China: By Journalists Eye I. - Fight On Tiananmen Square
Finally Beijing. Our journalistic team has battled a series of security checks and we find ourselves in an endless airport lounge. The feeling that the local crowd have to absorb us was not correct. Then we see a smiling Chinese lady and in minutes everyone sit in a luxury air-conditioned bus.
We are delegation saved by representatives the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as we expected, service and program come up. The bus weaves by fundamentally wide, seemingly new boulevards, not even telescope would not help us to see some of the remains of old buildings, or let alone the slums. After more than an hour away from parked five-star hotel and welcomes us many members group of staff with a respectful bow. We look forward to fried noodles or kung-pao, but alas. On the plate we have the classic fries and something like Wiener Schnitzel - probably respect for our gastronomic traditions.
Much needed afternoon rest in a hotel room won´t happened either. Unpack, change, take the cameras and in 30 minutes we have meeting in front of hotel. Such is our first encounter with Chinese industriousness, tenacity, determination to achieve goals and strict rules, which the country of the world helps enterprising communist approach to economic pedestal.
China years ago and now
Our guides has grown to two, in the hands had necessary wave stick, in their handbags our passports, and apparently a lot of other documents, whose origin is unknown to us. Nervously spur the laggards and significantly tapping their watch. On the way to our first destination cultural ministerial girls recite the complete program for 12 days - a moment trembling with anticipation, but then horror. Now we are heading to the famous Tiananmen Square.
It's June, the month when the whole western world reminds unfortunate anniversary of the massacre, where in 1989 the Chinese military brutally intervened here against demonstrating students - soldiers have made the ways by tanks and armoured cars and massacre 1300 of people who have called for the democratization the country. Our trip should get proves that today´s China is completely different. Somehow we can´t do that...
Blunder of Chinese diplomatic
We park about a kilometre from Tian'anmen and under led of wave sticks, with cameras on shoulders after perhaps today we step-lying sidewalk toward the square. As by chance the path is lined by dozens of soldiers at attention with a faraway look. We wonder why they are there - the answer is clever Chinese - "they do honour guard unknown to whom." Our aim is close, but we see through the smog curtain just a few meters ahead. And suddenly stop! Surrounds us several police officers at the curb stop police wagon and begins lengthy discussion.
Girls trying do the best, brandishing their documents, makes phone calls to everywhere, show all possible stamps and permits - we just amused and embarrassed look on, police are still adamant: With cameras in Tiananmen Square will not let anyone. Our guide is obviously unhappy. Anyway, they have official permission from the ministry! But the police can´t hear. We started to be sceptic, moreover, was more than an hour standing on the spot in 30 degrees heat. Another phone call and a triumphant look by of one of our guards. In a few minutes black limousine is coming, the man in a suit with red tie get out, pulls from his breast pocket a sort of ID card, show it to the police chief and disappears into the escort car. We are allowed to film.
The communist regime has clear rules – be silent
Objectives of cameras at first directed to the majestic Gate of Heavenly Peace, where we gaze piercing the communist dictator Mao Zedong, the founder of the People's Republic. For many Chinese, Mao is still great icon and we are committed to them to ask. The square bustles with visitors, mostly Chinese, the candidates for interview is not an emergency. I choose a young English couple, and we will contact him. For the greeting they react with a smile, but when I ask for answers to some questions, faces that do not understand a word. I repeat my request primitive language - just shake their heads and escape.
I can see a beautifully dressed middle aged lady with a necessary parasol - I'll try my luck here. The scenario is repeated to the last detail. The following is an attempt to "all good things come in threes" and understand that in the crowd mixed with the secret police are no answers to "tricky" questions confess. Disappointment, but his face reveals a progressive China. My journalist colleges from Slovakia, Ukraine, Poland and other European countries face the same disappointment - no one was successful.
So we give up hope to get interview and focus on the beauty of gigantic space, to which are breathtaking. We are the world's largest square, ants on area of 440 000 square meters, an area such as the Vatican. In the distance rises before us the gate to the Forbidden City and we are heading to a complex of palaces and temples, where Chinese emperors once commanded.
"Long live the People's Republic", "Long live the people of the world combined." These are signs that welcome us at the entrance to the palace maze. Right here in the stands Mao Zedong declared Nova China the first of October 1949. Also, read passages here scrolls with imperial edicts.
We have something like a map and by schedule hour for tour. That has a complex form of about 800 buildings with adjacent gardens, there is no time welcoming walks too. Therefore roams just beyond the gate, admire the beautiful ornaments on wooden buildings, at times feel perplexed by the question of how many objects deteriorate and are subject to the ravages of time. Then walk through the park and Zhongshan Gate University we run to the ceremonial part of town at least for one minute. The moat and walls you can see only from afar, the time is inexorably running out and be gone before we go back and dutifully jump into the bus, because delay is a major offense in China.
Text/photo: Andrea Fantová
Profane language and pornography shouldn’t be on the Internet. We would certainly agree with that if only this wasn’t just a cover for endless clutch of the Chinese Internet censorship. Under the cover of a protection of national cultural heritage, and public interest and prosperity the Chinese government tries to hide its rough cleansing.
We are still in the far northwest of China, in the region, which is interwoven with Tibetan culture and history. After dense doses our Beijing hosts are served us bait to persuade Europeans ignorant about the interest of the central government in the development of local underdeveloped economy, improving people's living standards while maintaining support all the attributes of the original culture
Classical Chinese carpets have described Marco Polo in his travelogues, but till today in the world are still not too much to seen and know little about them. I look forward to our visit carpet factories in the province of Qinghai, Xining on the outskirts of the city, to widen my horizons. The lives of local workers I try to plug deeply into the subconscious and try to see the beauty around.
Exploring the China is join with infinite variety of impressions, perceptions, experiences and surprises for Europeans often shrouded under a veil of mystery, many time but just ignorance. I did get out of this country dominating feeling - China is incredibly colourful. Colourful from drab uniform gray to a beautiful rainbow combination.
To leave the province of Qinghai and thus few days of life in the past, sometimes the century before, it was the more sensitive nature really hard. Local on many places the virgin nature, proud mountain ranges, deep green valleys, vast dry plains, miniature boxes, herds of yaks and colourful mix of nationalities, often pristine civilizations us captivated, amazed, left imprint on the hearts.
We are in Shanghai, in a metropolis shrouded by hundreds of "firsts" that is, in the largest Chinese city. One "the best" there certainly lacks – the historic one. Shanghai, unlike many other Chinese cities has relatively short history, after the Middle Ages, you won´t find any foot mark.
When I looked at the city in evening from promenade of colonial Bund, Oriental Pearl enchanted me with its graceful shapes, and I watched long how at it clothed in new and new colours in regular intervals. I do not know, which one suits her most...
The second day in Shanghai. I slept great, the apartment from Chinese Ministry in one of the most modern hotels in Pchu - tung district, hardly compares to the most luxury holiday model.
Till the start of the World's Expo remains less than 11 months. Here in Shanghai the word Expo is inflected to suffer. Sky blue mascot of Hainan - pao exhibition more than a year before the outbreak this exhibition´s madhouse smiles from windows, posters, winks from light boards, and I decided to bring one teddy home.
The first ever Chinese word that I learned, and it still did not forget, is the "pi-jo". If you seem familiar, you are right - though vastly different languages, for favourite golden-coloured brew has phonetically very similar name as Czech and many other Slavic languages. Drinking beer is a hobby that is definitely common with the Chinese.
In China, people drink really everything you can think of. Everyday drink is inherent tea, whether green or black, fermented or semi-fermented. Water and hundreds of species of non-alcoholic beverages are part of food as well as beer or very popular traditional rice wine. On the tables of local "higher" classes but there are also wine from grapes, until recently marginalized drink.
To move on the other side of Euroasia is nothing easy for those who don’t know how. Especially when they are going to have a personal contact with a Chinese family, business partners, or politicians and officials. For such a stay it is good to make some little preparations, otherwise you will experience more than one faux pas.
Walks and rides in Shanghai are an infinite fount of learning unknown and different no matter where it is. I manage to sit down and observe rush around me for half an hour on one very busy avenue.
We have all this Christmas martyrdom behind us, more or less. New Year’s eve after-effects are the past now and everyday life came back again. Far in the east of our planet the holiday season is getting to its peak.
We had many formal meetings during our journey in China with government officials or top managements of some companies that tried to make themselves more visible through us, European journalists. In a hurry after these precisely scheduled meetings I always gathered prepared business cards and carefully placed them to my notes.
We all got used to all these superlatives surrounding China. I wouldn’t exaggerate if I said that she achieved some primacy every week.
If we set off to China it is almost imposible to miss out its capital - Beijing. Beijing is full of traces of history but Beijing also lives in the present and future in every of its wide avenues and narrow streets. Beijing is full of fabulous food, noisy traffic... And so on and on. Where would you look for peaceful moments in busy metropolis?
Again our bus is going on the new highway, which I'd read that it was probably built for only one reason - to make available the Tibetan Buddhist monastery Ta'er. And really, this time not waiting for us any boneshaker dirt road and conveniently parked outside the gates of a large complex at the foot of greenish mountains.
Qinghai Province fascinates me at every step, or rather at every kilometre. A mixture of Buddhism and Muslim world humbly exist together is incredibly interesting phenomenon, especially for journalists from far, accelerated, often impersonal and intolerant Europe. This time we are heading into the valley that lies in Rebkong area, the centre of Tibetan art in the province.
China - land of unlimited possibilities, a country which, unlike the developed world is growing and whose economic growth in today's world seems like a miracle. Country with many cultural and historical monuments, a country, that sends a man into space.
Being in China and not visit the Great Wall is equal to savagery. The official program that the Chinese government has prepared us is this trip only alternative and we have to earn deserve it. From early morning we sit in the Red Hall headquarters of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China and pretend to listen to propaganda papers enthusiastic speakers.
World media today proclaims that the Chinese state television CCTV triumphantly finished its job and officially opened a new headquarters in Beijing. The futuristic-looking building that should symbolizes the emergence of China on the world stage, journalists dubbed it - thanks to the remarkable shape for her grace in the world called the Chinese "Great boxers."
We "elect" could see the Chinese megalopolis through largely a luxury air-conditioned bus with a smiling dude behind the wheel. It is also part of local standard, certainly not just for a small group of natives and of course for wealthy tourists.
From the bus window, we could see Beijing crisscross, authentic atmosphere of the streets and alleys and hundreds of thousands of people in them, but we sucked up in the role of hikers and then of course after "bedtime" is ended with an official dinner with selected potent and our tired guide disappeared behind hotel room door.
The first dining experience in China didn’t impress me too much. Five stars beautiful hotel, a lot of fuss on arrival our journalistic delegation - a bow and waving fans welcomed us beauties in traditional dress, from the table.
Beijing is for us concentration of paradoxes. Endless skyscrapers, luxury living residences, shops of all tech brands on one side and then thousands of artifacts, ancient Chinese culture. We are interested in both of it, but the traditional one is but much more interesting.
Visit of Beijing food market and edibles of all kinds, shapes, smells, often of unknown origin and a long life even more dangerously we were really stunned for a moment and quietly wandering Chinese traders staring at the blonde, which move at a rate of marathon runners. Phew. We are off and miraculously in front of us pleasantly familiar signs shucks "Starbucks Coffee".
The third day we devoured spell of western China and the knowledge that we have somewhere "behind" Tibet is our "ugly," said attractive. There, under the auspices of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, certainly can´t go, but Tibetan culture we meet at every step.
Our bus finally stops at the end of a long, dirt track, in which about an hour ago has changed as if by magic a modern six-lane highway. My worries we will finish up on the roof, fortunately not materialized, we drove past woods and gouged out before us, football pitch right and green has left. Everything was dominated by ground shabby, battered gray building - school.
Our bus goes on the perfectly smooth highway, where we ones a time meet some man in a hat, with a scarf over his face and a broom in his hand - he is alone, far from him you can´t see anything of civilization, the high mountains on both sides, and he sweeps the shoulder.
Morning view from hotel window in Xining reveals a breathtaking backdrop. The city is surrounded by high mountains, over which the sun shines and I'm really looking forward for today's trip, which has sometimes copied the former trade artery between Asia and Europe - the Silk Road. The fact that I wet my feet in the Yellow River, it is still like science fiction.
After four days in Beijing we packed suitcases and with our guide got on the plane. Before us is a big unknown - we are moving into one of the poorest provinces of China to west to the Tibetan border. It won´t be surprise just for us, but also our girls will visit Beijing - Ai Qing the first time in their life.
China's hard work and discipline accompanied us at every step and a visit of Beijing Foreign Studies University just confirmed it. Here we had a chance to appreciate even more characteristic of Chinese - adaptability.
Ancient city of Xian, or Si-an is about 3000 years old. It is one of the most important places throughout Chinese history, since it is here that housed 11 Chinese imperial dynasties. At the time when Beijing was a mere village, golden Si - an shone by bright colours of temples, wide boulevards and architectural excesses.
Huge China is a country of contrasts. It consists of several climatic zones, there you can find a noisy city full of glass skyscrapers and smog, but also the traditional mountain village with mud houses and rice plantations.
If you would like to have a stop in a locality, where the time is passing in another rate of speed, where everyday hunt for activity and stress do not have any chance, so, you arrived to the right spot. It is Yangshuo, small Chinese town, situated in nature karst along Li and Yulong rivers.
Photo: Amy Challen a Jan Lidmaňský