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Tour guide captivates visitors with Shaanxi charm

By Yang Feiyue | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-11 06:50
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Zhang Bin, a popular tour guide in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, boasts more than 8 million followers on short-video platform Douyin.

However, his delivery has never come at the cost of accuracy, regarding the culture and history behind the museum. The man has been exposed to the Terracotta Warriors since childhood, as his grandfather was among the first to construct the museum, and his uncle was on the museum's archaeological team. "I felt a personal urge to tell their stories," Zhang says.

In 2012, he passed the national tour guide qualification exam. With family members working at the museum, Zhang has kept up with archaeological studies at the site.

"Whenever I come across any problems, I will send them text messages," he says, adding that his uncle has greatly influenced him. "He insists that I speak with precision and he often picks holes in my work."

Under this influence, Zhang meticulously examines every word and verifies all data and statements, and each time, he revises his script.

The role of a tour guide has given full play to his passion for sharing his hometown treasures with the outside world. He holds himself to a high standard and strives to become a tour guide who can answer any tourist's question, no matter how difficult. This requires daily studying, learning about the history and culture of Shaanxi, understanding the diverse psychology and needs of thousands of tourists, and enriching his cultural knowledge and guiding techniques, according to Zhang.

No detail is too obscure. For example, some tourists even ask about the flowers and plants in the museum, so he "studied all of them".

Last month, a guest asked him how come a horse bone dug up from the mausoleum site could survive hundreds of years. He wasted no time consulting with a museum staff member, who revealed the mystery that it was thanks to the low water content of the soil.

In addition to being serious about the historical part, Zhang has also tapped into his talents of singing and performing, which have endeared him to his guests.

It's a result of observing his interactions with his guests. For example, he notes that the explanations in the Terracotta Warriors exhibition hall have been based on research by archaeologists, which can sometimes be too technical for visitors. "Since not all tourists are interested in every historical detail or related info, sometimes a bored tourist may interrupt the tour guides' introduction," he explains.

He then began to re-edit and reintegrate anecdotes about historical figures and popular sayings, transforming rigid professional knowledge into flexible and engaging stories, delivered through memorable and witty remarks.

It didn't take long for Zhang to work his way up to become a head guide in the tour company.

With summer approaching, many of his guests will be children, so he needs to make the explanations more interesting, Zhang says. For example, he has interspersed four or five children's songs into his script.

"I have converted some of the technical explanations into folk songs that are easy to remember for kids. After the tour, they can still sing the folk songs to engage with history," Zhang says, adding that he has also applied discussions and Q&A sessions to spice things up for young tourists.

For those who want technical explanations, Zhang digs into the latest archaeological reports and ensures their questions and any previous misinterpretations about the museum are addressed.

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