Posts Tagged ‘Shanghai’


    In contrast to the city of Beijing, wherein we visited some of the most splendid sites of Chinese historical significance, Shanghai seemed bound to impress us with its ultra modern, cosmopolitan character and its new high rises. Even though we were informed that a number of old structures in Shanghai were being preserved in order to conserve the roots of this area, our initial general impression was that the new buildings had taken over considerably its Chinese origins.

    Dehra ta' Zhujiajiao2Therefore, it was quite a pleasant surprise to learn that tucked safely away at relatively short distances from this avant-garde city, one could still find a wide selection of ancient water towns which offer the opportunity to relish the charm of an ancient China. Known as the ‘Little Venices of the East’, these unique towns of exceptional allure are a wonder of cultural landscape. A visit to at least one of them, is definitely a must once you are in Shanghai.

    Since we had only one day left in Shanghai, our guide led us to Zhujiajiao which is located only forty seven kilometers away from this city, in the district of Qingpu. With a history of around 1700 years, Zhujiajiao is renowned as one of the best preserved ancient water towns of the area. Like much of the other sites in China, once we got there, we found the place pretty crowded, especially since on that day, the local people were celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival. Indeed, during public holidays, these water towns are very popular with Shanghai residents who yearn for moments of tranquility, away from the hustle and bustle of the urban areas.

    Snajja' tradizzjonali2The settlement of Zhujiajiao dates back to the Yuan dynasty, when this location was turned into an important trading hub for the surrounding countryside. Since it is strategically situated at the intersection of a number of local rivers, Zhujiajiao continued to gain significance, and during the reign of Emperor Wanli of the Ming dynasty, it was granted township status. The town prospered by trading rice and cloth which were transported on boats from the surrounding countryside, right to the houses of the Zhujiajiao merchants.

    Today, this town which covers about 3 square kilometers, has a population of about 70,000 people. Although nowadays, one finds some recent and modern structures in Zhujiajiao, about a thousand of the surviving buildings and ancient markets were constructed during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

    Zhujiajiao, Shanghai2Thirty six bridges of different sizes, designs, and materials, cross the small rivers shaded by willow trees, and connect the ancient town. Whilst the narrowest bridges are only about a metre wide, Zhujiajiao can boast to have the largest stone arch bridge in Shanghai. Originally built in 1571 by the monk Xingchao of Cimen Temple in 1571, and then rebuilt in 1812, Fangsheng Bridge rests on five arches and is 70 metres long, and 5.8 metres high. The central arch is decorated with a stone relief of eight dragons surrounding a pearl, whilst the pillars at the ends are sculpted into lions.

    Interestingly, ancient bridges can be recognized from more recent ones by looking at the height of their stairs, since in the old days, these were quite steep, whereas nowadays, steps are constructed in lower and more uniform positions, in order to be more easily accessible, especially to the elderly.

    Il-gondola2Both these bridges and the town itself can be appreciated further by taking a cruise on one of the small bamboo gondolas that navigate the countless waterways of Zhujiajiao. A short trip and a longer one are offered, wherein the first takes passengers up and down the main canal, whilst the latter travels all over the town and back.

    In order to explore this town, one needs about four hours. Narrow streets filled with different shops that sell typical souvenirs and various other products are often packed with tourists who tend to disrupt the serenity that one would have expected to find in such a location. The one kilometre North Streetis the best preserved ancient street in this suburb where one can observe the historical architecture. On the other hand, in Xijin Street, one can visit the classical Kezhi Garden with its distinguished combination of traditional Chinese and Western styles.

    Selling traditional food (Photo - Fiona Vella)2A closer investigation of Zhujiajiao can offer much more to see, includingTongtianhe Medicine Shop, Qing Dynasty Post Office, Baoguo Temple, and Yuanjin Meditation Room. A selection of bars, restaurants, teahouses, and coffee shops provide the opportunity to rest and to taste some local cuisine whilst gazing out at the rivers or the main canal.

    Having gone through a period of inactivity, where life crawled on at a slow pace, in these last years Zhujiajiao has gone through a rapid transformation as both locals and foreigners began to long for such preserved gems which can relate strongly to a bygone period in China.

    Although some believe that the heavily touristic element on which the inhabitants have become highly dependent, is ruining the romantic nature of this sublime ancient water town, I can say that I enjoyed every minute which I spent in this exotic place. A heaven for photographers, Zhujiajiao provides an unforgettable experience of a surreal Chinese life which has succeeded to endure the test of time.

    (This article was published in ESCAPE Suppliment which was issued with the Sunday Times of Malta dated 1st November 2015)

    2015.11.01 / no responses / Category: The Sunday Times - Articles


    Travelling at an impressive 300km/hr, a high-speed railway train took 5 hours and a half to reach Shanghai from Beijing. The voyage was impeccably comfortable. The train station was huge and amazing. Yet the actual surprise was the sheer difference between Beijing and Shanghai.

    Modern buildings merge with older ones in Shanghai1 (Photo - Fiona Vella)Traffic in Beijing was crazy but we had hardly left Shanghai’s train station when we were already blocked behind a long queue of cars. This is no wonder if one considers that about 24 million people live in this city. Recent modernization and progress in Shanghai have attracted many persons and in the last five years, the population tripled itself.

    Along the road, we observed that plain residential high rises were wide to an extreme. Besides them, luxurious or commercial high rises glistened beautifully as if in a bid to outshine the sun itself. Older traditional structures, together with buildings which formed part of the foreign concession areas, claimed the passers-by attention with their distinguished architecture.

    Originally, a simple fishing village, Shanghai’s economy expanded rapidly once it was turned into a commercial port. Since at the time, traders could only use the sea or waterways as a means of transportation, Shanghai’s wide harbour began to attract numerous Chinese from various parts of China and also several foreigners. A society of immigrants started to flourish, each of which began to leave their influences in this new city.

    In a few years, a large flat muddy area, overgrown with reeds, which was situated on the north bank of Huangpu River, was turned into a zone for foreigners and they named it the Bund. Starting from just a one-sided street, running in north-south direction, the location soon flourished with commercial buildings which increased further the significance and the economy of Shanghai.

    Yuyuan MarketYet in the mid-19th century, serious conflicts arose between the forces of Western countries and the Chinese, Qing dynasty, after China attempted to suppress the opium trade. Since the 18th century, foreign traders, particularly the British, had been illegally exporting opium which they imported from India. By the 19th century, this trade had grown dramatically, and the resulting widespread addiction in China began to cause serious social and economic disruption. Two Opium Wars broke out in which China was twice defeated and foreign concessions were established. It was in 1943, during the war between China and Japan, that the foreigners decided to abandon Shanghai.

    Between the 1950s and the 1960s, some of the elder people who resided in Shanghai, proposed to the government to demolish these colonial buildings which reminded them of a bitter past. However eventually, it was decided to retain these structures since they represented a real part of the city’s history, even if painful.

    The modern area of the Bund1 (Photo - Fiona Vella)In the last 100 years, the Bund frontage buildings were repaired and reconstructed several times. Today, this area is embellished with prominent and elegant structures which contrast deeply with the opposite side of the Bund wherein some daring and bizarre high rises have been built. At night, the latter, turns into a spectacular wonderland as the colossal structures are fully illuminated in bright and colourful lights.

    A visit to this district which looks like a strange combination of London and New York, will reveal why it has become the symbol of Shanghai and the pride of many of its residents. Crowds of visitors gather daily at the Bund in order to enjoy the beautiful scenery on the Huangpu River which divides the old and the modern zones. Nonetheless, if one wants to enjoy the experience to the full, a night boat cruise is certainly recommended.

    Our guide from Shanghai explained to us that this city has changed tremendously in these last years. In 1987, there were only 12 high rise buildings in Shanghai, whereas today, there are around 140,000. People have more money in their pockets, education facilities have increased, and life is more comfortable especially due to the efficient and far-reaching subway system. Yet he felt that simultaneously, Shanghai citizens were losing some important characteristics of the city. Indeed, when elders returned to the city after living far away, they could not find their way around as a number of the old landmarks have gone or are engulfed amongst the different modern landscape.

    Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall1 (Photo - Fiona Vella)The repercussions of the sudden modernization of Shanghai have always been the focus of the authorities which are trying their very best to mitigate the impact of such changes. Their plans and projects are comprehensively described in the vast exhibitions which are displayed at the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall which is located at the People’s Square. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a huge scale model of the city which shows all the existing and approved buildings. Moreover, a circular screen provides visitors with the opportunity to enjoy a fascinating 3D virtual tour around the city of Shanghai.

    Photo presentations explain how old buildings which were worth preserving and conserving, were carefully selected and restored, and then given a function in order to revive them. A particular example is the M50 contemporary art district which up to a few years ago was a disused industrial space. Another is the pedestrian walkway of Nanjing Road wherein 100 year old shops were amalgamated with new structures from where now, one can find speciality products of different trades standing next to famous brands.

    A corner in Yuyuan Garden1 (Photo - Fiona Vella)In Shanghai Old Street, which was reconstructed according to traditional Chinese style, visitors can roam around Yuyuan Market and absorb the allure of earlier times, whereas the nearby Yuyuan Gardens provide the beauty and serenity of a green environment. In the outskirts of Shanghai, ancient towns, such as Zhujiajiao, represent life of a distant and far simpler period in Shanghai. Concentrated under Shanghai’s Expo2010 motto ‘Better City, Better Life’, the main message of this place is to urge people to be proud as well as protective of their new city.

    A delightful wider look at the landscape of the city of Shanghai can be appreciated at a choice of revolving restaurants which are available on high towers. Definitely a surreal experience which gives you the ultimate impression of being on a totally different planet.

    (This article was published in Escape Suppliment of The Sunday Times of Malta dated 13th September 2015)

    2015.09.13 / no responses / Category: Times of Malta

  • Discovering the real art of a new culture

    China’s art sector is probably one of the most dynamic today since Chinese artists are constantly re-imagining the boundaries of art as they question their country’s role in the world. These artistic works can be viewed in the several popular art districts, key galleries and museums which are located in various areas around China.

    751D Park – Beijing

    I had thought that a visit to Beijing would only comprise an itinerary to historical sites. Therefore, this bustling contemporary art centre proved to be quite a surprise.

    Having been transformed from an industrial plant into an artistic hub, 751D Park boasts an area of 40,000 square meters and is now a very renowned area for art lovers. Its distinguished Bauhaus-style architecture has succeeded to blend harmoniously with the places’s new character which now houses many art galleries, bookshops, cafes and restaurants.

    Although I am not an avid art enthusiast, a stroll around the various shops and art exhibitions of this park served as a portal to another facet of China and its culture. Each outlet provided the opportunity to discover and purchase works of unique styles, original designs and ultimate creativity.

    Liu Fei - An enchanting war (1) - Photo by Fiona VellaI was particularly captivated by Liu Fei’s artistic exhibition named ‘An Enchanting War’. The artist described his sharp creations as his contemplation of future wars. Through them, he attempted to engage in social and political life in order to express his distaste and criticism on war. His main theme examined whether future warfare would be a performance of pretences? In his strong and bizarre artworks, there was no boundary between beauty and ugliness, and violence and contention were combined cruelly.

    The National Art Museum of China – Beijing

    The National Art Museum of China is dedicated to collection, research and exhibitions of modern and contemporary artistic works in China. Although this structure started to be constructed in 1958 and was open to the public in 1963, its architecture features the traditional Chinese style as the main building is roofed with yellow glazed tiles and surrounded by corridors and pavilions.

    This museum covers an area of more than 18,000 square meters and it includes 17 exhibition halls throughout its 5 storeys. It prides itself with more than 100,000 pieces of various collections, most of which are representative works of different periods and great artworks of Chinese art masters from the end of the 19th century till today.

    Artist Liu Xia besides her work at the National Art Museum of China - Photo by Fiona VellaSince its establishment, this national museum has organized thousands of various artistic exhibitions which reflect the development of Chinese art. These activities have attracted millions of visitors each year and so this museum has also served as a significant platform for the artists involved.

    During my visit, amongs its selection of expositions, this museum was holding the exhibition ‘Beautiful China: Call of Humanism’ which entailed the First National Fine Art Exhibition to help the disabled. The ensemble of 200 pieces of artworks included masterpieces of top artists of the contemporary art world,as well as works of disabled calligraphers and painters. Funds from the sales of these artworks were collected in order to assist the needs of the thousands of disabled Chinese individuals.

    M50 – Shanghai

    50 Moganshan Road or M50 art district as it is more popularly known, was a former textile mill in central Shanghai which has now been converted into a major zone of artistic galleries and exhibition spaces.

    This quarter started to become popular with artists in the year 2000 when the first individuals were initially attracted by the cheap rent of the disused industrial space. Soon, other artists followed suit and nowadays this complex has become known for its trendy and high art quality.

    Outdoor sculptures at 751D Park - Photo by Fiona VellaArt lovers who visit this place get a chance to enjoy and purchase some fantastic and unusual works directly from the artists themselves. The allure of this zone lies in the variety of displayed works using several mediums.Prices range from affordable to really expensive but one is expected to negotiate.

    Popular with both local and international visitors, this art quarter is unpretentious but interesting and often thought provoking. Amongst the wide selection of creations, it is engaging to notice also some works of a rebellious nature.

    (This article was published in the Travel, Leisure and Food Supplement in the Sunday Times of Malta dated 15 March 2015)

    2015.03.15 / no responses / Category: The Sunday Times - Articles

  • IL-KULURI TAĊ-ĊINA (L-10 Parti) Il-Venezja taċ-Ċina

    Issa li wasalna għall-aħħar artiklu, nittama li permezz ta’ din is-sensiela, irnexxieli ndewwaqkhom ftit minn dak li għandha x’toffri ċ-Ċina u li forsi wħud minnkhom, titħajjru wkoll iżżuruha.

    Iddeċidejt li nħalli dan il-post apposta għall-aħħar, hekk kif għamlu anki lilna l-gwidi Ċiniżi li akkumpanjawna matul il-vjaġġ tagħna ġewwa dan il-pajjiż. Niftakar li tassew issorprendejt ruħi meta sirt naf illi f’dik il-modernità kollha tal-belt ta’ Shanghai, wieħed kellu l-opportunità li jżur erbgħa bliet antiki li nżammu bejn wieħed u ieħor fl-istil oriġinali tagħhom sabiex jibqgħu bħala xempju ħaj tal-passat ta’ dawk l-inħawi.

    Dehra ta' ZhujiajiaoAħna żorna lill-belt antika Zhujiajiao li hi l-aktar waħda miżmuma tajjeb. Hija magħrufa wkoll b’bosta ismijiet oħra bħal ‘Il-Belt tal-Ilma’, ‘Ix-Xmara tal-Perli’ u ‘Il-Venezja taċ-Ċina’. Tinsab fil-periferija ta’ Shanghai u ġiet mibnija f’forma ta’ rewwieħa fuq medda art li tkopri 47 kilometri kwadri. Ilmijietha jleqqu bħall-perli fuq pajsaġġ bl-isfond tal-muntanji u l-għadajjar.

    L-istorja ta’ Zhujiajiao tmur lura 1700 sena għal żmien id-Dinastija Yuan, meta din il-lokalità bdiet isservi bħala ċentru tal-kummerċ għall-inħawi tal-kampanja tal-madwar. Il-pożizzjoni strateġiku tagħha, fejn jiltaqgħu numru ta’ xmajjar lokali, għenuha tiżviluppa malajr, l-aktar permezz tal-kummerċ tar-ross u tad-drapp, liema prodotti kienu jiġu trasportati mill-kampanja bid-dgħajjes, direttament għad-djar tan-negozjanti li kienu joqogħdu f’din il-belt. Dan wassal biex eventwalment Zhujiajiao kibret ħafna u ngħatat l-istat ta’ belt mill-Imperatur Wanli tad-Dinastija Ming.

    Hanut tal-ilbiesi tat-tiegDin ix-xejra kummerċjali għadha teżisti sa llum f’din il-belt, hekk kif din hija miżgħuda b’għadd ta’ ħwienet li jbiegħu kull xorta ta’ prodotti u servizzi. Fost dawn, wieħed isib: oġġetti maħduma bi snajja’ tradizzjonali, ikel u ħlewwiet ta’ kull tip, ħwejjeġ partikolari b’kuluri sbieħ li jintlibsu għar-ritratti tat-tieġ, djar tat-tè, kafetteriji, ħwienet tax-xorb u restoranti.

    L-arkitettura distinta tal-post hija mżejjna bi djar li jmorru lura għall-mijiet tas-snin. Bosta mid-djar antiki ta’ din il-belt iħarsu fuq l-ilmijiet tax-xmara u jistkennu għad-dell ta’ għadd ta’ siġar taż-żavżava li jkomplu jagħnu l-post b’element romantiku qawwi.

    Madanakollu, l-aktar li jiġbdu l-attenzjoni huma ċertament is-36 pont tal-ġebel li jgħaqqdu din il-belt flimkien. Dawn il-pontijiet inbnew matul id-Dinastiji Ming u Qing u jintgħarfu minn dawk ġodda permezz tat-turġien li jwasslu għalihom, minħabba li dari, dawn kienu jkunu aktar għoljin. Infatti llum fiċ-Ċina, dat-tip ta’ taraġ jinħadem bil-ħsieb tal-konvenjenza għall-pubbliku, b’mod partikolari għall-anzjani, u għaldaqstant hu mibni aktar baxx ħalli jkun aktar faċli biex titilgħu.

    Il-gondolaAnki t-tul ta’ dawn il-pontijiet ivarja ħafna, tant li wħud huma pjuttost qosra filwaqt li oħrajn huma twal mhux ħażin. Fil-fatt, Fangsheng, li hu l-aktar pont popolari f’din il-belt, hu għoli 5.8 metri, twil 70 metru u jserraħ fuq ħames arkati simettriċi. Oriġinarjament, dan inbena fl-1571 mill-patri Xingchao tat-Tempju Cimen. Iżda aktar tard, fl-1812, huwa reġa’ ttella’ mill-ġdid. L-arkata ċentrali ta’ dan il-pont ġiet dekorata bi skultura fil-ġebel ta’ tmien draguni jduru ma’ perla, filwaqt li t-truf tal-kolonni ġew skolpiti f’għamla ta’ ljuni.

    Jekk tkun qed iżżur dan il-post, m’għandikx titlef l-opportunità li tirkeb xi waħda miż-żewġ tipi ta’ dgħajjes li ssib fuq ix-xmara, ħalli b’hekk tosserva l-post minn perspettiva oħra. Il-gondola taħdem fil-kanali u tgħaddi minn taħt il-pontijiet, u permezz tagħha tista’ tmur dawra qasira sal-kanal prinċipali, inkella tagħżel distanza itwal li tieħdok madwar il-belt kollha. Min-naħa l-oħra, dgħajjes akbar joffrulek vjaġġ sal-għadira li hemm fl-inħawi.

    Zhujiajiao hija mfittxija ħafna mit-turisti imma anki min-nies tal-lokal li spiss imorru hemm fil-ġranet tal-mistrieħ jew fil-festi. Għaldaqstant, dan il-post għandu t-tendenza li jkun iffullat mhux ħażin u wieħed irid jiddedikalu almenu nofs ta’ nhar sħiħ jekk jixtieq iduru sewwa.

    Hemm min hu tal-opinjoni illi din il-belt saret artifiċjali wisq minħabba li saret tiddependi ħafna mit-turiżmu. Iżda ngħid għalija, Zhujiajiao hija lokalità indimentikabbli li wrietni xena surreali ta’ kif kienet il-ħajja fiċ-Ċina tal-passat.

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fit-Torċa tal-15 ta’ Marzu 2015)

    2015.03.15 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • IL-KULURI TAĊ-ĊINA (Is-7 Parti) Ħarsa lejn l-arti Ċiniża

    Bħalissa, is-settur tal-arti fiċ-Ċina huwa wieħed mill-aktar dinamiċi, hekk kif l-artisti Ċiniżi qed jerħulha jesploraw u jimirħu f’orizzonti differenti sabiex jippruvaw jesprimu r-rwol ġdid li għandu pajjiżhom fid-dinja. Dawn ix-xogħolijiet artistiċi varji jinstabu mxerrda madwar iċ-Ċina kollha f’diversi distretti popolari tal-arti, f’numru ta’ galleriji artistiċi u f’bosta mużewijiet.

     Permezz ta’ dan l-artiklu, jiena se niddeskrivilkhom dawk l-inħawi li żort f’Pekin u Shanghai li huma relatati ma’ dan il-qasam.

     751D Park – Pekin

     Kont immaġinajt li ż-żjarat tagħna f’Pekin kienu ser ikunu kollha marbutin mal-istorja. Għaldaqstant kienet tassew sorpriża interessanti meta ġejna akkumpanjati f’dan iċ-ċentru ta’ arti kontemporanja.

    Sa ftit tas-snin ilu, din il-medda art b’qies ta’ 40,000 metru kwadru, kienet tifforma parti minn żona industrijali. Madanakollu, riċentement, din ġiet trasformata f’post iddedikat kollu kemm hu għall-arti u ngħatat l-isem ta’ 751D Park.

    Xoghol ta' Liu Fei - An enchanting warL-arkitettura distinta ta’ stil Bauhaus irnexxielha tisfuma b’mod armonjuż mal-karattru l-ġdid li ngħata lil dawn l-inħawi fejn issa wieħed isib numru ta’ galleriji tal-arti, swali tal-esebizzjonijiet, ħwienet tal-kotba, ristoranti u kafetteriji.

    Għalkemm m’inix xi waħda li nifhem wisq fl-arti, nistqarr illi l-ħin li qattgħajt f’dan il-lwog sabiex nesplora dawn ix-xogħolijiet artistiċi, fetħuli tieqa oħra fuq iċ-Ċina li minnha stajt nixtarr aħjar lil dan il-pajjiż u l-kultura tiegħu. Infatti, kull post li dħalt fih offrieli l-opportunità li nosserva, napprezza u nixtri kreazzjonijiet bi stili tassew uniċi u b’disinji oriġinali ta’ immaġinazzjoni bla tarf.

    Fosthom, laqtitni ħafna l-esebizzjoni artistika ta’ Liu Fei li kienet iġġib l-isem ta’ An Enchanting War. Fiha, l-artist ippreżenta l-perċezzjonijiet tiegħu dwar il-gwerer futuri filwaqt li kkontempla dwar kif dawn ser jiġu miġġielda. Għamel dan permezz ta’ kreazzjonijiet li jżommuk fil-post tħares lejhom, l-aktar hekk kif hu esprima d-disprezz u l-kritika tiegħu lejn il-gwerra permezz ta’ ġmiel u kruha ironiċi u li jaħsdu.

    Il-Mużew Nazzjonali tal-Arti – Pekin

     Dan il-mużew hu ddedikat għall-kollezzjonijiet, għar-riċerka u għall-esebizzjonijiet ta’ xogħolijiet artistiċi moderni u kontemporanji li jsiru fiċ-Ċina. Għalkemm il-bini tiegħu nbeda fl-1958 u nfetaħ għall-pubbliku fl-1963, l-istil arkitettoniku tiegħu tfassal fi stil tradizzjonali Ċiniż hekk kif dan jinkludi fih kurituri, paviljuni u saqaf imżejjen b’madum ta’ lewn safrani.

    L-artista Liu Xia biswit ix-xogħol taghha fil-Muzew Nazzjonali tal-ArtiFil-wisgħa ta’ 18,000 metru kwadru, dan il-mużew għandu fih 17 il-sala tal-esebizzjoni mqassma fuq 5 sulari. Fil-kollezzjonijiet tiegħu jħaddan aktar minn 100,000 biċċa xogħol artistika, li l-biċċa l-kbira tagħhom inħadmu minn artisti mill-aqwa matul perjodi differenti li jkopru s-snin mill-aħħar tas-seklu 19 sa llum.

    Mit-twaqqif tiegħu, dan il-mużew organizza eluf ta’ esebizzjonijiet artistiċi li jirriflettu l-iżvilupp tal-arti Ċiniża. Kull sena, dawn l-attivitajiet jiġbdu miljuni ta’ viżitaturi lejn dan il-post u b’hekk dan iservi wkoll bħala vetrina għall-artisti involuti.

    Waqt iż-żjara tagħna f’dan il-post, fost ix-xogħolijiet esebiti, kien hemm il-wirja Beautiful China: Call of Humanism, liema attività tax-xorta tagħha kienet qed issir għall-ewwel darba. Infatti, f’din l-esebizzjoni kien hemm 200 biċċa xogħol artistika għall-bejgħ u l-flus li kienu ser jinġabru minnha, kienu ser imorru biex jgħinu lill-eluf ta’ persuni li jbatu minn xi diżabbilità. Fatt interessanti kien li fost ix-xogħolijiet għall-bejgħ, kien hemm uħud li kienu maħduma minn artisti rinomati ferm imħallta ma’ oħrajn ta’ livelli differenti, fosthom anki ma’ ta’ artisti u kalligrafi li kellhom xi diżabbilità.

    M50 – Shanghai

     Din iż-żona artistika li tikkonsisti minn għadd ta’ galleriji u spazji għall-esebizzjonijiet, tinsab f’50 Triq Moganshan, Shanghai, imma ħafna jirreferu għaliha bħala M50.

     Sa ftit tas-snin ilu, din il-lokalità ċentrali kienet tifforma parti minn fabbrika tat-tessuti iżda wara li din l-industrija ngħalqet, ftit ftit bdew jinġibdu għadd ta’ artisti lejn dan il-post minħabba li kien qed jinkera bi prezz baxx. Kien fis-sena 2000 meta daħlu l-ewwel artisti sabiex jesponu xogħolijiethom f’dawn l-inħawi. Illum M50 inbidlet f’kumpless kollu kemm hu ddedikat lill-arti.

    Xogholijiet tal-arti fid-distrett M50Ċertament hawnhekk, dawk li japprezzaw l-arti għandhom fejn jintilfu bl-għażla tassew varja ta’ ideat u xogħolijiet, kemm f’dik li hi skultura u kif ukoll pittura. F’dan il-lwog, wieħed spiss ikollu ċ-ċans ukoll li jiltaqa’ mal-artisti nfushom u li jixtri x-xogħolijiet direttament minn għandhom. Il-prezzijiet ivarjaw ħafna: jibdew minn tassew irħas u jibqgħu telgħin sa somom pjuttost esorbitanti. Madanakollu, jekk wieħed ikun kapaċi jinnegozja prezz tajjeb, jaf imur lura d-dar b’xogħol tassew uniku u sabiħ.

    Għalkemm viżwalment din iż-żona ma tolqotx wisq l-għajn, wieħed m’għandux joqgħod lura milli jikkunsidra li jiddedika ftit ħin biex jevalwa dak li jista’ jsib fiha. Infatti wħud mix-xogħolijiet kapaċi jkunu interessanti u provokanti qatiegħ, b’numru minnhom mogħnija wkoll b’natura ribelli.

    Esebizzjoni artistika tal-pittur Heping – Malta

     L-għan prinċipali ta’ din is-sensiela ta’ artikli huwa li nxennaq lill-poplu Malti biex isir jaf aktar dwar il-kultura taċ-Ċina u niesha. Għaldaqstant, fejn nara li hemm l-opportunità li l-Maltin iduqu dak li nkun ktibt dwaru f’pajjiżna stess, jiena nħossni obbligata li ninforma lill-qarrejja bih.

     Fil-fatt, bħalissa, bħala parti miċ-ċelebrazzjonijiet tal-Ewwel tas-Sena Ċiniża, fil-gallerija artistika taċ-Ċentru Kulturali taċ-Ċina li jinsab f’173, Triq Melita, Valletta, qed tittella’ esebizzjoni ta’ xogħolijiet li saru mill-pittur famuż Ċiniż Heping.

    Heping huwa bbażat f’Shanghai u bħalissa huwa jservi bħala għalliem fl-Istitut tal-Moda, l-Arti u d-Disinn ta’ Dunghua University. Huwa jifforma parti mill-ġens Naxi; li huwa wieħed mill-minoritajiet etniċi li jinsabu ċ-Ċina.

    F’dawn l-aħħar snin, Heping żviluppa lingwa artistika ġdida sabiex permezz tagħha jittrażmetti l-karattru etniku u s-sengħa tradizzjonali tiegħu. Din il-linja artistika tinvolvi taħlita għanja ta’ pittura u kalligrafija li finalment tiġi espressa f’xogħol modern b’tema astratta.

    Xoghol artistiku ta' HepingIx-xogħolijiet ta’ Heping huma magħrufa għall-użu distint tal-kulur u għall-linji maħżuża li flimkien jikkontribwixxu xogħol mhux konvenzjonali li għalkemm jirrifletti ċertu loġika, jinħakem ukoll minn passjoni qawwija. Fuq kollox, is-saħħa ta’ din l-arti tinsab fit-taħlita tal-elementi artistiċi tal-Lvant u tal-Punent li jagħmlu dawn ix-xogħolijiet attraenti għal diversi individwi madwar id-dinja.

    Heping jistqarr li jinteressaħ ħafna l-bniedem u li għalhekk kull xogħol tiegħu jirrappreżenta individwu minn Shanghai: il-belt fejn trabba’ u tgħallem u l-post li għadu sa llum jinfluwenzah ħafna. Huwa jħobb joħloq illustrazzjonijiet li jissimbolizzaw id-dinja moderna urbana li teżisti f’ambjent li l-ħin kollu jinbidel. Madanakollu, huwa jara li jispjega dan kollu billi juża kemm jista’ s-sempliċità.

    Fil-fehma tiegħu, akkost li ż-żmien ta’ llum huwa miżgħud b’għadd ta’ informazzjoni u attivitajiet, min-natura tiegħu, il-bniedem jibqa’ jfittex li jissimplifika l-affarijiet ta’ madwaru sabiex jassorbi u jifhem aħjar. Fil-fatt Heping jissuġġerixxi illi dan it-tiftix għas-sempliċità jinħoloq proprju sabiex jinstab bilanċ mal-ħajja mgħaġġla ta’ kuljum.

    Intant, jekk wieħed jifli x-xogħolijiet ta’ dan l-artist, spiss se jilmaħ forom astratti imma sempliċi li bihom huwa jrid jiddeskrivi l-perċezzjoni ikkondensata tiegħu tas-suġġetti umani li jpinġi f’kultura urbana u immaġni metropolitana.

    Għal aktar informazzjoni dwar din il-wirja li se ddum miftuħa sal-5 ta’ Marzu 2015, wieħed jista’ jċempel liċ-Ċentru Kulturali taċ-Ċina f’Malta fuq 21 225 055.

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fit-Torċa tat-22 ta’ Frar 2015)

    2015.02.22 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • IL-KULURI TAĊ-ĊINA (6 Parti) X’hemm għall-bejgħ

    Opportunita' biex tersaq lejn in-nies tal-lokalL-ibliet ta’ Peking u Shanghai huma ideali għal dawk li jħobbu jduru l-ħwienet u jixtru. Dan minħabba li fihom hemm triqat twal li donnhom ma jispiċċaw qatt, miżgħuda b’għadd ta’ negozji ta’ kull xorta.

    Ħwienet antiki li jbiegħu għażla ta’ oġġetti tradizzjonali tarahom spalla ma’ spalla ma’ stabbilmenti oħra moderni bi prodotti tal-aktar ditti popolari. Imbagħad issib ukoll swieq differenti li jagħtuk lok biex tħuf u tesplora għal xi ħaġa mhux tas-soltu jew għal xi affari tajba bi prezz orħos. F’dawn il-postijiet, ma trid tinsa qatt illi ċerti affarijiet jistgħu ma jkunux ġenwini.

    Ix-xiri huwa mod ieħor ta’ kif tista’ tersaq qrib in-nies tal-lokal sabiex issir tafhom aħjar, speċjalment fl-inħawi fejn wieħed huwa mistenni li joqgħod jiġġebbed għall-prezz. Kultant il-lingwa hija problema f’dawn l-ibliet għax mhux kulħadd kapaċi jitkellem bl-ingliż. Madanakollu, m’għandix dubju illi jekk veru ssib xi ħaġa li tolqtok, b’xi mod jew ieħor se toħloq mezz kif tiftiehem.

    Triq Qianmen – Pekin

    Din it-triq tibda min-naħa tan-nofsinhar ta’ Pjazza Tiananmen, matul l-assi ċentrali ta’ Pekin, u hija twila madwar kilometru.

    L-oriġini ta’ din iż-żona popolari tmur lura għaż-żminijiet antiki tad-Dinastiji Ming u Qing, meta dan il-post kien diġà magħruf għall-fieri tal-lanterni, għat-teatri u għad-djar tat-tè. Sfortunatament, fl-1900, dawn l-inħawi ġew maħruqa kompletament meta l-Alleanza tat-Tmien Nazzjonijiet attakkat lil Pekin.

    Triq Qianmen  – PekinIt-triq preżenti nbniet mill-ġdid u tqassmet f’erbgħa żoni li ġew iddedikati għall-kultura, għall-ikel, għax-xiri u għad-divertiment. Infatti, hekk kif toħroġ minn ħanut u tidħol f’ieħor, tħossok bħallikieku sibt ruħek f’xi dinja oħra.

    Ħwienet eleganti li jbiegħu ġojjelli u ħwejjeġ mill-ifjen issibhom biswit ħwienet aktar sempliċi mimlija bi kwantità kbira ta’ oġġetti u suvenirs. Ristoranti magħrufa fid-dinja tal-Lvant bħall-Mc Donalds u l-KFC jikkompetu ma’ dawk tal-kċina tradizzjonali Ċiniża bħar-ristorant Qianmen Quanjude li hija rinomata ħafna għat-tisjir tal-laħam tal-papra.

    Għal min ma jħobbx jimxi wisq, hemm tramm tiela’ u nieżel b’mod regolari ma’ din it-triq. Iżda jekk trid tassew tgawdi dan il-post, l-aħjar hu li timxi.

     Wangfuying – Pekin

     Iż-żona Wangfujing hija famuża ħafna kemm man-nies tal-lokal u kif ukoll mat-turisti minħabba li fiha wieħed isib bosta ħwienet ta’ kull xorta matul medda ta’ żewġ kilometri. Intant, dan id-distrett jifforma wkoll parti mill-istorja taċ-Ċina peress li jmur lura għas-sena 1260.

     Bħat-triq Qianmen, anki hawn wieħed jara taħlita sinifikattiva ta’ prodotti tal-Lvant u tal-Punent fejn minbarra ditti popolari li aħna mdorrijin għalihom, wieħed jista’ jitpaxxa wkoll bi ħwienet bħal Shengxifu li hu mfittex għall-kpiepel, b’Tongshenghe li hu stabbilment magħruf għaż-żraben, jew bid-dar tat-tè Wuyutai.

    Iżda ċertament f’dan il-lwog, l-aktar parti indimentikabbli huma t-triqat tal-ġnub li spiss ikunu mimlija bin-nies. Infatti dan il-post żgur li mhux rakkommandabbli għal min jiddejjaq fil-folol jew għal dawk li l-istonku tagħhom ma jiflaħx wisq. Dan għaliex proprju hawnhekk, it-turisti jistgħu jtiegħmu l-għeruq tradizzjonali tal-belt ta’ Pekin, partikolarment bl-għażla ta’ ikel eżotiku li wieħed isib għall-bejgħ.

    Kebabs taz-zwiemel tal-bahar u tal-iskorpjuni hajjin f'Wangfujing, PekinFil-fatt, inti u miexi f’dawn it-triqat, ma tistax ma tiġix impressjonat bir-riħa qawwija ta’ kull xorta ta’ tisjir. U trid jew ma tridx, tinġibed b’kurżità biex tara x’hemm ħalli forsi dduq xi ħaġa. Minn daqshekk, l-għażla hija biss f’idejk għax il-prodotti huma varji mmens. Jiddependi biss minn kemm inti avventuruż hekk kif fost l-ikel issib: frott frisk, prodotti moqlijin, kebabs b’kull xorta ta’ laħam inkluż dak tal-ħaruf, tat-tiġieġa, tal-majjal, tal-istilla u taż-żiemel tal-baħar, tal-insetti u tad-dud u tal-iskorpjuni ħajjin!

    Jekk dan kollu ma jħajjrikx jew saħansitra jaqtagħlek l-aptit, xorta waħda għandek fejn tintilef fil-ħwienet l-oħra mżejjna bi prodotti varji li juru l-ġmiel tal-kuluri taċ-Ċina. F’dan il-post huwa biss int li tagħmel il-limitu ta’ kemm u x’tista’ tixtri: skont kemm ikollok flus u skont x’jogħġbok. Fost il-lista twila ta’ prodotti ssib: żraben, affarijiet tal-ħarir, ħwejjeġ, kreazzjonijiet tal-injam u l-bronż, maskri ta’ kull tip, ġugarelli u kwantità bla tarf ta’ suvenirs.

    Tant hemm x’tara f’dan il-post, li żgur li ma tinsih qatt il-ħin li tqatta’ fih.

    It-triq Nanjing – Shanghai

     Triq Nanjing – ShanghaiShanghai hija belt għal kollox differenti minn Pekin u dan huwa evidenti ħafna hekk kif tibda miexi fit-triq Nanjing. Maħsuba li hija l-eqdem triq li ġiet iddedikata għan-negozju fiċ-Ċina, il-mijiet ta’ ħwienet matulha fuq kull naħa, jibqgħu sejrin għal madwar ħames kilometri.

    Hawnhekk il-ħajja hija aktar rikka u dan jidher mill-ħwienet b’ditti lussużi ferm bħal Dior, Chanel, Armani, Prada u Calvin Klein. Bil-vetrini tagħhom armati bi prodotti modernissimi u pjuttost għaljin, dawn il-ħwienet erħielhom jikkompetu bejniethom biex jattrattaw kemm jistgħu mill-kwantità kbira ta’ nies li kuljum tmur tippassiġġa fl-inħawi. Infatti, apparti li hija magħrufa għax-xiri, din it-triq hija popolari kemm man-nies tal-lokal u kif ukoll mat-turisti għall-kultura moderna li kapaċi toffri Shanghai.

    Fl-għaxija, it-triq ta’ Nanjing tagħni ruħha b’atmosfera pjuttost spettakolari billi diversi ħwienet u binjiet għoljin ikunu mixgħula b’ħafna dawl.

    Yuyuan Bazaar – Shanghai

    Snajja' tradizzjonali fil-Bazaar Yuyuan, ShanghaiDan il-bazaar jinstab ħdejn il-Ġnien Yuyuan. Il-ġmiel tiegħu qiegħed fl-arkitettura mibnija b’injam skur u bi stil tradizzjonali. Barra minn hekk f’dan is-suq, wieħed isib diversi ħwienet ta’ snajja’ antiki li jkunu qed ibiegħu prodotti distinti fosthom: oġġetti maħduma mill-ħarir, illustrazzjonijiet ta’ artisti folkloristiċi, xogħolijiet u għodda tal-kalligrafija, xogħol tal-bamboo u l-injam, affarijiet tal-bronż, settijiet tat-tè tal-porċellana, ġojjelli maħduma mill-jade u perli mill-għadira Taihu.

    Suq tal-ikel f’Shanghai

    Waqt li nkun imsiefra, napprezza ħafna dawk il-mumenti meta jirnexxieli niskopri xi post li ma jkunx ippjanat fil-programm. Hekk ġara meta ġurnata minnhom tlabt lill-gwida biex jeħodna f’xi lwog fejn stajna nosservaw aktar mill-qrib il-ħajja ta’ kuljum tan-nies tal-lokal u dan ġibidna ‘l ġewwa lejn xi triqat inqas ċentrali ħalli nżuru suq tal-ikel li jinqdew minnu l-familji ta’ Shanghai.

    Bejjiegh tal-grancijiet f'suq f'ShanghaiMill-ewwel laqgħatna l-kuntrast bejn l-atmosfera sempliċi ta’ dan is-suq u l-isfond sofistikat tal-bini għoli u modern, tipiku ta’ din il-belt. Hawnhekk il-prodotti kienu rranġati mal-art, fil-kaxxi jew fil-gaġeġ u l-bejjiegħa erħielhom jgħajjtu biex isejjħu l-klijenti jew biex jikkustinjaw magħhom fuq xi prezz.

    Anki f’dan il-post, is-sensi tagħna ġew invażi minn għadd ta’ attivitajiet, irwejjaħ u ħsejjes. Kien hemm minn kollox għall-bejgħ fosthom ħaxix, frott, ħut, granċijiet, frott tal-baħar, weraq tat-tè, bajd ta’ diversi tjur, tiġieġ, sriedak, papri u ikel ta’ kull xorta. F’gaġġa minnhom, ilmaħna wkoll xi ġriewi żgħar ħelwin u f’qalbna tlabna li min kien ser jixtriehom, riedhom biex irabbihom u mhux biex isajjarhom!

    Bla dubju, wara dawn l-esperjenzi interessanti u vivaċi f’dawn il-ħwienet u s-swieq differenti, nemmen li wieħed ikun qed jitlef ħafna jekk ikun f’dawn l-ibliet u ma jżurx almenu xi wieħed minnhom.

     (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fit-Torċa tat-8 ta’ Frar 2015)

    2015.02.08 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • Shop around for the best look at life on the streets

    Qianmen Street – Beijing.JPGNanjing Road – Shanghai.JPG

    Calligraphy stall in Yuyuan Bazaar, Shanghai.JPGA poultry seller in Shanghai.JPG

    The cities of Beijing and Shanghai are definitely a mecca for those who love shopping. Never ending roads brim with hundreds of shops which offer an endless choice of all sorts of products.

    Ancient shops of different traditional trades stand side by side to modern ones which sell famous brand commodities. Flea markets provide the opportunity to look out for unusual items or for a good bargain but one must always keep in mind that most of the items are not genuine.

    Shopping can also be a way of getting closer to the locals especially in those areas where one is expected to negotiate the price. At times language could be a barrier since not all the Chinese can communicate in English. However, somehow, if you really want to purchase something, you’ll surely find a way to get across.

    Qianmen Street – Beijing

    Qianmen pedestrian street runs south from Tiananmen Square, just along the Beijing central axis for about a kilometre.

    This popular zone bears its origin to the ancient times of the Ming and Qing Dynasties when it was already renowned for its lantern fairs, theaters and tea-houses. Yet unfortunately, in 1900, this area was burnt down to ashes when Beijing was ransacked by the Eight-Nation Alliance.

    The present Qianmen Street has been rebuilt into four zones with particular areas designated for culture, food, shopping and entertainment. Stepping from one shop to another is like entering into a different world altogether.

    Elegant shops selling expensive jewellery with a particular focus on jade stand next to bargain outlets bursting with a multitude of souvenirs and knick knack objects. Popular Western fast-food outlets like Mc Donalds and KFC compete with traditional Chinese cuisine such as Qianmen Quanjude Duck Restaurant for the attention of hungry clients.

    An old style tram runs from north to south of Qianmen Street. However, for those who really want a taste of Chinese culture, walking is definitely better.

    Wangfuying – Beijing

    Wangfujing is very famous both with locals and with tourists as its outlets extend over a total length of about two kilometres. This flourishing business quarter dates back to 1260 and it has a long interesting history.

    In the wide main street, once again, West meets East since one finds huge shopping malls with international designer brands standing next to Beijing renowned trades, such as Shengxifu hat store, Tongshenghe shoe shop, and the Wuyutai tea house.

    However, here, the real delight for tourists lies in the narrower side streets which look rather like a busy beehive. Indeed, this zone is definitely not recommended for those who hate crowded places or for those faint at heart. For this is where you’ll witness the roots of the traditional Beijing, especially through some of the exotic foods which you will be offered.

    The different smells coming out of the numerous food stalls will entice you to look closer and maybe to try out something. The vast choice will consist of fresh fruit, dumplings, fried foods, and plenty of kebabs with all sorts of meat including lamb, chicken, pork, starfish, seahorse, worms, insects and live scorpions!

    Nonetheless, if you lose appetite, there is still more to see and buy in the other outlets which boast the true colours of China. Your preference and the amount of money which you are ready to spend will be the only limits. Exquisite shoes, silk scarves and ornaments, clothes, wood creations, colourful masks, stuffed pandas and toys, and a torrent of souvenirs are some of the items available in a much longer list.

    At the end of this visit, you’ll feel as if you have just been through a whirlwind of experiences. Definitely unforgettable!

    Nanjing Road – Shanghai

    Shanghai is a different world altogether from Beijing and this is clearly evident whilst walking along Nanjing Road. Believed to be the first shopping street in China, this road stretches for more than five kilometres with hundreds of different shops on each side.

    Here, shopping malls, department stores and boutiques with luxury brands like Dior, Chanel, Armani, Prada and Calvin Klein compete for clients’ attention with elegant and costly products. In fact, more than a pedestrian shopping street this area has also become a zone for both locals and visitors in order to experience the culture of modern Shanghai.

    It is best to visit Nanjing Road in the evening when the area is fully lit and quite spectacular.

    Yuyuan Bazaar – Shanghai

    This is an outdoor bazaar which stands next to the famous Yuyuan Garden. Its attraction lies in the wooden architecture of the shops and market stalls and in the traditional items which they sell.

    Since Shanghai is close to Suzhou, one will find a good choice of silk products here. Moreover, amongst the amazing array of traditional Chinese products, one can select amongst paintings by folk artists, calligraphy works and tools, including ink, paper, brushes, pens, and ink slabs, bamboo and wood carvings, bronze wares, porcelain tea-sets, jade pieces and pearls from Taihu Lake, to mention only a few.

    There are no boundaries to what you can actually find whilst exploring this bazaar. Indeed, in offhand corners, you might see people selling small animals and reptiles, and also bracelets of simple but fragrant flowers.

    A food market in Shanghai

    It is very easy to find yourself completely enthralled by the exciting and dynamic city of Shanghai, thereby feeling urged to explore also other areas which are outside the usual guided tours.

    Particularly endearing is the sheer contrast between the ultra-modern neon-lit high rises lying at the background of the raw and coarse atmosphere of meagre street food stalls where many locals gather to buy their grocery needs.

    Once again, your senses will be fully assaulted with unusual activities, smells and sounds. Here you can observe the wide choice of foods available which includes eggs of different poultry, river and sea fish and crustaceans, vegetables and fruit of whatever type and size, and various herbs and tea leaves.

    Live chicken and ducks look out from cages whilst one of them is being killed and cleaned there and then for a customer. Cute puppies look out expectantly from other cages, their destinies depending on who’s going to buy them.

    Surely, a visit to any of these markets should be included in one’s itinerary in order to experience the real China.

    (This article was published in the Travel Supplement of The Sunday Times of Malta dated 11th January 2015)

    2015.01.11 / no responses / Category: The Sunday Times - Articles

  • IL-KULURI TAĊ-ĊINA (1 Parti) Il-Belt Ipprojbita

    Il-pjazza Taihe Dian.JPGIl-kontenituri tal-bronz li kienu jintlew bl-ilma.JPG

    Il-lijonessa fil-pjazza tal-Kancell tal-Armonija Suprema.JPGIl-foss ta' madwar il-Belt Ipprojbita.JPG

    Riċentement, bħala rikonoxxenza għal numru ta’ artikli li ktibt fit-Torċa dwar iċ-Ċina, iċ-Ċentru Kulturali taċ-Ċina f’Malta rrakkommanda lill-Ministeru Kulturali f’Beijing sabiex jistedinni nżur lil pajjiżhom. U f’ħin bla waqt, sibt ruħi naqta’ xewqa kbira li kelli li nara liċ-Ċina u li nsir naf aħjar lil niesha.

    Tlajt iċ-Ċina flimkien ma’ erbgħa Maltin oħra: Anna Maria Gilson mid-Dipartiment tal-Edukazzjoni, il-fotografi Wistin Baldacchino u Mary Attard, u l-artista Ray Axiaq. Qattgħajna tnax il-ġurnata mill-isbaħ niskopru l-bliet ta’ Beijing u Shanghai. Il-ġranet għaddew bħal ħolma u mn’Alla li ħadt kwantità kbira ta’ ritratti u ta’ filmati, għax kieku ma kontx nemmen li kont tassew hemmhekk.

    Dokumentarju u Esebizzjoni Artistika dwar iċ-Ċina

    Meta rritornajna lura Malta, iċ-Ċentru Kulturali taċ-Ċina f’pajjiżna talabna nagħmlu preżentazzjoni lill-membri tiegħu sabiex naqsmu magħhom l-esperjenza tagħna.

    Jiena pproduċejt dokumentarju ta’ madwar siegħa bl-isem Travelogue: The Colours of China li issa jista’ jiġi segwit fuq Youtube permezz ta’ dan il-link:

    Min-naħa l-oħra, sħabi tellgħu esebizzjoni ta’ ritratti u xogħolijiet artistiċi fil-Gallerija tal-Arti taċ-Ċentru Kulturali taċ-Ċina li jinsab f’173, Triq Melita l-Belt. Din il-wirja bl-isem ta’ Chinoiserie II se ddum miftuħa sad-9 ta’ Jannar 2015.

    Ħafna minn dawk li jafuni u partikolarment dawk li qatt ma żaru liċ-Ċina, ħajjruni sabiex nikteb sensiela ta’ artikli dwar din l-esperjenza tiegħi. L-Editur Prinċipali tat-Torċa, Sandro Mangion, laqa’ mill-ewwel din il-proposta u għalhekk, minn din il-ġimgħa, se nkun qed naqsam magħkom dak li jiena skoprejt waqt iż-żjara tiegħi fiċ-Ċina.

    Id-daħla tal-Belt Ipprojbita

    Iddeċidejt li niddedika l-ewwel artiklu lill-Belt Ipprojbita…. Kont ilni s-snin naqra u nara d-dokumentarji dwarha. Imma nassigurakhom li hekk kif sibt ruħi fil-wesgħa ta’ quddiem id-daħla prinċipali tagħha li ġġib l-isem ta’ Wumen jew Il-Kanċell tal-Meridjan, bqajt bla kliem. Għaldaqstant, nista’ nimmaġina x’kienu jħossu dawk il-priġunieri tal-gwerra li kienu jinġiebu f’dan il-post sabiex jiġu ppreżentati lill-Imperatur jew dawk l-imsejkna li kienu jingħataw il-piena kapitali proprju f’dan il-lwog.

    L-ogħli tal-binja ta’ din id-daħla jilħaq it-38 metru u infatti hija l-ogħla struttura fil-Belt Ipprojbita. Nistqarr li bla ma trid, tħossok imċekken ħdejn dak il-kobor kollu u hekk kif tibda ddawwar rasek u tilmaħ ħames torrijiet jgħassu fuqek minn kull naħa, bilkemm jagħtik li titniffes. U dan meta għadek barra….

    Il-funzjoni ta’ din il-belt

    Il-Belt Ipprojbita kienet tintuża bħala l-Palazz Irjali minn fejn l-imperaturi kienu jamministraw il-pajjiż u wkoll jgħixu flimkien mal-familji tagħhom fi żmien id-Dinastiji Ming u Qing. Infatti, għal madwar 500 sena, hija serviet bħala r-residenza ta’ 24 imperatur sakemm finalment Aisin Gioro Puyi, l-aħħar imperatur tad-Dinastija Qing, abdika fl-1911.

    Din il-belt bdiet tinbena fl-1406 mill-Imperatur Chengzu tad-Dinastija Ming u ħadet 14 il-sena biex tlestiet. Ħadmu fuqha mal-100,000 tekniku u miljuni ta’ ħaddiema. Dan il-kumpless inbena mill-injam u huwa l-akbar wieħed tax-xorta tiegħu fid-dinja.

    Intuża wkoll għadd ta’ rħam abjad li nġieb minn Fangshan li jinsab fil-limiti ta’ Beijing u anki ammont kbir ta’ granit mill-Provinċja Hebei. F’dawk il-perjodi, ma kienx faċli biex dan il-materjal jitwassal sa dan il-lwog minħabba li ma kienx jeżisti l-makkinarju adatt. Madanakollu, iċ-Ċiniżi rnexxielhom iwettqu dan il-proġett grandjuż billi ġarrew il-ġebel fuq rombli tal-injam matul l-istaġun tas-Sajf, filwaqt li fl-istaġun bikri tax-xitwa, huma ħaffru bjar kull nofs kilometru u minnhom tellgħu l-ilma li kienu jxerrdu mal-art sabiex dan isir silġ u jżerżqu l-ġebel fuqu.

    9,999.5 binja

    L-art li nbient fuqha din il-belt tkopri l-arja ta’ 720,000 metru kwadru u għandha forma rettangolari. Fuqha nbnew palazzi, paviljuni, pjazez u ġonna mill-ifjen u b’kollox, wieħed isib 9,999.5 struttura fejn l-iżgħar waħda, tesa’ biss taraġ tal-injam.

    M’hemmx 10,000 struttura minħabba li f’dak iż-żmien, iċ-Ċiniżi kienu jemmnu li l-imperatur alla Hade kellu dan l-ammont ta’ kmamar fil-Palazz tal-Ġenna u għalhekk l-imperatur ta’ din l-art, li kien meqjus bħala ibnu, b’rispett, ma setax ikollu palazz kbir daqs ta’ missieru. Ta’ min isemmi li dawn il-kmamar kollha kienu maħsuba biex itawwlu kemm jista’ jkun il-ħajja tal-imperatur.

    Il-kobor ta’ din il-belt

    Matul is-snin, partijiet mill-Belt Ipprojbita ġew restawrati jew mibnija mill-ġdid iżda t-tqassim oriġinali tagħha dejjem inżamm. Fil-fatt, l-istrutturi tagħha nbnew b’mod ordnat fuq ass ċentrali li jaqsam bejn il-parti tat-tramuntana u dik tan-nofsinhar. Dawn il-partijiet jirriflettu il-filosofija tradizzjonali tal-yin u l-yang u tal-Ħames Elementi filwaqt li jindikaw ukoll il-ġerarkija fewdali.

    Ħitan ta’ 10 metri jdawwru l-belt kollha u f’kull kantuniera wieħed isib torri tal-għassa. Foss wiesgħa 52 metru mimli bl-ilma, jdawwar dawn il-ħitan fuq in-naħa ta’ barra sabiex b’hekk dan il-lwog ikun protett aħjar.

    Mhux ta’ b’xejn li jingħad li dan il-lwog huwa wieħed mill-aktar imfittxija mit-turisti għax qatt ma rajt daqstant nies ta’ kull pajjiż deħlin f’post wieħed f’ħajti! Infatti, f’ħin minnhom saħansitra ltqajna ma’ grupp turisti Maltin. Iżda ħaġa tal-iskantament, din il-belt tant hi kbira, li jirnexxielha tibla’ lil kulħadd ġewwa fiha bla ma tintela’ qatt.

    L-akbar pjazza fil-Belt Ipprojbita hija Taihe Dian u għandha arja ta’ 30,000 metru kwadru. Fiha għadek issib ammont ta’ kontenituri kbar tal-bronż li kienu jimtlew bl-ilma bħala protezzjoni kontra n-nar. L-ilma kien jiġi provdut permezz ta’ xmara li ġiet mgħoddija minn naħa minnhom tal-palazz. Fl-istess ħin, din ix-xmara kienet tilqa’ fiha wkoll l-ilma li kien jinġabar fil-post wara xi ħalba xita, apparti milli kienet isservi wkoll bħala dekorazzjoni arkitettonika, l-aktar minħabba l-pontijiet sbieħ li trikkbu fuqha.

    Min-naħa l-oħra, fi pjazza magħrufa bħala l-Kanċell tal-Armonija Suprema wieħed isib il-binja li quddiemha l-imperatur kien iħaddem il-poter tiegħu, itella’ ċerimonji u jilqa’ l-ministri tiegħu. Hawnhekk, wieħed isib ukoll l-ikbar statwi ta’ par iljuni fil-belt kollha fejn l-iljun maskili għandu ballun taħt idejh filwaqt li dik femminili tidher tilgħab ma’ ferħ ta’ ljun.

    Is-sagrifiċċji u l-pjaċiri tal-imperatur

    Fatt kurjuż huwa illi f’din il-belt, wieħed isib ukoll il-Palazz tal-Astinenza, magħruf hekk minħabba li fih l-imperatur kien jinġabar matul il-perjodu meta huwa kien ikollu jsum għal tliet ijiem qabel iwettaq iċ-ċerimonja sagrifikali lis-sema u lill-art.

    Naturalment, l-imperatur kellu wkoll lok għall-pjaċiri, fosthom id-dritt għall-ammont kbir ta’ konkubini li kienu jgħixu ġewwa din il-belt. Dawn il-konkubini kienu jkunu tfajliet sbieħ li jintagħżlu biex jagħtu gost bil-preżenza tagħhom lill-imperatur. Iżda mhux kull konkubina kienet torqod b’mod regolari mal-imperatur, tant li kien hemm min minnhom jesperjenza dan darba f’għomru jew qatt! Il-bużillis kien li ġaladarba tfajla tkun konkubina, f’każ li l-imperatur ma jieħux grazzja magħha, din kienet titwarrab f’rokna tal-belt u tiġi njorata, iżda ma titħalla qatt tiżżewweġ lil ħaddieħor! L-uniku skop ta’ dawn il-konkubini kien li jirnexxielhom ikollhom wild mill-imperatur għax b’hekk huma kienu jitilgħu ‘l fuq fil-ġerarkija u jiżdidilhom il-poter tagħhom. Infatti dik il-konkubina li binha jirnexxielu jilħaq imperatur wara l-mewt ta’ missieru kienet saħansitra ssir l-Imperatriċi Armla.

    Miljun oġġett prezzjuż

    Minħabba l-kobor enormi ta’ din il-belt, mhux possibbli li taraha kollha iżda ċertament għajnejk għandhom biżżejjed fuqhiex jitpaxxew b’dak li tilħaq tara. L-irfinar tad-diżinji fl-injam tal-binjiet u d-dekorazzjonijiet b’kuluri mill-isbaħ huma meravilja fihom infishom. Daqstant ieħor huma sbieħ l-oġġetti li l-kmamar huma mżejjna bihom.

    Meta din il-belt kienet għadha tiffunzjona, ħadd ma seta’ jidħol fiha mingħajr permess u għalhekk hija magħrufa bħala l-Belt Ipprojbita. Imma wara li ntemmet id-Dinastija Qing, fl-1925, dan il-lwog ġie stabbilit bħala mużew tant li llum hemm min isibu wkoll bħala l-Mużew tal-Palazz. Intant, minn din il-belt, inġabru madwar miljun oġġett prezzjuz li ġew esebiti fis-swali tagħha. Dawn jikkonsistu f’oġġetti maħduma mill-bronż u mill-fuħħar, arti u tradizzjonijiet tad-Dinastiji Ming u Qing, arloġġi, tpinġijiet, skulturi u teżori oħra.

    Fl-1961 din il-belt kienet waħda mill-lwogi li ntagħżlu biex jiġu kkonservati u preservati bħala parti mill-wirt kulturali tal-pajjiż. Fl-1987, il-UNESCO għarrfitu bħala Wirt Kulturali Dinji.

    Il-Ġnien Imperjali

    Fuq in-naħa ta’ wara tagħha, din il-belt tinkludi wkoll il-Ġnien Imperjali li fih kienu jistrieħu l-Imperatur u l-familja tiegħu flimkien mal-konkubini.

    Hemm madwar 20 struttura ġewwa dan il-ġnien, fosthom paviljuni, kmamar, torrijiet u swali. Kollha ghandhom l-istil distint tagħhom u kollha ġew mibnija b’mod simmetriku u f’ordni ta’ ġerarkija.

    Għadd ta’ pjanti u siġar tħawwlu f’dan il-lwog, b’uħud minnhom evidentement illum jgħoddu żmien żemżem. Inbniet ukoll vaska sabiex tinħoloq atmosfera ta’ serenità u paċi.

    Barra minn hekk, f’naħa minnhom, issawwret għolja artifiċjali bil-blat tal-Għadira Taihu. Fin-nofs tagħha ġie ffurmat għar, mentri fil-ġnub ttellgħu turġien li jwasslu sal-quċċata. Hemmhekk l-imperatur flimkien mal-familja tiegħu kienu jitilgħu waqt ċelebrazzjonijiet partikolari sabiex igawdu x-xenarju mill-isbaħ tal-inħawi li toffri din l-għolja.

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fis-sensiela IL-KULURI TAĊ-ĊINA (L-1 Parti) fit-Torċa tal-4 ta’ Jannar 2015)

    2015.01.04 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles