China is in the midst of a slow explosion. Five thousand years of history and not yet anywhere near past its prime, China today is very much under construction. Chinese history is a staggeringly long tale of civilzation, conquest, and expansion, and this particular moment in time is no exception. Everywhere, old buildings, roads, traditions, and ideas are being torn down as new frameworks are erected, some making careful use of the past, others branching out in new directions altogether. China is dynamic and exciting, with sprawling, sophisticated cities. It is diverse, with dozens of minority nationalities, cuisines, and cultures. It is a place of tremendous natural beauty, with vast, fertile plains and expansive mountain panoramas. Don't let the world's most populous country intimidate you, however: Jump into this guide and get to know the people, places, and pleasures of the real China , an experience that will surpass all of your expectations.when to go
Long history: King Wu was the first to declare Beijing the capital city in 1057 BC. Beijing was also known as Peking by the Western world before 1949.
Huge City : Beijing has a whole area of 16808 sq km (about 6500 sq mi), stretching 160 kilometres from east to west and over 180 kilometres north to south. She has 18 districts and counties and Haidian districts is the university district. Population in Beijing is about 19 million.
US will not hesitate to take China to WTO: envo
The United States will not hesitate to take China to the World Trade Organization (WTO), a US envoy says, warning the Asian giant can no longer expect to evade global trade rules.
"The administration will not shy away from bringing cases against China when warranted," said James Mendenhall, general counsel for the US Trade Representative's office.
"We will not bring cases merely for the sake of bringing cases but we will defend our interests," he told a group of US businessmen in Beijing .
Mendenhall was speaking on the eve of his departure from China following talks this week with officials in Beijing on WTO rules and intellectual property rights, and Chinese regulations on auto parts.
"We have told China that we're actively considering a WTO challenge to China 's regulatory regime in auto parts ... that potential case remains under active consideration," he said.
Mendenhall said China needed to become a responsible "stakeholder" in the international trade system.
"This means that we should not expect China to remain for long isolated from dispute settlement.
" China simply can't play the enormous economic role it's playing in the world, and that it has ambitions to play in the future, without becoming an active participant in the system."
What this entails for China is being held to account to ensure that it complies with its trade obligations, he said.
"Abiding by the rules is the price of admission to be an economic power in the world today," Mendenhall said.
Chinese becoming popular with US learners
While English learning has been the rage in China for decades, Chinese as a foreign language is just starting to catch on on the other side of the Pacific Ocean .
The study of Chinese used to be concentrated on a few college campuses and in large ethnic Chinese communities on both coasts of North America . But now it is spreading to places where, only a decade ago, such a widespread and sustained interest in the language seemed unimaginable.
When Sharon Wen went to the University of Houston to teach Chinese in 1994, she had only 26 students. This semester she has 170. "I would have had more if the business school had not removed Chinese as a mandatory course," she said.
Wen explained that enthusiasm in the Chinese language began to take shape in the 1980s. After a brief dip in 1989, it gradually regained momentum in the early 1990s. In recent years, enrolment growth has been steady.
Although Chinese is clearly enjoying a rise in popularity, it is far from being the most popular foreign language in North America and, according to most people interviewed for this article, probably will never be.
Spanish and French have traditionally been the most popular candidates for a second language.
Large numbers of Latin American immigrants have made Spanish a useful tool for communication in the United States . In cities such as Los Angeles and Houston , as many as one-third of the television channels are in Spanish or have a Spanish simulcast audio channel. In Canada , French is an official language.
In a 2002 survey of US colleges and universities by the Modern Language Association in New York , 746,267 students were enrolled in Spanish classes and 34,153 in Chinese classes. In fact, Chinese ranked 7th, behind Spanish, French (201,979), German (91,100), Italian (63,899), American Sign Language (60,781) and Japanese (52,238).
But when broken down, the data reveal more information: Graduate students who took Chinese kept constant over a decade, but two-year and four-year undergraduates had double-digit growth. French and German, despite their high enrolments, have not wavered much in popularity, but Chinese has overtaken Spanish in growth rate.
According to Cynthia Ning, executive director of the Chinese Language Teachers Association, Chinese will eventually surpass Japanese and several other languages to become the fourth foreign language in the United States , trailing behind only Spanish, French and German.
Rosemary Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association, cautioned about levels of study when making such predictions, but she said "Chinese is definitely the largest growth language, and it should be.?
She said she expects that a survey that the association will conduct later this year will reveal a growth rate of more than 20 per cent compared with 2002.
"Chinese is already the third most common spoken language at home in the US , right after English and Spanish," Feal said. "Chinese study on all levels is on the increase, and I expect the trend to continue. "
Great Wall Friendship Award Presented to 18 Foreign Experts
On the night of December 9, at the Beijing Hotel, 18 foreign experts received Great Wall Friendship Awards and other gifts from Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan. The Great Wall Friendship Award, given annually, is the highest honour given by the Beijing Municipal Government to foreign experts who have made contributions to Beijing 's economic and cultural development. Since 1999, only 78 foreign experts have been so awarded.
In 2005, among the 18 experts from 13 countries, 13 were economic experts, including Ernst H. Behrens, president of Siemens China Limited Company and Noh Jae Man, general manager of the Beijing Hyundai Motor Company Limited. Also awarded were Francis Pang, president of the Beijing Sino-Canada School and Jean-Marie Joseph Boutin from the Beijing Xinqiao Foreign Language School . Lauded for the successful transfer of advanced techniques and management skills, or for having participated in commonweal activities, they were recommended by bodies such as the Foreign Enterprises Service Company, and were selected by the Foreign Affairs Office of the Beijing Municipal Government. Before the awards ceremony, the awardees were treated to Chinese traditional performances at the Laoshe Teahouse.
Beijing Folk Art Lives On in Tianqiao
Although sometimes obscured by the shadow of their more famous cousin, there are more traditional Chinese theatre arts than merely Peking Opera, a fact the Beijing Municipal Government is striving to make more widely known.
On November 30, student representatives of the more than 30,000 foreign students currently residing in Beijing were treated to a 90-minute performance featuring some of the lesser-known arts including acrobatics, face-changing, and two-man comic figures.
Performed at the Tian Qiao Le Teahouse, this event was one in a series of activities aimed at enriching foreign students' lives in Beijing, that have been offered since September this year. Holding the shows in the Tian Qiao Le Teahouse is historically significant, as the surrounding Tianqiao Market is the very place where ordinary people, or laobaixing , in old Beijing watched folk performances such as acrobatics and qigong .
Yang Liuyin, director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Beijing Municipal Government said, "We hope that foreign students will [come to] know more about Chinese traditional culture through these kinds of performances staged in such traditional venues."
Some of these performances are now quite rare, even among the local people. Face changing (which involves an actress changing Peking Opera masks in an amazingly short time), two-man comic figures (one actor performing actions, and the other actor speaking or singing, crouching and hiding behind him), Chinese "Tough Qigong " (hard striking with sharp-bladed steel plate at one's abdomen, or two men pushing a spear with their throats, for example), classical Chinese hand magic, exotic slide-shows, and the "Kung Fu of Eighteen Monks Fighting with the Monkey King" were among the shows enjoyed by the students. The dazzling costumes, astonishing skills, highly trained voices, and catchy tunes combined to tell of the glamour and magic of Chinese culture, especially in its folk art. The show could be seen as a potted history of folk performances since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Co-sponsored by Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture, and the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education, the events have proved to be very popular, and will be held again in the near future. Maggie Kilcoyne from University of International Business and Economics said she hoped more foreign students would be lucky enough to see such performances.
Beijing Hosts International Dance Season
The Second Beijing International Dance Season, which began on December 21, features 50 performances from Chinese and foreign dance companies, including troupes from Russia , Canada , Lebanon , and Turkey at the Great Hall of the People and other theatres around Beijing .
Including such dance classics as "The Nutcracker," " Swan Lake ," "One Thousand and One Nights," "Flames of Passion," "The Fire of Anatolia" and "Esmaralda," the season also includes a forum where participants from the United States , Australia , Denmark , Japan , Belgium , France , Austria and China will exchange views regarding ballet choreography, and trade expertise in theatre and troupe administration.
The dance season, which is held under the auspices of the Chinese Ministry of Culture, and the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, will close on January 25.
China to Diversify Film Import Source Countries
China will increase quotas on imported films from other countries, said an official from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television on December 15.
In recent years, China has imported around 50 films annually, and about half of these were sourced from the United States .
Tong Gang, director of the Film Bureau, said in an online chat session reported by Xinhua , that since many Chinese are unable to watch a variety of films from other countries, the Film Bureau would make efforts to diversify the source countries in 2005.
Huaxia Films and the China Film Group, two Chinese distributors of foreign films, will distribute six films from January to March 2005. Among them, half are from the United States , two are from France and one is from the United Kingdom , according to Huaxia's planning manager Guan Zheng.
"In order to enrich the market, 'multi-nation, multi-type and multi-theme' is our principle for importing films in 2005," Guan said.
According to Tong, the proportion of imported movies depends on the scale of the Chinese film market. Currently, most Chinese cinemas are traditional single theatres, which are physically limited in the number of movies they can show. In order to protect Chinese movies from being overwhelmed by foreign competition, the administration requires the cinemas to spend at least two-thirds of the annual run time on domestic films.
More multi-screen cinema complexes are part of the solution, and the administration is actively promoting various types of investment - including private and foreign - to help build more cinemas, and thus bring more foreign movies to China, said Tong.
Seeking 2008 Olympic Songs
The second round of the campaign to solicit songs for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games was officially launched on December 1. Organizers have called for entries by institutions, individual professionals and amateurs from both home and abroad.
The announcement was made by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) at a November 30 press conference held in the newly established Beijing Olympic Media Centre.
There are no restrictions on the forms or genres of the submissions, which, according to the conditions of the competition, must fully display the Olympic spirit of solidarity, respect, fair play, joy and friendship. The deadline for submissions is April 25, 2005 . A panel composed of professional musicians will select the top ten entries, which will be announced on June 2005. Each of the ten winners will receive a cash reward of 10,000 yuan (US$1,210).
Further conditions state that all entries should be recorded on either cassette tapes or audio CDs, and should be submitted together with a written version of the entry, the author's biography and contact details, and a signed letter of copyright transfer. Detailed information and relevant submission documents are available at www.beijing-olympic.org.cn, the official Web site of BOCOG, or at www.fm974.tom.com, the official Web site of Beijing Music Radio, one of the competition's co-organizers.
Event organizers say the campaign promotes the "People's Olympics" concept and hopes to inspire broad participation in the Olympic Movement in China .
Beijing Supermarket Displays Louvre Art Replicas
More than 80 pieces of replica artworks from the world-famous Louvre Museum in Paris were displayed in a Carrefour Supermarket in Beijing in December.
World-renowned sculptures such as the "Goddess of Victory" and "Aphrodite," among others, were made available to lucky Beijinger's whose "dream pilgrimages" to Paris may be, at best, a remote possibility.
During the exhibition, experts from the French National Museum Association explained aspects of ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures and modern French civilization to those who viewed the works.
Beijing 's Capital Culture
Today, Beijing 's cultural life reflects China 's complex history and its position in a rapidly changing world. Full of contradictions and spectacular exclamations, it's a place partially frozen in time as well as speeding to light-years ahead. As culture means everything, not just the art and grandiosity of its heyday, there is much to see and enjoy in the capital's culture.
Peking Opera is a pure form of Chinese opera, dating back to 1790 when four local opera troupes from Anhui Province came to Beijing to perform at the imperial court. There are many opera theatres easily found in the city.
Painting and Calligraphy
Chinese calligraphy ( shufa or brush calligraphy) is an art distinct to Asian cultures. Regarded as the most abstract and sublime form of art in Chinese culture, calligraphy is thought to be revealing of personality. Unlike other visual art techniques, calligraphy is permanent and irredeemable, demanding careful planning and confident execution. It relies on word structure as much as expression to achieve greatness. The principles of the art are to "exercise the imagination," and follow the laws and regulations of its craft.
The history of acrobatics in China can be traced to the Neolithic period (more than 5,000 years ago) and is believed to come from the people's self-defence skills practiced during leisure time. Although rarely performed as street performances, as was historically the case, there are many opportunities to see Chinese acrobatics
In China , pottery has a long and sometimes difficult history. Earliest earthenware dates to the Neolithic period around 5,000 years ago, while Chinese porcelain was first known to be made in the Han Dynasty (202 BC-AD 220).
Chinese architecture has a distinct and notable history, having made considerable achievements across many historical periods. It is logically associated with such feats of greatness as the Great Wall, considered the Eighth Wonder of The World. In the process of its development, superior architectural techniques and design were combined to make Chinese architecture one of the three great architectural systems.
(Source: Beijing Official Guide 2004)
Beijing ( Peking ) Opera
Beijing 's culture is today a complex reflection of China 's history and its position in a rapidly changing world. Full of contradictions and spectacular exclamations, it's a city partially frozen in time as well as light-years ahead. As culture is everything, not just the art and grandiosity of its heyday, there is much to see, and enjoy.
All kinds of performances are staged in Beijing throughout the year. Peking Opera, musicals and acrobatics, ballet and other kinds of opera, afford Beijingers many opportunities for entertainment.
Peking Opera is a pure form of Chinese opera, dating to 1790 when four local opera troupes from Anhui Province came to Beijing to perform at the imperial court. The tour was successful and the artists stayed. They brought with them the essence of local Hubei opera and drew on the best of Kun Qu, Qin Qiang, Bangzi and other local operatic forms. Over 200 years of development, Peking Opera became more assimilated and developed into a pure form of Beijing or Peking Opera. Musical instruments from other nationalities, like the erhu and jing hu were incorporated. It is called â€˜opera' because it includes singing, dancing, martial arts, musical arts and literature, similar to Western opera.
The four main roles in Peking Opera are sheng , dan , jing , chou. They are denoted by different markings in face make-up. Apart from sheng and dan , the different colors of the face are be used for other roles, representing various characters and personalities. Therefore, the ability to read the face markings is a key to understanding the stories.