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Bilingual guide brings the charms of Kaifeng to tourists

By Qi Xin in Kaifeng, Henan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-08 09:20
Xu Shijie, pedicab operator [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

Pedicab operator Xu Shijie, 51, leaves for work each morning wearing his trademark red velvet waistcoat and ready to use his self-taught English skills to guide foreigners around Kaifeng, Henan province.

"Kaifeng Palace is known for being the first government office in ancient China," Xu told a foreign tourist sitting in his pedicab.

Also known by his English name - Jason - Xu has been recommended by Lonely Planet China, a travel guidebook, as a good resource to help visitors get acquainted with the ancient city.

Over the past 17 years, Xu has made a lot of foreign friends.

"Foreign visitors come to our city for a better understanding of its cultural relics and historic sites. As a local resident, I feel I have a duty to show them around," he said.

"I learned my English from reading books, and my dictionary is also my teacher."

He first began speaking English on the job one day in 2003. "It was a turning point in my life," Xu said.

That day, he saw a pedicab driver approached by a Swedish tourist who was looking for assistance in English, so Xu stepped in to lend a hand.

Xu mustered up all his courage and said to the visitor: "Wait a moment."

"It was the first time I spoke English after years of studying on my own," he recalled.

He was afraid that no one would understand his spoken English, but the Swede did. So Xu helped him find his hotel.

Xu said he felt happy to find that his special interest in language was also useful in his work.

He dropped out of school years ago due to poverty, but his interest in English did not end.

In order to improve his English, he uses the language to write down his daily diary entries.

Xu also helps foreign tourists buy train tickets and find quality hotels and authentic eateries. In the past 17 years, he has filled up six thick journals writing stories in English about his interactions with more than 740 foreign tourists in the city.

"He is extremely knowledgeable about Kaifeng," said a tourist from South Africa. "He is one of the finest Chinese guides I have ever met. I recommend him and his service wholeheartedly."

Xu said, "Although taxis are faster to carry tourists from one scenic spot to another, the slower pedicab is more effective in letting foreign visitors know the city's history, culture and local customs."

A Canadian tourist said, "Every city and town should have a 'Jason' so that we foreign visitors can full appreciate Chinese history and culture."

qixin@chinadaily.com.cn

 

(China Daily 08/08/2018 page7)

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