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My Behringer-in-China Trip: Thursday, 2/25/2010—Part Two

March 3, 2010

It’s a pleasantly warm afternoon for a bus tour, partly overcast, and the trip takes us through scenery that shows the recent explosion of industry and population growth. There are still a few rice paddies visible from the main roads we travel, but mostly the area is built up, with the kind of variety in architecture of the many new buildings that is a far cry from the blocky styles of the Old China. Here are a few examples, shot from the speeding bus.

    

    

  

Curves are in, ostentatious portals, shiny materials—this is New New New. Since we’re in the last few days of the Chinese New Year period, many signs are still up that will come down soon, making the place even more colorful. Other new structures try to stay within the tradition.

  

As Costa Lakoumentas had explained to me, the Guandong province around the city of Zhongshan was part of the special economic zone where the nearest thing to capitalism, at least an economy and production style of western influence, was not just tolerated but encouraged by the central government. Young people flocked there from near and far, and foreign investment kept flowing in. Of late, there was a downturn in new jobs—Costa attributes that to the worldwide slowdown—and many young people went back to their homelands. He said that turnover can be rapid, a big problem for a company that insists on minute-by-minute quality checks. A young person who came here, not with a career in mind, just for the short-term wages that represent a big step up from back home where there may be no jobs, such a person may switch employer for just a tiny bit more cash. The only way to slow down such turnover, he said, is to offer more than just competitive wages: Dorms with free accommodation, free food, free recreation and sports, plus creating team-spirit and personal pride in the work, with awards and recognition of good work and such.

After about a half-hour drive we arrive at the park-like complex housing the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and his former residence.

      

This visit seems to be the obligatory nod to Chinese history and culture, not just for foreigners but also for visiting Chinese, as Dr. Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) is a figure head, recognized all over China as the founder of the country in the modern age. 

    

Below, Sarah Westbrook is caught in front of the Memorial Hall.

The museum and gardens contain interesting sculptures and folk-art pieces.

    

Soon we are driven back to the hotel King Century in Zhongshan where we know we belong.

 

It is a swank affair of glitz and glam; my room is downright palatial. There is an equally glittering shopping mall attached

   

 that is a far cry from the many sidewalk storefronts and older shops we see from the bus. 

Then it’s back on the bus, off to dinner. More sights of Zhongshan as seen from the bus.

  

There is an old Hindu temple up on a hill, incongruous among all the modernity below...

  

The city beckons a welcome greeting from a hillside while another sign beckons...what?

  

Turns out that we’re eating at an open-air establishment where, soon after we are seated, violent wind gusts make us wonder if this was such a good idea—hold on to your jackets, grab some flying napkins out of the air, and hope that the beer bottles will stay upright...

Soon the wind subsides and the first of about twelve courses arrives on the huge Lazy Susan. Nearby a calligraphy artist makes up big well-wishing signs on the spot, with a few assured brush strokes, and many folks take home a large piece of paper that they don’t quite know how wrestle into submission until the ink is dry, then how to keep it safe without doing damage to the paper? Tricky tricky.

A Chinese Tea Ceremony artist makes hard work out of what could be a simple task—pouring a cuppa. But try doing it like he does, pouring from a teapot that has a 5-foot long spout... Over the shoulder, from behind his back, any which way, from dance- and warrior-like stances—great visuals, and very funny when he invites eager members of the audience to come up and follow his moves...

The evening is capped by the distribution of a memento from Uli Behringer, a piece of folk art to grace mantlepieces all over the world. Nice!

Great stuff. Back to the palace. Good night.

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