In Ji­nan, one-up­man­ship goes with­out say­ing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO -

Now and then a per­son just has to get out of the big city and breathe some fresh coun­try air. What bet­ter op­por­tu­nity than the first week­end of the new year?

My wife and I left the hub­bub of the Bei­jing-Tian­jin metro area, with its 40 mil­lion peo­ple (give or take), and headed for the quiet, bu­colic life of a small coun­try vil­lage in Shan­dong prov­ince called Ji­nan — sparsely pop­u­lated at just over 7 mil­lion.

I like to de­scribe China in these terms to peo­ple in the United States. It gives them a quick snap­shot of the mas­sive scale of Chi­nese cities. I can watch their eyes glaze over on WeChat.

My brother, who re­cently moved to Dal­las, Texas — the

This Day, That Year

fourth-largest city in the US (also 7 mil­lion) — spoke of the new chal­lenges of life in a large ur­ban cen­ter. Our home­town, metropoli­tan Salt Lake City, Utah, would be swal­lowed up in one sec­tion of Dal­las, he told me.

This was the open­ing I was look­ing for. Sure, Dal­las is big, I said. But Dal­las would be swal­lowed up in Bei­jing. Your fish is lunch for my big­ger fish.

Of course it’s im­po­lite to re­sort to the “Mine is big­ger than yours” brag. But I couldn’t help it. Ma­jor Chi­nese cities are called mega for good rea­son.

Utah — one of those rec­tan­gu­lar states east of Cal­i­for­nia — has a grand to­tal of 3 mil­lion in­hab­i­tants, or just 14 peo­ple per square kilo­me­ter.

My Chi­nese col­leagues gasp at that low num­ber (not to be con­fused with gasp­ing for air in the smog) — and this pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for me to brag that “Mine is cleaner than yours”.

To prove it, I will be happy to serve as a guide on a visit to Utah, which is packed with some of the most spec­tac­u­lar nat­u­ral won­ders on the planet.

If you tire of the mas­sive stone arches and crisp blue skies, the re­mote slot canyons and spec­tac­u­lar wa­ter­falls; or if you’re bored by Utah’s thou­sand-kilo­me­ter views, or the Milky Way at night (un­seen in China this side of the Ti­bet au­tonomous re­gion); or if you’re worn out hik­ing alpine moun­tains or ski­ing the best snow on Earth — then I’ll drive you to nearby Se­dona, Ari­zona, which the New Age gu­rus says is a por­tal to another uni­verse. That’s where my guide ser­vice ends and you’re on your own.

So it’s a win-win sce­nario for me: I can amuse my­self with one-up­man­ship on ei­ther side of the Pa­cific. Then there was Ji­nan. Ji­nan fea­tures fa­mous springs, neatly tended small ho­tels, a pleas­ant walk up Thou­sand-Bud­dha Moun­tain and a gi­gan­tic golden statue with a prodi­gious belly that prac­ti­cally cries out for res­i­dents to pro­claim: “Our Bud­dha is big­ger than yours”.

Yet the peo­ple we en­coun­tered in Ji­nan were in­vari­ably mod­est, gen­uine, kind and hon­est. They didn’t in­dulge in one-up­man­ship.

In­stead, they showed true warmth, treat­ing us like fam­ily at ev­ery turn. It was a com­fort­able visit — like go­ing home.

And that’s some­thing that sim­ply can’t be one-upped.

Con­tact the writer at randy@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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LI JIE/ FOR CHINA DAILY

A fam­ily en­joys af­ter­noon tea at a for­est-themed area of a shop­ping mall in Xi’an, cap­i­tal of Shaanxi prov­ince, on Sun­day.

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