Five Senses of China

By Emlyn L., Founder

Sensation is defined as: “an unprocessed result of stimulation of sensory receptors in the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, or skin.” Perception is defined as: “one’s ultimate experience of the world involving further processing of sensory input.” If human’s perception and experience are determined by our process to translate our sensory stimulation, then what is my perception of China? Let me use my five senses to share my experiences China.

Sight: There is a lot to see in China. Not only is it the most populated country in the world, but it is a diverse country too. You can see that China is economically busting at the seams. Skyscrapers and cranes dominate the cities. Cars, many of them luxury brands, dominate the highways and roads. Malls, plazas, and street vendors fill the streets, no matter what time of day or night. Some of the world’s most marveled architecture (modern and historically) are found throughout China, yet farmlands, rice fields, pagodas and temples resembling the ‘traditional’ China are still prevalent throughout the nation.

Sound: This is what I currently hear as I close my eyes: motorcycles, buses, trucks, and cars driving by; random car and truck honks; 2-3 people talking loudly (which is typical Chinese speaking volume); the water in the pipes from someone upstairs taking a shower; a guy hawking a loogie; TV from an apartment across the quad. It is Monday, after midnight, and my hotel room is facing inside a quad, off a busy street in downtown Guilin.

Chinese Opera Singer

Smell: Besides walking along a street vendor or restaurant cooking their delicious dishes, there probably aren’t too many times you want to take a deep breath in of China. It’s a polluted country, with little chance to smell the roses. But I have to admit, all the times I wrinkle my nose walking near bathrooms, train stations, supermarkets, smokers (who disregard blowing cigarette smoke in anyone’s face), stinky tofu cooking…every time I return to China, these fragrances listed above are the familiar and ‘refeshing’ smell of Zhong Guo!

Taste: Leave your Sesame Chicken, General Tso Chicken, and Beef and Broccoli orders at home. Authentic Chinese cuisine ROCKS! Plus, each region has their own special flavor and cooking styles that ordering the same dish in Northern China may taste completely different than in Southern China. Take noodles for example, they look, taste, and are cooked differently within each province and region. Whether you like spicy, sweet, salty, soft, sticky, or crunchy textured foods, China has it all. There is a popular idiom referencing the way that Chinese eat…if it doesn’t have ‘table’ legs, it will be eaten.

Touch: There are over 1.3 billion people that live in China, in an area smaller than the States. Face it, somewhere and somehow…you will probably rub elbows and shoulders with someone in China. Personal space doesn’t really exist, and you often feel like you are on the most crowded bus, street corner, marketplace, or store in the world…which you probably are. I balance my frustration of pushy and crowded China with another touch sensory-Chinese massages. The Chinese are so good with foot reflexology and acupressure points. Okay, this may be a generalization, but most street corners have massage spas/parlors, with an hour massage costing only ~US$10! Just a simple $2 hair wash in salons includes a head, shoulder and back massage. I certainly am able to embrace this touching culture!


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