September 2019

Dunhuang’s grottoes get help to tell their stories

Volunteers for the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang. [Photo provided to]

The Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu province, will take on a new batch of 10 volunteers to serve as docents for 40 days in May and June.

The volunteers, age 23 to 54, were selected from more than 1,200 applicants from 9 to 69 years old worldwide through the WeChat account of the Dunhuang Research Institute.

Selection was based on online assessments and interviews that touched on the applicants’ Chinese and English language skills and the feasibility of their strategies to spread Dunhuang culture, according to the institute.

The volunteers will depart for Dunhuang on May 1. They’ll be trained with basic knowledge of the Mogao Grottoes, docent responsibilities and Dunhuang cultural research and diffusion before beginning work, the program’s organizers said last week.

“The program aims to help people around the world learn about the civilization of Dunhuang and encourage more to join in preserving the legacy, not only at the Mogao Grottoes but in its surrounding environment,” said Zhang Xiantang, vice-dean of the institute.

The program, launched in 2018 by the institute, together with the China Dunhuang Grottoes Conservation Research Foundation, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the university’s cultural development fund, received around 300 applications last year, organizers said.

The significant increase in applicants in its second year suggests that Dunhuang has great cultural appeal in the international public, Zhang said.

As a renowned treasure trove of ancient murals and sculptures and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mogao Grottoes, which are the epitome of Dunhuang culture, present thousand years of Chinese history in various fields, including art, Buddhism and music.

“Dunhuang culture is a blend of Chinese, Indian, Greek, and Islamic culture, which is of great value for research and requires careful preservation. Dunhuang was once a major stop on the ancient Silk Road networking trade routes that connected the East and West,” Zhang added.

During their 40 days as docents, the 10 volunteers will accumulate knowledge and resources for projects that will contribute to the promotion of Dunhuang culture.

Lee Hui-ling, 53, from Chinese Taipei is one of the 10 volunteers. She said she hopes to tap into her 25 years of experience as a museum docent in Italy to make online audio books for visitors that compare the aesthetics of murals in Dunhuang with wall paintings from the European Renaissance of the 14th to 16th centuries.

Jiang Yuzhu, 32, from Suzhou, Jiangsu province, will prepare a report on the knowledge of Dunhuang culture based on questionnaires and interviews with visitors, along with research, during the docent program.

Based on the report, Jiang will create a website featuring 1,001 questions regarding Dunhuang culture, as well as an online encyclopedia, said Jiang, who is a specialist at the museum of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University.

Luo Dan, who was also chosen for the docent program, said she was attracted because she was “amazed by the charm of Dunhuang murals”.

A graduate in cultural industry management at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Luo, from Guizhou province, once served as a volunteer docent at the university’s Chengji Gallery for a touring exhibition on Dunhuang mural art.

“I really hope to learn more about Dunhuang culture through the program and spread it to more young people through online courses and public tours,” Luo said.

Fuzhou-Pingtan bridge to be completed this year

A cross-sea bridge for motor vehicles and trains linking downtown Fuzhou with Pingtan is under construction. Zhang Yi/CHINA DAILY

Construction of China’s first cross-sea bridge accommodating both vehicles and railway traffic – the longest of its type in the world – will be completed this year and will open to traffic early next year, said Yao Pengyuan, one of its top engineers.

Pingtan Haixia Rail-Road Bridge will provide a 16.3-kilometer connection between downtown Fuzhou, Fujian province, and the island county of Pingtan off the east coast of Fujian.

The new bridge will cut travel time from two hours to about 30 minutes between the two areas.

In the past, Pingtan has been a development bottleneck because of poor transportation. Since the establishment of the Pingtan Comprehensive Pilot Zone in 2010, the local government has ramped up its efforts to build a comprehensive transportation system.

In 2010, the Strait Bridge began operating for cars only. It links the island with an outlying county of Fuzhou and is currently the only entrance and exit for the island. It takes about two hours to get from the island to Fuzhou’s downtown. Before the bridge opened, a ship was required to get from Pingtan to the mainland.

Yao, the engineer from the bridge building bureau of China Railway Construction Co, said, “Strong winds make it tough to build a bridge over the water, where about 300 days a year the wind is heavy and impedes construction.”

The new bridge has two layers, with the upper deck consisting of a six-lane highway with speeds up to 100 kilometers per hour. The lower deck carries a double-track railway, on which trains can run up to 200 kilometers per hour. Construction started in November 2013, with an estimated investment of 10.9 billion yuan ($1.7 billion).

The cross-sea rail link will be an integral part of the 88-km Fuzhou-Pingtan railway, which starts at Songxia Port in neighboring Changle county, Fuzhou, and terminates at Su’ao town in Pingtan.

In the draft outline of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), a high-speed railway linking Beijing and Taipei, Taiwan, was proposed. The Fuzhou-Pingtan railway represents the southeast end of that railway. For the remainder of the distance – Pingtan to Taiwan – an underwater tunnel has been proposed.

Pingtan is the nearest mainland jurisdiction to Taiwan, with only 68 sea miles to Taiwan’s Hsinchu city.

Baidu CEO nominated academician

Baidu chairman and CEO Robin Li speaks during the 2018 Baidu World conference in Beijing, Nov 1, 2018. [Photo/IC]

Baidu CEO Robin Li Yanhong’s recent nomination for the country’s highest academic title in engineering has triggered heated debate, with some netizens claiming Li was unqualified because of his search engine’s insufficient regulation of fraudulent medical advertising.

Li was one of 531 candidates, including 114 entrepreneurs, who might become academicians of the Chinese Academy of Engineering at the end of the year, according to a statement released by the academy on April 30.

Other nominees include e-commerce giant Alibaba’s technology chief Wang Jian, carmaker BYD founder Wang Chuanfu, and Microsoft computer engineer Harry Shum. The candidates will be subject to a strict selection process, and only around 10 to 15 percent of them will be granted the prestigious title.

Expert will make their choices, but some netizens in an anonymous WeChat poll opposed Li’s nomination. More than 150,000 netizen in the poll voted no, with around 1,000 voting for his nomination as of May 2. The poll was removed on Monday. Neither the academy nor Baidu responded to inquiries.

Li was nominated by the China Association for Science and Technology mainly for his contribution to China’s search engine technology, financial news outlet Yicai reported on Monday. Li also was included in the candidate category known for its inclusion of innovative managers in new and interdisciplinary engineering sectors.

Zhou Jian, chairman of Beijing Gan’en Charity Foundation, said in a recent WeChat article that people should “resolutely oppose Li’s nomination for academician”, claiming Baidu has promoted fake medical advertisements in its search results that misled patients.

A purported doctor who goes by the alias Dahanchengxiang recently wrote a WeChat article saying he often encountered patients who fell for the fake advertisements, wasted money and treatment time and thus missed the opportunity to be cured.

The netizen also strongly opposed Li’s nomination shortly after the announcement, saying in an article that Li was morally unqualified because of Baidu’s insufficient regulation of advertising. The article went viral on social media but was removed over complains of libel by Baidu.

Li would not be the first controversial engineer to become an academician, which carries perks such as stipends and medical services. In 2011, the public was outraged when Xie Jianping, a chemical engineer who created less harmful tobacco products, became an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Baidu came under fire in 2016 when Wei Zexi, a 21-year-old student from Xidian University in Shaanxi province, died from a rare cancer of the soft tissue. Wei was researching the disease on Baidu and came across an advertisement for treatments that proved ineffective.

After Wei’s death, Baidu announced a sweeping restructuring and optimization of its medical business, especially regarding its paid listing practices. It also tightened regulations on medical promotion and enforced clear labeling rules that differentiate advertisements from credible medical information, according to media reports.

However, medical advertising remains one of the key sources of income for Baidu, and some are still trying to exploit the system. In April, the police in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, detained a team of medical fraudsters who drove up rankings on Baidu’s research results to promote faulty hospitals to patients, local authorities said.

Radio silence rules strengthened for huge telescope

Photo taken on Sept 10, 2018 shows China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) in Southwest China’s Guizhou province. [Photo/Xinhua]

China has tightened its regulations in areas surrounding the world’s largest single-dish telescope in Guizhou province – the Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, or FAST – to protect it from electromagnetic signals that might interfere with its scientific research.

The latest rules, which took effect on Monday, increased punishments for violators. Those who produced harmful radio interference can now face fines of up to 200,000 yuan ($30,000), much higher than the previous 5,000 yuan penalty cap.

The new rules also said people who carry or used electronic devices without approval in the core radio silence zone will be slapped with a fine between 1,000 and 30,000 yuan. The core radio silence zone refers to areas within a 5-kilometer radius of the telescope.

The rules define the intermediate zone as a radius of 5 to 10 kilometers, and the external zone as a radius of 10 to 30 kilometers. Air routes near the region have also been changed to avoid radio interference with the telescope.

Sun Xuelei, Party chief of the Guizhou Department of Justice, said the new rules upgrade those established in 2013. Since the old regulations had some management and supervision problems, they needed to be amended to better protect the telescope’s electromagnetic environment, Sun said during a news briefing on Thursday.

“The telescope is a key instrument of national importance,” Sun said. “It is a vital tool in basic research for fields ranging from astronomy to national defense.”

Since trial operations began in September 2016, FAST has discovered 55 new pulsars – superdense, superbright cores of massive stars that have gone through the supernova phase and died. The telescope is set to be fully operational by September, and it will find more pulsars that can help scientists understand the origin and evolution of the universe, navigate spacecraft, find gravity waves and possibly alien life forms.

These scientific goals have drawn tourists around the country to Pingtang county – the telescope’s home – to witness one of China’s greatest engineering wonders. The remote county has become the epicenter for astronomy tourism, with star-themed parks, restaurants and hotels hoping to capitalize on the stellar enthusiasm and boost the local economy.

During the first half of last year, Pingtang received more than 5.13 million visitors and earned more than 5.5 billion yuan in revenue, a 38.7-percent year-on-year increase, according to the local tourism bureau.

However, the influx of tourists has also meant introducing more electronic gadgets, including cellphones, laptops, digital cameras and GPS devices that produce electromagnetic signals. They can interfere with FAST’s ultrasensitive receivers, said Jiang Peng, the telescope’s chief engineer.

“The signals produced by distant celestial bodies are very faint, so a clear radio environment is key for FAST to make effective observations,” he said. “We must reduce the source and frequency of radio interference. These are the key basic requirements for FAST to do great scientific work.”

Wang Shijie, vice-governor of Guizhou, told Science and Technology Daily in March that the province will put in more effort to keep the radio environment for FAST clean, adding that the three counties closest to the FAST site have all adjusted their economic and social development plans.

Guizhou also scrapped a planned airport in Luodian county out of concern for possible electromagnetic interference, he said. More than 2,000 rural households have been relocated, at a cost of several billion yuan.

Wang said FAST is to be used mainly for scientific exploration and that Guizhou will not rely on it for tourism. A tour currently offered at the site, available to 2,000 visitors daily, is aimed at promoting science. All visitors must hand over their electronic devices before entering the core radio silence zone.

Yang Jun contributed to this story.

A 90 year old’s springtime donations

Chen Lihua makes a donation to Jiangnan University, April 4, 2019. [Photo provided to]

The spring of 2019 has been long awaited. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and as we take stock of life during spring, we can look forward to welcoming the 70th national day come autumn.

Residents of Shanghai have endured a particularly cold, wet winter, and with the weather brought by spring, they’re now enjoying the sunshine and flowers.

One Shanghai resident has marked the season by making two donations of 200,000 yuan – one to the Communist Party of China in the form of special membership dues, the other to the university in his hometown, Jiangnan University.

On April 2nd the 90-year-old man, together with his daughter and son-in-law, who had traveled all the way from Canada to be with him, made the first of his donations, taking a five-minute walk to his former work unit, Shanghai Textile Science Research Institute. Two days later, they went to Wuxi, Jiangsu and made the second.

Who is he? Why is he so generous? Why does he love the Party and his hometown so much? To understand all of this, we have to go back to his early childhood, the aid he got as a student, and the decisions he made upon graduation.

In 1932 a boy named Chen Lihua left Japan at the age of two with his parents after Japanese invaders upped their military aggression in Northeast China. The family went back to their hometown, Wuxi, and settled down.

By studying hard, young Lihua was admitted to a local vocational school, on which a predecessor of today’s Jiangnan University was built. His mom could barely afford his education, but through the support of local charities and teachers, he completed his textile engineering education in the spring of 1949.

That was when the country was being liberated from Nationalist rule. Seeing the ray of hope, Lihua joined the CPC and has been a firm Marxist ever since. Later he was transferred to Shanghai due to his technical background, and worked in the textile sector until his retirement in the early 1990s.

Because he was born in a foreign country and later returned home to China, Lihua was identified as a returned overseas Chinese, of which he is especially proud. Due to his unique early childhood, he has developed a particular affection for his motherland.

Africa’s first Luban Workshop opens in Djibouti

The teaching area for the Luban Workshop in Djibouti City, which is also the first Luban Workshop in Africa.[Photo by Cui Wei and Liu Xuemei/Provided to]

The first Luban Workshop kicked off on Thursday in Djibouti City, capital of Djibouti, the nation in the Horn of Africa.

The workshop, located at Djibouti Industrial and Commercial School, was created by the China Civil Engineering Construction Group and will be academically supported by Tianjin First College of Commerce and Tianjin Railway Technical and Vocational College.

It is among the 10 Luban Workshops set to take place in Africa to provide vocational training to African youth under an initiative launched by China in collaboration with African countries during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

Chinese rose festival to open in Beijing

Chinese rose on the sides of a road in Beijing. [Photo provided to]

China’s capital will hold the 11th Beijing Chinese Rose Cultural Festival in 11 parks starting on May 17, which will display more than 2,000 types of this flower with about 1 million plants, announced by the Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau on Friday.

The festival will run through June 18. During the festival, the 11 parks will hold various events including flower shows, reading parties, kite-flying competitions and photo contest to attract citizens to enjoy the nature with beautiful flowers.

Chinese rose on the sides of a road in Beijing. [Photo provided to]

Jiangsu blast survivors share their stories

Toxic chemicals in the air dissipating after the massive plant explosion in Yancheng, Jiangsu province. [Photo/IC]

A deadly chemical blast occurred at about 2:48 pm Thursday following a fire that broke out in a chemical factory in an industrial park in Xiangshui county, East China’s Jiangsu province.

Sixty-four people were killed so far.

Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Co, which runs the factory, was not the only company involved. Sixteen surrounding enterprises and multiple villages nearby were affected.

Families of workers are running to local hospitals to find whether their loved ones have survived. Local residents have rushed to donate blood for the injured survivors.

3rd International Tea Expo kicks off in East China

HANGZHOU — The third China International Tea Expo is being held from May 15 to 19 in Hangzhou, capital of East China’s Zhejiang province, the organizer said Wednesday.

Themed “Tea and the World, Shared Development,” the 70,000 square meter expo brings together a total of 1,563 exhibitors from home and abroad and features 3,139 booths, up 18 percent compared with that of the second.

Purchasers from 27 countries and regions, including the UK, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka and Japan, have registered to participate in the event, said Tang Ke, an official at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

The expo will set up an exhibition zone for teas from poverty-stricken regions in China for the first time and open a tea brand building forum for these teas, in a bid to support the local tea industry.

A series of activities including a ministerial conference between China and Central and Eastern European countries and an international tea summit will also be held during the expo.

China is the largest tea producer as well as the largest tea market in the world.

The expo is co-hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and the Zhejiang Government.