Chuck and I just got back from a 17-day trip to China which began in Beijing and ended in Hong Kong. I blogged daily from the road, but we had trouble with social media so many of the blogs were published only without social media backup. Beginning tomorrow, I will republish the blog posts from China; but here is a summary. Here are five things I really liked about China plus five things I believe we do better in America.
I loved the Chinese people. They are inclusive, kind, and very patient. Their own ideas of self respect and their respect for one another is the basis for this behavior. We also didn’t see the cynicism we’re seeing in the US right now.
Young Chinese Guide in the Three Gorges
There was a give and take that seemed to affect everyone’s relations with each other. They seemed to work hard at gaining respect and protecting their respect for themselves. Chinese people were pro-active and helpful but kept a polite distance. They seemed more humble than Americans and seemed to act the part of an underdog.
Streets of Hong Kong
Part of their self respect seemed to be their ability to rely upon themselves without government subsidies or charitable handouts. They are a hard working people with an attitude that “no job is beneath you”. This is because employment is scarce, and there are many more people wanting their job.
Archeological workers restoring the Terra Cotta Warriors.
Selling Eggs at the Market
Underneath this presence, The Chinese have something called “face”. “Face” is someone’s position and standing in the eyes of others, and it also has to do with how much respect a person receives.
If you drove a very nice car to a meeting, then your colleagues would think that you have face. Also, if you have good contacts, more than others, you would also be thought to have face. You can gain face if you are praised by someone important, or if you accomplish a difficult task. It is a very complex system.
The Gardens in Beijing
However, if you walk up to someone at a reception and they ignore you, then you would lose face. Questioning someone’s opinion in a public setting would cause you to lose face.
They are very careful to protect their own face and that of others. It is an interesting system that maintains how they treat one another.
Part of their attitude is centered around their traditions. We have traditions in America but a lot of them are under attack and being set aside in the name of political correctness.
How many cultures will set aside one day a year to honor their ancestors. Well, the Chinese do. On the 15th day from Spring equinox, they honor their ancestors at their grave sites. Another beautiful tradition.
Arches Outside a Taoist Temple
Another tradition is that family is first and their elderly are honored. For example, you are expected to rise when an older person enters a room.
I felt super safe in China. Here’s one example. They checked us at the door of the airport. You could not gain entrance to any part of the airport without going through security . It certainly made sense to me. The terrorist attack in Istanbul’s airport was outside of the secure area where people congregate to check baggage, shop and eat.
The Chinese spend as much on domestic security as they do on national defense, though one does have to question their motives. But we felt super safe because of all this. There were policemen everywhere.
An invitation into a typical home in China
Chuck and I walked all around the neighborhoods around our hotel in Shanghai in the French Concession and felt perfectly safe. We were also impressed with how clean these massive cities were. And we saw no loitering nor did we see any homeless, though we did question this, too.
Climbing the City Wall
We did see problems in one small village, but it was an exception during our travels. It surprised us.
All in all though the Chinese seemed to take great pride in their surroundings.
I loved all the vegetables. Here in fast paced/fast food America, it is hard to order vegetables sometimes. The other day in a restaurant my choices for a side were mac ‘n cheese, mashed potatoes, rice, French fries, and sweet potato fries. Oh my gosh! Can you say ‘carbs’.
Not so in China. Every place we ate, there were several options of real freshly-cooked vegetables. There was a colorful variety, too.
Hot Pot Cooking at our Table
Eating in restaurants is usually family-style with a large lazy Susan in the middle of the table that sits 8-10 people and contains about twenty bowls containing 2 or 3 meats, 6-8 vegetable dishes, and more. I loved this style of dining, and this might be the first vacation in forever where I had no bathroom issues. I also didn’t gain weight.
Dining in Shanghai in the French Connection was the only time we set at a long table.
I asked our guide about why they served all the fresh vegetables? She said that it was Traditional Chinese Medicine that emphasizes first changes in diet instead of prescribing medications. The doctor helps the patient heal within by nutrition first.
The Great Wall
The Great Wall was truly amazing and was on our bucket list. You can’t understand its magnitude until you see it. It runs more than 5,000 miles over mountains, deserts, and even out into the sea. You could drive a large truck down it, if it weren’t broken up by its large watch towers.
The Great Wall
The portion we visited was up in the mountains, and we had to take a cable car up to its base. The stairs to climb up the wall were made for the soldiers. Each step was about 18 or more inches high; though no two stairs were the same height.
The wall is about 25 feet high and from 15 to 30 feet wide. It runs east to west across China’s northern border. It was built to keep out the Eurasian Steppe hordes.
The Great Wall
Construction began around 200 AD but it was dramatically enlarged during the Ming Dynasty which began around the mid 1300s and ended in the mid 1600s.
It is also a giant mausoleum. They estimate at least 1 million slaves died building it and are encapsulated within its wall.
To see more pictures about The Great Wall of China, please click here.
Five Things I Think We Do Better in the US
Our Climate and Clean Air
It is hot in China, damn hot, and as Robin Williams said it so well, “crotch pot cooking hot”; and we didn’t visit during their hottest month of August.
It was humid, and I’m from Florida. So you can bet it was humid. The Chinese women used parasols, so I started using my umbrella to keep the sun off me.
The sunshine is very hot in the Inner City.
I kept hearing about the smog in China, but we were lucky and saw none until we got to the Three Gorges Area. Then it was so sweltering hot that we weren’t sure if the air was thick with smog, humidity, or both. We have it so much better here in the USA, but the Chinese are working on their air quality problems.
The Three Gorges
By the way if you see pictures of the Chinese wearing masks, they are not doing it because of the smog. They wear the masks if they think they’re getting sick, are sick, or even have a slight cold. They do this as a courtesy to prevent spreading their own infection to others.
The Red Pagoda
China was hit hard by epidemics, beginning with the great Pandemic Flu just before the end of World War I.
Freedom of Speech
I was about two days in Beijing when I noticed that I wasn’t receiving emails from Facebook, and I couldn’t log on to Facebook either. I mentioned in a text to my kids and their spouses that this seemed strange. That none of my social media seemed to be working.
Young Professional Woman on her Cell Phone
My brother-in-law texted back and jokingly said, “Communist Suppression.” Then my son-in-law who has lived in two eastern bloc countries and contracted with our State Department said, “Actually, you’re right, Marty. Neither Facebook or Twitter is allowed in China.”
Later I realized that I couldn’t get Google either. It seems all are blocked due to national security concerns, though some of the younger Chinese people think it is to allow China’s similar home-grown providers like QQ, Taobao, Alibaba, Weibo, etc., exclusivity over the Chinese market.
I really missed Google, though, because I use it to check facts, such as demographics, historical, and geographical facts. So Patrick suggested I use Wikipedia, and it worked while I was traveling in China. I got none of my Gmail until I returned. It was nice having hardly any emails during the 17 days we were abroad, but there was hell to pay when we got back.
Hooray for the good old USA where we have freedom of speech and our newspapers use it to push for the presidency of Hillary Clinton–a total waste of our freedom in my book. (Sorry, it is so hard not to be cynical right now.)
Which brings me to another difference between the Chinese and we Americans. The Chinese know that their state-sponsored media is full of propaganda, and they are very cynical about their media. We here in the US seem more naive. We are fooled by our political systems and our media, and we feed at the political and media trough everyday.
Here’s something to think about. The Chinese citizen can buy land in America, but cannot own land in his or her own country. I kid you not. Their communist central government owns all the land in China. You simply lease the land under your home, building, or business. Property rights do not exist, except for the central government.
Housing and Skyscrapers in Hong Kong, which is now under China
In China there is a testing system. If you do well, you have a very good chance of going to college; and college in China is very affordable. But if you don’t do well enough, you are passed over then and there with no chance at all of further education because there is no room for you to go to college. Young people behind you need an equal chance to go college.
Late bloomers like me and many people I know who went back and succeeded in higher education would never have a chance in this system. They would find themselves permanently stymied.
And since education offers many Americans options, the Chinese system does not. How many of you always knew what you were planning to do with the rest of your life when you were 16.
Organized Compassion and Empathy
I throw this out because here in America we have all kinds of organizations that try to take care of those among us who are downtrodden. I didn’t see anything like this in China, but I also saw a people there that was less cynical and argumentative. There was also a very strong family unit.
Families Spending Time Together at a Pagoda in the Yuan Gardens
And I also noticed how they treat their elders and children. They take care of their own. Americans give and give to our charitable organizations, and yet some of us seem to shun our own elderly family members.
On the flip side we here in America may be too philanthropic especially toward those who can help themselves. I worry that much of our unemployed poor will always be stymied and poor because our giving a hand up comes too quickly and too often. We enable people to become dependent, and this dependency breeds all kinds of problems from depression to bad health.
Still, though, I believe Americans have a big heart; and this is positive on the whole.
Beginning tomorrow I will run 17 days of blogging from China, beginning in Beijing. These are mostly photos with some narrative. Please subscribe if you are interested in receiving an email when I post. I’ll be happy to send you an email every time I send out a blog post. Usually, I blog only once a week, but I’ll be posting daily for the next seventeen days pictures from our trip.