City draws controversy for promoting Chinese traditional greeting gesture amid COVID-19

By Wan Lin Published: 2020/4/23 2:55:29

Photo: Zhangshang Quzhou app

A city in East China's Zhejiang Province has sparked controversy after requiring officials to use a Chinese traditional greeting gesture during the local plenary sessions and also for promoting the gesture among students at 117 schools in the city.

In Quzhou, officials who attended the local two sessions on Monday, the Quzhou Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and the People's Congress of Quzhou, were reported to have used a traditional greeting gesture, Zuoyi, which is bowing with hands folded in front, instead of shaking hands during the meeting to avoid close contact amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students who had already returned to school were also required to use the gesture to greet each other and teachers on campus.

The reports soon raised discussion on China's social media. People have argued over whether the city's promotion of traditional bows among officials and students was simply a way to get media attention or a good way to revive the country's tradition.

Critics think bowing when greeting is unnecessary because people are more used to modern ways such as nodding and waving, which also helps people to keep a social distance.

"There are many other ways to greet people while avoiding close contact. The city chose an old gesture that most people feel uncomfortable doing just because they want to make news and get in the headlines," read one comment that received 5,000 likes on Weibo.

But Quzhoutong, a Quzhou-based freelancer studying the city's culture, told the Global Times on Wednesday that this was part of Quzhou's plan to promote its brand of "Quzhou Courtesy" as it is home to the family temple of China's saint Confucius, whose core philosophy was based on rite and courtesy.

According to a document released by the Quzhou government on March 30, the city requires all government officials to Zuoyi at work and during important occasions, and also encouraged social organizations to use the traditional bowing gesture in all kinds of activities.

Quzhou also announced it would use a hand gesture of Zuoyi as its city brand logo in 2018.

"The government's promotion of Zuoyi was a long-term plan started in recent years," said the freelancer, who refuted some netizens' views that the city's recent promotion is just a formalism and intended to get attention.

In a survey conducted on Sina Weibo on Wednesday, 60 percent of the respondents expressed support for the city, while 30 percent think it's unnecessary. A total of 30,000 users had taken part in the survey as of press time.

Zhang Dali, a senior student at the First Middle School of Qujiang district in Quzhou city, was among those against using the bowing gesture at school.

"Many of my classmates and I myself feel very awkward doing so because we are the only ones who use this gesture in the modern times, which is funny," Zhang told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Posted in: SOCIETY

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