After the rain on Friday night, the warm sun came out again on Saturday, and we left the PKU campus for a few hours to wander around the monuments and gardens of the Summer Palace. Just a few stops on the subway north-west from Peking University East Gate station, we arrived at Beigongmen, and explored the numerous buildings, winding paths, and museums at Liheuyan. Particularly impressive were the Hall of Dispelling Clouds and the Pagoda of Buddhist Virtue, but the replica shops along Sizhou Street, either side of the canal in the north, were also interesting and surprisingly picturesque. A great deal of restoration work was done in advance of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and the green, gold, blue and red painting on the buildings was resplendent in the sunlight. This contrasts greatly with the much less restored buildings of the Garden of Virtue and Harmony. It made a lovely day out, and a good escape from the tyranny of e-mails!
An early rise, and then a couple of bus journeys north took us to the Great Wall at Badaling. Without Chen Fei to guide us, we would never have found our way there and back by local transport! However, this definitely added to the adventure. On arrival, we chose to head south-westwards up the Wall, rather than north-east where most of the other visitors seemed to be heading. Even in March, though, the Wall was crowded, as the pictures below illustrate. It is an amazing construction, and it is hard to imagine the scale of the effort that went into its creation! Building the Wall across such inhospitable environments was an extraordinary feat!
When I first visited Beijing in January 2004, I remember being amazed by the grandeur and beauty of the Forbidden City, experiencing it on a very cold day with almost no-one there. Returning today, in late March, the queues to enter were long, but the Palace somehow swallowed them all up. It had lost nothing of its impressive beauty and splendour. As well as the sheer scale of the buildings and courtyards, much of its beauty lies in the detail of the paintings and carvings. It is the small hidden courtyards of the north-eastern corner where much of its special enchantment can be found. The Forbidden City is by far and away the most impressive building complex I have ever visited.
The blossom has just started opening around Weiming Lake on Peking University’s campus. It’s a beautiful place simply to wander around in the early evening before the sun sets and the temperature drops to around freezing.
Am I the only one who gets infuriated when I hear citizens of the USA referring to themselves as Americans, as though the only Americans in the world are US citizens? America is a continent, indeed for some two continents: South America and North America. Guatemalans, Canadians, Argentinians, Brazilians, Peruvians are all Americans. We therefore need to invent a new word to refer to citizens of the USA, and their language.
Perhaps we should all start referring to USans (as in Jamaicans but from the USA), USish (as in English or Spanish) and USese (as in Portuguese). The trouble is that these do not roll easily off the tongue! However, at least it might begin to stop the rot. Why do so many US citizens really think that they have a natural born right to rule the world! If we stop calling them Americans, it might make them think twice about the real place of the USA.
Britain once imposed its rule over much of the world, but most of us born here now realise the perils of imperialism. By encouraging USans to realise that they come from a relatively small country lacking in culture and history, we might actually be doing them a huge favour, helping them to find their true place in the world – not as an aggressor seeking to impose one particular vision of so-called democracy on the rest of the world, but instead as a peaceful neighbour seeking to do good. After all, the USA has merely 4.5% of the world’s population, and is dwarfed by China with 19.5% and India with 17.3%. When China and India take their rightful places as world leaders, what will poor USans do then? At the very least, the next time you hear a US citizen referring to themselves as an American, do ask whether they come from Ecuador, Venezuela or Costa Rica and see what the reaction is!
The BBC today reported that the Xinhua News Agency has recently announced that China is to delay a controversial plan that would require all new computers sold in the country to be equipped with internet filtering software (Green Dam Youth Escort). According to the BBC, “Officials say it is designed to shield children from pornography and violence. However, free speech activists have criticised the software plan as an attempt to tighten the Chinese government’s already strict controls on internet usage”.
The Xinhua report is as follows: “BEIJING, June 30 (Xinhua) — China will delay the mandatory installation of the controversial “Green Dam-Youth Escort” filtering software on new computers, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said here Tuesday. The pre-installation was delayed as some computer producers said such massive installation demanded extra time, said the ministry. All computers produced or sold in China were scheduled to be installed with such software after July 1, according to MIIT’s previous announcement. The ministry would continue to provide a free download of the software and equip school and Internet bar computers with it after July 1, said a spokesman with MIIT. The ministry would also keep on soliciting opinions to perfect the pre-installation plan, he said. The software is designed to block violence and pornographic contents on the Internet to protect minors. It could also help parents control how much time their children spent online“.
This is yet another example of the intricate changes in relationships between states and individuals that have been enabled by ICTs. Much more work needs to be done better to understand the ethical implications of such changes.