Comment: Romania and the Year of the Water Snake

chinese new year sxchu

In the first days of the New Chinese Year, Mariana Ganea looks back into Romania’s history, from Communism to nowadays to see what China has meant to Romanians.

The Chinese calendar marked the first day of the Year of the Water Snake on February 10, and the Chinese New Year was celebrated not only in China, but all over the world, by the many Chinese communities. In Romania too it was celebrated. Even in the city of Deva, in Transylvania, some celebrations were organized and enjoyed by the local Chinese community, as I learned from Why did this catch my attention? It reminded me of something. During the Communist period, Romania was among the few countries in the Soviet Union’s circle of influence that had good political and economic relations with China.

What did China mean to the regular Romanians back in those days? China was the biggest Communist country in the world, with a population ever climbing  towards a billion inhabitants. Chairman Mao Zedong’s country, where all people looked alike and all wore the gray, traditional jacket. After the 60s-70s, China became the country of the tremendous and very brutal Cultural Revolution in the eyes of the more educated Romanians. Much of what China did was ‘imported’ by other countries living in dictatorship and which shared a similar background, such as North Korea. Unfortunately for the Romanian people, the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was fascinated by the North Korean model and he imposed it locally, in a country which didn’t have any similarity in history, traditions, culture, religion or mass social psychology with the Asiatic country. The forced implementation of the North Korean model had a devastating effect on Romanian society and its people; but this is another sad story from our recent history.

After 1989, when Romania opened its doors to the free world, regular Romanians were able to discover another face of China, in spite of it being a communist country which implemented few free market policies, it was rising fast as a financial super power. The country is now the second or third biggest economy in the world and is set to overtake the US to become the largest very soon.

What have Romanians discovered about this ever more important country on the world stage? Well, among others, they discovered the ancient and amazing traditions, the religions and the great history of China. So, in my opinion, today China is seen as a country with a great and ancient history, admired for its religious pluralism, traditional medicine, even for its calendar and zodiac.

We Romanians, together with other nations, have discovered the Buddha ‘steachings, the various Buddhism schools and the influence of the Chinese Buddhism in the creation of Japanese Buddhism, especially in the Zen school. When we talk about China and its religions and/or ways of living we cannot forget at least two precious names: the ancient Confucius and the current Dalai Lama (even if Communist China doesn’t recognize him and the conflict between Tibet and China has deep roots in history). The moral precepts full of wisdom that have spread across the world via the writings and lectures of the Dalai Lama writings and Confucius enrich the minds and the souls of the stressed and worried around the globe, including Romania.

The fascination for these cultural practices/religions mixed with the Chinese traditional medical methods persuaded many psychologists, psychiatrists and doctors in general to use Eastern wisdom to cure diseases. Nowadays there are a lot of clinics in America and in Europe that successfully practice Asian medicine. In Romania, this trend is only just starting to emerge: you can find some acupuncture clinics, or places where Buddhism meditation is taught and practiced as a way to obtain balance, tranquility and a peaceful mind. There are Buddhism meditation centers too, while several publishing houses market books about the Chinese religions/cultural practices/ways of living or the traditional methods of healing.

Let’s not forget about the passion for the Chinese art and history – a major exhibition in Romania this year will have the Chinese terracotta army as center piece – wrote about it here. 

China isn’t only a huge country with a successful economy, with the world’s fastest economic growing in the last decades, with more than 1.3 billion of inhabitants. It is also a country which manages to inspire and provide new spiritual horizons. So I’d say Happy New Year!

By Mariana Ganea, Guest Writer 


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