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Shanghai: Jade Buddha Temple, Yew Gardens, and Ponderings on "Authentic" Tourism

For me, travelling is an exercise in finding the balance between:

  • Wandering, in the hopes of encountering unexpected adventures

  • Visiting touristic spots, in the hopes that the wisdom of the crowd, as channeled by the likes of Yelp/TripAdvisor, is somewhat correct

The following is an exercise in the latter.

When one thinks of China, there are a few tropes that may come to mind: Monks! Temples! Red lanterns! Pointy roofed buildings! Feng shui-ified gardens!

It's not that these tropes are inaccurate per se. Rather, it's that when things are so expected to be seen, one sometimes ponders the authenticity of what they see.

But does something being a "tourist trap" take away from the beauty of the experience?

Isn't the very nature of "tourism" such that it's impossible to have a "true" authentic experience. After all, what is a "local" experience anyways? Sitting in a crowded subway car each morning? Participating in the 9-5 grind? Scurrying home so you can finally finish your laundry? I don't know about you, but these sound like the exact things I aim to escape from while using my vacation days.

To me, travel isn't about having a local experience, it's about having an experience in general.

Besides, I'm curious to know what type of trickery trapped those tourists in the first place.

Jade Buddha Temple

Yew Gardens


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