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Expat's Eye
Print Edition> Expat's Eye
UPDATED: September 16, 2013 NO. 38 SEPTEMBER 19, 2013
Two Cultures, Two Different Shows
By Duncan Cole


I am now yearning for my second home. China, you are very hard to get out of one's system, and I will return in a couple of weeks! I have just spent three months back in Australia, where the cost of living is so high that it is almost impossible to live without a second source of income. Fortunately, in my case this comes from my writing. While in Australia I negotiated two contracts, one of which was to write for an agricultural show society. With the Internet, there is no real need for a physical presence there.

Agricultural shows have their own individual flavor all over the world. Queensland Shows, with which I have become affiliated is a dynamic organization that represents over 150 show societies in Queensland. Agricultural shows are community events, involving everyone from kindergarten children to pensioners. While farmers display and parade their produce and livestock, young people are encouraged to become involved at a very young age. There are competitions that develop youth independence, instilling confidence, pride and discipline into what they do. At the same time they are taught and encouraged to be mindful of their community and nation. One such is the Rural Ambassador Award, where the person who is awarded the position represents their region, state and even country for 12 months. Queensland's 2011 Rural Ambassador, a young man by the name of Wade Timms, went on to win the national title, and represented Australia at the Commonwealth Biennial Conference in 2012 in Zambia, Africa, where he dined with Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. This was indeed something to which it is worth aspiring.

As China's rural sector changes, and we have already seen some impressive developments in the last few years, I am sure there will be similar programs available here. I have read that improvements in the efficiency of Agriculture here are changing the way that the sector is performing. As Australia's biggest export partner, China will be welcome to share some of our models of personal development for youths.

I am reminded of the other type of show that impressed me in China. It was the variety entertainment show. Chinese are masters of showmanship! I had the good fortune of attending a Christmas Dinner celebration a couple of years ago in Dalian, a beautiful jewel in north China's Liaoning Province, and what a smorgasbord of entertainment it was! There were acrobats, magicians, martial arts performers, singers, dancers, Peking Opera, orchestral performances, comedians…the list goes on and on. Never, anywhere in the world, have I seen such professional variety entertainment on such a grand scale. In itself, that was one of the highlights of my nearly nine years in China.

One other spectacular show that I watched in my wife's home city of Shijiazhuang in Hebei Province was a world acrobatics competition final. Once again there was a huge variety of acts from many different countries. The highlight for me was the Chinese acrobatic troupe that was the same one used in the filming of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The sequence where they were seemingly flying through a bamboo forest, high up in the branches, leaping from trunk to trunk appeared to me to be trick photography. But here they were on stage, performing exactly the same seemingly impossible feats right in front of our eyes. There was no trick photography here! They were real people, less than 100 meters away, flying through the air, defying gravity. I have no idea what it is that the Chinese culture instills that produces such incredible acrobatics. Maybe it is the dogged determination of spirit that gave us the Great Wall.

All eyes are now on commodities and their declining value. The impact of the immeasurable balance of trade in culture is frequently overlooked. If the social fabric of a nation is built on tolerance and understanding, both internally and internationally, and we can respectfully share each other's culture and heritage through such shows, then I believe economics may occasionally be nudged out of top place in national importance.

Culture to culture!

The author is an Australian who has lived in China

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