Friday, 23 December 2011

British Born Chinese trip to North and South of China - Part 3

Part 3

Guangzhou, Opium Museum and Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall

 Different countries paying tribute to Sun Yat Sen at the time of his death

From trying to hold my trainers above water trudging through the sudden flash flooded streets at midnight back to our hotel to getting mobbed by beggars,   Guangzhou was the most memorable part of my trip to China.
During my first few days there, the weather was not what I was used to in Beijing. Hot during the day outside,  damp and humid at night indoors.. took some getting used to.

Language was still a problem especially as my Canto is rusty and my mainlander friend doesnt speak any Cantonese. But we both managed to get by.

In Guangzhou the best experiences are the buses. They say foreigners dont like to travel on the buses - maybe I was only there for a few days but I  didnt mind the crowding and shoving too much.

View from front of Guangzhou bus pic 1
If i cant always express my respect for elders through language, I'll do it by way of manners. But I can see how people can get aggravated by the pushing and shoving on a regular basis, I guess the trick is to just show some courtesy. And in some cases, it worked - when people are defensive, you just do the opposite and they usually appreciate the gesture.

View from front of Guangzhou bus pic 2

So...Opium War Museum. Here are some pics I took. Again, flash photography was forbidden, and all I had was a flash camera which I had to sneak inside. Either way it was an interesting experience learning about  how Guangzhou mainly shipped and exported goods to and from China, cotton, silk. tea. before the Brits arrived and drugged everyone.

 Roughly translates into  'Guangzhou will never forget disaster of Opium War'

The original Xin Hai revolutionary Sun Yat Sen whose goal was to modernise China, his revolution however was short lived as he was eventually betrayed by the Qing dynasty president Yuan Shikai  (who played an important role in toppling Qing government) who disbanded the assembly and attempted to revive the monarchy. , But as this attempt failed,   China fell from grace as the Japanese invasion carried on up to the civil war until the founding of the People's Republic of China  and then the Communists couldnt collaborate with Chiang Kai Shek who wanted capitalism and fled to Taiwan.

 So what had I learnt here?Mainly that China has a frail spotted past - frail in that there wasnt the right collaboration between powers ... and  'spotted' because of two contraversial figures - Mao and Chiang Kai Shek, so that any achievements were often undermined by tragedy.

Although Mao united China, for the last 20 years - or the cultural revolution - he went power mad.

If it wasnt for his extra 20 years reign, China would arguably be 20 years more advanced by now and if Deng Shiao Ping ruled earlier it wouldve been capitalist faster but as it is, it took much longer.
Infighting egos and lack of foresight destroyed the China empire amaking it an easier target for western subterfuge.

So what about Guangzhou today? Well in the mass of cheap luxury goods, and crowds spewing around the Beijing Roads,  cramming on buses, nobility and self-discipline isn't so evident.

But in the park  Tai Chi and Tai Chi broadsword, - the last remnants of our culture is still being practiced daily by the older gen.

 Practicing TaiChi broadsword  in Guangdong Cemetary

Also some kids playing kicking the shuttlecock or Jiànzi with relatives/family with amazing accuracy.

Whilst the culture long established in Guangzhou is one of materialism,  the Guangzhou Prayer Temple was an odd combination - of commerce and spirituality.

 Preparing Incense for prayer

Before entering the temple, a shaved headed man dressed as a monk came up to me with a small square piece of cloth with a gold plastic temple emblem attached to it, stuffed it into my pocket and immediately whipped out a notepad , asking me to sign away 1000rmb.

I didnt like his attitude when he kept badgering me - I couldnt believe I was actually negotiating with him how much I wanted to offer. Anyway I finally got him down to 200rmb, gave him the money and he quickly pissed off looking for his next victim.

But as you can imagine that put me off offering to help any other beggars and yes outside the temple there they were - begging cups outreached,  disfigured, no arms, legs ...waiting for unsuspecting tourists...this was their living. Like some circus show.

Things got even worse when I went with my friend to a nearby park and I gave some money to an odd couple of performers - from nowhere this toothless old Chinese woman grabbed my arm and started shoving a tin in my face. And my friend was nowhere to be seen. Luckily I saw two police opposite under some trees and dashed across the street without getting killed by speeding bicycles and stood there next to them. Amazingly the woman vanished.  It was time to go home.

 If anything these are a pragmatic people concerned with survival, sleeping behind shopcounters on slow days when no customers,  the bustle of everyday life.

 Shopping in Beijing Road

But despite the sometimes tense edgy attitude on the hot days,most of the time it felt good to blend in, and once enjoying not being noticed to be an 'minority' as in the west. 

At night in particular, walking on the riverside at night was peaceful experience...despite having to run to the toilet all the time because I had severe shits due to the different bacteria that food in China has.

Riverside in commercial district of Guangzhou
People playing Chinese chess near the riverside, couples walking /biking past and some guy expertly catching with a huge net drew a huge crowd  over, were the nicer memories.

But after possibly overstaying longer than I should've done, especially with a grumpy Hunan roomate who disliked Guangzhou, we survived a week together without killing each other and finally it was time to leave.

Maybe Beijing which has recently opened up has a very young modern culture, and still has a future ahead of it, Guangdong in contrast is money, materialism, and technology, and general all round contentment with this existance therefore little need to express it.

There weren't too many people visiting the Opium Museum, on the day that I went,  but the crowd was fairly busy for the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, maybe because of celebrating 100th anniversay of the Xinhai revolution...
Maybe it's a fair assumption to say Guangzhou-ers tend to care less for history of fighting for China's liberation from Qing Dynasty than the benefits of modernisation from the west that Sun Yat Sen's victory brought them. Hopefully Beijing , with it being the new cultural centre of China can learn from this,ie retaining its culture instead of blatantly accepting westernisation only time will tell.

Sun yat Sens statue outside his Memorial Hall

I really don't think I could live here in Guangzhou -  and staying here for long periods with the extreme opposites of weather heat and humidity would probably just do my head  in.

Beijing Road in Guangzhou

To top it off, all I dropped my UK mobile in the toilet visiting the Opium Museum. yes, those famous stoop your arse over the hole in the ground toilets that they had on the train here and it seems in most public places. And to top that, I had to wipe my arse with a herbal teabag I found in my travel pouch.
No idea why they don't have any toilet paper or soap in the Opium Museum but from that moment on, I learnt my lesson and from then on decided to  pack my own supplies.

At least I had my roommate's spare phone for the rest of the trip.

Anyone else have strange experiences travelling in China/Guangzhou?


  1. Daniel York writes-

    The aggressive begging is something that leaves an indelible impression and which illustrates the desperation of poverty horribly clearly.

    I once saw a man begging on the streets in Shanghai. He seemed to have been burned badly all over, had no hair and was covered in red blotches. He was squatting on the ground when a policeman walked up and just kicked him in the back really hard.

    Did you ever encounter any pickpockets, Happy? I had at least three seperate occasions where Xingjian kids tried to pick my pocket.

    For all this, though, and the pushing and the shoving, China is a truly great place to visit.

  2. You mean xinjiang, right? the Turkmenistani Uighur territory? That place is unsafe to visit.

    Actually, GZ locals informed me that many disabled beggars were abducted or kidnapped as children/toddlers to put up for sale by gangs, or failing to sell they were deliberately maimed so they could generate begging money for the gangs.

    The beggars follow the tourists around. We were outside a shopping mall, there was this old guy sitting on a mat begging, 5 minutes later we moved to another part of the city, and there he was again, on the mat behind us! he followed us that far!

    Welcome to china!

  3. Daniel York writes-

    Yeah, I typo'd. Xinjiang. But they migrate all across China. Loads of them in Shanghai. I caught one of them trying to open my bag one time. I tried to bollock him in mandarin but he gave me a look as if to say "well, what the fuck would YOU do in my position?"

    And I didn't have much answer to that.

  4. @ Daniel York

    No I wasnt pickpocketed fortunately. But when you see so many beggars lined up, its horrifying,like i said a freak show and if its true as BBCz has just said that gangs line them up there to collect money then it just saddens me even more. You dont know how to react.

    @BBCz waiting for the train to Guangzhou there was a skinny grey bearded old man with no legs crawling and his moneycollector with his cup collecting for him. He was flipping his arms out and slapping them to the ground infront of anyone who would have mercy.

    I was sitting on my luggage bag, knackered from standing around and just made eye contact with him. He just stared back. What can i do. If i give him money it goes to the money collector. I just felt stunned and can only look at him with pity. He looked like some old war torn veteran with long beard, and ragged clothes. I was thinking how the f*ck could he have gotten to this state and maybe he was thinking the same too. Maybe I was imagining things.

  5. that phone you dropped in the wasn't the same one you let me use, was it?!?!

    I will never go to Shanghai. According to a study at the university of Kent I is estimated that in 10 years time, there will be 24million mainland Chinese men that cannot find wives. I'm in no doubt female migration into cities such as Shanghai is one cause of it, along with the foreign males in that repulsive white licking city that pick them off, denying Chinese men another bride.

  6. ^
    Re: Shanghai, women migrating INTO shanghai for higher paying jobs and hooking up with white men? its the same for all the rich capitals Beijing HK.. hopefully you can go into more detail on next weeks article where I'll go into the whiteworshipping more.

    Re: phone , no, that was the new one. However that tea you drank in macdonalds, that was the same herbal tea bag from Guangzhou. Like Jackie Chan says at the end of Snake in Eagles Shadow here at 5:51


  7. Just wanted to add on the subject of opium wars, connected to the other article -

    Its arguable that what the opium wars did, was disrupt the natural flow of China's central government. In a way, thanks to being forced to open up to deal with the west, and losing Hong Kong, China was shaken out of it's arrogance. Now you compare that to what China has today. People are relatively comfortable. Us whinging on this blog is in fact questioning the Chinese nature of apathy.Think about it, what do British Chinese have to complain about? If Chinese are politically apathetic to begin with in the first place it just means that all we really want in life is a nice house, kids, grandkids and settle down like most ordinary people. This element of conservatism runs deep in our gene. We reach a point and then become like cows grazing in the field which is why this blog that began with radical intend ended up as most blogs do ...source of anonymous people to comment on. Real change and restructuring of a culture takes energy and effort. Qing dynasty showed that the original chinese didnt want to change that until the opium wars broke it open. Now look at guangzhou. Now look at the British Chinese. Like cows grazing in the fields. Chinese lack initivative and even when told whats good for them need to think it through several times before theres something in it for them as individuals. The fault of it lies with the Chinese people in as much as it is with modern global world - convenience and technology has killed any initiative to evolve. Hence: apathy.

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  9. Why any Chinese points to 'language' and 'confucius' and berates anyone for not knowing 5000 years of culture is beyond me.

    Yes the core principles are there, but the hole is much deeper than that, the whole psychology needs to be torn apart and rebuilt. Its a complete house of cards and our whole lives have been built on this.

    Its as i said before, 德 has been lost. If it really was ever there in the first place.

    In 2011 more white people know more about Chinese culture than Chinese.

    Those contemporary sellout Chinese that think they know, dont know what to do with it. THey are experts at just talking and talk and talk and have no fucking idea and probably dont care as long as they can whore it out for their wallet.

    But apathy and comfort has made them into self-ingrating cows so why should they complain? After all life is great isnt it?

    Cant run away from yourselves. Your culture will follow you wherever you go. FOB, or BBC

    Your desire for a separate existance and individualism will only end up coming full circle realising that you need other BBCS and other Chinese for support and unity. And the more you lie to yourselves, the more pain you will feel.

    By the way any bourgouis HAPAS who sneakily wish to misconstrue my comments above and use it as foil for boring self-gratifying multiculturalist subversion politics can go jump of a fucking cliff.

    I'm addressing ethnic Chinese readers of this blog only.At least those that actually care.

  10. The greatest mistake is equating modernisation with westernisation. Look at Japan, S Korea. They have modernised without linking "west" with "the best". They are now patriotic hubs of invention, world leaders. Too many Chinese believe that white = modern, Chinese = the past. Which doesn't bode well for the future of our race.

    And sad to see China has a long way to go generally. Monks forcibly asking for money? Gangs cutting off beggar's limbs so they can beg? This is not on. Though a welfare state is impossible for such a huge country, disabled institutions (like care homes in the UK) can be funded by wealthy Chinese individuals and corps, and managed by charities.

    Our people must improve to better ourselves, regardless of what whites, Indians or other races say or do.

  11. china is a world of dog eat dog, people are out for themselves.

  12. @anonymous 18:24

    'mistaking modernisation for westernisation'

    Thats right.Sun Yat Sen failed,told us to 'carry on' China built a memorial Hall, and since then substance has been sacrificed for style.

    BBCS are famous for justifying their invisibility by saying ' we dont need role models' actually id argue we do. definately. We need to be our own role models. And China too. We dont need more movie stars/ singers.

    'Disabled institutions can be funded by wealthy Chinese' - Yes. exactly. and education, and hospitals...but why dont they? Because Chinese just want money. And when their brain actually diverts to charity, its only as tax relief. I really cannot fathom how that works.

    Sun Yat Sen was an overseas Chinese. So are we. It took a western Chinese to create change. Why cant we?

    Anyway, thanks for the comment.

    1. "Sun Yat Sen was an overseas Chinese."

      thats the problem, plus he was also incompetent and dishourable. china would have been on a better course without him.

      "substance has been sacrificed for style" -- this fits Sun Yat Sen best. he was nicknamed by his own clan as "cannon sun", meaning empty talker. he was never a doer. he was not betrayed by Yuan Shikai. he was simply in no way to compete with Yuan. Yuan was very pragmatic and very competent and got things done impressively efficient. China would not have gone thru that much up and downs if Yuan hadnt died so early. Yuan wouldnt have died so early if he hadnt been obessessed with becoming an emperor himself.

    2. Yes It seems a lot of Chinese history and mishaps is based on selfish egos, and stupid internal tribalist squabbling, including north vs south, and ultimately through lack of internal cooperation amongst fellow Chinese, it took a lot longer for China to progress.

  13. @anonymous 00:05 'dog eat dog'

    Yes and so is the modern world too. But how do we change that? Dog eat dog is an unnatural state brought on by westernisation in a world without virtue.

    Anyway I posted something on the Yue Yue thread that shows a glimmer of hope for Chinese -

    Ccrowd of strangers in Zheijiang unite to lift an SUV to allow a child trapped underneath it to escape.

    Like i said, minor glimmer of hope.

    I look forward to the day British Chinese and BBCS unite over the same virtue.

  14. Those are great historical spots to visit during China holidays. You are lucky to visit the said museum.