Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The most incredible thing

San Sheng Hua Xiang, Chengdu, Sichuan 090318 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

I witnessed the most incredible thing today: a Chinese queue - an actual real life neat and tidy line of people waiting to get on the bus. In over twenty years of China-watching I have not seen this orderly a queue more than a couple of times, usually in front of the Memorial Hall for Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Square in Beijing where people wait patiently to file past the Chairman's body. Just like in Beijing these people were kept in check by a man with a stick and a loud voice (the men in Beijing use bull horns). My companions and I were so flabbergasted that all three of us stood and photographed the event.

I must admit that various forms of unpleasant social behavior in China have greatly improved in the past ten years. But a queue in China is usually a non-thing, the very concept not existing in the general Chinese consciousness where every opportunity to get what you want before everyone else is taken advantage of by blithely barging ahead of all and sundry. Only the other day I had listened to British author Blake Morrison telling about how his father was a notorious queue-jumper and how it made his family cringe with embarrassment. I jumped the queue myself to get him to sign his book for me. 


  1. The mysteries of queing right? So tell me because I can't seem to figure it out. From where I'm looking it seems the queue starts right in the middle of the square. Not by a special queue post, not by a sign on the ground saying "the queue starts here". So the first person in the queue, how does he or she know where to stand? Or does the bus pull up where ever the first person stands (very unlikely it seems). Or is it just something that is obvious to you being Chinese...
    I want to know! :-)

  2. Oh, Thaipeople can't queue what so ever!!
    And I started to be the same these days....huuuu.
    Because I also WANT to sit down from time to time you know.......grrrrr

    They seems very polite but, ops....all of a sudden they're in front of you...

  3. This is what I like about posting pictures - I see the picture in one way and someone else in another way, makes me think carefully when I photograph if other people will understand it. When we first saw the queue, the people were all lined up at the entrance to the bus, with a man at the front of the line with a sign, directing how many could get on. Then when the bus was full it left, leaving the rest of the line of people behind. They then just remained at this spot until another bus came a few minutes later and filled up with more people. Very China though, that there isn't any sign or anything else telling them where to stand. As you say, some things just seem to be "obvious" to locals "in the know"! It was the most incredible thing though, this gathering of people just quietly standing in a line that leads nowhere. Maybe to an invisible room inside John Malcovitch's head! ;-)

  4. I was very impressed by the line I guess.....hihihi....didn't think where they were going at all....strange..

  5. Maybe they were going nowhere, just getting on the bus and coming back to the same place to get in line again, like a Cat in the Hat Dr Seuss drawing or Escher painting, nothing surprises me in China.

    (Bakade semlor idag, supergoda, vi åt 16 st!!! Tack ska du ha, postar bilder imorgon. Emy sänder hälsning!)

  6. Well of course that's how it was done! Now you say it, it's obvious but I didn't at all see it like that at first. To me they could just have been dropped off a space ship, standing totally petrified in that Chengdu square wondering what would happen next...
    The power of photography right!
    Och blev semlorna lika goda som de hos Bosse Bagare undrar jag också förstås???

  7. Du får hia dig tills morgondagens bloggpost om semlorna för att veta hur de smakade!

  8. Jeeeee......16 stycken - are you out of your mind.....?