Culture Article #19: For the Joy of Sharing

A Peep Into China – Episode 4

By C.I. Sivasubramanian
Aged 96, Retired Director, Ministry of Commerce, New Delhi


Introduction by Venkat
The China episodes, with this one, come to a lovely conclusion. One cannot thank enough Mr. Sivasubramanian for giving a down-to-earth view into China and Chinese life. In this article he covers the Ming tombs, some shopping areas, the Olympic stadium, Chinese tea and Chinese medicines. His analogies to the markets in Delhi, make it lively and tempt a humor that only Delhiites can appreciate! The previous episodes and past contributions are linked at the bottom. Warmed by the response to this series on China, Mr. C. I. Sivasubramanian has offered to post next a series on his visit to Japan! Gratitude to the beautiful and colorful experiences he gives us through his writing.

A Peep Into China – Episode 4

Ming tombs

And, finally for the day, the guide took us to the Ming tombs, the mausoleums of 13 Emperors of the Ming Dynasty (14th to 17th Century) located in the middle of a huge garden 50 km away from the city. The vaults are buried deep down and we had to go down hundreds of steps to reach the bottom. Because of its long history of reign by the emperors, the site has high cultural and historic value.


The next day, we were left to ourselves, for shopping or loitering around without the pressure of the guide. Some of us went to a nearby subji market, similar to the Delhi Okhla mandi. My grandson could manage to strike a chord with the shopkeepers. He had similar experience in Ahmedabad interacting with the farmers and small traders the previous month.

Binaqui market

Later, we debated about whether we should take a bus or taxi to a shopping centre famous for electronic gadgets, called Binaqui. After some discussions, we decided in favour of the taxi. Here, one had to bargain even for such costly items as digital cameras, a thing unknown even in India. It looked more like the Chandni Chowk shops in Delhi, only more sophisticated.


Ya Xiu market

The day we were to leave, we visited yet another shopping centre called Ya Xiu market. This looked more on our line, like the Delhi Sarojini market, although better organized. Here, one had to do hard bargaining and we had been warned. What is initially priced at 500 yuans (8 yuans make a dollar) is sold finally for 50-60 yuans! Here, we purchased some clothes and shoes. We wished we had visited this place the previous day and shopped more, although we were not clear if the quality was good. The apparel and shoes looked good to the eye and we purchased a few as keepsakes from China. Let us hope they are durable.


Olympic stadium

On the way to the airport, we saw the new stadium coming up for the Olympic Games. It was a modern structure and one of the eleven the Chinese proposed to construct. As you know, the 2008 Olympics was held in Beijing, with the logo, “One World One Dream”. They were building a new airport to facilitate travel to the stadia. And we know now that the Chinese put up one of the greatest shows on earth for the olympics.



Chinese Tea Centre

We then proceeded to a Chinese Tea Centre, where they explained the potency of various types of teas grown in China and passed round little cute cups of teas to taste. They managed to sell a packet of Jasmine tea to my daughter and a souvenir to go with it!


Chinese Medicines

Chinese medicines and foods are famous all over the world. We visited a Chinese medical Clinic where a Chinese doctor spoke in fluent English and explained the way they were promoting Chinese medicine along with allopathic medicines, just as we promote Indian medicines in India. There are Universities which teach Chinese medicine as well as Universities which teach English medicine. Both have to learn compulsorily a little bit of the other before degrees are awarded. He explained the virtues of using natural herbs to cure a majority of ailments and how the pulse rate explains exactly what the patient is suffering from. He said that when Mao Tse Dung met Nixon in 1972, he said that China has two great things to offer to the world – one was Chinese food and the other, Chinese medicine.

We were impressed by the developments in China. It has progressed much faster than India in almost all fields. The cities looked more modern and the shopping centres better organized. There were hundreds of flyovers, in some places in three tiers, and the traffic moved smoothly. The roads are broader and cleaner and there were Mercedeses, Volkswagens and other big cars, as also Altos and Wagon Rs on the roads. Just as Chinese goods are seen in every part of the world, foreign goods are also available in China. People are well dressed. One does come across places like Govind Puri, but these were few and far between.

People, contrary to my expectation, are overtly friendly, cheerful and forthcoming (like the girl in the Pearl Factory who asked my wife to treat her as her granddaughter). They were eager to converse with us, even though we were strangers. People have woken up and follow the trends in the west. The Girl Guide we met in Shanghai said that young people in China were free to take their own decisions without the control of their parents. They followed western fashion, dress like them, see English movies. She, as many other young girls we saw, wore western clothes.

The girl said that she had been a guide to many visitors from Thailand, Malaysia, and India. There is a tie up between the tourist organisations in China and India. We were impressed by the way our tour was organized so that we could get a bird’s view of this great country in a brief period.

By C.I. Sivasubramanian
Aged 96, Retired Director, Ministry of Commerce, New Delhi


Mr. Sivasubramanian hails from Coimbatore. He has been living in Delhi throughout life. He was employed with the Government of India, Ministry of Commerce and retired as Director in 1986.


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