Zhong guo

From March 16 to 31, 2003, we have visited China, the cities of Shanghai, Hefei, and Beijing, and the town of Ninguo, Anhui. We have the privilege to enjoy the wonderful hospitality of prof. Di-Yun Ruan at the University of Science and Tecnology of Hefei , of Mrs Wang Hong Mei, chairman of San Jin Middle School of Ningguo, and of prof. Cui and his students at Beijing Normal University . This journey, half work and half pleasure, was a great opportunity to meet this marvellous and somehow misterious country, which had attracted our interest since a long time.

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A chinese story

as told by Alvise Zorzi in "Life of Marco Polo from Venice" - Milano 1982

In 1265, Nicolò and Matteo Polo, Marco Polo's father and uncle, visited the Kubilai Khan, the great Mongolian emperor of China, grandchild of Gengis Khan, and spoke him about Christinity. He was rather interested (its mother was a Christian), but said:
" How do you want that I convert myself to Christianity? Here Christians are such ignorant and inept people. On the contrary, idolaters (as Marco Pole calls the Buddhists) are capable to do wonderful things, they make wine filled cups to move around and oblige the bad weather to go away. If I converted me to the reputation of Christ, there will be great scandal and people would ask me: what caused you to move to the belief of Christ? What virtue and miracles have you seen from him? .. What I could answer? "

Hefei - Temple of Lord

Hefei - Temple of Lord Bao

Lord Bao Memorial Temple is a typical ancient architectural complex with style imitating that of the Song Dynasty. Orginally a Buddhist Temple, it was transformed into the Lord Bao Academy of Classic Learning during the Ming Dinasty (1368-1644)
Hefei - Scenes from Lord
								Bao's life

Hefei - Scenes from Lord Bao's life

Lord Bao (Baozheng) was a famous upright officer who lived during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 - 1127), one of the more magnificent periods of the Chinese civilization


So Kubilai handed the Polo merchants a letter for the Pope in which he asked to send him a hundreth of wise men or Christian priests that knew
" how to make clear to the idolaters, with the force of reason, that their law is not of divine inspiration and that the Christian law is superior "
But when the Polos had returned to the West, they found that the catholic Church had no chief at that moment, because the Pope had died and a successor had not yet been elected. After several adversities, they eventually succeeded in bringing the sacred oil of the lamps from Jerusalem holy sepulcher, as well as numerous splendid gifts, to the Great Khan Kubilai. And they brought him the credentials of the new Pope Gregorio X, finally chosen and established in Vatican, and his letters for the Mongolian Emperor. But the "hundred wise men of the Christian law" that Kubilai had asked for could not be found, and actually did not exist in the whole Christian world.

The chinese civilization is one of the most ancient of our planet and its accomplishments went on for tens of centuries, through different periods and dinasties. The Chinese technological and cultural development came many centuries before that of the European and West regions. The quantity of cast iron manufactured in China in 1078 was almost double of that it is produced in Great Britain in 1788, seven centuries after. In Marco Polo times, a census of the Beijing population (the capital city then called Khanbaliq) accounted for about 1,200,000 inhabitants.


	A puppet show: a
A puppet show: a wedding

Traditional marriages were always arranged by the families and the groom did not see the bride's face until wedding night

Beijing - Stationery shop

Beijing - Stationery shop

A huge model of inkpot, the slate stone used to melt and mix the ink for writing Chinese characters with the traditional brush (see also here ).


The technology of printing, which was developed in Europe only in 1500, in China began during the Tang dynasty (618-907 dC) and it was improved in the following centuries. Already during the Song period, around 1000 AD, publications were not limited to erudite works, but favored also the spread of the 'popular literature', a phenomenon known in Europe only seven centuries later. The Chinese have always been very fond of writing and book stores as well as stationery shops, where ink, inkpots, brushes and paper are on sale, are among the most interesting and charming places to be seen.


chinese guillotine

A Chinese guillotine
Lord Bao

Lord Bao
Soldiers of Lord Bao

Soldiers of Lord Bao

The name China comes possibly from the name of the first imperial dynasty, Qin, pronounces 'Cin' (221-206 to. C.) Actually, this dynasty is represented by a single emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who died in 210 b.C. and left at Lintong, close to Xi'an, the ancient capital, a splendid mausoleum. Close to it, in an undergound cellar, some farmers discovered in 1974 some clay (terra-cotta) figures representing horses and warriors. later escavation unearthed a complete army composed of up to seven thousand terra-cotta figures, now known as the terra-cotta army.

terra-cotta army terra-cotta army terra-cotta army
We had the chance to admire some of the famous terra-cotta warriors at an exposition in Hefei
The size of the figures is proportional to their social position: the emperor is very tall, the generals and officers are slightly shorter , smaller and smaller lower officers, sergeants and soldiers, and as little as children the servants or slaves.


Places we visited in China
Forbidden City
Forbidden City
Great Wall
Great Wall
  Hefei University of Science and Tecnology  
  San Jin Middle School in Ningguo  
  Beijing Normal University  

* cover photograph by Natson

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Carla Marchetti
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