Chinese culture shines at dazzling Olympics opening ceremony

August 9th, 2008 - 12:21 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 8 (Xinhua) Five thousand years of Chinese civilization rolled out on a painting scroll Friday as the Beijing Olympics opened with resounding fireworks, dazzling lights and merrymaking crowds. The National Stadium, or Bird’s Nest, in northern Beijing basked in glory and excitement as icons of traditional Chinese culture paraded onto the central stage.

The Great Wall, Confucius, Kunqu and Taiji. Revered Chinese film director Zhang Yimou kept icons of traditional Chinese culture on his scroll, which opened to become a 147-meter long stage for a dreamlike world of light, shadow and pictures.

An audience of 91,000 gasped as fairies gracefully descended from the sky to scoop the falling stars that had formed the Olympic rings on the stage after a session of welcoming fireworks.

“How happy we are, to meet friends from afar”, a crowd of 2,008 performers began chanting lines of Confucius - a great Chinese scholar and teacher of all teachers - accompanied by the percussion rhythms of 2,008 fous, a primitive instrument made of clay or bronze.

Chinese culture shone at Beijing’s Olympic opening epic, in which primitive musical instruments found harmony with modern piano, ancient culture was brought to life through high technologies and Chinese athletes joined worldwide players.

The performances began with a black and white Chinese ink and wash painting, drawn by the unique body language of the performers.

At the end of the opening gala, the work became a colourful painting with green trees and blue water, by worldwide athletes parading into the stadium as well as children and artists.

“That’s a pretty aesthetic way of doing it,” said Debbie Bowen from Chicago, the US, of the scroll performance. “It’s not easy for me to understand Chinese culture, but the information conveyed through body language and behavioural arts is pretty clear.”

Valkerie Mangnall, Associated Press reporter from Australia, said the performances were “beautiful”.

“Even without the explanation on the screen, I think they are easy to understand. The part of the writing is a little abstract, but the opera, the music, the nature part are pretty obvious with the theme of the harmony.”

Zhang Yimou said his team had planned to use the four inventions as a main thread throughout the opening ceremony. “We chose the painting scroll instead because the four inventions are still not enough to represent the entire Chinese civilization.”

He wove the four inventions into the scroll instead.

The unrolling scroll that started Friday’s performances and the wash and ink painting that in the centre represented the Chinese invention of papermaking, one of China’s special contributions to the spread and development of world cultures.

Elements of papermaking, movable-type printing, compass and gunpowder were carefully woven into the opening performances as highlights of Chinese civilization.

Movable-type printing appeared in the “Writing” part of the performances and took an image of both ancient character case and modern computer keyboard. A performer trod the “Silk Road” holding an ancient compass, and gunpowder was represented in the dazzling displays of fireworks.

Harmony was a key word in Friday’s performances, with three versions of the same Chinese character “He” - meaning harmony - in different historical periods to express man’s common pursuit of harmony and peace.

Harmony was found also in Taiji, meaning the supreme ultimate, which was believed to be the origin of the universe. Ancient Chinese philosophers believed that people and all things were constituted by the interaction of the two poles (yin and yang) and the five elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth).

Friday’s performances demonstrated the Eight Diagrams of Taiji, symbolizing eight natural phenomena, including heaven, earth, thunder, wind, water, fire, mountain and swamp and bringing out the changes of all things on the earth.

During the performances, children read in unison and coloured the ancient Chinese paintings of nature green, expressing the idea of environmental protection which is also the key concept of Taiji - unity of man and nature.

Ancient Chinese music, represented by percussion instrument fou and stringed instrument Guqin, struck a chord with modern piano played by renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang and a five-year-old girl.

When Zhang Yimou’s scroll opened Friday night, Beijing opened arms to the world.

Beijing embraced the world when British singer Sarah Brightman and Chinese singer Liu Huan sang from the top of an elevated globe, “You and me, from one world; heart to heart, we are one family”. Smiling faces of children from across the world beamed from the rim of the round, tank-like stadium and from 2,008 umbrellas fanning out on the central stage.

The entire audience cheered when Chinese President Hu Jintao announced the opening of the Beijing Games.

“A prime mission of the Beijing Olympic Games is to enhance cultural exchanges between peoples in the world,” said International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge at the opening ceremony. “We sincerely hope that the time-honoured Chinese civilization, the vibrant palette of urban and rural lives in China and the hospitality of the Chinese people, will leave you all with warm and indelible memories of the country.”

The opening ceremony was watched live by 91,000 people and an estimated 4 billion TV viewers across the globe.

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