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A Year in Beijing

Popularity 11Viewed 7464 times 2016-1-3 10:53 |Personal category:Thought|System category:Life| Beijing, China, seasons, New Year, 2015

- Anming - When Marco Polo entered the city gates of Dadu in the 13th century, it couldn’t have been a more mysterious world that was opening up to him. In the western travelers’ minds, China was and still is exotic and strange, a reverse image to the familiar western world with its peculiarities of architecture, music and art. Although it takes modern travelers just a few hours in a comfortable airplane and not several years encountering sandstorms and bandits, they still come to China secretly bearing hopes for adventure and enlightenment by some of the things considered typical Chinese, may it be Chinese wisdom and philosophy, Chinese medicine or Socialism with Chinese characteristics. And yet the impatient traveler’s hopes are all to soon being shattered by the truth of modern mega cities. Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangzhou, grey and bursting of anonymous people. Antlike and insignificant, they push themselves into Beijing’s crowded subway every morning, and still, the very private goals they are most rightfully pursuing – wealth, the newest iPhone, domestic harmony or even love – mean the world to them.

 

    Today, the middle kingdom is not obviously exotic anymore and it won’t deliver immediate revelation. Perseverance is key, or as Confucius puts it: “a person who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones”. It starts with accumulating a presentable collection of This Is China moments and ends in the comforting certainty that somewhere between successfully ordering your first Kungpao Chicken in Chinese and shaking hands with the Chinese president, this strange spot on the world map, 39°55′N 116°23′E, has become your second home. It is the time when your year review is not merely a chronology of events, but the memory of familiar feelings, thousands of kilometres away from your hometown.

 

    In spring, I was longing for the first cherry blossoms and fragrant peonies, remembering me of all the foolish things I have done in the many springs before. Like secretly skipping a whole week of school or writing cheesy love letters.

 

    In summer, I was strolling around Beijing’s hutongs, curiously observing what new trends will be created there this season. Beijing will always be a city of two paces, only within the second ring people cultivate a relaxed way of life. They fish, play Chinese chess and card games, walk with their birdcages wearing pyjamas and enjoy the sunshine. Finally, the long winter is over and they come out of their narrow hutongs to claim the green alleys as their rightful gardens.

 

    In autumn, the streets are framed with red and orange trees. On a golden autumn day with an air quality index below twenty and a cool evening breeze, Beijing shows itself at its best. The words of Lao She come into my mind: “The sky is so high, so blue, so bright, just as if it told the people of Beiping with a smile: during these days, mother nature wont mean you any harm.” Most unfortunately, parade blue wasn’t the new normal

 

    In winter, my boyfriend brings me tanghulu and walnuts on his way home. When meeting a former Chinese classmate, we accidentally got into a British Christmas carol singing night at Beijing’s bookworm coffee. I realized how swiftly a foreign culture can find its way into China and how easy it is for young and open-minded people to enjoy other country’s traditions.

 

    Beijing is changing its faces many times throughout the year and so do the people who live in this city. Now, a thin layer of ice is covering lake Houhai as we make our New Year’s resolutions. And if we are honest, we are already looking forward to the foolish things we will do in the coming year.




(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)

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Passing
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Eggs
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Shake hands

Ray

Friends who just made a statement (6 Person)

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Reply Report Igo 2016-1-3 20:36
Well written! Very well!
Reply Report Anming 2016-1-3 21:31
Igo: Well written! Very well!
Thank you!
Reply Report samlam 2016-1-15 16:55
Try to learn more about Beijing
Reply Report SEARU 2016-1-21 09:46
I have made a statement with  ‘eggs' although I enjoy it and I think it is worth ’shaking hands' since this essay goes like poem with colorful words that could remind you too many beautiful things.
"egg'-----------break it and throw its inside things into the air and imagine what would happen and could you do as casting a net that can harvest enough happiness for the new year?     
Reply Report Anming 2016-1-21 20:32
samlam: Try to learn more about Beijing
Like, for example? I am sure you can never learn everything about a place, I come from a small town with a population of 2000, still it shows me a new face every time I go home and visit my family.
Reply Report Anming 2016-1-21 20:32
SEARU: I have made a statement with  ‘eggs' although I enjoy it and I think it is worth ’shaking hands' since this essay goes like poem with colorful words ...
I take that as a compliment... Thanks.
Reply Report samlam 2016-1-22 08:19
Anming: Like, for example? I am sure you can never learn everything about a place, I come from a small town with a population of 2000, still it shows me a new ...
About  the history of Beijing. It will be helpful for you to know more about Beijing
Reply Report williamlau 2016-6-27 09:55
Wonderful
Reply Report forrest_fly 2016-10-2 22:19
very good blog... You must know a lot about Chinese culture... You can also cite the words from lao she... Amazing!
Reply Report GhostBuster 2017-3-25 12:28
Due to poor transport infrastructure in the past, travel took long time and often through dangers as well as unknown. Today, depending on written records, peopel tend to trace the best of times back then. Wonders are created by prolific writers! How wonderful if electronic devices could be available to capture those moments, then!

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  • My 2014 2017-5-23 16:19

    You heard a tiger in Hong Kong?

  • Thoughts on the One Belt, One Road Initiative - Part I 2017-5-22 02:00

    God I love your blogs. They are always so great.

    Two of my favourite Anming blogs are the two blogs you wrote on being bored in China - 'Bored out in China' and 'Still bored in BJ'. I especially liked this -

    "- Anming - I might be suffering from some kind of postpartum depression after handing in my first thesis draft, but I feel so bored these days. After observing myself for two days, I can confirm, boredom is rather inefficient. The principle of accounting and profit seems so convincing, that it has been used on people’s lives for quite a while. Our lifetime is our capital, we should invest it well in order to get profit. Niklas Luhman once wrote, “if one admits that he has too much time, he is disqualifying and dismissing himself from the society of those, who achieve, request and maintain something.” I might counter with the words of Groucho Marx, that I would not wish to join any club that would accept people like me as a member… Today, I met a classmate, who got an awesome job. The thing is, he is working 18 hours a day. Marxism is experiencing quite a popularity crisis these years, but just as you should always have a good Kafka quotation at hand when encountering bureaucracy, you should be able to recite Marx’ restrictions on the working day, when you find yourself in such inhuman working conditions."

    You are so funny. I hope your classmates job does not involve a lot of manual labour.

    "machinery has greatly increased the number of well-to-do idlers." -  Marx, Capital, Volume I, Chapter 15 (1867)

    The 'educated' well-to-do are curiously nationalist in relation to culture arent they? The 'educated' well-to-do like to suggest that us servile souls of the working class share the same culture as them when nothing could be further from the truth. This 'educated' and well-to-do Stefan Zwieg is clearly aware that the European working classes and the European well-to-do have separate cultures yet he, like seemingly all well-to-do Europeans, speaks as if well-to-do European culture represents all European culture. It may be true that 'European boredom' may be slightly more Aristocratic than 'American boredom' but are the working classes of Europe any less interested in the seeking "numbness" of sports than the working classes of USA? Is the European working class any less interested in soccer than the American working classes are interested in gridiron? We may be able to blame America for American Idol but Europe is responsible for Eurovision. So.

    And this kind of delusion - "The colonization of Europe would not be so terrible politically; to servile souls all slavery is mild and the free always know how to preserve their freedom."  - seems to be inherent with the well-to-do no matter what nation they claim to belong to. What happened to this well-to-do Stefan Zwieg when the Nazi took power in Europe?

    -----------
    In 1934, following Hitler's rise to power in Germany, Zweig left Austria for England, living first in London, then from 1939 in Bath. Because of the swift advance of Hitler's troops westwards, Zweig and his second wife crossed the Atlantic to the United States, settling in 1940 in New York City; they lived for two months as guests of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, then they rented a house in Ossining, New York.
    -----------------------------------
    - wikipedia

    Hmm. Zweig escaped to New York? Ha. If only the servile souls were so very clever they could have all escaped to America too. The ones that could afford to of course. But hey, even many of them couldnt get into America - we know that the well-to-do refugees on the SS Saint Louis werent allowed in. And how about all of those European Jews that ended up living in ghettos - and then worse - after the Nazi took power? Servile souls that did not know how to preserve their freedom like our friend Zweig? But yeah, clever well-to-do Zweig preserves his freedom by escaping to America. You couldnt make that up.

    If the Americans remind me of anyone it is the Romans. The American well-to-do are wanna-be Patricians and the American working classes are very much like Roman plebes. And we know how much the Roman masses loved the games dont we? The Vandals were able to take Carthage from the Romans virtually unopposed in 439 because the Romans - including the Catholic Bishop - were too busy watching the consular games. A good day to invade USA would probably be on Superbowl Sunday but at the same time the Europeans would be every bit as distracted if Europe were invaded during the UEFA Euro competition or a Champions League final.

    Mussolini and then Hitler exploited the European masses' love of sports/games but I really do not believe that the Americans were to blame. If we blame anyone for the European masses' love of the games it must be the Romans - or the Greeks. Europeans. Not Americans. Maybe the Americans should be blaming Europeans for this 'American boredom' - not the other way around.

    Karl Marx said that Religion was the opiate of the people. The sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. American sports writer John Tunis said - "Sports is the great opium of the people. It has become an addiction. It has made them forget more important things." I would argue that it is not boredom at all that is responsible for the western masses' rabid consumption of sports and other forms of prolefeed - it is unhappiness that is to blame. What the oppressed and servile western masses are looking for is an escape from the heartless and soulless world of 'capitalist' society, and specially its capitalist politics. The masses seek an escape, but what they are really searching for is Communion. It is in sports and other prolefeed that the masses find their Communion. You can find the Real Presence at a game of football, if you are not a capitalist.

    A capitalist believes that humans are out for everything they can get away with - and they do seem to be - but with the masses what they seek is an escape from aloneness - what they seek is Communion. Erich Fromm - "Human nature is neither a biologically fixed and innate sum total of drives nor is it a lifeless shadow of cultural patterns to which it adapts itself smoothly; it is the product of human evolution, but it also has certain inherent mechanisms and laws. There are certain factors in man's nature which are fixed and unchangeable: the necessity to satisfy the physiologically conditioned drives and the necessity to avoid isolation and moral aloneness." Capitalists desperately want to believe Sigmund Freud and his nonsense about the so-called 'id' because Freuds nonsense excuses them and justifies the way they treat the servile masses that they know are their slaves. The 'educated' 30% outer party members know that us servile masses are their slaves and they want to believe even more than the 1%. Like their hero Winston the clever educated western 30% would steal their sick and dying sisters chocolate rations. Only if they were hungry and could get away with it though.

    It is Communion that the masses seek and this is good for those of us that believe in internationalization. Just like a citizen needs to be a good child to their parents to be able to be a good citizen of the state - I believe that a citizen must be a good national citizen to be able to be a good international/global citizen. The scared capitalist mind must have truly been traumatized by the Nazi for them to still have such a nationalism phobia. Nationalism can help us bring about Fraternity and the Brotherhood of Man - it should not be seen as an obstacle.

    Why is it that there is rising inward orientation? It is because so-called globalization has hurt the western masses and the only ones seeing gains are the educated 30% that voted against Brexit and for Hillary Clinton. It is a fact that out of control immigration policies of capitalists reduce working opportunities for the western masses and put downward pressure on working class wages yet all we here from the educated is that us 'white' working class masses are racists. And bored apparently. We arent bored we are unhappy. No, we are furious. And the neoliberal capitalist educated 30% are against us. And we know it. The masses are all for healing the world but we know that capitalists have no intention of doing that. We can see that the capitalist plan is to turn the entire world into a third world hell hole where us working class masses must compete with workers from the third world. When was the last time a capitalist wanted to pay more for a third world worker? Have you ever heard a capitalist talk about bringing about a global minimum wage? Of course not because capitalists dont believe in a minimum wage or worker rights and protections. The capitalist wants all workers to be as desperate and insecure as possible so that we will drive them around in an uber car for as little as possible.

    Marxism may be experiencing a popularity crisis but the fact is that in all western nations - even USA - the core socialist ideals have been realized under so-called 'democratic capitalism'. Until the fall of the USSR the western workers had forced the core socialist ideals onto the capitalists through workers parties and a type of permanent revolution that 'democratic capitalism' ensures ( even now that capitalists have taken control of all of the workers parties and made them 'liberal' ) . But with the fall of the USSR came the end of what Thatcher described as 'socialist ratchet' and so began the capitalist ratcheting and the mass privatization of national utilities and the winding back of the welfare state. The influx of immigrants to western 'democratic capitalist' nations, and the offshoring of working class jobs was key to the capitalist ratcheting and the working class masses know it, so is it really any wonder that the working class masses are against so-called 'globalization' and a 'world without borders'? Racist?

    “What's happened to me,' he thought. It was no dream.” -  Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

    In my opinion the One World - One Dream and the Chinese Dream are the same dream. China stresses 'win-win' trade relationships with 'no strings attached'. This is China saying to the world that they know and understand why the world hates capitalist America/West - and with China things will be different. China knows how it feels to be treated as a 'third world' nation and because of Chinas communist history China is more aligned with the western working class than the neoliberal bourgeois capitalist 'elite'. Unlike USA that wants to make the entire world into capitalist America, China expects its core values to be respected and respects the core values of other nations.

    I fully agree with you that spiritual spheres are of vital importance. Capitalism has no soul so socialist China has a much better chance of bringing about the Brotherhood of Man. Even Hitler knew that the material and spiritual spheres were inseparable and that the soulless capitalists did not understand - "It is, of course, possible to make out a case for the success achieved in peopling continents which before had been empty. The United States and Australia afford good examples. Success, certainly - but only on the material side." - "The white races did, of course, give some things to the natives, and they were the worst gifts that they could possibly have made, those plagues of our own modern world-materialism, fanaticism, alcoholism and syphilis. For the rest, since these peoples possessed qualities of their own which were superior to anything we could offer them, they have remained essentially unchanged. Where imposition by force was attempted, the results were even more disastrous, and common sense, realizing the futility of such measures, should preclude any recourse to their introduction. One solitary success must be conceded to the colonizers: everywhere they have succeeded in arousing hatred, a hatred that urges these peoples, awakened from their slumbers by us, to rise and drive us out. Indeed, it looks almost as though they had awakened solely and simply for that purpose!" - Hitler/The Testament of Adolph Hitler

    And Einstein knew it - “One strength of the communist system of the East is that it has some of the character of a religion and inspires the emotions of a religion.” ―Albert Einstein . Soulless Capitalism does not.

    The beautiful thing is that us western masses hate the western 'elite' every bit as much as the rest of the world does - if not more. The next time we rise and drive them out I am hoping that it will be the beginning of The Brotherhood of Man and they will have nowhere to go. No more escaping to the east - or to New York.

    where there is light, there is shadow

    Where there is light there is shadow.

    Anyway, I have to go to work now. Seriously. I would add that Cultural Humility is going to be very important going forward. It is an ongoing process with no end. And I think it will help us end history. I dont think we should be closing any books.

    PostScript - I am guessing from Part 2 that you are no fan of Antonio Gramsci. I wouldnt agree with everything that he said but you have to admit that working class and capitalist culture are two different things. The western working class are more aligned with socialist China. And what we seek most of all is Communion. Its good right?

    Im late!

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