Saturday, October 30, 2010


The Chinese temple at Achipur, which is being renovated and the deities in the sanctum sanctorum

The Times Of India , Kolkata, 29 October 2010
Times City , page - 2

Chinese donate 50 Lakhs for temple facelift
Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey & Monotosh Chakraborty

Achipur, a hamlet on the banks of the Hooghly, is just like any other Bengal village. But 300 years ago, this village, 30 km from Taratala, bustled with activity and was dominated by the Chinese. This was the first Chinese settlement in the country. Not a single Chinese can be seen here today, though. But every Chinese New Year’s Day on February 3 and for the rest of that month, Achipur turns into a mini Chinatown. Thousands gather at the Chinese temple here, especially on Sundays, to usher in the new year. This year, members of Kolkata’s Chinese community have pooled in nearly 50 lakh to restore the temple and build boarding and lodging facilities for the community.
East India Company documents show that a Chinese trader called Atchew Tong sailed into the village in the second decade of the 18th century and settled down. Others soon followed him. Atchew started a sugar plantation attached with a mill. The documents dating back to the governor generalship of Warren Hastings state that Atchew was a wealthy sugar trader who was permitted to operate from a vast tract of land off Budge Budge.
No trace of the sugar mill that Atchew ran successfully with at least 100 Chinese men and women remains. However, the “earth and fertility” temple that he built way back in 1718 still remains, though it has badly needed conservation and restoration for a long time. Its roof has developed cracks and leaks, damaging many of the tiny prayer rooms arranged in two rows on the sides of the main temple. Last February, members of the Chinese community, primarily from the Gee Hing Church at Tangra, gathered at the temple and decided that donations would be collected so that the temple could be saved and other facilities built. Word soon spread and Chinese people not only from Tangra but also from near Tiretti Bazar came forward to contribute.
Work on restoring the temple is now on in full swing. A bamboo scaffolding supports the centuries old roof as portions get repaired and conserved. Conservation architects have been roped in for the job. Even the floor had been damaged because of damp and is being completely being done up with expensive marble. “We are extremely happy that people have come forward and donated freely so that we could organise the restoration and conservation on such a grand scale. While the church initiated the project, it is actually a community project. It is our oldest landmark and we have deep respect for the place and the temple, which is also special in nature,” said S K Au, a spokesperson of the committee that is looking after the restoration.
The sanctum sanctorum of the earth and fertility temple consists of two gods of ancient origin — Thuti Kung and Thuti Fo. Thuti in Chinese means the Earth and the temple is rooted in the Chinese tantra cult. Locals, who are mostly Muslims, call it the Khuda-Khudi temple and revere it. Even the caretaker is a local Muslim villager, who would tell you that Chinamantala — as the place around the temple is called — is feared and respected by locals because of the magical powers of the temple.
“The two gods are older than the temple and Atchew Tong brought them with him from China. At the temple, you will also find the old Chinese custom of fortune-telling through sticks. Our priests live in the temple for the whole of February so that the community members can get their fortunes read through traditional play of sticks,” explained Au.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Indian Chinese community seek 1962 war memorial

Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times
Kolkata, October 25, 2010,page 7

People from the Indian Chinese community who were deported and harassed during the 1962 Indo-Sino war have asked the Centre for land at Deoli in Rajasthan to build a monument. Sandstone-rich Deoli is a town in Tonk district, 160 km south of Rajasthan capital Jaipur. More than 3,000 ethnic Chinese, many of them living in Assam at that time and suspected to be close to Beijing, were taken to the Deoli Internment Camp after the 1962 Sino-Indian War — but subsequently forgotten by both countries.

The Association of India Deoli Camp Internees wants the monument as “an acknowledgement of the persecution of the ethnic Chinese” 48 years ago. And as a reminder of “our loss of freedom”.

“The Indian government cannot heal the wounds of the Indian Chinese who lost their homes and kin and were forced to be scattered across the world after the 1962 war,” Assamese novelist-activist Rita Choudhury said. “It can at least honour those who lost their lives in the internment camp.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is yet to respond to the association’s letter.

A positive gesture, added the novelist who initiated the move, would go a long way in improving India's image vis-a-vis the minorities.

Choudhury helped many Indian Chinese reconnect with their roots in India during a four-year research across continents for her novel Makam. The book is named after Makum, a small town 505 km east of Assam capital Guwahati.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Photographic Journey Of Fritz Hoffmann

Date: 21st October, 2010
Time: 5 P.M. Onwards
Venue: GD Birla Sabhaghar

Fritz Hoffmann will be presenting his life as a photographer, which began almost three decades ago and led him to spend the past 16 years documenting change in China. 13 of those years were as a full time resident photojournalist based in Shanghai. Hoffmann has travelled to every province and municipality in China on assignment for western magazines and as a contract photographer for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine.

Fritz was also filmed by National Geographic Channel on his recent photo documentation of the Shaolin Monks- The cover story of National Geographic October 2010. The documentary, to be featured in the 'Most Amazing Photos', is scheduled for a global premiere on National Geographic Channel on the 24th of October, 2010.

In light of his past experiences the topic of the talk is to be Development of China: A photographic journey.

Fritz Hoffmann (American) is recognized for his photographic work documenting change in China as a resident photojournalist based in Shanghai from 1995-2008. His pictures have been widely published and exhibited. He is a frequent contributor to National Geographic magazine. Hoffmann’s work has made an important contribution to world understanding of modern China. He was the first foreign photographer since 1949 to receive accreditation from China’s Foreign Ministry to reside outside Beijing, the political capital. He studied Mandarin at East China University of Science and Technology and at Shanghai University Academy of Fine Art. He has photographed in each of China’s provinces and municipalities several times. China continues to be the primary focus of his work.

Prior to his move to China, Fritz established his place as a respected international photojournalist while working with JB Pictures in New York. Under the JB banner, he moved his base of operations to Nashville, Tennessee just before the first term of US President Bill Clinton, which increased interest in the American South. After JB closed, he opened the Network Photographers (UK), Shanghai bureau in 1997 as photo-correspondent. In 2002 Fritz co-founded the online picture library, documentCHINA.

Born in Seattle, Washington, Fritz was raised in a large family with a history of craftsmen. He began photography as a kid hitchhiking across the Pacific Northwest and then printing his pictures in the home darkroom. He honed his photography skills while slinging king crab in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Fritz supported his early travel and photography with work as a carpenter. Travel experiences steered him to pursue social documentary photography and reportage. He spent 5 years working at newspapers in Seattle, Charleston, West Virginia and Knoxville, Tennessee before entering magazine work.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Nobel Peace Prize 2010

The Nobel Peace Prize 2010 was awarded to Liu Xiaobo (LEE-o SHAo-boh) , the first Chinese citizen to win the prize ( 刘晓波 , born December 28, 1955 ) for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China .

Liu Xiaobo is a Beijing writer and former literature professor. He was given an 11-year prison sentence on subversion charges on Dec. 25, 2009, after urging Chinese leaders to embrace democratic reforms. He has appealed his conviction to the Beijing Supreme People's Court.

Mr. Liu's sentence, judged by many analysts to be unusually harsh, has drawn criticism from human rights groups, Western governments and writers worldwide. Most regard the chances that it will be overturned or softened as slim.

Mr. Liu was seized by security officials in December 2008 as he and other intellectuals prepared to issue Charter 08, a lengthy manifesto that called on China's Communist Party to uphold individual rights and relinquish its monopoly on power. Modeled on Charter 77, the manifesto drafted by Czechoslovakian rights advocates three decades earlier, Charter 08 eventually garnered some 10,000 signatures before government censors pulled it from the Internet.

After being held more than a year in secret detention and later in jail, Mr. Liu was found guilty by a Beijing court of "inciting subversion of state power." Mr. Liu previously spent 21 months in detention for taking part in the 1989 pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square. And in 1996, after demanding clemency for those still imprisoned for their roles in the demonstrations, he was sent to a labour camp for three years.

In addition to helping create Charter 08, Mr. Liu's subversion charges were based on six articles he wrote that were published on the Internet outside of China.

PS :
Charter 08 is a manifesto initially signed by over 350 Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists to promote political reform and democratization in the People's Republic of China. It was published on 10 December 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopting name and style from the anti-Soviet Charter 77 issued by dissidents in Czechoslovakia.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

ChongYang Festival

Chongyang Festival is observed on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, which is also called Double Ninth Day. ( This Year It's on 16 th October 2010 ).

Having undergone a history of more than 2,000 years, the Double-Ninth Day was formally set down as a folk festival in the Tang Dynasty and both Emperors and civilians alike celebrated the festival following the tradition and custom.

As time goes by, the Double-Ninth Day has gradually formed the celebrating conventions of going on a journey, ascending height, inserting cornel, appreciating chrysanthemum, eating Chongyang cake, and drinking chrysanthemum tea / wine .

On this day, people always gather the whole family to spend the festival together.

As the figure "9" also stands for longevity and health in the traditional concept of Han people, the Chinese government set this day ( 9 - 9 ) in the lunar calendar as the " Elder's Festival" in 1989. Now, the Double-Ninth Day has been enlisted as Intangible Cultural Heritage of China. But way back in 1966 the Republic of China (Taiwan) dedicated this day as "Senior Citizens' Day", where the festival is an opportunity to care for and appreciate the elderly.

On the day, people eat the Chongyang cake, alias “huagao” (literally, flower cake), which is the food for Chongyang Festival in the Han Chinese tradition. Dating back to the Southern Dynasty, it is popular in most of the places in China, and as it is made for the Chongyang Festival, thus the name Chongyang cake. The cake is mostly made of rice powder and nuts, but the processing method varies in different regions, mainly baking and steaming, which is still popular nowadays.

The making method and eating custom of Chongyang cake vary in different places, so do its origin and connotations of folklore culture.It is generally recognized that Chongyang cake originated from the Chongyang Festival’s tradition of climbing heights. As restricted by the landform and resources, it was usually not convenient for the common urban residents to ascend heights, so they replaced height climbing custom with eating Chongyang cake (in Chinese, “” [cake] and “” [height] have the same pronunciation).

Some historians suggests that the cultural connotation of Chongyang cake focuses on the character “”, the partial tone of which suggests promotion and high rank.

Many ethnic minorities in South China such as Yi, Bai, Dong, She, Bouyi, Tujia, Helao, etc also keep the tradition of celebrating the Double Ninth Day and eating rice cakes, but the way, the celebration, and the legend behind the festival differ from that of the Han Chinese.

As the festival is right in autumn when the chrysanthemums are in full bloom, the custom of appreciating chrysanthemums and drinking chrysanthemum wine / tea comes into being. Most people drink chrysanthemum tea, while a few strict traditionalists drink homemade chrysanthemum wine. Children in school learn poems about chrysanthemums, and many localities host a chrysanthemum exhibit. Mountain climbing races are also popular .

On the Chongyang Festival, people traditionally pick cornel branches and leaves and seal them inside a small sachet made of red cloth.This cornel is a small evergreen tree with pinnate leaves and small greenish-white flowers. The fruit is purplish red when ripens, with a pungent yet sweet smell. The cornel has medicinal functions like removing toxic cold, relieving pain, killing insects etc. Ancient people believed that wearing the sachet on the body could ward off evil and keep disaster at bay.

Since the ancient times, lots of poets have written down poems with the Double-Ninth Day as a theme. Wang Wei, a famous poet in the Tang Dynasty, can be remembered for his poem entitled On the Mountain Holiday Thinking of My Brothers in Shandong .

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Second Lunar Exploration

China on Friday ( October 1 , 2010 ) celebrated 61 years of communist rule with the launch of its second unmanned lunar probe , Chang'e -2 -- the next step in its ambitious programme for an unmanned moon landing in 2013, with a possible manned lunar mission to follow in 2017 and further exploration of outer space.

A Long March 3C rocket with the Chang'e-2 probe took off from Xichang satellite launch site in southwest China's Sichuan Province at about 1100 GMT ( Beijing time -18:59:57 ). The rocket will shoot the craft into the trans-lunar orbit, after which the satellite is expected to reach the Moon in about five days. Chang'e-2 will orbit 100 kilometers above the moon, compared with 200 kilometers for Chang'e-1.

Chang'e-2, is named after a legendary Chinese goddess .

Chang'e is the Chinese goddess of the moon . Unlike many lunar deities in other cultures who personify the moon, Chang'e only lives on the moon. As the "woman on the Moon", Chang'e could be considered the Chinese complement to the Western notion of a man in the moon .

The satellite will be maneuvered into an orbit just 15 kilometers above the moon. At that point, Chang'e-2 will take pictures of moon's Bay of Rainbows area, the proposed landing ground for Chang'e-3, with a resolution of 1.5 meters. The resolution on Chang'e-1's camera was 120 meters.

If Chang'e-2 sends back high-resolution photos of the Bay of Rainbows, which is considered one of the most beautiful features on the moon, the mission can be deemed a complete success. The geological structure in this area is diverse, so a probe there would have greater scientific value.