China: Diversity in Unity

 

Paul Chong                                                                            Thursday, 5 October 2017

Have you heard of the greatest story ever revealed here on earth? It’s of a nation that was once historically great with a civilisation unmatched by any others, held in awe by all, conquered when weak followed by a period of humiliation & destruction not just by one enemy but a host of western power with superior war weapons of mass destruction. Worst were the Japanese calling China “the sick man of Asia” and the British publicly declaring the Chinese as equivalent to “dogs”. There are things which are forgivable but not forgettable, especially when the perpetrators keep on denying & unapologetic.

It is naturally believable that going downhill is easier & faster than going uphill.

However, for all the past humiliation, property ravages & war atrocities & sufferings, in the last three to four decades China has miraculously & surprisingly woken up to recapture its past glory. The dragon is wide awake & sleeps no more. Napoleon was wise to leave China alone in his many great conquests.

Japan is purely populated by Japanese, other nationalities are not permitted as permanent residents. China by contrast has some 55 official ethnic minority groups. The major minority ethnic groups in China are Zhuang (16.9 million), Uyghur (11.5 million), Hui (10.5 million), Manchu (10.3 million), Miao (9.4 million), Yi (8.7 million), Tujia (8.3 million), Tibetan (6.2 million), Mongol (5.9 million), Dong (2.8 million), Buyei (2.8 million), Yao (2.7 million), Bai (1.9 million), . . .Among them Han Chinese account for 91.59% of the overall Chinese population, all making up an overall population of close to 1.4 billion.

One interesting point to note is that Chinese has never been superimposed or influenced by any conquering cultures such as the Monguls or Manchurians. As a matter of fact, the reversed process took place naturally through “sinicization”. These foreigners converted themselves into Chinese by adopting Chinese language & culture, the Chinese way of life.

In this modern age, the minority groups still retain their culture & customs. In times of festivals, you can see them in their beautiful traditional attire, sing & dance according to their music rendering the atmosphere with true joy, peace & harmony. They all want to claim themselves as Chinese & in many cases you can hardly tell them apart from the Han Chinese. In Shenzhen, they have a cultural display centre where different groups assembled.

Taoping Minority from Sichuan Province

China has long been a cradle and host to a variety of the most enduring religio- philosophical types – Taoism, Buddhism, lslamism, Protestantism and Catholicism have all developed quite a following in this country. Freedom of belief is a government policy, and normal religious activities are protected by the constitution.

Geographically, China offers a unique landscape. In the vast western reaches of China – mountains, high plateaus and deserts dominate the landscape, while in the central and east areas, the land slopes into broad plains and deltas. The Gobi Desert runs west to east along the border with Mongolia. There’s a variety & diversity unifying China from snow to sand.

China is around the same size as Australia. Australia is approximately 7,741,220 sq km, while China is approximately 9,596,960 sq km.

China despite its size has only one time zone – same time as Singapore & Perth.

The great unifying factor is the language. Everybody speaks & writes  Mandarin. Communication is no problem. English is becoming more widespread. Great festivals like Spring Festival, Mid-Autumn Festivals etc are celebrated by all usually accompanied by a long spell of holidays.

To the foreign visitors, this vast continent is seen as many worlds in one. Seeing places & meeting faces all spell awe & admiration, a unique experience not to be found anywhere else . . . history & modernity, mystery & discovery contributing to one Big Picture!

Songs That Inspire . . . Influence Generations

 

Bengawan Solo River in Indonesia

As a little boy in school those days, we had singing lessons & a song book entitled “Sing & Be Happy”. Somehow, my singing teacher didn’t like me, kept discouraging me to sing saying that I had a croaky voice. Nevertheless, where love exists desire persists! Though I am never good at it, music & songs fill my life . . . make me as happy as can be!

I was born in Malaysia, brought up there, had my schooling there, sent on a government scholarship for teacher training in UK & then furthering my tertiary education at the University of Malaya, Pantai Valley, Selangor. That’s how it was . . . down memory lane in Malaysia . . . no political divide, no racial strife, tension or envy, peaceful & harmonious living . . . a land known invariably as “The Golden Chersonese”, where music flow & songs galore!

Songs have no cultural or political overtone attached. Music as such is a universal language. There is but one tongue . . . the musical tongue. Songs like “Rasa Sayang” & “Bengawan Solo” have always inspired listeners the world over. The other day, I was with some Aussie friends chatting & having a bit of wine. John who owns 6 bands related to me that when his band was playing in Penang, Malaysia, he learnt to play and sing that ever popular request “Rasa Sayang”. He just loves it! The favour of the song will always live on.

Another song that comes to mind is “Bengawan Solo.” When teaching in Kelantan, North East Malaysia, I remember Zainab a Malay student of mine who rendered this song beautifully. I learnt it then & I sing it even now. In most karaoke parties I have organised, “Bengawan Solo” never failed to show.

There’re various translations to this song . . . English, Filipino, Burmese & others.

Teresa Teng
Teresa Teng (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Teresa Teng (Deng Lijun) the ever popular nightingale from Taiwan, sadly passed away at the age of 42 in the year 1995. She captured the hearts of men & women all over the world with her songs. There was a saying then “The day is dominated by Deng Xiaoping, but the night belongs to Deng Lijun”.

Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Any karaoke fan would love “Tian Mi Mi” and “Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin” (The Moon Represents My Heart) as sung by Teresa Teng. My former HSC student Kat sings it beautifully in Mandarin . . . & she is Malay! My own wife Lilian sings the English translation version. However, it’s hard to get her to render it in public except small karaoke party. She sings well but fights shy of public swell!

Now let’s hear a delightful group of African boys singing ‘Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin” in Mandarin:

Incidentally, best way of learning a language is through the song in that langusage.

And lest we forget the memory of Deng Lijun (Teresa Teng), who has been commemorated in a public garden park in Taipei, Taiwan, let’s listen to her melodious captivating voice: