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The Magnificent China

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Murshida Ferdous Binte Habib

When the flight no MH197 of Malaysian Airlines spread its wings headed to Beijing, from Zia International Airport Dhaka, sitting inside the aircraft, I could hardly guess how magnificent and gorgeous China is. I did not have a clear idea about the people, economy, politics and life style of the country. During my school life I read a feature on Chinese civilisation where I read 'the Chinese had a deep rooted civilisation, they were obedient; women of China used to wear tiny shoes to mould their feet small; they used to sit in the classroom facing back to their teacher to show respect; Confucius was their great philosopher' and so .on. Gradually reading other books on different "ism" I got the impression that as a socialist country the life and livelihood in China was somewhat different from others. After a change of political doctrine, when China started to compete with the open market economy I came to learn that things have changed there; but how much it had changed and how much reform had taken place one could hardly imagine without going there. Thanks to Almighty, I had the chance to have a trip to China when my paper was accepted for oral presentation in the 28th International Congress of Psychology held on 8-13 August 2004 at the Beijing International Convention Centre (BICC). After reaching there and visiting some of the places in Beijing I got the only impression about the country, i. e., ' the magnificent China'!

The first thing that caught my eyes there was its colour! People here and there, whatever their age, sex, and status, like to wear colourful clothes and accessories. Though within the Convention Centre the volunteers wore yellow t- shirt and jeans, participants from China and the people within the city wore very colourful dress and, of course, in most of the cases, they seemed very much alike to me. I was keenly interested in their shoes, particularly in women, as I read about their bound feet. It was also very colourful, decorative and fashionable. The Chinese projected their liking for different colours not only by their dresses but the skyscrapers, buildings, shops, hotels and restaurants all are colourful there. Highways and roads were colourful too by cultivating different flowers on both the sides in a planned and organised way. Surprisingly I found there many common flowers of our country like jasmine (belt), rose, cherry, and even 'kalaboty'!

Another important feature is its culture and heritage. During our seven days' tour we participated in different sessions of the Congress. But whenever we had time we utilised every bit of it. We visited many historical places. Mention should first be made about the Great Wall- one of the world's seven wonders of the medieval times. It was 12 August at 8.30 a.m. we started for the Great Wall. There were other participants of the Congress who were divided into several groups under different guides. We were in Leena's group. It took about one hour to reach to the Great Wall from the BICC. When we were near the Wall, our bus was moving through the zigzag path of the hills, a feeling of excitement overwhelmed me. As if we were soaring up the sky! We were passing through such a wonder of the world that had been built by several dynasties to protect their empire. It was really a wonder that they could build such a heavy and strong long wall during that period. Moving through the hills our bus reached a particular point from where the bus could not go farther. So we alighted to have some unforgettable experience by climbing the wall. Unfortunately it was drizzling all day long. But curiosity and inquisitiveness got the better part of us. So we moved on! Our one hand was on the railing and the other held an umbrella, climbing stair after stair we were marching upward against the wind and gravity!

It was laborious and difficult but very much exciting. People of different ages and races, kids with parents, couples, disabled people with walking -stick, old aged people with dazzling eyes were there. One after another they were climbing stairs! As if it were a place of reunification or carnival where thousands of people of different countries gathered to have fun and amusement. I noticed that the stairs, though made of stone, were worn off because of continuous movement of visitors. We did not have enough time rather had to struggle with the wet weather so we stepped not too far. But as far we could see the Wall was stretched through the hill with some watch towers surrounded by long green trees. We came to know that spanning a total of 5660 km the Wall starts from the banks of the Yalu River in the east and meanders towards the Qilian and Tianshan Mountains in the west by the way of Hebei, Beijing, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Shanxi and Gansu.

It had many twists and turns and some part of it was constructed on the extremely steep mountain ridge. It was structured in such a way as if a dragon were drinking water from a river. Another important feature of the Wall was it had different looks in different parts as well as in different seasons! Somewhere it looks like a flying eagle or a bow or over all a dragon with the seasonal best look in autumn. However, we got down from the Wall and bought some souvenir. On our way back our guide, Leena, was describing the roads, buildings, and infrastructure of China but we could hardly listen to her because we were fully absorbed in our experience of Great Wall!

On our way back from the Great Wall we had given the opportunity to visit a factory of Cloisonne, a famous and ancient art and craft of China. Lots of decorative items were there in display like large and small vase, earrings, paintings etc. Cloisonne, named as enamelware, have originated in Beijing of Yuan dynasty and prevailed during the Jingtai period (1450- 1456) of Ming Dynasty. It is typically called 'Blue of Jingtai' as blue was the dominant colour used for enamelling, Cloisonne ware was used by the royal families alone. It was the symbol of authority and status. Cloisonne is the everlasting art and loved by the people of the world.

Next we had a quick visit to Ming Tomb, the general name given to the mausoleums of 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368- 1644), which is 50 km Northwest from Beijing. Served by three stone doors, it is divided into three Halls that consist of five high palaces- the front, the middle, the rear, the left and the right palaces. Twenty-seven meters deep under the ground, the rear hall is the main and biggest part of the palace. The coffins of Emperor Zhu Yijun and his two empresses are in this palace. The layout and arrangement of all 13 mausoleums are very similar but vary in size as well as in the complexity of their structure. The mausoleums had been perfectly preserved, as has the necropolis of each of the many emperors. Because of its long history, palatial and integrated architecture, the site has a high cultural and historic value. To reach the halls beneath the earth one has to step down 160 stairs! But certainly one will forget the stress of stairs stepping, as soon he/she will enjoy the yard around with green grass and large trees!

We visited the Forbidden City, the palace for Ming and Qing Dynasties. The walls, decorative and magnificent halls and pavilions, the monuments and different structures are the splendid reminders about the Chinese civilisation of about 500 years ago. After keeping behind the traditional buildings and multi- faced life stream of Beijing when we reached the Forbidden City we felt that we were going to enter a real empire of a king of fairy tales whose royal house was spread over an area of more than 720,000 square meter. The Forbidden City was surrounded by 10 meters high and 3428 meters long strong impenetrable wall. There are four gates to enter the Forbidden City which is divided into two-parts, the outer and the inner courts. Anyone who would cross the fascinating and well decorated halls and pavilions of the Forbidden City one after another would have to feel that the palace of Ming and Qing dynasties was unquestionably one of the most magnificent and ancient architectural works of the world. So did we!

We visited the historical Tiananmen Square where a huge gate was built named Tiananmen Gate. A large portrait of Chairman Mao Tse Dong was sketched on the top of the gate. This is the place that reminds the historic declaration of China as People's Republic by Chairman Mao in 1949. Another historic item of Tiananmen Square was Chairman Mao Tse Dong's mausoleum. We were also on the queue to visit the mausoleum. There was a statue of Chairman Mao in front room of the hall where everyday hundreds of people gather to show respect to the great leader. In another room, Chairman Mao's corpse is still preserved as mummy with heavy security force. When we entered the room the solemn atmosphere there also aroused a feeling of respect inside me.

But at the same time being a Muslim I felt some sort of uneasiness as well by watching this type of worship. Nonetheless, it was an exceptional experience to see the great leader in that condition.

Temple of Heaven, located in the Tiantan Park of Beijing, was also in our list of places to visit. We were especially interested in the Temple because it was used as the logo of our congress. An echo wall surrounded it where some curious visitors were trying to hear the voice from the opposite end. But their efforts yielded with no success. The domes of the temples are round and the bases are squares that were very much colourful and decorative with floral designs. Temple of Heaven is a sacred place where rituals were performed for good harvesting.

Along with these glorious and historical places there was a special event that added special flavour to our trip. It was the Beijing Opera Show! My first introduction with the word 'Opera' happened when I was a kid. Though at that time I did not know the meaning of the word I could realise it was some sort of drama that 'parents of kids used to go and enjoyed much' which I collected from Russian storybooks during my childhood. Also I can visualise 'a shell shaped building' of Sydney, when we hear the 'opera house'. And at long last, I came to know what opera practically is during my first visit to Beijing. The colourful and aesthetic performance of the artists was highly commendable. The presentation was in Chinese but before commencement every event was described in English. Thus we could easily understand their presentation. They presented their culture and heritage of hundreds of years back. These were about the Buddhist; about their different dynasties; about the reasons of making of the Great Wall; they depicted the folklore of the nation. The show was accompanied by dinner. But we were so spell bound by their lively performance that the dishes did not catch our attention. The opera show seemed to me just a colourful and decorative 'Nakshi Kantha' of our country that was presented with motion! After the show we were invited on the stage to have photograph with the artists. The beautiful artists in colorful and gorgeous dress, the illumination, the background picture, the flowers and the balloons on the stage fascinated us to think that we were in a fairyland! The Beijing night show is a true representation of the magnificent China!

The story would be incomplete if I do not say anything about the Congress. We were five members in the team with two papers. Professor Anwarul Hasan Sufi had a joint paper with his wife, Dr. Sultana Nazneen, on the special education of mentally retarded persons of Bangladesh. The title of my paper was " Child labour in Bangladesh: Interpersonal relationship of the employers and employees". It was also a joint paper with my supervisor Professor Sufi. We had another two members in our group, two children of Dr. Sufi, who attended the congress as accompanying persons. Some 5600 psychologists and psychiatrists from all over the world were present.

The Congress was held on the Beijing International Congress Centre (BICC) where many international conferences on different disciplines are regularly taken place. The duration of our congress was six days, from 8th- 13th August 2004. There were numerous sessions in different rooms of different floors. It was also accompanied by poster sessions that were the pictorial of diagrammed presentations of different fields of Psychology.

My presentation was on 11th August, at 2.00 pm. It was really exciting and thrilling. The paper was on my research work that I carried out for the last two years. In fact, during the last two years, keeping other things stop, I was totally engaged in my research work. So the paper was also a reflection of my labour and hazards of the last two years. I also presented there some slides on child labour situation of our country through power point. It was of course a new dimension in psychology because as much as I searched I found child labour issue was much dealt with from sociological viewpoint, not from psychological perspective. That is why it attracted people enormously and invited lot of questions. I am grateful to Almighty that all the answers of my supervisor and myself satisfied the enthusiastic participants there and made them inquisitive in the field. I am also moved by perceiving how much progress and development have been taken place in different arenas, of psychology in this 21st century and at the same time also disappointed by realising the limited expansion of psychology in our country. But if psychologists of our country come forward to take proper measures and initiatives the discipline can be used extensively for the benefits of the people of Bangladesh. However, the Congress was a vast platform for the psychologists all over the world to exchange their views and ideas about their fields. As it is arranged in every four year, next congress will be held in Germany, 2008.

My intention was to express my experiences in Beijing. Along with enjoyable experiences I had some bitter experiences too during my seven days stay in Beijing. The main problem was the language barrier. The Chinese were very poor in English and we knew anything but Chinese. Thus communication with them became a tough job for us. I can remember some incidences that were humorous but really terrible! As we entered the Huiyuan Apartment, where we were accommodated, the first trouble shot up. While we were completing the formalities in the reception desk a trolley boy suddenly put the registration bag of my colleague in a trolley and dropped it to a room of different building where an Indian couple had their accommodation. When we noticed the missing of the bag we asked the reception desk and the people around. None of them understood what we wanted to know. We tried in several ways but failed. Even we tried sign language but that did not work too. Suddenly in the elevator we met a group of Indians and told them the situation. Next morning Dr. Sufi hung a notice on the board of BICC. All these efforts were finally meted with success.

In the shopping centres, restaurants public places, in the case of hiring taxi we faced this type of hazards. Even in the Congress we met many renowned Chinese professors of different universities who were very friendly and helpful but because of the language barrier we could seldom exchange our ideas and views with them.

We had a very peculiar experience when for the first time we went to a nearby restaurant for dinner. It was almost an adventure for us. After roaming around in an adjacent market suddenly we noticed a restaurant and we were very excited because of our discovery of an original Chinese restaurant. Bu t we could not guess what sort of experiences were waiting for us.

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