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An open window on China 中国

Opening a window over China

If we name the word China 中国 our thoughts start traveling back to ancient traditions, red lanterns and, in the worst case, the local China Towns. Wherever our thoughts are, it will hardly reach the real China. The one that it is thousands of kilometers far away from us, making us realize that our stereotypes are far more distant from the reality than the distance that is physically dividing us.

Four months aren’t enough to have a deep comprehension of a Nation so huge and heterogeneous with over a thousand years of traditions behind it. Instead they are just an open window on a world waiting to be discovered. Therefore, my window on China opened up when I left Shanghai 上海 airport behind me. I was on board an old taxi, the darkness was falling and a drizzly rain was in the air. Heat, dampness and the odor of a cigarette softly smoked by the taxi driver were surrounding me.

What is obvious to us is not any longer obvious in CHINA

China means discovering the different in its deepest meaning. Odours, lights, persons, emotions. Emotions end up amplified by the power of an unexpected world. A world that from food, daily habits, culture, to the way of having fun, everything is extremely far away from what we are used to. This difference is as palpable as the inability to communicate, which hits without mercy those who haven’t any basic knowledge of the language. Therefore, the obvious is no longer obvious. Gestures to communicate don’t even work anymore. So the simple hand counting from one to ten is different from ours.

Different kinds of people! Across Europe every population talks about their own culture, in fact it is true, everyone has his own one!

That is true but confined within certain limits. Our historical, cultural, sociological and philosophic background is common to us, so we can more easily understand each other. That is not possible in China, not for us at least. In China when two or more people are talking and they are not understanding each other they take a small sheet of paper and they start to write in Chinese characters. If you try to speak English they will start writing. A tourist could think that they are crazy but for a Chinese person its normal because whilst the Chinese language changes between each region and each city, the Chinese characters stay the same. So the Chinese will take a pen and paper and start writing in the hope that the foreign will understand.


Our ways of life are completely different, from clubs to restaurants everything changes. In between the thousands of Shanghai’s night lights streams the life of a City that never stops. A City that has the equivalent to a third of the entire population of Italy. On the coloured City’s elevated road thousands, if not millions of cars run every day.

The Chinese people are everywhere but an everywhere that is completely different from the everywhere that we are used to, it is an everywhere that really surrounds you! Cars run between disparities of a City where the rich and the poor coexist near to each other. It happens so to be in a restaurant eating for just 10 yuan (around 1,2 Euro) and being surrounded by all the waiters staring at your new smart phone and just few meters from the restaurant being on 101st floor of the tallest skyscraper in Shanghai while you’re amazed by the shining lights below yourself.

OUtside the city

Getting out of this City means having a look at different worlds made of endless industrial parks, historical reserves where you can dive yourself into villages that have been left untouched for hundreds of years and where when the sun goes down the red lanterns light up the placid water of the canals. Different worlds made of untouched nature such as the Yellow Mountains 黃山, Mountains that have inspired thousands of painters and poets and has inspired the editor of the movie Avatar.

China exists with contradictions that are alive, visible and pulsating. From one side resisting traditions are deeply anchored in the Chinese’s DNA, on the other a wild capitalism is invading cities, roads and industrial parks. The rapidity with which Asia is growing is clearly perceptible when overlooking from the shore of the Huangpu river 黄浦江that streams between the two shores of the Bund and the Pudong. Between the skyscraper that reflect the sunlight during the day and then brightened up by fast and shining lights during the night, slowly and inexorably dozens and dozens of silent and gray overloaded cargo ships sail. Ships are coming and going, they never stop.

Getting back to Europe

When I came back to Italy 意大利I appreciated our way of life in a different way compared with before. My stereotypes crash down one after one. I came back enriched with a vision of a different part of the world, a world of which we should all be conscious of in order to understand that we are not anymore, or we won’t be so long, the center of it.

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