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China Pavilion About More Than Just Pride

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Getting up before sunrise to queue for a ticket or paying extra money to guarantee entrance may sound hideous, but for many visitors that is insignificant compared to the excitement of visiting the China Pavilion in the Expo Garden.

Patriotic pride is not the only thing appealing about the China Pavilion, also known as the Crown of the East. To visitors coming from all corners of China, the pavilion offers an opportunity to know their country and what kind of lives their compatriots are living.

"I just think that I must understand China first before I understand other countries," said Hu Ningshan, a 56-year-old housewife from central China's Henan Province.

She got up at 5 am on Monday to queue for a reservation ticket for the China Pavilion because she "cannot afford to pay 200 yuan (US$30) for a ticket from scalpers".

Visiting the Expo Garden is her first experience outside her village since she got married three decades ago.

Her budget for the trip is very limited and she is trying to make the best use of the 160-yuan ticket to the Expo Garden. But queuing for five hours outside the China Pavilion is "worthwhile" because she said she just wants to see how other Chinese people are leading different lives from hers.

"China is vast, and cities and villages are so different. I have to figure out these differences before I see how China differs from other countries," Hu said while waiting outside the pavilion.

Hu said she still has a problem stepping on and off escalators, and perhaps the various facilities in the China Pavilion will give her good training and preparation for visiting pavilions of other countries.

"I was shocked to see that China has such a wonderful city of Shanghai -- not in TV but in real life," she said. "I'm prepared for more astonishment in the China Pavilion."

Dong Xihua, a farmer from southwest China's Guizhou Province, came to the China Pavilion with a travel group which guaranteed everyone an opportunity to visit the pavilion.

The group costs 200 yuan more compared to groups at the same travel agency that do not include the China Pavilion, but Dong paid for the prestige without hesitation.

"I think in the China Pavilion I will see what modern life is really about," Dong said. "Some fellow villagers told me that modern life is eating toast for breakfast and driving cars to work, but I don't think so."

"Exhibitions in other countries are all about other people's lives, while the China Pavilion is about our Chinese people's lives," he said.

Dong said he wants to see the most advanced modern lifestyle in China, even if he cannot live that way in a remote village.

He has brought along his 8-year-old grandson, who wishes to see the USA Pavilion the most.

"I told the boy that we visit the China Pavilion first, other pavilions next," Dong said. "Visiting the China Pavilion is all about understanding who we are and how we are supposed to carry on traditions and develop traditions."

Despite actions against scalpers, reservation tickets are often traded outside the China Pavilion. The 50,000 reservation tickets run out within just five minutes every morning.

Even beverage stalls outside the China Pavilion are more crowded than stands in other areas.

"I sometimes function as a volunteer directing visitors to find their queues and answer their questions about the China Pavilion, such as whether the chariots from the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) displayed are original," said Charlie Zhang, a drink seller. "Sometimes I have to drink five bottles of water every day to maintain my voice."

(China Daily September 28, 2010)

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