[Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] Jang Jin Song, Beijing Foreign Studies University
“Read ten thousand books and travel ten thousand miles.” — A saying by Dong Qichang, a painter of Ming Dynasty (1368—1644), has always inspired me. In my life, I have read many stories and traveled to many places.
However, China, this lovely and beautiful country, is the one which truly attracts me and which I forge an indissoluble bond with. In my early acquaintance with China, I held deep curiosity toward this country; when I got to more about China, I grew more fondness of her; and when I came back to China after years of departing, I got greatly amazed by her fast development. All those experiences with China are lying quietly at the bottom of my heart and encouraging me on my way forward.
First Acquaintance—Inspired byMy Grandfather and Longing for China
When did I hear about China for the first time and when did I become fond of China? It all traced back to the summer when I was five.
In the July when I was five, it was so hot that birds seemed hiding themselves in nowhere. Grasses and trees were hanging their heads low.
Cicadas were shrilling loudly among trees. It seemed everything was crying “hot” and so was I. Early in the morning one day, my grandpa, who had retired for several years, put on his glorious military uniforms out of no reason, held my hands and took me to “Sino — Korean Friendship Tower”.
“My kid, do you see the tower? You must remember all those people lying beneath this tower are our kinsmen and our brothers. You should never forget them,” he said. I was confused by what my grandpa said and asked him who they were.
After returning home, my grandpa told me that under the tower were martyrs of the Chinese People’s Volunteers who had been fighting shoulder by shoulder with North Korean people during our national liberation war. After that, China began to enter my mind. I grew gradually deep interested in China and my story with China started.
Getting to Know China—Tongue Tip Savoring & Ear Echoing
Like a colorful shining box that is full of pearls, childhood is the unforgettable memory in one’s life.We became to cherish the memories with time.
Memory is like a ship, which carries me back to the city Shenyang in Northeast China’s Liaoning province, where I spent my childhood. I learned Chinese and Chinese culture in my primary school and I also traveled across all the three provinces in Northeast China. I became deeply enchanted by the rich and colorful Chinese culture and came to understand more. Chinese food, folklore and costumes were especially amazing to me.
When travelling across the three northeastern provinces, I tried almost every local delicacy, such as chicken stewed with mushrooms, pork stewed with bean or sweet potato noodles, the sauce and sweet fried pork, local three mixed vegetables and Harbin Red Sausage.
I also tried local cuisines from other provinces, such as Yuxiang Shredded Pork (Sautéed in Spicy Garlic Sauce), Kung Pao Chicken, Chongqing Hotpot, Chongqing Style Boiled Duck Blood Curd and fermented bean curd.
Traditional Chinese festival food is also very delicious, each with their own unique flavor, such as zongzi (wrapped rice dumpling) for the Dragon Boat Festival, moon cake for the Mid-Autumn Festival and tangyuan (sticky rice dumpling) for the Lantern Festival. The traditional Chinese food is not only pleasing to eyes, noses and tongues, but also pleasing to ears with their own legendary stories.
Take the moon cake as an example. In the Yuan Dynasty, the civil people could not bear the cruelty and tyranny of the ruling class and rose up fighting against them. Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming Dynasty, decided to unite all forces and start a revolt. However, armies of the emperor were search for them so tightly that message delivery became very hard. Then Liu Bowen, the counselor of Zhu, came out with a wonderful idea.
He asked his fellowmen to wrap a slip of paper written with the message “revolt on August 15” into cakes and send the food to other revolt armies. On August 15 when the planned date arrived, all revolt armies staged revolts and echoed each other.
They fought against the Yuan army and defeated them in a full victory. In memory of the revolt, Zhu asked his soldiers to celebrate this day with civil people on August 15 and made moon cakes to reward his fellowmen. After that, the tradition of having moon cakes on the Mid-Autumn Festival was spread.
Now moon cakes have become more delicate with great variety in styles and flavors, fully satisfying to the demanding tongues of modern people. Not only moon cakes but all festival food has fascinating stories behind them.
This is one of the greatest charms of Chinese food culture.
Besides food, I also like traditional Chinese folklore and costumes. In the traditional folklore, I hear chanting and echoing across thousands of years. In traditional Chinese costumes, I see the harmony of colors and delicacy of Chinese craftsmen. I was greatly enchanted by the experience and enjoyed learning Chinese and Chinese culture even after I went back to my own country.
Admiring—Fast Development with Multitudes of Talents
An old Korean saying says, “The world changes radically every decade.” Time flies! I came back to China six years later after I had returned to my own country. China has undergone quite a change in the past six years.
High-speed trains, online shopping and mobile payment has been widely spread in China, which makes daily life very convenient. The economic development of China is so rapid that every aspect of daily life such as clothes, food, accommodation and transportation is filled with miracles created by “Chinese Speed”.
Besides the amazing economic development, I also admire the courage and solidarity of Chinese people when they are facing emergency. The COVID- 19 pandemic hit the world seriously in January 2020. Chinese people in concerted efforts with the CPC have won a great victory in this unexpected breathtaking war against the pandemic.
I witnessed this heart-touching fight during the pandemic, heard great breakthrough news from science and research frontiers and got to know a large number of “heroes” who were actually ordinary people from all walks of life.
From those inspiring or moving stories of the ordinary people, I realized the great powers of Chinese people with their concerted efforts and indomitable spirits. The year of 2021 is the 100th anniversary of the CPC. I firmly believe that China, with its great party and people, will inherit and carry on its “Chinese Spirit”, and flourish.
If life is a book, there should be more splendid details; if life is a song, there should be more soaring rhythm; if life is a painting, there should be more pleasant colors.
The journey of life is long and colorful. Fortunately, with my grandpa holding my hands, I encountered China. I gradually get to know and be in love with China with my own eyes, ears, tongue and soul.
The Chinese red has become the unique color in my life’s journey. Home is where the heart is. Inspired by this love, I will continue my story with China, and I believe the truth, goodness and beauty of China will also be carried on till forever.
The story is from "My Beautiful Encounter with China" Essay Competition organized by the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchanges (CSCSE).