Saturday, July 17, 2010

Staring

I lived in China in the 1980s and 1990s, and one of the things I
remember is people staring. Apparently, people still stare, at least
in the boondocks. Peter Hessler notes a striking characteristic of
Chinese staring. Its innocence:

"Once I went to the village alone, and while writing at my desk I had
the sensation that I was being watched. I turned around and almost
yelped--a man was standing in the middle of the room. He was one of
the neighbors, a white-haired man in his sixties; his cloth shoes
hadn't made a sound when he entered. He was smiling softly, with the
blankeyed expression of somebody watching television--he hardly
blinked when I turned around. That was the saving grace of Chinese
staring: people never glanced away in embarrassment when you caught
them looking, and it was hard not to respect such open curiosity..."

Peter Hessler, Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to
Factory (Kindle edition, 2010), 28% into the book.

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