Tuesday, November 19, 2013

China: where tea tastes great without sugar

This is my first trip to China. During my flight to Beijing, I was reading a book entitled ‘General Knowledge of China’. The book enthuses me to visit places like the Great Wall of China, the Great Hall, the Bird’s Nest Stadium, China’s subway and the Temple of Heaven, Beijing’s Silk Market … to name a few.

I went to China to take part in the African Political Parties Seminar that intends to exchange on the ruling party’s /CPC/ media and publicity experiences, China-Africa Cooperation and the Chinese Dream. 

Despite my plan to see such attractive sites, I managed to visit, however, only the Great Wall of China which was built as fortification 2000 years ago. Figures say it enjoys around 4 million visitors per annum. Tourists flock to the area in groups, pairs or alone. It is not strange to find there students with uniforms, couples in each other’s arms, oldies with lots of memory and foreigners filled with surprise. 

I saw gorgeous Chinese girls and boys, conquering the fatigue and fear of climbing, write their names on a lock and attach it on a metallic string alongside the Badaling Section of the Great wall on top. I asked why they do so and the response I got convinced me to do same for my darling 8320 km away from China. It is just to show their devotion to their beloved; symbolizing their enduring love.

Later I learned this ancient Chinese custom, common in the Yellow Mountains and at the Great Wall of China, has begun to emerge elsewhere in the world. Indeed, it was a real joy to see one’s name sealed on the Great Wall! 

It was not because I lost interest that I did not visit the other sites. It is due to the tight schedule of the Seminar and the punctuality of the Chinese. For Chinese, every minute has value. For me who went from a country where one spent an hour for a cup of coffee and one comes two hours late from the appointment time and asks no excuse, it was boring to be guided by minutes.

However, though not in my original plan, I visited Shaoshan- a municipality 100km away from Changsha. The mountainous village, Shaoshan, boasts with beautiful scenery. And above all, it is the birthplace of Chairman Mao Zedong- the Chinese Great Helmsman and one of the most important individuals in modern world history.

At the heart of the town is Mao Zedong Memorial Square where the bronze statue of the Chairman proudly faces his residence. It is placed 183 meters deep inside the square to signify Mao’s height- 183c.m. 

The great man who was born to a peasant family spent his childhood at the village attending school and helping his family. He spent less than a year in each of the seven schools for he was not satisfied with them. The tour guides told me he was such a fast learner that the teachers could not satisfy his longing for knowledge. Besides, he strongly opposed the way teachers punish students.

Entered through a courtyard, I was also fortunate to see the mud brick walls of Mao Zedong family’s residence and the pool where Mao used to swim. The residence is found on a wooded hillside and has 13 rooms. It was by the side of the kitchen fire that Chairman Mao used to gather the whole family for meetings. Historical accounts say he encouraged them to devote themselves to the cause of the liberation of the Chinese people. His teaching appears to embolden his second son and younger brother die for the Chinese cause.

Mao Zedong Museum in Shaoshan encompasses about 6000 appliances used by the Great Leader. His military uniforms and size 43 shoe, suitcase and medicine box, gloves and eyeglasses all were kept in safe glasses. Of all what captured my attention much was his pijama. The pijama he wore for 20 years when China was on the breadline had been stitched at 73 places. Asked why he wears old clothes, he once replied, “If ordinary Chinese cannot afford new clothes, how could I?”

Shaoshan receives seven million tourists annually. Those who experienced his leadership, now with grey hairs, pay tribute to their leader. Parents come with their kids to salute the statue and teach their offspring the adventure of Mao’s generation. The youth who know Mao by history still put wrath under the statue even after 37 years of his death. The queue at nearby shops to buy figurine of Mao signifies the warm love the hearts of the new generation reserves for him. He still held in high regard by Chinese as the savior of the nation.

Of course, the love Mao earns comes with his thoughts and deeds, but to respect a leader is Chinese culture. Chinese people respect authority. As Luan Jianzhang, DDG in CPC’s International Department, explained to me, a country is a replica of a family. “In family we respect the head. If the head of the family has no authority, the competitiveness of the family will be diminished.” However, that can’t give a license for the family head to be a dictator. He/she shall let the family discuss and decide on issues that matter it, he added.

The CPC itself leads the country by authority. According to the party’s principles, the whole party must uphold the authority of the central leadership and all cadres must carry out the decision of the committees. However, in making decisions, the party committees must follow principles of democratic centralism, individual consultation and decision making through meetings. “Many believe that when a country is led by communist party, it goes to dictatorship. But CPC leads China towards democracy, not dictatorship,” argues Luan. 

Moreover, I found out the Chinese people respect each other; they are cordial to foreigners too. A friend from Seychelles told me Seychellois has an expression roughly translated as ‘I will break for you my arms’ to mean I will do anything for happiness of a guest. What I saw in China is that Chinese literally allow breaking their waist to make a trip of their guest blissful. Oh! Chinese treasure respect and they really deserve to be respected.

And to my surprise, China is a country where tea tastes great even without sugar.
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