Question of Perspective
Question of Perspective
Nadine Godehardt

Being Tourist
A friend of mine once said that the one thing she really does not like about China are Chinese tourist groups who, whenever you are at a famous spot in Beijing, seem to suddenly flood the whole place. Without any hesitation the endless group of Chinese tourists follows the nearly unbearable loud voice of the male or female tour guide who constantly shouts at every moving object praising the unfortunate invention of the megaphone.
Hiding in a group of Chinese tourists represents maybe the sole moment when blonde hair, blue eyes and a certain height are simply ignored since most of the people have rather paid for as many information as you can get in three, five or seven days packages. Why then care about the “others” or even the “laowai”? It is much more important, probably necessary to get the “one” picture in front of the “one” sight that clearly only thousands of visitors have taken before us. Sometimes it feels like a comparison of the same and clearly not curiosity of the “new”. Maybe it is even more a duty, millions of times reproduced thanks to the invention of cheap digital cameras and camcorders. In a way, these tourists are diplomats of the “other China” – the one we usually do not see or interested in but which is still out there. Somewhere. I guess. So, these groups are loud, noisy and often totally lost when left alone in modern Beijing or other places. However, they are representatives of Chinese people who probably saved half a life time to visit the capital – maybe it is even a gift from the sons and daughters who already have left the countryside or millions of “one-Million inhabitants’ cities” to live a different life.
Yes, even the empty Confucius temple where nothing has been left behind and most parts have been rebuilt – no “real” atmosphere of the “ancient China” can be sensed. In fact, what I feel are bits and pieces of the “new China”. The things that come along although they are not only nice and shiny – as usual.

Chinese soul: Confucius says…not much anymore
Every time when I see a statue of Confucius I wonder whether Confucius is not rather a burden to the Chinese people than a relief. Confucius is surely a pragmatic tool to underpin the harmoniousness and peacefulness of the country. It is useful – again! But when I look at the group of Chinese tourists, I wonder what they believe listening rather bored to the tour guide. Maybe they think about their children or nephews that need a high score at the “gao kao” which is a possibility to leave the usual Chinese misery and an opportunity for a different life. A life they have invested a lot for and that could also save their own retirement. Or they think about some family members who are sick and wish him/her a good recovery. But maybe they do not think anything and try – desperately – to remember what role Confucius has actually played in ancient times. At this point, Confucius really says not much and even if we try to listen hard we cannot hear anything. Lost in possibilities, advertisement and faced with another Chinese soul. This soul, however, has not much to do with the image that is usually drawn in all the expensive TV productions about the mysterious Confucian soul in China which definitely left the Confucian temple in Beijing a long time ago. In the end, Confucius remains painfully silent and maybe that even is the only glimpse of what could have been but it is today? Rather not.


November 2012

Copyright by Nadine Godehardt

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© Question of Perspective by Nadine Godehardt