Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Allure of Hangzhou, China

Hangzhou is a sub-provincial city located in the Yangtze River delta in the People's Republic of China. Located 180 kms south west of Shanghai, it has a registered population of 6.4 million people. As one of the most renowned and prosperous city of China for the last 1000 years, Hangzhou is also well known for its beautiful natural scenery.
It is one of the seven ancient capitals of China and the harmonic blend of the old and modern is impressive. I was captivated by the natural beauty of the West Lake, where I was treated to a unique visual cornucopia of dance and theater. It was something I had never witnessed before, and although similar to Singapore's "seaside spectacle", this one was truly unique. I am referring to the West Lake theatrical presentation. The whole 6 square kilometer lake was the stage, and the characters, a cast of hundreds, either walked, danced or flew on the lake or on objects on the lake. It portrayed important events in China's elaborate history and, even without dialogue, the story was effectively conveyed. The interplay of lights and sounds were stunning and the coolness of the night added to the chill in the spine one feels when something heavenly is experienced. A night forever etched in memory...what a spectacle!

China's anthem, written in 1935, was adopted when the communists took power in 1948. The anthem was also the theme song of the film, Sons and Daughters in a Time of Storm, which tells the story of those who went to the front to fight the Japanese invaders in Northeast China in the 1930's. The "March of the Volunteers", composed by Nie Er and written by Tian Han, gave voice to the Chinese peoples determination to sacrifice for national liberation, expressing China's admirable tradition of courage, resolution and unity in fighting foreign aggression.

During the Cultural Revolution, the anthem was forbidden to be sung and, Tian Han, the lyric writer was imprisoned. The song "East is Red" became the de Facto anthem. In 1978, after Mao's death, the "March of the Volunteers" was restored as anthem, but with different words, which mention Mao and the Party. The original lyrics was restored in 1982.