I love China. And, it's not by accident, as I step off the plane to explore this magnificent corner of the world, I am filled with music: Beethoven's 9th Symphony in D Minor, also known as “The Choral,” one of the greatest, most complex, pieces of music ever written.
No single performance of the 9th defines the greatness of Beethoven's genius, nor does any single aspect of China define its significant contributions to the world. To me, China feels like the most complex of symphonies, sweet and discordant, all the pieces seamlessly coming together.
China is like an over-sized canvas filled with constantly changing images, from its muted tones on a hazy day to its vibrantly exploding colors. The skyline, dotted with hundreds of cranes atop unfinished skyscrapers, pieces of colorful laundry strung from windows of most living spaces dancing in the wind, bicycles weaving in and out of traffic on crowded highways, people flowing gracefully through T'ai chi meditative exercises in parks - all moving in concert like the 9th.
Travelling from Bejing, imagining what it must have been like to live behind the walls of the Forbidden City, to Xi'an, experiencing the awe of the ancient Terracotta Warriors and to the never ending construction of skyscrapers in Shanghai, we saw how China has bridged the gap from the old to the new as did Beethoven in his magnificent 9th Symphony.
With stops in Chengdu, home of the Panda Park, Guilin, dotted with its scenic rice terraces, Yangshuo, a small village in Moon Hill at the base of the Karst mountains, continuing onto Hong Kong and ending in Shanghai, where we embraced the great contrast between the old and the new.
Art defines China from most every angle. Strolling through Bejing's night market with its over-flowing tables of bugs, snakes, locusts, starfish and various other insects and animals was a 'foodie's' dream/nightmare and a photographer's dream come true.
Through raindrops and transparent clouds lending a feeling of 'otherworldliness' to the Longji terraced fields, we climbed what seemed like hundreds of steps to experience unique geography and folk villages of the Zhuang and Yao people. Our first stop was in the Huangluo Yao Village, also called The Long Hair Village. Named thus as the women who live in this village only cut their hair once in their lives, when they turn 18, as a rite of passage.
Hong Kong, China's window to the world is divided into two by Victoria Harbor. For us, a highlight of this city is the top of the Victoria Peak Tram, a perfect view of Hong Kong's breathtaking skyline. From Hong Kong we completed our adventure in Shanghai, with its 23 million, very busy residents. This city embodies the potential of China. From the very top of the world's tallest observatory, Shanghai World Financial Center Observatory, to a walk along the Bund, one is filled with a sense of the old and new juxtaposed as the instruments playing the 9th.
The identity of China is shaped by its history.
China, its geography and culture play together in concert, as does Beethoven's 9th Symphony, with its voices and instruments fitting together. Both explode in the depth of my very soul.
Beethoven's last symphony and the end of our journey. The score is an exclamation of humanity giving order to chaos. Both China and Beethoven show a sense of humanitarian connection. I still have no idea of why this particular composition came to me as I entered this country. I am grateful it did.
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