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Advice about going to Beijing

Black Jade

Brilliant_Rock
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Aug 21, 2008
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In July.
It's partly a business trip/conference and partly sightseeing.
I do speak Chinese.
I'm a lady in my fifties.
What is appropriate to wear, business wise? (I know that it will be hot). I keep reading, wear neutral colors, is this true? When I lived in Taiwan years ago, bright colored dresses were popular.
What is appropriate to wear, casually?
What kinds of jewelry would make me fit in better (I know, of course, that I am not actually going to 'fit in') no matter what I do.
I have diamond jewelry (various different sizes of stones) and I also have (is it old-fashioned) jade bracelets and various necklaces, bracelets, rings in 24K gold.
There will be a couple of banquets--what to wear there?
TIA!
 

JewelFreak

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Sep 3, 2009
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It's been a fair amount of time since I was in Beijing but I think you can wear any color you like -- the Chinese like color as well as other peoples. It will be hot & muggy so take cool clothing. For casual times, the city is so full of foreigners you can pretty much wear again whatever feels comfortable. Skirts & blouses, cool slacks -- in my 50s too & I avoid shorts like the plague! As to bling, my impulse would be to wear similar to what I'd wear in the States at business meetings; in other words, accent pieces but not too showy. Gosh, if you have good, old, jade, wear it if you want.

The other consideration on jewelry -- I never take anything I'd be devastated to lose on a trip where I'll be in hotels, except wedding stuff or watch that I wear all the time. I just figure better safe than sorry.

Enjoy the trip! It's a fascinating country. How long will you be there?

--- Laurie
 

Black Jade

Brilliant_Rock
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8 days,
I have a couple jade bracelets from before they used to do the whatever it is they do now--grind it up and put it back together and wax it or whatever they do?
I ruined one by cleaning with it (used to wear it all the time, I loved it so much and cleaned the bathroom with it on--big mistake) but the other one still looks good.
Thanks.
What size of a diamond ring will people think is reasonable?
 

JewelFreak

Ideal_Rock
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Your jade bracelets sound marvelous. What a shame about the cleaning one! No way it can be renovated? Maybe you can find a replacement there. :saint: Whatever size diamond you usually wear at work or business functions might be most comfortable for you, but I don't think it really makes a lot of difference. Beijing is cosmopolitan these days; whatever anybody has on, people have probably seen it before.

That's long enough to get a good peek at the city. I loved walking in the evening when the residents came to the parks -- old men with nightingales in cages that they would hang from a tree branch while they yakked with friends. Don't know if they still do that -- or if there are old men old enough! You'll love the Forbidden City. We didn't get to the Summer Palace, was sorry to miss that.

--- Laurie
 

Phoenix

Ideal_Rock
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Oct 5, 2006
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Hi Black Jade,

My advice as follows:

PEARLS:

The shop in BJ is apparently called Fanghua. I found the relevant thread. I've never shopped there, so would be interested to hear feedback if you do end up going there.
[URL='https://www.pricescope.com/community/threads/should-i-get-this-monstrous-17-5mm-ss-pearl.124782/#p2201007']https://www.pricescope.com/community/threads/should-i-get-this-monstrous-17-5mm-ss-pearl.124782/#p2201007[/URL]

I've found this thread from a while ago abt how to tell fake pearls from real pearls, which is extremely helpful:
[URL='https://www.pricescope.com/community/threads/treated-enhanced-pearls.125024/#p2193487']https://www.pricescope.com/community/threads/treated-enhanced-pearls.125024/#p2193487[/URL]

My own experience with pearls in general and also in China is as follows:

1) there are so many beautiful high quality freshwater pearls now that it's very hard to distinguish freshwater white/ off-white/ pinkish-white from seawater. These are the things I look for: very round pearls (slightly off-round tend to be freshwater - but again some freshies are so high-quality it's hard to tell, so best to buy from trusted vendors - more about this in 2 below); high, mirror-like lustre and the absence of blemishes (but see 3 below)

2) shops in BJ, if they're anything like SH, would tend to be in large malls; same goes for pearls. Do not buy from stalls in the centre of the mall, go for the actual shops, ie. ones with windows, doors etc., iyknwim? Also, the high quality pearls would be found in shops that carry higher-tagged items. For eg. one of my faves in SH carries SS pearl necklaces that run into hundreds of thousands of US dollars and single SS's that are thousands of US dollars apiece and their pearls are really exquisite. You can find some "bargains" (relatively speaking) but high-quality items in these shops if you wish to buy SS's or sea-water and they're the people that would be more inclinded to sell real pearls as well as seawater (though would tell you the truth if they also carry freshies).

3) beware of perfectly (ie.100% round) bright multi- coloured larger pearls (ie. those around 10mm or larger). These are made of mother-of-pearl shells, crushed up and re-consituted into perfectly formed round pearls (they kind of take on the shape and size of marbles). Those are what I'd call fake pearls. Freshies are, as you know, are not fake per se, they're just cheaper than seawater.

4) authentic SS pearls and Tahitians tend to be more hefty (as in weight). You can pick them up and feel them in your hands - after a while, a few tries, you'd be able to tell the difference. In SS's, I'd look for high, mirror-like lustre (but again beware of those fakes ones - see 3), absence of blemishes (but some tiny almost invisible - a trusted diamond loupe would come in handy here, lol - blemishes are almost unavoidable), the more round the better (but again beware of 3) and the round ones are more expensive than baroques (but baroques are kind of charming in their own right).

5) oh also, there are some metallic-looking freshies that are quite beautiful too. They'd be in the 8-9mm category.

6) Last but not least, you can gnaw on some pearls, they won't mind! :cheeky: Some of them would even offer, and will actually do it if you ask them, to use a knife to scrape off the outer surface of the pearls. It won't hurt the pearls, as after the outer layer peels off, the inside still looks the same. I think you can only do this test with SS's (though I may be wrong here, and am too lazy to go look up the different threads about this).

Oh also it's great that you can speak Chinese. It'd give you a leg up, ie. put you in a better bargaining position. And again, bargain bargain bargain! But those that carry higher-priced, higher-quality items, although they do exaggerate prices, there's less room for negotiation (cos they're inherently already expensive to start with). That's my experience anyhow.

All this talk about pearls is making me wish I'd bought more when we lived in SH!! Ah oye! :blackeye:
 

Phoenix

Ideal_Rock
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CLOTHES

My experience in SH and when I went to BJ (for work and for a wedding) is that people (both locals and foreigners) tend to be more casually-dressed, even at formal functions. Any colours would be fine (though I'd steer clear of wearing all white, cos in some Asian religions like buddhism, white is the colour people wear at funerals - I might be wrong here).

I'd just wear what you feel comfortable with. Again, wear something light so as you'd be able to cope with the heat and humidity.

Fabric-wise, there should be amazing silk to buy, but I really don't have any real advice to offer. I can tell real silk from fake just because I've lived in Asia for a while and can just tell by looking and touching the silk, but don't know how to put it down into words! Sorry ::) . Perhaps ask at the hotel where you're staying at and also ask the people who live there that you're going to meet. Best is to go on word-of-mouth/ recommendations.

I've had mixed experience with having clothes and shoes made so I'll reserve my judgement on this. Some friends have had fantastic experience and have had beautiful clothes, even shoes, tailor-made. Again, ask around and see what people recommend.

GENERAL ETIQUETTE

Since you lived in Taiwan before, you'd know about the exchanging of biz cards with two hands etc. Also, when you go to banquets, wait for the host to start eating first before you start on yr own food - am sure you already knew that. Oh and don't be afraid to ask for knife and fork if you're not used to eating with chopsticks - they won't mind, I promise you.
 

iota15

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Pheonix is right - All white - definite funeral wear. I'm sure you wouldn't anyway but definitely don't wear all white to a banquet. Colors, and lots of it, are fine.
__
Shop til you drop. In the markets, Bargain HARD (like 15 to 20% of asking if you're visibly/perceptibly not local). If that price is at all within some type of acceptable range, expect to get yelled at (What??? THIS is PURE silk! How can you POSSIBLY offer me that! (grumble grumble grumble) Fine! For X, take it!) hahaha.

If they don't yell at you, you've gone too low. They're not even bothering. You can always make another offer if you've gone too low.

Admire the goods again, make another offer (your call). Possibly expect more yelling. Rinse and repeat.

If you REALLY want to get a deal, you MUST walk away at some point. And never let them know you're not willing to walk away.

Once you walk away, since they're still bothering to talk to you, they'll likely give the goods at the price you asked, or counteroffer something MUCH closer to it. (You can always walk away more than once if necessary. Worse comes to worse, you can walk back after you've done the rounds, and buy it for their last price.)

Oh man, did I love shopping there. It's a game. No one is truly offended despite the yelling. Everyone's smiling at the end when money is exchanged.

To me, it's capitalism at its best. Although I do have to say that at some point, a few extra dollars means much less to me than it does for them. I've sometimes bargained super hard for something - to Really get the local experience and see how low it can go - only to give the vendor a bit extra at the end. It depends on the vendor.
__

In terms of jewelry, it's been quite a few years since I've been back. If you're going to a formal banquet or big event, it wouldn't surprise me if you saw some pretty decent sized jewels, real designer clothes and handbags on the wives/women. Status items are truly loved by the elite. I wouldn't bring anything too expensive that wasn't on me at all times though. Oh, and I wouldn't trust any wall safes/hotel safes either with expensive jewelry. Most likely it wouldn't be a problem, but I wouldn't risk it.

For the banquet, if you have time, you could consider buying a long Chinese dress. You probably don't have time to have one made. If you are rather tiny though, you may fit a lovely one off the rack. Regardless, I'm sure anything professional/dressy you have will be perfectly fine as well.

___

Oh, and on etiquette - when everyone raises their glass for a toast, make sure to keep the lip of your glass Below the hosts.
 

iota15

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
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I might have gone overboard with my last reply. I realize you were just asking about clothes.

What you wore in Tiwan would probably be suitable. Beijing is fairly cosmopolitan, although not nearly as much as Shanghai. They are used to seeing foreigners, especially during the summer and really, wearing all types of things. In a professional setting, no low cleavage shirts, maybe a little less skin and covered up (as somewhat best as possible given the heat).
 

Phoenix

Ideal_Rock
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iota15|1304149068|2908496 said:
I might have gone overboard with my last reply. I realize you were just asking about clothes.

What you wore in Tiwan would probably be suitable. Beijing is fairly cosmopolitan, although not nearly as much as Shanghai. They are used to seeing foreigners, especially during the summer and really, wearing all types of things. In a professional setting, no low cleavage shirts, maybe a little less skin and covered up (as somewhat best as possible given the heat).
Absolutely agree with everything you've said, Iota, in yr last two posts.

Black Jade, do NOT wear anything too revealing (esp on the...ahem...chest area), even at banquets, but am sure you don't/ already knew that. I made the mistake once of wearing something juuussst slightly revealing and got all kinds of stares and even a "funny" (not as in humorous) comment from an older lady.

Yes, even though the overall vibe tends to be casual, the elite LOVES designer clothes and designer handbags in China. The Chinese, from what I observe, love Western designers and would tend to spend, when they can, on buying things like LV, Chanel etc. (although sometimes I can't tell if they're authentic or not - the fakes in China are soooo good).
 

Black Jade

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Thank you ladies for all your great advice!
It sounds like some things carry over from Taiwan and some don't--and I AM anxious not to make mistakes.
I did have it drilled into me never to wear all white, do know how to use chopsticks and never to eat much of what comes at the beginning of the banquet because it keeps getting better--but did not know business card etiquette, because I was a student at that time and didn't run into business cards--and also probably paid too much for everything I bought as I didn't know how to bargain! Trying to do better this time!
I am arriving alone (a day ahead of the main group) and my husband tells me that rather than catch a taxi I can have someone from my hotel pick me up--would this generally be true? I am not afriad to take a taxi since I can tell them where to go easily and also read the signs to see where I AM going, but would it be better nto to? I wouldn't like to get overconfident because I can speak--and do something dumb. Speaking or not, I am an obvious foreigner.
I plan to just dress Chiness (wear a long qipao, not too formfitting and not slit too high) for formal events--it was the business events I was worried about. I have a black pantsuit and a beige pants suit and wonder if I should invest in anything else. If they would be appropriate. And if I might possibly wear a red blouse with the black pantsuit rather than the white blouse I usually wear. Both are rather hot but I am sure the hotel will be air conditioned.
Fortunately, so far as clothes are concerned, I have some size issues but not insurmountable ones. I am considered a petite person here, which made me medium sized or even tall in Taiwan, but still in the ballpark (and from what I remember, aren't Northern Chinese often very tall in any case? I had a bunch of Chinese teachers from Beijing and eventhe women were 5 ft 9, 5 ft 10 pretty routinely and this was back in the 1970's. They were also all extremely fair complexioned). I always had to wear the absolute LARGEST size (XXL or XXXXL) ready to wear for a blouse or dress because of my bust and (and then it would need taking in to fit the rest of me) but I did fit into the clothes. I am still the same size I was backthen and still have clothes from then that I routinely still wear. At that time, I was US size 12 but sizes have changed and I have to buy US size 8 nowadays.
My severe problem was my FEET. I am trying to bring every possible shoe I might possibly need because I was size 8 1/2 and nothing but man shoes would fit-- man shoes on the large size, too. and my feet are even bigger now, since pregnancy.
Is it true that its best not to wear high heels or is that something they recommend for tall Western women?
I am 5 ft 3 adn the most heel I ever wear is 2 inches so I'd never be more than 5 ft 5. In the early 80's I was not considered outlandishly tall even in Taiwan, where people are smaller--sort of on the tallish side--there were a lot of petite girls, well under 5 feet some of them, but a lot of girls in the 5 ft 3-5 ft 5 range, and I don't remember many men being shorter than I was, or evenmy height actually, most were at least a little taller.
 

Black Jade

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
Aug 21, 2008
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Have you guys ever looked at pearlparadise.com?
How do the pearls on that site look to you--I was thinking that it would be smart to look at photos somewhere to see what I should be looking for in Beijing.
I do already have Japanese Akoyas, golden color, bought in Japan 30 years ago and and I have a string of Chinese freshwaters that my husband got about 14 years ago in Beijing. The freshwaters from that time look very noticeably different from the Akoyas in terms of orient and luster, though they are pretty enough and they are round and not full of blemishes or anything (on the other hand, I don't know if my husband bought the best quality they had. He might have gone for AA or something to save money and not seen differences).
I appreciate them but do not wear them tht much because they are a double string, black and white. the shorter string is black and the longer string is white and this makes them less versatile because black/white doesn't go with everything and especially not with a lot of my clothes. If I got another double string, I would like it to be white/white--and I would like it to glow a little more, like my Akoyas.
But I am REALLY fascinated by these multicolor strings I see, in the freshwaters, especially freshadama adn think that one of those of probably what I would like best.
I also need some vocabulary help! When I was in Taiwan, pearls were pearls and you just said 'zhenzhu'. (And you didn't buy them there--you went to Japan). Are there special Chinese words now for freshwater, freshadama, orient, lustre and so forth? I can manage fine to ask for bigger, smaller, discuss prices and all of that and I can even look up the word for 'freshwater' but if I have to say 'freshadama' I am going to be totally stumped.
 

iota15

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Black Jade|1304173544|2908568 said:
Thank you ladies for all your great advice!
It sounds like some things carry over from Taiwan and some don't--and I AM anxious not to make mistakes.
I did have it drilled into me never to wear all white, do know how to use chopsticks and never to eat much of what comes at the beginning of the banquet because it keeps getting better--but did not know business card etiquette, because I was a student at that time and didn't run into business cards--and also probably paid too much for everything I bought as I didn't know how to bargain! Trying to do better this time!
I am arriving alone (a day ahead of the main group) and my husband tells me that rather than catch a taxi I can have someone from my hotel pick me up--would this generally be true? I am not afriad to take a taxi since I can tell them where to go easily and also read the signs to see where I AM going, but would it be better nto to? I wouldn't like to get overconfident because I can speak--and do something dumb. Speaking or not, I am an obvious foreigner.
I plan to just dress Chiness (wear a long qipao, not too formfitting and not slit too high) for formal events--it was the business events I was worried about. I have a black pantsuit and a beige pants suit and wonder if I should invest in anything else. If they would be appropriate. And if I might possibly wear a red blouse with the black pantsuit rather than the white blouse I usually wear. Both are rather hot but I am sure the hotel will be air conditioned.
Fortunately, so far as clothes are concerned, I have some size issues but not insurmountable ones. I am considered a petite person here, which made me medium sized or even tall in Taiwan, but still in the ballpark (and from what I remember, aren't Northern Chinese often very tall in any case? I had a bunch of Chinese teachers from Beijing and eventhe women were 5 ft 9, 5 ft 10 pretty routinely and this was back in the 1970's. They were also all extremely fair complexioned). I always had to wear the absolute LARGEST size (XXL or XXXXL) ready to wear for a blouse or dress because of my bust and (and then it would need taking in to fit the rest of me) but I did fit into the clothes. I am still the same size I was backthen and still have clothes from then that I routinely still wear. At that time, I was US size 12 but sizes have changed and I have to buy US size 8 nowadays.
My severe problem was my FEET. I am trying to bring every possible shoe I might possibly need because I was size 8 1/2 and nothing but man shoes would fit-- man shoes on the large size, too. and my feet are even bigger now, since pregnancy.
Is it true that its best not to wear high heels or is that something they recommend for tall Western women?
I am 5 ft 3 adn the most heel I ever wear is 2 inches so I'd never be more than 5 ft 5. In the early 80's I was not considered outlandishly tall even in Taiwan, where people are smaller--sort of on the tallish side--there were a lot of petite girls, well under 5 feet some of them, but a lot of girls in the 5 ft 3-5 ft 5 range, and I don't remember many men being shorter than I was, or evenmy height actually, most were at least a little taller.
I don't know anything about pearls but I bought a lot of likely cheap quality, freshwater ones from the markets as souvenirs for friends. Maybe someone in the pearl forum can help you.

With respect to whether someone from the hotel will pick you up, I suppose that depends whether your hotel has that kind of service. If you can speak and read Chinese though, I'd probably just catch a cab. I don't know where you're staying but the airport's fairly far from the center of Beijing. I may call the hotel and ask how much a taxi ride SHOULD cost you from the airport. This will give you an idea of whether you're being driven around in circles. Also, when I was super paranoid about being "taken for a ride" or traveling solo in developing countries, I used to enter taxis with a map. Whether I could read the road signs or not, I made it look like I was keeping an eye on the map and where we were going. I'm sure I was a fun fare! ;-)

I don't think you need to get any other clothes. What you have sounds fine/professional. High heels should be fine - they sell those in the markets too. I wouldn't wear heels that were too high though - you might tower over a few of the men.

I wouldn't worry too much about trying to fit your clothing exactly to local standards. Of course, keep covered up and so forth. But part of the appeal of having a "Westerner" around is that they're different and provide a different perspective. Despite the strong Chinese pride, for some, Westerners are considered somewhat better than the locals, so you don't exactly want to take away from your "special-ness" by dressing down. I'm sure they'll be excited to see a professionally dressed, fashionably impeccable woman in the Western-style, and by wearing a qipao (long dress) at some point, you'll show your respecting their culture as well.

For shopping, don't expect any shoes to fit you - bring what you'll need. You'll probably fit the clothes though - even in the markets. Northern Chinese women are taller/bigger and the further north you go, the bigger they seem to get -- but of course, this is all relative. At 5'3, you should feel fairly normal, maybe a tiny bit of the taller side for a woman.

You'll have a great time. Have you decided where you'd like to go in Beijing on your free days?
 

Black Jade

Brilliant_Rock
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Thanks, Iota and Phoenix. You are very helpful.
They are going to take us on two trips on our off days, once to the Great Wall and once to thre Forbidden. I am looking in the guidebooks to sete what else I would like to see most on the off days. I won't have many, one, maybe two afternoons. I'd love to see the Summer Palace but that seems a bit far. ming tombs maybe? Is there a good museum? I used to love the Gugongbowuyuan in Taipei--and had the impression that the best Chinese art treasures had actually ended up there in 1949--and that a lot of what was left interms of the great paintings, exquisite Tang pottery, shang dynasty bronzes etc had been destroyed during cultural revolution. Was this propaganda? there must be SOMETHING left--there is so much after 5,000 years.
My mom, who has been before,but its abut 13 or 14 years is now tellingme that she is sorry that she did not buy a fake designer handbag and said they were of such superb quality at that time that people said they actually weren't actually fake fake, but ones with slight flaws so that they hadn't met quality control being sold on the side. She said they were being sold by the Great Wall? This sounds a bit odd to me. I'm not sure about this one--if one bought such a thing could one get it out of China--and into the US? I thought I'd ask this here rather than on the other forum I am on where they all go insane at the very mention of fakes and you get scolded for days and days.
 

Phoenix

Ideal_Rock
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Black Jade,

I'll try and answer some of your questions to the best of my knowledge:

CLOTHES: I really wouldn't worry too much. It seems what you're planning to bring and wear sounds fine. It'd be ok also to wear high heel shoes. You're 5'3" which is one inch taller than I am. I wear 4-5 inch heels all the time and didn't feel like I was taller than anyone else! ::) I really don't think it matters anyhow.

TAXI: Since you can speak and read the language, I'd just take a taxi. But it'd be ok to get the hotel to provide a car pick-up for you too. Either way would be ok. Car is a bit nicer and more comfy, whereas some taxi's can be a bit not-so-clean, and you'd have to queue up too. Taxi's are very affortable but car pick up should not be that much more expensive. You can always enquire directly with the hotel.

PEARLS: I have visited the PP site and to be honest, I don't (to the best of my knowledge anyhow) think the Chinese categorise their pearls this way. All I knew when I was there was either they were freshwater or seawater. I wouldn't know the Chinese words for Akoyas (I tried to look up Google translation, but it's just Japanese Akoya pearls in Chinese) or any of the other such words. You could try look up Google translation and see. When I lived in SH, I just relied on my own eyes and judgement to decide if the pearls had nice orient, lustre etc.

FAKES: Faked handbags in China are hit and miss - some are just plain horrible whereas some are sooooo good (it's hard to tell if they're not real). Again, you'd just have to go look at some and decide for yourself.

I can't provide you with advice on sightseeing - perhaps a good travel book (like the Lonely Planet etc) would yield some good infor there.

Good luck. Have fun. Take some pics and come back and tell us!:)
 

Black Jade

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
Aug 21, 2008
Messages
1,242
Thanks again.
I think I am worrying too much and should just relax and enjoy planning. I appreciate you reminding of that, Phoenix.
I have looked around online now and found out how to say freshwater pearl, sea pearl, cultured, luster, etc. and I'm thinking that's all the specialized vocabulary I'll really need. (most of it looked really obvous, too, once I found it. Like, I could have figured it out instead of stressing). When I go there, I'll just see what there is and play it by ear.
Thanks for all your hints and thanks also for reassuring me about high heels, clothing choices and all my other (probably silly) questions.I'm very excited and happy about all and will certainly take photos and tell you how it all goes.
Think I'll go back and enjoy the eye candy on the pearl thread some more now...
 
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