Some random help Chinese writer and blogger Han Han (韓寒) received from strangers during his recent trip to Taiwan prompted him to ruminate on what is absent in the culture of his own country.
Han, 29, said on his microblog on Thursday that he left his cellphone in a taxi cab on the way to Taipei’s Yangmingshan (陽明山) and while he was frantically trying to find it, the driver had already delivered it to the hotel where Han was staying.
Han said he wanted to thank the driver with some money, but the driver, identified as Wang Hung-sung (王鴻松), declined and described his actions as “no big deal.”
“To be honest, I was stunned,” Han said.
The Chinese writer said “the super-rich and their craze for fancy cars and top-notch yachts will not help win respect for the people of a country,” adding that culture, laws and freedom are what make a nation great.
Han mentioned another example of Taiwanese kindness, in which Han’s friend took a pair of broken glasses to an optician, where the shop owner offered the friend a pair of contact lenses for free.
“The shop owner even said: ‘I’m really sorry that I cannot help fix your glasses due to your tight schedule,’” Han said.
Han said he remembered thinking: “Why on earth would good things like this happen to us? It doesn’t make sense.”
He said the owner was so kind and generous that they started to worry about their personal safety, as they were suspicious that the “authorities” must have made a special arrangement to impress them.
He said that there is no such thing as a perfect culture, a perfect system or a perfect place.
“In the Chinese-speaking world, Taiwanese culture may not be the best, but there’s nothing better than it either,” he wrote.
“They [Taiwan] can never afford to host the World Expo or the Olympics as China has done, but walking down the streets in Taiwan, looking at the taxi drivers, deli owners and passers-by, I don’t feel a sense of pride [in being Chinese],” Han said in his post.
Han said that as a Chinese writer, he feels lost in his culture, a feeling that was not triggered by his short trip to Taiwan, but by his own observation over the years.
“I’m lost in the culture I live in. Several decades ago, this culture taught us to be cruel and struggle against each other. In recent decades, it has made people greedy and selfish, and those characteristics have developed in so many of us,” he went on.
“Aside from pursuing self-interest and picking fights with people, we have become indifferent to almost everything else,” he said.
He said that news stories about the indifference and absurdity in China make international headlines and although the Chinese government may be to blame, “a sense of helplessness has become a feature of the Chinese race.”