The China/Tourist Interface

When I gave a draft of my Robert Gallo article to my editor at Spy, Susan Morrison, she called it “well-reported.” I hadn’t heard the term before, but I understood what it meant. (And, yes, I do remember every compliment I have ever been given.)

I thought of well-reported when I read this in The Fortune-Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer Lee:

This eighty-one-year old Chinese woman was a professional Jew.

She lives in Kaifung, China, where long ago there had been a community of Jews large enough to build a synagogue. She is one of the few Jews left; pilgrims visit her. She makes a living selling them paper cutouts that combine Jewish and Chinese themes. You could read a hundred books about China and not come across anything like this, but it reminds me of my experience. When I was in China — I taught psychology at Beijing University — some friends and I visited the Great Wall. To avoid tourists, we went to a remote and less popular section. As predicted, it was nearly deserted. But along the path to the wall, just before it got steep, sat an old man in a chair. “2 yuan” said a sign. He wanted 2 yuan (about 25 cents) to allow us to pass. We paid.

One Reply to “The China/Tourist Interface”

  1. Curiously, there’s no such physical object as a Great Wall in China. There are lots of walls, to be sure, some of them very photogenic, but “The Great Wall” as such is purely a marketing construct. One might as well speak of Europe’s “Great Castle Chain”; there are lots of castles, but each was an independent project. Some walls attach end-on to previous projects, some run parallel, some are just out there by themselves.

    People who are convinced nobody ever walked on the moon are nonetheless happy to believe that you can see “it” from there.

Comments are closed.