Realities of similarities hit home with Taiwan youths

Cross-Strait exchange allows them to witness history, mainland's modernity

By Jiang Chenglong | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-19 07:14
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Members of the Taiwan youth delegation pose with a teacher and student from Peking University in Beijing for a group photo after exchanging gifts at one of the university's dining halls on April 9. CHEN YEHUA/XINHUA

Experiencing history

The Taiwan students not only got a chance to witness advanced transportation infrastructure on the mainland, but also to travel on it and gain an understanding of the vast distances it covers. During their high-speed rail trip from Xi'an, Shaanxi, to Beijing, I heard some of the Taiwan students remarking on how big the mainland is. "It's been more than four hours and we still haven't arrived," one declared.

Even on the world's fastest high-speed rail, it takes an entire afternoon to travel from Xi'an to Beijing, a fact which the Taiwan visitors were beginning to grasp.

Their firsthand exposure to two capitals — the ancient one and the current one — gave them the opportunity to better understand the unique culture and history of the Chinese nation.

In Shaanxi, which is rich in Chinese historical sites, Ma and the Taiwan youths participated in a worship ceremony for Emperor Huangdi, or the Yellow Emperor, and visited the Terracotta Warriors and Shaanxi History Museum.

The Taiwan students were awestruck when they saw the Terracotta Warriors for themselves.

One of the students, Wan Yu-ming, said: "It's much bigger than I have imagined. I have only seen it in textbooks before, but now I'm here in person, and it's really impressive".

Seven of the Taiwan youths raised their phones to take selfies in front of the Terracotta Warriors. They discussed the style of helmets worn by soldiers more than 2,000 years ago, and were amazed by ancient Chinese craftsmanship.

"We have seen these elegant and solemn collections and experienced the 5,000-year civilization of Chinese culture firsthand. We are all very delighted," Ma said at the end of the Shaanxi visit.

The young people from Taiwan accompanying him all felt that they had gained a lot, he added

"They have seen the long history of Chinese culture in Shaanxi, and it will definitely have a very profound impact on their future lives," Ma said,

"Chinese civilization is the only ancient civilization in the world that has not been interrupted," he said. "Thousands of years of writing have been passed down to this day, and we, the descendants of Emperor Yandi and Emperor Huangdi, can still read it. It's amazing."

Taiwan youth group leader Liu Ping-jui said the Terracotta Warriors helped him visualize the strength of the Qin army 2,000 years ago. "As descendants of Emperor Yandi and Emperor Huangdi, seeing these things, we are deeply moved, and grateful that our ancestors left behind this wisdom, and passed down such a good culture to us."

Visions of recent past

At Sun Yat-sen's former residence in Zhongshan, Guangdong, the Taiwan youths took turns snapping photos in front of the building, and expressed their respect for this pioneer of the Chinese revolution.

And on the Lugou Bridge in Beijing, 20 Taiwan youths and Ma listened to 93-year-old Zheng Fulai, a witness of the Lugou Bridge Incident in 1937, who recounted the cruelty inflicted during the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).

Su Wei-en, one of the Taiwan youths, said the visit to the bridge made him feel "excited, yet sad", and as if he had "touched history". His grandparents were from the mainland, and his great-grandfather was a captain during the war.

"I felt as if the stories my grandparents told were unfolding before my eyes," he said.

"The bridge that was trampled by Japanese invaders over 70 years ago was right beneath my feet. These were experiences I could never have in Taiwan."

On April 10, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, met the delegation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. He emphasized that youths are the hope of the country and the future of the nation.

These young people, after traveling across the mainland and witnessing the economic development and the history and culture created by the Chinese nation, appeared to have a deeper understanding when they listened to Xi's speech.

Hsiao Sy-yuan, a member of the Taiwan youth group, said he watched the historic first meeting between Xi and Ma on TV in 2015, He said he felt "excited beyond words" to participate in their second meeting as a member of the visiting group.

Through the youth exchanges he saw the commonalities between young people on both sides of the Strait in areas such as history, food, and popular culture.

"Of course, we need to interact with each other frequently because it's a key point for young people on both sides of the Strait to have more understanding, empathy, and learn from each other in the future," Hsiao said.

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