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My love of China began with a thank-you note

By Manya Koetse | | Updated: 2016-07-18 11:33

Manya Koetse, from the Netherlands, is a writer and the chief editor of What's On Weibo. She is also a member of the Visiting Program for Young Sinologists 2016.

I remember it was a hot and humid day, somewhere in 2000, when my mother waved at every taxi that passed along the old Suzhou road. We had come there by train from Shanghai to visit the city’s famous classical gardens.

The gardens were lovely, but now we had already been standing by this road for over an hour - my father’s face bright red from the fierce sun. My mum held a small note in her hand that we were given by some local shopkeepers; we needed to go to the station to catch our train to Shanghai and had asked them to write the name of the station down for the taxi driver to understand.

“Please write this down, thank you! Thank you!” my dad had cheerfully said. But now every taxi driver who stopped to examine the note pulled up the car again and drove off without saying a word. There we were, standing by the sizzling hot pavement, helplessly lost in China.

That was the first time I ever visited China, at 16 years old, and the trip left a deep impression on me. Ancient buildings and brand-new skyscrapers, long-standing traditions and rapid modern development – Shanghai was booming, China was buzzing,and I wanted to be part of it.

The fact that I did not know a single word of Chinese and that the culture was so unknown to me only made it more fascinating. I hoped that one day I would be able to understand this country, its people and its developments, research it and write about it.

Two years before the Beijing Olympics, I started studying Chinese Language & Culture at Leiden University, and as I later lived and studied in Beijing, my dream of being part of China finally came true.

From an unknowing tourist I became a frequent visitor and later a temporary resident. As a sinologist, I am focused on Chinese culture, society and history, and I write about the trending topics on Chinese social media for my website

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