Western view on China’s history

China has a long and complex history, it holds claim to the world’s oldest continuous civilization. Such a rich cultural history has put China among the world’s top travel destinations.

These are just a few tag lines from ChinaHolidays.co.uk

“Explore the awe-inspiring Great Wall of China”

“See the fascinating archaeological discovery of the Terracotta Warriors”

“Venture into the Forbidden City”

But for century’s westerners have understood very little about China. Are there still misconceptions about Chinese people and their history?

The Great Wall of China is said to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The wall was constructed in the 5th century BC and runs across the entire northern part of China. It’s a must see for tourists and it draws huge crowds every day. Another historical destination for tourists to tick of the list is the Forbidden City. The city was home to 24 different emperors, 14 of the Ming Dynasty and 10 of the Qing Dynasty. The Forbidden City plays a big role in Chinas history and tourists come from all around the world to visit it. Other historical sites tourist are urged to visit in china include, The Summer Palace, The Terracotta Warriors, Suzhou Garden and the Ming Tombs.

Because there are more people now visiting China its history is beginning to be shared with the rest of the world. Various books and films help share Chinas history as well. But for many years, the western view on Chinas history was taken from myths and superstition that didn’t match the reality. Historically relations between Brittan and china have not been good. This is one reason why there was such a lack of understanding about Chinas history.

One example of this was in 1793 when Britain sent an official trade mission to Beijing. George Macartney led the trade mission. He presented Emperor Qianlong with Science instruments, metal wear, pottery and other examples of British industry. The Emperor claimed he had no need for these items, he felt that china already had everything it needed. The British were sent home and forced to take more evasive action to secure the trade routs. The stories that got back to Britain at the time spoke of the unpleasant and hostile environment that they had visited.

An earlier example to why westerners misconstrued China was in the 1920’s. American filmmakers were accused of giving warped images of the Chinese people and their culture. Films like “The First Born” (1921) were accused of giving distorted stereotypes of everyday Chinese life. Making it appear that; bizarre foods and drink, drug-dealing in the streets, and opium smoking were common practices.

Modern films depict Chinas history more accurately. Films like “The Last Emperor” (1987) that tells the story of the last emperor of the Ching Dynasty. A more modern film of Chinas history is “The Founding of a Republic” (2009) witch is an excellent look at a part of history that most people have never heard of. These films have helped people understand more about Chinas history.

But there are still people that think that Chinas culture continues to be the same today as it was thousands of years ago. It is still the case that people outside of china are unaware of modern cultures and modern life in china

This became apparent while speaking to someone who recently visited China. I was told about the amazing artworks and incredible archaeology that they had seen on their trip.  They had seen it all; the great wall, the forbidden city, the summer palace etc. interestingly they spoke very little about modern China. This particular tourist had booked a package holiday and was advised to stay with the the tour group at all times. Apparently before visiting China tourist are still bombarded with safety advice and taboos. Seemingly this is the main reason this particular traveler missed out on experiencing modern China.

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