Thursday, August 02, 2007


Tonight was one of the few nights where I get completely captivated by something.

China's performance at the HSBC Celebration of Light was simply breathtaking. At about 7.00pm, I biked down from UBC to get to English Bay to catch Xiao Yang, Sarah and Rachel. Xiao Yang's friend Caitlin was there with her dad as well. There, we chilled and I saw Maki as well. So the group of us hung out and watched Xiao Yang and Maki's friend play Chinese Chess.

The announcer was getting pretty annoying, what with all of his repetitive "this fireworks show cost 3 million to display" and "Vancouver, show that you want this display to be shown here every year by cleaning up your garbage", a friendly reminder of the inconsiderate garbage worker strikes that have been going on. Whatever happened to service to community and respecting taxpayer's money?

In any case, I sat there, trying to spot the stars while lying on the beach. One by one, their flickers emerged from behind the curtain of the sky as the sun's spotlight faded behind the horizon.

I can't remember when we had to rise for China's national anthem, but Xiao Yang, Rachel and Sarah were back there bellowing it out so loud, I'm sure that the crowd around them could hear it all. Way to go for patriotism! Haha, I regret missing the Canadian one now... I would have so sang "O Canada" with pride.

Then, over the PA system, the announcer's voice bellowed out, "10, 9, 8,..... 3, 2, 1." and a roar of applause followed by quick silence fell over the hundred-thousand-strong crowd. With my camera in hand, I set the settings for fireworks, and as the first few flares emerged, I started snapping, forgetting about the fact that this was a performance. Then, I heard the music.

It was suddenly surreal. Instinctively, I turned my camera to video mode, and hit the shutter button. I let the music inside me, and it flowed and ebbed like the waves on the beach, reaching my mind at one moment, touching my heart at another. The visuals provided by the fireworks suddenly had meaning. The title of the show, "Time Machine", made it even more captivating. As the flares lit up the sky, the fireworks display left a barrage of images inside of me: of fireflies, of stars, of lamps, of the rainbow, of rings, of... it was a fantastical, it was improbable; it was suddenly surreal.

The music flowed on, at times uplifting, at times troubling, at times inspirational, at times rumbling. I saw the firework flares in the sky - the green ones, the red ones, the blue ones, the yellow ones, the white ones... the ones that went from green to red, and from blue to yellow, and from red to white... I sat there, captivated by the beauty of the night sky. A few moments later, I glanced around, and saw everybody in the crowd equally taken in by the scenery. It was a marveling at all of the Chinese team's creation and its beauty from within.

There were the punctuating moments, when the fireworks literally lit up the entire night sky, and it dawned upon me that it wasn't just China's performance that was amazing, it was the entire concept of HSBC's Celebration of Light. The crowed "oooh"-ed and "ahhh"-ed during those moments, when the entire night sky was filled with flares.

Given the title, the music and the display, I struggled for words to describe the meaning behind the fireworks performance put up by China. What were they trying to communicate? Were they doing a journey back into the past, making us think about our personal lives, when we were young, when we were happy, when we were troubled? Or were they communicating their aspirations for their homeland, to grow stronger and stronger day by day? Or were they displaying, in abstract terms, the history of their nation, the trials and tribulations that it has gone through?

I admire the Chinese spirit in adversity; it's very much like the Jews'. A never-say-die attitude, a willingness to work at the problem. (I guess the complacency displayed in times of abundance by most Chinese is quite starkly visible compared to other societies', which is my only problem with Chinese way of thought - a focus on the superficial, the family pride etc.) The teamwork, coordination, buildup, emotion... this team definitely did do an amazing job. Kudos!

I shall be uploading the video (820MB!!!) soon. Hopefully I get to compress it down such that it's "uploadable" by YouTube restrictions.

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