A bit of Beijing in Berlin

来源:百度文库 编辑:神马文学网 时间:2024/04/19 23:41:19

A bit of Beijing in Berlin

08:59, March 16, 2010      

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Karl Marx Alley. Photo: AFP

The similarities between Beijing and Berlin are evident before you even land. As you fly into the city, the first thing you'll notice are the cranes towering over construction sites as far as the eye can see, albeit surrounded with a lot more open space than you'd find in the Chinese capital.

Berlin, like Beijing, exudes a tangible sense of transition, a feeling that everything is changing and that if you blink, you'll miss it. This stems from a dramatic recent history; many seem to forget that it was only just over 20 years ago that East Germans were allowed to enter the western section of the city. When the Berlin Wall came down, a mad rush of thousands ensued, all desperate to flee the old communist controlled, Soviet-backed German Democratic Republic (GDR). The fear that at any moment they would rescind the order and that Germans would once again be trapped on the wrong side was very real. This led to a glut of empty apartments and quiet streets, which has in turn made the eastern part of Berlin a relatively cheap place to live, attracting artists and writers who desire the inspiration of life in an exciting metropolis, but can't afford to live in New York, London or Tokyo.

The feeling of walking over Karl Marx Alley, amidst the generic Soviet-style architecture east of the suburb Friedrichshain, which itself sits in the eastern part of the town, is startlingly similar to being in Beijing's 798 district. Therefore, when I stumble across an artists' community of around 15 Chinese members and semi-permanent residents, it doesn't feel like as much of a surprise as one might think.

"It's the most exciting place to be an artist in the whole world," opined Chinese painter Li Qiao, who greets me as I enter. "There is nowhere else to be right now. We're doing incredible things. Berlin has a history of being friendly to Chinese. We have a good history here." While Li's former point may be true, his follow-up is debatable.

A brief history

The Chinese in Berlin, like many migrant communities across the world, have had their share of ups and downs in their adopted city since the supposed earliest Chinese, Feng Yaxing and Feng Yaxue, arrived in 1822 from Guangdong.

Feng and Feng were followed by a trickle of Chinese merchants and students who attended Beijing's Technical University. The numbers grew, particularly those of students, so much so that the by the 1920s, Chinese attending Berlin's universities formed the fourth largest foreign group, and one that was becoming increasingly radicalized. Many signed up to support the Communist Party of Germany, forming a Chinese support group called the Zirkel für chinesische Sprache. From March 1922 to the autumn of 1923, Zhou Enlai mixed with students in Berlin, encouraging future revolutionaries to board the Chinese Communist Party wagon. When Hitler took control of Germany in the 1930s, the Chinese as a section of society managed to avoid assignment to the "racially inferior" list, but as much of the community in Berlin had openly supported various communist movements, they were forced to leave or risk the Nazi wrath. Many returned to China, but still 1,000 students stayed on. By 1942, however, the 323 who remained were rounded up and sent to the infamous Langer Morgen work camp.
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