Many in China have expressed their shame at the unspeakable act of vandalism against this important cultural and historical site. While his parents have apologized, it seems odd that they did not see the act or its aftermath while visiting the temple. I also wonder why this teenager never learned the most basic values of respect for other cultural and property. Fifteen years old is not some toddler with a marker.
I have repeatedly been shocked by the behavior of the growing numbers of Chinese tourists in the United States and Europe. In our most recent visit to France, we were astonished by the rudeness of the Chinese tourists in shoving people out of the way, including my children, at museums and their refusal to listen to museum guides and staff in not touching art or crossing lines. We saw it happen a dozen times on that trip alone. At one museum, a Chinese couple actually knocked my 6-year-old to the ground to get a picture of an art work and never apologized for the act despite my objections.
I would not mention this experience unless it happened repeatedly. I do not mean to paint all Chinese tourists in this way. Obviously from the response to this story, many Chinese share our shock with the graffiti. However, on trips to China, you often see the same conduct of rudeness, shoving, and disregard for others in public areas. Years ago, the Chinese government actually started a campaign to try to get Chinese to get civil to tourists because of the complaints. I asked a friend who is a leading Chinese expert about this problem and he says that it is a long-standing problem in China and with Chinese tourists that has deep cultural roots. In response to the latest controversy, the Chinese government issued a statement calling on Chinese to act in a “civilized” fashion as tourists.
As for young Ding Jinhao, he appears to have gone 15 years without being taught the most fundamental rules of respect. This is a costly lesson not for him but for the world in the damaging of this temple.