Monday, 27 May 2013

Luxor graffiti and the great Chinese human flesh search

In recent years the Chinese internet has proved adept at naming and shaming those who have done wrong in the eyes of its many users.  People from politicians to cheating spouses, fraudsters and the tearaway children of millionaires have been 'outed' and identified through what is commonly known in China as 'human flesh searching' - using the mass of data freely available on the internet to find out a wrongdoer's identity and much more besides.

One recent incident has crossed into the worlds of archaeology and cultural tourism, and so particularly caught my attention.  A Chinese tourist called Shen was visiting the temple at Luxor in Egypt a few weeks ago and was appalled to see Chinese graffiti scrawled across one of the walls.  He posted a picture of the graffiti, which (with incredible wit and imagination) read 'Ding Jinhao was here' on his micro-blog and the machinery of the Chinese internet soon set to work to identify the culprit.

This photo taken at the Luxor Temple in Egypt on 6 May 2013 shows graffiti reportedly from a Chinese tourist

It turns out that Ding Jinhao is a 15 year old schoolboy from Nanjing who had carved his name for posterity some years earlier.  Now he has been named and shamed, it seems the pressure is getting to him.  His family has apologised on his behalf, promised that he has learned his lesson, and pleaded to now be left in peace.  Thankfully it seems like it will be possible to repair the damage caused to the wall, though it will of course never be as it was and should be irrelevant when discussing the severity of such mindless vandalism to historic monuments.

What is interesting is how the case has shed light again on the issue of Chinese tourists and how they behave.  Over the last few decades Chinese tourists have been flooding the globe, with wallets bulging enough to give them a warm welcome from many cash-strapped Western governments.  But of course having money is not an excuse for bad behaviour such as being noisy, messy and disrespectful of local customs and traditions.  Now, one excuse is that these Chinese tourists are quite newly rich and often travelling for the first time.  Even a basic knowledge of how other parts of the world live is often lacking, and travelling in large coach parties led by Chinese tour guides doesn't help them pick up any local customs or experience any meaningful contact with the residents of the places they visit.  Having said that, I think its pretty rich for Chinese tourists to be singled out in such a way.  Let's face it, we can all think of examples of British, American, French, Australian, Spanish, Italian or whatever tourists that make their more respectful countrymen wince with shame at their behaviour.  Being born in a western country and having traveled abroad before is certainly no guarantee of respectfulness, and I fear that Chinese tourists will soon have a reputation that they can't shake off but that most certainly don't deserve.

In fact, when it comes to graffiti, I'm pretty certain that I've seen more than my fair share of it on British historic sites, and not that much of it was written in Chinese.  In fact, some, like the example below from Croxden Abbey in Staffordshire, done by our far more respectful Victorian forebears...

No comments:

Post a Comment