Touring Beijing’s Landmarks
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