China Reflections

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China Reflection Paper
Shanghai and Hangzhou, May 11th -19th, 2012
For: Dr. John McCreery
By: Bimal Kaur

Dated more than several hundred years BC, China is an ancient civilization that can be broadly categorized into the prehistoric, ancient, imperial, and modern China timelines. The modern China that our MBA class of 2013 experienced May 11th – 19th will remain imprinted in my mind as fascinating a memorabilia as a country can offer to a tourist of a week.

In this paper I try to capture not only the planned itinerary of industry visits, but also all that I absorbed in the two cities, Shanghai, and Hangzhou – the people and my walks in the evening, the smells and food, billboards and the weather, and my adventures into back alleys haggling with Chinese people over the calculator while I buy faux designer brands. Before delving deeper, I would like to state that my humble observations in this paper are merely reflective of a visitor trying to soak in an entire country and its various cultures in a short period of one week, and so some portions may be biased, naïve or even totally oblivious to the actualities of a country as historic, vast, vigorous, beautiful, and ambitious as China.

Our tour began in Shanghai with sight seeing activities of the White Buddha temple, the Bund and some gardens in the City, where we dispersed into the red brick stone streets to finish the day shopping for Chinese jewels and souvenirs - pearls, jade, and silk. Beginning the trip with a visit to the Buddha temple was apt in my mind since Buddhism prevails as the most popular religion in China. Throughout the visits to the Buddha temples, including the one in Hangzhou, there were indications of the religion being derived from Buddhism in India. For instance, there was a striking resemblance in the statue of Mercy, the female Buddha, with the Indian Hindu god, Ma Kali. Another noteworthy evidence in this context is the Pagoda structure, which is a derivative of the Stupas in India.

In the Four Heaven Kings room, Buddhism depicts a strategy to get rid of evil in order – first is the angry face Buddha seeking evil with a snake in hand, followed by a kind face Buddha with an umbrella in his hand to catch all evil. The third Buddha has a mandolin to make evil sleepy, and the last Buddha is armed with a sword to kill the evil after it falls sleepy – simplistic yet interesting. There were other rooms in the temple with more Buddha statues, including the female Buddha Mercy, standing on a sea turtle. Each temple we went to had a raised threshold at its entrance that represented a barrier to keep evil spirits out.

Besides Buddhism, the other two philosophies prevalent in ancient China were Confucianism, and Taoism. Confucianism emphasized on education, and was well established until the Opium Wars, when ancient China realized that a rigorous merit based system to delegate power was futile if they did not develop their militia to stand up against Ocean People’s sophisticated weapons. The Taoism philosophy centers on the principle that good and evil, right and wrong coexist, and there is no good if there is no evil in this world. The gardens in Shanghai contained symbolic representations of these three religious practices.

Religion in modern China has always been a point of contention since the establishment of Communist Party of China or the CCP in 1921. Religion remains suppressed, and if a lack of belief in the higher power translates to a lack of a checks-and-balance system, one can conjecture that it has created a void in the country’s general sense of morality. Here I’m going to quote our tour guide in Hangzhou, Joe, who explained, “Only about 20% of the Chinese believe in Buddhism, most Chinese believe in themselves.” This point, also mentioned in China Road (Gifford, Rob) gained my attention in light of the Chinese economic reform that has been so rampantly adopted by the CCP after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976....
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