A hotel room in between cultures

Canton / Guangzhou – Shamian Island, January–February 1930

A hotel in Canton is made to symbolize the uneasy effect of undigested Western ideas on ChineseKulturboden.

Ross describes Canton as the most westernized of Chinese cities, where “all the European and American ideas that have pervaded China in the last decades are brewing and rumbling most strongly, without developing anything satisfyingly new from this fertilization of the oldest Chinese Kulturboden.” [p. 258] This hybridization is exemplified by the hotel called Asia, where Ross is staying. It is built after the model and in the dimensions of an American skyscraper, but with the tight layout of rooms and the sparse, uncomfortable furniture he associates with Chinese accommodations.

Thus, a hard mattress in a Canton hotel room comes to stand for a cultural exchange that Ross finds less favorable than either of the components. This judgment is in keeping with his explicit mention of the term Kulturboden, which postulates a deep connection between a civilized people and the (urban) landscape they shape. The mixture which Ross criticizes is made even less palatable to his readers with a prurient conclusion. He reports that in supposedly Chinese custom an in-house brothel is part of the thin-walled hotel’s services.

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. Das chinesische Hotel. In: Das Meer der Entscheidungen. Beiderseits des Pazifik. 7. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1942 [1924]; 258–61.

Topic: Kulturboden
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

See also

in Geo Map
The Chinese hotel

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