injection

My favourite Chinese character of this week:

打针: To have an injection

Dǎ zhēn 打 针

An odd Chinese character to have, you may think. But this is my Chinese character of the week for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’ve finally managed to learn it (for some reason, it has never stuck before, despite covering it first about three months ago!)

Secondly, I have had my first proper bout of illness since arriving here, so it reminded me that knowing some medical words can be useful (though I do realise this may not be the most useful!)

Finally, it is actually an interesting character. The second character, zhēn 针 has the metal radical next to something that looks awfully like a needle. So that’s fairly logical. However, when I first came across it, I already knew the first character – dǎ  打. Now the only meaning I knew at that point was ‘to play’. What it has helped me to learn, is that some characters can have multiple meanings (my dictionary gives 27 for dǎ  打!)  Slightly disheartening at times, but better than ‘playing’ at sticking a needle into someone, which was what I first thought it meant!!

(Non language aside – always good to make sure you have all your vaccinations up to date!)


Chinese Character of the week

饿 è

To be hungry

My favourite character this week has to be the character for ‘to be hungry’.

On first look, for such a simple pinyin spelling (è) the character is somewhat complicated, however, I found a good way to remember it is that when I am hungry, I want to eat. Breaking the character down, on the right hand side is the character for ‘I’ 我 , and on the left hand side is the food radical 饣, found in many characters to do with food. So really, it’s pretty logical…at least for this character anyway!

P.S.  if you’d like to see the stroke order of the character, please find it here

And the best way to remember this character is to  practice writing on your notebook or in your web browser by using Skritter below and here is a Skritter review would be helpful for you to read.

Learn Chinese Characters




Chinese character etymology-History of every character

I came across this site and was quite impressed by what he did. Richard Sears made Chinese Character etymology available online after years of effort. Through his site, you can see history of any Chinese character.  You can see how each character written in different ancient Chinese character styles: simplified Chinese character (most common used), traditional Chinese character, Seal Character (篆体字-zhuàn tǐ zì), Bronze Characters(金文-jīn wén) which used Zhou Dynasty and Oracle Characters (甲骨文-jiǎ ɡǔ wén), it may not make sense to you, but it’s very interesting to see how characters change through Chinese history.

Richard found it was very helpful to learn Chinese characters by getting a step by step evolution of the character from its original form and understand the meaning of the character.  If you are interested in learning Chinese character and knowing more than what textbook offers. It’s really something you want to check out. some characters you can see: 马 (horse), 鱼 (fish), 羊 (sheep), 家 (family), 人 (person), 男 (male), 女 (female) and much more……

Lastly, if you are like Richard and very interested in learning Chinese characters, Skritter is one of great tools for Chinese character writing practice, I heard very positive feedbacks about this tool, you may want to try it out if you are serious about learn Chinese characters.

Chinese character etymology:  http://www.chineseetymology.org .

Learn Chinese Characters

Chinese Character Writing Competition – Top Finalists

This past week we had a chinese character writing competition among our students at school. Students were allowed to write either a short essay, or just characters from their new vocabulary list from their lessons. After our students had submitted their entries, teachers and fellow students were given the opportunity to vote for which student had the best written characters.

Congratulations to Ruth for taking first place!

Chinese Character Writing Competition

Chinese Character Writing Competition

Chinese Character Writing Competition

For those who are looking to improve their Chinese character writing, one of the most important aspects is understanding the stroke order of Chinese characters. If you’re unsure of how a character should be written, most online Chinese-English tools will have an animation of how particular characters should be written.

The three most popular among our students is Skritter – a web app that helps you learn Chinese characters fast, nciku and MDBG, which they all show the stroke order of characters.

1. Skritter is a web app that helps you learn Chinese characters, with a focus on writing and vocabulary, using handwriting recognition and advanced spaced repetition scheduling algorithms, Skritter is the most efficient way to learn those thousands of characters you’re going to need to tackle one of these languages.  They stated that you can learn a new character every 192 seconds and remember 95% of what you learn. I heard very positive feedback from our current students, you can sign up for an account to use this awesome tool for two weeks for free, no harm to find out. Click to get your two week for free.

Learn to write Chinese characters

2. On nciku, you can see the stroke order of a character by clicking on the button to the right.

NCIKU Character Stroke Order

3. For MDBG, the stroke order feature isn’t as obvious, but you can access it by clicking on the yellow brush image to the left of the character.

MDBG Character Stroke Order

If you have any other tips that have helped you learn and write Chinese characters, please do share them in the comments!