Europe, Globe

But still, China remains Chinese…

The opening of the country to trade, reforms and globalization may seem able to sweep away the history or traditions of a country, but in China, these processes only show how strong its traditions are, fortunately for their culture and for culture in general.

Luis Melián

BEIJING. – It is true that this nation is not the same as it was a little more than 30 years ago, when it started a period of great transformations, one of its main results being that of converting China into the world’s second economy, achieved in 2010.

Whoever looks at Beijing, Shanghai and other Chinese cities may see skyscrapers, all makes of cars, and many other elements of modernity, but all that is just a part of a reality that maintains its roots in a millenary culture, with abundant traditions. And many of them are still alive.

After 1978, when the reform and opening process started, massive investments came into the country: foods, music, foreign fashions, the Olympic Games in 2008 and the World Expo 2010 Shanghai, among other great events, but without erasing what is historically China.

The Chinese Lunar New Year or Spring Festival -in January or February- is still the most important celebration for this nation, although it assimilates elements of modernity as time goes by, and the celebration is so significant that it is well known abroad.

In the era of new technologies, even when you are far away, you can still be close. In China, everyone wants to go back to their places of origin to be with their families during the Spring Festival. If anything stops someone from doing so, the sorrow is almost inconsolable. An official week of holiday facilitates such reunions.

Our friend Qin Xian, 29 years old, from the central province of Hubei, works in Beijing and considers the Spring Festival the happiest moment in the year. Not going home would be very sad for her parents too, she told Prensa Latina.

The list of traditions is long; here are some examples: the Lantern Festival (also called Shangyuan Festival), is celebrated on January 15 of the Chinese lunar calendar. The Dragon Boat Festival takes place on the 5th day of the 5th month in the Chinese lunar calendar, a celebration much practiced all over the country.

The Chinese Zodiac maintains its popularity, and even outside China many people are following which sign appears to say good-bye to the old and which marks the arrival of the new year.

Like many others coming from other regions of the world, I never fail to be impressed with the strength of Chinese culture, whose growing influence can be seen with the world wide increase of in the study of Mandarin.

Go to any restaurant and you will see chopsticks as well as dishes that were elaborated centuries ago; the game commonly called Chinese chess (Xiangqi) is still alive, and Tai Chi exercises are practiced everywhere.

When you travel to the interior of China, everything will seem more Chinese, from buildings to customs, reflecting the culture of each territory.

Since nothing is static and traditions also change, one might say they adapt themselves to modernity, a logical process with the socio-economic development of this multi-ethnic nation. If before a present used to be delivered personally, now it can be purchased online and sent from your own home. It is undeniable that new things come and are assimilated, especially new technologies.

In China, there are more than 940 million cellphone users. Internet users exceed 500 million, including 130 million in rural zones. Most Chinese can access music, movies and literature from other countries through the Internet.

It is therefore not strange to learn that there are Chinese rockers and rappers, that my friend Milena, 30 years old, enjoys romantic ballads and Latin beats, nor that novels such as “100 Years of Solitude” and “Harry Potter” are read in China, or that many people here know who Michael Jackson was, or that Lionel Messi is admired as much in China as in Argentina.

US songwriter Bob Dylan brought his music here recently, as did the Japanese group SMAP, and Dominican songwriter Juan Luis Guerra appeared at the Expo of Shanghai. All of them had followers in China.

But still, China remains Chinese.

Consulted on these topics, Professor Xu Shicheng, from the Institute of Latin American Studies of the Academy of Social Sciences of China, said the opening and reforms enable Chinese culture to encompass modernity as well as the continuity of its national traditions.

“We should reject the useless remains of backward and conservative elements of our tradition, while preserving and using their essence,” said Professor Xu Shicheng.

No one can deny that many of the above mentioned foreign influences reach China, but its culture, no matter how much it assimilates, is resilient and has enough vitality to extend its influence far beyond its national frontiers. PL.

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