Volume 7, Number 3, Sept. 1985, p.14

Travels to China

by Steve Cristin-Poucher

Steve Cristin-Poucher, Assistant Objects Conservator at LACMA, made an adventurous trip with his family this spring to China. Here is his brief report.

After a few days to sightsee and finalize tour arrangements in Hong Kong, my wife Lilli, our son Stacy and I flew to Shanghai which is Lilli's city of birth. We arrived on the day of Stacy's fifth birthday and it was quite a surprise for him! Apparently very few American children make it to China. Being a half American, half Chinese boy child, Stacy drew crowds of fascinated onlookers who were interested to learn more about him. He was treated as something of an oddity and this was a little frightening for a regular kid, but after a while he handled it well.

There were six other people on the tour. It was an amiable group and this was a good thing because travel which strays even a little from the beaten path can be arduous. Travel arrangements including hotel accommodations and meals are confirmed at each city on arrival. Everything, even the itinerary, is subject to change. Fortunately our trip stayed on track, if not on time.

We visited several cities. Suchou is considered to be the Venice of China due to its picturesque and well used canal system. Wuxi is a lakeside resort. Luouyang is the site of the Longmen Caves. Here there are niches which enclose thousands of stone Buddhas (some of them 60 feet tall) which have been carved in place. We saw the famous excavation at Xian and were surprised to find that in this community there are thousands of people who live in caves. There are incredibly beautiful "original" temples in Taiyuan. Strangely enough visitors are permitted to throw coins at the statues in homage, but photography is not permitted for fear of damage. The statues at the Datong caves still have much of their "original" polychrome. Beijing is a casual yet international city which reminded me of Los Angeles.

The PBS series "Heart of the Dragon" portrayed a soft vision of China. Viewers were not told about the bathroom facilities or beds on a "hard" train.

It seemed to us that problems of overpopulation and isolation from the rest of the world are being addressed by the "new" China, but that changes will occur in their own way and at their own pace. Speed and efficiency are defined in a bureaucratic fashion.

The tourist is valued, but sometimes in an effort to attract visitors, palaces and statues are stripped and repainted instead of being preserved.

I took about 1,000 pictures and hope sometime soon to sort through them and organize a presentation.

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