Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Read me like a book [Global Times Mobile] #RisingChina #Reading


The Chinese emancipation of the mind continues as they pick up new ways to decode narratives outside their own long-curated collection. Valuing the primacy of first hand information in a time of relentless media tsunami, this project strikes a chord.

There is ample evidence of discourse at the broadcast level. Just check out the tonnes of current affairs programs on Youtube or Youku. This participatory spirit permeates through entertainment programmes too.

This may well be the best way to augment China’s social fabric in how it makes sense of the rest if the world.

Liang Jiaxin, director of the LCY living library project:

… people are the core of living libraries, and the key is connecting people from different groups, breaking barriers to communication and eliminating prejudice.

“Our slogan is ‘no truth before reading,’ because we believe much misunderstanding and prejudice comes from ignorance or lack of communication on an equal basis. Through many examples in our reading, we found that not only is prejudice reduced, but people even become more interested in learning about others.

… people are usually most interested in three categories of books: marginalized groups and people who are easily ignored or misunderstood; people with distinguishing features or experiences; and ordinary people with their own unknown stories to tell.

To better days ahead.

World views can shape behavior and drive action, and to act with grace requires consensus in the meaning and expression of grace. Hearing and seeing first hand stories with all five senses activated offers more than lines of text or crafted TV can.

If this gains traction, this should have a positive impact on how the Chinese behave as a fellow global villager.
– – –

Read me like a book
By Liu Dong
Source – Global Times, published May 1, 2013

20130502-071728.jpg

A researcher from Sun Yat-Sen University, who is a “living book,” shares her stories with readers at a living library activity in Guangzhou on April 20. Photo: Liu Dong/GT

How can different people discard their prejudices and achieve reconciliation in the face of conflict? This was a question that a group of young people from Denmark tried to answer through a unique form of dialogue they invented in 2000 and called “Living Library.” After growing in popularity worldwide, it has now come to China.

The living library, also known as a human library, is a social movement that began in Europe when several young Danes had the idea of bringing together people from different cultural backgrounds, nations, educational levels, religions and professions to communicate on the basis of equality to dispel hostility and bias.

At a music festival in 2000, the organizers introduced 75 “books,” which were in fact 75 real people with a variety of identities, including a policeman, a Muslim, a stripper, a person living with HIV, an American Indian, and even an extremist far-right Hungarian, to the public, who could be “borrowed” and “read” just like books in a library.

Please click <a href="http://here to read the rest of the story at its source.

Reading these living books is very simple – each book can talk with readers face to face, and sometimes a small group of readers can read one book. Book and reader discuss, share and debate different thoughts, ideas, lifestyles, religions and living circumstances. Through such readings, they enhance mutual understanding.

Reading festival

Though it was not introduced to China until 2010 in Shanghai, this new type of social activity has been followed by many across the country.

On April 20, a large wave of living library activities was held in 21 Chinese cities ahead of World Book Day. In Guangzhou, 50 living books were presented to 200 readers to read at the same time, setting a new record in China.

More than 800 readers applied to attend the event but only 200 were lucky enough to be selected. The event was divided into four rounds, each lasting 40 minutes. In each round, a maximum of eight readers would read one book together. Each reader would get a borrower’s card which listed four “books” he or she would read during the event based on their preferences.

According to Liu Qiongxiong, founder of the LCY Sharing Community, a Guangzhou-based social enterprise which organized this event and one of the earliest groups to be involved in living libraries in China, the purpose of the reading is to provide a platform for different people to get to know each other through in-depth communication.

“Everyone is a book. By reading others we can better understand each other and ourselves,” Liu said.

The books presented this year are from a variety of interesting backgrounds, and include a sex educator, psychoanalyst, martial artist, Taoist, busker, former depressive, urban management officer or chengguan, and a student of criminology.

Professor Pei from Sun Yat-Sen University was one of the most popular books at the event. She has led a research team that talked to hundreds of women over the past few years to study masturbation behavior among females, but found that talking about sex is still a taboo topic for many Chinese today.

“In China, you can download many pornographic films from the Internet but you can hardly find a platform to discuss sex seriously,” Pei said in her introduction, with several readers sitting around nodding and giggling.

According to her studies, half of females masturbate but few talk about it, or even realize they do it. Pei said she once tried to open a Weibo account to publish her study results.

“Although it quickly attracted a lot of attention, it was soon shut down by Weibo administrators because they thought we were spreading pornography,” Pei said to laughter among readers.

The living book talked most of the time as many of the Chinese readers have learnt to be humble during a teacher’s lecture. But some readers could not wait to join the interaction.

Several young girls asked if boys will not like girls who openly talk about sex. Before Pei answered, one boy in the audience voiced his dislike of such girls, while another boy gave some negative feedback.

Another living book, Tung, suffered from depression and underwent three months of treatment in a mental hospital.

“People used to think people who have been in mental hospitals are mad. It was a misunderstanding that prevented many patients from getting the necessary treatment in time. It was like any other disease, which could hit anyone,” she said.

Tung shared her experience of fighting depression and urged her readers not to exaggerate or underestimate the damage it could inflict. Although drugs were not able to completely solve the problem, anyone who has depression should treat it positively.

Organizers emphasized that what makes living libraries different from lectures is equal communication instead of cramming-style education, which has heavily influenced Chinese people in terms of their way of thinking.

It is not one person teaching another, but someone introducing others to an alternative way of life. Everyone can raise questions and everyone should be respected.

Zhao Han worked in a Fortune Global 500 company after graduating from top universities. She eventually quit her job and joined an NGO that helped migrant workers’ children in Beijing.

“From the secular point of view, these migrant workers are losers and worthless, but when I met with them, I was deeply moved by their kindness and good souls which forced me to rethink the definition of the value of a man in my mind.”

Breaking barriers

Although this was the first living library experience for most readers and books, people were not shy about asking questions.

After talking with a chengguan officer, one reader told the Global Times that she changed her mind about this group of people, which she used to detest.

“I specially chose chengguan to read because I wondered what kind of people they were exactly, after several shocking incidents happened involving street vendors and chengguan this year,” she said.

But after reading, she said she now understands the hardships suffered by chengguan and even sympathizes with them. “I think they are the also the victims of an unhealthy system. We should not blame them only,” she said.

Liang Jiaxin, director of the LCY living library project, told the Global Times that the initial purpose of running living libraries is to break the walls that stand between different people which stop them from understanding each other.

“Today’s China is a society full of differences. With the rapid development of modern technology, our interpersonal relationships are also changing. Although we have more and more communication tools, we are more easily falling into the trap of prejudice. We very easily focus on a narrow range of things but neglect other things we might also be interested to know about,” Liang said.

“We are becoming unfamiliar with face-to-face communication, which we believe still has the best results.”

According to Liang, people are the core of living libraries, and the key is connecting people from different groups, breaking barriers to communication and eliminating prejudice.

“Our slogan is ‘no truth before reading,’ because we believe much misunderstanding and prejudice comes from ignorance or lack of communication on an equal basis. Through many examples in our reading, we found that not only is prejudice reduced, but people even become more interested in learning about others.

Liang said people are usually most interested in three categories of books: marginalized groups and people who are easily ignored or misunderstood; people with distinguishing features or experiences; and ordinary people with their own unknown stories to tell.

“All books have a common characteristic, which is a willingness to share and patience to answer questions. One thing that we see very often is that readers don’t want to leave when the reading is over, and books themselves also want to read other books,” Liang said.

Hope for the future

Wu Hanhua from Peking University is one of the earliest scholars to introduce and study the concept of living libraries in China, and believes the idea will have a bright future in the community if more civil organizations join in.

With the participation of more grass-roots NGOs, Wu is optimistic about the future development of living libraries, and believes this new form of social activity can play a more important role in China’s social construction process by enhancing mutual understanding and narrowing down differences.

“It could be a platform to invite people with different interests to talk, such as petitioners, people who have conflicts over house demolitions and construction in China,” Wu suggested.

“Also, China has so many communities and so many people who would like to share their stories if you give them a platform. Once I was on a train and met an ethnic Hui who wore a special hat I’d never seen before. During the trip, he shared with me the story behind his people and culture, which impressed me a lot. Considering there are 56 ethnic minorities in the country, imagine how many stories they could tell,” Wu said.

This experience inspired Wu to start a plan to build a database to bring together all living books in China.

“I hope to link all different organizations in the country to share their stories and let more people join in reading,” Wu said.

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Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, China Dream, Chinese Model, Collectivism, Communications, Culture, Democracy, Domestic Growth, Education, global times, Government & Policy, Ideology, Influence, International Relations, Mapping Feelings, Media, Peaceful Development, People, Population, Reform, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

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