A Fire at Notre Dame and Beautified Selfies on Chinese Social Media

3 min read 

This morning, a fire broke the peace and tranquility of the spring morning. After the forest fire devoured the lives of 30 fire fighters in Sichuan, this is yet another fire that topped the searches of Chinese social media. The key words would be, Notre Dame, fire and tragedy for the global civilization.

However, it is interesting how events like these divide people into distinct groups. It separates the Chinese audience that keeps up with world news on a daily basis, into two major groups. First, those that really empathize with what’s happening in Paris, especially those who have been there. Second, there are some that brought up the destruction of Yuanmingyuan (the old summer palace), and some even seemed quite delighted about the whole situation as the French had now paid for their wrongdoings (implying the destroying of Yuanmingyuan by imperial armies in the 1860s). Who knows where their rising nationalism comes from!

Notre Dame & Yuanmingyuan
Notre Dame & Yuanmingyuan (photo via weibo @yangshiwangnet)

It seems like this tragedy of the world’s most renowned cultural relics brings so much pain and sorrow to those who were lucky enough to set foot on the square where Notre Dame is located. They were once standing beside the Seine River, contemplating on the very spot Hugo wrote his masterpiece about, looking afar at the bell tower where Quasimodo’s distinctive silhouette casts a shadow from the city’s previous highest spot before Eiffel tower was built.

Notre Dame in the film of Before sunset (2004)
Notre Dame in the film of Before sunset (2004)

“With most of these places, it’s once in a lifetime. If you don’t go now, you will never be able to see them in the future.”

“When you are young, you should always go around and see the world, because you don’t know when it will be gone.”

People posted on social media, expressing their gratitude for having actually seen the tourist destination before the fire.

Much to their dismay, they were not able to see the original version of the Yuanmingyuan Imperial Garden, until it was destroyed in the 1860s by the eight imperial armies. It is where their great great grandfathers possibly set foot upon and were visited by the emperor.

Mind here, in all of history, the forbidden city has actually been on fire numerous times. The main building was renovated over and over again, and survived in the end. It seems that all human civilization will at one point be challenged by natural, if not man-made disasters.

Notre Dame Paris
Notre Dame Paris (source: Youtube)

A Weibo user poked fun at a lady who posted on social media early this morning, “Finally, defeated by time. Tears couldn’t stop running down. I cried all night long until the wee hours. I just couldn’t stop. What’s burning in the fire is my previous memories and emotions. What’s scattered away in the ashes is an irreplaceable life.”

Au revoir, Notre Dame.

How very poetic! It seems like she was mother Mary reincarnated, for whom the Notre Dame was built for.

“Le passé, c’est le passé” a girl wrote and posted a carefully beautified selfie by the Seine river, probably taken while she was traveling abroad. She spoke about her first once in a lifetime encounter with the magnificent structure in a very melancholic tone.

“You look so blurry in my photo with you. I’m so fortunate to have brushed past you, to have witnessed your beauty and sadness.”

I don’t know why a fire that’s thousands of miles away across the ocean makes her sound like she got divorced yesterday. And Notre Dame hasn’t been totally destroyed yet.

They just don’t get it. The world is not about you! The fire on the world’s most precious cultural relic is not about your vanity or beautified selfies. A self-absorbed presentation is not what’s appropriate when incidents like this happen.

Featured photo: AFP/Getty Images

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