An artistic experience that is priceless
Published: May 02, 2013 06:18 PM Updated: May 02, 2013 06:36 PM


Illustration: Chen Xia/GT
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

The past Labor Day holiday witnessed millions of Chinese people traveling around the country, and taking advantage of the toll-free roads. This was despite the fact there were undoubtedly long queues at certain toll gates and entrances to popular scenic spots.

Stay-at-home city dwellers, meanwhile, dined out (or in) with close friends and relatives, or enjoyed any one of the innumerable events at the entertainment and cultural venues Shanghai has to offer.

I received a ticket to see Andrea Bocelli perform as part of his Passione Tour at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai on Tuesday night. I traveled there by metro, and upon arriving at the destination station, groups of scalpers approached me whispering, "Tickets, tickets, spare tickets, we buy and sell." I politely shook my head, after which they didn't approach me again, probably realizing that I am not their target buyer.

I noticed that one female scalper consistently pestered a mother and son all the way from the metro exit to the entrance of the venue.

The mother was hesitant and shy when dealing with the scalper, who shouted loudly at her: "Why not sell your tickets for several hundred yuan? It's a good deal! We know that your tickets were gifts and you didn't pay for them. You're earning money for nothing; it's a good business for you! What's more, let me tell you that tonight's singer is a foreigner, so neither you nor your son will understand what he's singing anyway. You two will fall asleep and it will be a complete waste of time! If you sell me the tickets, you can use the money to have a nice dinner in a restaurant."

I was frankly shocked at this level of harassment. But, at the same time part of me agreed with what the scalper was saying.

The mother tightly held her son's hand and replied firmly: "I couldn't let my son down. He is so excited about tonight's show and I can't disappoint him."

To this, the scalper angrily murmured something under her breath, and then skulked away in a bad mood.

I'm glad that the mother was strong enough to stand up to the scalper, and to give her son the experience he was evidently so looking forward to.

And yet the scalper's words stayed with me the whole night. During the concert, I listened to the heavenly voice of this Italian tenor (while understanding neither the meaning nor content of the songs) but found myself questioning my reason for being there.

Should I have sold my ticket to someone who would better appreciate the artistry of this world-class performer? And should I have used that money to buy some bottles of the German beer brand that I love so much? For sure, I am not desperate for an extra few hundred yuan, but it did make me wonder all the same.

Judging from the number of scalpers around all of Shanghai's art and cultural venues, it's not hard to conclude that they must be doing fairly good business in the city. These people are veterans when it comes to knowing how to deal with sellers and buyers. And they are usually very good at judging people's characters and weaknesses.

In fact, I wonder how many ordinary people have been deprived of attending a cultural event precisely because of their persuasive arguments and obvious manipulation?

Their enticement of "dinner versus entertainment" may prove irresistible to a number of people.

And I can't be absolutely certain that the mother and son didn't later regret missing out on their money-earning opportunity.

As a mother myself, I strongly believe that parents should try our best to show our children as much of the outside world as possible. Getting to learn about something new in life is always a wonderful opportunity for children to grow and develop. And in this way, they then learn to trust in their own judgments and decisions. How can they make judgments on certain matters if they have had no previous experience of it?

There are still many children who, sadly, have never had the chance to watch performances at venues such as the Shanghai Concert Hall, the Shanghai Grand Theater and the Shanghai Oriental Art Center. It simply isn't realistic for a lot of parents to buy tickets for their children to enjoy such artistic events.

For sure, the education department can cooperate with the cultural authorities in order to provide opportunities for Shanghai school children to appreciate more art, but in truth the government is under no obligation to do so.

Inevitably, some pushy ticket scalpers are depriving people of making a decision that is in their best interests. The city's chengguan officers, or related departments, need to find ways to counter this kind of harassment.

And the authorities could come up with catchy slogans such as "one appreciation of art is worth more than a dinner in a restaurant," or "an eye-opening experience is worth more than hundreds of yuan" in order to encourage citizens' cultural passions.

During their youth, people should be able to feast on the artistic, cultural and spiritual delights that society and the wider world have to offer. So let's make sure those pursuits become a reality.