Ancient Chinese tower tests classic literature buffs

 

A man and his son show the free tickets of Tengwang Pavilion, an ancient tower in Nanchang, east China’s Jiangxi Province,on April 29, 2013. (Xinhua)

 

>>  Tengwang Pavilion has exempted entrance fees for tourists who can recite the 800-character prose masterpiece “Preface to Tengwang Pavilion” during the May Day holiday that began on April 29. As of 2 p.m. (GMT 0600) on May 1, more than 900 tourists have passed the test and won the ticket normally priced at 50 yuan (8 U.S. dollars), according to the scenic spot’s administration. 

 

By Wu Zhonghao, Chengh Di and Yao Yuan 

The benefits of being a good student of classic literature? How about free entrance to one of the most famous pieces of ancient architecture in China?

The management of Tengwangge, or Tengwang Pavilion, an ancient tower in east China’s Jiangxi Province, has exempted entrance fees for tourists who can recite the 800-character prose masterpiece “Preface to Tengwang Pavilion” during the May Day holiday that began on Monday of April 29. As of 2 p.m. on May 1, more than 900 tourists have passed the test and won the ticket normally priced at 50 yuan (8 U.S. dollars), according to the scenic spot’s administration.

On Monday morning, dozens of tourists aged between 8 and 70 queued in front of Tengwangge waiting to test their memory of the literary magnum opus by Wang Bo, an accomplished poet in the early Tang Dynasty (618-907).

“It’s not about the tickets, which we can easily afford, but we think winning a tour by reciting prose could be a special experience,” said 33-year-old Fan Hailang. Both Fan and his 8-year-old son finished the recital in five minutes.

Li Jing, a marketing manager of the scenic spot, said the main purpose of the activity was to encourage a better understanding of the building’s culture and history.

“If the tourist can recite 60 percent of the prose, we’ll give him or her a pass,” she said, adding that the staff would also give cues if some verses escaped the tongue of the reciter.

CULTURAL STANCE?

Classrooms around China require senior high students to recite part of the prose, which lauds the magnificent view from the tower initially built in 653 AD and laments the author’s unfulfilled ambitions.

Many contestants in this May Day initiative have been classic literature lovers from across the country. Though often not first-time visitors to the historic site, some were here simply to demonstrate their support for the activity.

The free-ticket policy has also triggered heated online discussion, with many netizens praising it as benefiting tourists while promoting culture and literature.

“If this is called a sales gimmick, then I would call for more such gimmicks,” commented “Blockhead and Grumpy” on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

The largely favorable online opinions were in sharp contrast to the barrage of criticism against surging ticket prices and vulgar promotion at other tourist sites. Many complain that the country’s tourism boom has turned into a gold rush often at the expense of culture and taste.

The good news is that more Chinese scenic spots are now seeking long-term development by digging their cultural gold, rather than exploiting tourists using commercial chicanery, according to experts. During the three-day May Day holiday, Qufu City in Shandong Province, which is known as the hometown of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, also opened several cultural sites free of charge to tourists who can recite at least 30 lines of the Analects of Confucius.

“Such activities are essentially sales promotion measures, but they also help bring out the cultural essence of the scenic spots, and are thus conducive to their long-term development,” said Wang Donglin, professor of cultural history at Jiangxi Normal University.

 

 

Photo taken on October 14, 2011 shows the exterior of Tengwang Pavilion, an ancient tower in Nanchang, east China’s Jiangxi Province. (Zhou Ke/Xinhua)

 

 

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