Happy and snappy at the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, Nanjing
3-3-3 Tour: Day 8
Visit any major tourist site in China – or even any local point of interest for that matter – and you’ll likely witness it yourself. Maybe it’ll be the identical baseball caps you notice first, bobbing along in the collective safety of the sightseeing pack. Maybe it’ll be the tour buses you hear pulling up and emptying out next to some formerly tranquil beauty spot. Or maybe it’ll be the amplified screech of some half-frazzled, umbrella-wielding tour guide that lifts you from your scenic contemplation and dumps you right back down to earth in the crosshairs of the oncoming stampede.
The Chinese have always been a people on the move. Through centuries of exploration and defence of the nation to the days of the Silk Road, Mao’s own Long March and the ongoing migration of vast swathes of the population from the countryside to the booming cities, China has been a land in which the movement of its people has been a vital part of its continued existence. But rarely until now has travel for leisure been considered a possibility for ordinary citizens.
With China’s post-Mao opening up and the economic reforms that followed, however, the tourism industry became one of the fastest growing and most heavily promoted sectors in the country. Hotels were constructed, scenic spots were renovated, the transport system improved and expanded, while the easing of travel restrictions saw many more people coming to China to see for themselves a country which for the most part, had been shrouded in centuries of secrecy. Now, as China’s own newly affluent middle class start thinking of ways to spend their money, we are seeing a new wave of China travellers, this time, of Chinese tourists themselves.
According to China Daily, China’s domestic tourism revenue reached $185 billion in 2009 thanks to the domestic travel boom. 1.9 billion trips were made, constituting an 11 per cent rise on the twelve months previous, with double digit increases seen almost every year since. Based upon the number of travelers, China is already the world’s largest domestic tourism market, having seen more than double the number of annual trips made in the past decade. The World Trade Organization even predicts China will become the number one destination for international travellers by 2020. What’s more, though two billion is certainly a huge number, in percentage terms, the number of annual trips made by the Chinese in China is still small compared to somewhere like the USA. If the numbers continue to rise, however, there’s going to have to be some patient queuing next time you visit the Forbidden City.
It seemed like half of those two billion trips had been made on the same day I’d decided to head up Nanjing’s Zijin Mountain to visit the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum. Considered the Father of Modern China by both the Communists on the mainland and in his own Kuomintang-ruled Taiwan, Dr. Sun died in Beijing in 1925 but was buried in Nanjing, the former capital of his Republic of China, on June 1st 1929.
I hadn’t known what to expect. But it was obvious from the number of people that had travelled to pay their respects that I’d given the old man far less credit than he deserved. The line for the shuttle bus had been a clue, and as we piled out onto the square at the entrance to the mausoleum complex, it was clear that despite its location, Nanjing’s most famous attraction (as I later learned it was), was no stranger to visitors. And what better way for those visitors – those newly moneyed and travel-hungry millions – to show their friends back home where they had been and what they’d been up to, than to crack out the camera and start snapping away?
Thus, please to present to you some photographs of Chinese tourists taking photographs. They were taken in front of the marble archway at the foot of the route up to the mausoleum itself. And what proud and happy travellers they all make.