Beautiful Caka Salt Lake in Qinghai Province

Caka ("the sea of salt" in Mongolian) Salt Lake covers an area of 105 square kilometers, and is a typical chloride salt lake. The salt from Caka is sold in 20 provinces and cities like Hong Kong, and Taiwan, as well as in Japan, Nepal, and the Middle East. There tourists can watch the mining of salt, and admire various salt crystals in the shape of pearls, corals, snowflakes, and mushrooms.






Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, whose capital is Nanning, is located in southern China, and is known as the bright green pearl of the country.

Nanning, is not only the political, economic and cultural center of the autonomous region, but also plays an important role in the economic development of southwest China.

Guangxi has a population of 45 million, which is composed of various ethnic groups. Hans come first, but Zhuang has significant number of people totaling 14 million. That's why Guangxi becomes the Zhuang autonomous region.

Characterized by a rich array of ethnic customs, Guangxi is a spectacular region for sightseeing.

One of Guangxi's major tourist attractions is Guilin, widely regarded as "one of the most beautiful spot in the world." It is famed across China and the world for its spectacular setting by the Li River amid soaring peaks.

Beihai is a beautiful garden seaside in the southern part of the region. It is no exaggeration to say that Beihai is a present bestowed by Mother Nature, in particular for its Silver Beach.

Longsheng and Sanjing are known for their Dong and Zhuang ethnic minority villages. You will have a chance to taste the local food and appreciate the traditional singing and dancing performances.

In 2008, Guangxi's GDP was more than 717 billion yuan, and its per capita GDP was 14,966 yuan. Important crops in Guangxi include rice, maize, sweet potatoes and wheat. Cash crops include sugar cane, peanuts, tobacco and kenaf.


Located in the southwest area of China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region possesses a charming city in the south - Beihai.

In the 1980s, many foreign backpackers were drawn here by the introduction of the county in the ´Lonely Planet´. Now, the county greets its guests with more charms and attractions.

Laibin has a subtropical monsoon climate with plenty of sunshine and rain. The average temperature is 18.9 Celsius, while the average annual precipitation is 900-1230 mm.

This easy-going cycle tour begins in Guilin, located in southwestern China in Guangxi Province. This tour is intended for those with little or no cycle-touring experience and will utilize vehicle transport to access some of the more remote areas where we can then cycle and explore at a leisurely pace.


Transparent goldfish produced in Japan

A see-through goldfish whose beating hearts can be seen through translucent scales and skin at Japan's Mie University in Tsu city, central Japan.



The hidden fluorescent colours of the oceans(2)

From coral to crabs it seems everything under the water is aglow.

Lobophyllia coral fluorescing.

Dr Nico Michiels from University Tubingen, Germany, has been pioneering new research into fluorescing sea life in his latest studies. 'You can actually see these colours with the human eye' he says...

...'the special torches that filter out other colours helps to enhance the effect of the fluorescent pigments'

'Once you have been trained to look out for it' Dr Nico Michiels adds, 'you can see the creatures that are fluorescing'

There are a lot of theories on why the creatures fluoresce. Some may change to imitate the colours in the background to act as a camouflage...

while some species fluoresce the colours possibly to attract one another. Goby fish and coral

Companies around the world offer the chance to dive at night while armed with LED torches

The hidden fluorescent colours of the oceans(1)

Normally hidden to the human eye, the marine life in these pictures are all shown to be emitting fluorescent colours. Underwater photographer Louise Murray perfected the technique for shooting fluorescing marine life and travelled to Thailand and the Red Sea to take these images.

When illuminated with special torches shining a 'blue' light, many organisms under the sea suddenly burst into radiant life.

Fluorescent colours are produced by cells responding to certain wavelengths of light hitting them - causing the cell to emit its own light on a different wavelength, which creates a different colour.

Coral and hermit crab fluorescing under blue light in Thailand.

Traffic cones and highlighter pens are just two everyday examples of fluorescing objects that humans can detect without any equipment. Above ground people can usually pick up other fluorescing objects using ultra violet lights...

...but deep in the ocean it's blue light that brings out the livelier side of these animals


The top 10 buildings of the decade

Millennium Dome, London, 2000.Designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership and engineers Buro Happold, this was a £45m politically-driven folly. Often compared to a giant jellyfish washed up on the Greenwich peninsula, today this huge tent has been reborn as the successful O2. With a diameter of 365m and topping 100m, its titanic scale remains impressive.

Blur, Expo 02, Yverdon-les-Bains, 2002.This sensational pavilion, which was designed by New York architects Diller + Scofidio, was the star of Switzerland’s Expo 02. A cat's cradle of tensile steel, 20m high and 100m long, it brooded at the end of a steel-and-glass jetty over Lake Neuchatel. Inside, some 30,000 water jets created clouds through which mesmerised (and damp) visitors could walk, again and again.

Serpentine Pavilion, London, 2002.This lyrical pavilion, designed by architect Toyo Ito and engineer Cecil Balmond, was a suggestion of an architecture of the future, in which boundaries between walls, floor, ceiling, interior and exterior might dissolve. In a decade of bombast, here was profundity and simplicity.

30 St Mary Axe, London, 2003.Norman Foster's Gherkin was admired and scorned. Most were awed by his office tower, although some thought it symbolised the cocksure ambition of the City. Its pleasures are chiefly for those who work here: the skygardens are impressive, and the restaurant is one of the world’s most breathtaking new rooms.

European Southern Observatory Hotel, Cerro Paranal, Chile, 2003.This "hotel" for astronomers working in the Atacama desert is a perfect fusion of architecture and landscape, from the Munich practice Auer and Weber and engineers Mayr and Ludescher. Coolly geometric red concrete walls form a quasi-monastic courtyard, behind which rooms are stacked in orderly rows. Ostentation is left to the heavens.

Beijing National Stadium, Beijing, 2008.This eye-catching 80,000-seat stadium, designed by the Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron with the Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, was the architectural highlight of the 2008 Olympics. It consists of two buildings, one inside the other: a red concrete bowl for seating surrounded by the steel “bird’s nest? Since the Olympics, this charismatic building has been largely redundant.

St Pancras station, London, 2007.Magnificent revival of the Victorian Gothic railway terminus, now one of the world’s finest stations. Alastair Lansley led his team over a decade, transforming this fusion of 19th-century architecture and mind-searing engineering into a place for 21st-century trains. The hotel and penthouse flats high in the rafters have yet to be completed.

Le Viaduc de Millau, Aveyron, 2004.Awe-inspiring bridge carrying the A75 autoroute across the Tarn Valley in southern France. Designed by the engineer Michel Virlogeux and Norman Foster, the Viaduc de Millau is best seen from the tops of the valley sides, especially when its Eiffel Tower-high pylons spear the summer clouds.

Neues Museum, Berlin, 2009.After 10 years of painstaking reconstruction, this magnificent 19th-century cultural pantechnicon, closed in 1939, was reopened to popular and critical acclaim. The complex and intelligent redesign was by the British architect, David Chipperfield, who has allowed the old building to breathe while fitting it out with all the new technology it needs.

Burj Dubai.Dubai's economy totters as the Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest structure, prepares to open. At 818 metres, it is the equivalent of the Empire State Building with the Chrysler Building on top. Designed by Adrian Smith and Bill Baker of Chicago-based SOM, the Burj has 160 storeys of hotel rooms, Armani-styled apartments and sky-high offices.


Palestinians call for Christmas peace

Christmas celebrations have begun across the Middle East. In Jerusalem, free Christmas trees were handed out. While in Bethlehem, the birth place of Jesus, children marched ahead of the holiday calling for peace.

The scene was set for Christmas celebrations in Jerusalem's Old City. Colorful decorations filled shop fronts, and free Christmas trees were handed out to locals.

Whitney, American Tourist, said, "We came here to get a Christmas tree because you can not have Christmas without a real tree so they gave them away here for free, so we are going to have our Jerusalem Christmas."

The West Bank City of Bethlehem prides itself on being the birth place of Christ. There, school children marched in the streets in one of many events ahead of Christmas eve.

As part of the Children without borders program, they carried a giant Palestinian flag and called for peace in the Holy Land.


Ibrahim Faltas, Rep of Palestinian Authority, said, "We do not want a wall, we want bridge of peace. We want Bethlehem children to reach Jerusalem and Jerusalem children to arrive in Bethlehem. That is why we called this project children without borders."

The events were overseen by Israeli soldiers, because of rising tensions between local residents and Jewish settlers.

The issue of settlements on land the Palestinians claim as their future state, has become a key sticking point in Middle East peace efforts.

Palestinians have demanded a halt to all settlement construction as a condition for returning to peace talks.


Queen Elizabeth to pay tribute to forces in Christmas Day message

Britain's Queen Elizabeth the Second will pay tribute to the country's armed forces in her annual Christmas Day message on Friday.

British troops are deployed in more than 80 countries, including around 10,000 in Afghanistan. She will use her traditional message to thank them for their service, "to react to their concerns and to thank and reassure them".

This year could be the bloodiest year for British and American troops in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion.

The Queen spoke earlier this year of the nation's "deep and enduring gratitude" to the armed forces. The number of British troops killed in Afghanistan this year reached 100 in early December.

In this image made available in London Wednesday Dec. 23, 2009, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II poses prior to the recording of her annual Christmas Day broadcast to the Commonwealth,
in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace in London, Thursday Dec. 20, 2009.


Astronomers in London looking for Christmas star

Have you ever wondered about the real origin of the star that shines atop many a Christmas tree? The story of Jesus' birth in the Bible talks about a star guiding the "Three Wise Men" to the manger, the star heralding the birth of a king. But did that star actually exist? Astronomers in London have been trying to find out.

Looking out across snow-covered London is the Greenwich Royal Observatory.

At the Astronomy Centre, public astronomer Marek Kukula explains that despite the precise records of star movements kept by the Chinese at the time, there is no precise date for when the Wise Men tracked the "star", so it is difficult to know precisely what they witnessed.

One theory is that it was a conjunction of planets, where two or more planets seem to pass close together.

Marek Kukula, public astronomer of Greenwich Royal Observatory, said, "Another thing that could have seemed important at the time is what we call an occultation, when the moon passes in front of a planet and again there are cases of those happening in the years leading up to 1 B.C. so it could have been any of those and we really don't know."

Thousands of people around the world now follow star movements as amateur or professional astronomers. But in the year Jesus was born, watching the stars was something that everyone did, not just to try to predict future important events, but also to navigate.

Visitors to the Greenwich Observatory this Christmas are learning about the constellations more than 2,000 years later and also the technology now being used to study what's happening in the universe around us.

Mattheu, Observatory visitor, said, "When I was watching something in the other room, with black holes, if we do go into space then you know what causes a black hole and you know what to look out for and stuff."

The exploration by man into space and the pictures taken by the Hubble space telescope of the outer realms of our universe all pose as many questions as answers to scientists studying astronomy today.

With continuing advances in technology, the next generation of scientists hope finally to be able to get to the bottom of some of the most fundamental questions.


Top 10 places to spend Christmas(2)

6. Vienna, Austria

An old-fashioned warmth envelops Vienna at Christmas, softening the hard edges of imperial architecture with twinkling decorations and three outdoor Christkindlmarkets, which are best visited at night. Vendors sell crafts and ornaments, while visitors fuel their shopping with finger food and a glass of spiced mulled wine, or gluhwein.

7. Quebec City, Canada

Lit-up cobblestone streets, 16th- and 17th-century stone houses, and lots of snow make Quebec's 400-year-old walled city an atmospheric and European-like place to be at Christmas.

8. Paraty, Brazil

It may not look a lot like Christmas, but Paraty, a half-day's drive from Rio, is a hidden gem of a town with astonishingly well-preserved Portuguese colonial architecture, a vibrant cultural scene, and easy access to verdant rainforest and some of the world's most perfect beaches.

9.Castleton, England

A tiny stone English village dotted with cheerfully lit Christmas trees would be enough of an allure, but caroling by candlelight inside caves seals this southern town's place on a list of special yuletide travel destinations.

10. Kaikoura, New Zealand

The Kaikoura peninsula may not have reindeer, but it is teeming with sperm whales, fur seals, dusky dolphins, pilot whales, and albatross in Kaikoura Bay. Since it'll be summertime when you visit, you can encounter almost all of them by boat or kayak, then catch some yuletide rays on the beach.

Top 10 places to spend Christmas(1)

Whether your ideal Christmas is about snow and magical lights or a beach and a seasonal cocktail, travel website travelandleisure.com has come up with a list of 10 of the best places to spend Christmas. This list was compiled by editors at travelandleisure (www.travelandleisure.com).

1. Taos, New Mexico, United States

This remote village on a high desert plain is especially magical at Christmas due its rich mix of cultural traditions. Don't miss historic Ledoux Street all lit up with luminarias or paper lanterns, the ceremonial re-enactments of Mary and Joseph's search for shelter, and the dramatic American Indian Christmas Eve celebration that takes over the main square in Taos Pueblo. Plus, you can ski all day on Christmas Day at Taos Ski Resort.

2. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

The Spanish colonial gem and cultural hot spot in central Mexico is electric at Christmas, with theatrical processions around town, numerous nativity re-enactments, and fireworks, live music, and dancing in the main square, El Jardin. Don't miss a taste of ponche, a kind of Mexican hot toddy made of fruits and brandy, or the sweet bread rosca de reyes, both Christmas specialties.

3. Tromso, Norway

The snowy city island of Tromso offers unparalleled views of the Northern Lights and a chance to say you've been to the North Pole -- well, the Arctic Circle, anyway -- for Christmas. Plus, there's dogsledding, great food, and a mountaintop cable car.

4. Key West, Florida, United States

Good cheer and warm temperatures are typically Key West's winning attributes, and Christmas is no exception. The trimmed palm trees, done-up historic inns and four festooned blocks of boats along the historic waterfront amplify the town's merriment.

5. Chicago, United States

The Windy City embraces yuletide cheer to the max, with a million holiday lights along bustling Magnificent Mile, Christkindlmarket, a huge outdoor German crafts market with beer and fare like sausages to stoke your fire, a towering handmade Christmas tree, and Navy Pier's Winter WonderFest, a holiday-themed amusement park and indoor skating rink.

Bird's Nest open to the public for skiing




On November 29, part of the lawn in the Bird's Nest was covered by snow and the operator of the National Stadium announced plans to hold the first "Happy Snow and Ice Season" at the Bird's Nest between December 19 2009 and February 20 2010.


The brain may feel other people's pain

NEW YORK - If you've ever thought that you literally feel other people's pain, you may be right. A brain-imaging study suggests that some people have true physical reactions to others' injuries.

Using an imaging technique called functional MRI, UK researchers found evidence that people who say they feel vicarious pain do, in fact, have heightened activity in pain-sensing brain regions upon witnessing another person being hurt.

The findings, published in the journal Pain, could have implications for understanding, and possibly treating, cases of unexplained "functional" pain.

"Patients with functional pain experience pain in the absence of an obvious disease or injury to explain their pain," explained Dr. Stuart W. G. Derbyshire of the University of Birmingham, one of the researchers on the new study.

"Consequently," he told Reuters Health in an email, "there is considerable effort to uncover other ways in which the pain might be generated."

Derbyshire said he now wants to study whether the brains of patients with functional pain respond to images of injury in the same way that the current study participants' did.

For the study, Derbyshire and colleague Jody Osborn first had 108 college students view several images of painful situations -- including athletes suffering sports injuries and patients receiving an injection. Close to one-third of the students said that, for at least one image, they not only had an emotional reaction, but also fleetingly felt pain in the same site as the injury in the image.

Derbyshire and Osborn then took functional MRI scans of 10 of these "responders," along with 10 "non-responders" who reported no pain while viewing the images.

Functional MRI charts changes in brain blood flow, allowing researchers to see which brain areas become more active in response to a particular stimulus. Here, the researchers scanned participants' brains as they viewed either images of people in pain, images that were emotional but not painful, or neutral images.

The investigators found that while viewing the painful images, both responders and non-responders showed activity in the emotional centers of the brain. But responders showed greater activity in pain-related brain regions compared with non-responders, and as compared with their own brain responses to the emotional images.

"We think this confirms that at least some people have an actual physical reaction when observing others being injured or expressing pain," Derbyshire said.

He noted that the responders also tended to say that they avoided horror movies and disturbing images on the news "so as to avoid being in pain" -- which, the researcher said, is more than just an empathetic response.

As far as the potential practical implications of the findings, Derbyshire said it would be a "reach" to think that such brain mechanisms might be behind all functional pain. But, he added, "they might explain some of it."


Splash! Droplets of water and milk images(4)

One of Corrie's water droplet pictures

One of Corrie's water droplet pictures

One of Corrie's water droplet pictures


Splash! Droplets of water and milk images(3)

This work is called 'Minty Mushroom'

One of Corrie's spectacular splash shots, showing two droplets bouncing up from the water

One drop of milk dropping into another drop of milk. Red food colouring used for this one

Corrie used a black cast iron pan with water to get the black background. Food colouring with a bit of milk in the eyedropper

Corrie describes this shot as: 'The red one has a little hat - the blue one is a little fat'

For this one Corrie used crumpled up tin foil to bounce her flash and get the sparkling reflections


Splash! Droplets of water and milk images(2)

Corrie, from Ontario, Canada, said she uses one external flash which and sets the flash exposure compensation to a very low power. She said she sets the camera to a low aperture to achieve the depth of field in the pictures. This shot was done by dropping one drop of cream onto another on the bottom of a pizza pan

Corrie said she sets her camera on a five second timer and then releases the droplet. She added: "I have a good sense of timing but sometimes the drop happens so fast that I miss it. Milliseconds make the difference. My success rate is about one out of every 25 attempts on average" Corrie calls this photo 'A Cherry on Top'

For this figure-shaped splash, Corrie used milk dropped from an eyedropper into water in a cast iron frying pan

A splash picture created by using green dye in milk


Splash! Droplets of water and milk images(1)

These images have caused a splash - they capture the moment when a tiny droplet of milk hits water. Photographer Corrie White spends hours firing the coloured droplets at the water from a pipette suspended 12 inches above

Corrie, 61, uses milk because it falls more slowly than water, giving her more time to get a snap of that perfect moment. Both the milk and the water in which it lands are tinted with food colouring to give the spectacular effect

Mum of four Corrie started shooting the droplets a year ago after seeing another photographer attempt something similar. Using a macro lens, she worked out a way to capture the stunning shots without using any photographic trickery

She said: "Last year for my 60th birthday, my family bought me a 100mm macro lens. In late January, I took some pictures of frost on my windows and this inspired me to try the water drops. I haven't stopped since" Corrie describes this delightful shot an abstract (but we think it looks like someone giving the finger)


Merrymaking in winter time

The very first snow of 2009 fell in early November in Beijing. Temperatures are once again starting to dip. This is good news for ice skating lovers, who can't to show off their stunning skill. In today's Style Watch, we recommend you to several places in the city, most of which have huge surfaces to skate on.

Shichahai Skating Rink

Winter chills cool the heat of the Shichahai area of the Xicheng District in Beijing. When it's freezing outside, the place becomes heaven for skaters and those who love the cold.

Their blades come in various forms, figure skates, speed skates and hockey skates. Some are beginners, others are professionals showing off their stunning twirls.

With the air suffusing with laughter, people of all ages can find time to relax, away from their routine existence.

Yanqing Skating Rink

Yanqing a north-western suburb of Beijing is a well known spot for ice skating. Its annual ice skating festival is gaining popularity among Beijing residents and visitors from afar.

Yanqing is a perfect place for outdoor activities during the chilly season. It boasts an abundance of resources for ice skating. Usually the temperature in Yanqing is a couple of degrees cooler than in the city. Visitors can always get their woollies out earlier and enjoy the seasonal fun here.

Longqingxia Ice Lantern Festival

The Longqingxia Ice Lantern Festival opens annually around the Chinese Spring Festival. The 2010 festival, which opens in mid-January, will be focusing on the theme of "The Splendor of the Flourishing Time".

The Longqingxia Ice Lantern Festival has all the ingredients for an ideal family day. Its lantern exhibition covers a spacious area of more than 100-thousand square meters. The lanterns, all made of ice, come in various shapes and forms: There is "the Great Wall" winding through the hill; and ice structures in the shape of kiosks and pavilions, with ice-made animals hiding in between. Ice sculptors are also invited to join the festival, creating their own works of art on location.

The festival is also interactive for visitors, who are encouraged to join the treasure hunting activity in the snow and take a ride on the stunning train that ascends the hills.

What are you waiting for? It's time to get your mittens on and head out to the snow parks around Beijing. Remember, outdoor activities aren't just for kids, it's for anyone who is young at heart.


Eloquent Ji Xiaolan gets new sequel

Loyal fans of "Eloquent Ji Xiaolan", the hit TV series that started ten years ago, will continue their fun-filled journey with the leads. The drama, which tells the story of quick-witted scholar Ji Xiaolan of the Qing court, has gotten its fourth installment. Lead actors were on hand at the promotion ahead of the release.

Scriptwriter Zou Jingzhi, was accompanied by lead actors Zhang Guoli, Zhang Tielin, and Wang Gang, as well as returning lead actress Yuan Li to attend the release ceremony. Hong Kong actress Miriam Yueng, who is a newcomer to the series, was also on hand.

From the first installment to the fourth, the TV series has gone through ten years. Over that time, the three male leads have become known as the "iron triangle", for their ability to ring in audience ratings. Zhang Guoli, the foremost lead who plays the grand scholar, got sentimental as he traced back the series' past decade.

Zhang Guoli, Actor, said, "The series has been on the air for ten years. Almost every night there is a satellite TV station somewhere playing the show. It is the most aired TV series in China. The funny stories that take place among the lead characters are soothing entertainment for those who work hard all day and get back home late. We are the guys who accompany the audience members to help them have fun. So making this fourth installment, I think is a meaningful thing."

Wang Gang is the actor that plays the role He Shen, a corrupt minister who frequently finds himself in a battle of wits with Ji Xiaolan. He says he wouldn't play beyond the second installment. But, he is still among the cast.

Actor Wang Gang said, "I was a bit bored after the second installment. And the passion for creation faded. So I thought about quitting. But I couldn't afford to leave these old friends. Especially, for this installment, Yuan Li comes back, new ones coming too. So I still want to continue the play with them."

Emperor Qianlong's impersonator, Zhang Tielin was active at the press conference. Zhang is fairly good at calligraphy, which is quite apt for his role since Qianlong was a superb calligrapher. Zhang wielded the brush often throughout the TV series. When the host asked the whereabouts of some calligraphy work he wrote on the TV series, he joked that Zhang Guoli has looted his private property.

"Eloquent Ji Xiaolan four" will be aired on Beijing TV starting December the 28th.

Perf. arts center for Shanghai Expo becomes new landmark

With half-a-year to go to the Shanghai World Expo,the new building complex for the event has just been unveiled. Besides the pavilions for various countries, there is a performing arts center and the Private Enterprises Pavilion.

The Performing Arts Center for the Shanghai World Expo will be the top venue for the event's grand opening. It's also expected to be the largest entertainment locale in China. Due to its giant scale, it has become a new landmark in Shanghai, following the Oriental Pearl Tower, and the Jin Mao Mansion.

The flying disk shape architecture turns into a mesmerizing gigantic ship, shining on the sea. The new Shanghai Center for the Performing Arts can alter the capacity, the scale, and shape of the individual theater halls within it, to make use of the building's energy saving design. At most, the main theater can seat an audience of 18-thousand.

The Performing Arts Center also houses cinemas, music clubs, exhibition halls, and art salons. Major art activities and shows will be held here during the Shanghai World Expo. The center will open for twenty-four hours a day during the event, helping to turn Shanghai into a sleepless city. By 2011, the futuristic venue will be turned into Mercedez-Benz Arena and will also feature auto culture.

Another main building unveiled recently is the Private Enterprises Pavilion. It is called the "vibrant matrix", composed of nineteen "cell" shaped columns. It is dubbed as a brand new example of energy saving and eco-friendly architecture.


Three Types of Face Changes

In the Wiping Mask routine the actor applies cosmetic paint in a certain position on his face. If the whole face is to be changed, the cosmetic paint is applied to the forehead or eyebrows; for changes on the lower half of the face, paint is applied to his cheeks or nose; or to other specific parts.

The Blowing Mask routine works with powder cosmetics, such as gold, silver, and ink powders. Sometimes a tiny box is placed on the stage; the actor draws near and blows at the box. The powder will puff up and stick to the face. Sometimes the powder is put in a cup. The secret to success in this act is to close the eyes and mouth and to hold the breath.


The Pulling Mask routine is the most complicated. Masks are painted on pieces of damask, well cut, hung with a silk thread, and the lightly pasted to the face one by one. The silk thread is fastened in an inconspicuous part of the costume. With a flick of his cloak the performer magically whisks away the masks one by one as the drama develops.

One Sichuan Opera master also used qi gong movements as he changed face color from red to white, then from white to black.

Face changing is a magical art. Actors change more than 10 masks in less than 20 seconds! By raising the hand, swinging a sleeve or tossing the head, an actor uses different masks to show different emotions, expressing invisible and intangible feelings through visible and tangible masks. From green to blue, red, yellow, brown, black, dark and gold, these masks show fear, tension, relaxation, slyness, desperation, outrage, and so on.

Sichuan Opera master Peng Denghuai changed 14 masks in 25 seconds, and reverted to four masks after revealing his true face. This was his latest Guinness World record, breaking his previous one. Hong Kong super star Andy Lau was said to respect Mr. Peng as teacher and mentor in this stunt.

Today hi-tech is used to enhance this traditional art. Lasers and twinkling lights add a touch of mystery. And modern faces like Zorro are invited to the stage.

Sichuan Opera, like hot-pot and other Sichuan cuisine winners, is exciting, rich and good-natured.


Beautiful scenery of Wuxia Gorge on Yangtze River

A passenger liner sails through the Wuxia Gorge on Yangtze River, presenting a beautiful scenery in the early winter, in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, Dec. 4, 2009.






A visit to Shijinglong Ski Resort

As Beijing embraces more snow, ski resorts are seeing more and more tourists coming to hit the slopes and enjoying the fresh air in a world full of purity and the magic of snow. Currently there are 13 ski resorts spread across the vast outskirts of Beijing, each one has something unique to attract ice fanatics.


Today we paid a visit to the first ski resort in Beijing, Shijinglong Ski Resort, in north Beijing's Yanqing District.

Located 80 kilometers north of Beiijing, Shijinglong Ski Resort is nestled in the marvelous mountains just near scenic Longqing Gorge. Though I am not a fan of skiing or snowboarding, the first sight of the landscape and joyful skiers gave me an entirely refreshed feeling.

It took us about one and a half hours to get to the resort, and I can feel it's much colder than inside the city. Since today is not a weekend, and also it's the start of the snow season, we didn't see many people. On our arrival, we noticed a very interesting colorful hub. The manager told us they've been collecting the broken skis since they opened in 1999, and this hub is made of recycled skis.

The staff at Shijinglong were very nice, especially when they helped change my ski clothes. I guess it's because it is the oldest ski resort in Beijing, many clothes are a bit torn, but they are quite clean.

Shijinglong has different slopes tailored for skiers of different levels. The most challenging slope is over 1 kilometer. With a maximum slope of thirty degrees, it has a pitch of 300 meters. The mid-level run has a maximum slope of twenty-eight degrees. Most of the time we are in the beginners slope, which is over 3 kilometers with an average slope of ten degrees.

As Beijing embraces more snow, ski resorts are seeing more and more tourists coming to enjoy the fresh air in a world full of purity.

There are many beginners like me, but it's no big deal to learn some basics when you are with an experienced tutor. It's getting late so I don't have time to follow a tutor, but next time I will do so. My colleage is an expert on snowboarding and he did a nice show, which made me really want to learn it.

It is such a moving picture with the sunset at the resort that we are reluctant to leave. It might not be the most well-appointed ski resort in Beijing, but its nice staff and charming scenery make the place a worthy destination for ice lovers and fun-seekers.


Disney Ice and Snow World in Harbin

Photo taken on Dec. 7, 2009 shows the effect photo of an ice scenery to be constructed in the Disney Ice and Snow World in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. The Disney Ice and Snow World in Harbin is under construction now and will open to tourists on Dec. 20.






Scientists decode human genome for the first time in India

Indian scientists claimed they have successfully decoded the human genome for the first time in India, a breakthrough which puts the country in the select list of six nations to have achieved the medical feat, local media reported Wednesday.

A team from the Indian Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi, led by Dr. S. Sridhar and PhD student Vinod Scaria, has mapped the Human Genome Sequence of a 52-year-old male, paving the way for predictive healthcare and the possibility of identifying why certain people do not at all respond to certain medications, and what diseases a particular gene carrier or a population is likely to develop.

"The human genome sequence is like a map of the human body. Through this map, we can tell what leads to what. We can use this map to predict mutations in the gene, like predicting how a certain person may get a certain disease. We can predict for instance, who will get the common bipolar disease or single nuclear polymorphism," IGIB director Dr. Rajesh Gokhale told reporters on Tuesday.

"Through the same tool, we can predict the chances of a particular disease affecting a population. We can also explore aspects like why certain drugs don't affect certain people," he said.

The human genome contains 3.1 billion base pairs, which describe every bodily function. Only five other countries -- the United States, Britain, Canada, China and South Korea -- have so far sequenced the human genome.

According to the scientists, the 52-year-old man was chosen from among several people profiled because he was at the "onset" age for certain diseases, but was healthy in terms of biochemical parameters like blood and cholesterol count. The entire project took a period of two years of background work.

Despite the high cost of sequencing, scientists at IGIB predict that it may soon become a fairly popular procedure.

"While genome sequencing is certainly expensive now, in about five years, we can look forward to making it a common diagnostic tool. A cancer patient for instance should be able to avail this facility, and the sequencing can predict what drugs will be useful for him," Dr. Gokhale said.

In its official statement, the Ministry of Science and Technology has lauded the "unique" achievement "by a team of very young scientists". 


White gators - the rarest creatures in the world

At just a foot long, these white gators are two of the rarest creatures in the world.




They were found in swamp land by a Louisiana fisherman and have now been given a new home in a New Orleans Zoo.

Weighing in at just over 14 pounds, the creatures are not albino, but are born with a genetic condition known as leucism, which means they have a reduction in all types of skin pigment.

Rendering them white in appearance bar a few freckles, these gators now join the other 10 white gators at Audubon Zoo, which is home to the total number known to exist in the world.


Hottest star in the galaxy pictured for the first time

One of the hottest stars in the galaxy has been discovered by astronomers.


The dying star at the centre of the Bug Nebula is 35 times hotter than the sun with a surface temperature of 200,000 degrees.

This is the first time the star has been pictured despite numerous attempts by stargazers across the world.

Astronomers at The University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics were amazed to find they had captured the central star using the recently refurbished Hubble Space Telescope.

The Bug Nebula is about 3500 light years away in the constellation Scorpius.


Beijing implements four major measures to alleviate water shortage


Beijing is seriously short of water. With an increase in urban population and extension in urban functions, the water shortage has become a new issue that urgently requires a solution. It is learned from relevent organs that in recent years, Beijing has implemented measures such as preserving water resources, collecting rainwater, diverting water from other regions and calling for water conservation to ensure water supply for rural and urban residents, industry and agriculture and realize Beijing's sustainable social and economic development.

The water capacity of reservoirs increases and the quality improves

Preserving water is particularly important for a city like Beijing that faces a severe shortage of water resources. Beijing's mountain areas are rich in both landscape, and water source conservation and protection areas. The numerous urban residents who spend their holidays and carry out entertainment and leisure activities there bring economic benefits on the one hand, but also leave rubbish and waste water on the other hand.

Focusing on preserving water sources, Beijing has set aside 6,000 square kilometers of area as water source conservation areas and implemented strict water resource protection regulations to control pollution at the source. Three lines of defense – ecological restoration, ecological management and ecological protection, have been put in place around reserviors to develop eco-friendly, minor drainage areas.

In order to improve the quality of water in Miyun Reservoir to the standard of surface water, Beijing's scientists and engineers have carried out research on a water eutrophication prevention and control system for the reservoir and put forward a number of technical measures to control area pollution sources and reduce pollution sources in the inner lake. The techniques, which integrate engineering, management, biological and ecological measures, have had a noticeable effect in protecting water sources.

Thanks to the implementation of a batch of technical solutions to improve water quality and the construction of demonstration projects, Miyun Reservoir has not only maintained normal water supply, but also increased its water capacity again while ensuring good water quality. As of the end of 2008, the reservoir's water capacity had exceeded 1.1 billion cubic meters and the water quality was above the Class-II level.

Guanting Reservoir, which was once one of Beijing's two major water sources, was removed from the drinking water supply system in 1997 due to water pollution. Given the level of pollution in Guanting Reservoir, Beijing's relevant organs have gradually approved two key scientific and technological projects and over 20 specific projects, and formulated a systematic engineering plan to restore the water in the reservior. The plan has already passed an inspection organized by the Ministry of Water Resources.



Yiwu (simplified Chinese: 义乌; pinyin: Yìwū) is a city of about 2,000,000 people in central Zhejiang Province near the central eastern coast of the People's Republic of China.

The city is famous for its small commodity trade and vibrant free markets and is a regional tourist destination. Although administratively Yiwu is a county-level city under the governance of Jinhua, its fame nationally surpasses that of Jinhua, the prefecture-level city of which it is technically under jurisdiction.

Yiwu is located 100 km south of the city of Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province. The nearest city to Yiwu is Dongyang. The area, as in most of the Province of Zhejiang, is in a mountainous region.

Yiwu is technically part of the greater Municipal region of Jinhua, although it has a distinct urban core. On China's administrative strata it is a sub-prefecture level city. It has under its jurisdiction 15 towns and 8 villages, which covers 1102.8 square kilometers, 15 square kilometers of which are urban area of 650,000 people (2005 estimate). There has been talk of merging the Yiwu and Jinhua areas into a single municipal zone or economic entity, but this plan has yet to make its way into any formal discussion.

Yiwu city is famous for its small commodity trade and vibrant flea markets and is a regional tourist destination. Tens of thousands of Middle Eastern traders make their way to Yiwu every year, accounting for a large percentage of foreigners there.

Yiwu is famous in China as a commodities center. People from all over the world come to Yiwu City to buy commodities for resale in other parts of China or abroad.

Yiwu commodities wholesale market is developed and managed by Zhejiang China Commodities City Group Co.,Ltd. Yiwu's China Small-Commodity Market has for 6 consecutive years topped China's 100 top open markets and was for successive years listed as China's civilized open market. It has been named as the banner of China's market economy and with a large variety of quality but cheaper commodities, the market has become a shopping paradise for tourists.

The GDP reached 42.1 billion yuan in 2007, an increase of 15.7% from 2006, and the per capita GDP reached 59,144 yuan (US$7,778). The per capita urban disposable income reached 25,007 yuan and rural pure income 10,255 yuan, increasing 15.9% and 16.4% respectively.

Its 4C-grade airport has opened over a dozen of air routes to such cities as Beijing, Guangzhou, Shantou, Weifang and Shenzhen. The Zhejiang-Jiangxi Railway and Hangzhou-Jinhua Expressway pass through the city, making Yiwu an important local transportation hub. Express trains from Shanghai South Railway Station take less than three hours.

"Yiwu,300 kilometers away form Shanghai, is the largest market of petty commodity wholesales in the world where various foreign buyers go to place orders." Such a depiction comes from Chinese Figures Astonishing the World, a special report co-delivered by the United Nations,the World Bank and Morgan Stanley. In that special report, Yiwu is the only enlisted county economy. And in the choice of "the 2004 Most Favorite Chinese Cities of Domestic and Foreign Public in 2004 ", Yiwu ranked the first among all county-level cities.

In 2008, Eamonn Fingleton wrote: "As documented by the author Tim Phillips. The city of Yiwu functions as a sort of 'Wall Street' for the industry, providing a vast marketplace where, Phillips states, 100,000 counterfeit products are openly traded and 2,000 metric tons of fakes change hands daily."