Walking down the middle of the Unter den Linden avenue from Brandenburg Gate, visitors are invariably encountered with new landmarks that transport the imagination hundreds of miles away to China. Five faces painted in red, black, blue, yellow and white on the walls of a pentagon-like pavilion stare at passers-by with different expressions: triumph, anger, viciousness or defeat.
Then there is a wall of nine dragons, a red dragon boat, a pair of red huabiao (ornamental column erected in front of a palace or tomb in ancient China) pillars upon which a dragon encircles, a red and yellow pagoda across the river from the huge Berlin Cathedral and a green peacock. Adorning street lamp posts are banners bearing words of wisdom from Confucius that wave in the wind.
The popular Chinese colors are somewhat incongruous to the lush green trees and stately buildings that line the streets, but illuminated at night, they offer a strong Chinese cultural presence as the city prepares for a China Festival during its Asia-Pacific Weeks, starting today.
"These help me learn more about China," said Sophia, who wouldn't give her family name because of an on-going Sino-German project she was involved in.
Standing by the colorful Peking Opera facial paintings, she said the Chinese landmarks "remind me of the joy and laughter that I shared with the Chinese on the night when Beijing won the bid for hosting the 2008 Olympics."
During the festival, the local people and tourists to the city are not only provided with things Chinese to see, but to feel, to taste and to have hands-on practice such as flying a kite, or painting with a Chinese brush.
Inside the China tent at the temporary Asian market in the Imperial Palace Square, a group of Chinese student chefs from the Beijing Muxiyuan Vocational School prepared indigenous Chinese snacks from steamed dumplings to fried tiny flour dough with minced pork, carrot cubes, and onions in soy sauce. Some visitors who had difficulty maneuvering chopsticks simply used them like a fork.
In the same tent, Jacqueline Meiske tried her hand at plucking the strings of the yangqin, or the Chinese dulcimer. "The sounds are beautiful," she said.
The Chinese cultural presence has been felt over the weekend, even in the northeast suburbs of Berlin, about an hour's light-train ride from downtown.
In the Erholungs Park at Marzahn, hundreds of red umbrellas dotted the lush green lawn like mushrooms. Where there were no umbrellas, there were local residents flying colorful kites. According to Zhou Fengran, a Chinese student studying sociology and film in Berlin, 500 kites were given away on Saturday afternoon.
Claudia Kinzel was chortling when her 7-year-old daughter, Elisa, was able to send a dragonfly-kite into the sky. While Elisa handled the wheel with caution, Claudia Kinzel shouted nervously when the kite fell.
After a five-minute walk into the park, people entered the Chinese Recovered Moon Garden, where they sampled a variety of Chinese tea. Uwe Kunzler, a chemist living in the western part of Berlin, came all the way with his friends, to have a cup of Chinese tea.
"It's the first time I came here," he said. "I've found this is a quiet place."
(China Daily 09/17/2001)