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A woman of history

Xi'an tour guide informs and entertains her audience as she brings the city's fascinating and intriguing past to life, Yang Feiyue reports.

By Yang Feiyue | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-10 09:20
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Tour guide Wang Yu explains the historical background and details of specific cultural relics to visitors at the Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum in Xi'an, Shaanxi province.[Photo provided to China Daily]

"At the beginning, I read a lot of history books about the Qin and Tang dynasties, and watched documentaries," she says.

Then, she expanded into the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24).

As tourism screeched to a halt during COVID-19 in 2021, Wang's company arranged for her to give livestream tours.

"It was a very forward-looking decision," Wang says.

She adds it prompted her to read up on more history to better present herself before the growing online audience, and pay more attention to details.

On her mobile phone, Wang has preserved documents that record her work notes and sources of inspiration during tours.

For instance, the Terracotta Warriors folder contains 56 files that highlight knowledge about specific artifacts and sites dotting the Qinshihuang museum, as well as questions that Wang believes will pique tourists' curiosity, such as why the terracotta army should be restored, and why Qinshihuang's mausoleum was built in the Lishan Mountains.

Her ability to express herself significantly improved in the process.

"The sheer volume of viewers made me feel like I had to do a better job telling a more appealing story," she says.

According to Zhao Haifeng, who is in charge of operations at the company, Wang has set aside time to learn every day, burying her head in anything that is related to history.

"She is on her way to becoming an expert in her field," Zhao says.

In the current fiercely competitive tourism industry, the cultural and tourism market needs more expert tour guides like Wang, says Zhang Zhongde, a commentator in the field of culture and tourism.

"They not only possess deep professional knowledge but can also adeptly convey cultural significance in a simple and engaging manner, providing tourists with unique and in-depth travel experiences," Zhang adds.

"Under their guidance, tourists can gain deeper insights into history, culture and local customs, thereby enhancing their travel experiences. This style of tour guiding is of great significance in promoting the transformation and upgrading of the cultural and tourism market and improving the overall service quality of the tourism industry."

Wang takes pride in her line of work.

She still remembers how a Chinese girl from America felt proud of her roots after going on one of her tours.

Wang has become something of a celebrity tour guide. Speaking about her future plans, she says she will continue getting to the bottom of other historical sites in the city and connecting history with the present day.

"I genuinely enjoy this profession, and I derive a sense of self-worth from it," she says, adding that it makes her proud if out-of-town visitors come to appreciate the Terracotta Warriors, or develop an interest in Xi'an's historical and cultural heritage through her explanations.


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