Impressions of China

By Claudia , PT
China UNlimited___I was young and China was old. I was in my twenties and China was four thousand and five hundred years old. I measured one meter and sixty-five. China measured around three thousand kilometres from north to south and more than four thousand kilometres from east to west. I was one and China had more than one billion inhabitants.I was also just another Portuguese soul to come to China and dwell therein, since the times of the Ming Dynasty. My humble adventures in China could not be compared to the adventures of such names as Fernão Mendes Pinto, or the Portuguese Jesuits who held for decades the position of vice-presidents of the Board of Astronomy in Beijing, or the first Portuguese traders to settle in Macau.

The world was different twenty-five years ago. To go to China was still going very far. To tread on Chinese ground was treading on very different ground. I went to Beijing to study Chinese. I could not leave this Earth one day without having understood the most beautiful and mysterious scripture invented by the humans.

Beijing was dry and smelled of coal. A Tatar town swept by the desert. Bikes were the Empresses of the avenues. Everything was carried on them: the family baby, the old grandmother, pigs, roosters, a wardrobe. The art of balancing contrasts is a Chinese art. No wonder. It is the the land of yin and yang. Unlike Shanghai, the capital was considered tu. Tu means ‘earth’. Beijing was earthy like a peasant. Once in a while, flocks of sheep. Street vendors were many, selling clothes, sweet potatoes, crepes, shish kebab, a thousand and one Chinese delicacies. The architecture was rough, heavy, grey. Many important buildings sported the style of Soviet Socialist architecture. But Beijing also boasted multiple charms. In addition to the friendliness of its inhabitants, there were grandiose gardens full of lakes and hills, peaceful temples, the elegant gates of the ancient wall, robust towers, old pagodas full of magic, stupas camouflaged among factories and the traditional neighbourhoods, the famous hutong. Beijing had mystery. Charisma. The atmosphere was adventurous, surprising.

The Chinese were a complex people under a disguise of simplicity, in order to maximize both the contrast and the complexity. We could talk to anyone on the street. They answered kindly, human being to human being. They prolonged the conversation, curious about the foreigner. When talking to a Chinese, the subjects were mainly food, family and worldly goods. The most learned ones enjoyed talking about Chinese history, its terrific emperors, peasant uprisings, heroes and villains, beauties and eunuchs, wars and betrayals, unimaginable tortures and suffering, great famines and huge floods. A history of rivers of blood and oceans of sweat and tears.

When a Chinese invited someone to his home or to a restaurant he always behaved like an emperor. For the Chinese, a guest was a god, and their magnanimity was moving. Even when they were poor and lived in a single room, we would find a small table filled with colossal amounts of tasty food. They forced us to succumb to endless ganbei! (‘dry cups!’); and they insisted zai chi dianr (‘eat more!’) until we felt on the verge of agony.
They always wanted to pay for everything, no one behaving shabbily.

People were always too many, so leftovers were something scarce in China. To get on the bus was a deadly battle. But once inside it, no one looked angry. The smart guys who could find a seat smiled in delight. What a lucky day! And it was indeed a lucky day, because the Chinese cities are big according to the Chinese scale, i.e., they are gigantic; and long-distance travels are long according to the Chinese scale, i.e, they are endless.

The Chinese are fierce patriots. As early as 1524, Vasco Calvo, a Portuguese merchant who was a captive in Guangzhou, wrote in a letter: “This land’s way is to call their king ‘Son of Heaven’ and their land they call ‘Heavenly land’; and to all the people from outside their land they call ‘barbarians who do not know Heaven nor Earth’, and they say of every ambassador who comes to their land that he comes to obey the ‘son of Heaven’, and other vanities, my Lord, that would be a lot to read.”

Young people showed signs of impatience. China was not occupying its natural place in the world: the Centre. They were looking forward to a new golden era. The China of silk and brocades, of so many inventions, the most august of all ancient human civilizations and the only survivor among them should be again the greatest, the richest, and the most advanced land.

With their black hair and black eyes, golden skin, delicate features, as if eroded by time, lean, upright but relaxed, the Chinese were stiff and flexible like the bamboo. They were carved by centuries of inconceivable suffering. And survived. A Chinese is a survivor. They need little to blossom in profusion. They make much more with much less. And they can never be mediocre, because they have behind them millenniums of civilization, and billions of ancestors, including many men of genius whom they can get advice from and who may come to their rescue. To represent the human race, nothing more sensible than to choose the Chinese people, not only because they are in much greater numbers or because they were able to create a sophisticated civilization, but because they come from a very old lineage.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

6 ways to drive funding to transform the fashion industry

These European countries produce the most plastic waste per person

The vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion spreads fast engulfing more children

New Mozambique storm rips off roofs, brings lashing rain as aid response kicks in

We finally have a life-saving vaccine for Ebola

COVID-19: EU must step up efforts to tackle medicine shortages

5 myths about face masks under the microscope

These German businesses are hiring refugees to plug the skills gap

Getting people with disabilities into work requires data

Myanmar willing to repatriate ‘verified returnees’ from Bangladesh

Fighting Terrorism Online: EU Internet Forum committed to an EU-wide Crisis Protocol

Mass-graves found of at least 535 killed during ‘organized and planned’ inter-communal attacks in western DR Congo

Three-quarters of South Sudanese children have known nothing but war, says UNICEF

Germany is the world’s most innovative economy

EU prepares a banking union amidst financial ruins

Water scarcity is a growing problem across the Middle East. Is this how we solve it?

Τhe EU Refugee Crisis: a day in the life of a Refugee in Greece

Businesses are lacking moral leadership, according to employees

Ebola situation worsening in DR Congo, amidst growing ‘funding gap’ UN health agency warns

‘Eden bonds’: how rewilding could save the climate and your pension

What is true and not true about the new Coronavirus?

Refund for cancelled travel during the pandemic: Commission decides to refer SLOVAKIA to the Court of Justice

“China is the only BRICS country to have either met or possibly slightly surpassed my expectations”, BRICS inventor Jim O’ Neil from Switzerland; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

A fundamental transport transformation: Commission presents its plan for green, smart and affordable mobility

Commission welcomes entry into force of EU4Health programme

A Californian city gave people $500 a month – no strings attached. Here’s what happened

Unemployment and exclusion brings EU cities to boiling point

Europe is progressing most towards these UN Sustainability Goals: A report card for Europe

The EU’s outermost regions: strengthened partnership bears fruit

This is how smart technology is helping to combat overfishing

Council’s position on Visa Directive a step back for young people’s mobility

Judges urge Security Council to serve interests of all UN Member States

Questions directors need to ask in the age of stakeholder capitalism

How can emerging economies navigate the mobility transition?

UN food agency begins ‘last resort’ partial withdrawal of aid to opposition-held Yemeni capital

UN expert calls for international investigation into ‘evident murder’ of Jamal Khashoggi

Financial system risk is elevated and global standards are essential in managing cross-border infrastructure investment

Human rights breaches in Azerbaijan and Sudan

Actions not words: what was promised at the UN’s landmark climate summit?

These are the countries that eat the most meat

Draghi: A bridge from Brussels to Berlin

EU elections update: Can the EU voters vote unaffected from fake news and online disinformation?

How smarter machines can make us smarter humans

Coronavirus: new procedure to facilitate and speed up approval of adapted vaccines against COVID-19 variants

The Czech economy is thriving but boosting skills and productivity and transitioning to a low-carbon productive model is vital to sustainable and inclusive growth

At global health forum, UN officials call for strong, people-focused health systems

The West cannot ignore Russia; dazed Germany sitting on the fence

UN forum to bring ‘big space data’ benefits to disaster response in Africa

Q and A on the draft digital copyright directive

This is the human impact of COVID-19 – and how business can help

The UN went to one of the world’s richest countries to look at poverty – this is what it found

What can we do about the crisis in trust in public institutions?

Berlin Calling: DCX Expo on track to grow, in association with The European Sting

Policymakers can ensure the 4IR is fairer than the last three

104 countries have laws that prevent women from working in some jobs

MEPs call on EU countries to end precarious employment practices

Sweden has a plan to end all traffic accident deaths

4 solutions for reducing emissions from industrial clusters

From Prince to Picasso, the arts can be just the tonic, new UN health agency study shows

Indonesian tsunami death toll climbs over 400 as Government-led relief efforts are stepped up

More Stings?

Comments

  1. John P. Jones says:

    Thank you for publishing this essay. Claudia is an amazing person with a beautiful soul that resonates with all who are around her. Her words offer us a wonderfully human perspective of China (and other destinations to which she’s traveled). Besides being a great writer, Claudia is a top-notch professional photographer. I’m surprised that a few of her thousands of awesome photos of China were not included with her writing here. Her photos capture the essence of culture, of beauty, of nature, of humility and of humanity.

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s