Thank you, ladies and gentlemen:
My topic today is “Walls and Bridges”.I’m studying in a city famous for its city walls. All visitors to my city are amazed by the imposing sight of the city walls, silhouetted by the setting sun with gold and shining lines. With old, cracked bricks patched with lichen, the walls are weather-beaten guards, standing still for centuries in protecting the city.
Our ancestors liked to build walls. They built walls in Beijing, Xi’an, Nanjing and many other cities, and they built the Great Wall, which snakes through half of our country. They built walls to ward offenemies and evil spirits. This tradition has been maintained to this day as we still have many schools and parks walled off from the public.
I grew up at the foot of the city walls, and I have loving them since my childhood. For a long time, walls were one of the most natural things in the world.
My perception, however, changed after a hiking trip to the Eastern Suburbs, a scenic area of my city. My classmates and I were walking with some international students. As we walked out of the city, we found ourselves flanked by taller and taller trees, which formed a huge canopy above our heads. Suddenly an international student asked me,“where is the entrance to the Eastern Suburbs?”
“We are already in the Eastern Suburbs,” so I replied.He seemed taken aback, “I thought you Chinese have walls for everything.” His remark set off a heated debate. At one point, he likened our walled cities to “jails”, while I insisted that the Eastern Suburbs was one of the many places in China that had no walls.
That debate had no winners, but I did learn a lot from this international student. For instance, he told me universities like Oxford and Cambridge were not surrounded by walls; the campuses were just a part of the cities.
I have to admit that we do have many walls in China, and as we are developing our country, we must carefully examine them, whether they are physical or intangible. We will tear down some walls, and we will keep some of them.
Let me give you an example.
A year ago, when I was working on a term paper, I need a book on business law and found a copy in the law school library. However, the librarian turned down my request with a cold shoulder, saying, “You can’t borrow this book. You are not a student here.” In the end, I had to spend 200 Yuan buying a copy; meanwhile, the copy in law school was gathering dust on the shelf.
At the beginning of this semester, I heard that my university has started not only to unify all its libraries but also to link them up with libraries of other universities, so my experience will not be repeated. Barriers will be replaced by bridges. Through an inter-library loan system, we will have access to books from any library. With globalization, with China integrated into the world, I believe many of these intangible walls will be knocked down.
I know globalization is a controversial issue, and it’s hard for us to say whether it is good or bad. But one thing is for sure: it draws our attention to China’s physical and intangible walls and forces us to examine their roles in the modern world.
Then what about the walls in my city and other cities? Should we tear them down? Just the opposite. My city, like Beijing and other cities, is actually making a great effort to preserve the wall. These walls now attract not only historians and archeologists, but also schoolchildren trying to study our history and cultural heritage.
The walls have turned into bridges to our past and to the rest of the world. If the ancient builders of these walls were still alive today, they would be proud to see such a great change in the roles of their walls. They are now cultural bridges that link East and West, South and North, and all the countries of the world. Our cultural heritage will survive globalization.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.