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散文佳作108篇 第72期:Han Suyin's China 韩素音笔下的中国




Han Suyin's China


China: her size roughly that of Canada or the United States. Her population one billion onehundred million, 22 per cent of the planet's human beings.


China: very young, 60 per cent of the Chinese under 25 years of age. Very old, millennia ofaccumulated and still potent history, pride of remembered greatness motivating her marchtowards the new technological era which is changing the world, and changing her.


China: her history not unitary, but made up of many histories; as she is made up of manydifferent peoples, altogether 56 nations. Yet she is a oneness, coherent, whole. THE GREATWITHIN.


There is a China of the plains, easily travelled, a tourist delight. Here are the wealthiest, themost advanced metropolises: Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangzhou...fertilealluviallowlands which seem vast, yet are less than 15 per cent of her total territory. AndChina's arable, cultivable acres make up only seven per cent of the world's total acreage. Onthis she feeds almost a quarter of the world's people. A prodigious achievement!


This China of the plains stretches from Manchuria to Hong Kong; most of it lies eastwards, witheasy access to the ocean. Here both urban and rural areas have greatly profited from therecent economic reforms. Most of the foreign investments, the special economic zones, the newindustrial plants,are sited here. Here are the skills, the manpower, the markets, thecommunication network. Most of the universities are also here, and more than 80 percent ofthe population. Prosperity is evident-over 60 per cent of new houses in the villages, over 20per cent of families with television installed in the last ten years, large new apartment houses forurban dwellers, modem hotels...


But there is the other China, 85 per cent of the total surface of the land. This China is not easilyvisited, for communication is still a problem. It stretches in an immense bow fiom North toSouth, and in it live, besides the "typical" Chinese, who call themselves the Hans, fifty-oddother races or ethnic groups called "national minorities". These hark back to China's verybeginning. With them the Hans both warred and traded; co-existed, intermarried ostracized, fornearly 5,000 years.


This other China has many mountain ranges, thousand kilometre long chains stretching fromwest to east dividing the land into enclosed plateaus and basins whose rivers never reach anysea. It has many deserts; more than a million square kilometres of deserts-almost 15 per centof her total area of nine million six hundred thousand square kilometres. It has immensegrasslands and steppes, oases and salt lakes, jungles and troughs lower than the Dead SeamPalestine.


This China we must lcnow in order really to know China. It is this conglomerate of manynations, mosaic of peoples, languages and customs, which shaped Chinese culture as we knowit today and it is in developing and modernising this area that her future lies.


North, Northwest, Southwest...for administraave purposes, this other China,nearly seven millionout of the nearly ten million square kilometres of the land,is conveniently divided into regions,each one holding several provinces. I have walked, ridden,jeeped, explored this China severaltimes in the course of the last three decades. I have leamt the local names of mountains,rivers,deserts; for everything here has two names, the Han Chinese name, and the name (ornames) given by the national minorities which inhabit the area.


Mountains: the majestic Altai, whence came thudding on thick-legged Mongol ponies so manynomad hordes. The Bogden or Heaven's mountain, sitting in vast skirts of their own crumbledstone. From their slopes flow streams feeding the oases strung along the rim of inlanddeserts. The Kunlun and the Karakoram, the Pamir and the Himalayas-here Mount Everest isiknown as Chomolungma.


Deserts: the stone deserts of the Gobi and the Ordos, the Tanguli and Kurban Tungu and thedreadful Taklamakan.


Plateaus and basins: Dzungaria and Tarim and Tsaidam, and the Roof of the World, theimmense plateau of Tibet.


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