Guest post by @Kantankkerous
One late afternoon, two canonical ladies had knocked on my door. I shut the dog in one of the bedrooms to muffle the constant barking and peeled open the day to a cheerful hello. We discussed the usual riff-raff of (my lack of) personal religious beliefs and enthused about scientific rationale as a basis for reasoning and discounting religion as simply an inexplicable series of phenomena that seemed to have been anecdotally miscommunicated across time. As our conversation digressed, I was asked by these two women what my plans were this impending summer break – to which I responded in a particularly over-zealous manner about my China trip, so much so that they began to glance back and forth between each other, almost as if to suggest whether they should’ve even asked this question in the beginning.
Why do I travel?
Their attention was snapped back again at the mention of beliefs in my travels, though to an irrelevant degree as I shared with them the origins of Taoist and Confucian foundations in Chinese culture and beliefs. I remarked how astoundingly consistent and simple the principles were in prescribing people on how to speak, eat, sleep, drink and ultimately live. And I was to embark on my journey in December to have a taste for myself in a framework of presupposition that has thrived for so long. The big cities of China are a fantastic stomping ground for my touristic appetite, but I personally believe that materialism is only a minor aspect of why I hit the road whenever I can. More importantly, the villages; the locals; the historic monuments; the street food; and most significantly, the stories that are evoked from each and every site I stumble upon.
It’s often debatable as to whether or not Taoism and/or Confucianism should fall under religion, in which I can fiercely say that neither do. Taoism is in fact, iconoclastic right from its origin. Madelyn Hamilton best sums up Taoism in her piece “The Search for Tao”: ‘Taoism is the consolidation of a number of concepts and practices that make up the ‘Path’, or ‘Way’, of living. The consolidation of ideas and concepts include basic principles or ‘theories’ regarding the body, diet, breathing and physical exercises, use of herbs, philosophical inquiry and, of course, meditation. All of which the Taoist feels brings a human being into closer alignment with the ‘natural order’ of life and living – pathway that humankind appears to have gotten derailed from.’ Confused? Here are a few words – ying and yang; fengshui. Both derive from the beliefs of Taoism and its meanings. Its laws of living and its ideals of living with nature rather than against it are practiced innumerably all over China.
Skipping the explanations about the origins of Confucianism, it is essentially an ethical belief system based upon the concept of relationships, featuring dual aspects of responsibility and obligation. Mother and child; husband and wife; brother and sister all have their own responsibilities and obligations. These extend further than the family environment and aim to formulate an empirical back-to-basics framework in which people are expected to abide by in order to live within a harmonious and just world.
It is forthright to acknowledge that my trip to China will have so many of these ‘case in points’, each city or town with its own derivatives and variance in Taoist or Confucian beliefs. It’s an attempt for me to understand my roots again, comprehending why practices of such etiquette are so important in a population of people with so many ethnic groups. Yet for the majority of Chinese people these two archetypes have existed for generations without many of them knowing. Understanding the culture and asking the key “why” question will ultimately be a beneficiary in a travel adventure (at least so I think so). And so what initially was meant to be a discussion of scripture related to its many variable forms of deities, had transfigured itself into an enthusiastic reminiscence of why I love travel so much. Strange! The two ladies bid me a succinct goodbye and I turned back inside, ignored the orders of my mother to take out the garbage and planted myself back onto the computer to decide which hotel I wanted in Shanghai when I arrive on December 1st.
Kan is a current university student completing his major in Events Management, a photography enthusiast and a travel addict. He resides in Sydney, Australia and currently works in the hotel industry and hopes to one day be able to combine travel and work together. In the meantime, he hopes to share his experiences on his flashpacking trip to China and explore this enormous land of deep culture and economic prominence, combining his photography with anecdotal tales of his travel (mis)adventures. He keeps a personal blog Tales of a Globetrotter & you can also find him on Twitter @Kantankkerous.