Laowai in a strange land

Submitted by ub on Wed, 10/22/2014 - 06:14

Laowai means stranger, or an outsider in the Chinese, Mandarin language. The term is usually and generally used to refer to Westerners or whitey, Latinos, Arabs, Africans, or utilized interchangeably to denote all non-Asian foreigners.

As with the Spanish term Gringo, I'm told that being called a Laowai is not an offensive term. So as I travel throughout China, I have come to accept the fact that my round eyes and excess hair is an easy target to attract this label.

However, being an outsider is not new for me. In fact, I moved to the US during my preteen years without being able to speak a word of English. If I did it once, I figure that I will be be able to do it once again.

In China, I find people staring while traveling on public transportation. But I guess I will have to get used to this until the time my amazing journey comes to an end. Until then, off to China's former capital city.

My amazing journey continues to China's former capital city. Hangzhou is the most important city in Zhejiang province and a political, economic, as well as a cultural mega center. It's old, as well as modern and it is obviously prosperous, with thousands of visitors flooding the area. Surrounded by West Lake, which as you may have experienced, lights up with multiple colors during the night hours. The natural beauty of Hangzhou is guarded by hundreds of Buddah statues inside an ancient monastery, with an abundance of religious artifacts and amazing peacefulness. Hangzhou is indeed the heavenly city and one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited.

This city has enjoyed a history of over 2,200 years since the county administration was established in Qin Dynasty. It is one of the cradles of Huaxia Civilization. As early as over 5,000 years ago, there were human beings multiplying and living in Hangzhou area, creating Liangzhu Culture known as the Dawn of Civilization. The archaeological discovery of Liangzhu ancient city ruin in 2007 pushed even earlier the recorded history of Hangzhou civilization. Hangzhou, one of the seven ancient capitals of China, was the capital of Wuyu State, of the Five-Dynasties and also the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty. In the 13th century, the Italian traveler Macro Polo admired Hangzhou as “the Most Splendid and Luxurious City in the World”. Hangzhou was called Qiantang in ancient time. In the ninth year of Kaihuang of Sui Dynasty (589), Hangzhou was founded to replace the original Qiantang County and the name of Hangzhou was recorded for the first time in history.

The Wuyu State of the Five-Dynasties(907-978) founded capital in Hangzhou. In the third year of Jianyan of Southern Song Dynasty (1129), Emperor Gaozong moved southward to Hangzhou and upgraded it as the site of the prefectural city of Lin’an. In the eighth year of Shaoxing (1138 ), Lin’an was officially determined as the capital, which lasted more than 140 years. In the fi rst year of the Republic of China (1912), the original Qiantang County and Renhe County were merged into Hangzhou County. In the 16th year of the Republic of China (1927), Hangzhou County was dismantled and Hangzhou was founded as a city. It was on May 3, 1949 when Hang zhou was liberated that Hangzhou began to write its new chapter of development in history.

Hangzhou is located along Southeast coast of China. Being a key national tourism city, pretty historical city and vice provincial level city as confirmed by the State Council. This area is called Paradise on Earth and the Cultural State, Home of Silk, The Tea Capital, Town of Fish and Rice. Eight districts, respectively Shangcheng, Xiacheng, Gongshu, Xihu, Jianggan, Binjiang, Xiaoshan, and Yuhang, and five counties (cities), respectively Fuyang, Lin’an, Jiande, Tonglu, and Chun’an, are under the governance of Hangzhou City. The total area of the city covers 16,596 Km2 with a population of 6,776,400. Most everyone appears to be happy, healthy and prosperous.