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China Meets the World (4) – The Miracle__Kong Shiu Loon

China Meets the World (4) – The Miracle

by Kong Shiu Loon 江紹倫

The Miracle

As I write in April 2010 Shenzhen is pronounced in the news as China’s second largest economic city, after Shanghai. For an unknown rural marketplace with a few hundred inhabitants 30 years ago, it has become a 21 Century metropolis. Shenzhen is a true miracle.

I look for a definition. The Random House Dictionary says, a miracle “is an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers. It is also a wonder.”

Shenzhen is a wonder beyond any doubt. For those who have seen how it evolved and the power that is still pulsating there today, this miracle could serve as a medium for understanding China today and tomorrow.

From the moment Shenzhen began a point of international contact it had also become a focus of psychological calling for the most elite elements of the Chinese people. Today, the extraordinary physical event is vividly on display, the unknown human power, however, could only be appreciated in historic and cultural perspective. This is a narration of the human dynamism and drama in the miracle.

A Humble Muddy Place

I remember Shenzhen well, with images that are now gone. It and the surrounding region were covered with a fine red earth. On dry sunny days you just have to walk a hundred yards to have your face and nostrils and clothing stained in red. On a wet day the earth turns muddy and slippery. The only safe way to walk is by barefoot.

The name Shenzhen 深圳 means literally deep ditch, as applied to the ditches around paddy rice fields. They are but only shallow waters. So, the name is humble, nothing like those neighbouring market places in the Baoan County, like Clear Stream, Dragon Rise, Phoenix Rise, Fresh Water, Torrents Watch etc., not to mention Kowloon (Nine Dragons) and Hong Kong (Fragrant Harbour). For a century, it was a railway station and border checkpoint between China and the British Colony.

It was here that the Japanese established a strong camp to prepare for the surprise attack of Hong Kong on the Christmas Eve of 1942. It was here that the camp surrendered in 1945, and my peers and I went from Torrents Watch 觀瀾 to ridicule and spit on the faces of the defeated Japanese. During the intervening years The East River Guerrilla Brigade was active here, containing the Japanese and rescuing hundreds of foreigners from the many War Prisoner Camps to send them home. So Shenzhen was a place of great tension. People who went through it were always in a hurry to some destination. At night it was a ghost town.

Practically, it was only a make-shift marketplace, with an unpaved thoroughfare and about ten short side-streets. I accompanied my sister-in-law to the vicinity of Shenzhen to collect some family debts in the winter of 1947. The day had already gone when we finished our job and we decided to stay the night. I was just in my early teens. My sister-in-law was much older and quite experienced in the region. But it took her quite some time to locate an inn of five rooms, and found a place to eat. The next morning, we took a bus home to Guanlan (Torrents Watch, now well-known to the world as the Mission Hill Golf Course) some 24 kilometres north, so we did not have to do the six-hour journey by walking. The bus could accommodate 26 passengers, and it was full. The energy source was charcoal, augmented by a small amount of kerosene. I remember the huge size of the driver’s arms, like those of weight lifters. He had to crank the engine started every time it stalled. That happened often. Every time the bus went up a gentle hill, the passengers were ordered down to push it forward. In the end we got home in about 4 hours. Today, the same journey takes less than 20 minutes on the highway.

The present highway has been built and rebuilt during the last 30 years. I remember riding on a Mercedes Benz to visit home when the road was being built in 1981-82, taking 15 months. Rocks were carried from nearby hills to line up the road bed at random. No machines were available. It was for the passing cars to press down the rocks and finally level the road. Our powerful vehicle went bumpily at a snail’s pace. The journey took almost 2 hours, with the skillful steering of the chauffeur.

Small factories were built along the highway, spottily at first. A couple of years later, they stood up one next to another to fill the entire course. I remember taking the same journey in 1985 and felt shocked and sad to see almost all the hills adjacent to the highway gone. The beautiful pine woods that were once on them had perished. That was the time when the heavy bulldozers were imported. The locals could rent one of them for about $1000 RMB a day and flatten three or four small hills to make land for new factories and dormitories.

Next came the developers. They began to level the remaining hills to fill the paddy fields and ponds, as well as reclaim land from the sea. High-rise apartment buildings sprang up like mushrooms after summer rains. These were built on choice land, 20 to 40 stories high. They were needed by factory owners and managers from Hong Kong, Taiwan and other places to keep a second wife when they were on business away from home. The numbers are beyond belief. By 1990, the number of electronic and high-tech factories owned and operated in the region by Taiwanese alone totalled to over a quarter of a million.

A Place of Drama

For the latter half the 20 Century, passengers crossed the uneven wooden bridge joining China and Hong Kong across the Shenzhen River to change trains everyday. The number ranged from a few thousand to over a million a day, depending on the political climate in China. The river is only 60 yards wide at the railway crossing. High barbwires are erected along both banks of the river for miles, like those in battle grounds. But they are there not to keep soldiers out, only to prevent ordinary folks from escaping from China into Hong Kong.

The bridge is the legal crossing. People in all walks of life have made the crossing, sometimes with hope and anticipation of seeing dear ones, at other times in high anxiety, hurrying to get to the other side. I would not be too farfetched in saying that half of the hundreds of millions of passer-by’s have resounding stories to tell, if given the motivation.

A friend had told me her story. She walked to the mid-point of that wooden bridge a day in l978, stopped to look back at the Chinese flag waving at the starting end where she came, and vowed that she would make good use of her remaining life to travel to see the world. She was 32 then and she had, after two years of medical school in Shanghai, been sent away to serve as a bare-foot doctor at a remote town in Southwest China where defence scientists were making advanced arms. I asked why seeing the world was such an important goal of life. She told me that if she had known nothing about the world outside of China except what was seen in Soviet-made movies, and if she was severely ridiculed for wishing to know anything beyond keeping secret of what she did and where she worked, how she would feel about herself, her country, and her world.

She had twenty Hong Kong dollars in her pocket, so she could buy the train ticket to Hong Kong. Further down that bridge, she asked an older gentleman to help her purchase the needed ticket. He did it without taking her money, telling her “I know that’s all the money you have. All people like you from China have the same amount. The money is of no consequence to me. I just wish that you remember to help others in need when you have succeeded to establish a good life in future years.” She choked thanking him, a total stranger.

“That was my first meeting with the world.” She told me

Stories like that tell not only of the human condition in China after 1949, but also the free spirit of human beings. They also illustrate the basic human consciousness to recognize a good deed.

The Indigenous People

The majority of the people who was living in the Baoan寶安region were Hakka, a sub cultural group of the Hans, the predominant ethnic group of the Chinese people. They are known to be hardworking, resilient, learning, traditionally virtuous, ancestor-worshipping, creative, open-minded, brave, resourceful and adventurous. These are characteristics described by French and Japanese scholars who are interested in the behaviours of the Hakka people and their powerful influence in modern China. The notable revolutionary leaders of our time who are Hakka include Hong Siu Quan, Sun Yet Sen, Qui Fung Jia, Ye Jian Ying, Deng Xiao Ping and, in overseas, Lee Kwan Yiu and others (洪秀全, 孫中山, 丘逢甲, 葉劍英, 鄧小平, 李光耀).The list may now include Ma Ying Jiu 馬英九of Taiwan as he attempts to lead the people there into new successes in the 21 Century.

The Hakka’s emerged since about 4 Century during the Qin Dynasty, but more distinctly towards the Two Song Dynasties in the 11 Century, as people fled Northern China, driven by invading tribes. They found the beauties and resources of South China and used their resourcefulness to turn it into an important part of China. During the 700 hundreds years through the Yuen, Ming and Qing dynasties, the Hakka people had developed the barren mountainous areas of Jiangxi, Szechuan and Kwongdong provinces into culturally and economically progressive havens. More importantly, being adventurers, they had gone overseas to thrive in foreign countries, and brought back ideational, cultural and seminal resources to enrich the motherland.

Study (books) and tilt (the land) 耕讀 are the two words that all Hakka parents urge their offspring to practise in unison, generation after generation, regardless of how harsh the physical environment might be. It was not merely routine survival that was important. It was the challenge of surviving all odds to preserve human dignity and cultural enrichment that constitute the goal of life. Thus, on the doors of any Hakka dwelling, even in the most remote and poor areas, you will always see a meaningful couplet, written in beautiful calligraphy, to celebrate the New Year and other important seasons. The basic idea is to heighten the literal consciousness of the inhabitants that they are a part of Nature, as well as the cultural heritage in which they are linked in time and spirit to their ancestors.

The Hakka tradition combined the wisdom of Daoism and Confucian thought to blend them with Buddhist beliefs in guiding people to build happy and harmonious lives. Central in its belief is that man is a self-striving being, capable of creating meaning for life. He does so caring for the environment and other people, of which he is but a small part. Time evolves and things change. But if an individual goes through life in moderation and with modesty, he will be in harmony with the living universe for ever. The teaching “do not be in excess in doing things” 不要過分 is a motto taught in all homes and villages. It is this motto that enabled the Hakka's to succeed in diverse environments all over the globe.

Thus, it was only natural that the new reform and opening to meet the world 改革開放, in fact a revolution, would begin by the Hakka's in their homeland, Shenzhen.

Preparation for Change

Towards the end of 1978, the Chinese people had come out of 10 years of The Cultural Revolution, a mad movement to negate the mind and the heart and to put people against one another in the most devious relationships. No one was spared.

By mid-November, heads of governing units and arm services from all over China gathered in Beijing to meet continuously for 36 days, in preparation for the historic Convention of the Central Government, number 11 since the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949.

On December 13, the Convention was completed, and Deng Xiao Ping made the famous speech to signal a drastic turn of policy. It bears the title: “Liberate thoughts, seek truth from practice, and unite all elements to forge ahead.” (解放思想, 實事求是, 團結一致向前). For the ensuing two days, the entire country went through heated debates, trying to catch the true meaning of this new policy.

In a roundabout way, it meant the beginning of a new era. Henceforth, China would embrace new thoughts and ideology (not just Maoism), and end the menacing nightmares of the Cultural Revolution launched by Mao. This seems easy for those of us looking at it from outside. But it is a huge psychological struggle for those who had lived in China, especially people who had hurt friends and dear ones, and, more so, people whose lives and souls had been badly damaged. As a result, China was poor economically, and confused in basic human relationships. The new struggle would last for years hence.

It was during that extended meeting that Deng Xiao Ping surprised the world with another new statement: “Let some cities become rich before others” (讓部分城市先富起來). He named about a dozen cities. The first on the list was Shenzhen. That was the first time that most people in China heard the name, let alone people from other parts of the world.

Shenzhen took up the challenge immediately. It was still the layback marketplace described above. But its inhabitants were the Hakka’s who love new challenges. In fact, the natives had largely fled their homes during the many “escape climaxes” in the decades since l949. But their worldwide network was there, forever ready to help rebuild the motherland. As we look back to the flow of events today, Deng had named Shenzhen for strong reasons. He knew the tradition of the region because he was protected by Marshall Ye 葉劍英元師 to live there during the critical moments of the Cultural Revolution, when his life was in threat.

In November 1977, Deng Xiao Ping made his “First Southern China Visit” to Gwongdong, including Shenzhen. It was first in his agenda after he emerged from the woods to the political limelight, the third time of such change in his life. Everybody speculated what was in his mind.

He stayed for about two weeks and learned enough to affirm the personal mission for the rest of his life. It included to reform and open China, to settle the sovereign question of Hong Kong, and to peacefully bring Taiwan back to the bosom of the motherland.

The first task was urgent, with no time to lose. He was informed that thousands of people were fleeing to Hong Kong every day, and it had become a political backlash that Communism was a better social system than Capitalism. Mr Deng asked to hear facts. He was told that across the Shenzhen River, a mere 20 metres of spatial separation between China and Hong Kong, the average annual earning of the people of China was $134. Comparatively the annual earning of the unskilled workers in Hong Kong was $13,000. In terms of physical establishment, the tallest building in Shenzhen was 3 stories. There were only a few of them. In Hong Kong, buildings of 40-50 stories were seen everywhere.

Decision for Reform

Deng knew the real problem instantly. In his own heart, he knew that, if he was young and in the same situation, he too would flee. He made a quiet statement that surprised everyone around him. He said, “This flood of escapees will not be stopped by army patrol or seizure.” Something more basic must be done to level the economic and psychological imbalances.

In the spring of 1978, an observer delegation was sent to a visit in Europe to learn about how industry worked, and what could be done to forge specific economic co-operations with foreign enterprises. The leader was Gu Mu, Vice Premier of the State Council 谷牧副總理. It was the first ever such delegation since the establishment of the People’s Republic.

The action signalled a basic turn of policy, to break through the hitherto economic concept of ‘never to engage in any foreign debt, nor internal owing’ (一無外債,二無內債), and to open up China for feasible co-operation with outside organizations, particularly those operated by overseas Chinese, including those in Hong Kong.

At the same time, the government identified a person most suited to begin a practical project, Yuan Gan 袁庚, who was a member of the East River Guerrilla Brigade, also a Hakka, who knew Shenzhen and Hong Kong first hand. He was released from imprisonment (for selling out Hong Kong) and appointed to be Deputy Director of The China Merchant Steamship and Navigation Corporation, Hong Kong Branch, (CMSNCHK), 中國招商局香港分行.

He went to Hong Kong immediately. It was an entirely different world from what he had experienced in China and prison in the past dozen years. He was a classical scholar and a trainee of the Whampao Military Academy 黃埔軍校during the Kuomintang era. He wrote his feelings quoting a classical poem: “Seven days in the hills, a thousand years had transpired in the world.” 山中方七日,世上數千年。

Two weeks later, on 9 November, 1978, he flew to Beijing with a written plan for approval. It was China’s first experimental venture to meet the world in business. In essence, the Plan was to establish a new town at the southwest part of Shenzhen near the ancient head town of the Baoan County, and across a swimming distance from the western coast of Hong Kong’s New Territories, a fishing village called Shekou 蛇口 (Snake Mouth). It would have the personnel, infrastructure and law (policy) to attract foreign investors to set up shop here with the favourable tax-free treatment of a Special Economic Zone. CMSNCHK would bear all the expenses to build and operate the special town within Shenzhen, thus costing nothing to the Central Government. Yuan Gan would be the de facto mayor and manager of it, to be held responsible in success or failure.

Three days later, the State Council approved it, in principle. Within a month, the Plan was adopted by the Guangdong Province and the Ministry of Transportation to clear through the complex and rigid bureaucratic structure of a hitherto centrally led China. The officials involved were largely the leaders of the former East China Guerrilla Brigade, who were comrades in arms with Yuan.

On January 31, 1979, Yuan met with Vice-President Li Sen Niam 李先念 and Vice-Premier Gu Mu in Beijing. The former listened to the briefing and immediately used a red pencil to draw a circle on the map, saying, “Here, this is land enough for your Shekou Experimental Industrial Zone, use it wisely.” The circle marked the entire Nantou Peninsular 南頭半島.

Yuan was shocked. His quick mind told him that was too big an area for him to take care of. Instead, he asked for a smaller area of 1.1 square miles, including six deep bays for future container ports and oil exploration purposes. In effect, Shekou started with a piece of barren land. To transform it into a modern town, electricity, water, communications facilities, roads and a seaport must be installed; customs and immigration check points need be set up, and, later schools, hospitals, banks and hotels established, all from zero basis.

July 2, 1979, under a brilliant sun, a gigantic blast sent boulders and rocks flying high into the blue sky and deep into the emerald sea. It lasted for a full minute. It announced a most significant event in the 20 century, China’s reform and opening to meet the world. 

 

 

Understanding Self and Others

The blast flattened a huge slope of the Nanshan to make way for connecting Bay 5 and Bay 6 of Shekou. The flowing rocks and dirt also filled the near coasts to make land for erecting a six-story Administration Building for this China’s first Special Industrial Zone. However, that would not be done till two years later. For the present, the Commanding Post 指揮站 was set up in a house with a veranda, the best house purchased from an oyster farmer in the existing fishermen village.

The blast also set a current of other major change. Reverberating questions in the minds of the reformers surfaced, demanding answers. Hundreds of daring individuals, who would henceforth come to Shekou to shape China’s new future, would continue to ask the basic questions of:

“Who are we, and for what purposes are we waking up a country enclosed in self-imposed isolation from the world?”

“Why and how are we going to break through the entrenched mind-set of following The Great Helmsman, whose ideology and command constituted the only authority?”

“Why and how are we going to practise capitalism, when it was and continues to be our hated enemy?”

“What will be our identity? Are we communists and members of collectives, or individuals free to create our own futures?”

However, the initial reformers were Hakka’s who are doers and warriors of change. They are steadfastly doing what is practical, rather than fancying what actions are more right than possible others. A number of years later, when many people in China were still spending energy in questioning what were right and wrong, a leading slogan flashed up in the sky of Shekou to say “空談誤國,實幹興邦”. (Spurious talks only serve to confuse progress in our country; only constructive works will build up a strong and prosperous motherland).

Learning from the World

In November 1978, Deng Xiao Ping made a visit to Japan, his first international visit in half a century. He saw in an automobile factory how workers were using advanced electronic data processor, high speed telecommunication devices, Chinese character codes and the microwave oven. He knew, for comparison, that Chinese workers were largely using their hands, following slogans on the wall. He wrote on the Guest Book “China-Japan friendship will have a splendid future” to signal the beginning of international co-operation.

Deng learned something more basic in the ensuing visit to Singapore, hitherto blended “a running dog of American Imperialism” by the Gang of Four government. On the surface, he observed how Singapore had made great economic strikes by utilizing foreign investments in the development of tourism, public housing and environmental beautification. However, it was his conversation with Li Kwan Yiu that had precipitated a deep impression in his heart. A section of that conversation was reported two decades later as follows:

“I am very impressed by the formidable progress your country has made, and feel humbled by your leadership,” Deng said in praise of Li.

“Thank you Your Excellency,” Li replied, “I believe you will do much better. Our ancestors were only farmers and coolies from the Hakka villages a century ago. But you have Zhangyuens 狀元, scholars, philosophers and poets as ancestors. There are so many intelligent and educated people in China that once they activate their potentialities their achievements will diminish what little progress we’ve made.”

The words of the Singaporean Prime Minister hit a painful core in Deng’s mind. He remembered his own roots and the practical qualities of his parents and relatives. He also remembered the emphasis on education and its power to lift people from physical and spiritual poverty. He decided to regenerate education in China, beginning with reforming the universities with an emphasis on learning rather than class struggles. He must restore the dignity of teachers and learners.

Opening the Mind

I was visiting Hong Kong to attend a conference when I met Yuan Gan and learned about his Plan for the Experimental Economic Zone of Shekou in Hong Kong. We immediately visited the place when it was a bare hill and a quiet beach. There, sitting on a rock half way up Nanshan, I suggested that priority must be given to set up training programs for the managers and workers of future factories and corporation offices. People’s mind must be set free.

Four months later, I met Gu Mu when I lectured the first group of university graduates recruited from all over China. I asked about his impressions on his European tour a year ago. He spoke mildly, as if showing his inner thoughts with an old friend: “The deepest impression is the difference in education. I don’t know why and how. But all the leaders and experts in the big corporations are well grounded in knowledge of history and literature, on top of their specialties. In our motherland, universities graduates know only how to repeat slogans and follow orders at work.” I informed him that education in the West had been emphasizing the education of the whole man. It means teaching individuals about himself, his heritages and the society in which his family and community exist and function. Technical knowledge is only a small part.

“You must help us to profess and disseminate your view,” he suggested.

Two decades later, as Shekou had become a modern town of 65,942 people who had come from all over China to function in 405 enterprises established from ground zero, a book “The Shekou Testimony” 見證蛇口, was published to record how the pioneers had faced the complex problems of initiating change, and triumphed the many odds against such change.

Ten years later, another book was published to describe how Shenzhen had become the third largest economic city in China, with a population of 10 million, and a new airport to connect it to all parts of China and the world.

The author of this book is a self-made reporter from Northern China who answered to the “call” of Shenzhen to migrate to this new city. The book of 2 volumes is called The Story of Spring – A History of Shenzhen’s Rise, 1974-2009 (春天的故事 – 深圳創業史). It gives vivid and often personal narrations of how all those pioneers rushed to Shenzhen’s “call for change”, and their sacrifices, struggles and triumphant deeds.

I wrote an article for the Shekou book to tell what I did to educate the first group of pioneers. The Story of Spring has a chapter on the small part I had played in this making of the miracle, giving me the nickname of “a renegade expert” 反動權威, and the first group of pioneers, 48 young people from the key universities “The First Class of Whampao” (黃埔一期)

What was the significant opening of the mind at that monumental point of historic change? Yuen Gan gave a succinct recording from his own notebook when he wrote the Epilogue for the Shekou book. His own Biography of Yuen Gan 袁庚傳has told how eagerly he sat on the front row of that first training course, much like a student of high expectation, and took notes of what was said.

In the Epilogue, he said, “a famous expert used ‘the human condition’ to describe a healthy society, that every individual member can fully develop his independent nature, can differentiate between rights and wrongs, can make his own choice, has conviction and not only opinions, has beliefs rather than mistrusts or illusive hopes …” He concluded saying: “To this I agree”.

That was an attempt to give the simplest portrayal of personal freedom, what was totally lacking in China then, and what, when believed to exist in a new town created under a reform movement, had become a spiritual calling for the thousands of intelligent young people whose growing up had been entrapped in a single ideology of mistrust and illusive hopes.

The Power of Being Free

Today, we look back to the events and effects of the stormy change in first 30 years. The Shenzhen miracle was made not only by the daring striving of the pioneer leaders and their followers, but also by the children that came with them who were given the freedom to grow and to express their potential powers. They too had fostered economic success and cultural richness for the miracle city.

The story of Spring has documented, in animated narration, the many successes of new economic and technological ventures created by children and young adults who grew up in Shenzhen. Almost all the successful enterprises now listed in the Hong Kong Stocks Exchange, and heavily traded, were created by these people.

I may tell other equally impressive success stories in a future article in the present series. But, could you not be elated to learn that the first Shenzhen hi-tech company that was accepted by NASTAQ had a history of only six months and that the directors were teenagers who had learned to swim in the ocean of computer interaction all by themselves. They were the children of parents who were pioneers of change, who also encouraged and supported their children to freely venture into the world of unknowns. For people in the rest of China, “the spirit of Shenzhen” 深圳精神became not only an aspiration for success, but also a guiding light for concrete accomplishments in the global society of the 21 century.

Perhaps no story could fire the admiration and wonder more intensely than the glory of Li Yundi 李雲迪, winner of the 18th International Chopin Piano Competition. He was 18 years old, the youngest person to win that competition ever. Moreover, the first prize was withheld for 15 years before him because no competitor could meet the high standards of the judges. But, from the DVD which recorded the event, the judges were awed by Li’s rendition throughout the rigorous test of playing the many nocturnes and mazurkas and finally the concerto with the orchestra. The audiences were mesmerized too. They often could not wait until the final notes before jumping up clapping in appreciation, as if to release the tension of being drowned in the beautiful sounds.

Li was born in Chong Qing in southwest China. His parents were workers in a steel and iron factory. He was taught by Dan Zhaoyi, a piano teacher without notable fame. The family moved to Shenzhen when Li was 12 years old. He attended the Shenzhen Art School, and began to win prizes one after another, nationally and internationally.

Music is an expression of the soul and the will. There, on stage before the world, Li pounded at the piano with the power of youth, his burning passion tempered by lyrical moods, his will to rendition what was exactly in the soul of Chopin who was far removed from him in time, space, culture and musical tradition, but whose desires and yearning for beauty and love were close, made him a genius reincarnate. He was Frederick Chopin.

I have spent many a day listening to Li and other maestros, like Dino Lipatti, Rubinstein and Horowitze, alternately in a serene environment shut off from life routines. He is the best beyond doubt, lyrical, dreamy, purposeful, communicative and confident.

How could a musically restricted China produce a Chopin? No one can give an adequate answer. But, if music is the expression of freedom, passion and the will, and hard-work to achieve excellence, Shenzhen was such an expression. After Li’s success, many aspiring musicians flocked to Shenzhen from all corners of China.

Window of the World

In ancient China, Laoze 老子had professed the concept of “the door-less path”無門道. A door would be erected on a path, but people could go through it from both sides, in or out, as if the door was only an abstract mark for people to choose their way to a destination.

By the beginning of 1980’s, China had realized that tourism was an effective way of earning foreign currency. It was given the nickname of “industry without smokes” 無煙工業. But, a one-way tourist industry also brought problems. Ma Chi Min 馬志民came to Hong Kong to head up the Hong Kong China Travel Services 香港中國旅行社on the heel of the Reform and Opening movement. His mission was to modernize China’s tourist services at par with those in the outside world.

He was from Shenzhen. His responsibilities included managing the Huagiu City 華僑城 and liaising with the patriotic individuals from Hong Kong. He visited the Miniature World of Holland in 1985 and decided to build a similar structure to depict China’s numerous monuments and wonderful sceneries. The project immediately attracted hundreds of artists from all over China, who came to help to recreate over one hundred scenic wonders in exact miniature replication. The park spanning 48 hectares of land was called Splendid China 錦繡中華.

I attended the opening of this grand site in September 1989. I presented to Ma the ancient door-less path concept of human choice and movement, and suggested that he add to the theme park monuments of the world. He accepted the idea immediately and set to work. Today, such epic buildings as the Pyramid, the Coliseum, the Eifel Tower etc stand side by side with the Great Wall, the Imperial Palace and the Lungmun Buddhist Grottoes in a single theme park. The name is Window of the World 世界之窗. It helps an average of 20,000 visitors per day to appreciate some 130 world wonders in one place. The park has become a source of education and esthetic experience, transcending time and space.

Wonders to Come

What will the future hold for Shenzhen and China? Scores of books and many articles and reports have portrayed the Shenzhen wonder that a 10 million people city could rise from a simple marketplace in 2 to 3 decades. It is a city not only for economic development, but also for the expression of culture and beauty.

Portrayals are usually two dimensional, emphasizing physical appearances and material gains. To understand how and why wonders are made, we need to probe into the human forces which gave rise to them, and to which their powers return to open up man’s infinite potential to further creation.

The philosopher Andre Malraux said: “Man can never plumb the depths of his own being; his image is not to be discovered in the extent of the knowledge he acquires but in the questions he asks.” It was this quality of not satisfied with the status quo, and to act in answer to one’s calling, that had created wonders in Shenzhen. As long as this urge to enquire and to explore what lies beyond the horizon continues, Shenzhen, and for that matter China, will see more wonders.

 

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