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By Jack Cameron

The HZ girl with the eagle tattoo who kicked a hornet’s nest, and then lit it on fire.

The amount of digital ink that was spilled during Jack Ma’s US roadshow was staggering, and while the Amazon-sized torrent has slowed-down to a Qiantang trickle, there’s nary a week that passes without another commentary about, analysis of, or paean to Hangzhou’s e-commerce savant. Here on the mainland, both mainstream media and Wechatter have given reportage a distinctly nationalistic flavor. Little to be wondered at: for many Chinese observers, Wall Street’s $25 billion dollar bet on Ma is seen a kind of validation of China, its peoples, and their potency.

This story, however, is not about Jack Ma.

Phoebe Wu wakes to sounds emitted from her Sony handset, a smartphone she chose not because she is a fan of Sony but because she wanted to differentiate herself from friends, colleagues, and everyone else who was sucked into the iPhone cult, which she rejects on principle. The copyrighted tune that shakes her from her dreams was downloaded free from Baidu, a Chinese search-engine which doesn’t worry too much about things like copyright, or delivering good search results. After she jostles her handset into the equivalent of snooze mode a few times, she’ll begin her morning from under her covers, first by checking her handset to see what’s happened in the world of WeChat while she slumbered, and then by checking the weather. After a long shower, Phoebe sits on her bed and puts on her makeup while watching a popular Hong Kong series on her Lenovo tablet, which she props-up beneath her small vanity mirror. Her cellphone remains on her lap, or not far from it, and while applying her foundation, drawing her “inner-V”, and fluffing-up her already preternaturally long eyelashes, she pauses now and then to check her news feeds, or respond to a text. She no longer listens to music while commuting to her office, but while on the bus she will read posts on Weibo, and check-in on a few blogs. This bouncing from WeChat to news feeds to Weibo will continue throughout the day, all day, on all but the very busiest of workdays, and her bus ride home will resemble her journey to work. Most evenings, whether she’s analyzing spreadsheets from work or watching movies she downloaded for free from another copyright-indifferent domestic website, her handset remains close at hand, and stays close at hand until she powers-down for the evening. Her high-end Sony smartphone is never shut-off, but stays dangerously warm beneath her pillow, charging, and waiting to announce the arrival of a new day.

It is no exaggeration to say that the waking hours of Phoebe’s life are mediated almost entirely by her handset. To watch her zip from app to app is to watch something almost superhuman, but it’s a talent she shares with many Chinese her age. She responds to a blog post on Weibo, and then posts on her own WeChat page a link to the post; she then fields an enquiry from a headhunter who found her CV on a white-collar job search site, one which allows her to manage her jobseeker profile from her smartphone. She looks for new shoes on, and then buys a case of toilet tissue for the house on Yihaodian -- and then double-checks her bank account to make sure she has enough money for the goods she’s just ordered. Her handset helps her execute tasks directly and indirectly related to her job, and to look for a better one, and to get done efficiently all the things that need doing. One of the things that needs to be done throughout the course of her day is deal with boredom. Another is deal with the fatigue that results from the in-your-face hurly-burly of life in a city of six-plus million people, most of whom seem to have their eyes glued to the screens of their handsets.

*   *   *

Phoebe hasn’t traveled much, and has never been outside of China; but she is very well informed about national events and breaking international news stories, even though (as with most Chinese) her news-feeds are all from domestic outlets, and more often than not are from the Weibo blogs of Chinese observers and analysts who are outside of the state media cartel. But Phoebe isn’t just trying to stay informed; she’s trying to stay intact. She tunes-in in order to tune-out. Her handset, and all of its apps, and all of the sites to which she has access, are, taken as a single functionality, an extension of her personal identity’s immune system. Some of what she uses her handset for is, of course, efficient means-end adequation. But she’s not really reaching-out, seeking connectivity – and she’s certainly not seeking either information or interconnectivity for their own sake. Phoebe is actually using the fact of the manifest hyperconnectivity around her – the existence of the cyberworld that envelops her and which she cannot avoid - to define and maintain her position in the physical world. It orients her. Her handset and its apps help her ignore things like the noise and sounds and smells of the overcrowded bus that brings her to and from her office, just as the news issued like gossip by thousands of independent microbloggers helps her deal with the marketing issued like news by thousands of state-sanctioned brand-managers. Her handset is her GPS; but it isn’t a global positioning system. It’s a geren (个人, “personal”) positioning system.

*   *   *

At the beginning of this century, when the Chinese Internet was still a wobbly-legged hatchling, Phoebe was one of the top bloggers on Hangzhou’s number-one BBS-site, (“the nineteenth floor”). None at the time used the phrase Key Opinion Leader or the even more ridiculous term “thought-leader” to describe her, but while still in her late teens Phoebe was one of the most followed bloggers in Hangzhou. She writes the way Hemmingway would have written had he been reincarnated as a stunning Chinese girl from a broken home who matured in lock-step with China’s cyberage. She is more skeptical and independent-minded than many of her peers. An astute and insightful observer, her prose then as now is lean muscle-mass. (Imagine a swimsuit model with the brain of a Navy SEAL, the gentle subtlety of a chainsaw, and all of the sweetness of an anchovy. That’s her.) In 2006, a local fashion brand chose her as the “representative girl born in the 1980s.” The most widely-read local newspaper ran the story and printed a series of photos of her looking hip in brand apparel, but the inside joke which only she and a few intimates knew is that she has abominable fashion sense and is anything but a typical Hangzhou girl --- just in case there is such a thing.

For example, despite dropping the 19lou blog and dialing-down her online presence, Phoebe remains an enthusiastic commentator and critic, aiming her Lapua .336 intellect at the T-box of online nonsense and offline stupidity. In the early Spring of 2014, she blew the whistle on a local Jim Jones character, a charismatic snake oil salesman whose ministry and products were likely involved in a number of deaths. Phoebe maintained her anonymity throughout all the interviews, including her big one with CCTV, when the scam she brought to light got national attention and tons of airtime on state-run media channels. It was a dangerous errand she’d undertaken (like eschewing iCulture, she did in on principle), and the small number of threats she received confirmed that not only had she kicked a hornet’s nest, she’d lit it on fire to boot. Being anonymous, of course, no one new that the one person courageous enough to try and bring down a multi-million-dollar enterprise was the same woman who, a decade earlier, became slightly famous in Hangzhou by blogging about skincare, cosmetics, and women’s health issues, and for sometimes going around town without a bra, her chestnut-colored waist-length hair shimmering in the sunshine and bouncing as she walked.

*   *   *

In 2004, her posts – on, and latterly on her microblog (Sina Weibo) – lead thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of girls to the vlogs of Xteener and Michelle Phan, Asian-American makeup gurus who taught young women about skincare and effective makeup application. Both Xteener and Michelle Phan (“Rice Bunny”) are based in the US, and in the early days their vlogs were simple, sincere, low-budget, and pleasantly amateurish. The fact that both girls were Asian Americans was one of the reasons they were so popular on the mainland: Chinese viewers found in their faces, eyes, and skin tones both practical relevance and some greater significance. Another reason for their popularity: a direct result of the one-child policy is that girls born in the 1980s are unlikely to have older sisters, someone to coach them on things like makeup and fashion; and with foreign folkways and international trends trickling into the First and Second-Tier cities, the kind of counsel that young girls in 21st century China wanted and thought they needed wasn’t likely to come from mothers or aunts, women who were nearly vestiges of a forgotten era, or at least an era most people preferred to forget. Like Phoebe, many girls watched these and similar vlogs to brush-up on their English, too. The vocabulary of Xteener’s and Michelle Phan’s monologues is neither deep nor extensive, but it’s great for learners: highly colloquial, the monologues are nicely contextualized by a domain narrow enough to support interferences about the intentions and meaning of the speakers. There was a bittersweet side to this, too, as mainland girls suddenly found themselves with a window to a world very different from their own -- a window thrust open by girls who looked like them, but who were living lives most mainland girls could only dream of.

The mainly young female viewers understood the accoutrement, the gestures, and the procedures better than the hosts’ English, and the broader cultural mis en scene of the vlogs invited more questions than there were sources for answers. But there was always one element of these shows which translated very, very well: the products.

Many of the brands Xteener and Michelle Phan used were either not available in the local shops in China, or were available only at the brand counters of high-end department stores of First-Tier cities. Some of the brands they used were positively pedestrian in the US – inexpensive and easy to score from a chain drugstore or supermarket. But in China, even non-luxury brands like Revlon, Maybeline, and Cover Girl were still fairly pricey. A teen from a well-heeled family in the US might turn her nose up at anything she could buy off the shelves of CVS; but most Chinese girls weren’t culturally or financially ready for MAC foundation, Bobbi Brown eye shadow, and Tom Ford lipstick, and few had heard of these brands anyway. In China, low-end American supermarket makeup was still highly-desirable.

For overseas Chinese students, however, things were a bit different. Whether from Boots in the UK, or Walgreens in the US, all this stuff was very accessible. By now, Weibo microblogs and QQ facilitated conversations and communiques with friends and former classmates back in the motherland, and a standard topic of the dispatches from abroad was the ubiquity of cool and (relatively) inexpensive stuff piled-high and sold cheap at places like Wal-Mart and Dollar Tree; and it wasn’t long before small shipments of (among other things) foreign makeup and skincare products began making their way into China from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.  These were gifts for friends, and for friends of friends, but the volume of branded merchandise trickling into China grew apace with the number of Chinese students studying abroad – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The basic phenomenon itself was nothing new, of course; but what was new was the number of Chinese students overseas, and the ability for them to connect via the Internet and social media in real-time with friends back home.

And there was another thing. In the early years of the 21st century, an ever larger proportion of overseas students had parents with the financial wherewithal to send them to any one of the dozens of expensive new programs in the US and elsewhere which had been created specifically to attract overseas students -- programs which cared less about the student’s skill-level and preparedness than about the parents’ ability to pay. These were the children of Chinese who had done rather well in the first decade after reform and opening up, and many were going abroad with an enviable allowance to spend. And a word further about overseas Chinese students at the turn of the millennium.

Meanwhile, the growing diffusion of Internet access in China’s First- and Second-Tier cities, and the massive popularity of Chinese social media platforms and apps, conspired to allow this cohort of overseas students to stay in regular contact with their less fortunate peers back in China. It didn’t require a great amount of sagacity to see that – sooner or later – the demand for things like affordable quality makeup and skincare products would eventually create the means of supply.

Enter Taobao.


Ten years on, and Garnier and Revlon have pulled-up stakes and left China. China’s e-commerce platforms and the grey-market vendors who sell on them were in no small part responsible for the demise in China of these global brands. Hangzhou blogging-sensation Phoebe Wu, whose uberpopular e-dispatches about Xteener and Michelle Phan had introduced thousands of girls to a whole new world of makeup and applicators, was, without her knowing it, one small part of the reason an industry leader like Revlon couldn’t make it in China. Innocently, Phoebe Wu was key reagent in the chemical reaction that would explode in the form of a C2C e-commerce platform and online remittance system that would revolutionize China’s retail industry.

Phoebe is currently working for a cosmetics company, not an international one, but an enormous one. She’s actively looking for another job, and hopes to find a position with an established multinational, with colleagues whose scope of interest is broader than children, real estate price, and who don’t insist on packing fangbianmian in their suitcases when they travel outwith the Motherland. But the odds are stacked against her. She’s never been abroad, never been issued a passport. Her English-language skills are remarkable, but she lacks both the right kinds of sheepskin and the right kind of pedigree. To the HR lackeys fielding CVs, she’s a dead end, a non-starter. Just around the time Alipay solved the “trust issue” that had been limiting the development of e-commerce in China, the numbers of Chinese students returning from overseas surged from a growing-trickle to a tidal bore. Phoebe (unmarried) is approaching 30, and while there are many opportunities in China’s Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities for women with Phoebe’s skills, experience, wit, and comprehensive stage-presence, the very best positions are doled-out to the PYTs from rich families, freshly back from the States and Antipodes with diplomas that are supposed to be evidence both of their English-language skills and their familiarity with Western culture (read: blunted Chineseness). Phoebe cannot even get her foot in the door, not even with her knock-off Christian Louboutin shoes.

Phoebe might have nudged forward a little bit the grey-market industry of the daigou (and hence: C2C e-commerce in China); but she’s unlikely to be hired by any of the major cosmetic brands that she helped introduce to young Chinese women, at a time when for former were unknown to the latter.

Like Jack Ma and Alibaba, Phoebe was born and raised in Tier -2 Hangzhou.  But that’s probably just a coincidence. It might not be a coincidence that the Lancome counter with the highest sales volume on the planet is also in Hangzhou, the Lancome counter in the very shopping center where Phoebe was photographed in 2006 wearing the apparel of the brand which named her “representative girl born in the 1980s.” She doesn’t think much of the brand, but wouldn’t mind working for Lancome, though she can’t really afford Lancome, or much of anything sold on the first floor of that department store.

At the moment, she is as fond of her native Hangzhou as she is of its many iPhoneys.

Latest 5 Stories

Join Wellington | Online Open Day on 8th April

Over the past eight weeks, the Wellington College International Hangzhou community has rallied together to face and overcome the challenges associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. During this time, Wellington College International Hangzhou is experiencing an increasing number of enquiries for admissions, and from March 30th the entire Admissions team have been back on campus assisting families through the admissions process.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, we are unable to host families on campus for our personalised tours, but that doesn’t mean you cannot learn more about the unique Wellington approach to holistic education. From phone conversations, email and video conferencing, through to our 360-degree virtual campus tours and online information sessions, we can still connect in this digital age despite our distance.

Online Open Day

On Wednesday 8th April, Wellington College International Hangzhou will be hosting an online information session, open to anyone keen to learn more about Wellington.

In this webinar style event, Mr. Paul Rogers, founding Executive Master of Wellington College Hangzhou, will provide a broad overview and introduction to the Wellington College family of schools, our heritage, educational philosophy and values.

Ms. Kathryn Richardson, Principal of Wellington College International Hangzhou, will take a deeper dive into what makes a Wellington education unique, as well as exploring many of the common topics that parents are curious about.

Additionally, you will have the opportunity to take a 360-degree virtual campus tour to view the state-of-the-art facilities we have on offer and how we utilize these facilities to provide the very best possible education for the children in our care. 

Finally, we will host a live Q&A session where participants will be able to interact with the speakers and Admissions team, allowing us to address the questions that are important to you.

Scholarships at Wellington

In order to recognise and reward the pursuit and achievement of excellence in pupils at Wellington College International Hangzhou, and to make a Wellington education accessible to a broader range of pupils throughout Hangzhou and surrounding regions, scholarships, awards and bursaries are available to different year levels at Wellington. Awards of up to 100% of the tuition fees will be available to successful applications in Year 7 or above in August 2020.  For more information, please visit this link or contact our Admissions team directly.

eLearning at Wellington

Results from our recent parent survey are conclusive. Our eLearning provision is meeting the needs of our families and ensuring that children are meeting their educational needs during this difficult time. 94% of Wellington College International Hangzhou families agree that our teachers have ensured that our pupils, irrespective of time zones, have been able to access all learning materials during this period of eLearning.

Since eLearning started, Wellington College International Hangzhou pupils have been able to maintain their close-knit relationships with their teachers and classmates. These ongoing relationships, personalised learning plans, 1:1 tutoring where required and innovative use of technology to smoothly facilitate learning objectives has ensured that our children are all progressing as they should during this time.

This high-quality eLearning provision is a testament to Wellington’s ongoing commitment to always providing the best possible learning outcomes to the children in our care, regardless of circumstance or challenge. We remain committed to this objective and welcome enquiries from all parents who are interesting in providing a world-class education to their children.

To learn more about eLearning at Wellington College International Hangzhou, please click the links below to learn more;

Top 12 FAQs | All you need to know about joining Wellington!

The Admissions team regularly fields questions from parents who are keen to learn more about Wellington, and as a result have compiled the following useful FAQ. Please click the link below to see what other parents are curious about.

Do you have different questions? Are you interested in learning more about Wellington? If so, we welcome you to join our online open day being hosted at 7pm on Wednesday 8th April. We look forward to seeing you there!

Don’t forget that our Admissions team are available at any time to answer your questions. Due to the international nature of the school, we field questions at all times of the day. Feel free to contact us using any of the methods listed below and we will respond to your enquiry within 48 hours.

Hot-Pot King Haidilao Pilots “Do Not Disturb” Service

The Chinese hot-pot restaurant chain Haidilao is known for a lot of things, except being moderate. They will give you a free manicure and clean your shoes while you’re waiting for your table, provide a big stuffed animal to keep you company if you’re lunching alone, and perform an acrobatic dance if you order noodles.

Haidilao is the epitome of the “client comes first” mentality that will go to great length to provide you with first-rate service. However, as experience shows, some clients find that the best service is when they are left alone and not bothered by pesky over-the-top courtesy.

At one time Chinese Internet was replete with articles titled along the lines of “Don’t let Haidilao know your birthday, it’s too scary” where users would detail their experiences dealing with the restaurant’s overblown birthday service that included singing and dancing waiters holding LED lights and more. Some have even joked saying “If you hate your friend, go to Haidilao for their birthday.”

To tackle the problem and better cater to the needs of different groups of customers, Haidilao recently introduced a witty solution. Tables in some of the chain’s restaurants are now equipped with “Do not disturb” flip-boards. Customers who do not want to be approached too often by waiters can use the sign to fend off their insistent advances.

The flip-board also provides other options such as “I’ll serve dishes myself” meaning that the waiter does not need to help with the dishes frequently or “detailed services are not required” telling waiters that they are only wanted to bring dishes and clean the table.

According to Haidilao, the service is still in the pilot stage, and it will be tried in some stores. It will continue to be optimized according to the needs of customers and different situations. Stores and employees will be continuously encouraged to innovate and provide customers with more personalized services.

Though Haidilao's service has always been known as "perverted", but sometimes it is too intimate and it can cause embarrassment. A while ago, a post named "Don't let Haidilao know your birthday" went viral on the internet.

“I went to Haidilao with my girlfriend, we just asked if we could get a discount on birthdays, then a group of people appeared with LED lights and sang the birthday song, they even gave us a ‘Most Beautiful Girlfriend Reward” and asked us to read the girlfriend vows to each other.’

“Two of us went to celebrate my friend’s birthday at Haidilao, we hid the cake in our bag and sneaked some scoops every now and then, just because we were so scared that the waiters would find out that’s her birthday, then we would be the super star of the night.”

“Look at me, I looked so surprised and happy!”

Therefore, for many customers who like Haidilao, the appearance of "Do Not Disturb" flip-board is simply a relief and has been unanimously appreciated by everyone.

Top 10 Easy-to-make Winter Drinks

From a steaming glass of traditional mulled wine, brimming with spices, to an indulgent mudslide cocktail, our winter drinks recipes are perfect for seeing in the festive season. Curl up in your fluffiest jumper with a creamy peppermint hot chocolate, or get the party started with a batch of our marvellous mulled gin.

Keep everyone's glasses topped up with our favourite festive drinks, and mouth-watering non-alcoholic drinks for every taste. Find top mixology tips, reviews of our favourite products and even more triple-tested recipes in our cocktails & drinks hub.

Spiced Apple Syrup with Clementine & Cloves

Our spiced apple syrup with clementine and cloves will add a burst of fabulous Christmas flavour to any drink. Try adding to hot apple juice or mulled wine for festive fruit and spice. It's even delicious drizzled over ice cream for an upgraded frozen treat. It will keep for about a month, so store it in the fridge ready for impromptu gatherings.

200ml apple juice
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp whole allspice
1 mace blade
2 whole cloves
Small strip fresh ginger
1 clementine, zest finely peeled with a vegetable peeler
100g golden caster sugar

1.    Heat the apple juice with the whole spices, ginger, zest and sugar. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 mins.
2.    Remove from the heat and leave to cool, then strain the syrup into small bottles.

Mulled Wine

It wouldn't be winter without a steaming mug of mulled wine, complete with a glug of sloe gin for a sweet twist. Simply leave your wine, (we recommend an unoaked tempranillo) to infuse with seasonal spices like star anise and cinnamon and a little citrus zest. Keep a batch warming on the stove and let guests top up their glasses. Want to try something different this year?

750ml bottle red wine
1 large cinnamon stick, or 2 small ones
2 star anise
4 cloves
2 strips lemon zest, pared using a vegetable peeler
4 tbsp caster sugar
100ml sloe gin (we used Gordon's) (optional)

1.    Put the red wine, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, lemon zest and sugar in a large pan. Cook on a low heat for 10 mins.
2.    Remove from the heat and cool, leaving to infuse for about 30 mins.
3.    To serve, heat without boiling, stir in the sloe gin (if using) and pour into mugs or heatproof glasses.

Winter Whisky Sour

Warm up from the inside out with our simple winter whiskey sour. Give the classic sour a couple of delicious tweaks and it's ready for the festive season. Add a splash of orange juice to your favourite bourbon, a little sugar syrup, some fresh fruit and some sparkle. Need some more help getting into the spirit?

Crushed ice
50ml bourbon
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
½ tbsp sugar syrup
2 slices of oranges

To decorate:
Gold edible glitter

1.    Using a small paintbrush (or your finger), brush some honey around the rim of two tumblers and use another small paintbrush to stick edible gold glitter around each.
2.    Fill each glass with crushed ice. Put the bourbon into a cocktail shaker with the lemon juice, orange juice and sugar syrup. Shake and strain into each glass, and serve with an orange slice and short straws.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Nothing says 'indulgence' like a velvety-smooth hot chocolate, made with rich dark chocolate and double cream. Stir our peppermint hot chocolate with a striped candy cane and let it melt into the drink for a refreshing minty flavour. These delectable drinks are hard to resist. Got something.

200g bar plain chocolate, broken into chunks
600ml milk
150ml pot single or double cream
Sugar, to taste
6 peppermint candy canes, to serve

1.    Put the chocolate in a pan with the milk. Gently heat, stirring until all the chocolate has melted. Continue heating until the milk is steaming, then remove from the heat and stir in the cream.
2.    Divide the hot chocolate between 6 mugs, add sugar to taste and hang a candy cane on the edge of each. Pass the mugs round and let everyone stir their hot chocolate with their candy cane – letting as much of the sweet peppermint dissolve as they fancy.

Cinnamon Buttered Rum

Once you're tried our super smooth, gently spiced cinnamon buttered rum, it'll be your drink of choice when the nights draw in. Serve up mugfuls of this buttery brilliance for your next party. Neither sickly sweet nor too citrussy, this perfectly balanced tipple will warm you up in no time. Whether you prefer white or dark, spiced or smooth, we have a rum cocktail recipe to get your party started.

25g butter
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
2 small cinnamon sticks
200ml spiced rum

1.    Gently heat the butter, golden caster sugar and cinnamon sticks in a saucepan until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
2.    Stir in the spiced rum, then pour into four small heatproof glasses to serve.

Mulled Pear & Cranberry Punch

Our versatile mulled pear & cranberry punch can be served as a cocktail or a non-boozy version, simply miss out the sloe gin. The beauty of this all-in-one recipe means you can simply chuck your ingredients in a pan, leave to heat, then ladle out as needed. It takes just ten minutes to make, so no need to sweat it out in the kitchen.

1l pear cider
1l pear (or cloudy apple) juice
1l cranberry juice
Good handful fresh or dried cranberries
150ml sloe gin
2 cinnamon sticks
2 vanilla pods, scored lengthways

Put all the ingredients into your biggest saucepan or casserole dish. When you're ready to serve, heat to just below simmering point, then ladle into glasses.


This creamy, coffee-flavoured cocktail is for adults only. Our mudslide is pure decadence, something to be savoured and sipped at your leisure.

50g dark chocolate
60ml coffee-flavoured liqueur
60ml vodka
60ml Irish cream liqueur
100ml double cream

1.    Put two small tumblers in the fridge to chill overnight. Put 30g of the chocolate in a shallow bowl and melt in the microwave in short bursts. Dip the rim of the chilled glasses in the melted chocolate, then stand them upright so it gradually drips down the sides. Return to the fridge until you're ready to serve.
2.    Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then pour in the coffee-flavoured liqueur, vodka, Irish cream liqueur and double cream. Shake until the outside of the shaker is very cold.
3.    Put a few ice cubes in the prepared glasses, then strain in the cocktail. Finely grate over the remaining chocolate and serve with a paper straw.

Winter Pimm's Punch

This archetypal English cocktail isn't just for summer. Our Winter Pimm's punch is paired with sweet brandy and light apple juice for an instant cocktail cabinet winner. You'll probably have most of the ingredients already lurking in kitchen cupboards. It can be served warm or cool, depending on what you prefer.

500ml Pimm's
500ml brandy
1½ l apple juice

2 cinnamon sticks
Apple, sliced
Orange, sliced
Combine the Pimm's and brandy with the apple juice in a jug filled with ice, cinnamon sticks and a sliced apple and orange.

Mulled Gin

Looking for something a little different than the standard festive fare? Move over wine, this mulled gin is our new favourite Christmas cocktail. Infuse apple juice with aromatic spices like bay, cloves and cardamom, a few crushed juniper berries and a little honey for sweetness. Cut through rich canapés and sweet treats with this more delicate drink.

100ml gin
400ml apple juice
½ lemon, sliced
1 bay leaf
4 cloves
2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 small cinnamon stick
3 juniper berries, lightly crushed
½ tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp runny honey

For the garnish
4 bay leaves
2 lemon slices, halved

1.    Divide the gin between four small heatproof glasses or teacups.
2.    Tip the apple juice into a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients. Heat gently until simmering, then strain into a jug. Pour the mulled apple juice into the glasses with the gin and stir gently to combine. Garnish each glass with a bay leaf and half a lemon slice and serve warm.

Irish Coffee

Perk up the after-dinner lull with a luxurious Irish coffee. A grating of fresh nutmeg on top of the thick layer of cream adds some seasonal fragrance. Need some help choosing the perfect dram? Read our review of the 10 best Irish whiskies, from light and smooth to rich and spicy.

2 tbsp double cream
150ml freshly brewed black coffee
50ml Irish whiskey
½ - 1 tsp brown sugar
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1.    Lightly whip the cream just so it’s very slightly thickened, then set aside.
2.    Pour the hot coffee into a mug or heatproof glass, then add the whiskey and sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Gently float the cream on the top and sprinkle the nutmeg over the cream. Serve hot.


It’s Ok to Lose, Just Learn From It

My first encounter with Marco was through my friend’s WeChat moments. I can’t really recall for what reason we added each other, all I could remember were his big muscles and that bright smile hailing from L.A. Later on, we had more contact due to a few common friends who are involved with martial arts and I started to know him more.

Who is Marco

Marco has gained quite a reputation in the martial arts world since arriving in Hangzhou in 2018. He used to train at Checkmat Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in USA, an international academy, competition team, and family of Jiu Jitsu practitioners. Founded in 2008 by Master Vieira, Checkmat now has affiliate academies in thirty-four American cities and sixteen countries worldwide. You can find world-class, hands-on instruction that has been tested on the practice mats and proven on the competition field.

In Hangzhou, Marco started his own brand - Marcola Jiu Jitsu. It offers Jiu Jitsu training classes to people of different ages, whether professional or not. As one of the few black belt holders in China, his classes are really popular. Marco’s lifelong love of competitive athletics has molded him into both a lover and a fighter. His passion for athletics and a genuine desire to help people reach their fitness goals motivates him to continue learning each day, and develop new techniques to challenge himself and his clients. You see doctors, lawyers, students, law enforcers, businessmen and women walk into his class for the same reason - to get better at Jiu Jitsu.

Marco’s full name is Marco Alvarado and his Chinese name is rather cute: 马可乐. His Chinese friends would just call him 可乐, same as Cola. Before we tell you more, take a look at his incredible championship records below, the man is a real fighter.

Bronze Medal at International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation Pan American Championship Blue Belt
Gold Medal at North American Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation All Americas Tournament Purple Belt
Gold Medal at IBJJF Pan American Championships Brown Belt
Gold Medal at IBJJF World No Gi Championships Brown Belt
Gold Medal at IBJJF American Nationals No Gi Brown Belt
Silver Medal at Jiu Jitsu World League San Diego Championships Black Belt
Gold Medal at NABJJF All Americas Tournament Black Belt

Marco has been involved in many kinds of sports - boxing, taekwondo, karate, running, American football – and also physical rehabilitation. Like many other athletes, Marco’s first coach was his dad who was a boxer. Marco was just 5 years old when his dad introduced him to boxing. It was the classic story, his parents decided to put him in taekwondo and karate training when they found out that little Marco was being bullied in kindergarten. Six years later, he received his first black belt in taekwondo.

After that, he decided to move on to a new sport: running. From sixth grade till he graduated college, he never stopped running and he became one of the US national athletes in track and field.

Eventually, he knew he needed to find another new sport to challenge himself. One day, he went to a free Jiu Jitsu class at his college. Someone caught him in a choke, he had no idea what to do and that got him really interested. He wanted to know how it happened, how he did it, and how to do it back. He was 22 at the time. 10 years later, he won the Gold Medal at North American Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation Championships.

It’s Ok to Lose, Just Learn From It

As an amateur boxer who has only been training for 4 months, there was a question I really wanted to ask so I brought it up when we were having a lunch break at Blue Frog. “Before you had your first fight, how did you overcome your inner fear?” Marco took a bite of his big, juicy burger and said “My first Jiu Jitsu tournament was six months after I started training, I was very nervous. We sparred every week in college, so I learned how to deal with the fear, but this time was different. I knew who my opponents were, but I didn’t know what was going to happen. I got destroyed badly in two fights, one guy caught me in the armbar in 20 seconds, the other guy beat me so bad like 20-0. I left deflated and frustrated, but I wanted to do it again, I wanted redemption. This gives you more motivation to go back to train harder and learn from mistakes. In the fights later on, I started to get into my rhythm and started doing well. Sometimes maybe you don’t want to tap and lose in practice, because it hurts your pride for a day or two, but you come back for more training. It’s ok to lose, just learn from it. That’s an important life lesson.” During Marco’s career, his arms were almost broken a couple of times, he tore some ligaments on his knees and he got two broken teeth. With all these injuries, he had to learn about physical therapy in order to fix himself.

“Martial arts is more about avoiding problems than anything else. These days, there are always those untrained people or the ones who watched too much UFC and are looking for trouble. If you trained a little, you’ll have respect for your body. This stuff is no joke, it can really be dangerous.” Marco continues, “My teacher used to say if there is a fight, he’ll just run away, because he would feel bad for the guys once he’s had enough. He would turn around and fight.”

Why Hangzhou?

Back in L.A, Marco was teaching in a big chain gym where he soon became friends with a Taiwanese trainer. He followed his friend’s journey that brought him to Hangzhou to continue teaching for Checkmat and he became aware that there are a lot of blue and purple belt holders who opened Jiu Jitsu schools in Hangzhou, but there were only 2-3 with a black belt teaching here. Marco thought that he can bring people more advanced technique and professional training. So in June, 2018, Marco came to start his first job in a gym in Xiaoshan, teaching conditioning and creating a Jiu Jitsu program.

MMA vs. Traditional Chinese Martial Arts

I couldn’t help asking what Marco thinks about this outspoken Chinese MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong a.k.a. “Mad Dog”. Mad Dog has made it his mission to expose fake kung fu over the past two years by pulverising fraudulent traditional martial arts “masters”, but his actions have drawn the ire of Chinese authorities. “In my point of view, Bruce [Lee] was the first MMA fighter in the history of martial arts, because he was always so open minded about everything. He took things that he thought were useful and added on something unique of his own. I think Xu Xiaodong’s mission is to show that not one martial arts is dominating. If you know a bit of everything, that is more effective. I think Jiu Jitsu is very useful and complete, cause you go from standing to the ground, you can also go back up to defend yourself, knowledge is powerful. Martial arts is changing, and you need to keep yourself updated. Back home, some guys can use their chi to make someone fall. This is not video games, we call it McDojo.”

The Distance Between China and the World

Many are also immersed in the joy of Zhang Weili who won China’s first Gold Belt in MMA. She is now gearing up to defend her UFC strawweight title against the former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk on March 8, 2020. Marco thinks that China has started to close the gap with the other western countries and now there are more and more young Chinese fighters in UFC. Marco told me, “With Jiu Jitsu, specifically, China is a little bit behind. Brazil and US now are the two countries with the best fighters. There are a lot of 15-18 years old kids that have been training since they were 5. That means they have over 10 years of experience on the mat which is more than me. They have all those tricks that I have never seen, the level is just incredible. Even though China has a lot of catching up to do, they are doing a good job.”

How Did My First Jiu Jitsu Class Go?

I joined Marco’s class at R8 a few weeks ago. I was not only impressed by his superb Jiu-Jitsu skills, but also his passion in coaching. When a fight moves down to the ground, it can be quite brutal, especially in Jiu Jitsu where there are so many different kinds of chokes. It seems that getting bruises, breaking teeth or arms are normal in this sport. Plus, did I mention that if you are practicing with a guy, you’d better get used to some rather odd positions? Even Marco himself admitted that Jiu Jitsu positions can sometimes be awkward. 

So I didn’t go in with a lot of confidence, but Marco’s explanation and demonstration of each move made everything seem possible. It is a grappling-based martial art where the central theme is the skill of controlling a resisting opponent in ways that force him to submit. Due to the fact that control is generally easier on the ground than in a standing position, much of the technique of Jiu Jitsu is centered around the skill of taking an opponent down to the ground and wrestling for dominant control positions from where the opponent can be rendered harmless. All those awkward positions can be very effective; the basis behind it is all about leverage. It’s about using the whole body on another body part, even if your opponent is a bodybuilder, he can’t win. If you are skilled in Jiu Jitsu, you can definitely hold yourself against 95% of the population; most people don’t even know how to fall down properly.

The Beauty of Jiu Jitsu

Marco has about 30 tough students at the moment and he’s determined to stay for a much longer time. Recently he took 7 people to attend the Shanghai Tournament and got 10 gold medals, this shows that this tiny team is going in the right direction. For the next step, Marco wants to create a kids’ program. He wants to share what he has with the next generation.

"It's important to stay focused and keep an open mind when it comes to learning Jiu Jitsu." The Jiu Jitsu lifestyle goes beyond just training. It's about taking care of yourself, making friends, and striving to put your 'best foot forward'. Setting your mind to learning and improving every week will help you to improve mind, body and soul. His over-all team goal is to improve at least 1% every week and this requires a positive attitude.

Online Open Day: What Makes Wellington Special?

In light of the success of the first online open day, Wellington College International Hangzhou is very much aware of requests for an additional session held on a weekend, to enable more families to tune in and join the interactive Q&A session. The coming online open day will be held at 10am on Saturday 18th April.This event is open to anyone keen to learn more about Wellington College International Hangzhou.


The open day includes;

·       A broad overview and introduction to the Wellington College family of schools, royal heritage, educational philosophy and values by Mr. Paul Rogers, founding Executive Master of Wellington College Hangzhou.

·      惠灵顿杭州校区总校长Paul Rogers将对惠灵顿大家庭的姊妹学校、悠久历史、以及我们的教育理念和价值观做整体介绍。

·       A deeper dive into what makes a Wellington education unique, and a presentation exploring many of the common topics that parents are curious about by Ms. Kathryn Richardson, Principal of Wellington College International Hangzhou

·      杭州惠灵顿外籍人员子女学校校长Kathryn Richardson将深入阐述惠灵顿教育的与众不同之处以及就家长们关心的一些常见问题与大家进行探讨。

·       A live Q&A session where participants will be able to interact with the speakers and Admissions Team, allowing the team to address the questions that are important to you.

·      最后,在问答环节,我们的主讲人和招生团队将与家长们互动,对家长们的问题作出解答。

All interested families are suggested to scan the QR code on the poster to register. Registered attendees will receive a reminder notification prior to the event starting.


Welcome Back to Wellington

As pupils quickly approach the highly anticipated return to schools in Hangzhou, Wellington College Hangzhou has been strictly following the local regulations on epidemic prevention in order to prepare the Wellington community for a smooth transition back to normality.


At Wellington College Hangzhou, ensuring the safety of the school community and protecting the health of Wellington pupils and staff always takes top priority. Over the past three months, the Senior Leadership Team and a specially appointed school emergency team have implemented a detailed COVID-19 plan that covers all aspects of school life, and ensures that strict guidelines will be followed to minimize risk and increase safety.


The Wellington College Hangzhou campus has undertaken a comprehensive site inspection by both the Education Bureau and the Hangzhou medical authority. Both inspection teams were incredibly impressed with Wellington’s preparations.


Wellington understand that this will be a difficult transition for their children, yet remain confident that with careful guidance, and through demonstrating the Wellington Values of Courage, Kindness, Responsibility, Respect and Integrity, the children will adapt quickly and fully embrace the mission of ensuring a safe return to school.


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