Experiencing Beijing: A creative city
It was a privilege to take part in “Experiencing China - Tsinghua International Summer School 2018” this July as a student from Bangladesh.
Getting to experience the educational environment of Tsinghua University and share my views and thoughts with people from different backgrounds was the most rewarding part of this exchange programme. Learning about Chinese culture, traditions, and contemporary issues from class lectures, various field trips, and excursions to the Great Wall and the Forbidden City were also part of my stay.
I took “Creative City” as my academic module in the programme. The “Creative City” is a concept for urban planning which was developed by David Yencken in 1988. This paradigm argues that a city must be one that is committed to fostering creativity among its citizens and to providing emotionally satisfying platforms and cultural experiences for them within the city.
Twelve cities across China, including its capital Beijing, are added to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network for their outstanding performance in creative innovation in areas like Media Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy and others.
Our academic track was designed to study the emergence and development of Beijing as a creative city. I chose this track to develop a greater understanding of the roots and cultural elements of Beijing.
As an ancient capital and the political center of China, Beijing is widely recognised as the country's cultural centre. The city has different cultural institutes, public libraries, museums, art galleries and theatres. Beijing maintains a balance between its rich traditional elements and modern cutting-edge technologies.
I visited several Hutongs, which are traditional residential areas with narrow lanes. Along with other students, I spoke to local residents who were preserving old architectural treasures of the Qing Dynasty era and sustaining them with new tools. We also visited urban revival project sites. These projects are working on re-adjusting the city's landscape to deal with newer challenges.
The Tongzhou area, a neighbourhood of Beijing which has been turned into a sub-city center to facilitate the decentralisation of administration and high-tech manufacturing industries, was fun to visit. Moreover, I met young designers, artists and creative entrepreneurs in Beijing. It was fascinating to see how they are blending Chinese traditions and modern technologies to develop new products. I came to know how the stakeholders are trying to preserve the old spark of Beijing while still accommodating the new businesses and tourism inside the city. I think the city is at a crossroads of being modern and urban but also immensely culturally traditional.
I was also lucky enough to meet some Bangladeshi students pursuing their studies at Tsinghua University, who were a great help during my stay.
Beijing is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Its trade, commerce, and industrial activities are fast expanding. Now, the cultural industries and creative initiatives need to keep up the pace with the rapid expansion of the city.
This exchange programme has given me the opportunity to enrich my understanding of the culture and traditions of today's China. I hope to bring the knowledge I gained from this experience to my classrooms and beyond.
Taufiq -E- Faruque studies International Relations at University of Dhaka.