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 . 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 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 (, 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.


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 to say The Olympic games in Chinese and more

With the London Olympics in full swing then we thought it would be appropriate to write a blog post on studying Chinese with an Olympic theme.

The Olympic games (奥运会 or 奥林匹克运动会 to give it it’s full name) comprises of 26 different sports (运动)with many different events (项 目)within each sport.

Here is a list of the 26 different sports, and a summary of some of the different events within those sports. We have tried to make it as short as possible but as comprehensive as possible by removing duplicate disciplines. E.g. We have listed 100m sprint, but not 200m etc.

26 Olympic Sports

水上项目 shuǐshàngxiàngmù Aquatics
射箭 shè jiàn Archery
羽毛球 yǔmáoqiú Badminton
篮球 lánqiú Basketball
自行车 zìxíngchē Bicycle
拳击 quánjī Boxing
皮划艇 pí huá tǐng Canoe / Kayak
击剑 jī jiàn Fencing
足球 zúqiú Football
体操 tǐcāo Gymnastics
手球 shǒu qiú Handball
曲棍球 qǔgùnqiú Hockey
马术 mǎshù Horsemanship
柔道 róudào Judo
现代五项 xiàndài wǔ xiàng Modern Pentathlon
赛艇 sài tǐng Rowing
射击 shèjī Shooting
乒乓球 pīngpāngqiú Table tennis
跆拳道 táiquándào Taekwondo
网球 wǎngqiú Tennis
田径 tiánjìng Track and field
铁人三项 tiě rén sān xiàng Triathlon
排球 páiqiú Volleyball
举重 jǔzhòng Weightlifting
摔跤 shuāijiāo Wrestling
帆船帆板 fánchuán fān bǎn Yachting and windsurfing

Olympic Disciplines


100米跑 100mǐ pǎo 100 m run
马拉松跑 mǎlásōng pǎo Marathon
3000米障碍跑 3000mǐ zhàngài pǎo 3000 meter steeplechase
110米跨栏跑 110mǐ kuà lán pǎo 110 m Hurdle
跳高 tiàogāo High jump
撑杆跳高 chēng gān tiàogāo Pole Vault
跳远 tiàoyuǎn Long jump
三级跳远 sān jí tiàoyuǎn Triple Jump
铅球 qiānqiú Shot-put
铁饼 tiě bǐng Discus
链球 liàn qiú Hammer
标枪 biāoqiāng Javelin
十项全能 shí xiàng quán néng Decathlon
50公里竞走 50gōnglǐ jìngzǒu 50 km walk
4×100米接力 4×100mǐ jiē lì 4 × 100 meter relay
单人双桨 dān rén shuāng jiǎng Single Sculls
双人单桨无舵手 shuāng rén dān jiǎng

wú duòshǒu

coxless pairs
八人单桨有舵手 bā rén dān jiǎng

yǒu duòshǒu

Eights (with cox)
1公里计时赛 1gōnglǐ jì shí sài 1 km time trial
个人争先赛(3圈) gèrén zhēng xiān sài


The individual sprint

(three laps)

4000米个人追逐赛 4000mǐ gèrén zhuīzhú sài 4000 m individual pursuit
4000米团队追逐赛 4000mǐ tuánduì zhuīzhú sài 4000 m team pursuit race
记分赛 jì fēn sài Points Race
奥林匹克争先赛 Àolínpǐkè zhēng xiān sài Olympic Sprint
麦迪逊赛 màidíxùn sài Madison Race
凯林赛; kǎilín sài  Keirin;
公路项目 gōnglù xiàngmù Road race
个人计时赛山地车:越野 gèrén jì shí sài shāndì chē


Individual Time Trial mountain

bikes: cross country

小轮车个人 xiǎo lún chē gèrén BMX individuals
50米自由泳 50mǐ zìyóu yǒng 50 m freestyle
100米仰泳 100mǐ yǎng yǒng 100-meter backstroke
蛙泳 Wāyǒng Breaststoke
蝶泳 Diéyóng Butterfly
200米混合泳 200mǐ hùnhé yǒng 200 meters medley
4×100米自由泳接力 4×100mǐ zìyóu yǒng jiē lì 4 × 100 meter freestyle relay
10公里马拉松游泳(公开水域) 10gōnglǐ mǎlásōng yóuyǒng

gōngkāi shuǐyù 

10 km marathon swimming

(open water)

跳水 tiàoshuǐ Diving
3米跳板 3mǐ tiào bǎn 3-meter springboard
10米跳台 10mǐ tiào tái 10-meter platform
双人3米跳板 shuāng rén 3mǐ tiào bǎn Synchronised 3m Springboard
水球 shuǐ qiú Water polo
500米单人皮艇 500mǐ dān rén pí tǐng 500 m single-person kayak
500米单人划艇 500mǐ dān rén huá tǐng 500 m single-person rowing
团体全能 tuántǐ quán néng Group all-around
个人全能 gèrén quán néng Individual all-around
自由体操 zìyóu tǐcāo Floor Exercise
鞍马 ān mǎ Pommel horse
吊环 diào huán Rings
跳马 tiào mǎ The vault
双杠 shuāng gāng Parallel bars
单杠 dān gāng Horizontal bar
蹦床个人赛 bèng chuáng gèrén sài Trampoline individual race
高低杠 gāodī gāng Uneven bars
平衡木 pínghéng mù Balance Beam
蹦床 Bèngchuáng Trampoline
艺术体操之个人全能与团体全能 yìshù tǐcāo zhī gèrén quán

néng yǔ tuántǐ quán néng

Rhythmic gymnastics individual

all-around and group all-around


Learning by language bloopers

  Today I was learning some useful cultural differences between China and the west.

  We were discussing that in China it is not the done thing to lick your fingers (and I understand that you don’t usually eat with your fingers either – so beware if you are planning a buffet for your Chinese friends!). In the West while it is maybe not very polite to lick your fingers, at least where I come from people don’t really have a problem with it. In order to explore cultural differences a bit further, and to get some more spoken Chinese practice, we then talked about other things that you are allowed or not allowed to lick. I suggested that:


In England you are allowed to lick post offices!

邮 yóu – is the word for post, and 局 jú is the word for office

I eventually got it right



Where again 邮 yóu means post, and 票 piào literally means ticket, so together, 邮票 means a stamp.

  Hopefully I haven’t left my teacher with visions of Westerners licking buildings! But this lesson will stick in my head partly because of the language mistake I made along the way…

How to study Chinese – Learning style

It’s been a while since our last post, however, we are trying to update our blog more often and with more posts focused on Chinese language.  Today, is our first post about learning style.

Thinking about studying fills some people with dread, others may really enjoy the though of a new challenge. Whatever your perspective is on studying, when it comes to studying Mandarin, one thing is almost certainly true – it needs a lot of effort and perseverance.

I have only been studying Mandarin a few months, but I have found it really helpful to consider different tips I have learnt over many previous years of study, and to see how I can apply these to studying Mandarin.

The first is that it is useful to know your learning style.

There is a plethora of research available regarding learning styles. A simple summary is that there are four parts to people’s learning styles, each with opposite ends to the spectrum. Most people will not be at either extreme of any of the styles, but it is something useful to consider.




Like facts



Like meanings


Like visual representations



Like explanations with words


Like experimental and group learning



Like to work through problems on their own


Like details before the ‘Big picture’



Like the big picture first, details later


I’ve put this first as (if you have a choice!) knowing your learning style can help you to decide where you want to do your learning. This is especially important if you are time pressured, as ending up trying to learn somewhere where there seems to be no real connection with your teachers will be a frustrating experience at best!  I like to know details, and the ‘why?’ of things, so to be in a one to one Chinese class setting is ideal, as I am able to ask immediately if I don’t understand something. However, if you really like group learning, a one to one setting may be more of a hindrance than a help.