It’s the 61st Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (National Day or 国庆节). Partayyy! That’s what it was in Tiananmen Square. Cotton candy, corn on the cob, massive floral displays, and… multi-colored plastic devil horn headbands. I have yet to discover their significance. But in essence, the mood on the square tonight resembled that of our Fourth of July. It was unfortunately (or fortunately) not the security-ridden atmosphere that I’d previously conjured up in my mind. Perhaps last year when China rounded its sixth decade the mood was a bit more conflicted, but I doubt it. All the controversial censorship, arrests, and injustices that plague the foreign press coverage on China feel like bitter annoyances when you stare into the crisp, glistening characters on two giant flat screens that illuminate messages of technological success, economic progress and a harmonious society. There is no looming sense of dissatisfaction here but one of overwhelming pride. After all, tonight’s square wasn’t empty but bustling with a smiling crowd snapping photos of their kids posing with Chinese flags and peace signs. And in the end, what’s not to be proud of? All the bad aside, because every country has its dark side, China’s unprecedented growth in the last twenty years is not to be taken lightly. Recognizing the pressures experienced in the past from both within its borders and abroad we might make rational sense not only of China’s rapid economic development but also of its political system. Of course there are many problems left to tackle here, but every citizen deserves a day to honor and rejoice in the successes of the country they live in.
So a bit of editing, but otherwise our trip to Hongcun and my pictures aren’t incredibly exciting. I talked to a kid in our group on the bus ride over to this historic “village” and he told me he was convinced that it was actually a fake village created by the government as communist propaganda. I definitely don’t buy that, but we did have to buy tickets in order to enter (getting to be a trend here) and there were lots of little salesmen looking to rip off foreigners and tourists. Good thing I love to shop so my bargaining skills are rapidly improving! This picture captures the best part of Hongcun, (literally “Red Village”—haha maybe my friend was right about the propaganda) which is that lots of art students come to practice painting the beautiful country landscape. I talked to our tour guide and he said they were all using watercolors, a type of paint not commonly used in China (Chinese painting with ink is most common) but all of their work was quite impressive…as you can see.