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!

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.


Learn Chinese Through Listening to Chinese Music

google-musicA small follow-up of our previous post on methods on how to learn Chinese by watching Chinese TV shows, another way that you can improve your Chinese is to listen to and learn Chinese songs- and don’t forget to put it all to practice by going to the KTV with your friends!

There are many online music streaming websites in China, but one of the popular ones that I enjoy to use is Google China’s 谷歌音乐 (Google Music), however I believe that this service may only work for users who are located within China, as I know that users from the US aren’t able to connect to this service.

We’ll walk through some of the basic features of the Google Music website.


Looking first at the search bar, we can see several options of searching for the music that you’re looking for:

In the search bar, you can search for songs [搜索音乐] sou1suo3 yin1yue4, or you can search the website [搜索网页] sou1suo3 wang3ye4:

[输入歌手] shu1ru4 ge1shou3: Enter singer’s name

[专辑] zhuan1ji2: Enter album name

[歌曲名称或歌词] ge1qu3ming2cheng1 huo4 ge1ci2: Enter song name or lyrics


You can also browse the website by looking through the menu:

[首页] shou3ye4: Home page

[排行榜] pai2hang2bang3: Browse by top charts

[音乐分类] yin1yue4 fen1lei4: Browse by song genre

[挑歌] tiao2ge1: Customized selection

[歌手库] ge1shou3ku4: Browse by artist name

[私房歌] si1fang2 ge1: Artist’s recommendations


On the homepage, the main view lets you browse by songs of different languages:

[语榜单] hua2yu3 bang4dan1: Chinese Songs

[欧美榜单] ou1mei3 bang4dan1: Europe and American Songs

[日韩榜单] ri4han2 bang4dan1: Japanese and Korean Songs

You can also see a listing of new songs, and popular songs of each language category, and on the very far right, a listing of the popular artists.

[新歌] xin1ge1: New songs

[热歌] re4ge1: Popular songs

[歌手] ge1shou3: Artists

Hopefully this gives you a good start on browsing Google China’s Music service, and will help you on your way in improving your Chinese language learning. [Google Music]

If you have any other popular Chinese music streaming websites that you like to use, be sure to share them with the rest of us in the comments!

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!

Recharging and Checking minutes on china mobile

china-mobile1 Omegadelta.net has a comprehensive post on navigating China Mobile’s automated service number, including plans, rates for voice, texts, data, international calling, and other information. Quite a good guide. If you just want some easy ways to recharge or check your balance on China Mobile, though, read on.

To get started, call 13800138000 to talk to a female robot (in Chinese) or a male robot (English). To navigate through the menus:

  1. enter 2 for English
  2. enter 2 to recharge (the guy says something like “to make an advance payment”but it means recharge)
  3. enter 1# to recharge the cell phone you’re calling from
  4. enter your PIN
  5. enter # to end

You should hear a message confirming your recharge. After you hang up, you can text YE to 10086 to get a text message indicating your balance. The text will be in Chinese but you should be able to see numbers reflecting your recharge.

You can also save the number string 13800138000p2p2p1# on your phone, and set the number as a quick-dial number. Then all you’d have to do is call that phone number, then wait for it to enter digits for you automatically. Enter your PIN. Then, enter # to finish.

Alternatively, Omegadelta.net also says here that you can recharge your account by texting CZ [PIN number] to 10086.


Learn Chinese cooking terms


Francisco was planning to cook a great meal for his Chinese friends in his apartment. They arrived early to help him cook. He wanted to have Bavarian stir-fried vegetables with Russian borscht, which his friends had absolutely no experience with. So, he had to give them directions, but oh, no! When he wanted to ask someone to use the spatula to stir the vegetables, or to use the ladle to serve the soup, all he could say was “把那个。。。那个东西。。。那个,快点拿那个把它那个那个,快!”(bǎ nà gè 。。。nà gè dōng xī 。。。nà gè ,kuài diǎn ná nà gè bǎ tā nà gè nà gè ,kuài!) His poor friends didn’t know which kitchen utensil he wanted. It was like that all night.

So, they ordered KFC. Hope this post will help you avoid those situations.

In Chinese, 勺 (sháo) refers to spoon or a round utensil for eating/cooking, but can also refer to something that does what a spatula does – stirring or turning over food in a wok – 锅 (guō). 锅 (guō) is the generic name for most pots, but if you’re looking for a specific utensil or pot, see below. Cookware in general is called 烹调用具 (pēng diào yòng jù).

铲子 or 锅铲

炒勺汤勺饭勺 漏勺 or 笊篱 平低锅 汤锅 汤锅2

Translate English movie titles into Chinese


The Chinese translation of the title of the movie Top Gun:

好大一把枪 (hǎo dàyī bǎ qiāng) “what a big gun!”

There are just some things that a dictionary isn’t suited for.

Ever try to talk to your Chinese friends about some English movie, but get blank looks? Movie titles are hard to translate, and when translated literally, usually make no sense and tell you nothing useful about the movie.

That’s where mtime.com comes in. How do you say Hoosiers (1986 basketball film, Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey) in Chinese? Enter the film name in the top right-hand corner…


and you get 火爆教头草地兵 (huǒbào jiāotóucǎodì bīng), or “The Hot-Tempered Coach and the Grassland Soldiers”


Who would’ve thought?

The site also has trailers, reviews, theater information and showtimes for certain cities. Although it’s in Chinese only, mtime.com covers both Chinese and foreign films.

Now, anyone know any sites for getting Chinese titles for English music, books, or video games?





Spring Festival (春节chūnjié) Travel Tips

Photo ID Required for Train Ticket Purchases

ID card

This Spring Festival, you will need photo ID when buying train tickets.

According to China Radio International and Sina.com news, travelers in Guangdong and Sichuan province must provide photo ID when buying tickets. As of right now, this rule does not apply to Beijing. It’s also a good idea to get to the ticket seller early. Arriving 2 hours before opening will increase your chances of buying tickets.

Note that you can only buy advance tickets for D, Z, T, and K trains 10 days in advance. Ticket sellers open at 9am.

Also, arriving at the train station early will give you enough time to check your luggage through security check and find your way to your boarding gate. Stations are often large, noisy, crowded, and confusing.

The Different Classes of Trains

Chinese-trainD (动车 dòngchē) Electric trains. Typically has higher speed than T trains or K trains, with a top speed of 250 km/h. Provides fast, frequent service between cities like Beijing/Taiyuan and Shenzhen/Guangzhou.

Z (直达 zhídá) Direct express trains. Although they are called “direct” trains, they may stop at stations along the way. Top speed 140 km/h.

T (特快 tèkuài) Express trains. They have a limited number of stops. Top speed 120 km/h.

K (kuài) Fast trains. Stops at more stations than T trains.

Trains without letters in front of them are the slowest of all. They stop at many more stations than the faster trains listed above, but ticket prices are also cheaper. Top speed 100 to 120 km/h.

More information on tickets, routes and pictures of train interiors at seat61.com


Be wary of long lines and pickpockets. Pay attention to your surroundings and the people around you. The Spring Festival is a high season for thieves and tricksters. Travel with a friend if possible, don’t fall asleep where it’s not safe, put wallets and valuables in inside pockets, and lock stowed luggage. Even pockets with zippers are vulnerable.Don’t keep your cash all in one place; if possible, divide it among places on your person.

Read Bilingual News, Learn Chinese

Check out sl.iciba.com to read current news with English on the top and Chinese on the bottom. Although there is no pinyin, you can see the meaning of Chinese words in their context.

In the definition window you can see definitions and bilingual example sentences, although many of the example sentences seem quite obscure. You can also search for other Chinese words directly from the pop-up window.


Do you have any other useful English/Chinese bilingual websites? Share them in the comments.

Free language resource: How to Learn Chinese

Please download How to learn Chinese Guide and feel free to share with your friends.

This useful guide covers topics such as learning Chinese strategies, learning styles, maintaining motivation, overcoming barriers, memorizing vocabulary, and various other issues. Now freely available online with hard copies available at our Chinese language school in Beijing.

We’ve heard some positive feedback about this practical learning Chinese guide from our current students. Hope it’ll help you improve your Chinese as well!

One of the most useful sections is about learning Chinese  strategies. These chapters contain ideas such as different ways to use flash cards, recording yourself, saying the action that you are doing, grouping items or topics, labeling items, or looking for similarities. Other useful topics include maintaining motivation and learning from high achievers.

If you’ve downloaded and read some of the content, or have tried it out, let us know your thoughts down in the comments.

P.S. if you prefer to read or download individual chapters online, please see our How to learn Chinese page.