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August 29, 2014

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A little tolerance brings inner peace on subway train

AS soon as I elbowed into a packed carriage on the No. 2 subway line during rush hour on Wednesday, I saw several tall Western ladies losing themselves to chanting and dancing, sometimes bursting into hearty laughter.

They were loud — indeed no less noisy than Chinese dama (adult women) who have been so often derided as a universal eyesore for their high-decibel, if not deafening, chattings in public.

Those Western ladies, apparently in their 20s (a couple of others seemingly in their 50s), patted and pushed each other in great joy. For a moment they even screamed in excitement.

Many Chinese passengers turned around to see what happened, and when they knew what was going on, they kept respectful silence. No Chinese passenger tried to hush the visitors, however loud they became.

I was reading a book. At first I felt a great noise from the ladies’ chantings, but my heart was soon at ease, as I chose to believe that the ladies were being nice, that they were just like me — someone who would often indulge in pleasurable things and become oblivious to the feelings of onlookers.

If everyone regarded someone else as his or her own likeness, the whole would be at peace. Unfortunately, Chinese dama have been described as different from us, so much so that they seem to deserve the label of a distinct breed, if not a despicable breed. In the eyes of many Chinese and foreigners, Chinese dama stand for those Chinese whose bad habits of screaming in public die hard. There are even reports about dancing dama irritating pandas in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province.

Indeed, as China is in the process of urbanization, many villagers who habitually talk loudly have increasingly found themselves traveling in cities. They talk loudly in shops, in subways, on buses, in restaurants, and in hospitals.

Unfamiliar with this reality, many first-time visitors to China are surprised at how “coarse” many Chinese can be. Therefore, Chinese dama’s image is often dramatized to become one associated with crass taste. Chinese dama, for their tendency to talk loudly, have become a global object of ridicule.

But on Wednesday, not a thought of ridicule arose in my mind as I heard the Western visitors laughing loudly in so crowded a subway carriage. Nor did other Chinese passengers frown upon them. Like a river’s ripples finally flattening out, those visitors’ high-decibel talks were eventually absorbed by the silence of Chinese passengers.

What would happen if it were Chinese dama who chanted and screamed in that packed carriage on Wednesday?


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