Apparently some of the oldest customs are naked. One tradition in China’s Hubei province concerns naked boatmen hauling barges through a highly traversed tourist spot.
The custom had its place hundreds of years ago when the boatmen whose clothes were made of coarse fabric, would get badly chafed from their time in their water; thus they traveled a buffo. It worked for centuries.
The move to restore this custom was met with much criticism even though political advisor, Yao Benzi, who suggested the move as a way to boost tourism in the Shennongxi Stream Gorge, offered to be the first naked boat man.
He has been severely chastised as someone who puts economic prosperity before human dignity. The custom was stopped in 2000 on the premise that it was offending women and children visitors, despite the fact that many people came from all over China just to see the unusual spectacle.
“We used to receive many complaints from young ladies and parents that the naked boatmen were not good for them or their kids to see,” says Xu Peng, vice director of the Badong Tourism Bureau.
The bare statistics, however, tell quite a different story. Since the 1,000 boatmen have been wearing their pants, the number of visitors to this popular tourist spot area has decreased sharply.
“Many tourists come here to see the naked boat trackers and they are disappointed to see them dressed,” says travel agent, Liu Zhong.
While the issue of public nudity may well have its pros and cons, there is no question that these boatmen represent a cover-up of a new and different kind.
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