Lockdown, hobbies, and the meaning of life

I visit China at least once a year and write an article “20XX China Insights”, but obviously, I had to give it a miss this year. I decided to write about my 2020 insights in general instead, and this turned into reminiscing, taking account of what I have done with my time, and reminding myself what it’s all really about.


In 2020 I read more than 33 books! Some of my recommendations are:

Ian McEwan: My daughter introduced me to this author, I read ‘Black Dogs’, ‘Atonement’, ‘Sweet Tooth’ and ‘The Comfort of Strangers’. A bit dull in the beginning, but at the end, you will feel the sadness of uncontrollable elements in life and that made me feel very powerful and enlightened. 

Priest and Mo Xiang Tong Xiu: Five books by Priest including ‘Guardian’ and ‘Revitalization of Fuyao Sect’ and two books by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, ‘Tian Guan Ci Fu’ and ‘Mo Dao Zu Shi’. It is good to remind ourselves how different we are as individuals.

Keigo Higashino: ‘Journey under the Midnight Sun’ is one I highly recommended and was truly a joy to read. I will be keeping an eye out for more from this author in the future.

Mao Ni: Not included in the 33 are re-read of six of Maoni’s super long stories: ‘Qing Yu Nian – Joy of Life’, ‘Ze Tian Ji – Way of choices’, ‘Jian Ke – The Outcast’, ‘Jiang Ye – Nightfall’, ‘Zhuque Ji’ and his latest book ‘Da Dao Chao Tian – the path towards Heaven’. I have mentioned Maoni and Mo Xiang Tong Xiu previously in my “China Insights 2019”. I like his imagination across time and space and he also uses contemporary phrases and memes. His language and thinking are a result of, and certainly limited, by his upbringing and education, but all in all, he is a good writer.

Non-story books: Apart from novels, I have read several business and self-improvement books recommended to me by my colleagues; ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear; ‘Done: The Secret Deals That Are Changing Our World’ by Jacques Peretti and ‘The Infinite Game’ by Simon Sinek: all enlightening and intriguing.

Television Dramas

Overall, Chinese-dramas released in 2020 were average. Of the 30 Chinese-dramas (including 2 Korean-dramas) I started streaming, I only managed to finish ten. The only one worth revisiting was ‘Go Ahead’. It challenged a traditional value: blood relatives vs those non-related who take care of each other. It has a good storyline teamed with excellent performances and professional production teams in costume, cinematography and music make it a quite enjoyable watch.


Spotify sent me an email recently to advise that I had listened to 35,249 minutes on Spotify and my #1 song was ‘Mojito’ by Jay Chou. That is a lot of listening time considering I only subscribed to Spotify during our first lockdown in early May. The streaming-based Spotify and Netflix businesses must have made good money this year.


Lock down gave me a sudden inspiration to pick up one of my old hobbies – knitting and crochet. A long time ago, when my children were brand new and my career was not as busy as it is now, I was quite fond of handcrafts. 20 years later, the kids have grown up and it felt like something good to revisit. Some classic pieces from an old project I made still looked good. The result of this impulse has been some nice birthday gifts for my family; a sweater, a scarf and matching beanie, and an iPad case.


As we grow older, we often feel that we have experienced it all and are unsure of what to do next. But consider, the world has been here for thousands and thousands of years, and there are more than six billion people living simultaneously on this planet… one person’s exposure to the knowledge and experience within is so limited. There must be so many things and people we are yet to encounter and enjoy. Keep this in mind and we will find every day is a new day, full of unexpected joys and miseries.

I remember, about ten years ago during one of our GS group trips, a few of us were sitting around after a nice dinner and several glasses of alcohol. A question was asked,

“What is the meaning of life?”

The majority answer was happiness. My answer was the joy to experience new things. It is happiness as well, it’s just that I specified the source of my happiness. Ten years later, and I feel even stronger in my answer.

So, in 2020, let us be grateful that at least we experienced something new to us all together – a global pandemic, witnessing the global reactions and the implications of those reactions on our individual lives.

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