Monday, July 20, 2009

YP Bonding Trip to Chengdu, China Day 3

10 July 2009

Woke a bit earlier today to check out the swan lake near the hotel. Boutique shops lined the road towards it.

Comrade Ser Luck bade farewell to us after breakfast. According to the tour guide, an earthquake broke out at Yunnan and there was an urgent CCP meeting that recalled the CYL leaders, such that they were unable to send Comrade Ser Luck off.

Our first trip was to the Temple of Marquis (武侯祠), where the legendary hero Zhuge Liang (诸葛亮) is commemorated. Zhuge Liang is a military strategist who lived during the period of the Three Kingdoms.

Tour guide Ying Yong was very animated when he described the various characters within the Temple. That helped me remember the characters more vividly.

Guan Yu: He treated subordinates well but not fellow comrades. He died after losing in a battle and his head was severed. Legend has it that his soul lingered around the area. He was well respected he is now worshipped in Buddhism and Taoism.

Zhang Fei: Harsh treatment to subordinates. Once, he was rejected of a posting due to his alcoholism. He turned to his soldiers and threatened to beat up anyone that induced him to drink. He did keep to his word and beat up 2 of them. These 2 thought that if Zhang Fei could treat them so badly just by inducing him to drink, what more could happen if they lost a war? So they sneaked into Zhang Fei's room in the night and attempted to kill him.

Version 1: The 2 soldiers beheaded him, while in his sleep.

Version 2 (crafted by people who respected Zhang Fei and did not believe that such a great guy should not have been assassinated) Zhang Fei sleeps with his eyes wide open. When the knife blade reached the throat of Zhang Fei, the assassin was so afraid of Zhang Fei's eyes that he shivered, with the blade tickling Zhang's throat. Just as the assassin wanted to give up killing Zhang, Zhang slapped his palm on the knife and killed himself.

The 2 soldiers then grabbed his head and wanted to present it to the enemy. However, they got wind that the enemy had already allied with one of Zhang's ally, so they threw his head down a river. The head was later recovered by a fisherman.

Liu Bei: A humble warlord that died from an illness caused by a defeat. Liu Bei had relied on Zhuge Liang's acumen during the war. Once, Liu Bei led troops out without Zhuge Liang. Zhuge Liang requested that Liu Bei's troops send a soldier back each day to update on the terrain and route travelled. As the distance covered increases, it took several days for messengers to reach base camp.

While Liu Bei was glad that he found a chilling area in a forest to set up his camp site, Zhuge Liang, upon knowing about the terrain after a few days, immediately knew that Liu had lost. Indeed, the terrain is vulnerable to fire attack, which the enemy used. Liu managed to escape back alive but was too disappointed that he lost and got sick.

Before his death, he made a controversial statement to Zhuge Liang. He told Zhuge Liang to take over the throne if his son could not make it. Some historians pinned blame on Liu for saying that due to the confusion he caused.

In ancient China, the construction of a tomb begins right after a new ruler is born. The size of the tomb is directly correlated to the age of the ruler. As Liu Bei did not rule for long, his tomb at Hui Ling (惠陵) was considered to be small.
Liu Bei was posthumously named Zhaolie.
Liu Bei's body lies behind this wall...

Zhuge Liang: A military strategist sought after by Liu Bei. Historians have no clue how Zhuge Liang derived his military acumen because prior to military life, he was a farmer and had no practical experience in fighting wars. After Liu Bei visited him 3 times, he then agreed to join Liu Bei's forces. He correctly predicted the situation of the war in the future.

Temple of the 3 Sworn Brothers...

... with gigantic incense sticks!

Another interesting signage:

After lunch, we proceeded to a tea factory for a tea appreciation and tasting. There, I learned about the history behind Pu Er tea. In Tibet, there is little vegetation, so the source of vitamins must come from somewhere else. In the past, the Chinese would compress the tea leaves and transport it all the way into the dryland of Tibet. After some time, they discovered that the Pu Er tea actually tasted better after long storage. According to our tour guide, he has a friend that drinks decades-long Pu Er tea which costs tens of thousands of dollors.

The tea appreciation was conducted by the ladies of a tribe, affected by the Sichuan earthquake. They hoped to raise funds for the reconstruction efforts through sale of the various tea leaves. From time to time, the Chinese government will deliver Pu Er tea leaves to the Lamas of Tibet. These Lamas would then issue some of the tea leaves to the people, while storing some for themselves. In light of the quake, some Lamas had donated valuable tea leaves to raise funds.

Next, we went to Dujiangyan to see for ourselves a spectacular irrigation system that was created thousands of years ago.

The irrigation system was created by digging a new path for the water to travel from the right to the left (refer to picture below), thus leaving an islet in the middle. When water travels down from the right, the centrifugal force actually leaves the debris on the upper water path. The lower water path leads to the farmers. The system is so successful that even when water level is low, the difference in depths of the seabed allows for water to be channelled into the farmlands.

Travelling on the road, one can see many billboards carrying motivational and patriotic statements such as the one below, which calls for the continual emphasis on the development of Science to rebuild a beautiful home.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

YP Bonding Trip to Chengdu, China Day 2

9 July 2009

The first itinerary in the morning is the meeting with our Sichuan counterparts. Donned in our formal wear, everyone took a group photo before walking over to the conference room opposite our hotel.

Communist Youth League (CYL) Sichuan Province Party Secretary Zhang Tong welcomed us and introduced the host delegation members, after which Young PAP Chairman Teo Ser Luck introduced the Singapore delegation members.

A video about the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake was screened. The spirit of the Sichuan people in banding together to tide over the crisis is commendable.

After the sharing session, we went for lunch at a very scenic restaurant, along with the Sichuan CYL leaders.

When our meals were served, the waitress would always announce the name of the dishes. All dishes carry a distinctive name. Some dishes have their history, and usually are named after the surname of the person that first cooked that dish.

We unknowingly took rabbit meat. It was presented like the typical Hainanese chicken style, so we just ate the meat, until we were enlightened by our host. That had been the most extreme food for the entire trip even though it tasted really like chicken.

Next, we visited two industrial parks. The first was the National Software Base Technology Platform. There we checked out an incubation centre for University students.

The next one we went to was Chengdu Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone.

It suddenly felt like home when we were greeted by NCS (Chengdu) General Manager, a Singaporean. It's unexplainable but the moment he spoke in English, we knew he was Singaporean. There was that familiar Singaporean way of speaking.

As we toured the office, he explained to us that some of the billing enquiries in Singapore were handled by his staff.
After NCS, we were hosted by the Director of Bureau of Economic & Trade Development of Chengdu Hi-Tech Development Zone for a sharing session. While developed states like Singapore face the problem of competition caused by lower labour cost abroad, developing cities like Chengdu face problems of brain drain.

On the way back to the hotel, Mayor Teo Ser Luck shared to us that he kept minimal personal belongings at his CDC and Ministry office. The reason was that he sees his commitment as a Service, not a Career. He would be ready to leave when the country no longer needs his service. Back at the hotel, we bid farewell to Dr Faishal, who would be leaving Chengdu.

Dinner was at a Chong Qing Steamboat restaurant. We were joined by some Chengdu youths who schooled in Singapore when they were younger.

As we were dining, the senior comrades shared about their experiences in Meet-the-People Sessions. I was particularly inspired by one of the mentioned incidents. During the comrade's MPS, there was a resident seeking for financial help. Usually, such cases would be referred to the relevant Ministries or agencies. However, the comrade was sharp to detect that the resident was urgently in need of some cash. The comrade handed him some cash. Later, some Party members decided to pay a visit to the resident and discovered that there was not a single piece of furniture in the house and that the resident's baby was foaming due to insufficient money to buy milk powder.

It was a touching experience. MPS provides a great platform for us to reach out to residents in our area that need help but do not know how or where to seek from.

Anyway, there are a lot of interesting signages in China, such as this one spotted in the toilet:

After dinner, a group of us went to Jing Li (锦里) to shop for souvenirs. Some of the taxis have this metal grill as a safety precaution. According to a cab driver, he told me that as part of the city's drive to be a more vibrant city, all fences in public areas are ordered to be removed. Subsequently, police presence was beefed up for a period to ensure a smooth transition. Such metal grills are not installed in newer taxis.

Jing Li is an amazing place. The architecture of the buildings reminds one of the numerous Chinese ancient martial arts films.

Ting, ting, ting! The familiar sound in Singapore meant the presence of an ice-cream vendor nearby. That same sound in Jin Li? Ear-digging service is nearby!

The stalls closed around the same time our malls do, at about 10pm.