Nos­tal­gic ‘red tourism’ also serves to in­spire

And given such coun­try­wide progress, the “red tourism” sites are not only places of nos­tal­gia, they also serve to in­spire and con­nect the past with the present.

China Daily (USA) - - VIEW -

It was ex­actly 80 years ago that the LongMarch— the strate­gic march of the Red Army that trudged and fought its way through thou­sands of miles across China— ended in the rugged, cave-rid­dled moun­tain­ous ter­rain of Yan’an in­North­west China’s Shaanxi prov­ince. Yan’an was then (as it still is) some­thing of a frontier, away­laid place of farm­ers with mis­er­able cli­mate (stuffy sum­mers and frigid win­ters), yet a place with a sur­pris­ingly de­lec­ta­ble and dis­tinct cui­sine.

But history was made in Yan’an: the re­group­ing of the com­mu­nist guer­ril­las and the as­cent ofMao Ze­dong, even­tu­ally lead­ing to the tri­umph of the rev­o­lu­tion. It’s a history that has put Yan’an on the tourist map: the sprawl­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary sites are vis­ited by mil­lions of tourists ev­ery year.

Yan’an is one of half a dozen sites in China that have be­come very pop­u­lar tourist spots as­so­ci­ated with the rev­o­lu­tion. Th­ese sites have been given the col­lec­tive moniker of “red tourism”, which has seen dra­matic growth over the past decade. Tens of mil­lions of tourists now visit “red tourism” sites ev­ery year.

The growth in “red tourism” has been largely or­ganic, al­though the Chi­nese govern­ment has fa­cil­i­tated the process by im­prov­ing the in­fra­struc­ture and pump­ing money into fund­ing the restora­tion and ex­pan­sion of th­ese sites. There was a time when th­ese sites were sober places vis­ited reg­u­larly only by govern­ment and Party of­fi­cials on study tours, but now com­mer­cial­iza­tion has fol­lowed on the heels of mass tourism.

Purists likeme might be­moan the com­mer­cial­iza­tion and the theme-park at­mos­phere, but the brash and com­i­cal com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion is not lim­ited to red tourism sites. Com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion per­vades all of China’s fa­mous tourist spots, even re­mote vil­lages and na­tional parks. The ques­tion is whether the av­er­age tourist takes back home a mo­ral more pro­found than sou­venirs and self­ies.

I believe peo­ple are at­tracted to rev­o­lu­tion­ary sites for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. One of the main rea­sons is the cur­rent fad­dish al­lure of history, a fad that is also man­i­fested in red-themed bars that have sprouted across China— bars dec­o­rated with pop-like rev­o­lu­tion­ary posters and me­men­toes, and in­te­rior de­signs based on a red-color scheme.

An­other rea­son peo­ple are at­tracted to rev­o­lu­tion­ary sites is the re­spect for the self­less rev­o­lu­tion­ary strug­gle and ide­o­log­i­cal good­will that the rev­o­lu­tion her­alded. At the “red tourism” sites peo­ple feel nos­tal­gic, re­call­ing and reliving the time when peo­ple were in­spired by greater ideas, ideas that put the col­lec­tive far above the per­sonal.

Peep­ing into the cave build­ings in Yan’an where the rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies lived or walk­ing on the flimsy Lud­ing Bridge across a fast-flow­ing river in the moun­tains which the rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies had to fight en­emy forces to cross, you can’t help feel­ing stirred by the rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies’ dogged­ness and strug­gle, and bow in rev­er­ence to their self­less idea of build­ing a fairer China. It’s an idea that has res­o­nance today.

An­other last­ing im­pres­sion of the “red tourism” sites is the sense of pro­tracted history, for they un­can­nil­y­seemolder than they ac­tu­ally are, andthat serves to demon­strate­how farChina has pro­gressed. And­given such coun­try­wide progress, the “red tourism” sites are not only places of nos­tal­gia, they also serve to in­spire and­con­nect the past with the present. The au­thor isafree­lance writer­who spe­cial­izes in cul­ture, travel, and life­style.

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