Posts Tagged ‘Qin Shi Huang’

  • Unlocking the Great Wall’s stories

    ‘He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man’ declares a Chinese saying.

    After being confronted by the challenging steps of this legenday wall, I must admit that I understand fully the meaning behind this expression.

    Constructing the Great Wall of China

    A section of Juyongguan Pass (Photo - Fiona Vella)The Great Wall consists of a massive series of fortifications which extend over five thousand kilometres from east to west in north China. Since it outstretches over a number of provinces, one can visit its diverse sections from various locations. Its construction took around two thousand years and it involved the input of several dynasties which were ruling the country during different period.

    Since for many years, various Chinese states were at war against each other, by the 7th century BC, the locals had already mastered an excellent skill in the building of protective walls with which to defend their villages. It was from this period that construction of the Great Wall commenced.

    In 221 BC, Qin Shi Huang succeeded to win over all his opponents. He unified China for the first time, established the Qin Dynasty, and became the first Emperor. To impose a centralization of authority, he ordered the destruction of various defensive walls which had been built around the country by different feudal lords. Instead, he constructed new walls which connected a number of fortifications that were situated in the northern side of his empire. These were intended to shield his people and his country from the opponent nomadic tribe Xiongnu which resided in this area (today known as Mongolia).

    It was no easy feat to construct these walls in the chosen locations which winded throughout valleys or climbed across mountains. At the time, no machinery was available to facilitate this grueling work. Yet, the Chinese managed to erect these walls by utilizing the material that was available in each particular zone and by working according to the contours of the terrain.

    No one knows how many people worked or died during the construction of this wall. Many insist that the total number could easily reach millions. Certainly, their effort led to the creation of a unique masterpiece which today is regarded as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. In 1987, the Great Wall of China became also part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.

    A popular legend

    Meng Jiang NuThis wall is imbued with many narratives and legends. Yet the most popular is surely that of Meng Jiang Nü; a young woman who is believed to have lived during the 3rd century BC, in the Qin Dynasty.

    Her story recounts that one day, Fan Qi Liang, a young man who had been engaged to work on the Great Wall, succeeded to escape from this strenuous job. He ran with all his might along the way until at one point, he was so exhausted that he stopped to hide in the garden of Meng’s father.

    The two fell in love immediately as soon as their eyes met, and some time after, they got married. Yet unfortunately, their happinness did not last long as the man was located by soldiers and he was taken back to work on the wall.

    The woman waited and waited for her husband’s return. But when winter was close and he still did not come back, she sewed some warm clothes for him in order to protect him from the cold. She went in search of him at his work place but after she looked out for him wherever she could and inquired about him, she was finally informed that her husband had died and that he had been buried within the wall itself.

    This tragic news shattered the woman’s spirit and she was so griefed that she spent a whole day and a whole night weeping beneath the wall. Her desperation ran so deep that suddenly, the wall in front of her crumbled and a number of corpses slid out of it.

    Shocked at this gruesome scene, Meng Jiang Nü cut her finger and she allowed her blood to trickle on the corpses. At one point, she noticed that all her blood ran to a particular corpse and it was then that she recognized her husband’s body. She gathered him lovingly and gave him a decent burial. Then, she walked to a river and ended her life within.

    Juyongguan Pass – Beijing

    Juyongguan Pass in the mist (Photo - Fiona Vella)I had read and heard so much about the greatness of this wall that when I arrived at one of its sections in Beijing, known as Juyongguan Pass, I simply stood in silence and in awe.

    My eyes ran afar, up into the sky where a thick fog was hiding the highest part that was visible from the ground. Located at around fifty kilometres away from Beijing, this part of the wall is about 4000 metre long and is situated amongst the mountains of Changping District.

    This pass has always been renowned for its strategic significance and its impenetrability. Notwithstanding this, in 1644, a group of rebellious farmers led by Li Zicheng, managed to enter into Beijing by overcoming this area. It is said that this happenned not because of any weakness in the wall but due the fact that the local people were too impoverished to resist.

    Today, Juyongguan Pass is distinguished for its lovely scenic views of the surrounding forests, particularly since these change their colours according to season.

    Experiencing the magic of the Great Wall

    We arrived at nine in the morning in order to avoid the crowds but there were already many visitors climbing the wall. The weather was not very welcoming as it was drizzling and the fog made it difficult to take very good photos. Yet nothing could stop us from climbing that legendary wall which we had all dreamt so much about!

    Experiencing the Great Wall of China (I am the one in black) - (Photo - Fiona Vella)Up we went the first steps but soon we realized that it was not going to be that easy to climb too far. For the Great Wall’s steps were constructed in differing heights in order to make it difficult for the enemy to run up and make a surprise attack. Whilst some of the steps were low, others were quite high and after a short time, if you’re not the sporty kind, you’ll definitely find yourself out of breath.

    Step after step, we arrived at the first tower which consisted of a number of small rooms. I decided to check out a set of narrow stairs which led to the tower’s roof and from there, the overview of the open landscape was even more splendid. I looked around in a blending state of rapture, wonder and disbelief as I imagined that this could have been the same view that the legendary soldiers watched over. For a moment, time seemed to stop and the present melted into the past as I simply stood there holding on to the ancient stones.

    I could have stayed there to absorb within me all the history of the place but the group needed to move on and so, we climbed further. Over all, the set up of the wall repeats itself as its length is divided into steps and a number of towers. Yet I can say that I would have continued to climb all day if we did not have planned to visit other sites.

    Going down the steps was relatively easy but by then, the place had become quite crowded with people of all nationalities who came to visit.

    A love bound to eternity

    Lovelocks attached to the Great Wall (Photo - Fiona Vella)As I stole a last glance at this architectural and historic marvel, I noticed a quantity of lovelocks that were fastened to chains running along the Great Wall. On a closer look, I found out that these were decorated with heart designs and the names of couples were engraved on each of them. Our guide told us that those lovelocks formed part of an old Chinese tradition which stated that if a couple wrote their names on a lock and closed it on this chain, their love would be eternal, just like the destiny of this mythical wall.

    (This article was published in the Travel Supplement of the Sunday Times of Malta dated 21st June 2015)

    2015.06.21 / no responses / Category: The Sunday Times - Articles



    Xu Huizhong Gu Yanzhao


    Fil-5 t’April 2014, rappreżentanti mill-Ambaxxata taċ-Ċina f’Malta u numru oħra ta’ persuni Ċiniżi, ngħaqdu ma’ xi individwi Maltin, fosthom mal-Ministru tal-Finanzi, Edward Scicluna, mas-Sindku ta’ Santa Luċija, Frederick Cutajar u ma’ membri tal-Malta-China Friendship Society, sabiex jattendu għal ċerimonja ta’ tifkira taż-żewġ ħaddiema Ċiniżi li tilfu ħajjithom f’pajjiżna fl-1979. Dawn iż-żewġ ħaddiema kienu jiffurmaw parti minn mijiet ta’ Ċiniżi li ntbagħtu mill-gvern tagħhom f’pajjiżna, sabiex jgħinu fil-kostruzzjoni tad-Dry Dock numru 6, jew kif inhu magħruf illum, ir-Red China Dock. Dan sar wara ftehim fis-sebgħinijiet bejn iċ-Ċina u Malta, fejn iċ-Ċina qablet li tagħti daqqa t’id lill-gżejjer tagħna li kienu għadhom qed jirkupraw biex ikabbru l-ekonomija tagħhom.

    Iż-żewġ ħaddiema Ċiniżi li tilfu ħajjithom f’Malta

    Sfortunatament, Xu Huizhong, inġinier Ċiniż ta’ 47 sena, tilef ħajtu traġikament fis-16 ta’ Marzu 1979 waqt li kien qed jaqdi dmiru fil-bini tal-baċir. Huwa ġie onorat bil-Midalja Għall-Qadi tar-Repubblika fit-23 t’April 1979. Min-naħa l-oħra, l-inġinier Gu Yanzhao, miet b’kawża naturali fl-età ta’ 46 sena, waqt li hu wkoll kien qed jaħdem fl-istess baċir. Kienu l-familjari tagħhom stess li għażlu li dawn iż-żewġ ħaddiema jindifnu f’Malta sabiex b’hekk huma jsibu l-mistrieħ u l-paċi fil-pajjiż li ħadmu għalih. Il-familjari xtaqu wkoll li permezz ta’ din id-deċiżjoni, dawn l-għeżież tagħhom ikunu ‘preżenti’ meta l-proġett jitlesta u li l-quddiem, in-nies tal-lokal jibqgħu jiftakruhom b’rispett.

    Fi kliem il-Ministru Scicluna, “M’hemmx sinjal akbar ta’ ħbiberija minn dik li tagħti ħajtek biex tgħin lil pajjiż ieħor.” U hekk kif bħalissa, permezz ta’ dawn l-artikli, qiegħda kull ma mmur nersaq u ninġibed aktar lejn iċ-Ċina u lejn niesha, ma stajtx inħalli dan il-mument jgħaddi mingħajr ma nistħarreġ aktar din l-istorja u dak kollu li bsart li se ġġib magħha….

    It-tradizzjoni antika taċ-Qingming Festival

    Bdejt billi żort il-qabar ta’ dawn iż-żewġ ħaddiema Ċiniżi li jinsab fiċ-ċimiterju tal-Addolorata. Miegħi ħadt bukkett fjuri sabiħ ikkulurit biex nuri sinjal ta’ rispett u mħabba. Iżda hekk kif wasalt quddiem il-qabar, mill-ewwel intbaħt li kont erġajt missejt ma’ xi aspett ieħor tal-kultura Ċiniża, hekk kif il-fjuri kollha li kienu tħallew qabel waqt iċ-ċerimonja msemmija, kienu ta’ lewn abjad u isfar. Mort mill-ewwel lura d-dar sabiex nifhem aħjar x’kien qed jiġri u sibt li din il-funzjoni annwali kienet tagħmel parti minn tradizzjoni antika Ċiniża magħrufa bħala Qingming Festival.

    Sabiex jgħinuni nifhem aktar dan il-kunċett, din il-ġimgħa ltqajt ma’ Qiu Guangling u ma’ l-assistent tagħha, Shi Qidong, ġewwa l-Ambaxxata taċ-Ċina f’Malta. Huma infurmawni li dan il-festival jifforma parti mill-24 aspett tal-kalendarju lunari Ċiniż fejn fosthom matulu jiġu ċċelebrati l-bidu tar-Rebbiegħa, u t-tifkira tal-antenati u tal-mejtin. Hemm min jirreferi għal dan il-Festival bħala ‘Pure Brightness Day’ jew inkella ‘Tomb-Sweeping Festival’ u dan dejjem jaħbat madwar il-5 t’April.

    Il-leġġenda ta’ Jie Zitui

    Iċ-Qingming Festival sikwit jiġi assoċċjat ma’ Jie Zitui li fis-7 seklu Q.K. kien jgħix fil-provinċja ta’ Shanxi. Jingħad li hu kien wieħed mill-ftit uffiċċjali li segwa lill-Chong Er, it-tifel tad-Duka ta’ Jin, meta dan kellu jħalli l-pajjiż minħabba nkwiet kbir li nqala’. Chong Er għex għal 19 il-sena fl-eżilju u s-sitwazzjoni li kien jgħix fiha tant kienet miżerabbli, li finalment abbandunah kulħadd, apparti ħames individwi, fosthom Jie Zitui. Dan l-uffiċċjal tant kien jirrispetta lill-kap tiegħu li meta darba minnhom Chong Er kien qed imut bil-ġuħ, huwa qata’ parti minn kuxxtejh u sajjarhielu ħalli dan ikun jista’ jistejqer b’laħmu.

    Intant, ġie żmien meta Chong Er irnexxielu jerġa’ jirbaħ it-tron li kien jistħoqqlu u huwa reġa’ lura lejn Jin bħala mexxej. Miegħu huwa ħa lill-uffiċċjali li kienu baqgħu leali lejh fi żmien tant imwiegħer u lil dawn tahom it-titlu ta’ nobbli. Imma għal xi raġuni, huwa nesa lil Jie Zitui li ormaj kien invalidu minħabba s-sagrifiċċju li kien għamel għall-kap tiegħu. Madanakollu, Chong Er ma damx ma ntebaħ bl-iżball li għamel u għalhekk huwa erħilha lejn il-muntanja Mian biex ifittex lil Jie Zitui, fejn dan kien mar joqgħod m’ommu. Iżda Jie Zitui kien sab l-hena fir-rifuġju tan-natura tal-ambjent tal-muntanja u b’xejn ma ried imur lura lejn il-belt. Għaldaqstant huwa baqa’ mistoħbi bit-tama li Chong Er jaqta’ qalbu u jħallih fil-paċi. Imma dan ma kellux ikun għax meta l-mexxej baqa’ ma sabx lil ħabibu, huwa tant webbes rasu li ried isibu, li ordna li l-foresta tal-muntanja tingħata n-nar ħalli Jie Zitui jiġi sfurzat joħroġ mill-moħba tiegħu. In-nar dam jaqbad tliet ijiem sakemm inħarqet il-muntanja kollha u meta n-nies ta’ Chong Er marru jfittxu lil Jie Zitui, huma sabuh maħruq flimkien m’ommu. Chong Er iddispjaċih ferm għalli ġara u b’rispett lejn dawn iż-żewġ individwi, huwa difinhom ħdejn il-muntanja Mian li bidlilha isimha għal Jie, u fuqha huwa bena tempju għall-memorja tagħhom.

    Bħala tifkira ta’ din it-traġedja, huwa ordna wkoll li kull sena, proprju f’dawk it-tliet ijiem, ħadd ma seta’ jqabbad nar fid-dar, u l-ikel kellu jittiekel kiesaħ biss. Kien hawnhekk li ngħata l-bidu għal ‘Hanshi’ jew ‘Cold Food Festival’. Aktar tard, madwar 300 sena ilu, fi żmien id-Dinastija Qing, dan il-Festival twaħħad maċ-Qingming Festival u l-okkażjoni nbidlet f’waħda ta’ tikira u sagrifiċċju għall-antenati. Illum, il-‘Cold Food Festival’ jiġi ċċelebrat ġurnata qabel iċ-Qingming u l-attivitajiet jibqgħu sejrin għal tliet ijiem sħaħ.

    Hekk kif aħna nagħmlu fil-bidu ta’ Novembru, meta nżuru ċ-ċimiterji u nuru r-rispett tagħna lejn qrabatna mejtin, fiċ-Ċina dan isir fil-bidu t’April. Għadd kbir ta’ nies jinġabru fiċ-ċimiterji biex inaddfu l-oqbra, jiżbgħu mill-ġdid il-kalligrafija li jkollhom miktuba fuqhom, jixgħelu l-inċens, u jħallu kriżantemi bojod u sofor, liema fjuri fil-kultura Ċiniża jesprimu s-swied il-qalb u n-niket. Barra minn hekk, huma joffru wkoll xi ikel u xorb lill-mejtin tagħhom u wara l-familjari jinġabru fuq il-qabar stess jew fil-ġonna tal-madwar sabiex jieklu dan l-ikel flimkien.

    Yin House Feng Shui

    Ta’ min isemmi illi meta jiġi biex jintagħżel sit għad-dfin, fiċ-Ċina jitqabbdu esperti tal-Feng Shui, liema użanza tikkonsisti minn forom ta’ arti u xjenza antiki li nħolqu f’dan il-pajjiż madwar 3000 sena ilu. L-għan prinċipali tal-Yin House Feng Shui huwa illi permezz ta’ għażla għaqlija tal-art fejn jindifnu l-mejtin, l-enerġija tagħhom tiġi mibdula f’enerġija pożittiva sabiex din tiġi riflessa f’riżq għall-familjari. Infatti ċ-Ċiniżi jemmnu illi jekk il-mejtin ma jitħallewx jistrieħu fil-paċi f’post li jassiguralhom serenità, il-familjari l-ħajjin isofru l-konsegwenzi.

    L-oqbra imperjali taċ-Ċina

    Dan il-prinċipju dwar l-oqbra ra l-bidu tiegħu meta l-bniedem ħoloq il-kunċett tar-ruħ u b’hekk daħħal ukoll l-idea ta’ ħajja oħra wara din. Għalhekk matul is-snin insegwu diversi tibdiliet fl-oqbra u dawn iservu bħala mera tal-ideat tas-soċjetà li tkun sawwrithom. Aktar ma jgħaddi ż-żmien, l-oqbra bdew kull ma jmur jirraffinaw ruħhom sakemm fil-perjodu ta’ wħud mill-aktar dinastiji qawwija, l-oqbra imperjali ħadu s-sura ta’ tempji sħaħ bil-ħsieb li l-mexxej seta’ jgawdi l-istess ambjent li kien imdorri fih f’ħajtu, anki wara mewtu.

    Il-Musulew tal-imperatur Qin Shi Huang

    Dan il-musulew inbena mill-imperatur Qin Shi Huang fit-3 seklu Q.K. sabiex iservi bħala l-qabar tiegħu. Din il-binja enormi kienet waħda minn ta’ l-ewwel ta’ din ix-xorta, fejn l-ambjent tal-madwar intagħżel apposta sabiex joffri l-atmosfera ġusta għall-imperatur wara li jmut. Skont kittieba antiki, oriġinarjament, dan il-musulew kien madwar 120 metru għoli u l-bażi tiegħu kellha qies ta’ 2167 metru. Diversi siġar u pjanti ġew imħawwla fl-inħawi sabiex isebbħu l-post, filwaqt li nbena lqugħ għall-ilma b’għoli ta’ 10 metri u tul ta’ 1400 metru ħalli jiġi evitat li l-ilma tax-xmajjar li kienu fil-qrib jgħerrqu l-inħawi. Barra minn hekk, inbidel il-kors tax-xmara li kienet tagħti lejn in-nofsinhar ta’ dan il-musulew u minflok il-passaġġ tagħha ddawwar fix-xmara Weihe ħalli b’hekk ilmijietha ma jkunux ta’ ostaklu.

    Huwa stmat illi ntużaw madwar 12.8 miljun metru kubu ta’ art biex biha tissawwar l-art tal-qabar tal-imperatur u ta’ xi oqbra oħra fl-istess sit, flimkien mal-kostruzzjoni tal-ilqugħ tal-ilma u tal-istatwi li kellhom jitpoġġew fil-post. Barra minn hekk, kien hemm bżonn ukoll 1.2 miljun metru kubu ieħor ta’ art sabiex biha jinbena l-qabar tal-imperatur. Ta’ min isemmi illi dan il-ġebel kollu ġie maqtugħ minn barrieri fil-muntanja Ganquan li kienet tinsab 200 kilometru bogħod mis-sit tal-musulew!

    Għal ġewwa dan il-qabar, l-imperatur Qin Shi Huang, ordna li jitpoġġew ukoll xogħolijiet imprezzabbli artistiċi u ta’ sengħa mill-aqwa, fosthom ġojjelli maħduma mid-deheb u l-fidda, tpinġijiet, kitbiet, ħwejjeġ u drappijiet u għadd ta’ dekorazzjonijiet oħra. Finalment, tant kien hemm ġid ġewwa dan il-musulew li huwa diffiċli biex wieħed jikkalkula kemm dawn setgħu swew ħin, xogħol, ħajjiet, materjal u flejjes. Imma ċertament, hekk kif l-imperatur miet u difen kollox miegħu, huwa refa wirt kulturali mill-ifjen għall-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ wara.

    Iżda l-imperatur ried aktar minn hekk bħala akkompanjament għall-vjaġġ tiegħu wara mewtu. Infatti biex inbena dan il-qabar, apparti li kienu ntagħżlu l-aqwa nies tas-sengħa, il-kostruzzjoni tiegħu li ħadet snin sħaħ, saret minn bosta kriminali, bdiewa li ma ħallsux it-taxxi, u skjavi. U flimkien mat-tiswir ta’ qabar l-imperatur, dawn kellhom jibnu wkoll qabar ieħor fuq art li kienet tinsab 1400 metru bogħod, li finalment laqgħet fiha lill-kriminali li ndifnu flimkien mal-imperatur mejjet. Infatti, waqt skavi arkeoloġiċi, instab li dan il-qabar kellu medda ta’ madwar 1,200 metru kwadru u li kien miżgħud bl-għadam uman.

    Ironikament, għalkemm kien qed ilesti post tant fantastiku għal wara mewtu, dan l-imperatur kien beżgħan ferm mill-mewt u għamel snin sħaħ ifittex il-famuż eliżir tal-ħajja sabiex jakkwista l-font tal-eternità. Minħabba li hu kien tirann krudili, saru diversi attentati fuq ħajtu imma dejjem irnexxielu jiskappaha. Sakemm darba xortih ħallietu u huwa miet waqt vjaġġ wara li bela’ xi pilloli tal-merkurju li suppost kellhom itawwlulu ħajtu!

    L-imperatur Qin Shi Huang tant kien mibgħud li wara mewtu, id-dinastija tiegħu ntemmet fi ftit taż-żmien u l-qabar tiegħu ġie misruq u maħruq aktar minn darba. Madanakollu, dan il-musulew tant kien massiċċ illi fis-sena 1974, waqt li xi bdiewa Ċiniżi kienu qed iħaffru bir, huma sfrundaw f’parti oħra li kienet għadha ma ġġarfitx u dak li nstab ħalla lil kulħadd mistagħġeb. Grupp ta’ arkeoloġisti ntbagħtu minnufih biex jiskavaw u jieħdu ħsieb is-sit fejn fost is-sejba enormi u unika, kien hemm armata kbira ta’ suldati tat-terrakotta akkumpanjati minn numru ta’ karrijiet biż-żwiemel, kollha b’daqs reali. Għalkemm instabu mijiet minn dawn is-suldati li kull wieħed ġie maħdum b’mod individwali u b’fattizzi u pożizzjonijiet differenti, huwa maħsub li b’kollox hemm madwar 8,000. Barra minn hekk, jidher li hemm ukoll 130 karru b’520 żiemel, u 150 żiemel tal-kavallerija midfuna f’dan il-musulew.

    Kull sena din is-sejba tiġbed eluf ta’ turisti lejn dan il-post. U kull meta tittella’ xi esebizzjoni f’pajjiżi oħra b’xi wħud minn dawn l-oġġetti li nstabu, din dejjem ikollha ħafna konkorrenza. Dan stqarritu wkoll il-Kuratriċi Anzjana tal-Mużew Nazzjonali tal-Arkeoloġija f’Malta, Sharon Sultana, meta fl-2007 f’pajjiżna ttelgħet esebizzjoni b’81 artifatt minn dan il-musulew tal-imperatur Qin Shi Huang, li fosthom kienu jinkludu 10 suldati tat-terrakotta u żewġt iżwiemel.

    Tradizzjonijiet oħra li jsiru waqt iċ-Qingming Festival

    Peress li dan il-festival jaħbat ukoll mal-bidu tar-Rebbiegħa, dan hu ż-żmien meta l-bdiewa jibdew jaħartu u jiżirgħu l-art tagħhom. Hu wkoll perjodu fejn diversi fjuri sbieħ jibdew isebbħu l-inħawi u għaldaqstant, parti miċ-ċelebrazzjoni tinkludi wkoll mixjiet fil-kampanja. Dan huwa wkoll mument fejn bosta żgħażagħ jiltaqgħu flimkien u bosta stejjer ġodda ta’ mħabba jibdew proprju f’dawn il-ġranet. Bħala tislima ferriħija għall-bidu ta’ dan l-istaġun ġdid, is-sema tintela’ b’għadd kbir ta’ manuċċi (jew tajr) maħdumin b’sengħa mill-aqwa u f’forom diversi u b’hekk dawn il-ġranet jiżżewqu anki b’memorji sbieħ u pożittivi.

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fit-Torċa ta’ l-20 t’April 2014)

    2014.04.20 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles