Peace in the West

There was one part of my trip to China that I thought was special. We had flown into Xining city for an overnight stay as this linked us to the Qinghai plateau. There was also another reason, and that was for our Tai Ji trainers wife Wei to meet her Aunty and family for dinner as we passed through on our adventures. We had arrived late in the afternoon and put our luggage in an upmarket hotel. We wandered around Xining for a few hours taking in the streets. It is a very busy city. Soon it came time for our meeting with Wei’s family in a very refined restaurant where we had a room to ourselves that seated around fourteen people on a large Chinese round family-style table. Wei’s aunty was quite the matriarchal figure. Very elderly yet quite nimble for her age. Wei’s cousin was present and his family. He would have been in his mid-sixties. The food by the way was amazing, the tea kept flowing all through the meal which I appreciated. We learnt that Wei’s aunty had been one of many in her youth at the time to volunteer to join the Communist parties goal of turning what was when Wei’s aunty first arrived nothing more than a dust bowl in one of the harshest climates in Northern China. She had grown up in Beijing and as a youngster was inspired by the idea of helping to build a future city. It seemed the Communist party was looking not five years ahead or ten years ahead. They wanted to see China grow. Wei’s aunties son was trained to be an engineer as he definitely had the head for it. He told us of the generous pension he received after he retired and how he spends his spare time travelling around China. When I went to China I soon learnt that the Chinese are avid tourists in their own country. I saw a lot of young Chinese editing their perfect tourist snaps while on domestic flights in China. Also the throngs of youths trying to take that special holiday snap in a fancy dress and parasol in hand. It was quite endearing, to be honest. I felt happy for them as they probably travelled from the other side of China to get that perfect photo to share with envious friends.

I felt it was quite amazing to be in the presence of someone who had come to Xining and helped build the city we were enjoying now. You could definitely see that she was proud of her efforts and her family. She had travelled patiently in her life to realise a goal that very few people would be able to imagine bearing fruit in their lifetime. Xining is such a large city. What has helped China is its large rivers. Most of the desert settings we went to, such as Dunhuang had large rivers that would cut through the cities. Some of these rivers were man-made yet most had always been there. I feel it was a very memorable moment to meet someone who volunteered to transform a humble place into a city now home to millions. Xining can be directly translated as ‘Peace in the West’. The West for the Chinese in folklore is a place of demons and strange threats. It is where the sun sets and the darkness comes. In reality, there have always been western invaders. There have been a lot of invaders historically, the Tibetans invaded, the Mongolians invaded and various other groups throughout history. The book ‘Journey to the West’ is about Monkey as he confronts all of the strange devils as he journeys westward. The goal of Xining then was to bring peace to the west. A rather noble goal for the Chinese. Xining is a testament that even the harshest place can be transformed. A city like Sydney which had a meteoric rise over the decades had the perfect conditions for a city. A harbour, sandstone, dense forests with lots of building materials. Still amazing mind you, but a heck of a lot easier in comparison to Xining.

When we were travelling through new highways in the middle of arid areas we were told the Communist party will build a concrete factory and various other factories along where they wanted to build new highways. Then as the area grows they will sell the factories and warehouses to Chinese capitalist companies to then create more growth. It seems the combination of Communism and Capitalism is why China has such strong growth. The Communists use the money to then build more factories and warehouses in areas that can potentially grow. Then when they have built the infrastructure once again sell. Of course, I don’t know how accurate this account actually is but it made sense when you saw factories in the middle of nowhere and brand new freeways. The advantage of the state making all of the infrastructures is they can afford to lose money on the project. Anyway, I thought I would share that special evening. I definitely won’t forget it.

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