Embarking on my Chengdu journey
By Hira Anwar  ·  2024-03-27  ·   Source: NO.13 MARCH 28, 2024
Hira Anwar visits a lantern park in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, on February 14 (COURTESY PHOTO)

As a student in Pakistan, it had always been my dream to come to China and immerse myself in its culture and events. I had gleaned knowledge about China's rich history, cultural heritage and economic growth from sources like television and books and, in 2022, my dream finally came true. I arrived in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, to study at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC), renowned as the birthplace of China's electronic technology industry. I was fortunate enough to be enrolled as a Ph.D. student in the School of Management and Economics.

Chengdu, with its exquisite cuisine, rich history and vibrant social fabric, captivated me from the moment I set foot in the city. Situated in the heart of Sichuan, Chengdu sprawls across the fertile Chengdu Plain and is home to the ancient Dujiangyan irrigation system, one of China's oldest and most efficient. It owes its sustenance to the mighty Minjiang River.

Over the past more than a year, I have had the incredible opportunity to explore this magnificent city and witness its significant events firsthand. Chengdu lives up to its reputation and its famous saying, "Chengdu makes your dreams come true." Indeed, it has made my dreams come true.

During the Chinese New Year holiday, from February 10 to 17 this year, I had the pleasure of experiencing the Spring Festival events organized by UESTC. The festival is a cherished tradition in China. The university prepared gift packages for us, filled with delicious snacks. I also received a red envelope from the university, a traditional custom symbolizing blessings from seniors to the younger generation. As an international student, participating in these activities allowed me to learn about Chinese traditions and practices, interact with native speakers, and engage with fellow international participants, enhancing my cultural understanding.

The Lantern Festival, which signifies the end of Spring Festival celebrations and is celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month, left a lasting impression on me. This year, it fell on February 24. Everywhere I looked, vibrant lanterns illuminated parks, shopping malls, homes and roads, creating an atmosphere brimming with excitement and festivity. These lanterns, especially those adorned in crimson, symbolize bidding farewell to the past year and welcoming the new one, along with good fortune and prosperity.

A fascinating custom of the Lantern Festival is the attachment of riddles to the lanterns. These riddles add an interactive element to the festival, as people attempt to decipher the answers. It is a popular activity enjoyed by both children and adults. Nowadays, many shopping malls organize lantern riddle activities as promotional events to attract customers.

I also discovered that, in ancient China, every household would craft lanterns to celebrate traditional Chinese festivals such as the Spring Festival, Lantern Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival. These lanterns would be displayed outside their doors or on balconies, adding to the enchanting ambiance. 

During one vacation, I had the pleasure of visiting the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, an absolute must-see attraction in the city. This visit introduced me to a whole new world. The nonprofit research and breeding facility is dedicated to the wellbeing of giant pandas, particularly cubs and young pandas. In addition to its focus on research and conservation, the base also serves as a place for public education and tourism, offering interactive activities that allow people to connect with these magnificent creatures. 

My journey in Chengdu has just begun, and I am eager to discover more about this captivating city and its vibrant culture. With each passing day, I grow more appreciative of the opportunities and experiences that beckon, promising to deepen my understanding of China and forge lifelong memories.

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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