Tour­ing Beijing’s Land­marks

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Li Yi and Wang Hui­hui Edited by Greg S. Vanisky Pho­tos by Zhao Yue

The se­cond “Silk Road Re­dis­cov­ery Tour of Beijing Cul­ture” event was held in Beijing from Septem­ber 6 to 8, 2017. A to­tal of 10 Silk Road VIPS vis­ited Beijing to ex­pe­ri­ence this an­cient cap­i­tal, its lo­cal cul­ture and in­no­va­tive achieve­ments.

Fol­low­ing the first “Silk Road Re­dis­cov­ery Tour of Beijing Cul­ture” cospon­sored by the In­for­ma­tion Of­fice of the Peo­ple's Gov­ern­ment of Beijing Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and China Ra­dio In­ter­na­tional (CRI) On­line this past May, the se­cond “Silk Road Re­dis­cov­ery Tour of Beijing Cul­ture” was held in Beijing from Septem­ber 6 to 8, 2017. A to­tal of 10 Silk Road VIPS from 10 coun­tries (in­clud­ing Al­ba­nia, Rus­sia, Por­tu­gal, Italy, France, Bul­garia, Is­raeli, Bri­tain, Pakistan, and Viet­nam) vis­ited Beijing to ex­pe­ri­ence the legacy of this an­cient cap­i­tal, its lo­cal cul­ture and in­no­va­tive achieve­ments.

The guests in­cluded for­mer am­bas­sadors to China, pro­fes­sors and ex­perts who spe­cialise in Chi­nese cul­ture, se­nior me­dia re­porters, as well as mu­sic pro­duc­ers and well-known pro­gramme hosts. Although they've all been to Beijing be­fore, they had an en­tirely new im­pres­sion af­ter watch­ing its day-by-day change and de­vel­op­ment over the three-day visit.

Tour­ing the Cen­tral Axis

On the morn­ing of Septem­ber 6, 2017, the au­tumn sky was clear and the weather was crisp as the se­cond “Silk Road Re­dis­cov­ery Tour of Beijing Cul­ture” was for­mally launched at Yongding­men Gate (Eter­nal Sta­bil­ity Gate) Tower—the south­ern start­ing point of the Cen­tral Axis of Beijing. Wang Wen­jun, deputy head of CRI, and Xiao Jun­feng, chief of the Com­pre­hen­sive Di­vi­sion of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity's In­for­ma­tion Of­fice, both at­tended the open­ing cer­e­mony and de­liv­ered speeches. Dur­ing his speech, Wang Wen­jun hoped all the VIPS would use the unique pic­tures they take and lan­guages they speak to ob­jec­tively and truth­fully de­pict Beijing cul­ture and con­vey the voice of China, so as to con­trib­ute to the Belt and Road and mu­tu­ally ad­vance co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and the rest of the world.

Xiao Jun­feng first wel­comed these In­ter­net VIPS who came to par­tic­i­pate in this au­tumn gath­er­ing dur­ing Beijing's most beau­ti­ful sea­son. She hopes the dis­tin­guished guests would not only see the rapid de­vel­op­ment of the ur­ban in­fra­struc­ture, but also feel its his­tor­i­cal cul­ture and har­mo­nious liv­ing con­di­tions of the mod­ern metropoli­tan city. As was

pointed out in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, bi­lat­eral re­la­tions thrive when there are friend­ships be­tween peo­ple, and friend­ships de­velop when there are close in­ter­ac­tions be­tween peo­ple. She hopes the guests will all re­count the scenes and sto­ries they wit­nessed and make joint ef­forts to fur­ther pro­mote com­mu­ni­ca­tion and co­op­er­a­tion through­out the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, so as to bring the ben­e­fits of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive to peo­ple in more coun­tries.

At the open­ing cer­e­mony, the 10 dis­tin­guished guests were granted the ti­tle of “friendship am­bas­sadors” and won “2017 Ex­cel­lent Over­seas VIP” awards. As a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of these Silk Road VIPS, Max­hun Peka, for­mer am­bas­sador of Al­ba­nia to China, said in his speech that the changes China is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing are im­pres­sive. When he came to Beijing in 1959 for the first time, the most well-known build­ings were the Great Hall of the Peo­ple and Beijing Rail­way Sta­tion, but to­day Beijing has count­less oth­ers.

Af­ter the award-grant­ing cer­e­mony, the In­ter­net VIPS ex­pressed their feel­ings about this trip to Beijing. Yasir Habib Khan, a se­nior Pakistan re­porter, said: “Beijing is a fas­ci­nat­ing and ex­cit­ing city. It flows through my blood. The love, re­spect and trust Beijing gives me makes leav­ing hard. Our Chi­nese friends gave us a high de­gree of re­spect and showed us the true im­age of China. They pro­mote pros­per­ity world­wide, work hard to elim­i­nate prej­u­dice and draw in the hearts of peo­ple around the world. Their be­hav­iour, at­ti­tude and body lan­guage re­vealed one thing only—which is, to join hands and work hard for mu­tual de­vel­op­ment.”

Start­ing at the Yongding­men Gate Tower, the VIPS en­joyed the scenery of old Beijing along the 7.8-kilo­me­tre Cen­tral Axis. They went north­ward pass­ing Qian­men Av­enue (a fa­mous pedes­trian street), the Palace Mu­seum, Jingshan Park, and the Bell and Drum Tower un­til they reached the Bird's Nest (Na­tional Sta­dium) and Olympic Park Watch­tow­ers. “I'm very fond of the Palace Mu­seum, which is the quintessence of Chi­nese cul­ture,” Yuri Tavrovsky said, a Rus­sian si­nol­o­gist and pro­fes­sor from Peo­ple's Friendship Uni­ver­sity of Rus­sia (RUDN Uni­ver­sity). Tavrovsky has been to Beijing dozens of times and has writ­ten four books on China. His work Xi Jin­ping: Zheng yuan zhong­guo meng (“Xi Jin­ping: Ful­fill­ing the Chi­nese Dream”) is the first com­pre­hen­sive book writ­ten by a for­eigner on Xi's life, ca­reer, think­ing and gov­ern­ing prac­tises. This book is also the first mono­graph on Xi pub­lished in Rus­sia. Tavrovsky said he didn't know a lot about the Cen­tral Axis, but he felt for­tu­nate to travel along it. For him, be­ing able to see so many art ex­hibits and an­cient build­ings was an unforgettable ex­pe­ri­ence.

The guests not only ex­pe­ri­enced Beijing cul­ture while strolling along the Cen­tral Axis, they also climbed the Wanchunt­ing (Pavil­ion of Ten Thou­sand Spring Sea­sons) to view of the whole Cen­tral Axis as well as the Palace Mu­seum. They ad­mired the Palace Mu­seum for its sym­met­ri­cal lay­out and majestic court build­ings. Niko­lay Mari­nov, pres­i­dent of the Cham­ber of Com­merce “New Silk Road” from Bul­garia, once lived in Beijing for three years, but be­fore this trip he knew noth­ing about the Cen­tral Axis. To­day he be­lieves the Cen­tral Axis has pro­found sig­nif­i­cance for both Beijing and China. He said, “The de­vel­op­ment of Beijing cul­ture is very im­por­tant to the ‘Belt and Road' con­struc­tion.”

The Cen­tral Axis con­tains the pro­found cul­tural her­itage and philo­soph­i­cal think­ing of the Chi­nese na­tion. It's also one of the most out­stand­ing ex­am­ples of ur­ban de­sign in the his­tory of ur­ban con­struc­tion. The ap­pli­ca­tion work for des­ig­nat­ing the Cen­tral Axis of Beijing as a world cul­tural her­itage is al­ready un­der way. In the near fu­ture, the great Cen­tral Axis will be­come an­other bright and beau­ti­ful “Chi­nese busi­ness card.”

Feel­ing Cul­tural Cre­ation

On Septem­ber 7, the VIPS vis­ited the Na­tional New Me­dia In­dus­try Base, Star­times Group, and Beijing's cul­tural and cre­ative park, 751 D-park. While ex­pe­ri­enc­ing var­i­ous kinds of new tech­nolo­gies, they also felt the vi­brancy and vi­tal­ity of Beijing's cul­tural and cre­ative in­dus­try.

The VIPS en­tered the cen­tre of the Na­tional New Me­dia In­dus­try Base to get a first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of vir­tual stu­dio and mo­tion cap­ture tech­nol­ogy, VR vir­tual roam­ing tech­nol­ogy and other in­ter­ac­tive items. At the vir­tual stu­dio, Pham Khuong Duy, a broad­caster from the Voice of Viet­nam, stood in front of a cam­era while play­ing the role of a weath­er­man. At the vir­tual roam­ing ex­hi­bi­tion hall, Yasir Habib Khan put on a vir­tual hel­met and was de­lighted by the vir­tual space's moun­tain and wa­ter scenes. Niko­lay Mari­nov, who was stand­ing be­side Pham Khuong Duy, was in front of a green screen try­ing out the mo­tion cap­ture tech­nol­ogy. To lift some­thing up, he raised his hands. The vir­tual fig­ure on the green screen looked like a shadow mim­ick­ing his ac­tions. Mari­nov said, “These in­ter­ac­tive projects are do­ing quite well. They use a lot of new world-class tech­nolo­gies, equip­ment and method­olo­gies.”

Lo­cated in the Beijing Eco­nomic and

Tech­ni­cal De­vel­op­ment Zone, Star­times Group is a well-es­tab­lished and in­flu­en­tial over­seas sys­tem in­te­gra­tor, tech­ni­cal provider, net­work op­er­a­tor and con­tent provider from China's broad­cast­ing in­dus­try that's been tap­ping into the African mar­ket since 2002. They cur­rently have com­pa­nies reg­is­tered in more than 30 African coun­tries, in­clud­ing Rwanda, Nige­ria, Kenya and Tan­za­nia. In 20 of these coun­tries, they also en­gage in dig­i­tal TV op­er­a­tion. Boast­ing nearly ten mil­lion sub­scribers, the Star­times has be­come one of the fastest-grow­ing and most in­flu­en­tial dig­i­tal tele­vi­sion op­er­a­tors on the African con­ti­nent. Ac­com­pa­nied by Guo Ziqi, vice pres­i­dent of the Star­times, the dis­tin­guished guests vis­ited the broad­cast­ing con­trol cen­tre, the dub­bing cen­tre and the re­search in­sti­tute of the Star­times to bet­ter un­der­stand their over­all busi­ness, de­vel­op­ment and fu­ture de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tion.

José Manuel Fer­reira, deputy pres­i­dent of Por­tu­gal News So­ci­ety, said this trip gave him a lot pleas­ant sur­prises and left a deep im­pres­sion on him: “751 D-park was es­tab­lished on a very old in­dus­trial com­plex. How­ever, its build­ings are dec­o­rated in a very mod­ernised way by many in­no­va­tive de­sign­ers.” He said Beijing's cul­tural and cre­ative in­dus­try has de­vel­oped so rapidly that his col­leagues also want to visit. He'll try to build a bridge so more Por­tuguese peo­ple can ap­pre­ci­ate Beijing cul­ture.

751 D-PARK Beijing Fashion De­sign Plaza, fol­low­ing the emer­gence of the 798 Art Zone, is an­other well-known brand in Beijing's cul­tural and cre­ative in­dus­try. The park was re­con­structed based on va­cated fac­tory build­ings. En­ter­ing the park, vis­i­tors can see old, well-pre­served fac­tory build­ings, rows upon rows of rusty fur­naces, steel tow­ers, criss­crossed pipe­lines, huge gas tanks and high chim­neys, which all form to make a group of in­dus­trial sculp­tures.

Duggy Day, ad­vi­sor for over­seas study at China Ed­u­ca­tion In­ter­na­tional, a British com­pany, showed a keen in­ter­est in this cul­tural and cre­ative park that is lo­cated right be­side 798 Art Zone and was founded on derelict fac­tory build­ings. Af­ter watch­ing a short film in­tro­duc­ing the park, he asked Yan Ming­dan, di­rec­tor of the cre­ative in­dus­try of­fice of 751 D-PARK Beijing Fashion De­sign Plaza, who was in high spir­its show­ing vis­i­tors around, how to dif­fer­en­ti­ate 751 from 798, which was started ear­lier and is much more well-known, since they're both cre­ative in­dus­try parks?

“Although both parks are ren­o­vated and reused in­dus­try re­sources, they have dif­fer­ent for­mats. With many fac­tory build­ings, 798 pri­mar­ily has in­door ex­hi­bi­tions of mod­ern art,” said Yan Ming­dan. “But most 751 ex­hibits are lo­cated out­doors. You can di­rectly ex­pe­ri­ence Fur­nace Square, Power Square, Lo­co­mo­tive Square, as well as large gas tanks. We‘ve pre­served even more pub­lic space, and the in­te­gra­tion of old, derelict fac­tory build­ings with fashion has a huge visual im­pact.”

Af­ter lis­ten­ing to the in­tro­duc­tion, all the VIPS were in high spir­its as they vis­ited the de­sign shop, where daz­zling cre­ative prod­ucts to­tal more than 600 and cover a wide range of gar­ments, bev­er­ages, food and home fur­nish­ings. Pham Khuong Duy sighed and said, “A per­son who wants to be in­no­va­tive first needs abil­ity, and then an ap­pro­pri­ate en­vi­ron­ment and op­por­tu­ni­ties. Be­sides in­di­vid­ual abil­ity, the re­main­ing con­di­tions needed for cre­at­ing in­no­va­tions are all here. The en­vi­ron­ment is ex­cel­lent with many op­por­tu­ni­ties. Noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble here; in­no­va­tion knows no bounds.”

Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing In­tan­gi­ble Cul­tural Her­itage

On the third day of the event, the Silk Road VIPS went to the In­tan­gi­ble Cul­tural Her­itage Pro­tec­tion Cen­tre in Xicheng District, where they lis­tened to peo­ple tell sto­ries and talk about the his­tory of Beijing's in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage, and also felt the rich­ness of tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture.

As part of the tra­di­tional Chi­nese ac­ro­bat show, zhong­fan (flag­pole) wav­ing is on the state-level in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage list. Fu Wen­gang, head of Tian­qiao Baosan Folk Cus­tom Cul­ture and Art Troupe, per­formed a stunt for the VIPS with his dis­ci­ples: Tian­qiao flag­pole wav­ing. They per­formed it with a thick bam­boo pole in their hands mea­sur­ing 9.9 me­tres long and weigh­ing some­where be­tween 15 to 20 kilo­grams. They suc­ceeded by catch­ing the flag pole with their fore­head or chin, or more amaz­ingly, with their nose, teeth or hip. Ac­cord­ing to Fu Wen­gang, the per­former should

move the lower part of the flag­pole 33.33 cen­time­tres in or­der for the up­per part of the flag­pole to move just 3.33 cen­time­tres. Hear­ing this, Yasir Habib Khan was ea­ger to give it a try. Peo­ple gasped with ad­mi­ra­tion upon see­ing him take the long bam­boo pole and hold it firmly. Be­fore long, how­ever, he could no longer sta­bilise the pole. Once they saw the pole was about to fall, the peo­ple around him scat­tered quickly and burst out laugh­ing.

The folk stunt re­minded Duggy Day of the High­land Games held an­nu­ally in his home­town in Scot­land. He said, dur­ing the High­land Games, the strong lo­cal men par­tic­i­pate in a con­test sim­i­lar to flag­pole wav­ing— caber toss. They say the con­test orig­i­nated from a folk cus­tom whereby tim­ber work­ers were re­quired to throw a log down be­fore cross­ing a wide gap. The com­peti­tors are re­quired to throw a huge wood pole, and the fi­nal re­sults are judged not only by how far the wood pole is thrown, but also by the per­pen­dic­u­lar an­gle of the pole when it falls to the ground. He said, “There aren't many young Scot­tish peo­ple who know about this tra­di­tion. I'm quite de­lighted to see China at­taches so much im­por­tance to pre­serv­ing tra­di­tional cul­ture and help­ing tra­di­tional cul­ture at­tract at­ten­tion from more peo­ple by ar­rang­ing in­ter­est­ing per­for­mances.” Since he came to China ten years ago, Duggy Day has been work­ing at CRI. He has made a large cir­cle of friends dur­ing his years in China, par­tic­u­larly in Beijing. He of­ten goes out with his friends for din­ner, to the cinema or theatre, and can taste de­li­cious foods from all parts of China. He re­ally en­joys his life here and feels very com­fort­able.

Yoav Vol­lan­sky, an in­de­pen­dent Is­raeli mu­si­cian and host, has also been liv­ing in Beijing for years, so Beijing is just like his se­cond home­town. Vol­lan­sky said, “Beijing is a multi-faceted city, a blend of an­cient and mod­ern ele­ments, as well as tra­di­tion and fashion. The city of­fers a va­ri­ety of pos­si­bil­i­ties and shows peo­ple its unique his­tory, cul­ture and charm. It's an hon­our for me to take part in the ‘Silk Road Re­dis­cov­ery Tour of Beijing Cul­ture' event.” Ac­cord­ing to Vol­lan­sky, if he goes back to Is­rael one day, he'll open a Chi­nese restau­rant there be­cause he can't imag­ine his life with­out Beijing roast duck and hot pot.

Apart from watch­ing the per­for­mances, the Silk Road VIPS also per­son­ally ex­pe­ri­enced the art of dough mould­ing. Re­ferred to col­lo­qui­ally as “sculpt­ing dough fig­urines,” this is a skill that in­volves mould­ing gluti­nous rice flour or wheat flour into hand­i­crafts, such as an­i­mal or hu­man fig­ures. Even small dough fig­urines can em­body deep mem­o­ries and folk cul­ture. Un­der the guid­ance of an in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage in­her­i­tor, Gre­gory Heller, a French po­lit­i­cal- eco­nomic re­porter, suc­cess­fully fin­ished a small panda. He proudly said, “I al­ways en­joy us­ing my hands, so mak­ing this wasn't dif­fi­cult at all.” Max­hun Peka was en­joy­ing him­self, too. He said, “Each hand­craft is an ex­quis­ite piece of art, since each has its own spe­cial qual­ity and char­ac­ter­is­tics.” While sculpt­ing a fig­urine, Romeo Or­landi, pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Bologna's Re­search In­sti­tute of East Asian Econ­omy and vice pres­i­dent of Osser­va­to­rio Asia (Asia Ob­ser­va­tion Cen­tre), said: “It's very dif­fi­cult to pre­serve these hand­crafts and the cor­re­spond­ing pro­duc­tion tech­niques that've been handed down for thou­sands of years. They not only re­flect an­cient civil­i­sa­tion, but also wit­ness the de­vel­op­ment of our times.”

Dur­ing their three- day visit, these VIPS made a tour of Beijing's streets and lanes. Along the Cen­tral Axis, they felt the con­trast be­tween the old and the new. They vis­ited Beijing Plan­ning Ex­hi­bi­tion Hall, the Cap­i­tal Mu­seum, the In­tan­gi­ble Cul­tural Her­itage Pro­tec­tion Cen­tre in Xicheng District and other places where they re­viewed Beijing's his­tor­i­cal changes and ex­pe­ri­enced its folk cul­ture. They vis­ited the Beijing Eco­nomic and Tech­no­log­i­cal De­vel­op­ment Zone, the Na­tional New Me­dia In­dus­try Base in Dax­ing District and 751 D-PARK, where they learned about the me­dia in­dus­try's de­vel­op­men­tal achieve­ments and ex­pe­ri­enced Beijing's in­no­va­tive achieve­ments. They savoured Beijing cui­sine, such as roast duck and noo­dles served with fried bean sauce, and went to the theatre to en­joy per­for­mances of high­lights from dif­fer­ent op­eras. They trav­elled all over Beijing and felt the unique charm of the city, which con­sists of a blend of his­tory, cul­ture, an­cient sites, science, tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion.

Vis­it­ing the broad­cast­ing cen­tre of the Star­times

Vis­it­ing the Beijing Plan­ning Ex­hi­bi­tion Hall

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