IT’S mid-June, and the temperature has reached 40 degrees Celsius on the outskirts of Samarkand, an ancient city in Uzbekistan, where a team of Chinese and Uzbek archeologists is busy excavating a large tomb of the ancient Yuezhi people.
Caravans along the ancient Silk Road carried China-made silk, tea and porcelain west, and brought back white pepper, carrots and horses.
Now, the modern Belt and Road will play an important role in facilitating opportunities for both Chinese and non-Chinese alike, as well as helping the outside world understand and enjoy the charm of Chinese culture.
From tomorrow the two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held in Beijing.
Instead of silk and tea, today Chinese traditional medicine, martial arts and language have now become the country’s most valuable cultural treasures in the eyes of many.
Peru has embraced Chinese culture ever more as the two countries developed their economic, trade and social ties in the past decade. Chinese martial arts and acupuncture are popular with Peruvians and act as windows to a distant culture.
Master Juan Vasquez, 63, has traveled to China over 20 times, with each trip furthering his study of tai chi.
Vasquez has been training in diverse martial arts since he was 17 but tai chi has been his favorite, because he thinks it has “more complete and deeper” cultural and philosophical meaning than other martial arts.
In 1992, Vasquez met the great Chinese master Chen Zhengfei, the 11th generation master of Chen-style tai chi, and became his disciple.
After practicing four hours per day for over 40 years, Vasquez has gained international renown. He has been crowned a Peruvian champion multiple times.
Since 1994, Vasquez has taught Chen-style tai chi in Lima and has gathered over 100 disciples, ranging from children under 10 to seniors over 80.
Among them, Marleni Calcina has been training for 13 years. She says after “feeling great stress” at work and in her life, it is tai chi that teaches her the value of “going slowly.”
“My transformation began with tai chi, which helped me gain peace and inner harmony,” Calcina says. “For me now, practicing tai chi is like speaking with my soul.”
Suheir Subhi finally got some relief from her chronic shoulder and neck pain, thanks to the treatment that originated thousands of miles away and dates back centuries.
Subhi, a 40-year-old advertising professional who commutes daily to and from work, is one of the patients receiving care from Ousama Habiballah, the first and only Palestinian in the West Bank city of Ramallah to have had formal training in traditional Chinese medicine.
For almost two months, doctor Habiballah has been providing Subhi with weekly 40-minute sessions of acupuncture, cupping and therapeutic massage at his one-room practice in an alternative medicine clinic inside an office tower in downtown Ramallah.
The combination of treatments helps stimulate circulation and the flow of qi, or energy flow, and restore balance in the body, thereby reducing pain and fatigue.
“I feel the tension is greatly reduced. The muscles are more relaxed; the shoulders are more relaxed; the neck is more flexible,” Subhi says. “There’s a big difference.”
Habiballah, in his early 30s, graduated from the University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing in 2011. He takes an average of six patients a day at his practice, which has been in business for almost three years.
His dream is to open a comprehensive center in the West Bank for Chinese philosophy and medicine.
“I think that this center can promote the Chinese methods of therapy to heal problems,” Habiballah says.
Bridge of communication
For 87-year-old Peruvian sinologist Guillermo Danino, China’s Belt and Road Initiative means stronger cultural and humanitarian ties between China and Latin America.
Danino, who has made it his lifelong mission to introduce Chinese culture to Latin American people, has created courses in four prominent universities in Peru. His love affair with Chinese culture started more than 30 years ago. A professor of literature and linguistics, Danino was invited by the Chinese government to teach Spanish grammar and other subjects to the teachers at Nanjing University in Jiangsu Province.
Yet for Danino, what changed his life was translating ancient Chinese poetry, which also led to his biggest achievement in introducing Chinese culture to the Spanish-speaking world.
He became interested in Chinese poetry when he was given “100 poems from the Tang Dynasty,” a selection from the golden age of Chinese poetry.
The translation, published in 1996, became the first collection of Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) poetry translated from Chinese into Spanish.
Danino made further forays into Chinese history, ancient essays and folk stories, and wrote about his daily experiences in China. Altogether, he has published more than 20 Spanish-language books on China.
Danino’s “most important work so far” is the Encyclopedia of Chinese Culture published in 2013 and containing more than 600 entries.
Danino urges Chinese people to study traditional culture and introduce its core values to the West.
“I would like to tell you, hundreds and thousands of Chinese descendants and overseas Chinese, be proud of your culture and your motherland!” he says. “Please don’t stop learning, promoting and spreading Chinese culture.”