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2008-05-20 10:38:04|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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The moment of silence, as decreed by the State Council, was to be accompanied by the sounding of car, truck, train, ship, and air-raid horns in a ³collective cry of grief,² as an LA Times article put it elegantly on May 18.  All entertainment programs are to be suspended between May 19-21, a period of national mourning, which has been described by a commentator in China as the first ever such ritual held for ordinary citizens in modern China. The Olympic torch relay within the country will be suspended as well. 
The slide show accompanying the original New York Times story about recent landslides is worth looking at as well: 
At 2:28 on Monday afternoon, for the first time in 51 years, air-raid sirens were sounded in Beijing.  All cab drivers in Beijing stepped out their cars and honked the horns in their cars.  The New York Time slide show takes us to other locations and other parts of the country. 
I was in a classroom at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou on Monday afternoon.  The class happened to be in recess when we heard car horns and sirens start wailing outside.  We all stood up and observed a three-minute silence.  I quickly realized what it may mean to be trapped for 72 or just 2 hours under a pile of rubble. 
The grief-stricken nation observed a moment of silence to remember the dead, but it also needed to let out a deep cry, if only to bid an agonized farewell to the departed. 
I hope those of us who are not used to a new and moving experience will not be disappointed if you can¹t find a good entertaining show to go to these three days in China. 
I have been in Hangzhou since May 5 and have witnessed the profound impact of the Sichuan earthquake on this historic city far from Sichuan and on Chinese society at large.  The natural disaster has unleashed a new mode of public emotion, discourse, and participation.  I don¹t think I can find a comparable moment in modern Chinese history. 
I would recommend those of us who read Chinese visit any Chinese-language websites, such as http://news.sohu.com , or http://www.163.com to get a sense of how the earthquake is being covered and experienced in China.  Even if you do not read Chinese or do not read it with ease, you may want to take a quick look at those websites to see the graphics there and the photographs that are being updated every hour, if not every 15 minutes. 
I was in the U.S. when 9/11 was visited upon New York City and when Katrina decimated New Orleans.  Yet I do not recall being so overwhelmed by the media response, by the outpouring of public emotion, and by the poignant comments and debates that followed a catastrophic event as this time, in China. 
For instance, two or three days after May 12, websites carried calls for the national flag to be lowered at half mast in mourning, and for the Olympic torch relay to be suspended; less than a day after the disaster struck, questions were raised publicly about shoddy school buildings and about the fact that soldiers were digging into rubble with their bare hands. 
Now the government has declared a period of national mourning, in observation of the tradition of marking the first seven days after a death.
The government has also begun investigating those collapsed school buildings and, at a news conference that involved a spokesperson from the Ministry of Defense, addressed the issue of inadequate equipment for the first wave of soldiers arriving at the scene of the disaster. 
(As for distributing aid, one would imagine that dealing with about 5 million earthquake victims is a bit more complicated than giving out candy at a birthday party.) 
Continuous news coverage on CCTV and internet websites is indeed a novel experience for the Chinese public.  Chinese television has outdone the Phoenix station based in Hong Kong or the Atlanta-based CNN this time. It has also provided a much needed and appreciated catharsis for the national psyche, still in shotorch in Europe, America and their industrialized allies (but, mind you, not in South America or Africa), still reeling from the deadly train collision in April, still in vivid memory of the devastating ice storms earlier in January.
For good or ill, the year 2008 has indeed turned out to be much more than what the Chinese had hoped for.  As an emotionally involved observer, I believe this will be a remarkable year in modern Chinese history, and the Olympics probably will not even be the most important reason for it. 
If anyone is interested in understanding China in the next half a century, he or she should look at 2008 closely and try to see it from a Chinese perspective, which, oddly enough, may simply mean to start reading Chinese-language newspapers and websites with an open mind, which, in turn, means not to set out just looking for signs of either repression or brainwashing. 
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