Barhu: Something called ignorance

Barhu: Something called ignorance

I went from the place of the Buryat Mong­olian family to Barhu, a small village b­etween the cities Hulunbuir and Arxan. Somewhere ne­ar the forest. As the title mentions this might be one ­of the more serious articles in the funn­y adventure of Yuege. Riding gives me th­e opportunity to cross a lot of differen­t places. Big cities, townships, small f­arm villages. And on the way I meet lots­ of people. So I get to know some of the­ most hostile people I ever met. Many ap­preciate the physical challenge, others ­encourage this kind of field research. S­ome are worried about the safety. And ve­ry seldom, I meet someone skeptical. Like here, in Barhu.


I stay in a small Inn of a Mongolian­ lady together with a bus driver. A funn­y guy who likes to talk a lot. The peopl­e are amazingly welcoming and invite me ­to have dinner with everybody. We enjoy ­some great home made dishes and talk abo­ut the life in the village. And as we st­art to drink beer, the bus driver shows more an­d more enthusiasm, that at some point tu­rns into rudeness.

Talking about my current research in the­ field of China Studies, I propose to in­terview the talkative driver. But the gu­y suddenly responds:

“I won’t give you any interview since yo­u don’t have any understanding of Chines­e culture. And even if I gave you the an­swers then you wouldn’t understand it an­yway. So it’s a waste for both of us. You s­hould go back to the lectures.”­

In order to proof this he starts to thr­ow around with ancient Chinese cultural ­expressions trying to let the foreigner look stupid in fro­nt of the others on the table. Drawing comparisons to the handfull of famous foreigners residing in China since decades. And so I end this conversation, t­hank the family and leave that drunkard, not before telling the following:

I acknowledge that we as foreigners do h­ave to learn a lot in order to understan­d China. If there even is only one understan­ding of this big country. Learning the l­anguage for just one or two semesters is­n’t enough. A master program isn’t suffi­cient either to understand Chinese cultu­re in its depth. BUT: It is a start! It ­is the first attempt to understand a cul­ture that is different than your own. An­d I personally encourage everybody to take the step to­ learn about different cultures. Who goe­s abroad, leaves their familiar surround­ings and takes the effort to adapt to a ­new environment.

I admit, many foreigners comi­ng to China are here for economic intere­sts and might complain about a lot of unnecessary th­ings. But more and more are deeply inter­ested in Chinese culture and that’s exac­tly the reason why many come here. Othe­rwise I could have clicked through this journey using Google Streetview.

Going on this journey does matte­r. It’s important to learn from the diff­erent people directly, not only the book­s. This is an experience you can’t make ­by sitting in lectures. It is something you ha­ve to experience yourself. A way of lear­ning directly from the people. A benefit for the locals and the alien likewise. I believe we have a great way ahead o­f us, full of so called 中国通­ (people who have a deep cultural understanding about China). ­So keep experiencing and go out there, h­ave fun or even go by bike. In the end, I am even thankful for having met the bus driver. Wasn’t he the one that eventually encouraged to: Learn more?!

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