‘Liang Ru Wei Chu’

Differences in generations-Money and possessions

Over the last one hundred years there and been change on a mass scale in China. How has it effected the different generations of a family? Have priorities changed? Has the value of money changed and has the possessions they valued changed?

I conducted an interview to try and answer some of these questions. The girl I interviewed was in her twenties; her parents fifty plus and her grandparents in there eighties.

I firstly asked about the value of money across the generations and how it differed. She said that the stability of China has changed over the years and this has effected how the people value their money. When talking about her Grandparents she said they came from a different world to her. China was very poor and they valued everything. They would save every penny and not purchase anything. She said her parent’s generation, now being in there 40s and 50s, purchases began to change as China was growing they started to be able to enjoy life more. They spent some money on digital products but tended to invest in stocks and property and gold.  Whereas her generation like to purchase and the most expensive objects she has owned have been ‘ cell phones, laptops and digital cameras.’

She said because China has always been quite unstable due to it growth the currency is also quite unstable. The way of using money in China has changed. She said in China amongst the older generations credit cards are un-popular. She says the older generations won’t use credit cards because they are unstable and they don’t like the idea of using ‘future money’ and hate the idea of being in debt. She says this is changing now and most young people own a credit card because they love to purchase. There are still differences in her grandparents and parents generation. She said her Grandparents put all their money in the bank and love the feeling of seeing their money grow. She said for them it its kind of like OCD the happiness they seem to get from watching their money grow. Compare this to her parent’s generation who like to feel stable so invest the money in different things and spread it around. She also mentioned that to feel secure most people in their fifties own more than one property around the country maybe three or four.

There is a word in Chinese ‘Liang Ru wei chu’ that illustrates her parents and grandparents view on money it means, roughly, purchase depends on income. Meaning previous generations wouldn’t spend money they didn’t have. This has changed for her generation who feel more secure and stable. However there are still differences in her generation between urban and rural. She says that in the rural areas they have the same kind of mind-set as her grandparents and save every penny. I think this would be again to do with feeling unstable as there is a big divide between the rich and poor in China and people can still just be told to leave there homes.

The interview naturally took a side-track from my topic of money and possessions and moved into marriage and opportunity. She told me through the generations success has different properties. For the older generation who were subject to wars a poor economy for them to be successful was just to stay alive and be secure so generally they’d be married by twenty have kids and follow those steps. Whereas for her parents generation, during Chinas growth, they started to come away from the traditional steps and wanted to find a chance and grab it. It was still frowned upon for that generation not to be married by twenty five and traditions still came through. She said for her she might be expected to be married by about thirty but it wasn’t seen as that important it was more important for her generation to be seen as an individual character following her own path. They strive to be unique maybe this is by studying higher education or studying abroad. The idea of standing out from the crowd has become ever more important.

This interview uncovered a lot of interesting results and because it has changed so quickly the differences between the generations is very clear. However I don’t think it’s that different from this country and differences in generations and traditions tend to fade through the generations the only difference with China is that it has happened over a shorter period of time due to its rapid growth.Alot of globalisation seems to be occuring in China and I think this has a big influence on the differences between generations.

The interview also highlighted the divide between China, between the rich and the poor, at the moment. This is something that seems to constantly appear in research into China that half the country have become rich quick whereas the other half are still in the same position and very poor.

The experience of visiting China

Chinas image abroad.

China is said to be the worlds up and coming super power but as western tourists is all we are told about China country true? To help answer this question I have been conducting interviews with people who are not native to China but have been there as tourists. They have seen both sides and had many quite differing opinions.

When conducting my interviews I realised most people had either a very positive view or a very negative view of the country. I feel this maybe was to due with outside circumstances however. For example one person I interviewed visits China for work and connections with the universities where as another was just in China for a few days.

Weather people where prepared for it or not China seems to be a culture shock. A common thing that was mentioned was the rich to poor divide. People were not prepared for it. In China 1% of the population own 99% of the wealth. For example one person I interviewed is living in China working as a creative manager His example was:
‘In my workplace, there are around 250 staff. Only around 2 or 3 of these staff earn more than £1000 a month, with the rest earning significantly less. Everywhere you go, you see beggars and very poor looking people. You also meet very rich people who throw their money around without thinking twice. What I have noticed is that there is no middle ground, people are either rich or poor.’

The conclusion from my interviews on this topic seems to be that China’s portrayed to be very technology forward and lot wealthier than it seems whilst there. The difference between the Chinese people is not shown to the rest of the world and the poverty shocks people.

Many people weren’t prepared for the language barrier China has. As English speakers we are very complacent in thinking everyone will speak a little English. From my interviews although China maybe appears through the media to be going through globalization when visiting there it seems people are still surprised to see a European. The Chinese have different mannerism as well and people didn’t expect this. It is very foreign compared to visiting other countries. People have been brought up differently and behave differently to how we would in the West. People spit on buses and ‘kamikaze’ across roads. I was told a story by one of the interviewees that a tour guide told them he had never left Beijing and never would. All his money went to his family and for a wedding. He was shocked that two girls were traveling across the world and had funded it themselves. This culture shock is not something people realised about China before they were there. It not something that is shown or made obvious to the rest of the world but perhaps this is something that should be expected? And it is no different from the rest of the world. One interviewee said ‘ There may be a lot hidden from western media but our county hides a lot too.’

Politically the West portrays China very negatively with a lack of freedom of speech and no voting system but from the people I interviewed a different story comes out. Having spoken to Chinese people they are very positive about the government, which is there by consent.

‘I spoke to a local about the birds nest that had just been built for the Olympics he as extremely positive even though he had made it clear the governments controversial spending meant a lot of poor Chinese had no way out of deprivation.’

China shows itself to the world as being united politically and it seems to be. As long as the country is growing the Chinese people are positive and support the government. It was also said that the government is bigger part of people’s lives. The party is involved in the universities and is always around. Some people were surprised at how capitalist China was as it is always said to be communist and is associated with communism.

So given what I learnt and heard does China sell it self to tourists. Does this affect it trying to show itself as a modern country? Perhaps China is trying to hard to be modern. The vast division between the rich and poor means it isn’t the modern country it tries to make itself appear to be. The impression that concludes is that the amount of money spent in making China look superficially modern, that could be spent on its poverty, is perhaps the reason it appears not to be modern when there. They seem to put a lot of money into looking good, photo shopping pictures, rather than dealing with the countries underlying issues that seem to be more urgently needing addressed.

China’s Image Abroad

21st Century China is a land of great contrast. Traditional farming villages now find themselves in the shadow of bustling, rapidly expanding cities, where both rich and poor are forced to adapt to life in this ever-changing landscape.

Attracting more tourists now than ever before, I decided it would be useful to interview people who haven’t been to China, in order to find out whether or not China is succeeding in their efforts to ‘sell’ themselves as both a modern country and exciting tourist destination.

When I asked people ‘what first comes to mind when you think of China?’ I received a variety of answers ranging from pandas to porcelain, however when I asked what they thought of the country as a tourist destination I got something slightly different…

The majority of people I spoke to believe that a trip to China would be a sightseeing holiday more than anything else, with references to the Forbidden City, the Terracotta Army, Tiananmen Square and of course the Great Wall. It would be a trip involving lots of travelling from one landmark to the next, each one packed with tourists, so certainly not a relaxing beach holiday. However, a small number of people I spoke to explained that they find it difficult to imagine China as a tourist destination at all; it is something that has never crossed their minds. They see it as intimidating and inaccessible. Interestingly, this group were all of an age that when growing up, China would still have been a fairly closed country, therefore, grew up somewhat unfamiliar with their culture.

I was surprised to find that the number of people I interviewed that would be interested in visiting China equalled the number of people that would not. By far the most popular reason given for wanting to travel to China is simply ‘to experience the culture.’ Other aspects that seem to attract people are, the traditional architecture, the fantastic sights and of course the food.  However, probably more important are the things that seem to be putting people off…

It would appear that a number of the people I spoke to seem intimidated by the Chinese Communist government, some so much so that this is the sole reason that they would be unlikely to visit the country. An interesting response I received is that China is currently a land of massive social and economic inequality, an inequality that, in taking part in tourism there, you could potentially be contributing to. Meaning that money generated by tourism would be going straight into rapidly growing metropolises such as Shanghai and Beijing, rather than supporting the large population of people living in poor farming communities outside the cities.

Other issues that put people off the idea of visiting China include;

  • The obvious pollution in cities such as Beijing.
  • How busy the cities are with people and traffic.
  • The language barrier.
  • The noise
  • The amount of travel involved, long flights and transfers.
  • The food, the Chinese are renowned for eating things that we would see as strange.
  • Too much of a culture shock, overwhelming.

Although perfectly understandable reasons to be apprehensive, personally I believe that to truly ‘experience the culture’ you must experience it ALL, the good, the slightly odd and the completely unfamiliar.

Finally I asked people how they imagine China to look in their mind, the answers I received seem to be one of two extremes, either the traditional rural vision of China, or the ultramodern opposite, bustling cities packed with people and skyscrapers. So I suppose you could say that yes, they are in fact succeeding in depicting themselves as a modern, exciting country, as most of the people I spoke to mentioned busy metropolises such as Beijing and Shanghai. However, people also spoke about how the traditional, more historic areas appeal to them more, which makes me think, in their efforts to build China into this modern superpower, are they destroying too much of the very thing that makes them unique? By constructing more and more skyscrapers and highways at such an alarming rate, historical parts of towns and cities, for example, traditional hutongs and courtyard houses, are disappearing just as fast. I can’t help but think that in China’s desperate bid to catch up with western cities such as New York or London, they may be losing sight of the very thing that inspires people to experience China, the unique culture and history.

Spectacular China

“ China is one of the largest countries in the world. Its 5,929,000 square miles make it bigger than the United States by about 124,000 square miles. The population of China, however, a staggering 1.3 billion people, dwarfs the population of the United States, currently around 300 million.” These are just some of the many interesting facts within the book named “Spectacular China” by Nigel Cameron.  This book explores the many beautiful landscapes of China but also its exuberance which is found in the history and the divergence of the people and their connection with their surroundings.

I’m only just learning about China, there is so much to know. Reading “Spectacular China” to me has illustrated the eminence but also the mystery of China. As someone who has never been to China myself but would like to I can understand why many people want to go, whether its to visit a particular city or to travel the whole country It seems that visiting China is not only about sightseeing and taking photographs, it’s about a learning experience, learning about the culture, the arts and the history of one of the ancient civilizations of the world.

Its my understanding from what I have read that the culture of China surrounds the Arts and Crafts in China as well as the Architecture of China,  the music and dance in China, Chinese Cuisine, Religion in China, the customs and traditions in China, fashion in China and also the Chinese civility. As a student of Interior Design I imagine to be in the presence of architecture with such grandeur like The Great Wall I would find to be an overwhelming experience. As one of the greatest wonders of the world, the Great Wall of China was enlisted in the World Heritage Site in 1987. Winding through deserts, grasslands, mountains, and high land, the Great Wall is approximately 6,700 kilometres long. The Wall stretches from a seaport in the east coast of China to Xinjiang in the North West. Its architectural richness and historical significance has made the Great Wall of China one of the most inviting tourist attractions of the world.

“Consider the passion with which the Chinese built the Great Wall, certainly one of mankind’s almost superhuman constructions both in terms of its enormous size and length.” Nigel Cameron.

China is prevalent with many architectural buildings, palaces, and historical sights significant for its intricate designs. The original palace of Qianqinggong known as the Palace of Heavenly Purity where the Qing emperor resided, within the Forbidden City, served as a exceptional part of the Chinese architecture.

“North of  the Forbidden City in Beijing, the whole palace complex can be seen under a sea of yellow-tiled roofs. The 2,300-square-foot area containing over nine thousand rooms is surrounded by a 33-foot-high wall and by the wide encircling moat.” Nigel Cameron.

Although the architecture in China is a big part of the tourist attraction from what I have found through research it also resides in the culture that surrounds the Arts and Crafts. Chinese craftsmen are the inventors of porcelain. China is also renowned for its Jade figurines and jewellery. The crafting of ornaments of other precious stones is also a Chinese art. Bamboo crafts and basketry are particularly popular in the rural areas of China. Among the other antique arts of China is calligraphy, crafting ceramic wares, glass and crystal wares, screen making, silk paintings, and plant crafts like bonsai, candle making and lacquer crafts.

Such talent can be seen in Xian. The Terracotta Army, the 8,000- strong army of ceramic figures with over one hundred chariots occupies 65,600 square feet.

Xian is one of the six ancient Capital Cities of the people’s republic of China. The beautiful city is located in the central region of the Mainland China. I’ve read that Xian in China is also a very popular tourist destination. Thousands of people from various corners of the world come to visit this beautiful place throughout the year.

There are so many reasons to visit China whether its for the architecture, the music, the festivals, the cuisine, and from what I have read of the cities it seems hard not to experience a little of everything. The way in which “Spectacular China” in my opinion sells China to tourists is in its substantial imagery and backup of historical facts. There’s something about an oversized glossy book with full pages of imagery that seems an essential to contain and educate on such an important subject.

“Spectacular China” was compiled by China Travel and Tourism Press with assistance from Hugh Lautner Levin Associates, Inc and text by Nigel Cameron. In my opinion well worth a look at.