It’s not going to be PC. Stop here if you think you might get offended.

I know you should have a position on the place as a foreigner; and I know you’re supposed to not talk about it with Chinese people, because it’s contentious, and you don’t have the full picture. It’s probably true – and wise. But also, the government doesn’t like you to talk about it at all – this blog might even be blocked if I start using the name; which is more problematic.

I’m only going to report on what I saw in Beijing and Tianjin.

In tourist areas, you can hear a weird kind of chanting coming from certain shops, something like ‘om mani mani om om’. I heard it in HouHai. I heard it in Magnetic City. I heard it on Tianjin’s Ancient Culture Street.

These are Tib… shops, selling Tib… artifacts. Their customers are Chinese as much as Western. It’s an interesting mix of the local and exotic, after all. Something different, but not completely foreign.

Many Chinese friends have told they would love to visit – the air, the nature, the dream.

And I’m thinking of the smart censors. Is it a deliberate strategy? As more and more foreigners come to China, what will they think about the question? “Oh, yes, that place. I saw the shops. I’m not into it that much. It’s a bit kitsch, isn’t it?’



I’ve seen them before. I’ve seen them on a bus in Thailand, talking about Kho Pipi. I’ve seen them at Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh city, ordering a banana pancake. I’ve heard they’d reached up to Laos, then Yunnan. But I thought northern China was safe. Not a good place for them. Hostile, even.

They found a microclimate in Beijing, around HouHai.

That’s where I saw the first signs of them.

And then, I spotted them.

They’re on the street, perplexing locals.

Soon, their temples will be everywhere.

And their particular custom become the new norm.

And I have a terrible question in my head. I was there to see them. With them. Was I, then – ever – one of them? Are they my secret, hidden, shameful brothers and sisters?